WWDD

Bill Neinast

neins1@aol.com

WWDD?  This acronym is not the popular WWJD--What Would Jesus Do?  Today, it will be What Would Dad Do?   What would he do in a conversation with President Obama?


Dad was a product of the rural, one-room school system.  He was also an alum of Blinn College.  Upon his Dad’s insistence, he enrolled at Blinn.  Within a month, he complained that he did not like what he was doing.  Granddad’s response was, “Either stay at Blinn or come home and haul cord wood.”  So he went home to work on the family farm.  That is why he claimed that he ‘“went through Blinn”--in the front door and out the back door a month later.


His first job after he and Mother married in 1920 was loading rail road ties at Santa Fe Railroad’s plant.  He carried large, heavy ties that had been soaked in hot creosote under pressure up inclined ramps and stacked them on rail cars.  As Dad was a slightly built man, he could handle the back breaking work for only two days.


He then got a job as a butcher in the Little Meat Market.  In 1928, when my two sisters had already joined the family, Dad bought the market from Mr. Little.  I entered the scene the next year and brought the Great Depression along with me, as the stock markets crashed on Black Friday just 54 days after my arrival.


Dad was able to keep the Little Market open until 1932 when he paid his creditors and closed for lack of business.  A year later, he scraped money together to open something new in Somerville--a market and grocery.  For the first time in that small town, customers could get groceries, meat, kerosene, animal feed, and similar necessities in one store.


Dad unlocked the doors every morning at 6:00, stayed on the job on his feet all day, and locked the doors at 6:00 p.m.  That was Monday through Friday.  On Saturdays, he was there until 10:00 p.m.  On Sunday mornings, the store was open for three to four hours.


Mother was in the store for most of those hours. Besides clerking, she made lunch on a  kerosene stove in the back of the store for Dad and the other workers.


In those days, less than half of the families in Somerville owned automobiles.  On Saturdays, the alleys in town would be lined with the horse drawn wagons of farmers coming in for their weekly supplies. The roads they came in on were not government projects, but were roads that had been donated, built, and maintained by adjoining land owners who needed access to markets.


Some of the homemakers who lived in town walked to the store every day for their groceries.  Others used telephones rented from the Southwestern Bell system, not the government, to order their needs.  Before gasoline rationing and other restrictions brought on by WWII, Dad would have those orders delivered four to six times a day in a truck manufactured by Henry Ford’s company.


Home doors were rarely locked back then, so Dad’s delivery men would  walk through the unlocked doors, put the groceries on the kitchen table, or in the ice box (not too many homes had refrigerators back then), and move on to the next delivery stop, without even seeing the owners.


I began working in the store to clean and stock shelves, sweep the floors at 6:00 p.m., and, eventually, to cut meat with hand knives and saws as electric meat saws were not available.  Meanwhile, my sisters were keeping house and doing the laundry, including washing and ironing the bloody butchers’ aprons. 


My sisters and I were not paid or on allowances.  If we wanted to go to a movie, buy a comic book, have an ice cream sundae, or some such, we had to ask Dad.  None of us was ever denied such a request. 


Through the years, Dad bought out five of his competitors.  His first acquisition was the Ben Tompkins grocery store.  He then hired Mr. Tompkins as his delivery man.


From 1933 until he retired, Dad rarely took days off.  He took the family to Dallas for two days in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Celebration and went on a three day fishing trip on the Gulf coast with friends.  Later, after I entered the Army, he visited my family in Virginia for a few days and visited us in Germany for two weeks.


He sold the business in 1966.  When he died six years later, his estate was large enough to be subject to the estate tax.  The wealth on which he had already been taxed was taxed again.  He must have been one of those individuals who do not pay their fair share of taxes.


So here’s the perspective.


Going from the economic loss of a business to an estate subject to the estate tax in 33 years required a lot of brains and brawn.  During that journey, Dad provided direct employment for between 30 and 50 individuals. He also provided indirect employment for hundreds of thousands of private telephone and electricity company workers, automobile factory workers, farmers, can and bottle makers, printers to print the container labels, truckers, etc. to get to him the products he needed for his customers.


So WWDD?  Dad was a quiet, calm man, but some things could be too much for him.   This might be one of those cases.


If President Obama, who never had to meet a pay roll, were to tell him, “You didn’t build that estate,” he might find himself flat on his back

enough

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