72 years ago God put my grandpa Jim on this earth. He has been very successful in his life. We spend a significant time with him and I learn life lessons from him daily. Jim has taught me to be the best person I can be by teaching me to work hard and have common sense. In return of the knowledge he has given me I would like to show him gratitude by writing a paper about his life.
We have swim practice after school daily. We stop to have dinner at Jim’s house. He can cook dang near anything. His favorites include soup, chicken, or burgers. After we are done eating he tells us stories about himself and all the cool adventures he has been on. This day was different, I got to ask him questions about his life. I grabbed a pen and paper and prepared to listen. He told me in chronological order about how his life went. Jim has worked his whole life and that was the main subject of my interview, all the jobs he has taken on.
My first question to him was “when were you born Grandpa?” He quickly replied “March 6, 1945. I was the second oldest of my 7 family members.” He said he had a hard life growing up. He had to work for his dad Bernard as soon as he could. Bernard was hard on Jim. That was one of the main reasons he moved from his house on the farm to his uncle's house in town. But moving out meant moving away from his mom Lee. He said that summer to stay busy and put some money in his pocket, he picked radishes. His friends thought he was crazy, working full time as a 14 year old in the summer. The work payed off. He said “I had more money than I knew what to do with, so I bought my first car. A 1949 Mercury that I bought for 35 dollars.”
He picked radishes for the rest of high school. In the winter there were no radishes to be picked, so Jim joined the wrestling team. For his first year as a sophomore heand wrestled heavyweight. He wrestled heavyweight as a junior too. But got landed on by a wrestler and broke a couple ribs.
I think the most important question was “when did you meet Grandma Barb.” I saw his eyes light up and he got excited. He thought about it for a second and then said “the summer between 10th and 11th grade.” They are coming up on their 50th wedding anniversary.
In the past I have heard Jim mention his time in the army. He is proud to have fought in the Vietnam war. Jim joined the army in January 1965. On April 17 1965, soon after he joined, protesters organized a march on Washington (“Call for a March Against the Vietnam War, 1965”). After boot camp he was assigned to the army security agency. From there he worked for the C.I.A. He traveled all over from England to Ethiopia. Barb went with him to Ethiopia and that's where they got married. During his last year of service they moved him to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He was a teacher at a guerrilla warfare school. He said “it was an interesting experience” being a teacher there. He said “we would break people there, some of them would go crazy.” After a year of teaching his time was finished with the military. He left December 1968.
I then asked Jim what he did after the military. The military took up all his time for four years. It took a bit of getting used to changing his schedule. One of Jim’s dreams was becoming and entrepreneur. He developed Trout Air Recreation Center. They raised trout, had a restaurant, and they hosted some big concerts including Ray Clark and Charlie Daniels (Miron Editor). He had 38 ponds for trout and could seat up to 300 people at the restaurant (“Anoka County History”) . During this time he also flew skydivers for a skydiving club. He even flew skydivers into the Grandstand at the State Fair.
Jim wanted to stay an entrepreneur. When the time came to sell Trout Air he took advantage of it. After it sold he opened his own insurance agency with a couple cousins called Preiner, Houle, Preiner. He made good money but after a couple of years he decided that selling insurance was too boring and wanted to try something more outdoors. Jim said one of the things he liked the most is farming. So he decided to start his own custom harvesting company. He would combine farmers’ fields in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. He ran up to five combines and a crew of 21 people. Even my mom worked for him. He ran combines from 1976 to 1984. During the Carter presidency, interest rates went through the roof and it got expensive to own combines (Preiner).
Jim knew a guy that worked for Water Gremlin and gave him a manager's position moving die cast machines. They were massive. His job was to manage the workers while they tore the die cast machine down and moved them to a different location. He had a crew of 12 people. His workers were paid well. They got 12 dollars an hour and worked 16 hour days 6 days a week. The minimum wage back then was 2.50 an hour. When they weren't moving the die cast machines he hauled Arabian horses around the country for the same man that hired him to work for Water Gremlin. He said “I drove a Kenworth with a 12 horse trailer.” He put many miles on that truck. Jim said “I could drive for 3 days without any sleep, and I could drive up to 7 days with only 7 hours of sleep total.” He said it was well worth it and was interesting.
The biggest project Jim ever took on was building and running Blueberry Pines. He put a significant amount of time, money, and effort into Blueberry Pines. Not only was it the nicest golf course around, but he also had one of the biggest bars around too. He said “I did about 100 hours and week for about 3 years there.” He built it to sell so when the opportunity came he took it.
After he sold Blueberry Pines, he opened Bears on Main in 1996. A popular local clothing store. My mom helped run it for him. It was located where the Amish Oak building is now. In 2004 the right buyer came along and he sold that too.
When they sold Bears on Main, t. The old hotel just north of Bears on Main came on the market and Jim purchaseds it. He then put in a video store and had a couple tanning beds there. The video store was successful until video streaming off the internet became popular. They couldn’t compete with video streaming so he decided to sell it.
His next purchase was the Northland Lumber building just east of the Old Hotel. He rented out little spaces to a crafters mall and a pet store. He decided that renting it out wasn’t working for him so he decided to establish a salon. He has owned it ever since. He moved the tanning beds from the Old Hotel over. He grew his salon big. It was the largest grossing salon in northern Minnesota. At one point he had 12 full time stylists. The biggest salon to ever come to Park Rapids. Recently he has shrunk it down to three stylists.
Jim has never officially retired in my mind. He keeps himself busy by employing his grandsons and their friends on projects he has running around. I enjoy working for him. There is never a dull moment and it keeps us busy. I think Jim enjoys hiring us. It’s one way he can teach us life lessons while putting money in our pockets. I’m glad Jim has been in my life. He is really generous to us, but makes us earn it. He pushes me to be the best I can be and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.
"Anoka County History: Trout-Air Thrived for Three Decades." ABC Newspapers. Date of publication? Web. 05 Jan. 2017.
"Call for a March Against the Vietnam War, 1965." Call for a March Against the Vietnam War, 1965. Pg. A1 4.News Paper. 05 Jan. 2017.
Miron Editor, Michelle, ed.. "Running Aces Honors Historic Trout Air with New Restaurant." Press Publications. 08 May 2015. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.
Preiner, Jim. Personal Interview, 26 Dec. 2017.