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I Was There For The Birth of Nike... With Steve Prefontaine

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 19, 2022 3:05 am

I Was There For The Birth of Nike... With Steve Prefontaine

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 19, 2022 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Joy Neal Kidney shares the story of her great grandmother's periwinkle quilt, a beautiful family heirloom she inherited while in college. Nike's Program Director, Steve Prefontaine, tells us how Nike began.

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Time Codes:

00:00 - One of My Most Important Family Heirlooms is a Periwinkle Quilt

10:00 - I Was There For The Birth of Nike... With Steve Prefontaine

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your stories.

Send them to They're some of our favorites. Speaking of which, up next, a story from one of our regular contributors, Joy Neal Kidney. And she listens out of WHO in Des Moines, a powerhouse station, one of the great stations in this country. And today, Joy brings us the story of her great grandmother's Periwinkle quilt.

Here's Joy with the story. I didn't know about the quilt top until several years after Laura Goff had died. But my great grandmother and I, the first and last of our family strand of oldest daughters, ended up sewing by hand on this same quilt.

Born shortly after the Civil War in a Guthrie County log cabin west of Monteith, Laura Jordan was already a fourth generation Iowan, but the first born in the state. When she grew up and became a country school teacher, Laura bought a gold watch so she could ring the school bell to call the children to class on time. Back in 1890, when Laura married, Milton Sheridan shirred Goff. She had to retire from teaching.

She no longer needed that gold watch, so she traded it to her father for something she needed more, a cow. Laura bore 11 children in 21 years. While shirred moved his family at least 13 times out of state twice, seeking greener pastures, Laura agreed to move anywhere in the United States, but she wanted to live where her children could be educated.

During that time, five years was the longest they lived in any one place. When three of Laura Goff's sons were drafted during World War I, she needed socks and mittens for the Red Cross and Guthrie Center and helped roll bandages. She assisted with the births of the 10 children of her oldest daughter, who had two sets of twins.

When the infant twins died of whooping cough in 1929, Laura made their lace and satin burial gowns. Laura Goff worked hard, knew how to do without, could make good meal from almost nothing, and according to her daughter, could get more writing on a postcard than anyone. Probably the first woman in our family to vote. She wrote her daughter on October 19, 1920. Ms. Griselle speaks at the Christian Church at 2.30 tomorrow and tells the women how to vote.

Think I will learn how it's done. Laura Goff was widowed in 1930. When World War II broke out, two more sons served in the military, as did six grandsons. Three of those grandsons lost their lives.

When great-grandmother Laura died in 1962, I was a freshman in college. The periwinkle quilt top lay folded in a closet in the little house on North 4th Street in Guthrie Center. No one wanted that quilt top of colorful pointy patches set together with ecru octagons with raw seams underneath.

While the angle of the diamond-shaped pieces wasn't quite right, the thing would not lie flat. As the quilter in the family, I was offered the curiously lumpy thing. I knew that if I adopted the quilt, it would haunt me until I took the entire thing apart.

But for the next four years, it lay folded in a box in West Des Moines. I finally disassembled it, thread by thread, my tiny stork-shaped scissors pulling out great-grandmother's neat little stitches. The fabric of the octagons was really too heavy to quilt through, so I discarded them and carefully washed the rest. Not until a year later did I cut out new octagons and recut the multicolored diamond shapes.

Slowly, I re-pieced the whole top by hand, which turned out larger than the original. That meant that the red border, which really enhanced the rest of it, was too short. I still had half dozen remnants of fabric from grandma's closet.

Mercy! One was that very piece of red. There was just barely enough of it. Meant to be, great-grandma would have said. I stitched by hand through fabrics my great-grandmother had chosen, cut out, and sewn. With fingers that had learned how to sew, not that long after the Civil War.

Fingers that were already 75 years old when I was born. There was a lovely feeling of timelessness. Over the next two years, I hand quilted a spider web in each octagon and a chorus of singing birds around that cheerful red border. I presented the periwinkle quilt to the third generation in this mother line of oldest daughters, my own mother. We agreed that great-grandmother Laura would have approved. And a beautiful job by Monty Montgomery on the production and a special thanks to Joy Neal Kidney for that beautiful piece of storytelling. And you know a broadcaster who started in Des Moines and on WHO, Ronald Reagan, in his parting address to this country, said the following words, if we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. And Joy Neal Kidney is reminding us that we need to know our family stories in order to understand our nation's stories. And the fact that she lost two kids to a whooping cough and three to a war. And her great-grandma traded a watch for a cow. It was the first woman in the family to vote. There was a time when women could not vote in this country.

And now there is no such thought. Remarkable story about a beautiful country and a beautiful family story by one of our favorite contributors, Joy Neal Kidney. Her family story, well, it just seems to continue here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button.

Give a little give a lot. Go to our American stories dot com and give Geico asks, how would you love a chance to save some money on insurance? Of course you would. And when it comes to great rates on insurance, Geico can help. Like with insurance for your car, truck, motorcycle, boat and RV. Even help with homeowners or renters coverage. Plus add an easy to use mobile app, available 24 hour roadside assistance and more. And Geico is an easy choice. Switch today and see all the ways you could save. It's easy.

Simply go to Geico dot com or contact your local agent today. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, a sports story, an innovation story and so much more.

Since its start in 1972, Nike has employed nearly a half a million people. Only four have outlasted our next storyteller, Steve Bence. Bence is Nike's program director in global sourcing and manufacturing and was an all American runner under legendary track coach at Oregon, Bill Bowerman, who became the co-founder of Nike. Steve Bence is also the author of 1972, pre you owe track Nike shoes and my life with them all.

Let's take a listen. Hi, my name is Steve Bence. I was born in Tennessee. I started kindergarten in Japan and I graduated from high school in Spain. I went to the University of Oregon to run track.

Later started with Nike. The way I discovered running was during my junior year in high school. I went out for football in seventh grade because all my friends were going out for football.

But at home we never watched sports. So even though I was on the football team, I really didn't know the rules or the strategy. So I sat on the bench the whole time. In the winter, I went out for basketball and sat the bench again. And when one of the games was out of hand, the coach put me in and four times I brought the basketball up court.

Four times I was called for traveling. I looked over at my coach and he was just shaking his head. As luck would have it, coach was also the track coach. So we both knew from experience that I wasn't an athlete.

And he treated me that way. I still came out every day and worked out with the track guys. But when we had a track meet, on the bulletin board was a posting of all the entries.

And every time I looked, my name was never on it. So I missed all the track meets until the last one. It was a district championships. I went and my name was on the 400 meters, a quarter mile, one lap around the track.

And I didn't know if somebody was hurt or injured or what, but I was going to take advantage of this opportunity. So the last track meet that year, the district championships, I took second in the 400 meters. And the coach came sprinting across the field and gave me the biggest bear hug and looked me in the eyes and said, Vince, you're a runner.

In the spring of 1979, I was a sophomore and I had learned that my best race was a half mile. So I won our district championships, which qualified me to go to Los Angeles to run in the CIF Southern section quarterfinals, which were some of the best athletes, not only in our section, but in the United States. So I went to the quarterfinals, not expecting much. Nobody was expecting much out of me and I qualified to move on to the next round.

So next week was a semifinals. I advanced again. I ran fast enough to get myself into the finals and I went and I took third place and I was on cloud nine, right? And then I found out my dad was going to transfer to Torjón Air Force Base near Madrid, Spain. I went to school on base. It was called Madrid American High School. And so I got to go to Germany where we ran against all the schools in the European area. And the big schools were in England and Germany. And the first heat was actually the semifinals.

I won in 159, which was a school record and the first time I ever broke two minutes. And one of the coaches from a German school came over and talked to my coach because he didn't know who I was. He said, where did this guy come from?

Right? And we talked a little bit and he asked to see my shoes. And there were these clunky, bordy leather spikes that my mom bought for me when I was a freshman. And they were size 11.

At the time I wore about size eight. And the coach was saying, you broke two minutes in these shoes. And so he disappeared for a while and came back with a pair of shoes that pit me, probably one of the other runners. And I tried them on and just putting those shoes on made me feel faster. So in the finals the next day, I ran three seconds faster.

So I was 156, which broke the European record. And I learned the importance of a good pair of shoes in running. And so I had my final senior year living in the barracks. But the most important thing my senior year was trying to find a college in the United States where I could go. And I'd written to Ohio State, Kansas State, USC, and Oregon State. I was accepted academically at all schools, but there was very little interest in me running there. And perhaps the most blunt letter I got was from the USC coach who said, your time might be pretty good in Europe, but it's a dime a dozen here in Southern California. But I found out one of our dorm counselors threw the javelin at Oregon. And he said, have you considered Oregon? I pulled out the letters and everything.

I showed him everything I had done to that point. And he go, why did you pick Kansas State? And I said, that's where Jim Ryan went to school.

Jim Ryan was my hero. He was a world record holder in the mile. And he goes, he didn't go to Kansas State. He went to Kansas. He got the wrong school, right? Then he asked me, why did you write to Oregon State? I said, because they're a good running school. He says, no, no, Oregon's a good running school, not Oregon State.

So I picked the wrong school. And he saw the letter I got from USC, but he contacted coach Dellinger back in Eugene and told him I was interested in going there. And the answer I got was that that would be fine because Bill Barman allowed walk-ons. Anybody that wanted to walk on and train with the team was fine. You know, you never knew who's going to be good enough to run.

And they said, if you do really well, maybe you'll get into a race or two, but there would be no scholarship. That was fine with me because Bill Barman, he coached Oregon from 1948 to 1972. Bill wrote the book on jogging. He brought jogging first to Eugene and it spread across Oregon, across the United States and then across the world. He's in the hall of fame four times for a track coach.

And one time as an inventor, he invented the modern day athletic shoe. So I flew a space available on military flight to Dover, Delaware. And then I worked my way across the United States and got to Eugene. I had two suitcases in my hand, found a motel six close to the university and Dellinger had told me, when you get to Eugene, come see me in my office. And so there were people there already. So I didn't know if I should go in or not.

And they'll signal me in. And in his office was Jim Ryan looking in a phone book for something. My high school hero who I wrote my term paper for was there sitting in a chair with Steve Prefontaine, you know, the greatest American distance runner in the United States. When he died in 1975, he held every American record from the 2000 meters to the 10,000 meters.

There's been a book written about him, the documentary and two different movies. And in the doorway was Phil Knight. Phil Knight, who with Bill Barman co-founded Nike in 1964. I had my camera with me. So I took a picture in the office, which I have in my book. And so I was just like in awe of the people I had met. And I shook hands with them and said, should I even wash my hands after this?

But the guy in the doorway that Phil Knight, I'll tell you in a minute, he was probably the most important person in that room because he's the one that co-founded Nike and would later change my life. I walked out of that office thinking, wow, what I just seen. But at the same time, it was, am I an over my head?

Can I rise up to this level? I was a walk-on who was rejected by all the other universities that I had written to. About two weeks later, Barman had the freshman in the stands. It was a freshman meeting.

And I looked around when I got there and there was about 50 people in the stands all wanting to run track. And I asked someone who was on scholarship. And he said, there's only three people on scholarship. And it turned out to be Mark Feig. There was Russ Francis who threw the javelin. And the third person was Tinker Hatfield, who some people might recognize that name.

He's a world famous designer that designs Nike shoes for us now. But Bill Barman came out and he said, statistically based on all the years that he coached, only three of us of the 50 would actually make it to our senior year. Everybody else would drop out of school, quit, and he would be proven right. It was two of those guys turned out to be me as well. It was the only three that made it to our senior years. He also told us, you can only do two things well. And he says, one of them has to be a student. You have to be a good student because if you flunk out, everything else doesn't matter. But he said the second thing based on what he observed was you could either be a good athlete or you could be, he said, a good lover.

You can't do both. And he said, you're just going to have to pick. And I remember looking around and a few heads were looking down like, is that true? And he said something profound. He said, if you can find meaning in what it takes to stay on this track team, you'll probably find meaning in another absurd pastime life.

And that was in the movie Without Limits if you've seen that. And you're listening to Steve Bence tell one heck of a story. Imagine being a young kid, a college freshman in the same room with Phil Knight and Pree and Jim Ryan and Bowerman.

Well, I think most of us would just cry or leave. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, me, Pree, and the birth of Nike here on Our American Stories. And we continue here on Our American Stories. And we've been listening to Steve Bence and the book he's written, 1972, Pree, You Owe Track, Nike Shoes, and My Life With Them All.

Let's continue with Bence and his story. Nike was born on May 1st of 1972. I didn't know it when I was at the University of Oregon running.

I was on the track team and I was kind of oblivious to everything going on around me. But I gradually started to learn that the tiger shoes that I was wearing was actually blue ribbon sports shoes. And blue ribbon sports was a handshake deal between Bill Bowerman, the coach, and Phil Knight, the athlete in 1964.

Bowerman was a coach, but he was also, he experimented. He always loved problem solving. And so he's always trying to come up with stuff to make athletes better.

And it could be anything. Like he worked on track surfaces and, of course, shoes and even apparel. And so people would be wearing handmade shoes that he did, but he didn't have really a good business sense. Phil had that business sense.

He was an athlete, he was a runner, he was coached by Bowerman. And so the two got together to create a new company. At first it was blue ribbon sports and Phil had written a paper in college at Stanford University that just like cameras were, very good cameras were coming out of Germany and they were expensive, but they were able to get good cameras out of Japan at a much cheaper price. And at the time, all the shoes were, the good shoes, the competitive shoes were made in Germany. It was Adidas and Puma. And Phil speculated that you could make just as good shoes in Japan at a much cheaper price. And so they paired up and they went to Japan to find somebody to make the shoes.

A lot of them were designed by Bill Bowerman. And so they were able to mass produce good shoes for kids in high school at an affordable price. And that was the Tiger shoe. But Phil picked May 1st, 1972 as a birthday of Nike. The Nike brand was starting to evolve, but that was the day the letter he received from Japan on its Tiger that they would no longer allow him to sell Tiger shoes in the United States. And so when most of the company at the time heard that news, they thought this is the worst day of our life. We're all out of jobs.

But Phil said, no, this is the best day of our life. You know, we can create our own brand and control our own destiny. So that's when the Nike brand was born.

Again, I was a little bit oblivious to the business part of it. I was just running. But Bowerman twice had me wear test shoes. And the first time I wore a pair of his test shoes, he came in the locker room and said, hey, Bence, you wear a size nine, don't you? And I go, yeah.

And he goes, try these out. So I was going out for a six mile run. And about two miles into it, my Achilles was really sore in my calf.

I said, just my luck. When I'm supposed to be testing these shoes, I get hurt, right? So I went back to the trainer and explained what was going on. He said, let me see those shoes.

And he looked at them. And Bowerman flipped the bottoms. Instead of the padding under the heel, he put it under the forefoot. So every time I took a step, I was putting a strain on my Achilles. And the trainer was saying, you can't be a guinea pig for him.

Your career and track is just a little too important. So why don't you take these shoes back to Bill and tell him you can't test anymore. And I didn't want to do that first.

But I waited for a week and I felt confident. And I went into the office and I said, here's the shoes. And he said, what do you think? And I said, well, I got hurt wearing them. And he goes, well, what happened?

And I said, well, it's in my Achilles and calf area. He goes, ah, that's great. That's what I thought would happen. And that was it. And I think like, what?

He's either mad scientist, you know, or he's testing me out or maybe he's just hazing a freshman. I didn't know what it was. But anyway, I didn't want to deal with any of that anymore.

So I didn't do that. But that was my lesson. And he was motivated to try to find the best things to make athletes better. And he wasn't afraid to fail. A lot of company cultures, you know, failure is not good. You know, there's backstabbing and politics that goes into it. But Tom Clark at Nike at one point had a poster in his office that said the company that makes the most mistakes wins.

You know, problems are good. The story about the waffle iron and Bill Barman making souls in his kitchen is partially true. But there's a lot of truth to the fact that, you know, he was constantly looking for ways to improve performance for athletes and weight, take weight out. So he did that. But the first I understood the first time he used the waffle iron, he put some rubber or whatever in there and he closed it.

And when it stuck, you know, just kept it up our head, throw that thing out. So he had a couple steps before he actually figured out how to do it. But the waffle iron was intriguing to him. And he was trying to get that. But if you think about what a waffle looks like, they're indentations.

And if you look at the outsole, it's the mirror that goes the other direction. But it was the concept that he had. And then he worked locally with rubber makers. And he was able to experiment with that until he got it right.

But then they just got sheets of rubber with the waffle outsole that they made and they just die cut it to go into the bottom of the shoes. There's four of us that we went to talk to Tom Barman, Bill's son, who lives in Eugene in the house where Barman used to live. And we told Tom first question, we said, when he got up in the morning, what was it like for him to innovate? And Tom said, Bill wouldn't even know what the word innovation means. He was a problem solver.

He said, if he didn't have a problem to solve, you know, he wouldn't know what to do with himself. Innovation, the word innovation is overused these days. And even our innovation group, Product Innovation at Nike, they took the word innovation out of their title because it doesn't mean anything anymore. Track season started and there were nine people listed in the newspaper that could run 800 meters or the half mile back then. And out of the nine half milers with their personal best times in there, out of the nine, I was number nine. So I was the ninth person on the team going into the track season.

And where I'd been promised maybe I could run a few races if I was good enough, I ended up winning my first seven races there. And the seniors and juniors and sophomores weren't all that excited about it. And I went to the Pac 8 championships. It was the Pac 8, not the Pac 12 back then. I ended up taking second place at the Pac 8 championships. And they made note of where the USC guy was, the first USC guy. I looked behind me and he was in fourth place.

In 1974, I was a junior and Prefontaine by then was a good friend and teammate of mine, but he was competing on his own now. The previous year, he was still a University of Oregon student having a scholarship and he was on the USA national team, which paid for all of his transportation, room and board and so forth as he competed around Europe for the United States. And he said they also gave him $4 a day for spending money. But what he found out when he was running over there after one of the races that he won, one of the competitors suggested that they pick up their prize money and go out and have a few beers. And Pre was like, what prize money, right? All the money that came in for US athletes went to the AAU, the Federation. The athletes that he had to compete against in Europe were getting prize money from the meets and their governing bodies were supporting them financially. And so he was pissed and he said, why should I care about the AAU?

They don't care about me. So in 1974, he decided he was going to go to Europe, not compete in any AAU meets and get his prize money. But he talked to some of us to join him, including me. And I was kind of excited, you know, like I didn't know if I can continue my track season after my junior season, but I wanted to go to Europe and compete and see how I do.

So I accepted that. And you're listening to Steve Benz tell the story of, in essence, the founding of Nike. And it's a heck of a story about running and sports and commerce. And in the end, this thing that, well, let's face it, Bowerman, as we already learned, didn't like the word innovation. And most innovators don't because they're just trying to solve a problem. And indeed, it was a problem right in front of them that had to do with his coaching and with winning.

And that's what he really wanted to do, have an advantage over everyone. And the net benefit was he created this remarkable sneaker company. When we come back, more of the story of me pre and the birth of Nike.

And we're listening to author Steve Benz here on Our American Stories. Should we continue with Our American Stories and the story of Nike and how it came to be and so much more about the running world in the 1970s in its infancy that would spawn what we now know as the modern world of track and field and so much more, including marathons, which before the 70s were barely anything anyone knew about. In 1974, running phenom Steve pre pre Fontaine decided to take a stand against the Amateur Athletic Union, the AAU, which demanded that athletes who wish to remain amateur for the Olympics not be paid for appearances in track meets, even though they drew large crowds that generated millions of dollars. At this time, the AAU was taking away the amateur status of athletes who were endorsed in any way. Because pre was accepting free gear from Nike, he was subjected to the AAU his rulings, and he found himself living on food stamps. He spoke very publicly against the AAU and asked his friend and Oregon track teammates Steve Benz to join him in Europe to race in defiance against the AAU.

Here again, is Steve Benz. We started in Finland, pre Fontaine had to help us get into a meet and the first three track meets, I won and I got my prize money, which was $27 at each meet. So I had three times $27 for my first three races. So it wasn't much, but it was illegal for us against the rules of NCAA and the AAU. Now, the European competitors picked up their prize money, but we weren't supposed to do that.

So I was being rebellious. Because of pre he was talking us into do that and we were supporting him, probably because he thought their safety in numbers. And in 1978, this is after pre Fontaine died, Congress passed a law that changed the whole thing and abolish the AAU and allowed athletes to start being able to win money, which changed the whole sport, and in a way vindicated us in my opinion. First story I'll tell is on May 29 1975.

And anybody that knows pre Fontaine history knows that he died on May 30 1975. So this this is the Thursday, there was a track meet that evening. And pre had invited the Finnish national team to come to Oregon to compete.

But the last race of this tour was going to be at Hayward Field. And it was going to be that evening, May 29. But pre came into our apartment with Mark and I, we left the door unlocked and he just felt at home. So he always come in and out. And he insisted that we go over to his house and play spades play cards. Because he was so hyper, you know, because he had to have a good meet that evening to be able to recover some of the money. And he had promised that he was going to try to break the American record in the 5000 meters to get as many people in the stands as possible.

And pre ran his race. And then afterwards, we went back to our dorms to shower and pre had graduated. So he went to be with the Finns at a party. Went to bed that night. I had a final exam the next day. So I knew I had to get up and study at six o'clock in the morning, the phone rang. And it was a friend who had graduated the previous year and said, I just heard on the radio that pre Fontaine died. And I was like, No, he couldn't have, you know, we were just with him all day yesterday. He was just here last night, you know, that kind of thing. So I called the radio station.

And they said it was true that he was in a single car accident, and that he was dead. And I just remember taking my books and going over to the Student Union. Because I had to study. And I remember Oh, boy.

There's music in the background playing. And I remember it was wishing you were here. And that hit me.

See me again. And I thought about what inspired me most about him. And it was reflecting back to the Europe and define the AAU.

And even in that track meet the night before he was defined the AAU by putting that on, he wasn't allowed to put on a meet, but they backed off the last minute. But just his rebellious spirit, you know, and his fight for justice. I wanted to be that I wanted to live that. And so that became a part of who I was, who I am.

And Phil Knight later said, if Nike could have the personality of any human being, the personality he'd want is that of Steve Prefontaine. There's a place called Preys Rock in Eugene, which is where Prefontaine died, where his car flipped, and it killed him. And people will go to Preys Rock to honor him, and they leave stuff, they leave shoes, they leave clothing, and all those kinds of things. He was 24 years old when he died.

It was 1975. And people still go to the rock and kids are still inspired by him. And when I've been up there, sometimes I've talked to people. For example, one time I talked to a husband and wife who were coaching in the Midwest somewhere. And I said, what is it about Prey that your athletes love, which inspires them the most? And she said, because he's so blue collar, he worked so hard, he was so competitive.

The kids just believe if they do the same thing, you know, they work hard and do what they have to do, they can excel as well. And you know, it's not his accomplishments that people admire him for. Although he had every American record from 2,000 meters up to 10,000 meters, it's not the accomplishments that the people talk about. It's how he lived his life and how he competed. And many times, runners, lead runners will just sit in the back until the last half lap and kick in and win the race.

Prey wanted to go out and be in front. Every race that he ran, he called a performance, and he was doing it for the people in the stands. And he would say, if you run in the back and just kick at the last 200 meters, that's chicken. He just did not believe that that was the right way to run a race. The only way to really run races in the front, flat out as hard as you can go and run as fast as you can every time. But also, one of the things that Coach Dellinger, Bill Dellinger, who was the assistant coach for the runners at the University of Oregon, he said the one thing he noticed about Prey is he never missed a workout. He never missed a race. He was there all the time. And Prey confided, you know, there were times that he wasn't feeling good, but he wouldn't tell anybody.

He would go out there and run anyway. So it's just that honorable, competitive, hardworking ethic, I think, is what young people today look up to. When I started with Nike, to me, it was just a bunch of runners getting together and moving into the next part of our life. And I was trying to figure out, what was I going to do? I was teaching and coaching.

And maybe I could have done that for my whole life, but I was looking for that job that inspired me, that kind of was meaningful to me, purposeful to me. And I didn't know Nike was going to be it. But when the company started, when BRS started importing tiger shoes from Japan, Phil placed his first order to Japan for 300 pair of shoes. So that was 1964 tiger shoes. And then, you know, maybe, I don't know where we got up to about a million pair. I'm really only talking about footwear because that's what I had my experience.

And we usually talk in marriage. To back up, when I told my mother I was working for Nike, and she asked me, what's Nike? And I told her about Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, and we're making shoes for runners and stuff. She says, you went to college, I'm going to tell my friends that you're a shoe salesman or whatever.

And she says, why don't you work for a company that makes something that a lot of people will buy, right? That's the way she was thinking back then. That's the way we were all thinking. It was a small market. But because of jogging in particular, runners and average everyday people started getting running shoes to run in because now we were starting to jogging. It just wasn't for elite runners. And people were wearing them to knock around and walk around in because they were comfortable and lightweight. So we didn't start wanting to change the world. We were just trying to improve performance for runners. But the thing was taking off. So when people find out that it was a group of runners that started this company, and that's the culture that we have, it makes sense.

No one can imagine a bunch of football players getting together and doing this or basketball players or whatever, but a bunch of runners, we pulled it off. And so the culture that we have as a company comes from that. I'm now settled down in Beaverton, Oregon. I've lived in my house for over 30 years. I adopted a girl in Taiwan when we were there. We adopted a girl in Korea when we were there. We had a son in the United States.

We moved back to Korea. My youngest was born in Korea. And they've all grown up here in this house. Now I have four grandchildren, ages zero, two, four, and six.

They're over here all the time talking. So there's a big group, my four kids and those four grandchildren. And looking back on a career that has been incredibly rewarding and being a part, I never claimed to be a Phil Knight or anything major. And I was just a guy getting the job done, a math nerd that was excited about being a part of running still and about a part of the running culture. And when you have an opportunity to do something bigger than yourself and genuinely enjoy working with people, it's a pretty rewarding experience.

And that's where I am right now in my life. And a terrific job on the storytelling and production by Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to Steve Bence, author of 1972, Pre-UO Track, Nike Shoes, and My Life With Them All.

Go to a bookstore and buy this book or wherever you get your books online. Phil Knight, the founder all the way through. We love founders here on this show. The story of Nike here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 02:22:17 / 2023-02-17 02:37:05 / 15

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