Monday, August 25, 2014

Baby Jay Takes Flight!

We dropped our youngest child (of three) off at Creighton University in Omaha this past weekend. I am a Creighton Alum (BSBA '83) and our two older children hold degrees from Creighton. We are a  Creighton family. We build family gatherings around Creighton events. We spent last New Year's Eve at the CenturyLink Center for Creighton's inaugural Big East Conference basketball game. We all traveled to New York for the Big East tournament and our older daughter, her husband and our son joined me in San Antonio for Creighton NCAA tournament games.

So it was no surprise when Sarah told us she wanted to attend Creighton. But she had no interest in even visiting another school. Her senior year visits to Creighton only solidified her decision.

While taking a child to college is always an emotional event, at Creighton it is a spiritual event as well. The Creighton "Welcome Week" mass, this year on Saturday night, is always moving. One can see parents throughout the church wiping or holding back tears. At the end of mass, when parents are asked to say a blessing over their children, it's hard to hold back. I never can (or do).
Rachel with Grandpa Harry and Grandma Pat

When our oldest, Rachel (BSBA '08), left for Creighton in 2004, it was the whole "first time" sentiment. She was the first to leave, we didn't know what to expect and so there was apprehension as well. Though our daughter was leaving for school, we still had a high school son and an eight year-old at home. We knew that we would be busy parenting.

When our son, Alex (BSBA '11), left for Creighton in 2007, I knew there would be no one with whom to watch college football and basketball games at home any more. My deer hunting partner was leaving. All my regular father/son activities would be drawing down. (We would, however, make it to church each week on time since we didn't have to wait for Alex each Sunday!) But we still had an eleven year-old at home who would soon be getting busy with junior high and high school activities.

Now, seven years later as Sarah leaves for school, I have different feelings. I will miss being a parent on a daily basis. I will miss chasing Sarah from one corner of South Dakota to the other watching her volleyball, gymnastics and fine arts events. I will miss her friends at our home with there youthful energy (and naïveté). I will even miss the perpetually messy bedroom.

I know Sarah will be educated in the Jesuit tradition. She will be challenged academically, socially and emotionally. She will learn how to serve others. She will make wonderful, lifelong friends that will shape her as much as or more than we, as parents, did. These are the reasons we are sending her to Creighton. They are also the factors that makes this process a bit easier. 

Last Friday night, we got her settled in her dorm room (with a ton of help from the "Welcome Week" crew). We made "Target runs" on Friday and Saturday.

We met Sarah's roommate and her family. We met several friends that Sarah knew - either from high school activities or from Creighton's "Admitted Student Day" or "Summer Preview". We attended a luncheon where we learned about the Creighton Students Union Presidential Fellowship in which she will participate (and about which we are very excited!). We partook in all the "Welcome Week" activities to which parents are invited (before they are shown the door and encouraged to use it!).

On Sunday morning, we took Sarah to breakfast at Lisa's Radial Cafe, part family tradition, part Creighton tradition and part great food. Rachel introduced us to Lisa's shortly after she started at Creighton and we have been making Sunday morning treks there ever since.

After breakfast, we took a couple of photographs and then we set off for home knowing Sarah was ready to hit the ground running. It was a long quiet drive - too quiet. But it was even quieter at home. My first stop when I got home was Sarah's bedroom.

The hard wood floor, normally carpeted with clothing, was visible. There were some empty nails on the walls from which she had taken favorite photos of family and friends. There were no half bottles of water on the dresser or breakfast bar wrappers on the floor. Those irritations seem so insignificant now.

It was quiet. Even her dog, Snickers, was not there, having been checked in to the "Marriott for Mutts" for the weekend. It was just quiet. We had silence before, but we always knew it would not be long lasting. I'm sure I'll get used to the quiet (might have to turn on all the TVs in the house for awhile!).

Judy and I look forward to trips to Omaha to visit our "Baby Jay", to see the Creighton family or to watch Bluejays basketball. We will enjoy a dinner at one of Omaha's many outstanding steakhouses or catch a musical at the Orpheum.

We are now looking forward to the next family gathering - which, ironically enough, will be the marriage of two great Creighton friends at St. John's church on the Creighton campus. The we'll look forward to Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

I always find it to be a challenge to come up with a topic and start a new blog entry. But I think starting that this starting a new chapter will be an even greater challenge.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 2014 SDADA Column

The New York Times started a firestorm with this August 8th editorial about sub-prime automobile lending. The article is rife with comments like this one:
Banks that are scrambling to buy such loans have sometimes formed alliances with unscrupulous dealers, including one who was indicted on grand larceny charges that he defrauded two dozen buyers.
In typical fashion, the New York Times suggests that ALL dealers are guilty of the actions of a few, all car loans are bad and, somehow these people would find a way to get a car without the high interest rates otherwise. Finance 101 - interest rates reflect the risk involved in the deal. High risk = High Interest rates.

Stephen Gandel, Fortune, provides a bit of balance with this August 13th article about sub-prime lending and GM's purchase of AmeriCredit (now GM Financial). Jim Henry, Automotive News, reports on the issue in this August 13th article as well. Moody’s Analytics senior director Cristian deRitis chimed in here.

NADA President, Peter Welch, rebutted the misguided New York Times editorial here. Welch is quoted, “Enforcement of existing laws against a small minority of bad players is in everyone’s interest, but smearing an entire industry for the misdeeds of a few is just plain wrong.”

This from Welch's rebuttal:
A subprime auto lender CEO ... said another big distinction is that mortgage brokers sold mortgages with no stake in how well those mortgages would perform in terms of repayment over the long term. In contrast, he said, the subprime auto lenders that sell asset-backed securities typically agree to buy back the loans if they perform below stated thresholds. “It’s called skin in the game,” the executive said. “That’s a big difference.”
Hopefully this issue dies a quick death. I'm sure the CFPB would love to weigh in.

Dealer Franchise System

I don't know if you saw John McElroy's editorial, Tesla Is Wrong, Franchise System Is Better, about the franchise system. You can read it here. He makes the case for the franchise system over factory stores:

Dealers will happily take your used car as a trade-in, no matter what brand it is. They’ll pay you a wholesale price, then turn around and retail it in their used-car lot. Do you think factory-owned stores would be interested in selling used cars from another car company? Never. Just for kicks, go ask your Tesla dealer about handling your trade-in. They send you to AutoNation.
What’s more, dealers are consumer advocates when it comes to doing warranty and recall work because they get paid by the factory to do it. Do you think factory-owned stores would be so consumer-friendly? Of course not. Warranty and recalls would represent higher cost, not more revenue.

McElroy's closes with the point that this is discussion is not about Tesla, but rather when Chinese automakers finally start selling cars in the American market. Do you think that the Chinese manufacturer will take good care of the consumer when he/she buys the $10,000 car? Who will be that consumer's advocate for warranty work? Who will point out the safety concerns and the needs for recalls? I think we know the answer to that one.

Attendee Registration and Housing Now Open for 2015 NADA Convention in San Francisco

Online registration for the 2015 NADA Convention & Expo in San Francisco is now open. Make your hotel reservations as soon as possible because rooms will fill up quickly. Early bird registration ends Sept. 12, which includes a $100 discount from the onsite rate.

The NADA convention runs Thursday, Jan. 22, to Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Moscone Center. The keynote speakers are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and NADA Chairman Forrest McConnell, III, on Friday, Jan. 23; Jay Leno and NADA Vice Chairman Bill Fox on Saturday, Jan. 24; and inspirational speaker Beck Weathers on Sunday, Jan. 25. Click here for the speaker bios.

The NADA convention includes dealer-manufacturer franchise meetings, hundreds of educational workshops for dealers and their managers, several hundred companies exhibiting on the expo floor and numerous networking events. For more information or to register, visit

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Grandpa's Caddy

I've previously written about my Grandpa Frank. While he left a very significant impression on me during the seven and a half years we shared, perhaps his most lasting concrete legacy was his 1964 Cadillac Sedan Deville. He bought his car in 1965 from Novak Cadillac in Omaha. He replaced his 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air.

I remember the Chevrolet Bel Air from one eventful trip in it when I was three or four years old. I was riding from Chamberlain to Winner with Grandpa and Grandma on a hot (and I mean HOT!) South Dakota afternoon. Air conditioning in cars was a still a luxury - one that Grandpa had not splurged on in that car. I was roaming the spacious back seat by myself. We were somewhere near Hamill, SD when we hit a bump on the road (South Dakota roads were the same back then - every bridge was three inches above the road!) that caused the back window of the Chevy to shatter and the glass to fall down on me.

Grandpa pulled over immediately. Grandma was crying and asked me if I was alright. I was crying and I told her that I was fine - though I probably needed to change my undershorts! When Grandpa asked me why I was crying, I told him I was scared because Grandma was crying. Grandpa scolded Grandma, they put me in the front seat with them and we set off on the half hour trip to Winner!

Shortly after that, Grandpa decided to get his new Cadillac. I remember sitting on the arm rest on the front seat between Grandpa and Grandma in the Caddy. It was like a built in booster seat. This was in the days before child car seats and even seat belts for all passengers. I felt like I was the king when I rode with them in that seat.

I remember Grandma driving that car after Grandpa passed. She was so little for such a big car but she handled it with no problem. After Grandma moved from Winner to Chamberlain in the mid-eighties, Grandma drove it very infrequently. She drove it for groceries and to church.

Grandma passed away in January 1987 and I expressed interest in purchasing the car from my Mom and her two sisters. I think they were excited that I was interested and that it might stay in the family. I bought it from them and began the long, slow process of reconditioning it.

The car was in great shape mechanically but had some cosmetic blemishes. Over a five or six year period of time, I put on a new vinyl roof, painted the body and put on a new set of wide whitewall tires. I replaced some interior parts that had been lost or broken over the years. Later I replaced the seat covers, replaced the in-dash clock, put in a Bluetooth MP3 player and speakers and a did few other small fixes,

The original owners manual, window sticker and sales contract were in the car when I purchased it. I found a service manual, showroom literature and some magazine advertisements.

When (daughter) Rachel and (son) Alex (this was BS - before Sarah) were young, we drove the car to Winner to the drive-in theater a couple different times. The kids loved rides in the Caddy because people would spontaneously wave at the car - not us but the car - with a big smile on their face. You could almost see that the car was evoking memories of their youth as they watched us pass by them.

One Fourth of July morning, I took Rachel over to Roam Free Park (which overlooks Chamberlain and the Missouri River) and took some photos of her (on her birthday). Years later, she would take some of her high school senior portraits with the car - one of which hangs in my office!

The Caddy played a prominent role in Rachel and Andrew's wedding last summer. Not only did it shuttle the bride and groom to the church and reception/dance, it was featured in the wedding photos. That was so appropriate since Rachel has been posing with it since she was about four years old.

When Rachel was in college, she commissioned a very talented friend to paint a watercolor of the Caddy sitting at Roam Free Park. It hangs proudly in my office.

Each summer, the Caddy glides out of storage where it is nestled in a car cover in a garage. It's white walled tires roll down the streets of Chamberlain for a month to six weeks. It accumulates a couple hundred miles every years - adding to its total of 78,000+. It's a great ride to church on a summer Sunday morning. The locals smile and wave as its rolls down the streets of Chamberlain. The tourists drop what they're doing and gawk.

The vanity plate on the Caddy reads "64 CADI". That's why is it so ironic when people want guess what year it is. Like a teenage boy with the Swimsuit Sports Illustrated, they are so smitten with the car's beauty that they don't even notice!

This year, the Caddy is 50 years old. While it may have had a few wrinkles, the "work" that's been done has served it well - it looks pretty damn good. Because it's half century has been spent mostly in a garage and receiving lots of TLC, it  may be just hitting its prime!

I love the Caddy. I love it because it is a classic. I love it because it represents a different era - a simpler time. I love it because of what it does to people when they see it. I love it because when you put your foot on the accelerator, the 429 cubic inch V-8 roars (and moves the gas needle). I love it because you can put a family of four in the trunk. I love it because any pre-1970 song, regardless of fidelity, sounds great on its stereo. I love it because the wide whitewalls make the car look like it is wearing sneakers. I love it because when you sit behind the wheel, you cannot help but smile. But most of all, I love it because it was Grandpa and Grandma's car - their pride and joy!

We have had a lot of fun with the Caddy. I'm pretty sure Grandpa had no idea of the legacy that car would carry when he made that trip to Omaha in 1965.

Update - 9/4/2014: On August 30, I took the Caddy to the Prairie Cruisers Car and Tractor Show in Winner, SD. The show is part of the community's annual Labor Day celebration. Ironically, in its return to its "old stomping grounds", Grandpa's Caddy won a Best in Class award. Several old timers recognized it as Frank Wurnig's Cadillac. It made for a fun afternoon.