In a family of 12 children, my father, the oldest of six boys, was told at the age of 14 he was old enough to be on his own. He found a garage apartment and began working as a mechanic. He worked to learn the business then opened his own shop in El Campo, Texas at the age of 17. Shortly after, he met my mother and married her two years later. I was the oldest of four girls and had an older brother.
My mom worked in the family business too by keeping the books and handling the administrative duties. After preparing all of our meals each day and getting us off on the bus to school, my mom and my baby sister (who was not yet in school) would leave with my dad for the shop. By the time we arrived home from school, my mom was always there to greet us. On weekends, after chores at home were done, all of us would often head to my dad’s shop to help him. This is where I learned a little about cars. I learned how check the oil, change the oil, spark plugs and basic engine operation.
Growing up in a family business meant everyone pitched in and sacrificed to support our dad. My older brother’s responsibilities were differed much from my own. He helped with what I call “outside chores” – lawn, home repairs and maintenance. Being the oldest of four girls, I was in charge of making sure the house was clean and my sisters were bathed and dressed each day. I also helped with the laundry by either hanging clothes on the clothesline or making sure they were inside and folded before dark. “There is always housework to do” my dad would say if we even thought about lounging around in front of the TV.
By the age of 14 I desired the independence of having a little money of my own. I did
have to lie about my age, but I really wanted a job. I kept a small portion of my paycheck to cover my school lunches but the rest and all of my tips were given to my dad. I still had my responsibilities at home but by this time they were easy.
I remember the feeling of excitement when Friday came. This was the time that we all dressed up to eat out, usually at Dairy Queen, where my Aunt was the manager or at Landry's Drive-In if it was during Lent. The best part was ordering dessert! I understand now that this was my dad’s way of giving back for our help during the week. He was so proud to able to feed all seven of us without worries.
Saturday nights were exciting too because we'd pile up in the back of dad's pickup truck and go to the drive-in theater. Sometimes, our neighbors and relatives would caravan there so we could all park next to each other. The grownups sat outside the cars on their lawn chairs and visited while watching the movie. Mom would always bring pillows and blankets for us to fall asleep in the back of the pickup at a decent hour. We all worked very hard, but it also meant we enjoyed the many blessings of a united family.
My most vivid memory of childhood, which I believe prepared me the most for the roller coaster ride of supporting entrepreneurship, was when our house burned to the ground when I was five years old. At that age, I understood that you could have everything you want on one day and it could all be gone the next. We had to start over. I believe this experience made me stronger on the inside and taught me to be thankful for my life and family and not for material things.
My father’s actions spoke volumes and I am so grateful he taught me the value of a strong work ethic. Without this, the entrepreneurial ride with my husband would have been much more difficult. We have had failures but our perseverance, together, ultimately led to great success with my husband leading the way.
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