A few years later Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act and the Interstate highway system was underway. About that time Frankie Stone noticed an article about Mr. Wilson in the business section of the Chicago Tribune one morning. His motel chain, the most successful in the entire country, had just signed contracts to build motels at two hundred Interstate exits.
“Look at this, Lefty,” Frankie said from his counter stool at the café on Clark Street. His wife came over with a coffee pot in hand. She warmed up her husband’s cup and looked at the paper. “Wilson. The guy from Tennessee! It looks like he’s doing all right. How about that.” Lefty’s legs were good, still drawing covert glances.
“My idea,” Frankie said.
“Doesn’t make him a bad guy for wanting to get ahead in life,” Lefty said, setting the pot on the warmer. “How’s the hamburger guy doing?”
“Same thing kiddo; he’s going gang busters. I drove by one of his stands and saw a sign that the franchises just sold their millionth hamburger. And they just raised the cost of a burger from fifteen cents to nineteen cents. A million more burgers and that difference is forty grand right off the top.”
“You’re so good with numbers, Frankie. Have I ever told you that?”
“You have, Lefty. I know we could be making a ton if I went through with my ideas, but we’re doing all right, don’t you think?” Frankie’s arms were still strong, but his waist had expanded considerably since the days of trekking across Europe by foot.
“It wouldn’t hurt to be Rockefeller, Frankie. But we’re doing fine. You’re the top salesman at the Ford dealer. You can sell a car to anyone.”
“You think so?” Frankie said, savoring the compliment.
“Sure you can.”
Frankie looked around and then leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Something’s happened at the agency that might be good for us.”
“What’s that, Frankie?” Lefty said without much excitement, having been through years of grandiose ideas.
He moved closer and said in a low voice, “I’ve been waiting to surprise you. Buz has gotten himself into a jam with the Feds.”
“The owner of the agency with the Feds?” Lefty exclaimed with astonishment.
“Remember back in the forties after the war when we had the waiting list for cars?” Lefty nodded and her husband continued, “He was found to be taking a grand a car on the side to bump customers up to the top of the list.”
“Geez, that’s a lot of dough.”
“Right. But now he has to pay a big fine to the government. So he’s in a real bind.”
“What’s he going to do?” And then she added uneasily, “Are you going to lose your job?”
“That’s just it, Lefty. Buz needs cash and we’ve got a lot put away now. He’s selling the agency to me.” Frankie looked around again and leaned even further to Lefty to add, “For a song!”
“We’re going to own the agency?” She yelled, causing heads to turn in the café. “A Ford agency!”
“Yes, a Ford agency. And you know which Ford model I’ve cornered the market on? A new one named after old man Ford’s son – Edsel. To name it after his kid, it has to be a great car, right?”
Lefty shrugged and said, “I suppose so. It’s a Ford.”
“I’ve beat out all the other dealers in the country. Shipments are already on the way. By the end of the week, I’ll have two hundred Edsels on the lot. It’s such a good deal that I turned down the Fairlanes and the Thunderbirds. There won’t be room for them anyway.”
Lefty came around the corner and placed a juicy kiss on her husband’s lips. “Oh, Frankie. Look at us. We’re going to be on Easy Street!”