Joe Parker, a son of Big Horn pioneers Richard and Jennie Parker, worked for Hammer Chevrolet in 1946. When he went to Tafner Auto Glass Shop to pick up some glass Mr. Tafner suddenly said, “Joe Parker, do you want to buy this glass shop?” Apparently, without blinking an eye, Joe said, “Yes.” Then he went home to tell his wife and possibly reflect on what he had done.
During World War II Joe worked in a shipyard in Seattle. When he returned to Sheridan he went to work for Hammers but had no particular career plans. The idea of owning a business must have been appealing. But Joe’s impulsive decision to buy the glass shop had potential failure written all over it. First, he knew nothing about the glass trade. Second, he had no real business experience. Third he had no money to speak of and the agreed price for the business was $1,500 and apparently not much went with that, not even a truck.
To add to the challenge, the seller, who had agreed to stay on for a year and help Joe learn the business, flew the coop. He left after three days. Why? No one is sure but Joe’s children reflect that he could be rather forthright in his manner and perhaps that caused a conflict. At any rate, the guy left Joe high and dry.
Undaunted, Joe pressed on by himself to learn the glazier craft and operate a business. He struggled, of course. It boggles the mind to consider the challenges he faced as he learned the trade and business and tried to support his family.
But Joe did have a couple of things going for him. One was that during the war, at the Seattle shipyards, Joe was forced, as part of his job, to take a class in blueprint reading. He hated it, but it stood him in good stead in the glass business.
The other was that Joe had personal traits that helped him as a businessman. He was by nature an outspoken but friendly man who seemed to know everyone. His children remember going to Disneyland where even there he met someone he knew. And he was kind and generous. He didn’t advertise his acts of kindness, but there were many of them. One day his wife Josephine came home and noticed that all the dishes were gone. Joe had given them to a family whose house had just burned down. That was typical of Joe. Thelma Mackley, Joe’s bookkeeper for many years, once told his children, “You don’t know how generous your dad was.”
Joe was also very active in the community. He was a Shriner, a member of the Elks, a founding member of the YMCA and served on the fire and police commission boards. In addition to many other memberships, Joe also served on the Whitney Benefits board for many years.
Joe was supported by a devoted family; his wife Josephine; his son Dave and his daughters Ginger (Parker) Stout and Joyce (Parker) Carroll and their families. His oldest daughter Linda (Parker) Davis worked in the business for more than 38 years and “could do anything a man could do.”
Linda was there for the transition of the business between her father and his son Dave, and Dave and his son Matt.
Dave and his wife, Jan, returned to Sheridan in 1969 after an absence for school and other employment. Dave, who had worked in the business during high school, was drawn back to Sheridan and went to work for his dad. Dave and Jan then purchased the business in about 1979 but Joe still remained a fixture around the place until he died in 1982.
Dave operated the business for 29 years until he passed away in 2008. Previously, in 1998, Dave and Jan’s son Matt, who had never worked in the shop during high school, returned to Sheridan to work in and learn the business. When his father died Matt and his wife, Renea, bought the business from Matt’s mother, Jan, and successfully operate the business today.
Today, Parker Glass is a well-established business that has supported the Parker family for three generations and played an important role in the community as has the Parker family.
And it’s all because of Joe Parker’s gutsy spur-of-the-moment decision 67 years ago.
Tom Ringley was re-elected as a county commissioner in 2012. He is the author of four books. Ringley grew up in Sheridan and returned home in 1990 after 27 years as an Air Force officer. He has been involved with the local hospital foundation, the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo and has been the facilities director at the county fairgrounds.