Q: In addition to Horizon Screen Printing some people may remember you as a manager of the Sears in Cape Girardeau. How did you get involved with that company?
A: After the service I knew that I wanted to enroll at graduate school at LSU for business. The only job I could find was knocking on doors selling vacuum cleaners for Sears in Baton Rouge, La. But I was determined I would leave Sears for the real estate or insurance business. However, they offered me a division manager job at the Sears in New Orleans, where I had eight salesman working under me Three to four years later I moved to Tampa, Fla., then Vicksburg, Miss., and finally here. They kept promoting me and I made more money. In those days it seemed like if you were successful a company would keep promoting you and you'd stay with them for your entire career. Sears was a vibrant company during the days I was there, but times have changed for many companies and people in the workplace.
Q: You could have moved from Cape Girardeau if you wished. What kept you here all these years?
A: Cape Girardeau is a good town. I've lived in big cities like Tampa and New Orleans, where I had to drive 45 minutes or an hour to work each day. I don't care about spending that much time in my car to get to work. I love the size of this town and the people here.
Q: Living in New Orleans must have been quite an experience. As a former Louisianan myself, I know about the politics, people and the mafia there. Fill us in on your experience.
A: Louisiana is quite an interesting place, with a very colorful history. While Missouri has a pretty clean political history, Louisiana is a different story. It has a pretty corrupt past in politics, though it has improved. One memory I have is meeting the mafia in New Orleans. I actually came face to face with Carlos Marcello. [He] was an Italian-American who became a mafia boss. You wouldn't suspect him as a mafia boss if you didn't know him. He was actually a very quiet and nice guy.
Q: Each day you read the Southeast Missourian and several other publications. You also write letters to the editor from time to time. What motivates you to write those?
A: I'm a very conservative person and have been since [age] 19, when I wrote a paper comparing socialist Norman Thomas to conservative Harry Truman. The country began moving to the left then and has been doing so ever since. I believe it's important to keep up on the issues and to state my opinion on important matters.
Q: Your business began in 1981, when your wife attended a one-day screen printing class at the Perryville Vo-Tech School. You helped her make a one-color wooden screen press, which she used to make shirts for her Girl Scout troop at her home. The business later moved to 430 Broadway and hired the first employee. You joined her after retirement from Sears in 1986. Since then the business has grown by leaps and bounds to include printing services for a variety of products including signs, pens, shirts and decals. Did you ever see yourself staying in the family business?
A: I never intended it to grow like it has. It's expanded from a tiny space to thousands of square feet of production and warehouse space. I planned to help Rhoda out and not do much. But you've seen what has happened instead. My ambition got the best of me.
Q: You grew up near Appomattox, Va., in the 1930s and '40s. What was life like for you?
A: I lived in the tobacco belt in one of the poorest areas of the nation, where poverty was a way of life. But my family life was excellent. I had a mom, Maggie, dad, Hiram, one brother and two sisters. My dad was a Presbyterian minister and was one of the hardest working people I've ever known. He had four churches that he served and one year I remember he got as little as $800 for the entire year. One of my childhood memories was digging graves. During those days we didn't have undertakers and lots of babies died in my area. I can remember to this day seeing my dad carry in babies in newspaper to be buried. That was tough. And for the others that died I'd sometimes wonder how they did die.
Q: Who has motivated you the most?
A: My dad and mom. They were both very hard-working people. My dad was the first one out of his family to go to college. He worked his way through eight years of school, but he managed to achieve his goal. My dad always worked hard to reach his goal.
Q: What did you do with your time as a boy in Virginia?
A: My first job was a milk carrier at 9. I later had two paper routes, including during the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I sold extras that day, which was easy to do during those days. I can remember holding up the papers and saying 'extra, extra, read all about it.' Other than the telegraph, the newspaper was about the only method of communication. In 1947, when I was 17, I left for Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
Q: After college you entered the Army Counterintelligence School. That must have been quite an experience.
A: Once I graduated from Austin College in 1951 I entered the service at the height of the Cold War. It's more difficult today because of all the terrorists we have to deal with. Back then I can remember we even had undercover people in the Kremlin in Russia. It was difficult to know how many people exactly worked undercover, but we had guys assigned to areas throughout the world.
Q: Why did you leave the service?
A: When my term was up I knew that that life wasn't for me. I'm too much of a free spirit. As a civilian, if given the choice of moving, you can refuse. But in the military if they want you to move, you don't have a choice. I just didn't want someone else saying I didn't have an option to move.