On October 31, 2012 Bill Hamilton retires for the third time, this time it may be for real.
At 78 years of age, Stokes Volkswagen’s Service Manager, Bill Hamilton will no longer be reporting to work. After a lifetime in the technical and mechanical arts, and having a keen understanding of human nature, he’ll be reporting to Nancy, his bride of 52 years, his rib as he likes to say (a reference to Adam’s rib).
Born in 1934, Bill has seen a lot of things come and go. Back then a gallon of gas was 10¢, a Studebaker truck listed for $625, unemployment had decreased to 22%, and a 2-year drought created the Dust Bowl, destroying 35 million acres of farmland and placing another 225 million acres under great stress and danger. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed near Black Lake, Louisiana.
Nineteen thirty four was also the same year Ferdinand Porsche defined the Volkswagen Beetle when he said it should be fully adequate and reliable with light construction. It should offer room for four people, reach speeds of up to 100 km/h and be able to overcome gradients of 30%. What would Ferdinand think today?
Bill is a twenty-year veteran and retired Technical Sergeant of the United States Air Force [1st retirement]. He served in Viet Nam throughout 1968, and flew in and out of the country on support missions from 1969 through 1972. As a Technical Sergeant, Bill brought considerable skill to the table when he signed on with VW, but, as he said, I didn’t have to duck bullets anymore.
When he separated from the US Air Force, his next door neighbor, Bernard Steadman asked him what he was going to do, Bill said he didn’t know. Mr. Steadman worked at the local Volkswagen dealership and urged Bill to apply as a trainee to be a line mechanic. Accepted to the position Bill worked part-time for 6 months after which he became full-time, he worked in that position for several years and then became shop foreman for eight years and then Service Manager for five years. By that time in 1999 Bill went into semi-retirement [2nd retirement] but that didn’t last long he said, after a short while I was back full time, but not as service manager, I was a consultant.
When asked about the amount of change he’s witnessed over the years, Yes, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and a lot of change, most of it for the better.
He continued, Volkswagen’s used to be basic transportation, but today the technology has so much improved it’s pathetic [meant as a superlative], it’s a very good quality automobile, I drive one. He then went on to say that it’s a 93 VW Fox, standard transmission, no air conditioning no electronic ignition, just points, rotor and a distributor cap, and for entertainment; a radio.
Bill’s life has been enriched by Nancy, his wife, and partner of 52 years. They met when he was in the Air Force. As he tells it, he was working part-time in a gas station and she would stop in to make purchases. He would try to strike up conversations, but she apparently wasn’t interested and threatened to buy a big dog and sic it on him. Undeterred, Bill paid her paper boy $5 for her phone number, he says she pretty much hung up on him the first time he called, but after a few more phone calls she relented and agreed to go out with him.
One day on a drive to visit her sister they were passing through Hillsboro, Illinois and Bill said to Nancy, this would be a nice little town to get marred in and she didn’t hesitate and said OK, and we stopped and got married right then. The spontaneity paid off; here they are 52 years later with a life together that could be a model for everybody. They have 2 children, 4 grand-kids, and 2 step grandchildren.
What do you plan on doing? Well my wife has got a long list you know painting and things, but if I get done with that, I”m working on a deal to buy a 1964 Oldsmobile 442, one of the first 442’s made and restore it.
On occasion, Bill his son and grandson will go to the track to drag race his son’s 1969 Camaro. Even though my son and grandson beat my times, it’s still a lot of fun.
Asked for a parting comment, Bill Hamilton says, It’s been a good ride.