One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from a completely unexpected source -- the owner of a small clothing store on Yonge Street in Toronto.
One sunny evening in April 1954, a couple of months after I started working at the CPR, I figured I’d saved enough money to buy some new clothes. I desperately needed a light jacket, a couple of shirts and a pair of slacks.
It was payday, and on most paydays I treated myself to a steak dinner at Lindy’s, a family restaurant located on the east side of Yonge Street between Dundas and College that specialized in offering reasonably priced, but absolutely superb, steaks.
As already mentioned, it was a lovely evening so I decided to walk from the CPR freight office at 62 Simcoe St. up to Lindy’s; which took about half an hour. I checked out clothing store windows all the way up Yonge St., with the intention of coming back to them after my steak dinner. However, just a few doors away from Lindy’s there was a menswear store called Lynn Gold. For some unknown reason, perhaps because it was so close to Lindy’s, I decided to drop in.
A gray-haired, well-dressed, middle-aged gentleman asked if he could help me. I said I just wanted to look around. He said, “Well, take your time. Let me know if you have any questions.”
Looking very carefully at the price tags, and keeping a tally in my head, I picked out some items that I had enough cash to buy. I took them over to the man whom I thought was a clerk, but who introduced himself as the owner, Max Gold.
He asked me my name and where I worked. I told him, and he said, “Lyman, let me show you some items that I think would look much better on you and will last a lot longer than these.” As he made each choice I again kept a mental tally of the cost.
When he finished I said, “Mr. Gold, these are way too expensive. They add up to almost three times the amount of cash I have.”
“That’s all right,” he said, “give me a down payment now and drop in each pay day and give me what you can until it’s paid off.” He went on to say, “You see, Lyman, when you buy something cheap, you may be happy when you pay for it, but you’ll be disappointed every time you use it. When you buy a quality article, you may be a little concerned when paying for it, but you’ll be pleased every time you use it.”
I pointed out to him that I was a minor and couldn’t really enter into a binding purchase contract. He said, “There’s no contract, just a sales slip. I trust you to keep your word that you’ll pay the balance when you can.”
Needless to say I was a loyal customer of Max’s until he sold the business a few years later.
What a wonderful life lesson to learn about quality, value, and trust when I was still only fifteen years old.