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The life of a traveling salesman

Today the Fair Oaks Lodge story is that of Raymond Johnson, a top salesman, as well as a bit about his wife, Leona (Lee) Johnson. While she was assistant librarian several years ago, Lee could well have checked out your books at the Wadena Library.

Ray was born in Osakis in 1920 to Seiver and Mary. Seiver taught the while he also ran a farm. They had eight children.

After graduating from high school in Sauk Centre, Ray got a degree from an Alexandria normal training school and began teaching all eight grades in a country school.

Ray joined the Air Force in 1943, where he landed as mail clerk and censor. He was stationed in Australia and New Guinea as well as other basis.

When Ray hears that 33 species of the venomous death adder thrive only in New Guinea swamps and savannas, he believes every word. The memory of an immense snake, like 30 feet, that held up the exercise while it crossed their trail in New Guinea is still with him.

It was also while in New Guinea that Ray experienced the shortest Christmas vacation on record. The troops had three entire hours to do as they wanted.

The year 1945 saw Ray out of the Air Force and back in Sauk Centre where he was talked into doing another hitch in a country school until they found another teacher.

The next phase of his life, that of a salesman, lasted a long time, until 1980 when Ray retired.

Certain qualities go into the making of a successful salesman, like relating to strangers, sincerity, and being able to sell an intangible product. Ray had all of the components.

Ray married Leona Anderson, who was born in Osakis. After graduating from high school in Sauk Centre she attended Concordia College in Moorhead and became a teacher, a job she kept until her own family began coming along.

Ray was on the road five days of a week selling insurance for Mutual of Omaha and National Travelers Insurance. His longest employment was selling United States National Chamber of Commerce memberships. His customers were professional people in five states for 20 years.

Now loop back with me at least 50 years, when music played a definite part in life for the Johnson family.

Music was an integral part of Ray's life. A fine voice kept him singing in choirs. The clarinet was the instrument he excelled in, but also played the violin and accordion. Music was an ideal "out" for anyone stuck behind the steering wheel of his car for at least 50,000 miles a year.

Much of the time there was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle vying for room in the Johnson garage, next to what was likely a Nash Rambler, Ray's favorite breed of car. Traveling many miles each year made it imperative for Ray to get a new car every two or three years. Early roads left much to be desired.

The Johnson family took vacations to interesting places over the years. Ray toyed with the idea of becoming a jeweler to the point where he did a bit of research on it. Becoming a mortician even huddled back in the recesses of his mind. We are wondering, did those thoughts appear while he was wrestling his Nash over a bad road? Maybe during that seven-year stretch he crisscrossed his territory in a North Dakota winter?

The Johnson family have made Wadena their home since 1962. After retiring, Ray drove cars for the New York Mills car auction for nearly seven years.

Ray and Lee have been married 58 years. They have four children, 11 grandchildren, and are the great-grandparents of three.

One of Ray's stock of jokes is about a farmer who asked a hard boiled banker for a loan. After consideration, the banker said, "If you can tell me which is my glass eye, I will give you the loan."

He was sure the farmer wouldn't. Nobody guessed right.

"Your left eye is glass," the farmer said.

Surprised, the banker replied, "That's right, but how did you know?"

"Because your left one is the friendly eye."

He got a loan.