I’M 81 and have been working since I was 13. In junior high school, I ripped old fabric off of chairs and sofas for a furniture re-upholsterer. This was during World War II, so the men had gone to war, the women were taking the men’s jobs, and kids could be hired because there was still more to do. I think I made as much money finding coins in the creases of the furniture as I got paid.
At 16, I worked unloading boxcars in a warehouse. One day, the boss asked me to run a whole department, including the inventory, the accounting and managing the people. That gave me a lot of confidence, to hear him say he believed I could do it.
My dad and I used to spend hours at the kitchen table, talking late into the night about all kinds of ideas. My mom used to call from her room for us to “Go to sleep already!” We planned to start a company together when I grew up. I loved my father dearly and nothing would have made me happier than setting up shop with him.
My dad smoked three packs of cigarettes a day; he died from lung disease in his 40s. My mom died soon after — she was a smoker, too. My biggest regret in life was that we didn’t have time to start that business. My father’s death inspired me to start a company that would help people lead healthier lives — I wanted to get on the positive side of things.
After time in the Army and different jobs, I picked up a book one day called “John Goffe’s Mill.” It was about a fellow inheriting an old flour mill and rebuilding it. By that time, my wife, Charlee, had discovered whole grains and healthy foods. The combination of her knowledge and that book inspired us to start a business — Moore’s Flour Mill — in 1972 in Redding, Calif.
I bought some millstones from a company that was going out of business in North Carolina and stored them in my garage in Redding until I was ready to start the company. My wife, two of my sons and their wives all pitched in. We learned to grind grains…