Agronomic Application…..#155 (the 70’s)

Kiowa Service Company

It was Monday, March 19, 1979 a day after his 38th birthday  when the he entered Kiowa Service Co., a stranger to the agricultural and farming world of rural Kansas.   Gary was greeted by a younger person behind the parts counter,  introducing himself with a cordial smile as  Jerry Whitney, the Parts Manager.   Gary briefly explaining the situation, Jerry acknowledging that he was expecting him and with assurance the two walked across to a smartly furnished corner office.  Looking up from a desk.  raising extending a hand, introducing himself as Steve Miller, welcoming the newcomer to Kiowa Service.  Steve Addressing  the Parts  Manager to introduce Gary to the facility and to get a new employee form from Sandy Palmer, the office manager.  As the two were leaving Steve reminded Jerry that he wanted Gary to get started with Homer on assembling the new parts bins.  The company tour  beginning with the time clock location, a first step and the beginning of an uncertain journey,  finding Jerry Whitney an applicable instructor more than willing to educate this novice to the world of John Deere.  The recent employee from Oklahoma City experiencing some difficulty making acquaintances in his new environment, but meeting someone who recognized his dilemma, taking it upon himself to intercede, sales representative  Larry Swonger.

Jerry Whitney

Larry Swonger

Kiowa Service Co. proper almost encompassed  a complete city block, bordering Main St on the north,  Miller St. on the south, 7th St. on west, 8th on the east.  A long abandoned ice house and the town’s telephone company building occupying space on Main and the relic of an  old shop building on the corner of 8th and Miller.  Just south of the business office stood an old building used as a paint ship, the domain of the Service Co. painter, Leon Gashler.    Across Miller Street was an old warehouse with extended wooden loading dock and on the corner of Miller & 7th was  the remnants of a feed grinding mill, the grinding unit still intact, a heirloom from a bygone era.  Kiowa Service having been given a face-lift inside and out,  the sales department receiving two new offices, besides Millers corner office, the parts department extended to a 40 x 80 ft. area with a new concrete loading dock.  The service department now located in  72 x 96 ft. attached metal building, with an additional attached 72 x 96 ft  building for pre delivery servicing and an implement setup area still under construction.

Humphrey Implement ad – Kiowa News

Kiowa was home to three farming implement companies, Humphrey Implement, a Massey-Ferguson  dealership owned by Bud Humphrey, Shoson Implement, a Case Tractor Dealership managed by Norvin Price and Kiowa Service owned by Steve Miller, his brother John having an interest.  The agronomic application was a new assessment, Gary a long time resident of city life discovering a knowledge deficiency,  never having acquainted the variety of farming implements employed by the agricultural community, a totally new learning experience.  Miller and his brother John having raised the standard, the John Deere franchise no longer the laid-back agricultural store once owned by Fred “Jumbo” Schupbach,  known as Schupbach Implement.  The Steve Miller enterprise expanding to the third largest employer in the Township with three in the sale, three in parts, two in the office, seven in service,  4 in setup, a painter and two operating trucks and drivers.  The old warehouse with its loading dock and the antique grinding mill building  south of Miller St. was scheduled to disappear,  in its place a showcase yard and a new 56 ‘x 96’ metal building to be used as a warehouse.  The spring of 1979 finding Kiowa Service in transition, with wheat prices of $2.62 in 1978 having risen to $3.75 and futures pushing $4.00 plus, Steve Miller saw the handwriting on the wall, Katy bar the door.

A John Deere guide to how

Gary’s first employment vocation was assembling and aligning rows of the new parts bins in the 40 x 80 ft. parts area,  installing John Deere’s newly established 100 bin system,  inaugurating each row with its proper designated parts number prefix and numbering the shelves 1 thru 100.   Each part being cataloged in a large card index file system  with its part number,  quantity in stock and reorder point,  the card being  flagged  for requisition when the reorder point was reached.   Barbara, the parts department clerk would price the parts on the completed service work orders, the over the counter sales receipts and chronicle the disposition of the inventory. The retail parts counter was a challenge, John Deere having a separated parts manual for each tractor model and every implement, the new-comer not familiar with any of the farming equipment terminology and wasn’t surprised at the looks he received from the local farmers.  It was Larry Swonger who finally clued the novice in on how to deal with his lack of know how,  it was basic and simple and it satisfied making the customer feel knowledgeable,  just turn the book around and let them find what they were looking for.

Gary’s continued employment seemed assured,  disappointed in his starting wage of $3.15 per hour,  having left $6.00 per hour employment in Oklahoma City, plus discovering  Steve Miller had visited with his father-in-law Bud Murrow extracting a conditional agreement,  if Miller employed Gary, down the road Bud wouldn’t hire him for his construction crew.  The transition from the briskness of a vibrant  City to the patience of a rural community was sanctioned, Gary beginning to accept the change of his life’s proclivity and this beckoning new horizons.

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