As I was sitting at my desk on the second floor last week, I was reminded of the day when we moved into this building nearly 40 years ago. Most of our folks are still self-quarantining themselves and working from home; I was the only person in the building, which is the way it was in the early days of Barada Associates. Nice big office space with hardly anybody in it. The late Vance Waggoner had his law offices downstairs and we shared space with insurance agent Steve Brooks across the hall, but he was out a lot and so was Vance. Mrs. Newman was Vance’s secretary downstairs and made very little noise. So, sitting here was strangely reminiscent of those long ago days when I spent a lot of time doing everything I could think of to help insure that my fledging business would survive. Happily, it did survive, but there were times when I wondered if it would.
My, how times have changed in the last four decades! For one thing, we own the whole building now and it’s full, or at least it was until the outbreak of COVID-19 basically shut down the world.
Back in the day, Vance would saunter up the stairs into my office, make himself comfortable no matter what I was doing, and we’d chat. For those who don’t remember Vance, and I suppose there are more of you who don’t then do, he was a fascinating man. At the time, there were lots of political types who thought he could have been Governor of Indiana. I asked him about it one time and his cryptic reply was, “I chose another course.” In addition to being a very good lawyer, he was quite a student of history, particularly the history of the life of Abraham Lincoln. For years, he always recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at our annual Lincoln Day Dinner. I mention his recitation because he was one of the last true orators from the classic mold. He had a stentorian voice that didn’t require amplification and his eloquence was truly something to behold.
I’ve always been a Lincoln admirer, and from what I’ve read, which was precious little compared to what Vance had read, Lincoln had something of a nasally high pitched voice. I think it would be safe to say that Vance had a far more elegant voice than Lincoln probably did. Anyway, we would sit in my office and talk about Mr. Lincoln – that’s how Vance always referred to our 16th president, as “Mr. Lincoln.” I think it was a matter of respect for Lincoln that prompted Vance to refer to him that way. Our conversations were always very pleasant. I know I certainly learned a lot of history from Vance and I liked to think of him as my friend.
The other occupant of the building was Steve Brooks. Steve was just a good guy to be around. He was a regular guy who was pleasant, outgoing, and personable. When our business started growing and we began adding people we finally had to shove him out!
We’ve made so many changes to the office I doubt either of them would recognize the place today. There are walls where there were none and there are open spaces where there used to be walls. But the biggest changes that have taken place over the years are the way we do business. I started out with a yellow legal pad, a pen, one correcting-selectric IBM typewriter, and a one-line telephone. The only extra feature was a thing that attached to the hand set which helped prevent a stiff neck from holding the phone between and the neck and shoulder as I talked to people who were serving as references for candidates for employment. One of the big days back then was when we bought a fax machine. Prior to that, the only way to get a document from one place to another was by the US Mail. I can remember thinking when we rented our first fax machine that we were really going places with the latest technology. Times have changed so much that the fabulous fax machine is now ancient history and kids in high school don’t even know what a fax machine did.
The other memorable day was when we got our first computer. We had three other employees at the time, and we were all amazed at what a computer could do. By today’s standards, it was a bulky primitive thing that really didn’t do very much. Now, our business couldn’t exist without computers on every desk. Most of our people need at least two computer screens to do their jobs. Some even have three screens. Not only that, we’re also connected to the fiber-optic cable that runs from the courthouse right up the alley between our building and the First Financial parking lot.
The third memorable event that comes to mind is when the building that used to be right next to us, the old Elks Lodge, burned down. Jim Trout was still on the city police force and I remember him helping us get vitally important records out of the office. We were all scared to death that the fire was going to spread to our building, but it didn’t! It stopped just short of our west wall. People were very kind about helping us get stuff out of our building. My desk chair ended up down at the old Boys & Girls Club, and we had equipment stacked on the Courthouse lawn!
The truth of the matter is, the way things have changed in the business world I don’t think we could operate today the way we did back then. Technology has just changed too much. Forty years is a long time in a rapidly changing world.
That’s —40— for this week.