Bruce Heberle

Thinking Out Loud: Hindsight is 20/20

January 18, 2020

2020 is a new beginning for me and time to write a new chapter in my life. This new chapter will involve all of us. I have been hired as the new director for the Alabama/Gulf Coast Florida edition of the HVAC Insider. I could not be more excited about this opportunity! Starting a new position is never easy and I hope this change proves to be beneficial for both of us.

Bruce Heberle
Bruce Heberle

For my part, I think getting to know each other is important. With that in mind, I would like to tell you a little about myself and my upbringing. Perhaps you will get a feel for where I’m coming from and what you might expect going forward.

I grew up in a small rural county in Missouri, not unlike a lot of the rural areas of Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. Gasconade County, population 8000, is in the hill and wine country of Missouri. The largest town and county seat, Hermann, is a town made up of people with deep German ancestry.

Both of my parents spoke fluent German, but I never picked up the language. (I do know a few cuss words heard when my dad and his friends were talking.) The town had 2536 people. I know this because the city limit sign was in the front yard of our farm! The whole downtown area is listed as a national historic site.

Growing up, my dad was the county sheriff, my mom the radio operator. Dad was first elected in 1956, when I was four years old and served 16 years. My dad being sheriff allowed me to have some very interesting stories to share. Here is one of them.

Do you remember the television show Dragnet? Sgt. Joe Friday was the main character. He was played by Jack Webb in both the radio show and television series. Every show started with the same statement from Joe: “This is the city, Los Angeles, California. I work here, I carry a badge.” Joe Friday was a no-nonsense cop. He followed the leads, one clue at a time. He was diligent about using established methods for a successful outcome. He always got his man. My dad thought of himself as a small-town Joe Friday. In reality, cue the music: “The Andy Griffith Show.” Dad was Andy; I was Opie. Like Andy Taylor, Dad never carried a gun. While his deputies wore uniforms, he did not. The siren on Dad’s car even sounded like the siren on the Mayberry police car. Unlike Andy Taylor, Dad had three deputies. None were like Barney Fife, as they were allowed to carry bullets in their guns! Very much like Mayberry, nothing much happened in the little town on the “Big Muddy” Missouri river. The town had Saturday night dances, cars cruising the streets and movies at the Showboat on the weekends. One distinction was that our county was the only wet county within 30 miles, which meant that the small town of Hermann had more bars than churches.

Since most of the residents were German, pretty much every adult made home-made wine. This included my dad who made over 100 gallons a year for “trade” or “personal consumption.”

We grew our own grapes that produced a white wine Dad called “A kiss from Heaven” (he used this term when in mixed company). Our 36-acre farm was situated at the edge of town and both the farm and town were a great place to grow up and be from.

Growing up, I had 4 siblings. We didn’t have much money. Dad made $300 a month as Sheriff. Mom earned $25 a month as the radio operator. The two-way radio was in our home, with us kids serving as back-up radio operators when called upon. Mom and Dad would try to have a date on Saturday nights, while Dad worked at the big band dance hall. They obviously couldn’t afford a babysitter, yet duty called, so my dad learned to be creative.

Remember Otis on “The Andy Griffith Show?” Well our local drunk was named Martin. Martin was a kind, family man who also played a little guitar. His weakness was alcohol. On payday, he would cash his check then hit all the taverns, ending up spending most of it on alcohol. Obviously, this caused problems at home and when his wife finally had enough, she divorced him. As a drunk, it was only a matter of time before he was found guilty of non-support. Guilty meant going to jail. Now she had a new problem, she couldn’t work outside the home because she was raising his kids. She needed Martins paycheck to survive, and if he was going to jail, the family would have to go on welfare. It’s amazing how solutions could be worked out “back in the day.”

What the court decided was that Martin had to report to the county jail after work on Friday. Martin handed Dad his paycheck, which was then given to his ex-wife. Martin was sentenced to be in jail on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. This went on every weekend for a couple of years. On Monday mornings, Dad would let Martin out of jail to go to work. Since Martin no longer had any discretionary income, he was a stellar citizen and like Otis, didn’t drink during the week.

Thus, with a reliable, sober, kind, working man in jail, guess who became our babysitter? Yep, it was Martin! Dad would get him out of jail on Saturday evening, Martin would watch the five of us, play his guitar and a very good time was had by all. Dad would take him back to jail after the dance. I do not know if Martin was allowed, or ever did help himself to the wine and beer my Dad always had for personal use. Small town living in the 50’s and 60’s… can’t think of anything better! Life in rural America – great people, great stories. Going forward, there may be more to share.

Let’s talk a little about 2020. “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written,” Melody Beatti.

Can you believe we are already starting our second decade of the 21st century? Wow! My expectation is that this year will be very interesting and not soon forgotten. A lot can and will happen. We can watch the evening news, listen to talk radio and watch cable channels. They would have you believe the world is a scary place. We don’t need them to remind us of what we believe or what we are feeling. You know who you are. Don’t be intimidated by others, be comfortable being you. Let others be themselves, it a free country. Your world, my world, not that scary. We get up, we work, we love our family, we like our friends, we go to church. We live in a beautiful area. We live in the south, what could be better than that? Living in our America is pretty good! We write the next chapter together and I can’t wait to get started!

Please let me know how the HVAC Insider can help you grow your business.