TBT - "When The Van Brought Home The Bacon"

Barbara and I joined forces in 1988 to start a new business from scratch. We had more 'scratch' then money - so it was a difficult start. Her recent divorce had left her with little money and I was totally broke. But as they say - where there is a will, just add love, hard work, and you got hope! She was waitressing to cover the bills at the time and I had split with a partner in a Florida marine tropical fish business that was not covering my bills. So I moved into Barbara's one bedroom apartment in Coconut Grove, Florida, and we went with a plan to go for it.

First off we bought a an old $300 van and a beat up old $400 boat. Then with Barbara's remaining credit card we paid down on an outboard motor and one of those new fangled things - a fax machine! That fax machine made us look like a solid business to out-of-state marine tropical fish dealers - our customers.

Operating a marine fish biz out of a small 6th floor apartment was an interesting challenge. We had to rent a parking space in the underground garage of the apartment building for the boat, where we would unload the day's catch into 5 gallon buckets and run them into the elevator with our supermarket shopping carts for the ride up to our apartment. In the apartment we put the specimens in large marine aquariums that took up 50% of the available floor space. On the small outside terrace is where we stacked the plastic milk crates with all our collecting gear, dive gear, and the dive tanks!

After about 6 months the business picked up enough to buy another van - an old rusted out one ton van for $350. The $300 van did not have the load capacity or power to do a good job handling the collected stuff and the boat too. So we put the old van up for sale - and then someone stole it from our back parking lot. We called the police - they must have had a good laugh when we said it was worth $300. But hey - that was real money to us!

To no avail we drove all around the Grove area the next day looking for the van. So giving up on that we concentrated on biz and three days later we drove the rust bucket van out to Key Biscayne to do some snorkeling from shore to collect invertebrates. Driving back to the mainland that afternoon we passed under the I-95 overpass and Barbara spotted our old van parked there near the Hamilton Inn. We quickly turned around and pulled up to the van. The thief had pushed in the side vent window to get in and hot wired the ignition - so I reconnected the wires, and then looking into the back of the van I noticed stacks of something near the rear door.

Barbara had called the police and they arrived quickly - asking me to prove it was ours. I took out my key ring and selected the right one and started the van - telling them to check the report of stolen vehicle we filed three days ago. Opening the back of the van revealed crates of cold and frozen food that evidently had been stolen earlier in the day. There was a lot of meat and a nice variety - including a very big box of bacon. One cop wanted to take the stolen food to the soup kitchen for the street bums - but the sergeant in charge said there might be a liability problem with that. We concurred.

At the time of this incident we had been dealing with bad weather for a week and could not take the boat our for collecting our marine specimens - so there had been concern about immediate income - but not to worry now, the old van had brought home the bacon.

We (and some of our neighbors) ate good for weeks!