Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Heart of Cobalt

 

My collegiate degrees equipped me, vocationally, to teach.  So when I left education, I fell soon into plant tours, the mandatory safety glasses robbing me of IQ points I could not afford to lose. These walks around factories were congenial and informative, and I enjoyed them, even at the end of my nine years of writing corporate profiles for the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce. Then, on my own, a fledgling freelancer down in Neodesha, Kansas I walked through a gigantic metal building involving “the best boat builders in the world.” Or so the sign said.

My guide was a young man, a very young man, the owner’s son I understood.  Ouch.  “Get ready for some hard looks,” I thought.  “A little resentment bouncing around here,” I expected.  “Nothing like watching people work for the richest kid in town.”

And you know, it just goes to show how wrong you can be.

I spent a couple of hours with this smiling, laughing, happy guy named Paxson St. Clair, and he knew everyone working in that plant.  And they knew him.  Thirty minutes would have delivered the necessary information, an overall impression of the Cobalt manufacturing facility, but we needed an extra hour or so just to stop and visit, to say hey to essentially every Cobalt associate in the plant that day.

My presumptions made me feel small and silly, stereotypes beside the point in personal interaction built around respect and affection and loyalty, each to each.  We were walking in the very back of the plant, and Paxson stopped to talk to a man, late middle-aged but erect and strong, he too hooting with the boss’ son. This old gentleman took me by the arm, led me a few steps away, and he said, “You need to understand that I’d lay down my life for Pack St. Clair.”  [Paxson’s dad, Cobalt’s founder, now retired]

The Chamber of Commerce had not prepared me for self-sacrifice of any sort, certainly not on this order of magnitude.  But this man’s gentle and inescapable hold on my arm told me that most surely his words were heartfelt.  Actionable and certain, fully intended in the way that only the very best friendships can produce.  For twenty years now Cobalt Boats has shown me that molds were made, even the five-part jobbies used on the A-Series boats, to be broken.  And then built back better than before.

 

  Categories: Customer Service, Lifestyle | Tags: Boat Builders, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Luxury Boat, Neodesha


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