Learning The Family Business
By Thomas Morrone CFP®, CPA
My love of cars started at a very young age which was passed on to me from my dad. Originally a baker, my father got his passion for working on vehicles in the motor pool while in the service. After the service, he scraped and saved while working the third shift at Wolf’s Bakery. I was around 5 years old and I can still remember going for a ride one Sunday morning after church. We pulled into the parking lot of the building that he had leased to start his full-service gas station. At the time I had no clue what all that meant but I had a feeling that the constant supply of fresh baked goods was coming to an end. This was not only the start of a business venture for my dad but also the beginning of my deep exposure into the world of auto mechanics.
My Saturday mornings from then on were no longer sleeping late and sitting in front of the black and white TV watching cartoons. My dad would drag my butt out of bed very early and bring me to the gas station because I had to help him in whatever way I could. As much as I did not like getting up at 6:00 AM to open the shop by 7:00, the memories that I have are priceless. I was fascinated by all the tools and equipment. It was so cool to be able to stand underneath a car while it was raised on the lift. There were so many nuts, bolts, brackets, hoses, belts and dirty greasy things to look at and touch. I had special gas station clothes that were OK to get dirty, so it was a free for all. Dad was always explaining what he was doing and why. Simple things to him seemed magical to me.
As I got older, dad would hand me a wrench or screwdriver and let me tighten something under the hood or under the car. It was so cool. Eventually I was able to use the power tools to take lug nuts off rims or use the tire machine to replace old bald tires with nice new ones. It was such an exciting way to learn about auto mechanics. I worked nights and weekends at the station all the way through college. This is also where I started learning about business, finances and accounting. That is another story. Both my brothers were the true mechanics and worked at the station full time until the business closed in 1999. The days of the full-service gas station were an era gone by. We would pump gas into cars, check the oil, wash windshields, check the air in the tires and give S & H green stamps. Remember those days? Now, most every gas station is self-service, and you bring your car to the dealership for repairs and maintenance.
It was always about the cars though. When a higher end car came into be worked on we would all gawk and examine all the details. These finer points of various vehicles of that era has given me my love of a well-engineered automobile. The 60’s and 70’s saw the muscle cars with amazing horsepower. These cars were nothing real fancy but were powerful machines. During those years and seeing how cars were put together made me appreciate the craftsmanship and engineering of the finer vehicles. It was easy to spot a cheaply made vehicle when you understood how things worked.
Again, I love nothing more than sitting in the driver’s seat of a well-engineered and crafted vehicle. My dad would be smiling with me now and would be proud that I am writing this.
Until the Next Tom’s Take…