What I Learned From My Grandfather

January 12, 2014

General, Stories

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This morning as I stepped out into my garage, I looked down and saw an old Kenmore dryer. It was the style that has the black control panel with brown trim on it. I’ve grown to love those machines. They were designed and built back in an era where quality and longevity were highly valued. This morning however, that dryer just reminded me of my grandfather and all the things I learned from him.

Some of the things I learned from my grandfather:

To work hard. My grandfather was a very hard worker. When I was young, I was not. I remember one day when I was grade-school aged, I was out on my grandparents property (26 acres) working to earn some money. While I was there, he learned I wasn’t a very hard worker, and when it came to the end of the day, I remember my grandmother trying to persuade him to pay me a little money for helping. I remember him telling her that I had barely worked and didn’t deserve any money. I always respected my grandpa, and if he insinuated that I was lazy, then he was probably right. I’ve never forgotten that day. I’ve since learned that if I want to become like him and many others that I look up to in life, it will come from hard work.

How to pick a good wife. My grandfather married an incredible woman.  My grandmother, she was the sweetest grandma you could ever imagine. When she passed away about 8 years ago, I told my father to tell my grandpa one thing that day. Tell grandpa that he picked well, I said. If you are a young man today reading this, pick a wife with not only your children in mind, but also your grandchildren. A sweet grandmother is an incredible gift, and our family benefited greatly from my grandfather’s choice for a bride.

To purchase wisely. My grandfather introduced our family to Consumer Reports magazine at a young age. He was always talking about the top rated cars and appliances, tools and TVs. He put a lot of thought into what he purchased. He was interested in items that were well made, highly rated and that would last a long time. I learned at a young age that there are vast differences in quality in seemingly identical products. He showed that a little research can really pay off.

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I remember one day my grandpa talking about the washer and dryer he’d had for quite a while. They were old brown and black paneled Kenmore’s (made by Whirlpool). Every now and then they would need a little maintenance, which he would always have done. Once that was complete, they would run like new. He was really proud of those machines. He bought them new in 1990, and those machines are still running great today, 24 years later. Neither he nor I would have ever imagined that his discovery all those years ago would be a foundational principle in my appliance business. (We sell and work on Whirlpool made washers/dryers almost exclusively.)

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How to tell (and retell) stories.
My grandfather could tell stories. One of my dearest memories of him was during one of his story telling sessions. We would sit in his living room and he would recount interesting events from his past. One such time, while retelling an especially funny story, he laughed himself to tears, which of course caused many of us in the room to do the same. Each one of those stories were a gift.

Note: I want to encourage you to tell your children and your grandchildren stories of your past. Do it often. Let them learn about how things used to be. Let them learn from your mistakes, and laugh with you as you recount some of life’s funnier moments. If you are still young, then ask your parents or grandparents to tell you about your family history and what life was like growing up.

Not to be wasteful. I remember helping my Grandpa rebuild his deck when I was a little kid. I saw him walking around with a canning jar picking up nails. At first I thought he was just collecting them to throw them away, but that wasn’t the reason. He would eventually straighten the nails for re-use. That really stuck with me. My grandfather could afford new nails, it’s just that he didn’t want to waste them.

How to be generous. My grandfather was a generous man. He gave not only his money to a myriad of charities and community projects, but he was even more generous with his time. Whether it was grandparents day, ball games, Rotary, a community BBQ, or the local visitor center on the river, he gave a tremendous amount of his time for the good of his community.

How to commit to something. My grandfather lived in Roseburg, Oregon for 85 years (he was gone in the military for another 5). He was married to my grandmother for three weeks shy of 60 years. He was a member of Rotary for over 50 years. He volunteered for the local visitor center for close to 10 years and the SMART program for another 5 years or so. He was also a dentist for 38 years. He taught us loyalty and commitment.

We would often have family gatherings on my grandparents property along the river growing up. Without exception, after eating together, the whole family would take walks together along the property. Our path along the river always brought us under the shadows of Douglas Fir trees hundreds of feet tall, and many over a century old. Every now and then we would all stop and take a moment to appreciate the wonder of those trees. Looking back now all these years later I’ve realized something else I appreciated about them. The calm, consistent presence and strength they exuded.

My grandfather was much like those towering trees, and this past year our family had to say goodbye to him.

I wish I could show him the old Kenmore washer and dryer I have for sale right now. They are just like his.

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19 Responses to “What I Learned From My Grandfather”

  1. Isabella Says:

    What a sweet tribute to your grandfather. I love the photo too.

    I was surprised about your comment about Whirpools. I had a Maytag for 24 years. It away still working (never any repairs and we had 4 kids) when we moved out of state. Then, we bought a Whirlpool that only lasted for 5 years before repairs were needed. Now I am back to Maytag.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Thanks Isabella. Maytag once had some of the longest lasting, best built washers and dryers on the market. I’ve actually taken in a set that was about 50 years old, which had one owner the set is still working great today. In the early 2000′s they started going downhill and made some poor manufacturing decisions which ultimately led to the company’s ultimate demise in about 2006. In 2006 Whirlpool bought out Maytag and proceeded to close all their plants. Now all Maytag appliances are produced, and marketed by Whirlpool corporation.

      Reply

  2. Quinton Hamp @ The Lost Cyclist Says:

    Great post. My Grandpa and Grandma married as teens and moved into a one-room shack. He worked long hours in a meat factory and hated it. He always talked wistfully of the time he sold his Gibson Mandolin to pay for rent. He never found a mando he liked as well.

    Then he went into sales. He was good at sales, but didn’t care much for that, either. Finally, he developed ThermaTex, a synthetic stucco. Over the next several decades he developed it into a pretty significant business.

    Unfortunately, he couldn’t get his kids interested in taking over the business, and he finally sold it to some investors who managed to artfully destroy it in about 5 years.

    But he was never one to mope. He was always busy, building homes for his daughters (or himself), fixing things, building things. Like your grandfather, mine taught me the art of hard work — mostly through endless days of stringing fix and shovelling rock.

    But more than that, he taught me that it’s ok to succeed. And it’s ok to fail.

    Great post, man. Thanks for giving us a chance to reminisce on the legacies we carry.

    Reply

  3. Sandi Says:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up knowing my grandfathers, but what you describe is much like my own dad (who would be the same age as your grandfather!). His life was lived much of what you shared here. A precious generation. Thanks for sharing these memories.

    As for Whirlpool, we’ve used the brand all our married years and have been pleased with our washer and dryer. The only reason we upgraded was after the first 25 years (and six kids) they simply wore out! We now have a Whirlpool front-loader we bought new and really like, and a traditional Whirlpool dryer bought used. We have never been disappointed with the company.

    I appreciate your insight and commitment to restoration and value.
    Thanks for sharing today.

    Reply

  4. Diana B Says:

    Nice post! Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply

  5. Aunt Esther Says:

    “This was sooo inspiring, Ryan! What a wonderful tribute to your Grandfather, Jim Sr. And your Grandmother, Alice…. tis true. She was a very lovely person. Karen and I have many fond memories with Alice. We enjoyed having lunch up at Steamboat Springs. We would have Grandmother Ruth with us, too!

    I realize that you learned a lot from your Grandfather! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply

  6. James Says:

    Hello Ryan;
    That was a very thought provoking post u wrote!
    I enjoyed it.
    Ur Grandfather was a wise man.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  7. Jeremy M. Says:

    Great post Ryan. I enjoy learning from your experience in your appliance business much like you enjoyed lessons learned from your grandfather. I am sure he is proudly watching over you.

    Reply

  8. Mike Greig Says:

    Hey Ryan,
    Great post! I think much will be lost with the passing of that generation. Patience, dedication, commitment to name a few things… The old machines were built to last, just like our Grandpas.

    Reply

  9. Ajay Says:

    Good Post Ryan,
    I could just walk down my memory lane to rejoice the days I spent with my Grandpa. It is a poisonous truth that ‘our’ generation is not enough dedicated, loving, giving people as 2 generations earlier. Had great pleasure reading about the article and immediately reminded me to fetch and use the “shower radio” that Grandpa gave me 20 yrs ago. Strong enough to last and works the way it was designed.

    Reply

  10. Don Says:

    Great post! I see these older models selling on craigslist all the time, normally for a good price. I’ve avoided purchasing them because they look old, and I’m not sure I can resell them at a decent profit. Am I making a mistake?

    Started in September 2013 to date: 37 washer/dryer pairs sold!
    Don

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      Those washers will almost always sell for $125-$150 each. They are great machines. People just want a good working washer.

      37 pairs isn’t anything to sneeze at! Well done. Keep it up! We’ve started an appliance school over at applianceschool.com, you should check it out.

      Reply

  11. Esteban Says:

    Great head on your shoulders. I hope you know you are doing a lot good for everyday normal folk with appliance headaches. Your info is very trustworthy and that’s hard to come by nowadays. I found on the internet only finding useless info and data testing for performance. When reliability is all I need. I read your entire article and posts about washers and I’m not even looking for one. Can’t wait to read your article on dryers and check out your applianceschool.com.

    Reply

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