By Gordon J. Alexander
A brief version of this story was originally told at the profit.org
forum, on July 23, 1998. I was contemplating a very involved and detailed web site. I
sought advice from many experts, on-line and off.
I really wanted to do it. I REALLY wanted to do it. But all my friends
and family, and those experts thought I was out of my mind. After all wasnt I the
guy that was famous (infamous some would say) for saying; Keep It Simple Simon!!?
Yet there I was on the brink of launching an extremely complicated web
site, one that would have required much time, money and effort. This is what happened to
snap me back to reality. It is a short story that contains some of the most advanced
lessons of life I have ever learned.
After a day of consulting with lawyers, accountants, bankers, and all
the not-so-silent, and certainly not inexpensive partners you learn you have when you are
in business, I paid a visit to my brother.
I told my big brother about all the meetings, all the advice, about the
complicated project, all while helping him put some new brakes on his pick-up.
He listened attentively. Didnt say anything. Just listened.
Then when he was sure I was going to be silent for a while, he went to
his locked tool shed, and I heard him rummaging around.
He came out and handed me a steering wheel.
"Whats this?" I say.
He says, "Look."
I turned the wheel over, looked at it carefully, and saw the
inscription carved into it. WGGK 1962.
I looked at my big brother and grinned. We both started laughing.
In 1962 I lived at the known Center of the Universe. At a place called
Barneys Busy Corners. It was an intersection, where the cities of Tallmadge, Akron,
and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio all meet.
Within an easy 20 minute walk from the Corners was everything a young
boy could want.
Two golf courses, tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts,
TWO swimming ponds right across the street from each other. There was a miniature golf
course, trampolines, a driving range, a lumber yard, and even a junk yard.
At the Corners itself was a small Sparkle Supermarket, with a butcher
too. There was a custard stand, a pizza shop (where I would later spend my high school
evenings working). There was a doctor, two barber shops including my dads ABC Barber
shop, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners and even a gas station. There was even an insurance
No wonder they called it the Busy Corners.
And a few quick pedals away, two housing developments that were teeming
with nubile teenage girls. Like I said, EVERYTHING a young boy could want.
Barneys Busy Corners must have been like thousands of places in
those remnant happy days of the early 60s. And to millions of other young boys,
Im sure their corners were the center of their universes too.
But I think you would be hard pressed to find anyplace that offered so
much, so close and maintained a neighborhood atmosphere to it. I was a lucky kid to have
Now we all had Go-Karts, Akron is the home of the All-American Soap Box
Derby and the derby was a big deal back then. You could find the parts and pieces of
gravity racers strewn throughout every part of the city.
Four wheels, some steel, and a motorcycle engine, and VOILA!, you had
yourself some neat and nifty plaything.
One day Chuck the barber pulls into the parking lot that separated our
house from the building that contained the store, gas station, dads shop and the
insurance agent. The ABC was named for Alex (pop) Bill, and Chuck. Pretty clever I always
Well, anyhow, Chuck had his kids into racing Quarter Midgets. This day
he was pulling the race car (a glorified go-kart really) and we immediately went running
to see it. The whole neighborhood just suddenly appeared, out of thin air it seemed.
We oohed and ahhed. Here was a REAL race car. The black shiny body with
the number painted on it in white made us all feel like little kids. What with our
home-made karts, with little putt-putt engines. Here was a sleek and apparently speedy
My brother invented the Just Do It concept, and right
there and then, on the spot he made a proclamation. We were going to build a race car. We
were going to build the Worlds Greatest Go-Kart.
We began right then. My brother was in charge, he wasnt the
oldest kid, but he was the one with access to the tools. Even as a youngster, my brother
loved working on cars. Model cars. Toy cars. Go-Karts, real cars.
Me and my friend Dave, we were the youngest and got the job as
"material handlers". We got to scrounge for parts and carry everything to a
central location. Dave and I didnt last too long on that project, about half of the
Well, we, Dave and I, decided we would build our own WORLDS
GREATEST GO-KART. So I hopped in my little putt-putt and raced Dave up to his house. He
ran. He also won.
We parked it in his back yard and we both just stared at it for about
15 minutes, in silence.
See, if there was any kid at the center of the universe that was worse
with tools than Dave, it was me. We had created ourselves a dilemma.
So we sat. Looked at each other. Looked at the kart. Looked at each
other. Finally Dave, knowing us both all too well proclaimed;
"Well, we could paint it."
So we did. Candy apple red. It took 5 cans of model car spray paint.
Took us 3 days of solid work. I know, it was a 10 minute job, but we didnt want to
rush it and then have nothing else to do either.
We were so proud of ourselves, that we actually thought of other major
improvements we could make. We thought a more comfortable ride would be nice, and maybe
some new wheels might help.
Then we spent the next week making these much needed improvements. We
added a pillow to the seat. That helped. But then we put the seat on a board mounted on a
couple of old car springs we found at the junk yard.
Then we put slightly bigger wheels on the back. Wow, we had done it.
Who woulda thought me and Dave could have done it.
We had taken that itty-bitty little beat up old go-kart and transformed
it into an Indy 500 car.
Sort of. It did look nicer, well, at least brighter.
It rode great too, and it seemed much faster. The springs and the
pillow really helped. It seemed to corner tighter too. So there, we did it.
Sure we had been banned from the "big" project. So what if
all the other kids were helping my big brother, big deal. Dave and I couldnt wait to
see what they had done.
We wouldnt have to wait very long. The next Saturday morning we
met for the showdown, for the challenge of the century. We pulled into Sparkles
parking lot. Soon there was a gang of boys on bikes riding around the corner. They saw our
Dave and I were soooo proud.
Then they all burst into hysterical laughter as if on cue. They were
pointing and laughing at us, and we started feeling a little uncomfortable, to say the
least. Then we heard the low rumble, the ground seemed to be shaking.
Around the corner comes my brother. I kid you not, it looked like an
Indy car. Sleek. LOUD! Thanks to the sawed in half glass-packed mufflers, my brother had
paid a visit to the junk yard too.
The cart was, well you couldnt call it a cart either, awesome.
People came from out of the stores to see what was making all the
noise. My brother was peacock proud. He had even picked up an old motorcycle helmet,
were talking beat up leather here, and a pair of goggles. I just wish he would have
worn a scarf, it would have completed his ensemble.
So, we were going to take the carts up to Preston School for the Speed
Trials. It only took him a couple of minutes to get to the school, which was less than ½
mile away. I pulled in a few minutes later, right after the bikes and a couple of runners.
Brother started zooming around me. Zooming. Zooming. He was literally
doing circles around me, and he was making the glass in the windows vibrate.
I hit a pot hole. I braced for butt bruise. But guess what? Our shocks
The pillow and the springs actually absorbed the shock. WOW. And I
loved the red glow that was reflecting off the vibrating school windows every time I went
I went over the pot hole, again and again. Every time I braced for the
bruise that never came. But the kids were laughing at me. At Dave and I. They each wanted
a turn to humiliate us.
My brother was driving in circles around me, and he looked so cool, so
professional, so superior. Then he hit the pot hole. Then the Worlds Greatest
Go-Kart hit the pothole.
And the Worlds Greatest Go-Kart exploded. Thank God not into
fire. But into pieces.
A 1001 of them.
Parts were flying everywhere. The engine was doing cartwheels across
the parking lot. Wood, nuts and bolts went screaming like bullets in all directions.
And there sat my big brother. About a foot past the pot hole, sitting
on a battered and bruised and scraped across the asphalt butt.
Holding a steering wheel. Helmet and goggles still on.
I pulled up next to him. He must have been in shock, he couldnt
move. Or wouldnt. It was a scene straight out of a Little Rascals episode.
I asked, "You OK?"
He kind of shook his head.
Then I almost peed my pants from laughing so hard. Me and Dave both. We
were rolling on the ground, while my brothers "crew" was running around
the parking lot chasing pieces of the Worlds Greatest Go-Kart in every direction.
It was one of the great days of my youth. Soon, my brother joined in
the laughter, after he filled the air with every curse word he knew. But he did managed to
see the humor of it all, even if he wouldnt be able to sit for awhile.
And that was the last we ever saw of the WORLDS GREATEST GO-KART.
His crew went back to buzzing around the center of the universe in their little home made
cars. Except my brother, he started driving the Fiat that sat out back. My dad had once
got a ticket for driving it too slow. I guess one of the acorns didnt fall too far
from the tree, did it?
My go-kart was almost as big as that Fiat, my brother had to stick his
head out the roof, it had a sun-roof, to be able to drive it at all. And my candy apple
red, 5 coats, hand polished to perfection cart was much prettier too.
In fact, that cart lasted for many years. I passed it on to my little
brother, and he drove it for several years too. He painted it. He changed tires. Put a new
pillow on the seat. He made the MAJOR changes he needed to.
That little cart was built simply. It was uncomplicated. It worked. For
years and years, even with my improvements, and with my little brothers. It ran like
a top and gave us all a lot of pleasure. Some of us maybe more pleasure than the others.
Through the years, it sputtered, and puttered, and continued to work.
So that day in my big brothers garage, he handed me an old
steering wheel. A wheel I hadnt seen in years and years. My brother said:
"Sounds to me like your Internet program might be just as good
Then he stopped in mid-sentence, and pointed to the steering wheel I
held tightly in my hands.
I smiled, handed it back to him, said, "Thanks Brother."
Then we both had a good laugh and finished putting new brakes on his
How is your project coming along?