Sermon ~ Sunday, September 18, 2016 ~ Pastor Neil Wilson
THE PHOTO OP
(Told in Maine accent) Business has been slowing down at Joe’s Barber Shoppe now that Labor Day has passed. The summah complaints have left but the locals haven’t made their way back to Joe’s. They like to give it a few days maybe a week or two to make sure they’re all gone. That way when they hang out a Joe’s they have something to talk about!
So when Rev. Williams stopped by earlier this week he was the only one in the shop the entire time he got his haircut and then for the hour following. He has found that it is often during these unexpected moments that real ministry can take place or as in the instance of this opportune moment his knowledge of our local history helped to enhance his ministry.
It all began rather matter-of-factly when Joe was sharing all the news he had heard that morning over coffee at Helens’ Diner. The McConnolly boys were hauling docks out of Hobbs Pond. Somehow they didn’t set something right and their brand new Dodge pickup ended up in 4 feet of water and 2 feet of mud! Perry Packard broke his tow cable twice trying to break the truck loose from the Hobbs Pond muck!
Then there was the account of the red lobster that the Parker boy caught off of Christian Pt. He’d already caught a blue lobstah in one of his traps last summah. But a red one (red right out of the trap not the cooking pot!) is rare. Folks up to Orono at the university say 1 in 10 million! And oh yeah, Sam Coleridge was thinking about getting back into the used vehicle business.
In spite of the images of the McConnelly boys hopping and tearing around as their pick up slid into the pond and the rarity of a red lobster, what caught the Reverend’s ear was that one of his church council members “getting back into the used car sales.” Sam Coleridge was known for many things but he had never heard of him ever being in the used car business.
Rev. Williams only knew of one used car dealer in the area and that was Ernie DesChambeau’s Used Car Emporium over in Pembleton, where he had purchased his current 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid which wasn’t at all what he planned on buying the day he stopped by Ernie’s. But you know it was his “lucky Day!”
Now Sam has the reputation about town as one who has his hand into just about everything, and both hands, if there is a dollar to be made. Mostly it is the construction business with various side enterprises that might be loosely affiliated with the business of building, digging, moving dirt and such. A few years ago he purchased an old worn out City of Portland vacuum truck that he refitted to serve as a septic tank pumper. On the side of the huge tank Sam had the words painted “It sucks but somebody’s gotta do it. Coleridge Septic Services Rockhaven, Maine.” On the back there’s a picture of Pepe Le’ Pew pinching his nose with his fingers. Across the bug deflector on the hood is written in large magic marker lettering, “Sam’s Kucka Sucka.”
Old Jim always claimed that with Sam’s luck at business he could fall into one of those septic tanks and come out with someone’s lost wedding ring and be the town hero.
“Oh yeah,” Joe replied as he brushed the last of the Reverend’s now more than occasional gray hairs from his electric clippers. “It was back in the 70s ‘bout the time of the Oil Embargo.”
“You’ve heard of Northland Auto Group, well, they were big even back then. They had a franchise with every major manufacturer from Cadillac to Chrysler. You could by a Cadillac Fleetwood or a Ford Fiesta, even a Fiat from a Northland dealership.”
No patrons were waiting so Joe went over the old pop machine reached around the back grabbed the key and unlocked the machine, reached in a got himself a Fanta Root beer and offered the pastor an Orange which the he politely first refused then accepted at Joe’s second offer.
“Ayuh, the CEO, Peter Pierson, came up himself to make the sales pitch to Sam. Oh it was all very impressive. Peter, you know, was and is the face of Northland Auto group on all the TV commercials and his smiling face features prominently in all those full page ads in the big city newspapers.”
“The rumor got around after a fashion that Northland Auto Group approached Sam thinking this area would be an opportune place to unload some of their older, less desirable, used vehicles. Especially those big old gas guzzlers! What do we know up here about cahs anyway, right?” Joe slid into the vacant barber’s chair and took a big swig of his root beer.
Yes, the Reverend had heard of them and their very slick television commercials. Their tagline: “We have the most beautiful cars in our dealership show rooms. So, come on in. They’re bigger than ever and they last a lifetime!”
So the Reverend did just that, . . . once. He stopped found that indeed they were bigger and last longer . . . the loan payments that is!
“O yeah,” Joe continued with his little bit of Rockhaven history for the parson. “Sam ran Northland Auto Group’s used car lot for a number of years until all of a sudden word got out that Northland was threatening to take the dealership away from Sam. Whether it was some shady dealing on Sam’s part or just poor accounting practices seems Sam got into trouble with cooperate headquarters.”
“Sam, always with his ear to wind for the next great opportunity, got word of what may be coming down from corporate in Portland. Threatened with the loss of his dealership and feeling like he was about to slip into a septic tank, Sam devised a little plan of his own.” Joe paused in thought chuckled to himself.
“Suddenly, pastor, there were deals galore! Signs went up under hoods: no reasonable offer refused, double money on your trade-in, every vehicle $500.00 dollars under Kelly Blue Book. And Sam was good to his word. Cars started leaving the lot and tow trucks were hauling off the clunkers that Sam took in on trade.”
“But he didn’t stop there. Oh no, Sam was on a roll.” Joe leaned forward in the barber chair and looked out the window onto the common and back in history. “Why Sam, even donated a few cars to some needy families. One family with 6 youn’ uns, two of ‘em with autism. You know, he donated a 1972 Ford passenger van to that family. I remember it was blue and white.” Joe paused swirled the root beer around in the bottle.
“Well, let me tell you, Rev., the word got out about our old Sam’s generosity and good will! First it was a local reporter with the Down East Gazette. She came over and took a picture of Sam handing the keys to this family of 6 kids and their two parents.”
“It wasn’t long before that picture was seen by the Press Herald out of Portland and they got right on the phone to Northland Auto Group corporate office and asked to speak to Mr. Peter Pierson about this wonderful human interest story taking place at one of his dealerships!”
“Well, the Press Herald people praised Mr. Pierson right up and down and insisted on meeting him at this dealership and getting a photo with him and the local manager. What a great story this would make. People just love warm and fuzzy human interest stories!”
“Now let me tell you, what was old Peter Pierson to do? He was caught between a stump and a mud hole!”
“I guess you could say if Mr. Pierson wasn’t careful he might be the one to fall into some of Sam’s kucka!”
Joe stopped there. . . . Paused. . . . Finished off his Fanta root beer and chuckled to himself.
“Well?” the Reverend a pushing Joe to finish.
Joe gets up and strolls over to the crate where he keeps the returnables, tosses in his empty. “Another Orange, Pastor?”
“What happened Joe?” prodded the Reverend impatiently.
“Well, Sam doesn’t have the dealership anymore.” stating the obvious.
“Sam claimed he got out of the business because, to quote Sam,
‘There’s no money in used cars anyway.’”
“And Peter Pierson, what could he say or do?” That little photo op was probably worth more to Northland Auto Group in potential sales than all their previous advertising! Certainly more than the few old beaters that Sam sold for little or nothing or just plain gave away.”
“Ayuh, guess you could say that photo op saved Sam Coleridge’s neck and his future career here in Rockhaven. For good bad or otherwise we may not have gotten to know our Sam Coleridge if it wasn’t for that Press Herald photo of him alongside Mr. Peter Pierson of Northland Auto Group! In fact it is right over there on the wall.”
About that time the little bell on the door jingled, Howard Williams stepped in.
The Reverend got up and walked over to the side wall of Joe’s shop. He’s seen the framed photos there. Mostly they’re of young men and women from Rockhaven in their military uniforms. A few photos of some of the more memorable sporting highlights from Rockhaven High (Go Quarriers!)
But there in one old frame was a faded newspaper article with a grainy photo. Headline read: “Neighbor helping Neighbors.” Highlighted was a quote by a much younger Sam Coleridge, “In keeping with the Northland Auto Group’s tradition of being a good neighbor, we started this program to assist those with the need of reliable transportation.”
And there is Peter Pierson handing the keys of a 1973 Chevy Impala to a young couple, a skinny looking young fellow, and his wife with two grubby looking kids hanging off her. On the second page of the article the headline read “Down East Branch of Northland Auto Reaches Out in Caring Gestures.”
The Gospel for that Sunday was all about the unscrupulous manager, of whom the good book said, “And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly . . .”
To which Jesus oddly commented, “. . . for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
And then even more perplexingly He said, And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
He looked up after reading the Gospel lesson and there was Sam Coleridge whispering something to Bob Barstow!
And he wondered what would be on the agenda at the next Church Council meeting!
He could hear it now. “Say Pastor, I’ve been thinking about a way to increase church membership. What do you say we offer to anyone who joins before the end of 2016t a year free like they won’t have to pledge?”