Chapter 3. Lessons from Purple Hands: Learning Work Ethic from My Father

I can remember as a very young child standing in quiet shadows, watching my grandfather stand bent over a basket out in the shop, work-worn hands fussing with splints of different colors and sizes. It was spring and he was intent on having a new batch ready for the waves of people planning after-church picnics on the fresh lawns and hillsides of Ohio. With an aching back and head hung low over his craft, minutes and hours were woven away in the chase for his American Dream.

Some of you may already know my Dad's story—of how he grew up learning the craft from his own father, my Grandpa J.W., who had made a living from baskets before the Great Depression laid on our country like a suffocating blanket. As the 5th of 12 children, Dad was a scrapper: Though he lived with epilepsy and stuttered, in those desperate times, all the Longaberger kids were expected to contribute to the household. Each day was a lesson in the classroom of life, and Dad quickly learned that nothing would be handed to him—that achieving what he wanted out of life would demand constant work and tireless effort.

It was the early 1970s when Dad pitched the idea of selling Grandpa's baskets, and J.W. thought the concept was a bit far-fetched. Despite the fact that my father had proven himself as a fantastic salesman in his grocery store, restaurant, and drug store, Grandpa insisted that nobody in Dresden would pay more than $1.50 for a basket. ...

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