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Monday, December 21, 2009

In the spring of 1964 I was five years old, and would be starting first grade in the fall. I was the youngest of three children, all boys, and my mother was ready to return to the working world. Unlike today, most women did not work outside the home. My mother was one of six children, three boys and three girls. Their father passed away while my mother was a teenager. Although my grandmother received a pension from the railroad, it was necessary for her to work to keep up with the financial needs of the family. She owned and operated a restaurant in a small town in mountains of southern West Virginia. After my grandfather passed away, she expanded the restaurant into an adjoining building, where she operated a flower shop. I'm sure her exemplary hard work to support her family was a big influence on my mother’s own decision to work outside the home.

At that time there were no wholesale florists in West Virginia. All of the items they used in the flower business were grown themselves, collected from the wild, or manufactured by hand. Mom helped out by growing flowers and plants, collecting items from the mountains or making flowers from silk ribbon and other materials. There were also some items that were mail-ordered and shipped in.

Since I would be starting school in the fall, and she was ready to go back to work, it was only natural that she applied at the local florist for employment. The owner, a very successful, but arrogant and pompous old man, laughed at her and told her she did not know the first thing about the flower business and was not qualified to sweep the floors in his flower shop. She knew better, because she knew she had learned the business well, as had one of her brothers and a sister who both had opened flower shops and were operating them following the same successful footsteps of their mother.

My father was an electrician at a local manufacturing plant, and had recently started selling carpeting (really a big thing in the sixties) for all the new houses being built in the area. He had secured a building where he would be hosting a flooring show for prospective clients to see all the options available. After learning the outcome of my mother's interview, he scrapped the flooring business and instead encouraged her to open her own flower shop. So with the support of my father, and my mother’s florist family, they all set to work preparing the building for the new florist in town. This would be better for my mother anyway, since having her own business allowed her the freedom to have her children with her while she worked without creating a conflict, which she never would have been able to do working for someone else. Who could have foreseen that this would also be the beginnings of my own lifelong career?

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