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Diary of a Drywaller: Chapter 19

“A house, not made with hands” 2 Corinthians 5:1

There are things in life that happen and turn out to be unforgettably memorable. This is one such episode. To tell it and tell it well, demonstrating the full context, will take more than a single chapter. Be prepared to read on if you intend to get the full benefit of having learned the lessons contained in this extraordinary event. As is often the case, you may find something that is peculiarly relevant to you, in this moment, or perhaps someday hereafter.


1987. We were living in an older, rented home. The church had helped us get in. As has been said in former chapters, the church—moreover the congregants as well as the pastoral staff, helped us through those early days. In due time we were well able to help many others as well. But those stories, though begging to be told, will have to wait for now.


I believe the rent was $550 a month, and up until recently it had been a continuous struggle to pay rent in a timely manner. Meanwhile, I worked with my whole heart and soul for the company I had come to love, Alta. I did everything I could to make it the success it had slowly but certainly become. We had substantial struggles as has been repeatedly emphasized throughout the course of these writings. But, in their own way these were special times, good times. Times well worth chronicling for others, such as yourselves, as well as, posterity.


Our family had grown. Jason, our fourth child, was about seven years old and unbeknownst to us, would be future company president. Alta continued to grow. Ferreted out from amongst the workforce were exceptional individuals who would then become management. Sam, Stan and José deserve mentioning. Then again, there were many who at some point displayed a glimmer of talent and would be drafted into some level of the company’s management. We promoted from within, as is the case to this very day, and as it should be.


A remnant of that group still has a significant role at Alta, even now. Those mentioned by name were destined to become the upper management team for the next 25 to 30 years, and they did a fabulous job.  To some extent, although the effort is ongoing, they were unreplaceable.


As many of the promises given began to unfold, both mentioned and unmentioned in earlier chapters, I was allotted unusual insight into the formation of the business. Insight from above. As a result, processes and systems were developed—SOP, job descriptions and all sorts of things that I would have to attribute to the man upstairs. Not Rob, Alta’s then-president, but rather the one who remains upstairs. On high!


Things were running well, exceptionally well.  Rob didn’t even know where his projects were. There was no need to. They were handled by the management team, and that team did an impeccable job.

Though I selected Alta’s management, that too must be attributed to the almighty one. Looking back, it seems as though it just happened, almost by itself.


Alta’s reputation and credibility made certain that we literally owned preeminence in the drywall world, locally. We were the best. Even our competitors couldn’t deny that fact. By now, we had become a large business pushing 500 employees. I was finally on my feet again financially and better off than ever on a few levels. But things were about to get even better.


One day, the president (Rob) called me into the estimating office and spread a set of plans out on the plan table. It was very unusual for him to do so. I can’t think of another time quite like that, ever. Though I knew how to estimate, my focus was on the field, and I had very little involvement in estimating. As he looked down at the set of plans he glanced up at me and said, “Do you think that Duetta (my wife) would like this?” He continued, “There is a model of this particular plan, down in Mira Mesa. I’d like you to take her there and do a walk through. See how well the two of you like it.” I was bumfuzzled.


I contacted Duetta immediately. I told her what little I knew.  The two of us walked the model home. She loved it! Moreover, we loved it! We could hardly believe what appeared to be happening.

When I reported back to Rob, he smiled in his own bashful sort of way and said, “I think I’d like to build that house for you guys. You will have to pay me something, but it won’t be much. This will get you guys into your own home.” To put it in familiar vernacular from that era, I was dazed and confused. I couldn’t believe my ears, until it happened, but that happening was not without incident.

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at [email protected].

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