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Cavetown Planing Mill's Bob Hays passes the 60-year mark

Cavetown Planing Mill's Bob Hays passes the 60-year mark

January 06, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

CAVETOWN - In fashioning a career, not everyone adheres to the expression "a rolling stone gathers no moss."

"I wanted to gather some moss," said Bob Hays, explaining 50 years of employment at the Bushey family-owned Cavetown Planing Mill Co.

"I always liked what I did and they treated me fine, so why change?" said Hays, 68.

Hays had worked at the planing mill for 50 years as of Dec. 2, 2002. He and his wife, Deloris, live in the Cave Hill Road home Hays helped build four years ago with supplies from the planing mill.

The company honored him at the annual Christmas party on Dec. 7, giving him a plaque.

Hays said he has no retirement plans for the foreseeable future. He might "slow down" by only working four days a week, but even that is up in the air for now.


From working in the lumber yard to being in charge of special mill sales, Hays said it never occurred to him that he would end up working at the same place for 50 years.

"I enjoyed my job and I enjoyed working for the Bushey family because they always treated you right," Hays said.

"I never was laid off a day in my life and that was an accomplishment" because, Hays said, it appeared other construction-related companies were laying off workers during the cold winter months.

Planing Mill President Peggy Bushey said the company doesn't have a lot of managerial levels. So even when business is slow, there's enough work for everyone to do.

"If one person is gone, you really are left with a kind of a hole there," Bushey said. "When Bob is gone, there is just a big hole here."

If customers are uncertain about a need, Hays "takes care of it and they're always happy," Bushey said.

Even when Hays goes on vacation, his regular customers know how to reach him in a pinch, she said.

Bushey said Hays' experiences in the planing mill's different departments help him solve customers' needs.

Hays began working in the planing mill's lumber yard when he was 18.

He quit Middletown High School in Frederick County when he was 15 years old because his father had died and he wanted to help support the family, which included nine siblings. He earned his GED a short time later.

After working on a farm for two years in the Foxville area in Frederick County, Hays said he looked for more dependable, year-round employment.

In the early 1950s, the home construction business was doing well with custom homes being built in the area, so the lumber yard was a good place to work, Hays said.

Most of the company's supplies were delivered via railroad, so Hays' job entailed unloading box cars and loading trucks for deliveries to Cavetown's customers.

There were no forklifts, so working in the lumber yard was backbreaking work, Hays said.

Several years later, Hays moved from loading and unloading the backs of those trucks to driving them.

Then, he became supervisor of the lumber yard in which he once toiled. Working dispatch, Hays directed the five to seven men in the yard to fill customers' orders.

After being yard supervisor for several years, Hays moved into the mill's office to handle purchasing. He worked in purchasing for about 20 years before joining sales, where he's been for at least 10 years.

Hays is emphatic when he says he doesn't miss the physical labor of the yard.

Hays said he was once tempted to go to work for Mack Trucks in the 1960s when the heavy duty truck engine business was booming, but preferred the working environment and freedom of working outside and inside at the planing mill.

"I meet a lot of interesting people and I have a lot of good customers that I've known for umpteen years," Hays said.

The variety of work Hays has had at Cavetown kept his job from getting monotonous, said mill worker Sam Horst. Horst, 70, has worked for the company for 37 years.

Bushey said more than 40 percent of the approximately 90 employees at Cavetown's mill, hardware store and CAVECO Homes have worked for the family business for 10 years or more.

"When you find a really good person, you do what you can to keep them happy," she said.

For Hays, that included paying tuition for him to attend Hagerstown Junior College for a year to learn accounting procedures when he took the purchasing job. He learned to use computers on the job.

Besides technological changes in the industry, Hays said another change he's noticed is personal service. There used to be a lot more of it, he said.

Hays remembers driving Bushey's great-grandfather - who was called "old Mr. Frank" - on Thursdays to the job sites to talk to customers.

In today's economy, people are more concerned about prices, Hays said.

The planing mill survives among the "big box guys" like Lowe's and Home Depot because it has a niche, custom millwork, Hays said. The mill does work for those larger home improvement chains, he said.

One reason for his longevity at the planing mill, Hays said, is because he enjoys the challenges of his job.

"I always had a policy never to say no to anybody," Hays said.

"Nine times out of 10 (the answer's) out there. You just have to find it," Hays said.

It's just that, sometimes, the customer can't afford the solution, he said.

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