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Bob McCracken Knew In His Heart

By far the most influential addition of the 1950s was Bob McCracken. He came to work for Patrick Lumber Company, starting September 1, 1957, but not before he did an “apprenticeship” at the B. P. John Furniture Company.

Bob was living in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood with his brother Paul, Paul’s wife Sally, and their son John after graduating from the University of Oregon in 1956. He’d gone to school on a full Aaron Frank Scholarship, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and fulfilled the active duty requirement that came with his commission as a U.S. Army Reserve Second Lieutenant.

Paul, who would later become very well known in the industry as one of the two “Macs” to found Tumac Lumber Company, was working in the wholesale lumber business for Hallinan and Mackin Lumber Co. From Bob’s vantage point, Paul must have looked pretty successful, with his young family and new home in a nice neighborhood. Bob decided that he, too wanted to get into the lumber business and he asked Paul to help him.

Like most folks in the lumber business in Portland, Paul knew of Patrick Lumber Company and he suggested to Bob that he should go see Jack Patrick to see about getting a job there. Jack agreed to meet with him, but he told Bob, as Jack’s father had once told Jack, that if he wanted to be successful as a lumber trader, he’d first have to go work in the woods or a mill to gain some industry experience.

Bob was a little discouraged by that prospect, but Paul helped him land a job working in the mill at the B.P. John Furniture Company, located n Macadam Avenue, across from what is now Johns Landing.

“Paul would drop Bob off at the mill every morning on his way to work,” recalls Sally McCracken. “Bob was not a hard laboring type of person. He was too dignified for that. I would go by with our son John, who was about two or three at the time, and we would pick Bob up after work and he’d be all hot a sweaty. Bob would get in the car and there would be nothing said, until after about a block or so, he’d just say ‘shit.’”

Bob kept working at the mill for several months until finally he’d had enough and he when back to see Jack Patrick. Jack had first met Bob at that courtesy interview he did at Paul’s behest. There is no record of what might have been said during that interview. Maybe a promise was made, or maybe there wasn’t. But here was Bob, back in Jack’s office after almost a year, announcing that he’d successfully completed his mill-hand apprenticeship and he was ready to go to work for Patrick Lumber Company as a lumber trader. Jack, embarrassed that he didn’t remember or even recall the suggestion, agreed give Bob a shot at the lumber trading business.

Pat Burns remembers stories Bob used to tell about his earliest days with the Company. “My grandfather was still around when Bob started here,” Pat recalls. “As Bob told it, Charlie Patrick didn’t particularly trust this newcomer, Bob, and he wanted to make sure he knew what was happening with the business.

“Bob was given a desk that was within about 10 feet of my grandfather’s desk. He wanted to hear what was going on between Bob and the mills. In the beginning C.C. wanted to see all of Bob’s written correspondence. He basically monitored everything that was going in and out. He didn’t trust anything Bob was doing and it took Bob a while to gain that trust. He wanted to make sure that what Bob was doing was being dome ‘the Patrick way’

“I remember Bob saying to me, ‘I graduated from college and then I went back to grade school working at Patrick Lumber my first two years, sitting beside your grandfather.’”

It wouldn’t take long for Bob to learn the ropes and start having a major impact on the business.