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Going Up in Flames: My Dream Shop Was Burning to the Ground!

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

During the summer, I took a longer supper break and, after returning to the shop — where I had over a hundred and fifty employees — I might stay until the second shift went home at 11. The evening of July 18 was no different.

When I was young, I used to take care of emergencies at the shop myself, but no more. My summer camp’s telephone number was unlisted, and I had given it only to family and friends so I usually had a lot of quiet when I was there.

That night, however, the phone startled me awake at about 3:30. In the darkness, as I reached for the lamp, right away, I had a bad feeling. A middle-of-the-night call was not a compressor gone wrong. It was something much more serious. Could it be one of my parents was sick? Or, my wife’s? We had a lot of salesmen out on the road. Had one of them been in an accident? I stumbled through the camp to reach the phone in the large family room. When I answered, I heard a woman, announcing herself as a telephone operator, asking if I would take a phone call from a police officer. “He said you would want to be disturbed,” she added.

I said immediately, “Yes.”

Had the police caught a thief in the shop? But, what would a thief want with conveyors? I knew, of course, that was not what a thief would have come for—a thief would have been looking for cash in the office.

But it was not a thief the officer was calling me about. What he said next shocked me.

“The Diamond Machine plant is on fire, Mr. Verreault.”

“What?” I shot back stunned.

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The Pacific Theater

Crossing the Pacific to Reach the World War 2 Theater

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

The military would never tell servicemen where we were going during World War 2, but it was a fairly easy bet that we were headed for Hawaii as a first leg to the Japanese front. The night before we were to board our ship, I had supper in San Francisco with the girlfriend of one of my friends. It would be the last time in a long while that I would have a home-cooked meal.

In the morning, my buddy and I headed out to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard where the ship we were to head out on had undergone some repairs. Like many other ships used by the Americans, this one was a foreign ship that had been more or less stranded far from its homeland and was now helping in the anti-Axis war effort. We were to board it at the yard and begin our trip from there. We reported in and then, hoisting our duffle bags onto our shoulders, took our place to board. There was a long line of men, thousands of men. The line moved slowly, the duffle bags grew heavy. It seemed that when finally we put them down to rest, the line moved again and we’d lug the bags once more. Eventually, we reached a narrow gangplank and walked up it to the ship’s deck. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Robert Verreault Wedding Portrait

Robert Verreault Decides It’s Time to Get Married

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man,  the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013. At 27, I was ready to get married but I had not found anyone yet. I sensed being married would be a good thing for me and I began to […]