About Bruce Hopkins

This was written to the brother of a friend of mine I met when I was 17-18
and living in Dunkirk, NY.  The friend was Rick Raeihle.  He made a big
impression on that teenager.  Incredibly intelligent guy.

Years ago, I did an internet search for Rick.  I figured if anybody
would be on the ‘net, he would.  But he wasn’t.

However, the name Raeihle DID come up, one Charlie.  I emailed Charlie
and found out he was Rick’s younger brother.  He told me that Rick
never did get into electronics and became more of a drifter.  He ended
up either commiting suicide or being murdered in the Houston area.

At any rate, Charlie said he enjoyed hearing my stories about Rick and
asked me to tell him a little about myself.  The following is what resulted.
It’s all (often painfully) true.

………………….

I don’t know HOW to tell you a little about me.  Here’s the gist of my life,
as simply as I can condense it.  (Get comfy in the saddle…)

Born (and adopted) in San Francisco (most embarrassing now…especially with
the name Bruce), 1947, by Navy Lieutenant, Paul Hopkins, and wife, Helen Gieler
or Geiler.  Dad told me–years later–that my name at the time of adoption was
Donald Kuntz. 
In 1950 he went off to the Korean War and she killed herself.

Sent to Long Island to live with Dad’s Navy buddy, Sam Morse, for 6 years.
Dad married an airline stewardess, Ruth, and at age 9 I went with them to posting
in Germany for 2 years (one year in Heidelberg, one year in Frankfurt).

Returned to Norfolk, VA, for 2 years, then he was transferred, (now a full
Commander) to the Philippines.  We drove across country in a VW Microbus
and took a ship from CA, stopping at Hawaii and Guam.  Skipped my birthday
when we crossed the Int’l date line. (I don’t guess that happens to too many folks!), 1960.

2 years on a little Navy Air Base, Sangley Point, Dad retired and got a job with
a shipping co. (Lykes Lines) and we moved to Manila.  I was enrolled in a
Catholic (Jesuit) high school for 2 years.  (Lost my left eye in a homemade
firecracker accident.)  I fell in with the wrong crowd, got in trouble
shoplifting, hated step-mother, and the decision was made to send me to Aunt
Mae, in Dunkirk, NY.

She was too old (82) to handle me.  I dropped out of high school and got that
great grape picking job.  They paid cash money daily, and I proudly rushed
over to Rick and wife’s house (might’ve been a duplex) to show them the
$7-and-change I’d earned that day.  As it turned out, the landlord,
Mr. McClenathan, was there, and he said they were looking for a printer’s
apprentice, would I be interested?  Would I!

So, after one day, I gave up a promising career in the vineyards and went to
work at McClenathan’s Printery making $50.00/wk before taxes.

Trouble was, Aunt Mae demanded $35 of it despite the fact my Dad was sending
her money to care for me.  I couldn’t stand that.

After a month at the print shop, I’d saved enough, I figured, to take a bus about
a thousand miles.  I measured out 1,000 map-miles on a string, and drew an
arc on the map.  Arc went through Jacksonville, FL and Houston,
TX.  I chose Jacksonville as my destination.

To effect my getaway, I wrote a farewell letter to Aunt Mae, and gave it to
Rick to mail for me (he and wife were going to Canada next day and he
said he’d mail it from there…to throw off the scent!).  I also asked his wife
to buy the bus ticket for me, for a “clean” disappearance.  It was surely overkill….

I arrived in Jax in late ’65 with $14 in my pocket and found a boarding house
that cost just that much for one week.  Tried a job selling encyclopedias on
commission, but the owner of boarding house (a former mayor of Jax, one Mr.
Frank Whitehead, 1945-49) told me he wouldn’t extend me credit if I worked
there, ’cause he’d seen too many fail at it.

Went to the Youth Opportunity Center (a gov’t program at the time) and they
got me on with Rice Cleaning Service, a civilian cleaning service at the Navy base
mess hall.  I’d made it to dishwasher/mopper, was quickly promoted to Scullery
Captain.  (Ironically, my former encyclopedia sales manager wound up working for me there….).

After 5 or 6 months, got another call from YOC.  They had a company looking
for a printer’s apprentice, Paramount Press.  I got the job, served a 4 year apprenticeship
and worked 2 yrs as the company proofreader (gave me a severe bleeding
ulcer!).  Got married to Jocelyn Parks in ’69.  We had 2 children, Christopher and
Mark.  Chris became a carpenter and Mark became an Army helicopter pilot.

I was converted to Christianity and just devoured the Bible.  Couldn’t get
enough.  The minister at the Post Street Church of Christ, Frank Lott, encouraged me
to go to the preaching school he had attended in Lubbock, Texas: the Sunset
School of Preaching, today known as Sunset International Bible Institute.

Was accepted, raised $200/mo for living expenses from the church and
individual members, packed the wife and 2 kids into the car, and headed off
to Lubbock in ’72 in a ’65 Plymouth stationwagon.

2 and a half years of intensive Bible Study later, I committed to do mission
work in the Tonga Islands in the South Pacific.  Found a church in Oklahoma
City, Del City Church of Christ, who sponsored the work, and, based there, traveled
the country speaking and raising money for the work.  Took 6 months to get enough for
travel, living and ministry expenses.

Off the 4 of us went to Tonga in late ’75.  Unfortunately, the locals
(there were 2, small, “at war” congregations there) were expecting me to
bring loads of money for buildings, buses and to pay them to preach.  That
wasn’t what we were taught to do at Sunset.  I just taught the Word.  They
were quite disappointed in me.

I’d taken up SCUBA diving back in Jacksonville, and took a tank with me to
Tonga.  Teamed up with a British neighbor who ran a gas station, George H. Williams,
bought a compressor and old tanks left there by a prior tour operator, and began
teaching Tongans and Peace Corps workers how to dive and started the Tonga
Dive Club.  We got to dive for free, and made back enough to pay for the
equipment and, at the end, split a few hundred Pa’anga.  (My SCUBA
Accreditation from PADI is Advanced Open Water Diver.)

The king’s son, Prince ‘Alai Vahamama’u, had been to school in Great
Britain (Tonga’s a British Protectorate) and the Royal Navy’d taught him how
to dive.  He invited my family and me to spend the weekend with him and his
father, King Taufa’aha Tupou IV, on a remote island and put on an
‘exhibition’ dive.  Had a great time, and repeated it a few months later.

Also, on occasion, worked for the harbormaster, recovering sunken buoys,
dropped anchors and chain.  Was called on to search for a drowning victim,
whose body I recovered in 115 feet of water along with his sunken boat.

My printing background also enabled me to teach the Tongan Ministry of
Publications how to use their new graphics camera. They were very grateful
and gave me some printing lead ingots so we could make dive weights.

But, back to the ministry…

I produced highly controversial literature (all neatly typeset, of course),
and one of the Tongan preachers and I would go village to village passing it
out.  It compared the teachings of the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists,
Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. with plain Bible verse.  It caused quite a stir and
the Tongan Secret Police started keeping us under surveillance. (The “national
religion” there is Wesleyan, or Methodist.)  When it came time to renew my
visa–after 2 years–they wouldn’t do it.  Unfortunately, Prince  ‘Alai, who could’ve
had it renewed, was back in England and no one thought we should approach the
king about it … so, we were forced to leave.

We flew back to LA, bought a cheap car and drove back to OKC.  Looked around
there for a preaching job with no luck.  Drove back to Jax and found one in a
little town on the GA-FL border, Folkston.  I lasted there 6 months.  Kept
bringing in the ‘wrong types’.  A ‘chief member’, Winston Cisco, owner of Ford
dealership, took me for a drive one day and drove me through the better off
neighborhoods and said, “This is where we want you going door-to-door.”
He eventually got enough members together to “vote me out”.

One of the churches at which I’d raised money for the Tonga work needed a
preacher, and I got that job in Dayton, Ohio.  It lasted 2 years, and
I was disillusioned with preaching (life’s mistake #1).

Got a job with a restaurant chain, Bob Evans.  I just knew the world would
welcome me with open arms.  Heh, heh.

Received incomplete restaurant management training in Dayton, and was
transferred to Terre Haute, IN, as a second assistant. After a year, the
other second ass’t got the promotion to first ass’t and I got the boot.
Also got divorced (life’s mistake #2).  (We’re up to 1980, now.)

Worked for 8 months at Terre Haute’s newspaper as composing room foreman
(printer + restaurant manager = foreman), while the union was on strike, and
showed them how to get the paper back to 2-color.

Met Gloria through a lonely hearts newspaper ad I placed.  Surprisingly, she
worked for a law firm in the same building the newspaper was in.  (Later we
had a daughter, Jennifer.  But Gloria left me shortly after she was born.  (I’m
not an easy person to live with … but I digress.)

Couldn’t handle it when  the union came back and got a job with a franchise Kentucky
Fried Chicken in Linton, IN (40 mis south of Terre Haute).  That lasted for about
two years … During this time, I joined a young MLM company, Yurika Foods.
The food was packed in retort pouches (Mylar bags) and was absolutely
delicious!  I quickly built a large group and was making $200-$300/month.

One of my distributors, John May, had a son (Hugh) who owned some gas
Stations in Terre Haute.  Hugh joined Yurika and gave me a job as a gas station
attendant (full service).  I would clown around with customers who had a sense
of humor while pumping their gas and cleaning their windshield.

Georganna Reedy was the daughter of one of those customers.  One day she
came into the station and said, “Hello, Funny-man.”  We started dating, and
it wasn’t long before she moved in with me in Linton.  We got married 11
months later.  In 1987 she gave birth to our first son, Daniel.  In 1989 she
gave birth to our second son, Seth.

When the MLM program went sour (because one of the VPs started a competing
company, selling crappy food), I wound up taking a job in N. Terre Haute,
Thousand Trails.  It was a sales job, selling camping memberships.  In 6 months,
I sold ONE … Which didn’t qualify me to keep the job, and I was let go.  I then
went through 6 months of SERIOUS unemployment.  No work in a town of 6,000.
And I was really looking for it.

The day my last unemployment check came, I got a job with Bloomington
Business Machines in Bloomington, IN, as a copier repairman.  Fortunately,
the service manager wore a diving watch during the interview, and I got to
talking with him about my diving experiences…and we bonded well.

After about (you guessed it) 2 years, we delivered a copier to a place that
had all kinds of satellite dishes stacked around it.  I learned that they
were installing the dishes on Wal-Mart stores for data and voice
communications.  And they started at $300 a week.  I wanted in.  It took
about 6 months of calling, but National Communications Services finally hired
me, and I went on the road, traveling as far west as NM
(even got to see my beloved Sunset School of Preaching in Lubbock, and
installed a dish across the street from my old house in Jacksonville).

One of NCSI’s accounts was an outfit out of Buffalo, NY, called POP
Radio.  They brought music and ads into drug and grocery stores via
C-band satellite.  While my primary residence and new wife, Georganna, were in
Linton, NCSI kept me in Texas running service calls.  The original installers
did a really crappy job and service was costing POP Radio over $30K per month.

I told NCSI’s owner that I was going to move my family to Dallas, and work
out of there.  He told me that if POP Radio didn’t sign a contract with him,
he was going to drop them, and I wouldn’t be in Texas anymore.
Well, I called Peter Gordon, president at POP Radio and told him that, if
NCSI dropped him, I’d be happy to work for him, since I was the one doing
most of the service and installs anyway.

True to his word, as soon as I moved everybody to Dallas (July ’89), pres. of
NCSI sent me on a 3 week service trip through Michigan.  During that trip
Peter decided to put me on full time as Satellite Systems Manager.
I bought a Dodge Caravan in MI, gave NCSI notice, had the van delivered to
Bloomington (NCSI’s HQ) and drove home to Dallas.

POP Radio was the greatest!  Best bosses ever, working conditions and pay
(this high school drop-out was making $35,000 a year. Oh, I did get a GED
‘way back in Terre Haute in ’84 …)

Was with them for 6 years.  They were bought out by ActMedia (the folks who
give out coupons in grocery stores), and after about a year, they decided to
abandon the field force and turn the service over to Muzak.  During this
time, turned out my new wife was stepping out on me in a big way.  She finally
Left me for a 19-year-old coworker.  I divorced her.

Also during this time, POP Radio gave out a large bonus and
I bought the parts for a 386SX and assembled my own computer.  I’d wanted one
for years and now I proceeded to become computer literate.

The supplier of our LNBs (low noise block-downconverters.  I know you’re an
engineer, but I don’t know in what field, or if you’re familiar with
satellite-field jargon…) was Gardiner Communications in Garland, TX, a
suburb of Dallas.

I had set up POP Radio’s account with Gardiner, and had often told the
president, Jim Harris, that I wanted to work for him one day.  (He was a
prince to his customers.  What I learned is, he’s a tyrant to his employees.
Salaried employees are expected to work a minimum of 12 hour days.)  Jim gave
me a job as Customer Service Manager at $30K/yr. and things went very well
for 2 years, even though Jim was no longer the friend he was when I was a
customer.  I had a knack for catching problems before they went out the door,
saving money and embarrassment.

Jim “promoted” me (sideways) to quality control and put me on a production
line to help solve MMDS problems (multi-point, multi-channel distribution
system).  He hired a cost accountant to streamline the business and maximize
profits.  The accountant pointed out to him that I was doing the same work
that he was paying Indian ladies $6.00/hr. on the C-band production line to
do. I was let go just before Christmas, ’95.

During my Texas divorce from Georganna (Feb ’92), I fell in with a group
called Fathers for Equal Rights.  They taught me how to file my own divorce.
They were also in need of an editor for their newsletter. (Printer + Literate +
Computer = Editor).  So I volunteered.  The executive director wanted the
editor on the board of directors, so I got that, too.

During my last year or so at Gardiner, I became interested in storable food,
for disasters and camping and the like.  I started looking into it, and had a
couple of like-minded friends at work who also wanted some.  I decided to
become a distributor to save us all money … and, what the heck, I ran a few
ads.  The company, Country Harvest, attended a Dallas Preparedness Expo, and
I got to share the booth with them.  After the show, a man from Lubbock sent
me a $9,300 order.  I was instantly in the black, and have been ever since.
It’s a niche market and there’s a lot of competition, but I have the best
prices in the country… Anyway…

At the board meeting immediately following the Gardiner disaster I learned
that Fathers was losing our receptionist.  The director asked me if I wanted
the job.  I could even work the food business at the same time (tempt,
tempt!).  I took the job at $6.00/hour.

One of the services they provided on-site is typist/paralegals who help folks
prepare their family law documents.  The fellow who was primarily doing it
was quite lazy and usually didn’t show up until 10:30 a.m.  The office
manager/recruiter, Doug Clark, wanted to provide him some competition and
asked me if I wanted to learn to do the typing.

I went out and bought a 486/80 MHz PC and inkjet printer (shortly later, a laser) and
opened for business … and after a year at the front desk, was moved to my own
office where I typed for folks and ran my food business …. and I now know far
more about family law in Texas than I ever wanted to.  Between food sales and
typing, I more than doubled my Gardiner salary.

So, Charlie, now you know more about me than you ever wanted to, huh?  I hope
you enjoyed reading as much as I did remembering.

Who knows what paths my life would have taken had it not been for Rick
renting from McClenathan … and my having a greedy great-aunt.

May God richly bless you, and may Jesus give you peace in believing,

Bruce

Addendum………………………

Around June of ’98 the food business got so large that I had to quit typing and do it
full time. My wife, Phyllis, had quit cleaning houses a couple of months previously and
was selling food full time.

We worked out of our home as long as we could.  So many of our suppliers either
took so long to ship, or stopped dropshipping for us, that we had to start inventorying
product and the house looked like a warehouse.

By November we could take it no more and leased a showroom/warehouse space in
Sunnyvale, TX.  Sales went gangbusters with people preparing for possible Year 2000
problems.  In just March and April of ‘99 we sold over 1.1 million in product.  Then
disaster struck.

Our credit card merchant bank company (Nova Information Systems, Knoxville, TN)
seized over $600,000 of our money:  Our entire working capital.  (If you’d like to read
an article on this, go to

<http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_exnews/19990414_xex_banks_seizin.shtml>

I didn’t believe it when I first read it.  THEN it happened to us, ten times worse than the
way it happened to the folks in the article.)

The Lord had given us the foresight to move 100K to an interest-bearing account, so we
switched banks and were able to stay in business.

Certain computer disasters that were supposed to happen in early April, didn’t happen–
or weren’t reported–and sales stopped.  We dropped to 60K for April and May and to 30K in June.

So, at this point, (thank God) our rent is paid through the end of the year, all our inventory
and vehicles are paid for, and we’re muddling along.  Business is slowly starting to increase
again, and I expect it will go ballistic again before the end of the year.

2nd addendum …………..

It didn’t go as ballistic as we hoped.  Sales for the year 1999 were 1.6 million, but, because of Nova’s interference, we wound up losing about $50,000 for the year.  I took a job as a courier to keep food on the table and the bills paid.
– – – – -

The balance of this will have to be done as time allows.
Bruce

- – – – -
[Work history in chronological order] Grape Picker, Scullery Captain, Printer, Preacher,
Restaurant Manager, Gas Station Attendant, Copier Service Technician, Satellite Systems
Service Technician, Satellite Systems Service Manager, Customer Service Manager,
Family Law Legal Forms Typist, Storable Foods Business Owner, Courier, Telephone
Support Tech, Telephone Sales of UPSs, and currently, my storable food sales.
– – – – -

One Response to About Bruce Hopkins

  1. More than I ever knew about you, Bruce! It was good to read, though, a lot of things we never talked about!

    Like

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