Born in the second floor bedroom of a rented house, we lived there until I was age 2. Then we moved to a new house in the north end of Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is a great city. Always has been. I started delivering newspapers at age 10 (it was legal for a kid to work back then), and in the summer time I also worked at the local Olympic swimming pool, which was managed by the North High Football Coach, Mike Hagley. A wonderful man. Our house had a screened porch on the side, where I slept during the hot weather. No one had air conditioning except the movie theaters. A number of the older boys in the neighborhood had cars, most of which were "hot rods" or wanna-be hot rods with noisy mufflers. I soon learned that I could tell which one was coming down my street just by the sound of it. Pretty soon I could tell what brand of car was passing by without even looking at it, just by the sound it made. Each brand of car had its own distinctive engine and drive train sound, and each sounded different. One of my paper route customers, Mr. and Mrs.Vernon Regal, introduced me to a self-made electronics genius, Mr. Warren Bauer. He had a Ham Radio station, W8IJV, in his cellar, and he could talk by microphone and by Morse Code with other "Hams" around the world via short wave. Pretty soon I became totally focused on electronics. Not a bad thing for an eleven-year-old kid. I made my own portable radios, some of which had loud speakers, and some of which used head phones. I would carry one along on my bicycle as I delivered my newspapers on Saturdays, tuned in to the Ohio State football games on WBNS. WBNS still carries every Ohio State football game, home or away. Columbus was and is still totally focused on Ohio State football. Ohio Stadium was a 20 minute bicycle ride from my house. I soon learned that Almighty God Himself is a big Ohio State fan. The Ohio State Marching Band music is what you hear after you die and are marching into heaven past Saint Pete. It's like no other, and tens of thousands of Buckeyes know it. I can't imagine how dull life would be without it. Another little radio I built was mounted on an upside-down metal cake pan as a chassis. It had one tube, a regenerative circuitry, and was powered by dry-cell batteries, one to power the filament, and one for "plate" voltage for the tube. I listened to Radio Australia and the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) any time I wanted to. My bedroom was the attic, converted by my dad into a perfect place for a young boy with hobbies. I put an ad in the local community weekly newspaper, "The Booster" which said "Give your old radio to an ambitious young boy to learn from". A half-dozen people did. My antenna was just a long piece of bell wire purchased at the local hardware store, tied around the telephone pole in the corner of my back yard. At night, before going to bed, I would tune several of the big old multiple-tube radios to WOSU, the Ohio State University radio station, after it went off the air at 8PM, so that when it signed back on the air at about 7AM I was awakened by "Good Morning! This is radio station WOSU, the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. And now we invite you to music by John Philip Sousa." And away it would go, booming and blasting " Stars and Stripes Forever" and all the rest, for 30 wonderful minutes. Those big 12 and 15 inch speakers on those ancient 13 tube "console" radios had a sound all their own - so full, rich, and vibrant. Those old radios that people had given me as a result of the newspaper ad consumed enough electric power to heat a house, but what an unforgettable sound!. In my spare moments at school and at home, I read every electronics book and magazine I could get my hands on. I would write a letter to the manufacturer of each radio I would acquire, asking for any owner or technical manuals they might be willing to send me. Every one of them was unbelievably generous. My "Life In The Cheap Lane" concept had very early beginnings.
In June, 2005 I applied for a got my Ham Radio Operator's License from the FCC.
One of my favorite people in the whole world was my Aunt Trudie. She had a beautiful 1940 Chevy Master Deluxe Club Coupe. At age 17, I bought it from her with $400 that I had earned on my newspaper route. And then and there I decided that cars were going to be an important part of my life. It was an 11 year old car, but so beautiful and there was always several of the kids, mostly girls, whose parents would not let them go to out-of-town ball games "unless you ride in John's car". I loved to drive. Still do. Never an accident of any kind in over a million miles. Never. One day I bought a 1937 Hudson Terraplane 4 door sedan for $85. The kid who had it had painted it light blue, using some sort of a flit gun hooked to his Mom's vacuum cleaner. The wiring was so screwed up on it, I meticulously unwrapped the wiring harnesses and replaced every wire, one at a time. A labor of love. To this day, I am known as "The Wiring Harness Guy" by the Buick Factory Engineers, because when all else fails when trying to fix a troublesome car, I dig in the the wiring harness and find the problem nobody else could find. My younger sister Sandy learned to drive on that car. We called it "the blue goose", because the front grille design. The lower part of the grille stuck out farther than the top part, similar to the "dust buster" look of the early Pontiac Transports. When my friend Jerry Westenbarger hit a tree with his 1940 Dodge, I also bought his car from him, paying him 40 dollars for it. I promptly removed the damaged hood, fenders, grille, everything except the vital stuff, like the radiator and bumper. I got a lot of attention driving around town, looking like a hot rod, until my insurance man saw it and popped my bubble. Darn. It was fun while it lasted. I found a guy with a little shop who was willing to replace the whole "nose" and paint the whole car for $80. and make a normal car out of it. I drove it to Indiana to visit my friend Chod Douglass and then sold it when I got home.
A month before my high school graduation, I went job seeking. I didn't want to go to college because I had seen the way college kids act, and I didn't want people to think I was like that. I went to the Chevy dealership's Service Manager and asked for a job, then I went to Jess Holiday, the Ford dealership's Service Manager, then to Al Bleucher, the Buick Dealership's Service Manager. Each of them gave me the same answer: "First go to college and get the 'book learning' (that's what they called it), and then I'll hire you". This was NOT the answer I was looking for. When I told my Mom and Dad , they said "Well then, you better go to college like they said." No sympathy. So one week after graduation from high school I was a freshman at Ohio State. Three years later I was a graduate of Ohio State. I went summers to get it over-with as quickly as possible, and at the same time I worked at a Standard Oil (SOHIO) gas station on weekends, and at a radio repair shop owned by Fred Oberle and his wife Lee during the week while going to school, so I'd have some spending money and a ready-made excuse to not go "out with the boys" and get into trouble. No spare time is good for a kid. One week after graduation from Ohio State I was the newest mechanic in training at Dinsmore Buick in Lancaster, Ohio, and I very soon learned why Buick customers are so loyal to Buick and to their Buick cars. They are different and they are better.
My boss, Alden Dinsmore, was an ex-Buick Factory Service Representative, who encouraged me to enroll in a two and a half year co-op program at General Motors Institute, in Buick's home town of Flint, Michigan. A month at school and a month working, back and forth all year long. If you have ever done something and enjoyed every single moment of it, then you know what attending GMI was like. It was this boy's dream of how life should be. The school has been re-named now, Kettering University, and it's not owned by General Motors anymore. The military draft was in full force at the time I was attending GMI, and I could feel them breathing down my neck, so again I doubled-up on courses, scheduling two during the same hour, and I completed everything in just a year and a half. I think I'm the only GMI student to ever have done that - - something about "you can't be in two places at the same time". They would not have let me do that had I been anything but an "all A's" student, and the Dean was an ex-military man who understood. It pays to get all A's. I taught that to my #1 son, and he is now an Ophthalmologist, know around the world for his expertise. I would attend the at-the-same-hour classes first one and the next time the other. Then that night I would have a couple of my classmates tutor me on what I missed that day. It was commonplace to help each other that way when the need arose - - not unlike the way the GM dealers helped each other during the big GM strike a couple of years ago. Adversity often has an up-side to it if you are willing to adapt to the situation. I was in the U.S.Army at Ft. Benning, Georgia before my graduation ceremony from GMI. They had to MAIL me my diploma. Uncle Sam needed me.
My Engineering mentality hated the inefficiency of the Army. They put me in electronics school in Ft. Monmouth, N.J. and skipped me ahead because I understood it too well. It was so boring I kept falling asleep in class, and then I would get a perfect score on the exam. At one point I was called into the CO's office because they thought I wasn't being honest with them about my previous electronics experience. They thought I must be dishonestly hiding some past experience from them, but I wasn't - - I just liked it and appreciated the potential it held for improving our quality of life in the future. I've always had a knack for "aceing" written tests. I taught my son Robert, how to do it, and he used it to help him get through MIT with three (3) BSc degrees, and then on to the University of North Carolina medical school, with almost all "A's". A's are good. When my Army classmates went overseas to set up and man the Army's Nike surface-to-air missile sites, they kept me at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, (now Marshall Space Center), as an instructor to teach our troops what I had just learned in school as a student. I taught not only OUR GI's, but I also taught NATO troops from West Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, and Turkey how to repair the Nike Missile system radars out in the field where they were deployed world-wide. Fortunately, we never had to use them in combat. Very fortunately. They were good missiles, and the Nike Hercules had nuclear capability. It was a very nervous world at that time. I saved up all my leave time so I could get out of the Army 30 days early, and I was put on the road by Buick Motor Division of General Motors as a field Service Representative a month before I was officially discharged from the Army. Prioritizing everything may be one of my better traits. One of the dealerships I called on as the "Factory Man" was the Buick dealer in Hudson, NY.
Buick soon promoted me to Owner Relations Manager of the New York Zone and then to Service Representative for New York City. The Big Apple. They don't give THAT job to no chimps, you know. That's a REAL job and I LOVED it. Forget everything bad you ever heard about NY City merchants. I could have stayed with General Motors forever, but my long-term desire to be a Buick dealer was gnawing at me, and when the Hudson dealership became available, I had to go for it. The chain of command above me were all friendly toward me, and I was pretty sure they would approve me for a dealership. I had very little money, and Hudson was the only one I could afford. That was September 21, 1964. I was the youngest Buick dealer in the nation. Most non-business people have no appreciation for how hard it is to run a business.
General Motors has done a lot of things right including some great products. They rarely ask me for my advice, but I have found that if I time it just right, I can influence the right person, and get the world's largest corporation to go in my direction. To openly confront a giant like GM would be real dumb, but a "bump" or a "nudge" at just the right time and place can get results. The people who run the world's largest corporation have to make decisions just like you and me, and they often they have very little data to base a decision on. That's when a bump or nudge can work to my favor. I am very comfortable associating with the biggest of the big, and I enjoy doing so when the opportunity presents itself.
Some of my favorite slogans are: "Our job is to sell 'em, not to keep 'em", "We lose a little on each car but we make it up in volume" and of course, "Come say 'YES' to NOecker deal" (part of our jingle)
Over 15,000 cars have gone down the road from our little corner of Hudson, NY, and still we get a real "high" every time we watch the tail lights of a car we just sold or leased, going down the road with the car's new owner behind the wheel. It's something we never tire of, like breathing, and eating, and sleeping. The other thing we never tire of is the enjoyment we get from some of our customers, whom we are pleased to think of as friends. A lot of nice people who we would have never known otherwise. We've managed to get a photo of some of them to show off to the world and we list them under "Favorite Customers".
Some of our employees, customers and business associates who have gone on to live with Jesus. There's little doubt that heaven has something that's the equivalent of a Buick. It must be very very good. I want on my tombstone: "Jesus, Family, Country, Buckeyes, Buicks."
My wife recently said to me: "You haven't changed one bit since you were a teen-ager." I take that as a compliment. Another thing my wife said also appealed to me. She said "You're always six months ahead of everybody else, aren't you."
For the last few years, beginning around 2004, I realized something was happening in the car business that wasn't good. I BEGGED the top GM "Car Czar" to put together an economy OPTIONAL power train for every Buick model, AND name it the "Super" option. It would be a power-train that gave exceptional gas mileage USING EXISTING COMPONENTS, SO THE COST OF OFFERING IT WOULD BE MINIMAL. Apparently, he could not convince the Board of Directors that it would be a good idea. Meanwhile, I maneuvered our dealership so we could gracefully exit the franchises, while keeping all the GM services we enjoy and use daily. I doubt there is another dealer in the world who is in our position. We cut our expenses by $100 an hour ($200,000 a year), beginning 2-22-08. By the time the big "crash" in the car industry happened in June 2008, we were Recession Proof. The worse the economy gets, the better our business becomes.
Unfortunately, GM didn't Depression Proof itself, and its dealerships are dropping like flies. The above power train I had begged for would have saved GM Billions of $$ in lost business. Now it's better late than never. You will see it in 2010, and you'll get an extra 5 miles per gallon with it.
June 2008 will go down in history as the date the car business changed forever. Charlie Rose interviewed the top man in GM and asked why he didn't see this coming. the answer he got was "Nobody saw it coming." He gets paid $14,000,000 a year FOR LIFE, and he didn't see it coming.
I saw it coming and so did a lot of my fellow dealers.
A TRIBUTE TO THE UNITED STATES
By Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian TV commentator, as printed in the US Congressional Record.
"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of these countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it. When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the United States that hurries in to help. This spring, 59 American communities were flattened by tornadoes. Nobody helped.
The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions into discouraged countries. Now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, warmongering Americans. I'd like to see just one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar, build its own airplane. Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tri-Star, or the Douglas DC10? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all the International lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or woman on the moon? You talk about Japanese technocracy, and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon - not once, but several times - and safely home again.
You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at. Even their draft-dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, and most of them, unless they are breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from ma and pa at home to spend here. When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke.
I can name you 5000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake. Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I'm one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their troubles. I hope Canada is not one of those."
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