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January 02 , 2011



T. W. Strait was employed by the Missouri State Park Board each summer from 1958 through 1962. He was a college summer day worker for the fi rst year, but became the Campground Supervisor for the next four summers. Most of what you will read comes from many personal experiences and a bit of creati ve license. He saw so many things happen through young eyes that have stuck with him for these many years. Tom met his wife while working at the park and has had a fondness for all memories connected with that work experience. He made many friendships while employed there and for that reason felt it important to share those experiences with you. When Tom started working for the Park System at Lake Ozark State Park, he arrived as a 210 pound, over weight, spoon fed son of an IBM Branch Manager who got the job for him during the Christmas break of 1957, Tom’s junior year in high school. Mowing his dad’s yard and watching TV was his only summer interests during previous summers. This summer was be diff erent. Upon arriving at the park, Tom was quartered in the back room of the main park offi ce with a bunk and with only a refrigerator and a hot plate for appliances. There was no hot water heater, so any showers were taken in very cold well water in the basement, or by catching a ride to the campground six miles away for a hot shower. With no vehicle, Tom depended on the other students with cars, two, to go to town to shop for groceries and other necessiti es. This was a major diff erence in his past lifestyle. Tom’s duti es that fi rst year were to help clean all of the restrooms at the campground, swimming beach and picnic shelter. Aft er doing that, he helped haul garbage from each of the above locati ons and then hauled wood back to the campers. Once done with those projects, he and the other boys cut grass andwhipped weeds for the rest of each day. Once a week he and his co-harts got to run the road, picking up litt er thrown out by thoughtless visitors. That was a 6 mile run in very hot and humid weather. Every once in a while he got the privilege of helping pump out the out house toilets in the campground and that was an enlightening experience. Needless to say, by summers end, Tom had lost 35 pounds and had really gained some never before enjoyed muscle tone, as well as had received a very good educati on of what life was really all about. The next 4 years as Supervisor, he assigned duti es to the then 6 extra students and he also collected camp fees. During those 5 years, he gained a real appreciati on for life and the feelings of others that has carried with him throughout his later career as a Marketi ng Manager. Aft er graduati ng from Indiana University School of Business in 1963, he married his park sweetheart and went to work for a major oil company for the next 4 years. He att ained the ti tle of Senior Sales Representati ve before leaving to go back to Missouri to work with a smaller independent oil company as Sales Manager. Here he stayed for the next 40+ years helping build the company to a multi milliondollar concern. He is currently semi-reti red, working three days a week for that company and working the other two days with his son in a company they started in 1997 called T & S Distributors, L.L.C. that sells, installs, and services automoti ve equipment. Tom credits his park experience for much of his business success. It was there he gained fi rst hand experience dealing with about every conceivable type of situati on imaginable. The wife beati ng, att empted suicide, accidents, lassoing the wounded deer, the lost camper, the 3 German shepherds, the lost teeth, the couple in the tent, the Clydesdales, and forest fi res were all things in which Tom personally had to become involved. None of the characters named in this book are real or refl ect on anyone he worked with in the park. The comradery, however, did prevail there throughout his tenure. Tom’s dealings with all park and Park Board personnel were handled in a very positi ve and educati onal manner and he is most grateful to the Board and Mr. Joe Jaeger its Director at the ti me, for giving him the chance of a lifeti me and the job. Tom also dedicates this book to his fi rst Superintendent, Mr. Ned Brown, who died in a truck accident very much like the one his character JJ in the book experienced. Tom hopes you enjoy these stories as much as he enjoyed experiencing or creati ng them.
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