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Things you learn from friends, part 1

By Gerry Fischer 

I once had a boss named Carl Quillman. He was kin to the Moorman and Farnsley families in Jefferson and Meade Counties. Adjacent to Iroquois Park is an area known as Kenwood Hills. One of the hills has a road ascending to its top named Quillman Hill Road. That is where his father’s farm was located. When Carl was a boy he traveled to Brandenburg and spent time with the Moorman family as he did in Jefferson County. I began working as a draftsman for C-Realty Co., which was owned by Convenient Industries of America, and Carl who was about 65 or 68 years old was given the job of construction manager. It didn’t matter that he had no experience in construction, but I learned some important things from him.

 Carl taught me two important lessons and each in their season have helped me along life’s road. He taught me to observe things and not to just see them. As I recall he didn’t know what a bar joist was, or how to read a blue print, but asked me to find the page where those things supporting the roof were shown. I showed him the roof framing plan and he counted the lines indicating the bar joists. The contractor had left three out, and they cost about $200.00 each plus the tax and labor to install them. He observed this and caught the contractor stealing. He ordered the man to reposition the bar joists and add the missing supports. He observed and discovered. I counted bar joists from then on, as well as other things.

One time, I asked him about his age. I was 21-years old. He told me he was over 68. When I asked what things he liked best ,and what bothered him most, about getting older. Carl had made his fortune in the milk business. He owned and operated Quillman Hills Dairy. He was most proud of his excellent cottage cheese, and happiest that he didn’t have to work. Convenient Foods, kept him busy, provided him a salary as part of their purchase of his dairy, and he thought he would like construction. They hired me because I came from that industry and they thought I would be able to help him and learn the business end from Carl. He then told me the thing that bothered him most ,and he least liked, was attending the funerals of his friends and relatives. I listened and learned.

 Fran and I bought and owned a Convenient Food Mart in Florida. After three years of running the store we sold it, and I took a job as construction manager for Shop-n-Go stores, and built them all over Florida. We lived next door to Frank and Lila Harding. Across the street from us were our neighbors, Reiner and Bridgette Theis, from Germany. We partied and cooked out every weekend except the coldest months and swam in each other’s pools. This went on for years. Frank loved history, spoke fluent Russian and was an Army interpreter. We traded books and discussed historic events. Reiner was a soccer official and I was a football official, so we connected that way. Reiner and I later became scuba diving buddies and we dove together, spearing fish, exploring the ocean bottom, and now and then, a shipwreck.

 Lila was always giggly and flitting here and there like a moth around a flame. Loads of fun and very funny. Bridgett and Reiner sang old songs in German and I tried to speak German with them, which amused them very much. They clapped when I got something right. I took two years of German in college. Not enough I’m afraid.

 One day I came home from a road trip a little early and found police tape around Frank’s yard and police and EMS vehicles in the street. Lila had taken sedatives and attempted suicide. It was awful, but thankfully she didn’t succeed. I was shocked, but angry and I didn’t understand why. Later I concluded I was mad at her for trying to deprive me and Fran of our friendship with her. In my view she was selfish. Later we found she had made other attempts. She did get better and the six of us resumed our get-togethers, but differently. Always a bit unsure.