Work before Teaching
You may not recognize me, but I used to look like this,
(I smoked cigarettes, too). The building is the old Hackley/Hume residence, turned
I built the cupola without plans. The "photos in the archives.. " consisted of a
single grainy, wide angle picture, taken during the original construction. There
was no detail at all to be gleaned from that photo, however. The over-exposed sky
washed it out.
I actually got tired of all the hoopla over the new cupola. I never heard
that word until this summer, and then I was hearing it from everybody. I got sick
of it. I always called the thing a dog house.
This is Muskegon City Planner
Rick Chapla handing my dad an award. We are in front of the old Fire Barn on Clay
Ave. I am on the left. Three of my brothers are also in the photo; Dave, Jack, and
Bill. Jack left us later but Bill, Dave, and I took over my dad's business. We worked
together for about 10 years after that.
We are being honored
here (1981) for our work on old buildings downtown in Muskegon. We spent about half
our time working on old dumps we were able to pick up cheap. We did nice work and
revived a few dying neighborhoods.
Here is a closeup of the Certificate. These are pretty
crummy photo-copies. I've misplaced the originals.
This is one of the few copies I have left of the Hovey
House before we restored it. There was tall grass growing on the porch roof. Most
of the porch structure was rotted. Pigeons occupied the place, it was like a 3 story
chicken coop. It's former owners used it as a "half-way" house for troubled boys.
They did considerable damage, breaking beveled mirrors and curved and leaded glass,
but the previous remodeling crew was much, much worse. The entire second floor had
been gutted - all the artistic wood finishings were removed. Doors and ceilings
were lowered. The whole place was done in 4x8 paneling with grid and pad ceilings.
Our job was monstrous. The construction loan we took out was for a quarter million
dollars (not to be confused with the cost of purchase). We worked continually on
the project from March until completion in September, 1984.
I took this photo just the
other day. After restoring the place, we leased it out as offices. Many classy professionals
occupy the unique suites. Using the building in this way allowed us to keep the
original architecture (except for the addition in the rear for a fire escape). We
did not have to divide it up and add restrooms as we would to provide residential
apartments (nobody would want to occupy the entire building as a residence, although
that was its original purpose). Inside, it looks almost exactly as it did a hundred
years ago, complete with finished parquet floors and carved wood trimming.
After restoration, we sold the building to cover
our costs. We didn't make much in the sale but the building has been functioning
profitably ever since. We were able to keep ourselves off the streets in 1984, so
what the heck.
This very crummy photo-copy shows the Midtown Building
after we started work on it. We've already taken out the 8 foot high plate glass
and the aluminum awnings from the street sides.
We followed this project with many other commercial renovation adventures in Muskegon
and Grand Haven. Most involved partnerships with abundantly monied people.
Here is a shot I took the other day. You can see that
the place has changed. The changes are more significant inside. There are three
floors of offices, one is below ground level.
We no longer own this building, or any others. I broke off on my own in 1990 and
they dissolved a couple years later. All good things end, (sigh).
This is a nice editorial. Even if they get some facts
wrong, it's always nice to be in the paper.
This house was butchered in the twenties and again in
the sixties, as many architecturally significant buildings all over the U.S. have
been. The owners of this Victorian home evidently wanted a rancher. First the entire
third floor was removed. Then went most of its other distinguishing features. In
1987 I was asked to put a peak roof on what used to be the Queen Ann type turret.
So I'm in a "center-fold"! This is in Muskegon Magazine,
August/September 1987. The building is the old Hackley/Hume residence, turned museum.
We saw this project already, but this accounting is too glorious to omit.
I shouldn't forget to mention that we did a lot more than
preservation work. We took on an increasing number of new construction projects
as well. It's hard to be challenged in this arena because everything is so predictable.
But we accepted some unusual jobs, and they kept us interested. We hired supervisors
to manage the more routine aspects.
This is a "play-house" for millionaire Jeff Kerr, owner
of Horizon Corporation. (Actually, I've never seen the guy play - even on Sunday
afternoons when I'd stop in to work on his suite of offices he'd be there with a
team of businessmen.. enjoying themselves - but certainly not playing. Work-a-holics,
no doubt, but I've never seen that he suffers because of this hypothetical affliction.)
We also restored the mansion up the hill from here (not seen in this photo) and
installed a huge outdoor pool and 2 story bath-house.
After going on my own I worked for one of Jeff's partners on his new mansion - a
log home with indoor waterfall and 18 hole golf course. All I did was provide the
cedar shake roof - about 4 acres of it.
In 1989 I shared with my brothers a great honor, being
named "Entrepreneurs of the Year" by the Muskegon Area Economic and Growth Alliance.
We were presented the award before lunch at the Muskegon Country Club, (`wish I
had a photo). Not many individuals ever experience such an honor and I am greatful
to be so fortunate.
But having reached this level of success, and after working
as a partner with my brothers for 10 years, I decided to quit and start my own business.
And that is what I did. PM the first day of 1990, (a nice round number) I started
a business that I named "Daniel B. Mills". It was a sole proprietorship which I
ran for 3 years.
So here I am running said business. I took on enormous responsibility and worked
very hard. I started out small, but grew to where I employed more than 20 people
(on a contract basis) at any one time. It was rewarding but had drawbacks. These
became more apparent after I got married and became a step father to 4 boys.
I am very proud here to have my new signs painted up and
displayed. My truck is a rolling billboard. I am in my driveway here. Soon after
this photo was taken I had a large warehouse and two more trucks.
I loved being "my own schmuck", but I found it hard to "leave it at the office".
I lived there! I couldn't go home from it because I was already there (Dahh?) The
phone would ring and I would answer it. Midnight conferences were not uncommon.
For the most part though, I enjoyed it.
In 1994, I got involved with HR Electronics, owned by
N8MMH. It was something new for me and more fun than construction. It was a retail
business which dealt in Ham Radio. We booked ourselves at sales conventions across
the country, covering every weekend this way. I computerized the business, feeling
most useful in this capacity.
Here is the first set of price tags printed off the computer. They are less than
an inch square and contain useful info besides price. If a small item falls on the
floor, a quick look will show which hook it belongs on. Also shown is the vendor
code, the amount discounted from retail, and so on. There are thousands of them!
It took me some time entering all the data into the computer - and then maintaining
them as prices fluctuated and businesses changed.
The program I installed tracked inventory, as well as
sales: out of town sales, tax exempt sales, mail order, at the point of sale, (we
used a lap top on weekend road trips). It also tracked accounts receivable (about
50) and payable accounts. It did purchase orders and printed monthly bills. It generated
all sorts of very useful reports.
I also set up a computer BBS (Wildcat 4.01) to provide all kinds of information
about the store and the hobby, (1994 was actually pre-Internet for regular Muskegonidians).
Alas, for various reasons, HRE wasn't profitable and had
to quit its operation. (sniff)
While at GVSU, I worked for the Telcom Dept.
Here I am at a termination block. Each wire is associated
with a telephone somewhere on campus. We are in the "switch room" on the first floor
in Manitou Hall. Every building on campus has a wire closet with racks like this
We are in the "telephone room" under Manitou Hall. Few
people ever see this room. Most of the terminations here are for telephones, but
the racks to the right handle computers. The main-frame computer and primary file
server farm are two floors above us. The telephone "switch room" is upstairs, along
with more computer network hubs and banks of CD ROMs.
There are tunnels leading from this level which connect all the buildings on campus.
In these tunnels are utility mains, cables and optical fiber.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in the TelCom department. Besides
being an interesting and enjoyable pass-time, it was an education. What's more,
I was paid for the experience! It's hard to beat a deal like that.
For over a year, I worked part-time at the GVSU Student
This is a rare moment. Usually the large room is packed with students and administrators.
At this window we handle registration, admission, records and cashiering transactions.
We do it all. There are nine windows like this one. We are outnumbered most of the
time, but the GVSU computerized records system allows us to move things along with
amazing speed and grace.