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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of ingenuity and effective leadership in business successes

Bush offers a humorous anecdote in order to demonstrate the ingenuity with which Parker Underdown operated his business ventures, describing an instance in which Underdown used scraps of cloth used to wrap up tobacco for making furniture. According to Bush, it was this kind of ingenuity in combination with a successful blend of leadership capabilities that made Underdown's business such a success.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Sr., June 19, 2000. Interview I-0086. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
In all these businesses, was the capital from Parks and Anne Lewis? Did they have the money or raise the money themselves?
BOB BUSH:
Basically they had the money. Anne was the business brain. In other words, she did the books and all this kind of stuff and was very good at it. Parks was the sales brain. Parks could do the selling. And then they needed someone to make stuff. So that's where the third person always comes into this. They had to have someone who could hire employees, organize it, and produce a product. And then of course Parks starts branching out because he couldn't get this to put in this product, so he'd go somewhere and find something that would do the job. And Parks was a very ingenious person. He would be riding along the road one day, and I remember this specifically, riding along the road one day in Winston-Salem, and he looks over there and here's this big pile-to him-of furniture webbing. Now what it was was a piece of cloth which the tobacco people use to wrap their tobacco to go inside the hogshead, and the cloth was about four or five inches wide. And once they pulled the tobacco out of the hogshead, they had nothing to do with those strips except throw them away. Well, Parks saw them laying there and to him, automatically, they're what you put as crosspieces in a piece of furniture and put a coil on top of it and it's called webbing.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So he was really good at finding different uses-.
BOB BUSH:
He was excellent at finding different things. So he stopped and made a deal with the guy to just haul them off, not pay anything, just haul them off. Then he brought them back and he rolled them up in rolls and sold them to furniture factories. And it worked fine for a long time. I do remember that Percy Monroe, one of his customers-Modern Upholstered Chair up in Morristown, Tennessee-used it to make a bunch of chairs he sent down to Florida. And after they'd been down there for a while, they started stinking because of the humidity. [Laughs.]