As of 2014, I have been retired 16 years and marvel at the camaraderie that exists in hundreds of our retirees. That speaks well for the quality of our companies and the caliber of it’s associates. I enjoyed 36 years with our company and I know many of our retirees did the same.
I started working for Osco Drug in 1962, when we had about 30 stores, after graduating from the University of Iowa (which as you remember is far superior to the University of Nebraska). I started as a trainee at Osco #827, Elgin, IL I remember my first job was washing the windows on the store front. The manager in 1962 was Ernie Sawyer, one of the best friends you could ever have. He was a great mentor to many Osco leaders.
In 1963, I moved to Oshkosh, WI as an assistant manager and had the opportunity to work with Ken Fletcher, who I found to be an excellent teacher. George Stearns, Cliff Wallace and I were there at the same time, and you can imagine Ken had quite a challenge. A few years later I moved to Bloomington IL and worked with Don Clay. He was great to work with in that he allowed his assistants to make decisions and learn from their own actions.
In 1969, as manager, I opened a new store Osco #869 in Carpentersville, IL. Tom Neilson started his management career at that store and later became a leader in Osco’s Human Resources Dept. Today, Tom would probably win “The Finest Gentleman ever award” in the Osco Sav-on Alumni Club.
My next move was to Springfield, IL and we opened store 876. Roger Carpenter was 1st assistant.. I remember we had a very small liquor department, but it was very, very busy --.we had to restock after hours because you couldn’t get into the department during open hours. The first Christmas the store was open, our liquor sales surpassed the sales of all other categories combined. I hope Roger set some of those refreshments aside for our 75th anniversary celebration.
In 1972 I moved to Kalamazoo, MI as District Manager for country district 10. At that time Osco had about 170 stores. Osco operations were divided into Chicago Osco led by Byron Luke and the country division led by Tork Fuglestad. I was a D M in Michigan and Northern Indiana and reported to Tork who was the most dedicated Osco person I ever knew. I worked in Tork’s operations group about 10 years and have tons of good memories. Some other D M’s working with Tork at that time were Bill Mayfield, Wayne Davis, Richard “write on” Rounds, Bill Bates and Greg Gullickson. One of the most memorable events that come to mind is the store visits that Tork conducted with most stores each year, they were rather intense. I also recall the annual store budgeting meeting that each country Osco D M had every year with Tork and his finance group of Eva Kearns and Paul Harig.. As I recall the D M’s always won the budgeting battles.
Early Osco (mid 60’s & 70’s) was a wonderful experience that would be difficult to duplicate again. We had a bunch of talented young people who really grew up together in a rather unique way. In the mid 60’s our Marketing group included talented people such as Bob Braden, Stan Carlson, John Dvorak, Haven Ready, Mitch Oddo and ”Mr. 5:00 a.m.” Bob Maag. They did a wonderful job creating a Central Marketing Team and producing a Central Marketing Program.
The Central Region operators had periodic basketball games with the Oakbrook Marketing group. I recall the Operators always won, except the time the marketing group recruited John “sharp elbows” McGovern to play on their team. At that time John was a store manager which should have created an automatic forfeiture of the game.
In the early 70’s we operated two 55 thousand sq. ft. stores in the Kalamazoo market. They were much larger than our merchandise programs were designed to support. Consequently, the manager, Larry Hedges, had to improvise and try new categories to generate sales. We struggled with apparel, sporting goods (such as converse tennis shoes, shotguns, tennis rackets and even snowmobiles). Needless to say, some of the categories were a little risky and Larry became a bit nervous the night before our semi-annual store inventories. District 10 had great years, and a lot of the credit belongs to a superior group of store managers. Bill Christilieb, Larry Hedges and Larry Hudson were very instrumental in Osco’s and District 10’s success. They also helped us create the Market Manager concept.
Most Osco retirees had several opportunities to relocate. In 1985 I moved to New England and worked for the Eastern Region. It was a fairly small region at the time, but was loaded with talented people. My time in New England was probably the most enjoyable 5 years in my Osco career. Our group was small enough that you got to know everyone and could work closely with one another. Our Regional Office was located in the Star Market company office in Cambridge, MA, where Brent Keil worked his magic on our marketing program. Bob Potter was our H.R. Manager. Joan Gumbleton, our Office Manager and Administrative Assistant who, with the help of Margie Glikas and Debbie Yankowski watched over all of us.
In 1990 I moved to Sunny Southern California and worked for the Sav-on Division. John Terry and Dennis Palmer were the regional operators. One of the first days I was in Anaheim I attended a Store Manager Award Recognition meeting. John & Dennis were presenting awards to store managers who had accomplished unusually good sales and earnings in the prior year. It was a jaw dropping experience --.several stores had exceeded $2 million in store level earnings. Five free standing Sav-on Drug stores had exceeded the $2 million store level earnings and almost 30 stores had exceeded $1 million in store level earnings. There were probably only about 6 free standing drug stores in the United States who ever attained $2 million plus in SLE and the managers of 5 of them were in that room. It was obvious that the Call Family had done a wonderful job in creating the Sav-on franchise.
In 1989 American Drug Stores was formed as a new subsidiary of American Stores. It included Osco Drug, Sav-on Drugs the Osco side of Jewel Osco combination stores and RX America.
In 1992 American Drug Stores shifted it’s strategy from a holding company to a centrally ran operating company. As a result of that change many of the Drug stores functions and personnel would move to Salt Lake City and consolidate into American Stores operations. I moved to Salt Lake City in 1994 when Dave Maher was promoted to President of American Stores. Several other associates had already relocated or would be over the next 3 or 4 years. Perhaps the most complicated and difficult move was our General Merchandise Procurement/Marketing Department. Of course everyone had a job to do every day as well as managing their relocation. Most of our General Merchandise Group was relocated in 1997. Led by Terry Maloy, the group did a wonderful job, even exceeding their sales and earnings goals for the year.
The Osco, Sav-on story has changed a lot since George Hilden opened Osco’s first store in 1937. But, the one thing that stayed the same is the quality of the people that Mr. Hilden started. The years have been marked by friends who devoted their energies into creating great companies to work in. I feel very fortunate to have had the experience of working with such energetic and talented people.