In 1916 Earnest Holmes, Sr. had a garage in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One day he got a telephone call from a business professor he had known for some time. It seems the professor was out driving with his son when their car skidded out of control and landed upside down in the South Chickamauga Creek. Once they were out of the creek, they walked to a nearby home and called Holmes to see if something could be done.
Holmes was willing to give it a try. After six to ten long hours (different accounts vary) spent with six willing helpers using three poles, a pulley and a chain, the disabled vehicle was out of the creek. Holmes was sure there had to be a better way to do it than trying to physically man-handle the thing back to dry land.
He gave the situation some deep thought. It looked like automobiles were here to stay, and there were going to be others who would need help. In fact, a lot of his work was already done on the road side as there was no way to get a vehicle to his shop if the axle broke, which appeared to be a common occurrence.
Being a curious man, willing to invest a little time and effort to the work, he came up with an idea. He had a 1913 Cadillac. He cut the back out of the car and hooked his three poles, a pulley and chain to the frame.
(Just a side note: Was that a hard decision to make? I'd hate to tear up a three-year-old car on a maybe idea. I think I'd want to look for an older, cheaper model to experiment with. In 1913 the Cadillac cost almost $2,000, and it was a pretty good looking automobile. He had a wife. I wonder what she thought of the procedure.)
Whatever the family dynamics, his was a successful product. He got a patent on the idea and within a short time making wreckers became his real business. There were plenty of mechanics in lots of places who could see the viability of using this new piece of equipment. Not only could they get the vehicles out of the creek, they could now tow them into their shops to repair them. And let's face it. If you called them to come get the vehicle, you'd be pretty certain to have it towed to their shop rather than to a competitor.
A few of his wreckers were used in World War I, but in WWII he provided the army with 7,000 units. These proved to be up to the job, and the reputation of the company increased.
When Holmes died in 1943, his son took over the business, and it continued to thrive. He retired in 1973, and his son left the company and formed his own. He improved the wrecker by coming up with a hydraulic system to be utilized by the tow trucks.
People like this make life seem so simple, don't they? To be rich and successful you just have to come up with an idea in your own industry that makes the work easier. All there is to it. Why then does it seem that, percentage wise, there are very few of us who do this successfully. Oh, well. More power to those that do. You certainly shouldn't begrudge someone the fruits of his labor just because you didn't think of it first.
What do you think?