An anniversary with lessons

Country Roads

January is an anniversary of sorts for me. It’s an anniversary that has resulted in learning some life lessons.

I married in 1969 and within eight months my bride and I had purchased a home and settled into the community. My wife loved her hometown and I did, too. We had no plans to move anytime soon.

A short time after our third wedding anniversary my wife resigned from her job to become a fulltime mother and a few weeks later gave birth to our first child. We acknowledged that things would be tight financially on one income but we were prepared… or so we thought.

Less than two months after our son was born my place of employment was sold and two weeks later I was fired by the new owner without explanation. I was devastated.

In a small-town, news travels fast and a few days later a business acquaintance called and offered me a job. The pay was less but I needed a job so I took it.

In spite of the long hours I enjoyed my new job but within a few months I knew we were in financial trouble. We were keeping up with our bills but otherwise barely squeaking by.

In September, just seven months after my surprise termination, we found ourselves flat broke; our checking account was empty. There was no money to buy groceries or baby formula.

Not knowing what else to do I reluctantly borrowed $100 from a local consumer loan business. That carried us for the immediate time but I knew I had to find a better paying job… soon.

I scanned help wanted ads in three different newspapers and had several job interviews but found nothing better than what I was already doing.

In early December I replied to an ad for an advertising sales position with a radio station in Sioux City, three hours away. A few days after an interview I was offered a job at a respectable guaranteed salary and an attractive bonus and commission plan.

I had no sales experience but I knew if I did well I could earn enough to buy groceries; hopefully more.

My wife was reluctant to move away from her family but she understood our financial plight and agreed we had to give it a try.

Forty-eight years ago this month we packed a rental truck and moved our belongings and our year-old son to Sioux City. Cindy was 22-years-old and I was nearly 26. Our attitude is best described as “optimistically scared.”

My new job was working out and that first summer I earned an additional $1,200 bonus, more “extra” money than either of us had ever seen. After the first year that job situation began deteriorating but I found an even better job selling advertising for the Sioux City Journal. After a few promotions, less than eight years after moving to the community, I was promoted to advertising director of The Journal.

In Sioux City we found an excellent church, made many friends and enjoyed the amenities of a larger community.

Anxious to grow in my career, in 1988 we moved to Creston in southwest Iowa where I became the publisher of the daily newspaper.

While visiting with a business acquaintance familiar with the radio station owner who fired me nearly 20 years earlier I finally learned the reason for my long-ago termination: I had received a few raises over the seven years of my employment and the new owner hired someone who would work for less. I laughed at the notion that I was making too much money but by now I better understood how some media owners operated.

Over time I saw that getting the boot was the best thing that happened to my career. And I learned things about life that served me well later. Chief among them: before firing a problem employee I gave them second and third chances to improve, and when I worked for The Salvation Army I was strongly motivated to help families who needed groceries or other assistance.

I have never forgotten that bad things happen to good, hard-working people and that good things can result from difficult situations.

That big (for us) move was 48 years ago. It was a good move and I have learned a great deal since.


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