New Castle News

June 11, 2013

Gary Church: Dish gardens weren’t exactly a mob hit back in the day

Gary Church
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — I started working at Welker's Greenhouses back in the early 1960s.

Mixing dirt was not the most glamorous job, but I worked my way up in the company.

By the mid-’60s, I was promoted to route salesman.

What this included was selling dish gardens and foliage plants off the back of a box truck. I sold to florists, garden centers, and G.C. Murphy-type stores.

One of my routes was the Cleveland area.

How well I remember my trainer, John Jenkins, telling me at one stop that the owner had burned down his competitor’s florist shop.

He also mentioned the guy had mob connections.

There were pictures all over his shop of him standing with celebrities and political big-wigs.

I was young and innocent as a route salesman, and I always felt nervous when I had to talk to him.

On one occasion I pulled into his shop, and he came out to the back of the truck to see what I had.

He said, "I'll take the whole truck of dish gardens. Since it's cold, I'll have my guys help carry them inside. We can count them in there."

This made me very happy. This was going to be the biggest sale I had ever made, and I didn't have to carry anything into the shop.

Within minutes we had unloaded my whole supply of dish gardens. I could not imagine how much commission I was going to make on this sale.

After unloading the truck, I went inside to count them.

I think I messed up.

They took a lot more dish gardens off the truck than what I saw sitting on the front room floor of the shop.

I didn't want to accuse him of anything, because he had plenty of henchmen standing there.

The last thing I wanted to do that day was end up at the bottom of Lake Erie wearing cement shoes.

He paid for what I counted, and I got out of there, never to return.

I didn't get fired for losing all those dish gardens, but I think I got a curse put on me for it.

No matter what greenhouse I worked in after that episode, I was put in charge of making dish gardens.

Making one dish garden is OK, but making them all day is a good way to go insane.

Now you understand why I'm like I am.