Rebecca West: Words & Music

Hardship and Thanksgiving

by Bob West

I'm always amazed when I recognize the Lord's timing. As I write this episode of my memoirs the date is November 24, 2010. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day on our calendars here in America. And we have so much to be thankful for. Looking back, I'm even thankful for the hard times I went through during the 1980s that are summed up in what I share next.

It began with Sylvia and me just as it did with Sketch and Honey Drawings in the following episode of my Theophilus comic strip.

Theophilus comic strip
THEOPHILUS comic strip 1998 episode: "A Dream Come True?"
Visit the Theophilus website by clicking here.

For some time Sylvia and I had been planning to move to the North Carolina mountains. When the economy slowed and freelance work was hard to find, and friends offered to let us stay with them until we were settled, we decided that the time was right and moved in September 1979.

During our first year in the mountains, Sylvia and I worked days, nights, and weekends without a salary. That year our business lost most of the money we got from selling our house in Orlando. Reluctantly, we had to admit that there was not a sufficient market and ceased publication of Gospel Teacher, and closed the Bible bookstore we had opened.

To help subsidize the magazine I had become a Commodore Computer dealer. We now put all of our efforts into that project and opened a full-service computer store, one of the first in western North Carolina. Our competition was an Apple Computer dealer in Asheville and a few Radio Shack stores. Unfortunately, computers were so new that people were afraid of them and saw no need to get close to one.

At first we called on businesses with accounting and word processing system proposals, but when the popular VIC-20 and Commodore 64 computers were introduced, we turned our attention to the home market as well. Just as we were beginning to show a profit, our supplier began selling through mass merchandisers. As a result, customers were able to buy their computers from K-Mart for less than we could buy them from the manufacturer as an authorized dealer.

Unable to compete, we closed the store and for a while I worked at home developing computer software for the education market.

Soon I realized that I should find employment and tried unsuccessfully to find a job as a graphic artist in the Asheville NC and Greenville SC areas.

It was during this time that I went through a period of depression that concerned my family. I was nearing retirement age with no retirement. We were without a home of our own, and living below the national poverty level. I no longer had opportunity to make a living doing the work that I had identified with for so many years.

I felt like a failure as a man and provider for my family when Sylvia entered the job market, but I thought I was dying. If so, she would need to be able to provide for herself and maybe this would help her prepare. I saw no hope for better days. I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit with no way out.

Some of our family and church members in other places (who did not know the whole story) offered their "encouragement" by saying that we made a big mistake leaving Orlando. But I always believed that I had made the right decision under the circumstances. Looking back now years later, I know that at the time I was exactly where the Lord wanted me.

Our daughter, Suzanne, and her family had moved to Brevard a few years earlier. She found a way for us to qualify for a mortgage loan, and got me interested in looking for a building site and designing a house. The more involved I became with this project, the more excited I became. I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was on my way to recovery.

Since I had gained some accounting knowledge while training people to use our computerized business systems, I looked for and found a job as a bookkeeper.

Then Brevard Federal Savings and Loan asked me to work for them as manager of their mainframe computer department. Five years later that job would be lost during a merger with a larger bank that had their own electronic data processing department in another city. But in the meantime that job provided me with rest and recuperation and a salary, which along with Sylvia's salary as a commercial insurance agent, allowed us to get our financial affairs under control.

Then I was back doing what I love to do: drawing and writing, and I was doing it in the peaceful solitude of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. A dream come true, and more!

Thank you, Suzanne! Thank you, Sylvia! And thank you, Jesus!!!

To be continued

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