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The Son Also Rises

Page 2 of 5

One of the prerequisites of vast wealth obtained in business is the opportunity to squander it on your undeserving offspring.

Sometimes, though, the best of intentions can come back to haunt a Big Daddy. The first area we come to in this Hall demonstrates the phenomenon known to Big Daddyologists as emotional patricide. The SHOEN family display is cleverly organized around the familiar orange-and-silver wheeled box that made patriarch L.S. Shoen a wealthy man. Shoen, who founded the U-Haul company in 1945, eventually gave most of his stock in U-Haul's parent firm (Amerco) to his twelve kids (conceived via three wives), making them all incredibly wealthy.

In 1986 L.S. controlled but 2 percent of Amerco's stock, yet still handled most of the management of the company. At that point, several of the Shoen brood turned on their father to wrest control of the company. Son Joe took over. The rift in the family caused by the coup can be traced via an unceasing series of interfamilial lawsuits, depositions from many of these are on display inside the trailer mockup that is the heart of this display. One member of the Shoen tribe refers to their saga as "The Young, The Restless, and The Rich." Big Daddy scholars are quick to point out that the Shoen family story is atypical. The classic scenario calls for Big Daddy to be a blustering, hyperaggressive Type A character. Usually the son or sons who get the keys to the kingdom are meek young men who inherit none of the father's swagger, just his dough. The next stop on the Big Daddy Hall of Fame self-guided walking tour is an illustration of a more typical Big Daddy-Lucky Son relationship.

Eugene C. PULLIAM, who coyly named his only son Eugene S. Pulliam, was known to his enemies and his own newspaper employees (often interchangeable subsets) alike as "the Old Man." History tells us that the senior Pulliam owned many newspapers (including the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette), was a fierce anti-Communist, had wildly unpredictable mood swings and loved to use his publications' news pages as a bully pulpit for a variety of Paleolithic political and social theories. Doctors said he had a "migraine personality." He also cheated at golf. Eugene S. worked for United Press when he got out of college and eventually worked his way up to a management position on one of Big Daddy's newspapers in Indianapolis. These career accomplishments are symbolically represented in the Pulliam family exhibit by the green eyeshade tacked to the back wall.

According to Eugene C.'s biographer, Eugene the Younger "was more like his mother, Myrta--steady, consistent, not given to emotional outbursts or hasty decisions like his father." (Eugene C.'s biographer, historical anecdotally enough, also is Eugene C.'s grandson and Eugene S.'s son. Russell B. Pulliam is currently employed as an editorial writer at the Pulliam-owned Indianapolis Star. Think he ever has any trouble finding a parking spot?)

When the Old Man died in 1975, he left control of his newspaper empire to Nina (his third wife and former secretary), Eugene S. and another of the company's managers. Today Eugene S. is listed in the Arizona Republic's masthead as president of Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. A yellowing copy of that newspaper is on display here, minus the sports section and want ads, which were stolen several years ago. But that is not where Eugene C.'s legacy stops. As you will see later on in this tour, the Old Man's genes continue to spout daffy archconservative bromides to whomever will listen. Sometimes the person listening is George Bush.

Your Hall of Industry segment ends on a cheery note, however, right over there next to the hay bales and steel guitar display. Buck OWENS made his mark making rowdy country-and-western music and playing a big-grinning hambone on that television classic Hee-Haw. Somewhere along the line he bought KNIX radio station in Phoenix. Two of Buck's boys run the place now and they've done right well for themselves. Young Buddy Owens is music director, and his brother Michael is general manager. Every year a different music-industry group gives KNIX its national station-of-the-year award. Some of those awards are on loan to the Hall and can be ogled at length in the Owens family exhibit. Many sons of Big Daddy inductees are considered by society to be successful, meaning that they are rich. Still, most of these guys have been eased into the shop while Big Daddy is still around, making it somewhat more difficult for any of them to completely stomp the breath out of their inherited company, car dealership or football team. That the Owens boys have done so well--and appear set to continue their success long past Buck's time to ride into the sunset--is a fine reflection on their Big Daddy. He must be proud.

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Dave Walker