Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.
A typical early sign at a John Deere Dealership
In the Beginning
Clarence Weston was the grandfather of Quinn Weston. Clarence himself was the grandson of Alfred Weston. Alfred Weston was a nephew of Levi Weston, a key character in the rebuilding of Oak Springs following the Civil War, and an associate of Colonel Jake Patton in the years leading up to the war. Alfred and his brother came to Oak Springs to work and live with Levi. After a few years, Alfred became the Sales Manager for the family Wagon Works business. At an early date, Alfred introduced John Deere implements to the sales line when they became available. Eventually, Alfred bought out his family partners to operated the Sales business himself.
Alfred’s grandmother, Levi’s mother, was a Park, a family practicing the Jewish faith for generations. Alfred grew up in the faith, but as a young adult ceased to practice the rituals of the faith and married outside the faith. By the time Clarence was a young man, his father, Brett, along with Alfred had built a successful John Deere Implement Dealership, early in the 20th Century, in the rural Oak Springs community in the Oak Creek valley of the southern Missouri Ozark Mountains. Before long, Clarence was joined in the business by his younger brother, Derrick. They each enjoyed spending after school hours and weekends learning various aspects of the business. Their father, Brett, encouraged them and made clear that if the business continued to be successful it would become theirs one day.
Clarence was born in Oak Springs in 1906, a sister, Donna, in 1908, and his brother, Derrick, in 1909. In addition to their work with their father (and grandfather, Alfred, while he lived) at the John Deere Dealership, they held a common interest in baseball. The brothers each played football and basketball in school, but their real sports love was baseball. As they finished high school in the mid to late 1920s, they were each actively involved with the local town commercial team, often visiting surrounding communities to play games through the summer. Clarence was a decent pitcher and Derrick was a catcher. They could each play other positions as needed. Each had a good eye for hitting the ball, so their services were always in demand.
The Mower was an early implement handled by the Weston John Deere Dealership
Learning the Implement Business
Brett and Alfred worked to assure that each of the boys, Clarence and Derrick, learned the Implement business from the ground up. At the proper time in their working experience, they learned the operation of the Parts Department, including the intricacies of taking inventory and ordering parts as well as stocking them properly. They each took a turn, on multiple occasions, at completing assembly of implements shipped partially assembled. They each participated in extended apprenticeships with the mechanics in the Service Department so as to fully appreciate this critical work of the firm in building and maintaining customer confidence and loyalty in the community. After finishing High School, they each gained experience in the Sales Department and began taking on Management skills training from their father and grandfather. At the same time, Brett’s wife, Jewell, taught their daughter, Donna, the bookkeeping and related skills she would need to succeed her in the business. The bookkeeper position at the time included recording payables, receivables and payroll as well as acting as secretary and receptionist for the business. The internal bookkeeping was overseen regularly by an outside accountant for the firm.
Through the years, the business employed full time workers in each of the specialized areas of the business. The boys were expected to learn skills from these employees as well as learn to work along side them and develop leadership skills as part of the entire team. Alfred had developed this approach at an early date and had successfully carried it off with Brett in their early years developing and operating the business. Inevitable conflicts were faced in an open manner and a resolution achieved through mutual efforts. Always, resolutions balanced survival (and prospering) of the business with good customer service.
Alfred retired from active day-to-day involvement in the business in 1930, at age 70, at which time Brett was 46 and assumed ownership and operational control of the business. Alfred lived to be 86, however, and was always available to assist or consult as the need arose. Brett especially appreciated the support during those first years which turned out to be during the unexpected Great Depression. Through their mutual efforts, unlike many similar businesses of the day, the Weston John Deere Dealership survived and then thrived again as the years passed by.
John Deere tractors were early favorites of Missouri farmers
Impact of Baseball
Business at the dealership was impacted by the Great Depression during the early 1930s although perhaps not as much as many other businesses. Alfred had the firm on very solid footing when he retired, and Brett took most of the best steps he could to continue to service his farm customers. One unusual thing that Alfred and Brett did during the 1920s and the early struggles of the 1930s was to strongly support the continuation of the Oak Springs Giants Commercial Baseball Team. The team provided an uplifting spirit and useful diversion from the many problems encountered by individuals and families during that period. The team even traveled to other southwestern Missouri communities that were able to maintain their teams to help support those communities, as far north as the Kansas City area. The social activities in which the team participated in each of these communities, in connection with the team visits to play baseball, were also strong contributors to the strength of each of their teams in their communities.
As an example, the Lee’s Summit Braves Commercial Baseball Team also continued to be very competitive during this period and was also sponsored by the local John Deere Dealership. On each visit by one of the teams to the other, before or after games, sometimes both, the team members, and primary sponsors, and their families would plan a meal together, perhaps a picnic, simple, not fancy, where they could all get to know one another and support one another. This was done at little added expense, everyone had to eat, but was a fine social opportunity, which were otherwise somewhat hard to come by. The Weston brothers and sister, for example, came to be good friends with the Hernandez brothers and sisters, about the same age and about the same birth order: Dom, Maria, and Dak. Ernest Hernandez, the father, had played professional baseball for a time and still hoped his sons would one day. The Weston brothers loved to hear his stories of his playing days and of their early years in Puerto Rico.
In 1933, as business was picking up, Jewell and Donna had decided that for the most efficient use of their skills in the business office, the job of bookkeeper and secretary/receptionist should be split and a new person hired as secretary/receptionist. Jewell hoped to retire from the business in the not to distance future. As it turned out, this subject came up for discussion at one of the Baseball dinners. Maria was looking for such a position and was already experienced. After appropriate interviews, background information gathered, and family agreement, Maria was hired by the Westons for this new position in the Oak Springs Weston John Deere Dealership.
Note from Author
This is the first of six background character sketches for the family history of Quinn Weston. He is the central character in a prospective novel, “Aspiriations,” in “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories by the author.
The Homeplace Saga
- The Homeplace Saga
The home blog for "The Homeplace Saga" series of historical fiction family saga stories set in the southern Missouri Ozarks. All updates of the series are mentioned here, regardless of platform.