For many are called, but few are chosen - Part 6

Posted in: 2016
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 28, 2016 - 12:19:09 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
ISSUE # 411
August 28, 2016
(Matthew 22:14)
Part VI
This picture was taken in 1963. I had been presented with the 1962 Top Sales Increase Award by the TV Personality, Art Linkletter, who was also one of the Board of Directors of the R. C. Cola Corp. Mr. Carmichael rewarded me by means of giving me the title of Vice-President instead of an increase in pay. I had been his General Manager for three years, and I had not received an increase in pay, nor had I received one after being his GM for five years.
Mr. Carmichael purchased the Mobile Bottling plant in 1960 and hired me to be his General Manager. Our company experienced extraordinary growth. Our routes were more than doubled in order to accommodate our increase in sales. The last three years that I operated the R. C. Cola Bottling Company, we achieved a goal I was really proud of. Our plant produced quality products which gained us “The Perfect Product Award.” Each of R. C. Cola’s Quality Assurance Men had a territory in which they were responsible for their bottling plant’s manufacturing quality products. These Quality Assurance Men, as well as the District Managers, would randomly stop in outlets and purchase RC and Nehi products and ship them to R.C. Headquarters in Columbus, Georgia. The Quality Assurance Department had a laboratory in which products from the field were scientifically analyzed. Our product’s grades exceeded the Royal Crown Cola Company’s standards for a “Perfect Product.”
I went to work for James H. Carmichael as the General Manager of the Royal Crown Cola Bottling Company of Mobile in 1960. The Company was founded by a man who had four sons. The founder, I had been told, ran a very good operation. But, when he died, he left the Bottling Company to his four sons. None of the sons had been designated as the manager. The four sons squabbled among themselves concerning who was in charge. The business degenerated and lost most all of its value.
Carmichael had managed the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Mobile for a number of years. The RC Cola Bottling Company in Memphis, Tennessee became for sale, and he purchased it. He and his wife moved to Memphis, but they always had a desire to have a connection with Mobile. They had made many friends while in Mobile.  He had acquired a great respect from the Mobile Bankers due to his Coca Cola and Bellingrath Foundation connection (see Part V).
I enjoyed the first three years of managing the bottling operation in Mobile. Mr. Carmichael gave me the privilege of making the management decisions to grow the company. I learned a great deal from him. We had a very good relationship. I was wise enough to gain his approval for any major changes I wanted to make. As I have already said, Mr. Carmichael didn’t see fit to reward me with a pay increase. I didn’t fret over the lack of a pay increase. Becoming a V.P. was a promotion in Title only! It didn’t give me more discretion in decision making processes. It didn’t give me the ability to purchase any of the company’s stock. The title didn’t give me voting privileges as they related to the policies of the organization.  Nor, did the quasi-official position of VP entail any ownership in the Royal Crown Cola Bottling Company of Mobile. The title of Vice-President was simply “window-dressing.” The definition, according to The Random House College Dictionary for “window-dressing,” is “a misrepresentation of facts so as to give a favorable impression.” So was my worth as a Vice-President.
Looking back, I reckon that I entered Stage III in 1962. I considered that is when I was CALLED.  “For many are CALLED, but few are CHOSEN.” I became a Disciple (to wit, a Learner) of Jesus Christ. A facet of me becoming a Disciple was that of becoming a serious “Soul Winner.” I never fully understood why James H. Carmichael became so offended with me becoming a Christian. I had a heart felt desire to learn CHRIST JESUS. I wanted to KNOW HIM. My witness for Christ must have been effective, as evidenced by Mr. Carmichael referring to me openly as a “Religious fanatic.”
He had been told that I had become a Christian. Did that mean I had become a “fanatic?” One day, on our way to a bank in Downtown Mobile, he asked me something like, “I have been told that you are telling people you have accepted Christ. Why do you do that?”
I answered by saying, “Mr. Carmichael, the Bible says, ‘Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.’ So, I am just following the Biblical instruction.”
When he was in Mobile, he always attended our morning Sales Meetings. I felt sure our Route Salesmen wondered if I would close the meeting with a word of prayer. If I didn’t pray, I felt that it would be hypocritical on my part. That is to say, only pray when the owner was not here. I was not ashamed of closing with prayer and by asking the Lord to richly bless Mr. Carmichael and his businesses.
Was I a fanatic simply because I prayed for the business I managed and the man for whom I worked? I was not ashamed in Whom I believed:
“ … nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Before I began to pray for the first time in front of Mr. Carmichael, I silently repeated the words of King David as found in Psalm 119:28;  “… strengthen me according to your Word.”
The National Association of Soft Drink Bottlers held their annual convention in Dallas, Texas in late November of 1963. I was to attend the convention along with Mr. Carmichael. I drove Gloria and our two small boys from Mobile to Dallas. We had looked forward to the trip to Dallas. My Mother, Father, and younger sister still lived in Big “D.” Gloria’s Mother and Step-Father and her two older brothers also lived in Dallas. We were able to mix business with visiting with the two families.
It was at this convention that I learned to really appreciate the respect Jim Carmichael had gained though his years as the Coca Cola Bottler in Chicago. I was told it was probably the largest bottling plant in America. I took notice that when he walked into a room of soft drink bottlers, his mere presence was felt! His presence spoke louder than words. He commanded that kind of attention. He was a very distinguished looking man and was well over six-feet tall.
Our trip to Dallas coincided with that of President John F. Kennedy’s fatal trip to Dallas on November 22, 1963. We stayed over an extra day to attend my sister’s wedding to Sam Huddleston on the evening of JFK’s assassination.
My first two and a half years working for Mr. Carmichael was a delight. I learned a great deal from him. One thing I learned was that he didn’t complement anyone for “a job well done.” I also learned that he didn’t reward his management team with pay raises. I managed his Mobile bottling operation for almost six years. I never received a pay raise. The Royal Crown Cola Company accorded me more recognition than Mr. Carmichael.
I began to realize he was looking for an excuse to get rid of me and bring in a man he had groomed when he had been head of the Chicago Coca Cola Bottling Company.
Carmichael revealed a very unkind side of his character when he openly referred to me as being “a Religious Fanatic.”  He became very offended inasmuch as he had made me his Vice-President, and that the word was out that I had become a practicing Christian—in other words, a Fanatical Christian. Mr. Carmichael had also learned through “the grape-vine” that a Board Member, Art Linkletter, was said to have offered me a job if Mr. Carmichael and I parted ways.
In spite of Carmichael’s characterization of me, I found favor with the executives of the Royal Crown Cola Company. They were not uncomfortable with me because of my Christian witness. Many of RC Cola’s top executives were Christians. It was common knowledge that most of the top officials were members of the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia. In fact, I was told that the President of the Company was a Sunday School Teacher at the First Baptist Church in Columbus. I have previously pointed out that RC’s international headquarters was in Columbus.
The Royal Crown Cola Company was planning to introduce a bottled diet cola.  I was delighted that they showed confidence in me by selecting our company to be the bottler to introduce the new product. The product was to be named Diet Rite Cola. This was the first diet cola soft drink on the market—RC beat the other soft drink companies with their line of diet soft drinks. This included us beating Coca Cola’s Tab to market. Diet Rite Cola took Mobile and south Alabama “by storm.” Perhaps our handling of the introduction of Diet Rite allowed me “to fight another day.
One day, I got a phone call from Mr. Carmichael’s Office Manager, Bob Kirkland. Bob handled all of Carmichael’s “dirty work.” Bob told me that Mr. Carmichael was sending a long time friend and associate of his to Mobile. The man was Ted Hurst who had worked with Carmichael at the Chicago Coca Cola Bottling Company. He had been the Sales Manager. Ted was coming to Mobile to make an analysis of “our operation.” He would be in Mobile a week or ten days to make a thorough research.
Carmichael made arrangements for Ted to stay at a Boarding House in Mobile. I met with Ted after he attended our Sales Meeting, which was the first one he attended. As usual, I closed the meeting with a Word of Prayer. And, as usual, some of the Route Salesmen said their “Amens” at the close of the prayer. After the Sales Meeting, Ted and I went to a near-by restaurant and had breakfast. It was there that he told me what his plans were, and some things that he would look at in order to make his analysis. He was cold and in- different.  He said I was to go ahead and do business as usual. He didn’t want to interfere with my daily routine. In his rent-a-car, he said he was going to drive around the parts of our territory, call on some customers, both large and small, in order to get sense of “customer perception” of our Products and our service.
As we parted that morning, I thought to myself that Ted was sent to be the agent who was to deliver the “coup de grace” to me. I really had to wonder, at the time, was becoming an unashamed Christian the real reason for Carmichael turning on me so suddenly? A few short months prior to falling out of his favor, he was uneasy because he was aware other people in the Bottling Industry had “their eye one me.” Was he now trying to find an excuse to terminate me? My work ethic probably intensified, even over and above what it had been. That goes along with being a “witness for Jesus Christ.” I showed respect for Mr. Carmichael. I honored his investment in this business. I always acknowledged that the employees and I owed our allegiance to him because he provided us with employment.
Was my faith in Christ a reason for him to try to silence me and ruin my reputation?  He instituted the “Defamation of my Character.” I suffered slander by his attacks of me being a “fanatic.” The Lord’s Obstacle Course was strewn with Carmichael’s personal attacks which I now believe to have been inspired by Satan. He was hell-bent on silencing me. His attack against me became a part of the Lord’s Obstacle Course. It again demonstrated that the Road to Glory is indeed a Rocky Road. This portion of my Rocky Road was strewn with the malicious ill will generated by the owner.  I never once took-up for myself at the time. I relied on the Lord Jesus being my Protector. He Sheltered me. His attempt to destroy my character proved to be futile.
Carmichael’s own Agent, Ted Hurst, saw through Carmichael’s stratagem. Ted stayed in Mobile less than ten days. He told me in confidence that Carmichael sent him to Mobile to find legal reasons to terminate me. Ted told me that he would have to report to Carmichael that he found no reason for getting rid of me. In fact, Ted said he would recommend that I be retained. He also said he found no reason for Carmichael’s accusation of me being a “Religious Fanatic.” We parted friends. However, I never heard another thing from him or about him.
I have not spent much time analyzing the real content of my accuser’s accusation of being a “Religious Fanatic.” A cursory look at the word “fanatic” reveals the viciousness of his attack. A FANATIC is one that “literally is seeing visions. Wild and extravagant in opinions; particularly in religious matters, possessed by a kind of frenzy” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). I was none of the above—Carmichael’s allegations were lies.
“The World Book Dictionary” states, “Fanatic; a person who is carried away beyond reason by his feelings or beliefs. Unreasonably zealous…” These slanderous charges were libelous.
Carmichael exercised his influence with Royal Crown Cola Company and told them that he didn’t want them to be recommending me to other RC Cola Bottlers, and if Art Linkletter tried to hire me, they are to discourage him from doing so.
The short closing comments follows: Bob Kirkland, the Memphis Office Manager, called me saying that Mr. Carmichael wanted him to be in Mobile on the following Saturday to collect my Resignation and issue me my final Pay Check. This was not Severance Pay but rather the two weeks pay I was due.
I met Kirkland the following Saturday morning at 9:30 thinking I was to turn in my Resignation, get my Pay Check, turn in my Company car which I had parked at the plant the night before.  Bob had always been friendly to me until the last year or so. The first course of business to be conducted was to take a inventory to make sure I had not stolen in anything. Internally, I flinched! I couldn’t believe this. He showed me his mimeographed pages of all items we were to inventory which included minor office supplies.
He informed me, just to attempt to humiliate me, that if any items were missing I would be charged for them. The Lord’s Grace was sufficient to keep me from being humiliated. After all, the Lord endured the shame of the Cross (Heb. 12:2), I could certainly endure this shame.
We inventoried the stacks of empty bottles, full bottles, cases of crowns (bottle caps) syrups, pallets, pieces of machinery, hundreds of 100 bags of sugar. After the production  facilities, we went into offices and began the tedious task of counting the office equipment. Bob walked through the offices with his clip board checking off things. Then, he announced, “Tom, by my count, we are missing a waste-basket. You’re supposed to have one in your office, but I don’t see it.”
“Bob,” I said, “you didn’t look under my desk. If you had done so, you would have seen it.”
A blue leather upholstered desk chair was given to me by the employees as a Christmas Gift. I rolled it out the front door and placed it in the trunk of my 1953 Plymouth Club Coupe.  An earlier Christmas Gift from the employees was a lectern. I used it in the Sales Meeting room. I placed it in my car. I had my two-week’s pay check in my pocket. No one was there to bid me farewell or wish me well. I drove home to face my wife and two children without a job. In my young career, I always had saved in the bank the equivalent of two month’s salary. I assumed I also possessed a ruined reputation. Mr. Carmichael, I’m sure, was self-satisfied at having caused my career to be in shambles, or so he probably thought—but he didn’t know about a friend I had in Jesus!
Copyright© 2016 by Thomas L. Ballinger
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