Walk in George’s Kansas footsteps

I recently traveled to my hometown in southeast Kansas, and it jogged my memory that George A. Hormel traveled the same area during his hide-buying career.

ah.01.25.bMany of the towns he mentioned in his autobiography are near my home and are familiar to me. In my sales position with Frito-Lay, I often traveled the same route that George described in his autobiography— I was selling snack foods and he was buying wool.

George found himself in the Kansas City area by chance when it seemed his opportunities in the Chicago meat packing business were slim. A friend said to him, “Look, George, there’s another passenger ticket rate-war on between the railroads going to Kansas City, why don’t we go?”

George records that “The fare was five dollars. I had a total capital of a little under ten. But since Kansas City was a railroad and livestock center, it seemed safe to risk finding a job as soon as we got there. At nineteen, I had had six years’ experience in three trades. I could seek work as a railroad shop helper, as a tanner, and in a variety of skills in the meat business.”

George soon found out that he wasn’t the only able-bodied worker looking for a new path. “When we boarded the train, it was packed with job seekers like ourselves. All young male Chicago, apparently, were on their way in search of better fortune in the West, looking for the riches that are always to be found in the place to which you are going.”

George stated that, “There were no ‘welcome signs’ awaiting us in Kansas City.” Fortunately, George conveyed a sense of ability and success as he was offered a job buying wool hides along the Kansas and Missouri border.

He wrote, “I worked the towns along the Missouri Pacific Railway on the Missouri side of the Kansas boundary as far as Joplin, then crossed over into Kansas, working my way back toward Kansas City.” Although this was new territory (both geographically and job type) for George, he was successful and credited this time with teaching him valuable lessons that led to future success. Of his first experience as a travelling salesman he wrote, “It is more than possible that if this trip had been a failure I should have rejoined the ranks of the workingman permanently. The trip was just enough of a success to encourage me to trust myself and to hope for larger future opportunities.”

I think I may have learned similar lessons on some of the same roads that George traveled.

 

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