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Starting From Scratch

(Part One) – My parents instilled, in me, a sense of self-reliance and hard work.

We grew up – 2 parents and 6 children – living in a 1,200 square foot house, three bedrooms and one bathroom.  I lived in that house my entire life until I got married.

Mom would make three meals a day for 8 people.  She would make a gallon of powdered milk and mix it with a gallon of regular milk, so we wouldn’t taste the chalk.  Dad, a Navy Veteran of the Korean War, had bought a small hardware store in De Pere in 1962, and that’s the job I first remember him in.

Each day the summer before my thirteenth birthday, I rode my bike from Pilgrim Street – one block off Oneida near the stadium – to Harry Wery’s Florida Fruit Market on Velp Avenue where we would ride out to the fields to pick strawberries and cucumbers.

The next summer, my buddy Paul and I put an ad in the Press Gazette saying we were house painters.  Well, we got some jobs that summer.  I guess, eventually, we were actual house painters.

About that time, some new folks moved into the neighborhood to be closer to the stadium.  Jack Noel, worked three jobs to support his family of 5 children.  He worked for the City of Green Bay; he worked as a part-time bartender; AND he worked with his brother, Bob, as the equipment managers for the Green Bay Packers!  Eventually Jack Noel would become my father-in-law.  At the time, however, he just needed someone to carry equipment way up to the top of the press boxes; that was me.  I cleaned shoes and helmets after the games and clean up after 60 very messy guys.  I vacuumed hundreds of yards of carpeting and scrubbed a dozen toilets several times each day.  But I got to be in the locker rooms – and on the field – and sometimes I got tips!

Nowadays, folks want to start at the top and then work their way up from there.  I always found greater value in starting at the bottom.

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