Before the Fall

Don Boyd’s father, was a survivor of the Depression. He had owned a hardware store in Grand Fork’s North Dakota which went bust during the 1930’s. An enterprising man he packed up the family and drove them to Duluth where he thought he could start over again, and he did.
From the 1920’s to the early 1960’s Duluth was the center of the America’s wholesale hardware and sporting goods industry. Both  Marshall Wells and Kelley-How-Thomson supplied this inventory to hardware stores across the nation. Mr. Boyd had made a good impression on someone at Kelly-How because they gave him the job of being their credit manager to assess the credit worthiness of their network of 260 retailers.
Don was later to say that his Father’s faith in American business practices was part of his own downfall. “Trust your banker, your attorney and your insurance man,” Don recalls his father telling him. All of these were to fail Don as he faced his own time of trial. “Never file for bankruptcy” was another piece of advice he took from his Depression Era father which Don was to regret taking. “You have to mortgage your life and pay your bills. That was the code.” Don recalls,  “In the business world my Dad lived in you just shook your hands.”
Don also learned a very different code at the knees of the neighborhood pawnbroker for whom he worked  in his youth. This more pragmatic code was to give him a chance to recover in some small measure the living that was taken away by the troubles to come.

*                *                *

Like everyone old enough to follow the news Don recalls exactly where he was on November 17th, 1963 . He was at the Coats Motel in Virginia, Minnesota with Congressman John Blatnik and other local politicians. Don was being asked under what conditions he might undertake the local implementation of one of John Kennedy’s initiatives. November 17 was the day John Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas.
While campaigning for President in the hills of West Virginia Kennedy had been moved by the rural poverty he found in that poor state's hills and hollows. Raised to privilege in Boston, Massachusetts, Kennedy decided that raising the poor of Appalachia out of their misery was a fit task for the Party of the New Deal. Later, under Lyndon Johnson these laws were to be derisively labeled “The War on Poverty.”
This cynicism all but disappeared with Kennedy’s death. Instead his ringing call for Americans to: “ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your Country,” inspired all but the most cynical. Don Boyd who frequently quotes that famous call was perfect for the job John Blatnik had in mind for him. Boyd was a fellow who got things done. He had been an economic development consultant since the late 1950’s with the U.S. Department of Commerce. As such  he produced a study of Minnesota’s resort industry with 176 pages of text and a similar number of pages with graphs, charts and maps.  Germinating from this study the State of Minnesota created five entities to spur the tourist economy one of which was the Arrowhead Tourism Development Credit Association. Today it is gone, washed away like other parts of Boyd's legacy.
Despite the connections he had developed while working with US Department of Commerce as a contract operative Don had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. This is evident in the various enterprises he had begun and was still running while he considered whether to take up Blatnik's offer of overseeing the Arrowhead region's part in the War on Poverty.
In 1951 he began working as a field engineer for Republic Steel and ARMCO help ing to oversee the construction of a taconite plant being built near Silver Bay. By 1965 he was Reserve Mining’s Chief Inspector. In 1959 he set up Seaway Engineering a business which survives today as SEH Engineering Company.  Don also became a commercial broker and real estate appraiser setting up Boyd and Associates. A major focus of this operation was a 240 acre commercial sand and gravel site that Boyd purchased. He supplied construction materials for the US Forest Service, the Cities of Two Harbors and Duluth, Lake, and St. Louis Counties, the State Highway Department and various private businesses.
Boyd and Associates had also acquired a franchise to sell Dynamic Homes and do the site prep work for the homes sold in Minnesota. Dynamic Homes currently does business in eight states. In 1974 Boyd and Associates assets were commercial appraised at $1,7 million dollars. The ten year potential sales of the sand and gravel properties alone were estimated at $15 million dollars.
On the day that he was arrested in front of television cameras invited to the occasion by the arresting FBI officials he was about to ink a deal with Reserve Taconite in Babbit which would have supplied them with all the sand and three quarter inch rock they would need to construct the Mile Post 7 Dam. That million dollar contract along with most of the rest of Boyd’s assets was about to be washed away.
Shortly afterward the state decided that rather than spend money on stable gritty sand it would allow Reserve mining to save money on dam construction by building its reservoirs with taconite tailings. The perils of using such an inferior, non porous, slippery construction material would become apparent a few years ago when heavy rains washed portions of the damn out onto Highway 61 in much the same way the Boyd assets were washed away by the FBI grip on his records, business and assets
Today when asked about his slow steady financial recovery and his net worth the 80 year old says he’s worth zero. He adds that “the charity has been good.” He says that even his hair cuts are given charitable discounts.  .
Every time I’ve met with Don he quotes the line JFK made famous in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Don maintains that this sentiment was his primary motivation in all he did. 
Just as JFK learned a lesson about poverty in the hills of West Virginia one of his competitors for the Presidential nomination that year learned the power of money in politics. What these lessons led to are open to interpretation but both lessons would have a life altering impact on Don Boyd’s life.