I had a conversation at the time with a friend of mine about making wine and it seemed pretty simple--it was easy to make wine, all we needed was money for supplies. Never mind that I didn’t drink. If we could get money we could make wine for parties for kids our age in high school. Never mind the fact that we never intended to make any wine. What we really needed was money to make a canon--a real canon that shot off something. You couldn’t sell stocks to fund a canon, but you could sell stock for a wine making business particularly to high school kids.
I had a group of friends who signed off on the idea right away. We had a guy who was a second in state wrestler, a pretty good offensive tackle and was perfect for our Sargent at Arms. We had a guy who was so darned good looking the girls literally swooned as he walked by. He would be a good President. There was another guy who could talk you into anything if he set his mind to it. He would be our head of sales. There was another guy who knew how to make wine and the canon. For lack of a more appropriate place for him he was named vice president. Then there was me. I came up with the idea but more importantly I could make the stock since my Dad had a stencil machine and my Mom could type up the stencil for the stock. So logically I became the Secretary. I told my parents of the plan leaving out a few of the details. They must have known something was up, but also must have thought this would be such a wonderful learning experience for me. Oh Parents. How wonderfully naïve they are. I only learned how naïve they could be when I became a parent myself. So one Saturday my stencils for the stock in T.R.E.L. were made and I (literally) cranked out 100 copies.
I took the stock to school on Monday and everyone in TREL was impressed. We set our basic price at 25 cents per stock and our head of sales began to formulate his sales pitch. He rightly figured the girls would be easy. He gave the President of our organization some stock to move and it wasn’t long he sold about 50 shares. The guys would be harder and here’s where his sales pitch came in. He told prospects of our plan to make wine for parties. He said all we needed was the financing which we could get with the sale stock in our company. The idea sounded good but most guys were suspicious and immediately said no. Our head of sales said to our prospect that’s fine, he would move on, but he sure hated the fact that this person would miss the stock holder’s parties. Of course the prospect then perked up and asked who had bought shares so far. After a few names of some very popular girls were reeled off the prospect caved and bought a share or two.
We knew that there never would be any stock holders parties, much less money spent on wine production. We should have gone to jail but we didn’t and the sales machine continued on. When we needed more shares I simply ran off some more copies.
Eventually, when we didn’t come through on our promises, a few people demanded their money back. It wasn’t the girls really. They had their time in the sun and so what if it never amounted to anything, they had their stock certificate signed by our president and were happy. They probably would have spent $10.00 instead of $1.00 for the same thrill. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately we didn’t know that at the time. But the guys were different, they spend their 25 cents and they wanted their party. So at first, we asked them if they had received word yet on the bonus. When they said no, one of us would pull out a few pennies from our pocket and say with pride, here you go.
The penny trick only worked so long and eventually they would corner our head of sales and ask for their money back. He said, he was only in charge of sales, not refunds and they would have to talk to our president. He very aloofly said he was the president all right but didn’t handle refunds they would have to talk to the vice president. When they talked to the vice president he said he only did vice president things which certainly didn’t involve refunds. He sent them to me and I said as secretary I am responsible for a lot of things but not refunds. They would have to talk our sergeant of arms who was in charge of refunds. Then then approached him and asked for their money back. Not only was he a fun guy to be around he was also one of the biggest guy in school. So when they asked him for their money he slowly turned to them and said, “Well, you ain’t a gona to get it.” And that was the end of that.
I already mentioned that my Dad taught at the University in Cedar Falls and he had, among others, Norm Jespersen, our Vice Principal, in class. Dad told how he had made the stock on his Stencil machine and they all laughed. Norm told the class a few adventures of TREL and if it wasn’t so darn funny he could shut the whole darn thing down. I wonder how many stock adventures start out like ours did and the main people end up in jail. We of course were oblivious to that and continued to sell our stock.
I’m sure we ended up with 30 dollars which we spend on the canon. Our vice president made the thing out of a pipe in shop class and then made a stand for it. We spent the rest of the money we made on a week end retreat in the woods and thought this would be the perfect time to try out our canon. Our sergeant at arms poured a bunch of nails down the front of it and was ready to light the fuse. Before that happened, someone decided that we needed a picture for posterity of the canon going off. I was the only one with a camera so I was designated the picture taker. I hid behind a log about five feet from the barrel. I took solace in the fact that it wasn’t pointed at me. The fuse was lit and everyone ran back about 20 feet from the canon and hid behind trees. I suddenly thought, “Oh my God, what if it blows up.”
At that precise moment the canon fired with a terrible loud boom. After the smoke had settled everyone came out laughing, shouting and jumping. Mostly they were laughing at me and how I could be so stupid as to lay that close to the canon. On the upside, the canon worked beautifully. We saw nails in trees several hundred feet away. Now I don’t know if the canon was ever fired again, in fact I don’t even know where it is to this day. But thanks to T.R.E.L., Technological Research and Engineering Laboratories Inc. we built a canon, it worked and I have a picture of it.