The People of America

Talking to People Lifts our spirits

By Howard James


The story of my uncle, Robert James, who passed on a few years ago at the age of 96, helps me understand what makes America great.

We are great because of the people of America.

Bob, as he was known to his many friends, made sure his family had food and clothing during the Great Depression.  When he died he left sufficient funds to support his daughter and his sister for many years.

Bob’s father, Vern, had been a traveling salesman until the depression hit. His mother was a teacher, but, she lost her job because in those days teachers were let go when they married.

So it was Bob, the oldest son, who came up with a plan to provide for his family’s needs, although he was still a teen.

Near the family home in Iowa City, Iowa, Bob found an empty plot of land. He asked for and received permission from the owner to plant a garden. Bob’s sister, Harriett, Howard (my father), young Vern  and Jimmy pitched in and grew more than enough to feed the family.

Soon they realized they had produced more vegetables than they could consume. So Bob decided to sell the surplus vegetables door to door throughout the community.  A year or two later he was able to rent 20 acres down by the river where the land was exceptionally fertile.

Bob also acquired some worn out Model T Fords and converted them into large push carts. Soon several boys in need of work pushed those carts throughout the city, selling Bob’s vegetables.

With the income Bob also  attend the University of Iowa. After he graduated he went to work for Firestone. In time he launched a cleaning business, first cleaning houses, then people’s offices and eventually entire office buildings. His staff continued to grow as he took on more assignments.

He also ran for the Memphis City Council and won. He was reelected to the council  again and again for many years. Hundreds of people turned out for the dinner the city held when Bob finally retired. No question his devotion to improving Memphis in every way possible was appreciated.

There’s a lot more to Bob’s story, but I think you get the point. Creativity, humility and hard work provides the route to success in America.

Now we are on the road, talking to other Americans who have their own stories to tell. Some are just launching their careers. Others are now “well fixed” financially or have experienced unusual challenges and continue to try to recover. gives you the opportunity to meet and share thoughts with some of the many interesting people we are meeting as we travel the nation.

This is the starting point:

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