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The USS Lexington, The Naval Juggernaut, The Shocking Story Behind the Diamond Engagement Ring and How Piggly Wiggly Created the Modern Supermarket

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 13, 2022 3:00 am

The USS Lexington, The Naval Juggernaut, The Shocking Story Behind the Diamond Engagement Ring and How Piggly Wiggly Created the Modern Supermarket

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 13, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, regular contributor, Anne Clare, tells the story of a unique aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington. Tom Zoellner purchased a diamond engagement ring and proposed. His girlfriend said, "yes" and then, suddenly, walked out of his life making Tom the owner of a used engagement ring. Instead of hitting the self-help shelves of his local bookstore, he hit the road to discover the true worth of this shining gem and then wrote The Heartless Stone. Mike Freeman, author of Clarence Saunders & the Founding of Piggly Wiggly: The Rise and Fall of a Memphis Maverick, tells us how Clarence Saunders revolutionized the way people shopped by developing “self-service” grocery shopping.

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Time Codes:

00:00 - The USS Lexington, The Naval Juggernaut

10:00 - The Shocking Story Behind the Diamond Engagement Ring

23:00 - How Piggly Wiggly Created the Modern Supermarket

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This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. The USS Lexington was the first aircraft carrier to deploy air-to-surface missiles, and it sailed enough miles to circle the globe eight times. Standing as tall as a 19-story building, there's much more to this warship. Here's our regular contributor, Ann Claire, with the story. I was in elementary school when I saw my first aircraft carrier.

My family and I had gone to visit my aunt and uncle in South Carolina. My uncle had retired from the Navy and was working at Patriots Point, where there are a number of U.S. naval vessels that are now museums. He took us up onto the flight deck of the USS Yorktown. This would be the Yorktown nut that was sunk at Midway, but the one that was named after it that served at the end of World War II. And I just recall standing on that enormous flight deck and just being in awe and kind of fascinated by these huge ships that were just so unique. As an adult moving to the Pacific Northwest, I ended up with the opportunity to see a few more aircraft carriers, though the ones I've seen out here are not museums, they're still sailing, which is even more impressive.

They're just really interesting ships. As I was doing some reading in history recently, though, about some of the very first aircraft carriers in the United States Navy, I was impressed not so much by size or uniqueness, but by their versatility, especially when I got into the story of the USS Lexington. The USS Lexington was the fourth U.S. ship to bear that name, the name of the place where the American Revolution started, Lexington. It was also the second aircraft carrier produced by the United States. However, at first it wasn't supposed to be an aircraft carrier. The Lexington was laid down in 1921 in Quincy, Massachusetts as a battle cruiser. In 1922, they switched gears and converted her into an aircraft carrier, the second one, as I said, following the Langley, which was also converted from a different type of ship. The Lady Lex was launched in 1925 and commissioned in 1927, and along with the Saratoga, which was the following aircraft carrier, the third one, the Lexington was sent to operate in the Pacific Ocean.

Now, while the Lexington was a ship with capabilities for war, Lady Lex also served in some unique ways during peacetime. She started out as a battle cruiser, changed to an aircraft carrier, and then, when need arose, became a temporary power plant. In 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed and the Great Depression began, and on top of the economic disaster, the city of Tacoma, Washington faced a serious power shortage. The city depended on hydroelectric power from Lake Cushman and the Nisqually River, but, unfortunately, on top of all the other troubles in the world, unusual cold weather and a drought the previous fall meant that there simply wasn't enough buildup of water behind the dams to power the city. So, as they sought for a solution, they found it in the Lexington.

They brought in an aircraft carrier, of all things. On December 15, 1921, the Lexington was hooked up at Tacoma's Baker Dock to the city's electrical grid, and for 12 hours each day, the Lexington generated and transmitted about 20,000 kilowatts of power, and this went on for quite some time. The calendar page turned, and the Lexington was still there until January, but by January 16, 1930, enough water had built up behind the dams to serve Tacoma's needs again, and the crisis was averted. The Lexington was able to return to her regular duties. Now, the following year, the Lexington was actually called upon for another mission of mercy, transporting disaster relief, supplies, and personnel to the aftermath of a terrible earthquake and fire in Managua, Nicaragua. Of course, peacetime missions weren't the only missions that the Lexington had to be involved in. On December 7, 1941, fortunately, the Lexington was not in Pearl Harbor, along with other aircrafts she was out to sea. At this time, the Lexington was busy transporting marine planes to Midway Island, but once America entered World War II, the Lexington became involved as well.

In 1942, Admiral Nimitz sent the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington, along with several American and Australian cruisers, to meet a Japanese fleet, including three aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea. Now, the Lexington suffered multiple hits in the ensuing battle. The crew worked furiously to repair the Lady Lex and put out the fires burning within her, and for a while it appeared they were succeeding. But, 12 minutes after the ship's log reported that all of the fires below decks were put out, the following entry was logged, and I quote, Heavy explosion felt, which vented up forward bomb elevator, lost communication with central station. More explosions ended up shaking the Lexington, and the systems failed and new fires blazed. In spite of all of the crew's efforts, in the end, the Lexington was abandoned and scuttled there.

There she rested undisturbed until remains were rediscovered in 2018. And a beautiful job on the production by Madison Derricotte, and a special thanks to Anne Claire for sharing with us the story of the USS Lexington, otherwise known as Lady Lex. And Lady Lex saw action in the Coral Sea, but Lady Lex also helped in other ways, becoming a power plant for the city of Tacoma, and also providing relief to the people of Nicaragua after a natural disaster.

Luckily for Lady Lex, she was not in Pearl Harbor in 1941, she was busily transporting planes to Midway Island. The story of Lady Lex, 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 OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button.

Give a little, give a lot. Go to OurAmericanStories.com and give. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

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Simply go to Geico.com or contact your local agent today. This is our American stories and our next story is about a gem. It turns out diamonds haven't always been rare stones since 1870 when huge diamond mines were discovered in South Africa. Soon after that discovery, the British financiers behind the South African mining effort realized the diamond market would be saturated if they didn't do something about it. So in 1888 they set two audacious goals. One monopolized diamond prices by creating De Beers mines.

De Beers would then be able to stabilize the market by creating both the supply and the demand for diamonds worldwide. Tom Zollner is a journalist and professor who lives in Los Angeles. He wrote the book, The Heartless Stone, a journey through the world of diamonds, deceit and desire.

Here's Tom with the story of that journey. This wasn't very deep and I learned that there's this tradition out there that you're supposed to spend two months of your salary as a benchmark, sort of a sliding scale for what's expected. And I wanted to do what was expected. So I figured out what I could afford and I bought a, her name is Ann, was Ann, I bought her a diamond ring. I say was because the engagement broke up and I was made the owner of a used diamond ring and I learned, wow, there's really not a lot to do with this.

I didn't want to let go of it for emotional reasons and I also learned if I was just going to sell it back on the used market that there really is no used market. And as the ring just sort of sat there in the back of my closet, I began to wonder more and more about it. And it might have been a way of channeling the grief over the lost relationship, but I began to look into diamonds in a way that was a little bit deeper and a little bit different than that I did when I was researching what to buy.

I wanted to know, well, where did this come from? And so this took me on what you might call a quest. It lasted for 18 months and in that time I went to 16 different countries on the globe to try and understand where diamonds come from and why we hunger for them.

So I'll tell you just a little bit about where I went. First I went to a place called the Central African Republic, which is a diamond producing nation at the heart of Africa. It's one of the poorest countries on the globe. It produces, it ranks number 10 in terms of diamond production among all countries and yet it is poverty of some of the worst kind, political instability of some of the worst kind.

And those two things, unfortunately, go together. I went out to the back country and learned how diamonds are mined for guys who are making less than a dollar an hour to comb through the soil. Very dangerous work, sometimes in violent conditions, to find these pieces of carbon which are brought up to the earth's surface through these volcanic tubes of what's called the kimberlite. And so you find them in the river bottoms at some of the most primitive mining imaginable and some of these diamonds emerging from such miserable conditions still find their way to the U.S. market. I went to Angola, another nation in Africa, of course, which has been racked with, had been racked by civil war, largely funded through the smuggling and the sales of diamonds. I went to India, which is the headquarters, the Indian state of Gujarat polishes the majority of diamonds in the world and I saw the conditions in some of these factories where child labor is used to get the diamonds into the glittery shape that westerners have expected.

I went to Russia to see the birthplace and still the headquarters of the synthetic diamond industry, a way that machines have been built to recreate the heat and the pressure and the earth's mantle that create the diamonds in the first place. And then I took a long look at the marketing history of the diamond, the way that these shiny pebbles have been sold to western consumers through the genius, and I say that word with a certain amount of respect but also advisedly, the genius of the corporation called De Beers Consolidated Mines, which cornered the market in South Africa in the 1890s thanks to the scheming of an Oxford graduate named Cecil Rhodes, for whom the Rhodes scholars are named. Cecil Rhodes founded the De Beers Corporation and hit upon the insight that the way that you create high prices for these little minerals is that you just simply create artificial scarcity in the market, which is what he did and what De Beers continues to try and accomplish, even though it no longer dominates the market as it did today.

So it was not only a hive of artificial scarcity, it was also a marketing factory. It was the De Beers Corporation that created this idea out of whole cloth and invented custom that a young man is supposed to spend two months of his salary on his sweetheart's engagement ring. That turned out, it sounds like something from Charles Dickens, but it's actually a complete marketing fable. And it was also out of the De Beers Idea Factory, with the help of a New York ad agency called J. Walter Thompson, this idea of the eternity of a diamond, the poetry surrounding this trinket.

I looked back at some of the ads that were created in the Great Depression to convince American men that this is what they needed to do, just to spend money, even in the midst of a depression. And the ads all centered around the idea of temporality and of mortality and of the idea that this diamond is going to survive you. It's almost rather morbid, but this was a successful advertising strategy and it was out of this notion that your diamond will last beyond you, that the brilliant slogan was coined, a diamond is forever.

The diamond engagement ring, how else could two months' salary last forever? A diamond is forever, De Beers. So, just to give respect where respect is due, there is something chemically unique about a diamond.

As it goes on the Mauss scale of density, it is a 10 out of a 10 scale. Almost no other mineral, in fact no other mineral, has the ability to slow down light within the chamber of its interiors. This is why a diamond sparkles so well. The speed of light at 186,000 miles per second has slowed down to 77,000 miles per second within a diamond, which is why it sparkles. And when you polish it in a particular configuration, the effect is really dazzling.

I have no issue with that. But to slow down the light in some ways is a metaphor for the diamond itself. It is a chamber of slow light and emptiness because at the heart of the diamond, which was my conclusion, is mythology. The mythology that society has spun around it and the individual mythologies that we put around diamonds. The story we tell about them, which is in fact in its most prominent feature the story of our engagement, the story of our marriage.

One of the most mysterious and frightening and lovely and potentially heartbreaking things that we get to do. The genius of De Beers and the diamond industry was that it was able to set up a toll booth right at the entrance to this adventure. And this for me is the true legacy of the diamond and at the heart of the book that I wrote called The Heartless Stone.

And you've been listening to Tom Zollner, journalist and professor, his book, The Heartless Stone, the story of the diamond here on Our American Stories. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue here with our American stories, grabbing a basket while grocery shopping may seem second nature today, but the idea was once groundbreaking. And that was far from the only thing that changed when Piggly Wiggly, the first modern American supermarket opened over 100 years ago. On September 6, 1916, hundreds of curious shoppers came out for the opening of a new grocery store at 79 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.

And we broadcast here in Oxford, Mississippi. Memphis is only one hour practically due north for weeks they'd seen billboards and read newspaper ads about this grocery store with the funny name that promised an entirely new shopping experience. One that would, according to its owner, forever change the retail grocery business. Greg Hengler sat down with Mike Freeman near the location of that first Piggly Wiggly in downtown Memphis. Mike Freeman is the author of Clarence Saunders and the founding of Piggly Wiggly, the rise and fall of a Memphis Maverick. I took a job at a restaurant in downtown Memphis that happened to be at 79 Jefferson. And that was the first location of Piggly Wiggly store. It was an interesting fact.

You know, I became interested in that. My employer wanted me to do some research because he was curious as well, you know, what happened in the building and such. It's important to know what Saunders did differently was in the old days, if you went into a store to shop, you couldn't just reach out and pick out your own groceries. You had clerks do that for you. You know, we had to wait for them to, you tell the clerk what you want and then they would bring it to you. And Saunders thought, well, this is really slow.

This is so inefficient. And all this tied in with brand advertising before the turn of the century. You had all these brands we still recognize. catalog cereal, Van Camp, pork and beans. All these companies were selling their products in stores. And Saunders knew, well, you don't need a clerk to tell you what cereal you like. You like Kellogg's cereal? There it is.

You get it yourself. The most important thing to him is I could sell more groceries at less cost because I could pay fewer people. Saunders grew up from a family that was poor. In fact, there's one story that a neighbor bought Clarence a pair of shoes. And when Saunders had money later in life, he sent a check to that family for a number of years because they helped him out and he really needed it. So he knew what it was like to suffer a living hardship and he carried that with him.

That probably motivated him as much as anything to do something. Saunders became a traveling salesman for a wholesale company. So he would call upon grocers. And Saunders developed a reputation for being a bit brash. He would go into a store and he would tell the store owner, he says, you know, you would sell more vegetables if you displayed them this way. It's the way you had it. And some thought, well, what does this guy know?

Not everybody appreciated his advice. But it shows that he was already thinking about trying ways to do things that were better than before. There was a man in Memphis who built a chain of stores, Mr. Bower's stores. They were small, like corner grocery stores. But every Bower store looked exactly the same as the signs in the front and the layout of the store where the groceries were placed. So each Bower store was identical. And that was an innovation, too, if you went from one store to the other, you'd know exactly where to find what you wanted to buy. Because everything was in the same place despite, you know, in different locations.

And Saunders, he absorbed these ideas. That's the principle of a chain store. Everything is alike as much as it can be. So if you're comfortable with what they do, then you'll shop at the chain store no matter where that location is. So you could go into a town where you're unfamiliar to you and find your favorite grocery, you know, whatever the business is. Or Starbucks for that matter.

And get exactly what you want. And that's the whole principle of a chain store. Bower's did that before Saunders. So he clearly learned from Bower's how to manage a chain store business.

One thing that Bower's did not do was arrange things for customers to pick out themselves. He still had clerks. And Saunders thought this was an inefficient way of doing things. And he was kind of sarcastic. He says, you know, when a store is not very busy, the poor customer can't get the attention of a clerk because they're busy goofing off in the back room.

That happens. Or they're so busy, like during Christmas season, you know, everyone's shopping in the store so busy they can't handle the orders properly. The arrangement of the store that Bower's and the older merchants had was you walked up to a counter. And once you had your clerk's attention, you would rattle off what you wanted. And then he would go about the rest of the store picking out the items you wanted and bring them to the front.

And then you would transact business and off you go. And Saunders thought, well, you know, they don't need a clerk to tell them that Campbell's soup is good or if you just put it on a shelf, they can find it themselves. He took this journey to Terre Haute, Indiana, to look at a store that he was told was unique and designs differently. And he came back a bit disappointed.

It wasn't really anything special at all. And Saunders told the story often. He said on the way back, he saw this mother pig at a farm and he saw all these piglets trying to feed off the mother pig. And it reminded him of customers trying to attract attention of a clerk. And then the idea popped in his head. He had the name Piggly Wiggly just from seeing this pig. OK, that's the name. And then he went about designing.

Well, how are we going to actually do this? You'd have to practically rebuild the interior of the store to change its self-service. Piggly Wiggly. That was his name. It was a very unusual name.

I mean, I think it was perfect for what he was trying to do because he should be indifferent. And then he would he began writing advertisements where Piggly Wiggly became a character. Piggly Wiggly goes to town. Piggly Wiggly does this. And so, you know, that's how he built his brand identity. He made a story out of an imaginary pig that went shopping.

I'll read part of one. It's Piggly Wiggly. Ain't that a funny name?

The fellow that got up that name must have a screw loose somewhere. All this may be so, but the Piggly Wiggly knows its own business best. And its business will be this. To have no store clerks gab and smirk while folks are standing around, 10 deep, get waited on. Every customer will be her own clerk. So if she wants to talk to a can of tomatoes and kill her time, all right and well.

It seems likely this would be a mighty lonesome chat. Saunders addressed customer fears. You know, it used to be if you went into certain stores in the old days and, you know, the clerk might put his thumb on the scale so you'd pay extra for tomatoes or potatoes or whatever, or they'd sell you food that was out of date. Saunders thought all that was just just wrong.

It was just not good business. You could sell more groceries just by being honest. And he was very proud. He talked a lot about labeling prices on everything. So you walk in and you go to the canned soup aisle. You know exactly what the price of that soup is. It didn't matter what store you're in. One of the stores, they all price things about the same. And it didn't matter who you were or whether the clerk knew you or not, you got the same price.

When we come back, more of Mike Freeman telling the story of Clarence Saunders, the founder of Piggly Wiggly, here on Our American Story. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs.

My family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back. Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories and with author Mike Freeman telling the story of Piggly Wiggly and its founder Clarence Saunders.

Let's continue with Mike. He knew he was taking a less profit and he probably had people in the grocery business say we can't make any money you're not selling high enough, you're not making enough profit. But he was thinking of volume. The more stores you open, the more volume you have. One of the benefits of self-service is you are selling more goods per day and that helps eliminate the problem of spoiled food or expired food. And Saunders was aware of that and he would advertise to people and say this is what I'm doing, I'm going to treat you fair. Now you can't imagine going in a store and not having a label on it, this is 32 cents or whatever.

You can't imagine it, but for the 20th century it was commonplace. Once you've labeled everything then no grocery store can hide. His competitors are thinking uh oh, you're going to have to do something different. You know he proved right there that first year that he had about 8 or 9 stores in Memphis and Bowers had over 40. And he outsold Bowers stores simply because he made it easier for people to shop.

And they just started swarming into Big Wiggles. He's one of those rare individuals that has an idea that worked and that transformed part of our society. I don't say he's as great as Henry Ford, but Ford decided well why can't we put an engine in this little carriage and hook it up to some wheels and then we don't need a horse and buggy anymore. We have a car, change the world. Saunders isn't of that level of success, but I think he had the same mind where he thought well let's do something a little different here.

The old ways are eh, you can do a little faster, a little bit better than that. And that's what Big Wiggles was. Grocery store is a version of the Model T. What's interesting is that next year he started franchising. And he actually filed for several patents. And he started selling the idea that well you guys down in Arkansas and Mississippi you can build a Big Wiggles. There's towns all over the South that are large enough to support a couple of grocery stores.

And that proceeded very rapidly selling franchises all over the place. You could argue that the founder of Wal-Mart did virtually the same thing. He put a Wal-Mart in medium sized towns, you know if a town doesn't have a Wal-Mart then it's kind of not a town. But having a store like that in your community, hiring the local folks to work in the store, probably manage the store.

It built a loyalty for that brand, but Wal-Mart still exists. The difference between Walton and Saunders is Walton never lost his business, he held on to it. I think Saunders had a lot of the same attitudes, same personality in some way. He wanted to be that champion, but in the end he didn't keep that business long enough. Right now most people don't know who Saunders is. Saunders achieved a level of celebrity and wealth that most people only dream of. He's most famous for, the Pink Palace is a building, I don't know how many square feet it is.

Well they've added on to it, but the majority of that 36,000 square feet is what he built. It was to have a swimming pool, it was to have everything a rich person would want. Saunders tried to outsmart traders of Wall Street and to explain it simply, he didn't realize they wrote the rules of trade. There was no governing agency overseeing financial trade that we have now. It was whatever certain people, what we call Wall Street, decided to do is what was done.

They made the rules among themselves. I have trouble sometimes describing a short sale. It's a stock maneuver where different people in the financial business spread rumors that a company's in trouble, that the stock's not worth what it's listing at now.

And Saunders thought that was horrible. Piggly Wiggly had over-expanded when there was a franchise or two that had gone bankrupt. That was all the trigger that these short sellers needed. And he started this campaign to take the shares out of the hands of these Wall Street thieves or wolves. And he started a buying campaign in Memphis, you know, save Piggly Wiggly from Memphis. Most people in Memphis or, you know, any city outside of New York probably thought about Wall Street saying he did. It was sort of a, kind of a villainous place.

And he was playing on that. You know, don't let these thieves take our Piggly Wiggly away from us. So everyone invested in Saunders' scheme to buy all the shares and hold them. Well, he pushed these traders into a panic because whatever they borrow, they have to pay. And if he's buying all the shares, they have to come to him to repay what they owe him.

I mean, he was trying to trap them. And the board of directors of the stock exchange in New York kept Saunders from doing that and let the traders off the hook. They could change the rules. See, there's no government agency overseeing stock trade.

Whatever the board of directors thought was legal was illegal. And especially if they had friends who got caught up in the scheme and were begging, you know, don't let us die out here. Well, we'll let Saunders die. You know, they don't know him. They don't care about him.

He's not part of their social group or anything like that at all. It's just some hillbilly from Tennessee who thought he knew what he was doing. They just, you know, interpreted rules to let him die. So he had borrowed all that money. Instead of gaining what he thought would be hundreds of millions of dollars, he had nothing. Twelve million is a lot of money today to lose.

Imagine what it was like in 1923. What Saunders had done, and there were people that really liked him because he was, you know, become very famous, was that he had begged Memphians to pool together money to pay off this debt so that Piggly Wiggly could get back to normal operating under his leadership. And people did. They held rallies for save Piggly Wiggly from Memphis. That was the campaign. Not for Saunders. He was careful to say, save Piggly Wiggly from Memphis.

And he had a point there too. I mean, you know, there's a lot of jobs in Memphis now because of this store, this business. And then he made the dumb mistake of putting money into this, what we now know as the Pink Palace, which was an extravagant home. You know, the people that invested in Piggly Wiggly must have been shocked. What in the world are you doing? We're taking time away from our business, spending our money, bail you out, and you're building a stupid house.

You don't have time for that anymore. How did they find out about it? Well, a workman had been injured and the newspaper published a story.

You know, it was holy cow, you know, they couldn't believe it. It was just a terrible mistake he made. And it cost him. Well, I mean, he tried again to make money and he did, but I mean, he's still famous for what?

Piggly Wiggly. And he lost it. He only ran the company for six years. I guess that the story is remarkable in itself is that he started with one store. Six years later, he had a thousand. You know, he had a substantial chain. I mean, he was successful. He did build something that was unique.

He just didn't hold on to it. He would be Sam Walton today or his memory would be as big as Sam Walton if he had just held on to Piggly Wiggly like Walton held on to Wal-Mart. The most fitting memorial to him is the ordinary self-service store. Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart in 1962. By the end of his life in 1992, Walton owned the largest retail merchandising company in the world. In his autobiography, Sam Walton Made in America, he credited the enormous success of his retail stores to the principle of self-service. His brief description of the benefits that self-service gave to him and his desire to pass on the savings to his customers seemed to be a near match to Saunders own words two generations before.

During the past 25 years, supermarkets and large merchandise stores have become popular in nearly every country in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa. In an odd way, Clarence Saunders' prophetic slogan for Piggly Wiggly all over the world has come true. And great job on the piece as always by Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to Mike Freeman who wrote the book Clarence Saunders and the founding of Piggly Wiggly.

And what a story. And that he started the idea of pricing and transparency and volume so that we could lower profits on each individual item but make up for that with volume. And that is indeed what Sam Walton did. There's no doubt that Sam took a lot of the ideas of Piggly Wiggly and scaled them to a much larger operation. The story of Piggly Wiggly, the story of Clarence Saunders, here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 23:44:31 / 2023-02-16 23:59:23 / 15

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