In 1955, two teenagers were married and had a baby girl the following year… me. By 1959, they had four children, had one tragically die, my brother Christopher, and started their own business. I tell this only because I so admire what my parents were able to accomplish by the age of twenty-one! As I remember at twenty-one my only concern was where the next party was that weekend… not proud of the fact, but true!
As the story goes, my Dad had read in Popular Mechanics an article entitled ‘Turn concrete into gold.’ At the time, he was a janitor at Cullom School. In later years, when he would retell this story, often after a few cocktails, he would repeat… “I read in a magazine how to turn concrete into gold; it just didn’t say how damn hard work it was!”
He purchased the first mold of a chick from a company called Concrete Machinery, later he purchased the hen and rooster to complete the set. I have vague memories of him mixing the cement in buckets in the garage. His first mixer was an antique hand corn-sheller tipped on its side he had modified with an electric motor to mix the sand, gravel and cement. Another business starting out in a garage, although not quite as successful as Google, Apple, or Amazon… my parent’s business had humble beginnings too.
By 1960, they moved the operation across town to my Grandfather’s farm. The casting done in the front of the chicken house, and my Mom did painting in the barn. With the demolition of the barn this past week, she made the remark she had spent more than half her life in that barn painting.
So, how did they deliver all these statues you might ask. Of course, you buy an old school bus, and remove all the seats, their first delivery truck! Dad’s cousin Charlie Heylin, lived in Chicago. He would find garden centers to sell to, and take the orders. Mom and Dad with kids in tow would deliver in the bus. It is one of the reasons yet today Mom knows her way around Chicago so well. In the sixties, there were no expressways; they would have to drive around the city streets in that bus.
Also in 1960, Dad purchased some used metal molds from a gentleman in Chicago, George Allen, which allowed him to expand. The Jockey Boy and Cavalier Boy are two of our best selling statues yet today. They were two of the molds he bought used, I can easily call them vintage. I would also call them a very good investment made over fifty years ago. Kinda like turning concrete into gold!
More Later… Barbara