Cecil helped Safeway put in new stores around Southern California. It was his job to talk every single homeowner within a certain area (a larger area than Safeway expected to need) into selling his/her house and moving out so Safeway could tear it down and move in. Cecil wasn't paid a cent unless he got 100% participation.
Often there was a little old lady who had grown up and raised a family of her own in a house she absolutely refused to part with. It would have horizontal pencil lines in a doorway marking the heights of generations of kids and grandkids and she couldn't bear to move to Leisure World and leave all that behind.
But Cecil would have made Dale Carnegie proud. He would befriend her and keep sweetening the pot until it was worth her while and she would accept his offer and let the deal go through. Then he would be paid plus he would also have first option to buy parcels of land around the new store which Safeway wasn't going to use. He would put in strip malls of his own with doughnut shops and hair salons or free-standing hamburger stands. (Once he had to decide which of two potential tenants to go with. He'd never heard of either one of them but he was more impressed with Rally's product so he turned McDonalds down.)
Once he was at it for a year and a half and at the end the little old lady adamantly refused to sell. He and his wife Marjorie (Rick's mother) went out to dinner to "celebrate."
They didn't go out to dinner if he did make the sale. "Why do we need to go out to dinner to cheer ourselves up? We made the deal!"
Cecil and Marge never bought anything until they could afford to pay cash for it. They started out living in a single room--the back half of his small real estate office. They scrimped and saved, only moving to something slightly bigger when Marge was pregnant with Rick and couldn't squeeze between the stove and the refrigerator any more. (Also they'd stuck so much stuff behind the couch, it was in the middle of the room.)
When they'd saved up enough money, Cecil bought a couple of acres in the exclusive, gated community of Rolling Hills. He oversaw the building of a ranch-style home--complete with swimming pool, paddle tennis court and corral, palomino, turquoise Mercedes-Benz, and a view from Catalina, which the smog did not obscure in those days. When everything was ready they leaped socio-economic levels in a single bound. They moved in just before Christmas and Marge bought a flocked Christmas tree and decorated it with pink balls and bows.
Rick's sister Linda was nine, the age her dad had been when he was selling potato chips to employees in big office buildings all over Los Angeles, when his family of four suddenly started living like rich people.
Those were the opportunities in California back in the days of the orange groves. That was what entrepreneurs could do with initiative and hard work. Even if they were only nine years old.
So what I want to know is, when Cecil got bitten by the dog, which one was the pit bull?
Today I am thankful for people's stories.
"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998