Selling My Soul For Burt And Ernie

Had Kama Nagari and I been content to live a simple life, which was our original purpose in moving to our Walden, we could have lived comfortably on my scholarship. Kama Nagari may have found a part time job in a library or store if she wanted personal money and I could have gone on easily with my studies, but no, the both of us moved into the fast lane. We decided to do business and make money, and so I took my $10,000 scholarship and invested it in the business, buying sewing machines, cutting knives and other equipment. Living simply is just not within my scope. Whatever I do I am compelled to push it to the limit. This, of course, has created a lot of good in my life, but it is also a great evil that haunts me even today.

Marvin and Tucker was about to enter the slipper manufacturing business, big time. We acquired a few sewing machines, put ads into the local newspapers asking for people to sew slippers in their homes and we would provide the machines. I do not recall how many workers we started with, but one way or another we assembled a handful of ladies, drove them into the city factory for training and got them setup in their machines in their homes. Each week I would drive into Toronto, pick up a lot of pre-cut sewing pieces and other supplies and deliver them to our workers. At that time I would pick up finished slippers and drive them into the city on the next run. I did this run twice a week for years. When I was in the city I would stay at my parents home and somehow find time to attend university classes amidst it all. Gradually we added new workers and in time we built up a trained labor force of textile workers. Eventually we needed a separate building for our supplies as it was just too much to continue operating out of our house and barn. I soon rented an old textile building on the banks of the Trent River in Campbellford, the local town. Years before, this area of eastern Ontario had been famous for textiles because the Trent River that flowed through the town could easily be harnessed to turn the large textile machines. Our rented building still had the machinery, turbines and water wheels that reached out into the river to catch the river flow. I wish I had photos to show our building, but in those days I never used a camera. In fact, I do not think I even owned one. We expanded by moving some of our workers into this building. We also set up the fabric cutting and the final packaging operations in this building. I purchased a larger truck so that I could move more slippers around at a time. I remember sitting in this building with over 60,000 pairs of Burt and Ernie, Big Bird and Cookie Monster slippers stacked in boxes all around me.

Eastern Ontario was an economically depressed area, so a new business moving into a small town was a big deal, and we soon caught the eye of the local press. Kama Nagari and I found our photos in the local newspaper along with a write up about our business describing how we were providing jobs and bringing money into the local economy. We were becoming well known members of the local business community. Eventually we had about 60 people working for us, 50 ladies and 10 men. Anna, you cannot imagine the stress of managing that many people. There was so much paper work to be done, government regulations to meet and every two weeks we had to come up with everyone’s wages. Our payroll was about $25,000 every two weeks. For us that was a huge cash flow to be responsible for and so I had to arrange loans and lines of credit with the local banks. Marvin and Tucker was becoming a major industry in this local community of 3,500 people and I was learning a lot about business, finance and management, skills that serve me well even today. We eventually reached a point in our business when representatives from the United Textile Workers of America came to our business and tried to unionize our workers. My God, I never dreamed that I would be faced with an international trade union. Fortunately, our workers rejected the attempts of these people to organize a division of the labor union in our factory.

All during this period I continued to struggle with my academic studies, but as you can imagine it was almost impossible to study properly. I simply could not give my academic studies the attention that they needed and so I suffered greatly. In spite of this, each week when I went to the city I would attend my classes at the university and continue to struggle, but progress was agonizing. When we had started Marvin and Tucker I thought I could do both business and my schooling, but now I was learning my limitations. My greatest fear was that I would spend the rest of my life as a slipper manufacturer and die with people remembering me as a businessman. I desperately wanted to get out of business and get back to my studies, but once the wheels of commerce had begun to turn there was no easy way to stop it. I dreamed day and night being a writer. I was making good money in business, but I was not happy and I knew that I had taken a wrong turn in my life. I was learning the consequences of my actions, and gradually I was becoming self realized.


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