Character must be sought, taught, and caught but often it is fought! Whatever character I have, I got it from my father who died at age 66. My dad was a highly principled and successful man with a sixth grade education! At this time of year, it is appropriate that I consider how much I owe him. Much of what I am and what I have accomplished is because of him.
Dad dropped out of school in the sixth grade to help support his family. He was the eldest of five brothers and three sisters. The depression was on and war drums were beating all over Europe and the far east. After several odd jobs, he got a job pumping gas at an ESSO station in Wayne, WV on old U.S. 52. He was an early teen and would be married before he was sixteen. Mom was a year older and got married after graduation. A little over a year after they were married, “Little Don” entered the world.
After a few years, Dad got a job running a cake route for a national cake company and became a troubleshooter for them. Things were tough until I was in the seventh grade. By that time, the war was over and Dad was making more money, even bought a used car with a rumble seat. He ended up buying two gas stations and a drug store and became a highly respected man, not because of his success but because of his character. He tried to pass that on to me.
My most impressive lesson from Dad was that, “A man who will lie will do anything.” Life has proved that truism. People will lie then lie again to cover the first lie then sometimes even kill to not be detected. Plus, as he said, if you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember what you told people about anything.
Dad was savvy about people and business. He bought a gas station on one of Huntington’s major streets and quickly made it a success. He wanted everyone in town to know that Boys’ Esso Station did the best wash job in town and could be trusted with minor repairs. So I had to wash under the wheel wells and other places that no one could see.
I had just become a Christian and refused to work on Sunday morning or evening since I would be in church. He was not thrilled with that but he grudgingly accepted it. He permitted me to drive our service truck around the station driveway as I taught myself to drive. The truck was a 1948 Ford pickup painted white with red fenders. On each door was emblazoned “Boys’ ESSO Station” and within months I was using it for my dates with Mary Anne who was destined to become my wife. Often on Sunday or Monday, people would inform Dad as to where I had been on my Saturday night date! Within a year, I was preaching throughout the WV-KY-OH area and drove the truck to my preaching engagements.
Dad was not successful by accident. It was all planned and I had to follow his plan. I was to approach a car on our driveway with, “Good day, sir, may I fill it up and check your oil?” Dad never had a psychology course but he knew it was better to suggest a fill-up rather than, “What can I do for you?” He also knew that a few cars each day would need oil, maybe even an oil change. Of course, every car got the windshield and back window cleaned.
Dad taught me to work hard and long and watch out for details, something I have treasured during my life. All my life I have never been comfortable when people were working while I was watching. His push to get me to finish a job the best I could has been reflected in every area of my life sometimes to extremes. I remember when I was 40 years old and Mom and Dad came to Indianapolis to spend a few days. In recent years I had annually sold a million dollars per year of whole life insurance (for six years); was now administrator of one of the largest Christian schools in America; was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives; and had just written my first book; yet I remember wondering what Dad would think of my backyard garden! Would he be impressed with the straight lines of vegetables; the firm, red tomatoes, the lack of weeds (that he had taken years to train me to eliminate in our family garden)?
To this day, I still follow procedures that he insisted on me following as a boy: always wash my hands before every meal; comb my hair; stand when a lady enters the room; never sit when speaking with a lady; never talk when talk when someone else is talking; respect all uniforms and I do to this day.
I was to keep my word whatever the cost to me. This came home to me when I was publisher of Christian school curriculum and mailed a promotional piece that was ambiguous, to thousands of Christian schools. It cost me over $2,000 to make it right although I could have pleaded that it had been taken the wrong way. Dad would have insisted that I make it right. I’m glad I did.
One of the most impressive lessons from Dad was his almost fanatical insistence on paying bills on time. It has played out in my life as I pay all bills when they arrive not when they are due.
I think Donald W. Boys was a great man even before he trusted Christ at 60 and after that he became a good man — an outstanding Christian. I still find myself wanting to talk with him at times; but it will have to be some other time!
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