My father in Korea, 1950

The other day I was writing about my short trip around California, and I mentioned that:

I view a trip both as an opportunity to see things and drive some good roads. And along the way make a few small discoveries.

I covered the “things” and “good roads”, but I didn’t mention any discoveries.

Funny thing, a discovery was a road sign in Visalia on the way to Sequoia that pointed the direction of the small town of Woodlake – 8 miles.

My late father upon his return from the Korean War went to work at his father’s  business in Los Angeles, which was exporting mainly movie equipment to the Philippines. And when he returned from Korea in 1953 , his father was killed in an auto accident a few days after his arrival. My mother marveled at his composure and he said, “What else can you do?

You never know what life is going to throw at you. The older I have become, the more I realize how lucky we are for that lack of knowledge.

His father had rented a small office at Melrose Place since the 40s, which now is a pretty trendy place in Los Angeles. My father took over the business when his father died. By the late 50s, his export business was shrinking to the point he had to find something else to support his young family.

An Army friend of his, who was a neighbor at our home in Studio City, suggested that he get into the same business he was in – accounting for service stations, and my father took the opportunity. That industry was far different from today.

He bought an available franchise in Fresno, CA.

He was trying to sell the house in Studio City to fund the business, and if I remember correctly waited 6 months to sell it. In the meantime, he was renting an empty house in Fresno and sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

That first year was very tough.

I think it was my mother who gave him the strength to keep going.

My Dad’s company eventually became known for integrity and service. In fact, over 20 years  after he sold his Fresno business, I was calling on some people there for another service , and some long-time owners fondly remembered his name.

My mother told me that one time he drove at midnight to Merced – 55 miles – to school one potential client on the ways of bookkeeping in his business.

Midnight was the only time the potential client was available.

Eventually his business grew to the point that at one time, he had 4 offices from Fresno to Reno. He got pretty tired of driving, and sold them off over the years. He said that he knew “every bush on Highway 99”.

Oh, and the sign?

I was about 10 years old, and he asked me if I’d like to go with him to visit a client in Woodlake. When the month’s books were done each client got a personal visit to go over the results, with some suggestions to change if necessary.  I had no idea where Woodlake was, but of course I wanted to go.

Until a few days ago all I vaguely remembered was that it was a pretty long trip. I didn’t realize where and until a few days ago that it was a 100 mile round trip to see….one client.


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2 responses to “Woodlake

  1. Nice one Bill! And yes, you never know when a casual ‘see you later’, may really mean much, much later.

  2. Pingback: The California that I Remember… | The Lexicans

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