Even though the article below was published in 1997, it provides a great biographical sketch of Dick Glover’s life. It gives insight into the background and experiences that helped equip him to serve citizens on Henrico’s Board of Supervisors.
“DICK GLOVER – Chairman of the Board”
Author: Charles G. McGuigan
September, 1997 – Northside Magazine
Dick Glover’s [former] home on Lydell Drive is an unassuming brick rancher that sits on a grassy knoll. There’s a late model Chrysler Imperial and a blue Dodge Dynasty under the carport, and a red and white Dodge pickup sits parked, its chrome gleaming, in the partial shade of a small stand of trees on the back of the property line.
Dressed down today in khaki slacks and a forest green short-sleeved shirt, Dick answers the front door. His father-in-law, Robert E. Sadler, who has lived with the family since they moved here nearly three decades ago, is taking small, slow steps across the living room floor, his hands gripping a walker. He moves toward a chair next to the couch and, with back stiff, slowly lowers himself to the cushion, then settles in.
Dick gestures toward the walker. “He said to me recently that his walker’s become a creeper,” he says. “You know he’s lived with us since 1968 and it’s been great. He was with our kids and we always had him here. And we all learned from him. America needs to get back to having three generations living under one roof. You learn from those who have lived.”
We enter his study and Dick sits by his desk. He opens a drawer and roots through it until he finds a short length of wood, rounded and pointed at one end like a horn. It is of dark wood-walnut, perhaps-and smoothed and polished by continuous palming. “That’s a plant peg,” says Dick, fisting it and holding it like a dagger, then thrusting it into the imaginary earth. “If the ground was in order, all day long you’d go along and punch holes every few inches into the top of the hill and drop in the tobacco plants.”
A COUNTRY BOYHOOD
Dick adjusts his aviator glasses, lowers the well-worn plant peg to the desk. He’s thinking about his father and the tobacco farm down in Lunenburg County. He’s thinking about working in those fields as a boy.
When the tobacco-great pagoda spires of leaves-began to mature, he would “pull” tobacco, starting at the base of the stalk, tearing off four leaves from each plant, tucking the leaves in the crook of his armpit, moving up between the mounds, until the load was too large, and then carefully lowering the valued leaves onto the mule-drawn tobacco slide-a long narrow sled that kept pace with the progress in the fields.
Dick bends down, and in a rhythmic motion, starts pulling imaginary tobacco leaves, tucking them between arm and torso, showing how it was done those many years ago. “I knew how to pull tobacco,” he says.
When the tobacco slide was full, it was drawn to the barn, a building ringed in a series of flues that fed back into a furnace box on the outside. All during that flue-curing process, Dick’s father would stoke the furnace box with pine logs until the temperature inside was perfect.
Once the barn was filled, keeping a watchful eye on the temperature became even more critical. So Dick and his father would sleep in cots under a lean-to built along the outside of the barn, would sleep through the summer’s night as the tobacco cured in the barn. All through the night the fires burned and Dick’s father would periodically check the temperature, adding more fuel when necessary, checking the leaves to make sure they hadn’t dried out and become brittle. And as soon as the leaves throughout the barn were just so, his father doused the embers in the furnace, loaded the tobacco onto a wagon and hauled it to the pack house where it was stored.
Before he trucked it to the tobacco auction blocks of Danville, South Hill or South Boston, Armstead Boyd Glover would examine each tobacco leaf carefully. “In all,” says Dick,”I think he had about five or six different grades.” The leaves were then tied together and laid out in bundles, all ready for market. “You know he just farmed three or four acres of tobacco, but it was just enough,”Dick remembers “One year, his best ever, he got eighty seven cents a pound and he was elated.”
Though the Glovers never made a vast amount on the crop, they supplemented their income by raising their own vegetables along with a couple of cows and pigs, a scattering of chickens.”We had our own smokehouse and we’d have to coat the meat with Skipper compound to keep the bugs away. Till this day I won’t eat any of that skin you get on a smoked ham.”
By the time Dick was eleven, his parents sold the farm and moved to nearby Victoria, where his father went to work for the Virginian Railroad, which merged ten years later, in 1957, with Norfolk and Western. His father started as a pipe fitter and eventually moved to the yard.
The railroad was the core of the town’s economy. “There was a one million dollar payroll and only about fifteen hundred people lived in Victoria,” Dick explains. The voice of the railroad yards, a shrill whistle, would punctuate the air each day at seven in the morning, at noon, three in the afternoon and eleven at night, signaling the changing shifts. “You didn’t wear a watch in Victoria,” says Dick.”You just listened for the whistle.”
Throughout his youth, Dick Glover heard the trains, watched the engines straining with their burden of coal cars coming out of West Virginia destined for Tidewater and deepwater ports. On October 29, 1953 at age 18, Dick Glover left his family home and reported to Bainbridge, Maryland. He left school before his senior year to enlist in the Navy, and in his voice, still, there is a hint of regret. “I can relate to a lot of young people who have difficulty,” he says. “I’d simply lost interest in school. But after I finished with the Navy I went back and finished high school. And in that one year of high school, I learned more than I learned in all previous years.”
During his two years in the Navy Dick Glover also learned a thing or two. He was a country boy, whose universe until that point had been delineated by the boundaries of his native county with occasional trips to Richmond and Danville, South Boston and other neighboring towns and cities.
That changed abruptly. After completing basic training in Maryland, he and other raw recruits took a train out to San Diego. At Imperial Beach he attended radio school for 16 weeks.”And then I went off to Guam,” he says with mounting excitement in his voice. “It was all something to see. Each village celebrated the feast of their Guardian Angel! They kept their doors open twenty-four hours, forty-eight,and some seventy-two hours. They were amazing celebrations.”
He talks about the mosquitoes and the iguanas and the snails on the island. “Guam is a coral island,” he says. “And you could walk five hundred feet out in the water to the edge of the reef where the surf was breaking. You had to wear rubber shoes, though. The coral would cut you.”
On the pistol range one day Dick had to fire 21 rounds from his .45 sidearm at a target. “It was a massive target,” says Dick, then adds with a grin, “I only hit it three times.” A Marine Sergeant gave Dick a little advice. “He told me,” Dick remembers, “‘If you ever encounter the enemy, don’t fire, just throw the gun at them.'”
When he returned to Virginia he finished his senior year of high school. “I went to South Boston because they had chemistry and physics labs there,” he says. “They didn’t have that in Victoria.” After graduation, Dick moved to Richmond with the intent of studying pharmacy at the Medical College of Virginia.
“I’d been accepted and I was supposed to start on September fourth,” he says. Two days before he was to begin classes, at the entrance of the building housing the School of Pharmacy, he struck up a conversation with an older man. “I didn’t know who it was, he turned out to be a dean or a professor,” Dick remembers. He told the man that he had reservations about pharmacy. “Well,” this man told him,”if you’re not sure about pharmacy, you probably shouldn’t study it, because it requires a lot of work and commitment.”
Dick took his advice and enrolled in a business program at Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I studied for about a year and then I fell in love,” he says.
Joan Sadler worked for C &P Telephone and lodged in the home of Dick Glover’s aunt on Noble Avenue in Ginter Park. At the urging of his aunt, Dick visited Joan. “I met her on July 13, 1957; I proposed on September 22, 1957-her birthday; and we were married on February 1, 1958,” says Dick.
“We’ve been married forty years now and I’ve told her, ‘If you ever leave me, I’m going with you.’ I thought she was the prettiest thing I had ever laid my eyes on and I still do. She has always supported me, and has been a wonderful wife and mother.”
PLACE AND PRESERVATION
Dick invites me for a tour of Brookland District. It is a diverse area, a mixture of commercial and light industry, retail and residential-from modest homes to massive estates.
As we drive along the perimeter of the district, it is evident that Dick knows quite well the area and its inhabitants. He ticks off name after name as we drive. As we pull into Tall Timbers, Dick explains how the street names were derived from an Italian woman named Contessa Attems who had owned a portion of the land that makes up the development. “Behind everyone of these names there’s a history.”
The preservation of historic places is of great importance to the Brookland District Supervisor. He’s proud of the deal he helped negotiate that added historic Walkerton to the county’s real estate holdings. He laments the razing of the old Forest Lodge on Mountain Road, wishes there was something he could do to preserve the old Laurel School at Hungary and Purcell roads.
Dick pulls off Old Washington Highway in front of the old Glen Allen Elementary School. There’s a spray of loose gravel and crunching under the tires as we come to a stop. Construction workers are hanging duct work in the main part of the building. Two carpenters set a new window in place and Dick smiles at the work.
Bit by bit now, this old school, which had been boarded up for years, is undergoing a transformation to become the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. It was Dick who convinced fellow board of supervisors members that it would be a crowning jewel for Henrico. When completed sometime next spring it will be the largest municipal cultural arts center in the state and home to theatre, music, the visual arts and more.
Dick remembers how the idea came to him. While attending a play at Belmont Recreation Center, he noticed that the actors, after finishing a scene and exiting, would somehow emerge through the side door of the building in time for their next appearance on stage. There is no back door to the small rectangular building at Belmont, so Dick was perplexed. After the production concluded he asked someone how this was done and was told that the players had to climb out a window backstage and run up to the side door.
“I thought, why can’t Henrico County in all its splendor be able to provide adequate services for the creative element in our community,” he says. He immediately thought of the auditorium of the old Glen Allen School and in time his vision grew. “Why not build a center that would house all the arts? We have all these wonderful buildings that should be preserved. Let’s do it. This will give the budding artists throughout central Virginia an opportunity to express themselves. It will be great for both participant and spectator.”
He convinced the board of supervisors to commit more than $8.5 million for the renovation. And since then the county has created a foundation for the cultural arts center that will solicit funding from area businesses and corporations to make the facility a public-private partnership. In the words of a salesman, Dick had closed the deal.
We backtrack and head over to the RF&P Park tucked back behind Meadow Farm. “If you take care of kids and seniors, you’re doing what a county government should do,” Dick says as he pulls into a complex of playing fields which includes a football field and seven baseball fields-three of which are designated for girl’s softball. There’s adequate parking along with rest rooms and concession stands, lighting and even wiring for video cameras. There’s an RF&P boxcar, deep blue, for equipment storage. And off to one side a cellular communications tower. “They needed a sixty by sixty foot piece of land,” says Dick. “We gave it to them and they donated sixty seven thousand dollars to the complex. We lease the whole park from RF&P for something like one dollar a year. It took a lot of negotiating. It’s the kind of thing that goes on behind the scenes.”
IT’S THE SALESMAN IN DICK GLOVER
It’s the salesman in Dick Glover, his ability to negotiate and look for ways that the county can provide exceptional services at reasonable costs. Which all makes sense when you consider that Dick Glover worked, for the better part of his life, as a salesman and an entrepreneur.
Shortly after he was married, Dick understood that he enjoyed sales, the meeting with people. “In those days I was selling insurance and doing very menial jobs,” he says, “I was trying to find my niche, was looking for an ideal sales job.”
He went to work in 1958 for Strietman Biscuit Company in Scott’s Addition as a warehouse manager’s helper. He unloaded cookies off boxcars and set them up for the sales staff for $72 a week, $69 take home pay.
Bernard Powell, who was the sales supervisor between Norfolk and Richmond at Strietman gave me my first chance to be a salesman,” says Dick with apparent fondness. “He’d take me out in the field and show me how to rotate cookies, how to make sure you always had real fresh cookies on the racks. He showed me the ropes.”
And soon, Dick was given a sales area of his own. “They gave me the smallest territory in terms of dollar value,” he says, and I turned it into one of the biggest areas in terms of dollar value. I broke some records with Zesta Crackers. No one had ever reached a thousand dozen in one month. And then I did.”
His territory included most of South Side Richmond, out Hull Street and Midlothian and down Jeff Davis Highway, and then a good section of the Northern Neck. Miller’s Tavern, Urbanna, White Stone, Kilmarnock, Heathsville, Reedville and then back to Tappahannock. He’d spend the night in Tappahannock, would often eat in the now defunct Ben Davis’ Quick Lunch. Fresh rockfish in season. Good home cooking.
“I liked to hear the way the people talk in the Northern Neck, how they’d say, ‘Deed, so, ‘Deed it is,” says Dick. “It was a good time in my life.”
He remembers selling to Ukrop’s out on Hull Street when they had only one store. “I remember Jimmy coming out of William and Mary and going to work in the family business,” he says. “He was one of the fairest managers I ever called on. He was careful and considerate of his employees. He began to develop himself into the role that he would eventually assume. I watched as his professionalism showed through.”
At about that time, the Ukrops opened the store at Buford Road and Midlothian Turnpike. “It was a nice big store, probably the largest one in Richmond,” says Dick. “Jimmy began to give me off-shelf displays. That’s a big thing in selling in retail.” And, in part, because of Jimmy Ukrop’s generosity in this regard, Dick was able to sell [a lot] of crackers and cookies.
It was sometime in September-“soup season”-and Campbell’s was offering a deal that if you bought a can of their soup and a box of crackers and sent them the labels, they would reimburse you for the full price of the crackers. “Jimmy let me build another display for the crackers,” says Dick, “And let me tell you, I sold crackers like you wouldn’t believe.”
Some time later, Jimmy Ukrop again let Dick Glover build a display for cookies.
It was called the Treasure Chest, a cardboard display describing a pirate’s chest with the lid open. It was filled to the brim with Fudge Stripes, Milk Chocolate Grahams, Penguins and Fudge Sticks. Dick set it up on Monday morning, loading it with 35 dozen boxes of cookies. By early afternoon it was sold out. He restocked the display and by Saturday it was empty again. “It was a great day and they kept selling,” says Dick.
He vividly recalls a thin slice of time, a Friday afternoon in the fall as he was finishing up his rounds along Hull Street. He had just finished up at Ukrop’s and was headed to the A&P when the radio announcer said that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.” I pulled off the road,” he says. “It was a chilling feeling. I can feel it right now, but I can’t really describe it. It was chilling.”
It was about this time that Dick decided he wanted to get into the sale of non-food products. “I had built the territory up real well, but I needed a change,” he says.
That’s when he went to work for ChapStick, which had recently been bought out by A. H. Robins. “I used to call on virtually every drug store in Virginia,” he says. “Except for Northern Virginia, I did most of the state.”
ChapStick decided to put together a national sales force. “They sent me to Atlanta where I was district manager,” says Dick. “I worked with sales people covering eight and a half states. We started hiring our own sales force and began letting go of the manufacturer’s reps.”
Two years later, Dick was transferred back to Richmond. He became manager of special accounts including one with the Army and Air Force Exchange out of Dallas, Texas-a very lucrative contract as it served virtually every base in the world, a lot of ChapStick.
GOING OUT ON HIS OWN
In 1971 he left A. H. Robins and started his own manufacturer’s repping business for the Southeast.”I started it from scratch: Dick says. “And no sooner had I started it than I said, “Dick, what have you done?” He managed to get some manufacturers to let him rep. He handled items like Protein Plus Shampoo-a generic. The price was right. Unfortunately, shipping costs were prohibitively high. “I had a bunch of those kinds of lines and pretty early on I realized I needed better product lines,” says Dick.
So, with brief case in hand, he went to the New York Variety Show that August. He walked from one display to another and managed to pick up quite a few lines. Leather Tree watch bands, Ethical rubber goods, Warren Pet Products and Blistex.
“Then I picked up TetraMin fish food,” says Dick. “I was one of their first reps. And it was a great product.” He quickly hired sales reps to handle the new product line-in Charlotte, Richmond and Jacksonville, Florida. He gave the reps 70 percent of the commission and 30 percent went to him. Things were rolling along just fine.
And then in 1973 came a sharp spike in gasoline prices. “It really killed me,” he says. Two years later, he sold the company.
But in the interim, Dick had bought Toppings Letter Service for $2,500 and embarked in yet a new direction.” It was repetitive typing,” he says. “And though I never got rich, I had some great experiences.”
In that same timeframe, Dick became a broker for Scott Packaging and Import. That import company had just purchased 39,000 oil-based artificial Christmas trees. It was Dick’s job to sell them.
He lifts his hand from the steering wheel and snaps his fingers. “I sold them just like that,” he says. “And they got so excited they ordered another 24,000 trees.” He shakes his head slowly. “The problem was that they didn’t arrive until December fifteenth,” says Dick. “No one wants firecrackers after the Fourth of July.” And worse still, the goods were damaged. In the cold holes of freighters steaming from China, the plastic spines of many of the trees had split and cracked.
“My real loss was the loss of time,” Dick says. “It was devastating.” He still has the judgment he got against the importers-a judgment for more than $112,000. Dick never saw a nickel of it.
Meanwhile, the repetitive typing business was beginning to flourish. He used part-timers to type in addresses, essentially personalizing letters for mass marketing. Things were building slowly, but steadily.
And then Phil McKown, who used to own Custom Mailers, approached Dick and asked if he could handle 32,000 pieces in six weeks. “I had never done more than seven thousand in a month,” Dick admits, “But I told him yes I could but I’d need a purchase order so I could borrow money to buy a couple of pieces of equipment.”
The equipment he needed was actually dated technology at the time; autotype, pneumatic typewriters. And though the technology was almost passé’, the price was right. Dick went to Chicago, learned how to use the new equipment, then returned to Richmond and began to work. But there were problems keeping the paper straight in the platens of the typewriters. They needed constant adjusting and they were driving Dick nuts.
“Two weeks had already gone by and I had only done about three thousand letters,” he says.”The September 2 deadline was creeping up.”
Phil McKown, understandably, was getting nervous. It was, after all, his contract. Three weeks into the job only about 10 percent of it was completed. Finally, though, Dick got a handle on the technology. “I began to really produce and I began to understand the system,” he says. “I would stay in the office over on High Point Avenue twenty-four hours. And we made it. I got it done and delivered at 4 p.m. on September 2.”
A steady stream of smaller jobs continued to flow into the business. Then, someone from Avon in New York called and asked Dick if he could produce 76,000 letters in ten weeks. “I said, ‘Yeah’, I never said no to anyone,” he explains.
To achieve this number, Dick went to Bela Kurper in Silver Spring, Maryland, a man who owned the patent of the Edit Writer and who had upgraded the magtype systems of the day. “He was really knocking out some letters, “Dick says. He leased six of the machines and finished the job which lasted four months instead of ten short weeks.
Avon called again. This time they wanted 66,000 letters in three weeks. “It was the first time I hesitated,” says Dick. “But then I said, ‘I think so.'” Dick went down to Norfolk and purchased a much faster system. He bought two of them-each for $19,000 with the understanding that if they didn’t cut it, the man who sold him the machines would put his own staff to work to finish the job. From then on, Dick Glover did 66,000 letters for Avon each quarter. This, in addition to the 10,000 pieces he was handling every week.
“I became a sizable business and moved out to Highland Springs in 1978,” says Dick. “You always had to stay out in front with the technology. The largest order I ever did was one million one hundred and seventeen thousand pieces in seven days.”
In 1982, he sold the business but continued running it for three years. And as part of the sale agreement, his two sons, one of his daughters and his wife worked for the company. Dick went on the Planning Commission in 1984,” he says. “And I was first elected Supervisor in 1987 and I soon realized it was a full-time job.”
We drive down Lakeside Avenue and Dick pulls briefly into Axselle’s Auto. Bob checks under the hood, talks with Dick, nodding his head. “I want to see this area take off, “Dick says. “I know these people, I live with them, I go to church with them over at Hatcher and I have to look them in the eyes.
The hardest thing about being a supervisor is not being able to provide all things to all people at all times. We have a lot of the money in place now for the Enhancement Plan on Lakeside. Construction’s going to start in October sometime, I think. Next year I’ll be able to get another lump from the board hopefully. This year it went to other projects in other districts.”
As we ride back toward Laurel, up and down the hilly terrain of Woodman Road, sunlight flickering like a strobe through the tree limbs, Dick says, “I want Brookland to be a safe residential community from Lakeside to the Chickahominy. I want to see a harmonious community where people can live and recreate without difficulty of getting where they want to get. We need to deeply examine our educational system. Our government should do things that people have difficulty doing for themselves–building roads, education, public safety. Basic needs. If the rock’s too big, one person can’t move it.”
He stops at the traffic light at Parham Road, the right blinker light flashing. “I am a conservative,” he says, “Not a libertarian, though I don’t think we should over-regulate. I never have a problem defending my positions because I get people involved in making the decisions. I want their input. I represent these people and the public makes good decisions when they’re aware of what’s going on.”
We pull into his drive back on Lydell. He opens his door, stands there for a second, blinks his eyes, smiles, extends his hand as if he’s about to close a deal. He looks down at his shoes. He toes at the gravel. “I’ve had enough hard knocks in my life to relate to other people and their problems,” he says with the sincerity of a country boy.
September, 1997 * NORTHSIDE MAGAZINE