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March 7, 1978 Around Adair with Ed Waggener

The article below first appeared in the March 7, 1978, issue of the Adair County News. Topics included Red Nixon's set shot, Sue Stivers' manners class, Onion Soup, customer service at the L.R. Chelf store in Knifley, the Rev. Eldon Trubee's advice on goal-setting, and Dr. G.V. Page's physics class at WKU. --Pen

By Ed Waggener

Red headed luck
Adair County High may be playing in the State Tournament next week for the first time in 23 years. I could have guessed. I was in the same class with Indian mentor Glynn "Red" Nixon, and, even then, the fellow had uncanny luck. I remember one night Mr. Burr substituted Red into a game when Red was a sophomore I believe. I don't think any of us had faith Red could even get the ball up from more than 25 feet. But the first time he got a pass the ball, he fired a 30- foot set shot.

It was the prettiest sight you ever saw. Swish!
Adair County will likely play Taylor County in the finals on Saturday night. Taylor County has already beaten them four times. This time Adair County will win because of the Old Rule of Fortune that you can't beat the same team five times in one season, and because, with Red's luck, ACHS could beat Marquette one out of five.

A school of "nice"
After seeing the difference in the fortunes of retailers who know how to make a customer feel welcome and those who do not, I had often wondered why we couldn't do more here in Adair County to make sure that visitors to our town would always leave with pleasant memories of our people, complimentary of their friendliness and eager to return.

It makes a big difference. Most large service and retail chains drill their staffs to see that they remember that the customer is boss. Columbia's retail clerks and restaurant personnel are the best in the country. I hear that sentiment frequently. But still, there is the need to make sure we maintain the standard.

I had hoped that the public schools and Lindsey Wilson would offer more assistance in this area.

Actually, I just didn't know the community well enough.

Lindsey Wilson College is already offering an extraordinarily popular course, taught by Sue Stivers, called "Sociology 103, Personal Development."

What the course teaches is basic manners. It is designed primarily to aid the students in social life. But isn't that what business manners are all about?

So far, the class has attracted overflow enrollment. There's three hours of college credit in the course, which includes a field trip to the New Orleans House.

The difference is so easy
I remember stopping in a restaurant and seeing a menu item, "Soup of the Day-75 cents." I asked the waitress what the soup of the day might be.

Her reply was, "The same as usual."

I had not eaten in the restaurant in a long time, so I had no idea what the "same as usual" might be.

As politely as I could, I asked her what "the same as usual" might be. She snapped, "Vegetable soup or chili," as though only a fool might ask. I didn't enjoy the meal and I wasn't eager to return.

Ms. Stivers' course doesn't include training retail sales persons how to put a little "sell" into their jobs, but I'm sure that a graduate of the course could handle any public job better than that waitress did.

I wouldn't say where the restaurant is located in which I got that treatment. You may stop there someday and I wouldn't want the folks pre-judged.

But I thought at the time how much different it was from the way Wilma Bryant's staff at their restaurant on Green River Lake handle the situation. Regular customers know they serve onion soup. But, if you're not aware of the fact, the waitresses will tell you about it in such glowing terms that even if you hate the thought of onion soup, you'll rush to try theirs.

Ignorance--not malice--is the problem
I don't think the poorly prepared public worker has malicious intentions. I think it is just that he or she does not know better. Not everyone of us who doesn't know better wants to learn the proper ways, but the popularity of Mrs. Stivers' course at Lindsey proves that the majority of the people really want to know proper behavior.

Good manners, any businessperson will tell you, is good business.

"The customer is always right"
When my mother worked in her father's store at Knifley, an unbendable rule he, L.R. Chelf, had, was, "The customer is always right."

Mother says that there were trying times, but they had to smile and take the hassles the customers gave them. Once, she recalls, at the height of the Christmas rush, a lady came in and asked her to weigh out a pound of fancy Christmas candy. She did, and then the customer asked her to count the pieces. When she told the customer, the lady said, "Well, I don't think I'll buy from you. I'm going over to Mr. Hovious' store to buy. I get one more piece there." (Mr. Hovious was A. Hovious, who was called "Babe Hovious.)

Each of my uncles and aunts on Mother's side of the family worked in the store, which stayed in the Chelf and Knifley families until Aunt Hallie Knifley died.

Uncle Marshall Chelf says that he recalls some of the problems with Grandfather Chelf's customers-are-always-right rule. The store sold the Courier-Journal daily newspaper. It cost five cents back then.

An old gentleman, who was known for his miserliness, came to buy a paper from Uncle Marshall one day. Uncle Marshall took his money and thought he might do the old gent a good turn, knowing that he hadn't seen the paper the day before. Uncle Marshall picked up a leftover copy and said, "Her's a yesterday's paper. We can't sell it. You can have it. Free." The old man took the paper and then handed Uncle Marshall the new paper back. "Just give me my money back on this one," he said, "I won't be needing to read more than one." Following the customer-is-always-right rule, Uncle Marshall refunded the man's money. Ever afterward, he said, the old gentleman would try to get a day-old paper for free, and Uncle Marshall had to figure out ploys to maintain a proper business relationship, to get the gentleman to pay, but without hurting his feelings.

Mother and Uncle Marshall still think that Mr. Chelf was right, the customer is, indeed, always right, even though they admit there were some difficult times striving to live up to Grandfather Chelf's standards.

Factory is on schedule
Roscoe McKamey, manager of the new Lakeland Apparel, says that the plant will open on schedule on Monday, March 13. McKamey has been overseeing the renovation of the old Durham Wholesale Building, owned by Joe R. Barbee, in preparation for the machines. They're in place now, wiring is being completed, and the remodeling is nearing completion.

Next Monday, McKamey says, they'll start production with 10 employees. Each week they plan to add five workers, until the plant has a total employment of 30 production workers.

There are indications that the sewing plant owned by Commonwealth Mfg. Company may be sold to new operators. Clay Apparel of Celina, Tennessee, has been the most visible bidder for the plant, but there are reliable indications that at least one more clothing manufacturer is interested in the plant, with possibly a third party interested.

"Achievable goals"
Rev. Eldon Trubee of the Columbia-Union Presbyterian Church has been a strong community supporter since he became pastor here last year. He's enthusiastic about Columbia and believes that many of the dreams of Adair Countians are possible. His advice is to set achievable goals each year, as well as having long-term plans. It makes good sense. It's reminiscent of what the physics professor at Western Kentucky University, when I went there in 1960, used for a favorite saying. Dr. G.V. Page would say, nearly every class period, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

(Others may remember his other saying, at the beginning of each new semester. "It's a funny old world," he would greet new students with a little laugh. "Very few of us ever get out of it alive.")

This story was posted on 2020-03-08 09:51:20
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