THE WOMAN WHO STARTED IT ALL.
March is Women’s History Month, so who better to highlight than the women who collectively made Ernest what is today? It all began in Salt Lake City, with Minnie Wilson raising her two boys, Ernest and Charles, as a single mom on a shoestring budget. She taught her boys well, because she was a true leader. And she taught both of them to respect women because she could communicate with one single look when they stepped out of line. This stern glance prompted the brothers to snap to attention quicker than when they served in the military. In other words, she meant business.
STRONG GRANDMA. STRONG MOM.
Betty Wilson was Charles’ first wife and she was as bright and as capable as Minnie. Chuck remembers her fondly for all the wonderful things she did in her life, not the least of which was helping Ernest Packaging to grow from a little two-person operation to what it has become today. The two met by the ocean (romance: check), she was a UCLA grad (smarts: check), and was a member of the school board of Beverly Hills (service: check). It’s no wonder Chuck still holds her in such high regard. She was a woman ahead of her time. And we almost forgot to mention she held the hardest job on planet earth, as well. She was a Mom.
HOW TO RAISE A CORNFLAKE.
Tim remembers his Mom fondly, as well. She was very curious. She was very smart (see second paragraph, above). And she was loyal to a T, but if you crossed her you were dead (see first paragraph, above). She was tremendously curious on arts, history, sciences, basically everything interested her because she was a life-long learner. When Betty graduated college, women didn’t enter the workforce. They got married. This was a real shame as Betty was whip smart and probably would have run a Fortune 500 company. But when things did start to open up, she became one of the first women to join CORO, a nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults become leaders in public affairs. And of course, she was a guiding force at Ernest Packaging.
LET’S GET OUR STORY STRAIGHT HERE.
When father and son were asked a particular courting story about Betty, the two had slightly different accounts. According to Tim, his father was FORCED to marry his Mom, because he went out of and left her in the lurch, so to speak. Charles had a law firm at the time and needed to take a two-week business trip. So he told her to come to the office and he just plain disappeared. He didn’t leave her any money or any instructions. He simply left. On his return, he was greeted with this ultimatum: pay me my wages or marry me.
Thankfully for all of us, he chose the latter.
Charles’ take on the matter? The story doesn’t hold water. He said, “I always wanted to marry her. It’s absolutely true that she did take care of me in that instance, but we were pretty well engaged at that point.”
We’ll leave it to the reader to decide which side got it right.
WOMAN OF THE DAY. AND YEAR. AND DECADE.
Betty’s passed in 2009. She was 81 (but never told anyone she was over 70). It was a blow to the entire family and as the years went by, Charles longed for a partner to share is life and love with. He found that intelligence and compassion in Joan. She remains active in the community to this day and also helps guide the Ernest business. Charles describes himself as a lucky man to have been able to spend his time side by side and on equal ground with two such caring and wonderful women. Today, Charles and Tim are focused on moving the company forward, of course. But equally as intent on giving back to the community that helped Ernest become what it is today.
A HEARTFELT SALUTE.
To all the women who work within our walls and out there in field, we salute you. And once again, we can try to express it, or paraphrase it or sum it up. But the best way to get to the truth of the matter is to hear it from Charles himself.
“I feel extremely lucky and blessed to have such amazing partners in my life. Minnie, Betty and Joan really ran and run the roost. They nurtured, challenged and directed the Wilson family. Through their spirit and love, we have been able to accomplish so much and do such great things. Was I scared of all them? You bet. Could they stare me down and hold me accountable? For sure, but I would not have it any other way.”