April 22, 2013

"Robert Earl Holding... and his wife were known to bus tables at their ski resorts..."

Robert Earl Holding... "who died Friday at age 86, parlayed a struggling motel into an empire of ski resorts and hotels, oil refining and retailing, and real-estate holdings in Montana and Wyoming that placed him among the top landowners in the U.S. He was No. 139 on the Forbes list of U.S. billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion."
Raised in Salt Lake City, Mr. Holding was the son of an apartment maintenance man. His family lost their savings in the stock-market crash of 1929 and Mr. Holding remained reluctant to take on debt, even as his business empire blossomed....

Mr. Holding got his start managing Little America, a 60-room motel and gas station on Interstate 80 in Green River, Wyo., in the early 1950s. He converted the business into a heavily advertised truck stop. Targeting the developing interstate highway system, he opened more Little Americas in Arizona and Salt Lake City....

20 comments:

David said...

Mormons!

David said...

I do not think the truck stop was on I-80 in the early 1950's, as there were no Interstate highways then.

Ann Althouse said...

"[T]he Lincoln Highway inspired the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, which was championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, influenced by his experiences as a young soldier crossing the country in the 1919 Army Convoy on the Lincoln Highway. Today, Interstate 80 is the cross-country highway most closely aligned with the Lincoln Highway. In the West, particularly in Wyoming, Utah and California, sections of Interstate 80 are paved directly over alignments of the Lincoln Highway."

David said...

Ike kept a diary of that trip. Part of his military report. It was fascinating. The Lewis and Clark of the automobile era.

So it was interstate but not an Interstate.

Isn't quibbling grand?

Jeff Teal said...

Traveled across the same area 20 years later.Little America was the outpost of civilization in those places.R.I.P. Mr. Holding-you done good.

john said...

Little America in Flagstaff is the only place to stay. Unless you travel with a pet.

Kate Danaher said...

Didn't Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, used to periodically load luggage into the planes?

madAsHell said...

Little America!!
It's the only truck stop that I wanted to visit again.

edutcher said...

Did he ever enter into any partnerships with Anthony Weiner?

Mitchell the Bat said...

A heavily advertised truck stop with 60 rooms is going to get you a lot of sodomites.

MartyH said...

I hope that our President and former SecState don't deliver the eulogy:

"What does it matter that he used to bus his own tables?"

"That 3.2 billion net worth from practically nothing? He didn't build that."

dbp said...

Mr. Holding and his family seemed very down-to-earth in my small observations of them.

I worked in Sun Valley for a while after college and for a week or two, the family was up in Idaho to look over a major design revision on a condo complex. While they were there, I ran into Holding and his wife in a unit and they were attempting to empty a vacuum cleaner. I took over the job since they were doing it in (let us say it was an odd way which would have taken a long time) but I was impressed that they didn't just get help.

I would hope that in the unlikey event of my becoming a billionare, I would still be as normal as the Holdings all seemed to be.

ndspinelli said...

I just drove past the Sinclair refinery in Wyoming last week.

T J Sawyer said...

My parents (and I)stopped at Little America in 1947 on a trip east from Portland in our brand new DeSoto. There weren't any other choices in that part of Wyoming. For the next forty years, my mother would recount this as the worst motel stay ever! Apparently there was a party going on all night long in a nearby unit.

G Joubert said...

When I was a child in the 50s my family did a coast-to-coast and back again road trip and we spent one night at Little America in Green River, WY. I remember it well. Quite a place in those days. And, yes, it was before the interstate highway system was built. Holding built it in anticipation of the freeway going through there. Which I-80 ultimately did.

ndspinelli said...

The Little America signs on I-80 are almost as ubiquitous as Wall Drug bumper stickers. But, how can you not love a road that goes from the GW Bridge to the Pacific w/o a traffic light. I wonder how quickly you could make that drive solo w/ some amphetamines and a milk jug.

DADvocate said...

I see David noticed what I noticed.

Follow the Interstate, a recipe for success for many. I believe the only Cracker Barrel restaurant not on an Interstate is in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Larry J said...

Follow the Interstate, a recipe for success for many. I believe the only Cracker Barrel restaurant not on an Interstate is in Pigeon Forge, TN.

I know of one in Huntsville, AL that isn't near an interstate. I'm sure there are others in the country but you're right, most that I've seen are near interstates.

Alex said...

What a great American. One of the 1%, but instead we're supposed to worship welfare queens.

Craig said...

My family moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Sedro-Woolley, Washington, the week after Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. We stayed overnight at Little America and had breakfast in a very large coffee shop there. My younger brother was two years old and I was seven. One of my responsibilities on the trip was to supervise my baby brother at rest stops so he wouldn't have to go once we were on the road. His aim wasn't real good so he always took his pants off to urinate. I had to hold him up high enough so he could hit the urinal. He's always been quite impulsive and was even more so then. He decided he didn't want to hang around to try and put his pants and shoes back on and bolted for the rest room door. My mother was back at the breakfast table awaiting our return. She could tell we were on the way by the wave of pointing, tittering and giggling rolling towards her through the long rows of breakfast tables. It was January and the floor in Little America was very cold for people wearing pants and shoes and much colder for those without them. The legend of Little America is that it was established on the site of a small vacant cabin where a traveler found refuge from a blizzard that would otherwise have taken his life. The place must have had several hundred gas pumps lined up in a row the length of the motel. If you go outside on the prairie side of the motel all of the stones and pebbles are flat and smoothly polished on the upturned side by the dust and the wind.