Roof Life of Oregon was started because I needed to make enough money to go back to college. I had just gotten home from being gone for two years down in the southern states, and I didn’t have school until August.
I was looking for an opportunity to serve people and make money. I started working at a union mill, but I could get the work done that they gave me in about half the time. I was a sweeper, and after I got my floor cleaned I would just sit down and wait. After a while I thought, I can’t do this anymore, and went downstairs and started throwing grain sacks. They looked at me like, what are you doing?
Pretty soon I got in trouble with the supervisor. He said, “You can’t leave your post just because you’re done. You have to stay up there.” And just to teach me a lesson, they dumped tons of grain on my floor and I spent hours shoveling it back down into a little hole. I thought I have to replace this job.
Within a couple of days, my friend Tim called me and said, “You’re never going to believe it.” He was just a gutter cleaner at the time, but he cleaned a section of the roof and got a homeowner to come up on the ladder to look. And the homeowner said, “If you can make my whole roof look like that, I would be in heaven.” And they negotiated a price.
I thought I was making really good money as a union worker at about 86 dollars a day back in 1982. He was making 400 a day cleaning roofs. It wasn’t too hard to figure out.
I got my first roof for the Platt’s and I remember it took me 12 hours of non-stop work, dawn to dusk. When I got done I was so beaten up: my arms, my shoulders, every muscle in my body was tired. I went home and collapsed on the floor and I called Tim and I said, “I will never do that again. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” And he just laughed. He couldn’t stop laughing. He said, “I know I did the same thing, but I didn’t have anybody to call.” He goes, “Trust me, it’ll get better.”
Tim showed me a couple of things that I could do better to finish a roof in half of the time. And, of course, my body got used to it and I thought, “Oh man, OK, this is going to work.”
I was telling my mom this story, and my mom reminded me of when I was 10 years old. I was the middle of five kids, and my dad had left our family and didn’t send us any income. So my mom took us out to the migrant field.
People cannot imagine the hundreds and hundreds of acres of strawberries that used to be grown in Oregon. Mom hauled three of us kids to the field and told Mrs. Tankerlsey, who checked the strawberries, “My kids would like to pick berries.” And I remember Mrs. Tankersley, in her big broad hat saying, “No, your kids can’t work here. We’re not going to be hanging back for your kids just to try and learn how to pick.”
My mom said, “We’ll put all three of my kids in one row.” And she showed us how to do it. You straddle the row, pick up the bush, lift it over, pick the berries off that side, lay it back down, lift the other side up, pick off that side, and then go down the middle. You throw every berry in your cart and push it forward. Then repeat every two feet, down 400-yard rows.
When the flat gets full, you leave it in the aisle, and then you grab another one and grab another, and then after you’re done with the row, you go back, pick up all your flats, take them in, and they punch your card. Every punch was worth a dollar.
All of us kids watched the migrants and figured out our own style. We never got quite as fast, but we could keep up.
Now that I think about it, the only thing that got me through that first roof for the Platt’s was channeling my 10-year-old self. I had to work because I had to buy my own clothes. There wasn’t a choice.
We learned from the masters and then worked to make it even better. We still do that today at Roof Life of Oregon. We do the best job in roof care and in the roofing of anybody in Portland because we are unrelenting in finding ways to deliver a better product for the least cost possible.