Our Medford Chamber of Commerce started a department of tourism and wanted a Tourist Information Center to stop travelers heading North during the summer months. Their main office was downtown and partially hidden on a back street with no exposure. Patti was in charge of this department and was an outgoing, very personable person that was determined to put Medford on the tourism map. I got along with her right away. She had made an arrangement with the Veterans to use their parking lot in the park for this new information center. She contacted me about doing it with logs and wanted to keep it temporary and easily moved. We felt it would be beneficial to us to have that kind of exposure and we wanted to help them out, too. Any way we could get more of our color brochures and flyers into the hands of Californians on vacation was a good thing. They had the money and were on the move North. Patti and her volunteer staff said they would be open six days a week at the cabin and had already put up signs on the freeway directing people to it.
We picked our smallest model, called the Cub Bear and had it built on pier pads that spring ready for the season. It was a hit all summer. There were ribbon cutting ceremonies with the mayor and the state governor. One lady put on a stuffed bear costume and was hugging everybody. Medford’s theme was… “We Hug Visitors.” and this mascot was the Huggie Bear. She was kind of annoying to be around after a while. “Hey, Go hug somebody else lady.” That winter, the Veterans wanted to expand their park and held a fundraiser to buy bricks and build a big memorial. They notified Patti that the cabin had to go. Luckily, we sold the cabin to a customer in Nevada and sent it South. The Chamber was getting more tourists than ever and wanted a more permanent location and a bigger, single storey log cabin this time. The new building had even a better location right at the South interchange of the I-5 freeway, just a few blocks from the Veterans Park. Again we built them a log home ready for late spring. There were even more tourists than before and it stayed a fixture there for the next five years. When the property was finally sold, a huge Fred Meyer, Hometown Buffet and Taco Bell were built on that corner. That model was jacked up and house-moved to a more rural location West of Medford, and that was the end of our involvement. The Chamber moved their headquarters to an old, empty bank location and I’m sure it’s been pretty quiet since. There’s just something about a log home that makes people stop and get out of their cars to check it out. It’s that Abe Lincoln thing, and Patti understood it.
There’s something about running a small company, you get involved with every customer and get your hands dirty quite often. I headed a job, building a log home in Sister’s Oregon, which is near Bend. My crew was three employees from the log yard, with Joe as my right hand man and a guy we referred to as the human forklift. We were all about the same age… in our twenties and pretty rebellious. When heading out of town we pulled a couple of old travel trailers to the job and compensated the crew with Per Diem to cover food costs. This way Homestead didn’t have the extremely high costs of $30.00 motel rooms or the inconvenience of hot showers and comfortable beds. On this trip three of us stayed in a trailer and one in a small camp tent. Every day at lunch the crew was broke, already having spent their $15.00 Per Diem, and I was buying a couple of pizzas or some fast food to keep them going. After work each day, and we were there for three weeks total, we’d head into town for dinner and then to the local tavern. “Got to wash that sawdust down.” Past the third night, nobody was eating dinner but me. Apparently, if you’ve only got $8.00 left, you surely don’t spend it on food. That would cut into your beer consumption. My crew had made their decision between beer and food and food had come in second. On the way back home they had united in spirit and asked me if Tom and I could just compensate them with beer out of town and they would feed themselves. “Oh, sure!” We didn’t give in to their wishes, but from then on we always referred to their out of town Per Diem as… “Beer Diem.”
I knew sales were one of the most important things to our business. We had to have money coming in and future projects to survive. I had done all the sales to this point and often got sidetracked on building projects in the log yard or away on customer’s jobsites. One of our friends was a successful car salesman and interested in coming to work for us. Shane knew how to differentiate between buyers and tire kickers and get them to commit and give us a deposit. Actually, he could be quite rude about someone wasting his time if they weren’t going to buy. But most people enjoyed his humor, enthusiasm and liked his straight forward attitude. Little did we know how good he was! Within his first year we went from six employees to over thirty. There were four building crews, a full time delivery driver, and a crew to manufacture the log home kits. Looking back, it was great, but completely out of control. It seemed every piece of equipment we owned broke down at some point that year. “I know both saw blades needed to be hammered.” It seemed each building crew had only one experienced lead man and three guys that couldn’t read a tape or operate a hammer. Every job was over budget and taking way too long. Remember, we were building almost every home to a closed-shell up and down the West coast. It was a lesson to Tom and myself, to train and hire better workers and buy newer equipment. It was a question you had to ask yourself… “Would you drive this truck fully loaded to that jobsite?”