December 12, 2016 (Pacific, MO) – Jim Kramer – A Look Back (In His Own Words)
With my 66th birthday coming up, it’s come to the time in my life to focus on retirement. I have never been a job jumper, but have done a few different things. I started clearing land when I was thirteen years old and worked as a caretaker assistant for a large estate close to where I lived as a kid. When I reached the employable age of sixteen, I landed a job at the local grocery store as a bagger-stock boy-cart pusher. It was my first job working with the general public, and I learned that I liked doing that. During my time in high school I worked at several different service stations at night and on the week-ends. Service station employees back then actually worked on customers’ cars, doing tune-ups, brake work, tire changes and most anything the customer wanted done. That’s where I learned I could sell. I only sold them what they thought they needed, but you would be surprised what their cars really needed, and we usually met in the middle.
After I graduated from high school, I worked as a landscaper where I learned to work on and drive the larger trucks and tractors we used in the business. I loved the job, but it was too seasonal so I applied for and got a job at a construction equipment company in St. Louis. It didn’t take them long to utilize my talents with people and a wrench. They outfitted me with a two and a half ton service truck and sent me to repair construction equipment covering a three-state area. Everything I worked on was too big for transport, so I had to go to it. They even sent me to Wyoming to two of the largest strip mines in the state. I could have stayed there and worked for them, but I had a lovely lady back in St. Louis that drew me back.
I failed to mention that while these things were going on, I met an interesting guy by the name of Bob Chandler. Most any free time I had from working was spent trail riding and racing motorcycles. Bob and I cobbled together some real doozies that shouldn’t have run, but they did. We ran our bikes flat out, and as bikes always do, they bit us. Bob in the form of a crushed ankle and me with a shattered right arm left with limited mobility. We decided to go the 4×4 route because we rationalized it was safer. We started making parts for our trucks and other peoples’ too and turned it into a small business. I finally married that lovely girl and sold my part of the business to Bob. That small business became known as Bigfoot and Bob wanted to expand it. He talked me into working with him again, and my wife and I decided I should help him out for a year or two. I took a years’ leave of absence from my construction equipment job and went on the road promoting his truck, Bigfoot. I guess I was good at it and enjoyed the travel and the people I met, so after a year I officially quit my other job that I had put on hold.
The next 35 years flew by: we had two kids, moved twice, and now have 2 really great grandsons who also seem to like trucks. In those 35 years of work, I traveled the whole United States — some of it with my family that always was the best company — South America, parts of Europe, and lastly Australia. I met the kindest, most interesting, big-hearted people you could ever imagine. I was also privileged to work with some very large corporations who saw worth in the Bigfoot brand promoting their products. I even got to rub elbows with some A-list movie stars like Sam Elliott, Patrick Swayze, Ben Gazzara (Road House), Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone (Tango and Cash) and Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels 2). I will miss promoting the brand but mostly I will miss the people I worked with and the large circle of friends that I have made over the years in many states and some countries.
Retirement will be bittersweet, but it will give me more time to pursue some things that I have been wanting to do like traveling with my wife and getting back into flying (which I put on hold 47 years ago). It will allow me to be there for my family and back them any way that I can, because I can never repay them for their support in what I did with my life.
Well it’s off to a new chapter in my life and it’s kind of scary living without a regular job or a timetable of some sort. I better get busy building an airplane to keep my mind off of it. Yes, that’s right, I want to build my own airplane and fly it from the grass field at my house. I figure we will fly more often if it’s convenient to do. Maybe me learning early on to skydive will come in handy if things happen to go bad, but it will be fun to test fly something I built. I do remember test-flying Bob Chandler’s monster trucks over the years, so this should be a breeze (and the landings ought to be a lot softer).
Before I close the door on this part of my life, I must pause to say thanks, especially to Bob and Marilyn Chandler. But how can I adequately thank all the other people I have worked with over the years — all of the people I have met and all of the fans who have taken me into their hearts and still appreciate the entertainment that I and the Bigfoot truck showed them. They all looked like they had great fun, but I think it was I who was having the best time wheeling that larger than life truck called Bigfoot.