When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, I was fortunate enough to live only a block and a half from the railroad tracks. My friends and I played next to the tracks almost every day, especially during the summer. There was something about a train passing by as we stood as close to it as we dared that never lost its ability to excite us. The freight trains were the most impressive. The strength of the steel cars and the noise they made as they passed over the tracks was almost hypnotic. You could see it on our faces.
I haven’t seen that look for a long time, but I saw something close to it recently while attending the christening ceremonies in New Orleans for Blessey Marine‘s newest towboat, the Richard Tolar.
Walter Blessey, the company’s owner and CEO, had just relinquished the podium to another speaker and stepped aside. As the speaker addressed the audience, a Blessey tow passed by on the Mississippi River. The pilot sent a series of blasts from his horn as the tow traveled across to our position. Everyone stopped and acknowledged the salute then went back to the proceedings at hand. Everyone that is, except Walter Blessey and me.
Mr. Blessey went over to the railing running along the dock, fixated on the tow, seemingly drawn to it by an unknown force. I stayed where I was, off to the side of the audience, leaning against a light post watching him watching it.
This wasn’t the boss keeping an eye on his equipment, making sure his crew was carrying out their appointed duties.
No, this was a man enjoying himself, full of pride, yes, but also full of wonder. He liked what he saw. He liked the whole idea of it.
I got the feeling that if a hundred more passed by he would stay there and take in each one with the same deference – the same wonder.
He told me later, “If you’re in this business just for the bottom line, the dollars and cents, you won’t last. I really believe that.”
For Walter Blessey, that’s the bottom line.