The Early Years
Born in 1951 in Wichita, Kansas, the third child in what was to become a six-child family. I had what I think would be considered a pretty normal childhood – you know – the kind where fighting with my brothers and sisters and driving my parents mad was the standard faire of the day.
Actually, I don’t remember fighting all that much with my siblings until we were all a little older.
We lived in a middle-class neighborhood and knew most of the folks who lived around us. It was safe for us kids in those days to play outside and I remember many nights playing hide-and-seek or catching fireflies in the neighborhood and nobody worried about crime or us kids being snatched. I was even allowed to walk to school alone as early as kindergarten and there was no worry about me being abducted. Probably the biggest danger of walking to school was crossing the creek that needed to traversed along the “shortcut.” I remember one day taking that shortcut and slipping off the log I was using to cross. Needless to say, I got a little wet…and a lot embarrassed showing up at school wet and muddy.
My mother made sure that every Sunday we graced the pews of the Catholic Church and for a short time, I attended Catholic schools. I think my parents tried to raise us kids in as Christian of an environment as they could – even in our home we had all the symbols and performed the traditions of the Catholic faith. Upon reflection, I’m thankful for my parents providing me a solid moral foundation that would under-gird me later in life.
Both of my parents worked to provide for us six kids a good life. My dad worked in the administrative offices of Derby Refining Co. and my mom pursued her entrepreneurial dreams as she enjoyed the increased opportunities for women in the workplace. Success in her real-estate development company allowed us to move in the early ’60s into a new upper-class rural housing development – even joining the Country Club.
But, life was not served to us on a silver platter – my parents instilled into us a strong work ethic. Besides the regular regimen of chores around the house, as we grew older we were encouraged to pursue work opportunities outside the home. When I was about 10 years old, I got my first direct sales experience selling seeds door to door for the American Seed Company. As I grew a little older, my dad bought two tractors which allowed my brother and I to mow the lawns of our neighbors and to cut the weeds in some of the larger fields.
Life was good for us living in the country. I attended Seltzer School, a small country school about a mile away as the crow flies or about 2 miles by road. We owned our own horse that was kept in a field adjacent to our home and played freely in the fields, lakes and open spaces all around us. Our bicycles were our main form of transportation and it was not uncommon for us to ride several miles from home in our adventures to the nearest stores. Summers
were spent swimming at the country club or my brother and I camping at one of the nearby lakes.