Chapter 7: Young Traditions

Each Sunday, Wilbur F. Young III, who was now running W. F. Young Company, loaded the kids into the station wagon and headed to Mary Ida’s. The children would wear their Sunday best and line up outside the parlor. One by one, Mary Ida would call them in for a visit. They’d sit in a small chair next to her big carved wooden one and she’d ask about school and hobbies and recent achievements. It was formal and a little intimidating, but it was also special to have an audience with Nana. And when it was over, they were allowed to change into play clothes and go out to the barn.

Young Family 1957

Bill walked to the pasture with Mary Ida as the kids ran ahead, and they’d sometimes talk a bit of business. But mostly, Sundays were family time. At the top of the pasture, Mary Ida would whistle for her horses. She had about seven of them, and the whole herd would charge up the hill and stop sharply just inches from her. Mary Ida was a small woman, all of five feet, so the horses towered over her. The kids always turned and bolted for the fence, while Nana stood calmly and gave the horses treats. The children were in awe of Nana’s control but not so sure of their own.

Bill hadn’t ridden since he was a kid, during his childhood visits to Nana. It just wasn’t his thing. But he loved to hang over the fence now and watch as the horses were saddled up for his kids. After riding round and round in the paddock, they would dismount and walk their rides around some more. Even though the horses weren’t very hot, it was good practice. Then they’d brush them out and rub them down with Absorbine® liniment, and clean their hooves.

Yes, Bill, thought, as he watched his kids, there were going to be some horsemen in this generation.

As soon as he had been old enough, Bill had gone in a different direction. After school each day he couldn’t wait to go to the factory. He’d worked in packaging, helped out in the formulating room and learned the ins and outs of the warehouse. The farm wasn’t of much interest, but the business had always fascinated him.

When Mary Ida had finally decided to retire, it seemed completely natural that Bill would take the company reins. He had never really wanted to do anything besides run W.F Young Company and working his way through every department had given him a deep understanding of the business. Sally, Mary Ida’s daughter, had also been promoted to the top of the company, but she was more of a figurehead. Her various philanthropic efforts were good for the company profile, but it was really Bill who put in the long hours and made the crucial decisions that impacted the company’s growth.

Bill clapped his hands and yelled “Ok, kids. Back to the house.” The children hustled, well aware that fresh chocolate chip cookies and milk awaited their return.

After their treat, they’d get cleaned up and dressed in their Sunday clothes again for dinner.

That gave Bill a small window of opportunity to talk to Mary Ida about her carriage trips to Springfield. She’d been driving her team of American saddlebreds to town for years, but Bill was determined to convince her it was too dangerous.

Once the last empty glass and plate were in the sink and the kids had scattered, Bill cleared his throat and broached the subject.

Bill and Barbara Young 1943

“Nana, I know you love your independence, but I wish you wouldn’t take the team into Springfield anymore. It’s just too dangerous — there are too many cars on the road, and I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time until you get hit. Or what if one of the horses spooked?”

Mary Ida snorted. “I’ve been driving these roads since I was a young woman, Bill, and I’m not stopping now. My horses won’t spook as long as I have the reins. It’s the cars and bad drivers that are the problem!”

Bill was expecting her to take this approach.

“You’re right. It IS the cars and drivers that are a problem! And you can’t control them, no matter how deft you are with the team, Nana. I know if anyone can keep those horses calm, it’s you. But it’s a silly risk to take … you can get a ride into Springfield any time you need one — you know that. And it would really ease my mind.”

Nana sat quietly for a minute, looking out the window toward the barn. Then she sighed and turned to Bill.

“How about if we agree that I go by car to Springfield? But I am not giving up my team, Bill. I’ll stay out of town but I see no reason not to drive them on quiet Longmeadow roads. That team and our outings are a joy to me. I won’t give them up.”

Now it was Bill’s turn to sigh. He knew from experience that if you’d won half a battle with Nana, you were a lucky man, and any further negotiation could buy back the whole sale.

“Thank you, Nana. That’s one less thing for me to worry about, and I appreciate it.”

And in truth, Bill did appreciate it. Mary Ida had guided the company for 50 years. It was his turn now, and he needed to concentrate if he was going to make his grandmother proud.

Read more about the history of Absorbine® here.

W.F. Young, Inc. is a marketer of many top equine brands, including ShowSheen® Hair Polish and Detangler, UltraShield® Insecticide and Repellant, Hooflex® and Horseman’s One Step® Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.

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