Hamlin, Texas is a world away from “city life”. The high school mascot is the Pied Pipers. It is the type of town that had one stop light and a Dairy Queen; farms in every direction with large grain silos next to the railroad tracks. Edgar was raised without a mother as she passed away in his early childhood. Cultivated by the ethics of long days and elbow grease, he knew he had to earn his wages in sweat. Designated to be on the front lines of the Normandy Invasion, Edgar was sent home three days before D Day because his only son had become gravely ill. It was thought his son would not make it and Edgar was granted a pass to see his son before he passed away.
His heir recovered and Edgar was sent back to fight the Nazis. Upon his return, Edgar worked at a grocery store and worked his way up. As Edgar earned more promotions, he learned how to run a business. Not from college or a seminar, his lessons were taught by tedious duties, common sense, and long days working with customers.
Edgar took a chance and found a business partner. The partner would put up half the money and Edgar would run the Piggly Wiggly. Every new employee went through Edgar’s unique orientation on the first day. After sweeping the store and straightening the items. Edgar would send the new employee on an errand. They would be instructed to go to the Chrysler House and ask for Mr. Buford. “He borrowed my shelf stretcher and I need it back.” The employee would walk to the car lot only to be told that Mr. Buford had loaned it to Mr. Fowler at the bank. Mr. Fowler would send the employee to the town’s mechanic and then to the feed store. Each place would send the kid all over until the employee realized that there was no such thing as a shelf stretcher. Edgar paid the employee for the full day of work, and though, they were part of the “joke,” the employee also earned knowledge of the town’s business owners. Edgar was known for being quite a character in the town of Hamlin.
Not only dedicated to practical jokes, he was committed to his Faith in God. Edgar purchased an audio recorder. This machine used a magnetized, metal wire to record sound. Edgar would set up this 1950s state of the art device at the front of the church to capture the sermon for the week. Edgar would take the recording to the hospital and play it for the patients who wanted to be at the service but lacked the health to be there. Edgar was Hamlin’s first podcaster!
Being a small town where everyone knew each other, certain businesses allowed customers to charge the items on a tab. Sometimes, the local farmers would run low on cash and had to wait to be paid. Edgar had a business to run and a family of five at home. Extending credit was risky but something Edgar was willing to do. At the end of the year, Edgar would examine the accounts passed due. Without fanfare or any public awareness, Edgar would call in three or four of the individuals with outstanding debt. Edgar sat them down privately, listened to their stories, showed them their tab, and ripped it up. He gave them a fresh start. He knew the people’s situation and wanted to show them some compassion. No matter the amount, the customer could begin the year without the burden of debt.
Edgar’s business acumen is not a part of trendy coursework. Focused on lowering cost and maximizing profits strategies tend to be the foundation of every company’s mantra. His approach brought his family success as he retired earlier than most folks his age. Edgar didn’t do it for publicity or a tax write-off. He allowed his heart to guide his ethics. People used to live by honor, a handshake, and their word. Edgar lived by his Faith and never pushed his thoughts on others. Edgar led by example even if no one was watching.
In popular culture, people long for days passed and seek a common code of conduct. What is stopping you if you feel that way? Don’t wait for others approval, blaze your own path. Find that inner voice and serve others in a way that feeds your soul.
Edgar did not find the key to life by a personal growth book or seminar. He behaved in a manner he wanted others to follow. For him, the Good Book and family filled his cup. I never heard anyone publicly acknowledge or carry on the generosity Edgar showed to the community. I would hope anyone touched by Edgar’s practice and, now, the act of passing on of this story would consider helping someone in need. What distinguished Edgar’s approach is he didn’t wait for the person to ask for help. Edgar followed his heart. Edgar was not trying to change the world. He sought to change the world for each individual.
Edgar had three children but, honestly, he was a father to the community. With a little courage, all of us could take the time to acknowledge an individual’s humanity & frailty. With Edgar as my grandfather, I feel like I can pass on his legacy in my own way. Connecting with my family’s roots only makes me stronger.