1922: Businessman A. Elmo Hudson

From a 1922 issue of The American Magazine:

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A Bedfast Executive Whose Office Never Closes

Completely paralyzed from the waist down, unable to sit propped up in bed for any length of time, A. Elmo Hudson has overcome his physical handicaps to such an extent that he is one of the most “active” business men in Kansas City.

When customers call the Santa Fé Transfer Company in Kansas City, only a very small percentage of them realize that the cheerful voice taking their orders belongs to a man who is speaking into the telephone from his bed.

When purchasers of tires for automobiles and trucks transact their business, they seldom, if ever, know that the accommodating agent at the other end of the line is a paralytic who turns painfully on one side from the telephone to record the sales.

Hudson’s bed for seven years has served as his office, swivel chair, filing cabinet, telephone table — business headquarters twenty-four hours a day.

With no capital save a broken-down old motor car, Hudson, without leaving his bed, has built up a prosperous transfer business. He also has a big trade as a salesman of tires, holding the agencies for several companies. Sales for one company alone amount yearly to between five thousand and six thousand dollars.

There are few idle moments in the life of this bedfast invalid.

“Go to 2100 Blank street, load of furniture,” he will call through the window at the side of his bed to one of his men in the yard and then reach for an insistent, jangling telephone.

“Santa Fé Transfer Company,” he answers. “Trunks? Yes, we’ll take ’em as soon as our next wagon’s in. That’ll be” — he stops to consult a schedule — “in about twenty minutes. What’s the address?”

He then turns from the telephone to shout through the window, “How’s she comin’, Bill?” to a man working on the engine of a truck outside.

“Better clean your magneto next,” he directs. “Be sure to fill your transmission with hard grease and take up your bearings.”

So it goes from early in the morning until far into the night hours.

Hudson was mechanic for the Kansas City Board of Education when his affliction came upon him seven years ago. Through his knowledge of mechanics he personally directs all the repair work on his trucks, which is done in the yard just outside the big window which stretches the entire length of his bed.

Incoming and outgoing trucks stop under that window, and their drivers receive their orders from the bedfast manager, whose sensitive ear can detect instantly whether or not the engines are chugging rhythmically, and whose quick eye can tell at once which tires need more air.

An electric fan on the window sill keeps Hudson’s “office” cool in summer. Two telephones are near by, one on each side of the bed. Pencils, pads of paper, ledgers, all other office equipment, are at hand.

An electric light is attached to the head of the bed. No matter at what hour of the night the telephone rings, Hudson turns on his light, takes down the receiver and records the transfer order for the next day.

Shortly after Hudson received his stroke, he faced poverty, and was almost becoming insane through worry. He had a wife and two small children to support, and after the first doctors’ bills were paid the only entry on the credit side of the ledger was a worn-out, five-passenger motor car. He had a new body put on this, hired a youth to drive for him, installed a telephone and opened up business from his bed. In spite of the intense pain he suffered and his helpless condition, he developed his business, unaided, until he became able to purchase a small truck.

All of his activities steadily grew, and now his business is so large that he is thinking of disposing of it and of starting in something else on a smaller scale that can be more easily managed from a bed.

The secret of his business success in spite of his great handicaps, Hudson says, lies in seeking to have satisfied customers.

“Always give satisfaction,” he tells his men, “no matter at what cost to the company.”

A bigger reward than money in his business, Hudson says, is the fact that it has kept his mind occupied.

“I always had a fear of getting grouchy and pessimistic, as are so many cripples,” he says. “This way I don’t have time to think about myself. One of the biggest things I have got out of this.experience is the insurance that even a bedridden man doesn’t have to be down and out.”

— TINA LINDSAY

Original page image from The American Magazine (a composite of two partial pages), click to enlarge:

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