Ten year old Tommy and his little sister Amy bolted out the back door of the old farm house each of them holding paper cups their mother had given them. “Slow down Tommy you’re going to break it!” Amy screamed at her brother. The “it” she was referring to was the hundred foot piece of string their mother had used to connect the two cups together. Tommy slowed up a bit, allowing his sister to catch up. When they reached the old oak tree near the barn they both stopped.
“You stay here and I’ll go stand by the barn.” Tommy said.
Amy gave her brother a look of irritation, but didn’t argue. She didn’t like her brother always telling her what to do. But the tree didn’t smell like manure whereas the barn did. Tommy walked toward the barn the last few feet, he turned around and walked backwards, watching the string raise and then begin to tighten. Satisfied, he had gone far enough, he stopped putting the cup to his lips and spoke.
Amy screamed “It works I heard you.”
The sound of approaching vehicles off in the distance caused both of them to turn around. Tommy and Amy both stared at the sight before them. They watched an Army convoy of large trucks led by a single jeep with four men rumble past the small family farm. In the passenger seat sat a tall man in dressed in dress Army fatigues with a hat only officers wore. He looked over and smiled and waved.
Drying her hands on a small dish towel Sarah their mother pushed opened the screen door and watched the machines rumble past. Shading her eyes, she too noted the tall man in the passenger seat with the wry smile. Sarah raised her hand and waved back.
Sarah, Tommy and Amy watched until the last truck had past not realizing the swirling dust and exhaust fumes had enveloped them in a once in a lifetime historical event.
Summer 1919 Washington, DC
Lt. Col Dwight D Eisenhower pulled the heavy red curtain aside and took note of the very young men and women milling about the trucks and jeeps parked out front of the sprawling Pentagon campus. Some wore uniforms, others did not. He noticed the ease and somewhat sanguine movements they seemed to have with each other. Most did not have the hardened stares of the boys he had watched turn into men through the baptism of war he had served with in Europe. He stepped back, letting the curtain fall into place the room going dark.
Walking with purpose into a gentle breeze he barely heard the slap of his patent leather dress shoes as they struck the pavement. The smell of exhaust fumes mingled with the earthy smells of late spring tickled his nostrils. Off to his left two truck companies totaling eighty-one jeeps, wagons and trucks idled at the curb. His train commanders, Lt Col Charles W. McClure and Capt. Bernard H. McMahon stood next to civilian pilot guide Henry C. Ostermann. Pausing for just a moment he took it all in. His men started to take notice their posture straitening until they were rigid “Attention on deck!” someone shouted. Ike walked the last few steps to his jeep a wry smile touching the corner of his lips.
This motor truck convoy in 1919 was a first of its kind "Truck Train” of the US Army Motor Transport Corps. Traveling across what is now known as Interstate 80. By the time they reached San Francisco they had driven over 3,000 mi. Suffered 230 road incidents which included adjustments, getting unstuck, breakdowns, and accidents. The convoy broke and repaired 88 wooden bridges (14 in Wyoming), and most roads were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada which accounted. A pilot scout was sent daily ahead of the convoy marking the road so as to avoid further delays.
Ike understood service like few did before, during and after he was President. He knew the greatest product or service walked on two feet and was the key to getting things accomplished. The Highway act named after him would spur a nation out of the doldrums of war and spawn a growth of infrastructure and service oriented businesses like never before. Roads, bridges and tunnels would lead the United States into the forefront of innovation of service. Because where there was blacktop highways there were be small towns transformed into cities with the burgeoning advancements in modern education, medical services and full service gas stations. All of these features and more paving the way for need of a water, electric and phone companies. Each time a village stepped out of its shadow and allowed it to grow into its next evolution the cycle would begin again until forty years later the United States was connected around the globe through the age of digital electronics.
This time is like no other in that we are at the precipice of realizing our humanity in the service of others. I say this because it is easy to lose sight of what is in front of us. At a time when the older workers of this nation struggle to hold onto what they have worked their whole lives for it is time now, to look past the fear of obscurity and irrelevance. To embrace what it was Ike instilled on a nation from his summer on the Backroads of America and again after the Great War.
It is easy to forget that the greatest expenditure we have today are fees paid to those who have hands that are not idle. From your mechanic to your doctor. Internet provider, cable TV, and telephone. The plumber and electrician. Roofers and ditch diggers. Pilots and train engineers, Uber drivers and taxis. All of them provided by an army of hardworking and diverse men and women that are the product they are selling. Services oriented companies’ greatest expense and most valued assets are its people. The box, widget, Wi-Fi and social platforms are the tools they produce and support.
Services' manufacturing is the next unexplored frontier we have yet to fully discover its potential. In an age when the heavens are explored further and further by futuristic robots and cars are being designed to drive themselves or the phone in your hand is created to answer your every question and perform every task there are people who are pioneering cottage industries of services that offset the lost jobs of yesterday.
Never has there been a time when we as a people are more in touch with worlds that oceans away. Everyday people from around the globe are drawn and connected together by a system of invisible spectrums of light. Fear not of the unknown. Eagerly and enthusiastically chase your dreams and goals because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.
Today we are a nation and a world of dreamers filled with hope and optimism. We stand on the shoulders of great men and women who brought us here. Now is the time to look to the future of unpromised fields of tomorrow. Let us not forget that FDR brought us through the great depression and WWII. Truman transformed a nation of war into a nation of builders and Eisenhower pulled us together with bridges and roads. Those times were done so by people whose services were in high demand.
This century will be remembered for the people and businesses orientated on providing services to our communications infrastructure. Take this opportunity to grow into a tomorrow not realized.
Old dogs do learn new tricks.