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Background Image: Kilravock Castle, Ancestoral Family Castle
In 1976 I moved my young family to Spencer Indiana from Indianapolis. I thought I would give my children an upbringing in the countryside. My wife was not at all happy with this as she was an avid city girl. The house we moved in was only 900 sq. ft. I had to remodel it to even move in. Time passed and the kids grew. I was commuting to the Ford Motor Company factory on the east side of Indianapolis. As my children started reaching their teenage years I realized how small our house had gotten! The late seventies and eighties were tough times for the auto industry. I had been laid off several times. After getting back to work in 1987 something suddenly hit me. What little savings we had were wiped out several times. We had started a business and suffered a devastating fire that consumed our warehouse. I came to the realization that if I didn't somehow add onto my house, all by myself, it was not going to happen.
Once that stark fact hit me between the eyes I started to act. I would spend my lunch hours roaming the neighborhood, looking for anything that businesses were discarding that could be used to build with. Over the next five years, I found almost everything I needed. All of it required hard physical labor. I was shooting hoops one Saturday with my nephew and spotted an entire field of old fencing of different styles. I talked to the owner who gave me permission to take what I wanted. I spent many hours in that field and eventually found all my wall studs and enough 1x6 ceder boards to put a sub strait under my plywood roof and floor. The Lord favored me and I worked many 16 hour days. In the end I found stain glass windows, hard wood flooring, drywall, 2x10x14 lumber ( for rafters and floor joists) designer doors and many more good building materials. Much of this I traded folks for other materials I had salvaged.
Most of these finds were of limited quantity. I noticed that three moving companies were handling moving crates for soldiers coming and leaving from the US Army finance center in Indianapolis. These crates were built for outdoor use. They were 7' tall, 7' deep and almost 4' wide. They were mostly framed with 2x4s and were chalked on every seam. One company in particular was close to my factory. They had the most, hundreds of them. As they were determined unfit for use, they were busted down and burned. At that time Indianapolis still allowed this. As I watched that fire one day, I thought " What a waste!" I asked the yard foreman if I could have some of them before they were broken down. He had been used to people just taking the doors and leaving. The doors were taken off and laid inside the crates. I told him I wanted all parts of the crates that I was given. He agreed and I went and bought a sledge hammer and crow bar. From then on, for the next few years, I would "harvest" that field.
I built a small temporary shelter in my front yard. It was made with two of the military crates and some salvage plywood for a "porch." I proceeded to cut all the staples off the edges of the plywood for my new roof. It was cold and snowing, my wife would bring me hot coffee. I cut all the roof and sidewalls for my house addition. It seemed like hundreds of sheets! About this time I became aware that others might be interested in salvage plywood. I had a half ton van and small trailer that I would pull the sheets home with. I ran a small add in the Trader paper. It was THE publication at the time for selling anything. The response was totally unexpected. There were between 100 and 200 phone calls inquiring about it! Just the time calling everyone back and explaining my 3.5 ft x 7ft sheets took hours. There were no cell phones so all these calls were down time for me. I was commuting three hours a day, working 8 and a half hours, busting plywood and working on my house. Thank God I was in my 30s!
I could not keep up with the demand. Most of the plywood was 3/8" thick. Many times however the roofs and backs were 1/2". The floors were 5/8" and required lots of work. They nailed 2x4s all around and then nailed 4x4 "feet" to the 2x4s. The nails went through everything and were bent over! It was not fun. I sold the 3/8" sheets for $2.25 each. The half inch was $4 to $5 depending on the quality. The 5/8" was $5 but the quality was not very good because they were hard to clean. Night after night I worked the field. Many times I would deliver to customers on the way home. Several times I got lost, again there were no cell phones. Someone saw me busting down crates at Red Ball and ask me what I did with it. They worked for a glass company around the bend where noone could see. They took large sheets of glass and cut them down to make insulated glass units that they sold to window companies. The framing was all 2x6s and 2x8s. They were chain sawing 11ft 2x6s to fit them in the dumpster! So now I had two businesses. Many times I would load my little trailer full of 11ft 2x6s and sell them for $3.00 each after work. In just one hour I would have a load. I had learned how to brake the military crates and the glass crates in the most efficient manner. This lumber business also lasted several years.
Soon after I started selling plywood I knew it would be a regular thing. To keep myself honest in the eyes of God and man I acquired a retail merchandise certificate. The date was May 19th 1987. Not being inspired by any name for my new company, I called it simply Eckart Supply Company. Soon after this I was given an office job at Ford. My friends and I were in charge of what was called a "Preventive Maintenance" program. What it became was a mechanism to change the automobile culture. It was a tough couple of years. One time I walked into the office and said " I'm selling so much of this junk plywood I need to name myself "Plywood King!" That is how the name came about. I changed my retail merchandise certificate and the name stuck.
As time passed many things changed. I retired from Ford April 1, 2000. By that time the plywood demand had changed. My customers wanted OSB, no nails and all 4x8. I couldn't hardly give away what I had sold for years. Ft. Harrison was closing, I had finally quit commuting, and so the plywood sales came to an end. A friend from church camp when I was a kid, was selling off grade lumber. He found a source for off grade roofing shingles and I gave it a try. It was a big hit. I sold 400 semi truck loads of shingles. Suddenly there came a terrible hurricane named Katrina. Six months after the hurricane the roofers in Louisiana were prepaying for the loads I used to get. It put me completely out of the business.
My son had worked for me, tearing down crates with his friends, for years. We had noticed that many of our potential customers were putting roofing metal over their shingles. Because of this loss of business we decided to get into the roofing metal business. Aaron ran with it. Today it has expanded into all sorts of metal products. That part of the business has grown by leaps and bounds. About the time that we lost our shingle business we were getting into the foam board insulation and radiant barrier insulation (foil bubble wrap) business. We were shipped semi van loads of radiant barrier insulation. We reworked and cleaned up salvage loads. That lasted for six years. The foam board insulation business is still with us and doing fine. We get off grade loads from major manufactures plus we recycle. We now have five full time employees. On May 19th it will have been 30 years. I am slowly moving on to other things but still love my company. Sometimes I just hang around to watch the action!