Saturday, July 28, 2012

120th COG's Business and Commerce:A Life To Be Dreamed

The following is a story that I wrote several years ago about a dear aunt. It's a "true story" in that it has been told and retold over the years.  I have changed the names, but the crux of the story remains basically the same over the years.  Granted, many times the tellers of the story exaggerate or minimze, depending upon their own feelings about the events.  Nonetheless,this is a true story and  there are important lessons to be garnered from this family story:  
1) In my family, folks don't ask if they can start a buisness;  they just assume that they can --- and they do.
2)  Leone (in this story) has all of the insecurities of a girl, who was raised in a home will little extra money for luxuries and yearned ever so much for more, more and more. . She also has all the "moxie" taught by a family that moved back and forth across the country without much fear of the unknown.    She might be afraid of stepping forward, but she never lets it  keep her from her goal.
3) Success requires hard work and dedication.

My aunt, the subject of this story, was not the only McPherson who started, built, and nurtured a business.  The older sister who loaned "Leone" the money for beauty school, also had a successful dress shop in Calipatria for many years.  She and her husband also had a garage, and a couple of grocery stores.  Another McPherson sister and her husband had a very successful grocery store in Anderson, California.  Two of the brothers, at one time or another, had their own trucks for long haul trucking.  My Uncle Ralph was a gypo lumberman, which meant that he indeed worked for himself -- in addition to setting his own terms.  

Before my father's death,  he  ran a succeful potato farm for Zuckerman Farms, as well as building his own farm and creating the McPherson Brothers Farms.  When he needed to spray/dust his crops, he created Midland Air Service which provided airplane crop dusting/spraying for his own crops as well as for other farmers in Klamath County and in Heppner, Oregon.  

The next generation has gone into business as restaurant owners, independent providers of service, and successful farmers.   My McPherson's seem to enjoy building their own business, calling their own shots, and making their own way.

And now, on to a very specific business to be dreamed and built.

A Life to Be Dreamed

“Show time, Babe,” Rex said as he pulled the long, sleek, new 1960 Lincoln convertible to a stop. They were just a few blocks from their destination of one of San Diego's largest schools. “Time to put the top down and make our entrance.

“And then we can drive slowly onto the campus - to give the kids a good look at success,” replied Leone as she gave a flick to her gleaming flame of red hair.

“That, and you won't get your hair all windblown,” he chuckled.

She tapped his leg and smiled. He was such a tease and always could put her at ease when she was getting nervous. She shook her head in disbelief --- all those dreams in her head when her oldest sister loaned her $25 for tuition to beauty school.

“Rex, does it ever seem like a dream to you. You know, from where we were when we first met - to now?”

“You mean when we were still struggling to make ends meet? Me, working in the meat market just down from your beauty shop? And now we are making money beyond what I ever imagined? And married to my beautiful red-headed soul-mate?” He glanced at her and smiled. “Just bloody amazing is what it is!”

“Do you remember how irritated I was when I came back from my session at the LaJolla conference?”

“O, yeah, Babe. You were expecting a more intimate greeting,” he smiled, his eye cocked provocatively. “Not a bed covered with brochures, articles, and handouts – to say nothing of the applications. Yeah, I remember.” Rex covered her hand with his. “That was the beginning.”

“You were so excited. I am so glad that you went to that business session – though I was surprised you gave up pool and lounge time to sit through one of those sessions.”

“Good thing it was too early to be interesting at the pool – or the lounge, for that matter. Those two hours in that stuffy lecture room, sitting on those metal, straight-backed chairs may have been the most important two hours of our lives.”

“True. This gorgeous convertible, The Morgan School of Beauty, our wonderful house in El Cajon – none of it would be, if you hadn't gone to that workshop.” Leone's mind replayed that day. She had been in workshops all day and smugly thinking that she could have been leading most of the sessions. Then, when she returned to the room expecting hugs and kisses, what she got was Rex's unexpected greeting.

“Honey, we need to start a beauty school.”

“What are you talking about? I have my hands full with my beauty salon, as well as the three franchises we have here in San Diego.”

“I couldn't believe the look on your face when I told you, 'No, we need to do this now. It's where the money is.'”Rex chuckled at the memory.

“Well, I would never have thought that we could do anything that the government would provided training money for. We are just regular people – not a big school or something,” replied Leone as she brushed a strand of hair back from her face.

“It was just a perfect fit for us. I have a knack for business and sales, and you, my love, have all the great hands on experience. Perfect,” he murmured as he reached across and stroked her cheek.

            Thoughts of their amazing journey flitted through their minds. The first night that they talked into the wee hours of the morning,  planning their beauty school, then they jumped in with both feet. Long, hard weeks of filing and bird-dogging the paperwork for accreditation, finding that great location in downtown San Diego, locating staff and creating a super curriculum. Even when the school opened, it was hard with only eight students. Now, in great part due to their outreach program – like the one they were presenting today, they were filling a new class every four months. A hard, but heady six months.

A group of students gathered around the sleek convertible, the guys talking about how many horses under the hood, and the girls dreaming of riding with their beaus, their hair blowing in the wind, just like a movie star. In the school's admin office, a few teachers and clerks watched as Leone and Rex made their way up the walkway.
A pudgy, pony-tailed clerk nodded approvingly. “They do make quite an entrance, don't they?”

“Well, he is absolutely a hunk,” agreed the Principal's secretary. “He looks just like a movie star – dark, swarthy good looks. Ymmm.”

The office staff smiled and greeted Leone and Rex when they walked into the office. Mr. Cookerill, the principal came out of his office and boomed, “Leone Morgan, we are so glad to have you here today.” He shook her hand, and held it just a bit too long. Rex smiled. He knew the effect that his vivacious wife had on people, especially men.

Leone smiled, “I always look forward to meeting with your students. Will we have about 50 students, as we usually do?”

“Your presentations have been quite popular. Over 60 girls have signed up – and I wouldn't be surprised if there were more.” The principal ushered them out of the office and down the hall. “I have moved you to a larger room,and hope that will be suitable.”

           Rex and Leone moved the classroom chair-desks around into a comfortable, double-rowed semi-circle, placed brochures, business cards, and applications at each seat. Then the bell rang throughout the hallways, and the room soon filled with eager young women, looking for a career and a dream. The high school seniors eagerly examined the brochures and applications as they waited.

             Leone stood. Her heart was in her throat – no matter how many times she did this, she still felt like a scared little girl in hand-me-downs. Then she smiled.

“Hi, my name is Leone Morgan and I have a story to tell -- about a young girl from a very poor family. A girl who didn't even finish high school. I want to tell you about the dream that this girl had and how she made it happen. She … .”

~ ~ ~
 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. Again, your story telling - - stuns me into speechless delight and dreams and visions.

    1. Thank you, dear friend, for the kind words. This was a fun story to tell -- and retell it as it were. My family has heard versions of this story for the last 35 years or so --- our own rags to riches story.

  2. Great story, Joan! I love how you wrote it up this way!

    1. Thank you Dawn. Glad you enjoyed it. This wasn't a story made for hard research, but to hear it from my dear aunts perspective, with a bit of tweaking from her loving niece.

  3. You wrote this story up beautifully and so evocatively. What an amazing couple "Leone" and "Rex" must have been!

    1. Glad you liked the story. The real "Rex" and "Leone" were quite a pair. And they had an amazing love story of a life, right up until "Rex"s death. In fact, he is still the love of her life.

  4. I love a success story! And this one was such fun to read. Because you changed your aunt's name I have to wonder if she is either still alive or if she owns a very famous cosmetology school.

    1. Indeed, she is still living, but I probably would have changed her name anyhow. The story has been told and retold for so many years, by so many people, that there have been "variations" of the story along the way. I chose to go with the feelings that I got when my aunt told the story. Glad you liked the story.