By Leo Coughlin
When I first knew of Victor Wood I was struck by his extraordinarily musical speaking voice. Truly beautiful.
But I came to know him much better, intimately almost, you could say, through the book he has just published, "Polishing The Old Brown Shoes."
And that Victor Wood is a guy who reached the heights of the business world through pure grit, savvy and iron will.
You think of iron will and most often a crazy, Gordon Liddy type of person pops into mind (holding one's hand over a lighted candle, for example).
But no. That's not the iron will Victor Wood displayed and yea, relied on to construct a business career that perhaps few in Indian Rocks Beach, where he lives and is an active member of the community, know about but is stunning.
The title of his book captures the essence of what has been the hallmark of Wood's life.
He is a native Pennsylvanian and grew up just west of Philadelphia in Media, near the Pennsylvania Dutch country. It was a family typical of the times - mother and father, Victor, his brother, two sisters and an aunt and grandmother.
His earlier years were experienced in the Great Depression and while that time made one scramble, it also gave many folks great character; a philosophy of "waste not, want not" prevailed and one struggled for what one wanted.
Victor's father was typical of this. He was a self-disciplined tough man who conveyed his character to his son, as Wood's book makes plain.
Come Wood's time to graduate from the eighth grade where the uniform was blue blazer, white pants (I think we may have called them "white ducks" in those days) and black shoes. Victor's Dad sprung for the jacket and trousers but as for the shoes - no dice.
"You don't need black shoes," was the verdict. "If you want something bad enough you earn it," was the coda to that bad news.
So young Victor polished up the old brown shoes, his well worn Boy Scout shoes.
That kind of episode can be traumatic. It could have riven the father-son relationship and made young Victor resentful and hostile to his father. It didn't. It gave Wood the theme of his life - you make the top effort, you discipline yourself and you do what you must do.
It paid off for this guy.
Wood graduated from Washington and Jefferson where he played on the baseball team and a year later was in the Navy where he served as a navigator on patrol planes out of Newfoundland.
The early lessons from a tough father became the framework of Wood's life.
"What you learn at an early age helps you survive in the most difficult events as you go through life," he says.
After the Navy, it was the corporate world in which Wood made his way and he was eminently successful. "For me, it was always having a plan, developing an iron will to execute that plan and having the courage of my convictions. But it was not a one-man trip," he says. "I had many mentors along the way."
Most of us know about the corporate world only through reading a novel, seeing a movie or observing what unfolds through news media. We know it to be a tough, unforgiving universe. Wood succeeded - dramatically so - in that world.
Out of the Navy in 1959, he broke in with Mobil Oil, moved on to the Marriott Corporation, then was with McDonalds for half the 1970s before embarking on a career with Diversifoods.
That was a career peak, working with a company that had restaurants ranging from full service like Chart House to fast food such as Burger King. He was president of development for Diversifoods, handling real estate, construction, and franchising.
He hit another peak as senior vice president of development for Payless Shoe Source from 1985 to 1994.
He is still active with his own Wood Commercial Enterprises.
He and his family discovered Florida years ago during his business career and the Woods settled in Indian Rocks Beach in the 1990s.
Along the way came two sons, Rurik Thomas Hasbrook Wood and Jason Dion Victor Wood, to join Victor and wife, Beryl.
"Polishing the Old Brown Shoes" is full of much more than can be related here. It is the story of a life and a man and a way to success. A book excellently written and compelling.
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