Life According To... Jack A. Weil
At the age of 106, Jack A. Weil has been called the oldest CEO in America. On weekday mornings, you'll find "Papa Jack" greeting customers at Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo. Rockmount, which he started in 1946, produces cowboy shirts and Western wear that are now sold around the world. Here, Papa Jack shares his wisdom on the Confederacy, Model-T Fords, and Ronald Reagan.
- I WAS 27 when I came to Denver in 1928. My sales territory was from El Paso, Texas, to the Canadian border. And in all those states combined, there were less people than in Cook County, Illinois. It was a tremendous experience for a young man.
- I MARRIED A DAUGHTER OF THE CONFEDERACY from Tennessee. We were married 62 years when she passed away. Till the day she died, when she got really mad at me, it was, "You Yankee!"
- THERE'S NO WESTERNER like an Easterner.
- NOW, RONALD REAGAN CAME FROM ILLINOIS. In his [second] speech to Congress, he said we will become a service country. Well, to me that was treason, because I was interested in [manufacturing] and the economy of this country. So I wrote him a letter and told him, "Where you come from in Illinois, and where I come from in southern Indiana, servicing meant when you took the mare to the stud." He sends me a signed picture, and it says, "Jack, things are not as simple in Washington as they were in Illinois."
- IT'S FUNNY how things stick in your mind.
- I ALWAYS FELT that a young man would normally be a Democrat. But after he earned a few bucks and wanted to keep it, he'd have to be a Republican.
- THERE'S NO USE WORRYING about something that might have been.
- I HAD A BROTHER two years younger. Between us, we bought a Model-T Ford. It had wire wheels, and those wire wheels were screwed on. If you backed up too far, the goddamn tires would come off and go rolling down the street.
- I CONTRIBUTE MY AGE to an act of God.
- I CAN REMEMBER driving my Chrysler from Murray to Jackson, Mississippi. I was behind a car that was moseying around, 15 to 20 miles an hour. So when the road got a little wider, I went around him. Down the road a little way was a freight train going by, so I had to stop. So this guy pulls up behind me, gets out, and says, "Young fella, the way you drive, you're going to need me someday, why don't you have my card?" He was a mortician!
- WHO IN THE HELL AM I to be advising other people?
- MY DOCTOR WANTS to keep my blood thin, and says that I should take a drink of whiskey every day or two so it won't clot.
- YOU MIGHT AS WELL enjoy life as it is, 'cause you sure as hell can't change it.
- YOU HAVE TO HAVE some fears somewhere. I don't recall any of mine.
- THE LONDON TIMES had an office in New York, and sent a photographer and writer to come out here and interview me, as maybe the oldest CEO in America. They asked me what I thought of Wal-Mart, and I called Sam Walton a "son of a bitch." And they printed it in The London Times! They couldn't print it in this country.
- PEOPLE THOUGHT you were crazy if you dressed like a cowboy in Providence, Rhode Island, in the '50s. They thought the only cowboys were in the movies.
- I THINK I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I've got reasonably good health, I enjoy my work, and I enjoy very much the number of people who come in here to shake hands from all over the world. What the hell else is there?
- I THINK if you live a moderate life, that's the secret of good health.
- I GO HOME AFTER LUNCH, take a shower, and get under the covers, so I'm not pushing anything. I take a nap and sleep until dinnertime, three or four hours, and I watch Andy Griffith.
- I DON'T WANT to be the richest guy in the cemetery.
—Interview by Patrick Doyle