A gracefully distilled account of a remarkable life in business and beyond.




Hormel’s memoir chronicles his rise in business from the 19th into the 20th century.

James C. Hormel, a former U.S. ambassador, stumbled upon a memoir written by his paternal grandfather, George A. Hormel, the founder of Hormel Foods, which produces Spam and other food brands. The autobiography begins in 1873, when Hormel was 13 and a nationwide economic panic hobbled his father’s tannery in Toledo, Ohio, and compelled him to quit school and seek work. Hormel moved to Chicago to work for his uncle, and by 19, he had been employed for six years in three different industries. He was a talented wool buyer for years, but a lonely life on the road was unfulfilling; he became too fond of gambling and struggled to get ahead. With a $500 loan from his boss, the entrepreneur started his own business in Austin, Minnesota—a general supply depot for the meat industry. Hormel weathered extraordinary challenges—an economic depression in 1907, disastrous floods, poor crop harvests, and hog epidemics—and finally built a business successful enough to list on the Chicago Stock Exchange in 1929. When the stock market crashed, he retired and handed over the company’s reins to his son, Jay. In elegant, charming prose, the author also recounts lessons he learned from his greatest influences, first and foremost his father, John George Hormel, about a wide range of subjects including the nature of business, the intersection of commerce and government, and his religious convictions. One of the recurrent themes of the book—another lesson delivered by his father and beautifully related by Hormel—is the balance between one’s trust in God and one’s reliance upon oneself: “Like all deeply religious men, he believed in the ultimate justice and wisdom of Providence. But he clearly saw that since men were the instruments on this earth through whose free will their Maker had chosen to manifest Himself, progress inevitably waited on the speed with which they comprehended their possibilities.” Hormel’s account of technological innovation in relation to business is extraordinarily prescient and should be of instructive interest to thoughtful entrepreneurs. In an age saturated with business-driven self-help books offering flimsy and familiar counsel, this is a more serious, historically fascinating alternative. Black-and-white family photos are included.

A gracefully distilled account of a remarkable life in business and beyond.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9976-8580-0

Page Count: 339

Publisher: Hormel Historic Home

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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