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Lifestyles

April 21, 2012

Senior Scene: Crash showed determination pays off for small-business owners

I guess we all have "tales to tell" in a lifetime _ that's if we dare too, for there can be repercussions. So I will be careful.

We were living in Franklin at the time: This story is true, as always, and takes me back many years ago to when we had a small business and hired several people. We had many pleasant experiences and then we had disappointments too. Then we had a completely unbelievable "happening" and that is what I shall relate, for we all had many lessons learned.

Our business was a janitorial service and we landed a contract with a concern that wanted its fleet of milk tankers thoroughly washed each day. That was approximately 80 to 90 trucks a week in two locations.

We had many challenges back then and this was one of them, since we were counting our pennies like everyone else in our area that the government called a "poverty pocket." So when a seemingly golden opportunity came along, we rose to meet the occasion.

The job required a hot high-pressure washer mounted on the back of a pickup truck. Work was outside, year around, in all kinds of weather, and the equipment could be extremely costly. New was out of the question so we opted for a second-hand utility truck with all the cubby hole compartments. These were handy for equipment that had to be on hand, for there was bound to be down time due to ice and miserable weather conditions.

Homework was done and a hot, high-pressure washer with 1,200 psi at 4 gallons a minute was purchased. This unit was the Cadillac of pressure washers and the expenditure was rather high, but there was also the opportunity of being a sales rep for our area, which we took advantage of. The washer had to perform with low maintenance, so it had to be the top of the line and it was.

All went well and more jobs came in, so hiring two individuals was feasible. One was trained by my husband and our son and then we advertised for a helper.

Ten to 15 gallons of fuel oil each day had to be carried, the truck's gas tank was full and the pressure washer was full of fuel also. All was OK and everyone super careful.

The weather was fine as the men were on their way up to the Mohawk Valley area. Traveling over the Franklin Mountain road was always one that a driver had to be very alert on. On the downside of the mountain is a dangerous curve, and that's where our driver lost control. Over the truck flipped, upside down and into the ditch.

The men popped the windshield out and crawled to safety. They were shaken up but all right.

Amazingly when we had a tow truck right the truck all was OK for it to be driven home.

The ditch was soggy dirt and the pressure washer had flipped upside down packing the upright coil full of soil. Even though the weight of the truck was on top of the washer all was nestled in the loose muck. Thankfully the pressure washer was still in good condition after a good cleaning.

Just to think of how close a fatal disaster could have been still gives me goosebumps. The truck landed just inches away from a metal culvert and one spark could have sent the whole thing up in one enormous inferno, killing both men. Horrors!

With a good cleaning and a few needed adjustments we were back on the job. (A few new dents didn't bother us.)

Stick-to-itiveness with determination pays off. We had that account for many years.

As far as the top-notch pressure washer was concerned, we had interesting times at the county fairs advertising the manufacturer's extensive line of equipment and with good results.

Many years have passed and we are happy to see that the Franklin Mountain road has had many improvements but drivers still have to be cautious.

Elaine W. Kniskern is a 79-year-old resident of Schenevus and a grandmother of five. She can reached at elaine-kniskern@stny.rr.com. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.

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