I started working at Free Wheeler right out of high school, sometime during the first week of July of 1978. It was just a dinky little place in the corner of an old car dealership, the rest of the building was still occupied by a car parts store. The three guys that started it had all been M.P.s in Germany during the Vietnam war, and had come out to Salt Lake together to start a rock band.
One night, when they had been partying pretty hardily, they wanted to get something to eat, and realized that there was no place in the valley that would actually deliver food to your home. When living in Chicago, two of them had worked for what is now a national pizza delivery chain, and decided Salt Lake could use a good pizza delivery place of it’s own. So the day after Thanksgiving 1977 they opened the doors, and 7 months later I walked through the door looking for a job. By this time one of the original owners had left, and another friend of theirs had bought his way into the business with a couple hundred dollars, a ‘72 Chevy Vega and ‘68 VW Bug that we used for delivery cars. The Bug had a big hole in the floorboard right by the driver’s left foot and no reverse gear, and the Vega had a bad clutch. Add to that the ‘72 Super Beetle with a front end that wobbled every time you went over a bump, and you get one hell of a nice delivery fleet. But we made it work.
The best part about Free Wheeler was (and still is) that is wasn’t just a workplace. Mike, Mitch and Al, the three owners, created an atmosphere where the crews became close friends. We worked together, we partied together, we vacationed together. Every Thanksgiving the store closed down and pretty much the entire crew would get together celebrate the store’s anniversary. At the original store we would close down to play intramural football up at the University of Utah (our team name was "the “Twisted Brains”.) and we even closed down for an entire week so the whole crew could go down to Lake Powell.
When I was manager of the West Valley store it was a very small crew, and we became so close that we wouldn’t even knock when going over to each other houses, especially at the house of my assistant manager, who was pretty much the matriarch of the store. We had a habit of playing practical jokes on each other, and would always try to extract some sort of good natured revenge whenever the prank fell on us.
So, this is the prelude to future posts about the practical jokes we played on each other, and other ones I was involved with that have nothing to do with Free Wheeler.