Letter to the Editor

Enduring hardship to prosper

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dear Editor,

Whenever I begin craving a root beer float, I think of J. Willard Marriott, the son of a Utah sheep herder.

In 1927, he founded a root beer stand in northwest Washington, D.C. At age 18, he was a Mormon missionary on a scorching September day in the early 1920s. He thought to himself, “If I could sell some ice-cold drinks, I could make lots of money.”

Willard Marriott and his wife, Alice, opened up the first A & W Root Beer franchise on the East Coast.

It was a nine-seat stand. During the Depression, his father, Hyrum Marriott, had borrowed $20 a head on his sheep. Their value had fallen to $3 a head.

Meanwhile, Willard and Alice were charging a nickel for a frosty mug of root beer. Often, 40 to 50 customers waited in line for it. By fall, the demand for root beer subsided. They decided to sell tamales. Alice went to the Mexican embassy and got a recipe for them.

Later, they added pork sandwiches, burgers and sundaes to their menu. They made a deal with Eastern Airlines to deliver food for their passengers for a food service.

One of J. Willard Marriott’s oldest friends was George Romney, governor of Michigan. He named his son Willard Milton Romney and they nicknamed him Mitt. He ran for president twice.

A number of years ago, I stayed at a Marriott in Atlanta, Ga. The food was excellent and I swam in a beautiful swimming pool. I had good service.

John Willard Marriott and his wife are now both deceased. Alice died at age 92 on May 17, 2000. Their business had come a long way since it was established in Washington D.C. in 1927. They opened their first hotel in Arlington, Va., in 1957.

Their son, .W. Marriott Jr. “Bill” led the Marriott Co., which became an international corporation. In March 2012 at age 80, “Bill” turned it over to Arne Sorenson, who assumed the title of executive chairman.

George Romney died in 1995. Like J. Willard Marriott, he came from a family of limited means. In 1911, his family escaped from Pancho Villa in Chihuahua Colonia Juarez, Mexico.

They relocated in Idaho. They were willing to eat potatoes three meals a day to escape from Mexican revolutionaries. Both the Romneys and Marriotts had faced religious persecution to become rich.

Helen Ruth Arnold,

Trenton, Neb.

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