“Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it explodes in your face. Keep your eyes open. Be fleet on your feet.”
—Harold “Chubby” Hague, Businessman, Remarkable Dad, Toaster King
by Greg Hague
My dad’s nickname was Chubby. I never knew why though, he was so fit and trim. “A name he picked up in the Air Force during the war,” Mom said. I asked him once… “I had that name before I knew I had it!” he laughed. “My old war buddies stuck me with it. I still have no idea why. I mean, look at me!”
After the war, Chubby came back home to Cincinnati. Married mom. Had me and my sister, Linda. Many of those war buddies came home too, and they needed to buy homes. Dad saw an opportunity.
A short exam. A fifty-cent fee. He picked up his real estate license at the local apothecary (how times have changed). The Harold W. Hague Company was born.
Dad worked incessantly. His company flourished. Most clients needed loans to buy homes. He saw another opportunity.
Dad founded Columbia Savings and Loan. Rented a small building right across the street from his real estate office. In those days, a savings & loan earned a profit the old fashioned way — by accepting deposits, then making loans from those deposits. Dad needed deposits.
Introducing Dad’s Incredible Toaster Plan!
Dad ran an ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“Deposit $500 for at least six months at Columbia S&L. You Receive A Free Toaster Now!”
Major buzz around town. An unprecedented idea. The promotion started on a Saturday morning. I rode with Mom to the bank in my Sunday best, a pressed white shirt and tie. Chubby dubbed me “Toaster Transporter.” I would help customers carry them to their cars. My first real job with Dad. I was giddy.
We rounded the corner onto Montgomery Road… Our jaws fell open. It couldn’t be. But, oh yes, it was…
A line of customers snaked down the street! Hundreds. Standing. Waiting.
Dad immediately pulled us into the back room.
“Catherine, take Greg and round up every toaster in town! We’ll be out of toasters in an hour!”
And so it began. Just like that, my job description changed from transportation to acquisition. Mom and I went out on the hunt. We cleaned out the first department store. 37 toasters.
“We need more,” Dad said frantically upon our return. “A lot more…” We rushed out for 50 more. When we returned, Dad was a mess, too frenzied to speak. More people. Fewer toasters. We could clearly see. Again, we ventured out. Mom called Dad to check in from a pay phone. “More toasters!” he pleaded. “We need more toasters!” Mom and I hit every store in town.
Hundreds of toasters when all was said and done. Every customer went home with one that day.
At dinner that night, I naively asked Chubby, “Dad, how come you didn’t know all those people would show up for toasters today?” Chubby looked up from his dinner smiling, as if he was waiting for me to ask.
“Son, most times you can see an opportunity and seize it, like I did in real estate.
But sometimes, you don’t know what you have until it explodes in your face, like the toaster frenzy you witnessed today.
I didn’t see it coming, but I was quick on my feet. That is the key.”
Chubby knew how to react. He knew when to attack and when to pull back.
Chubby watched for opportunities and then jumped like a cat.
A great lesson indeed, from Chubby, my dad.