The Wefing's Man
Richard E. Noble
I bumped into The Wefing’s Man the other day at Burger King. I never knew his name, but every oysterman, shrimper, or seafood worker who worked this bay for any length of time in the last forty years in Franklin County will recognize this fellow as I speak about him here in this story. This gentleman worked at Wefing’s Marine Hardware in Apalachicola for 37 years. Today he is in his seventies and still looking good, I might add.
I have often wondered to myself if Mr. Wefing really appreciated this fellow. In hobo-ing around America we met a Wefing’s Man type guy here and there - but his type is rare.
The Wefing’s Man worked at this store for 37 years. He knew every part number of every bearing, seal, prop or carburetor on every outboard motor manufactured in the last one hundred years. I may be exaggerating slightly but his memory for all these numbers did amaze me.
My wife and I would walk into that store with a greasy outboard motor part in our hand and The Wefing’s Man would take one look at it and say; "Why that's the bottom bearing on a 1965 Johnson 25 Horse. The part number on that is 123-345-654-971-674327A. I'll go look in the back and see if we have one in stock."
He would return in a few minutes and if you were really lucky he would say; "Well, today is your day. Not only do we have that part but it was ordered in 1967 so you get the 1967 sale price."
"Well we mark up the parts for sale in the store when they come in. This part came into this store in 1967 and that's the price that we sell it for today."
"Why do you do that?"
"Why not? We marked it up when it came in and we paid for it when it came in. So why shouldn't we sell it for what we thought it was worth then?"
"Ah, I don't know but it sounds good to me."
On one occasion my wife and I went into Wefing’s to buy a block and tackle so that we could hoist our oyster boat up off the ground. We were having trouble getting enough people together to come out to our place in the "boonies" and flip our boat over in our yard. We wanted the block and tackle so that we could hook it up to a tree and then stand our boat up on edge and scrape and paint the bottom. We bought this giant block and tackle that the store stocked in 1946 for $29.35. There were other block and tackles laying around next to the one we bought that were selling for three and four times the price. They had obviously been inventoried in 1956 or 1976. I could never believe this practice, especially when you would walk into the grocery store and every can of peas had six different price stickers on it.
On another occasion we trucked our 1965 Johnson over there in pieces. He took one look at the motor and said: "You got your bottom crankshaft seal on the top."
"How can you tell?" I asked.
"It's easy I can read the number on that seal right there on the top and its the number of the bottom seal." He then explained to us how to switch everything around. We had bought the motor secondhand. It had the seals on upside down. We followed his instructions and we were back to work the following day.
When I left the Burger King The Wefing’s Man remarked that I had made his day by remembering him. All the way home to Eastpoint I keep thinking how many times he made my day through the years. I was very happy to finally return the favor.
Yes sir, he made my day many, many times. He was always a smiley face, always had time to deal with our problem, he had tons of advice and free instructions - and all at no extra charge. I never left that Marine Hardware store and my friend The Wefing’s Man feeling that I had been over-charged. Money was always dear but I always got my money's worth at Wefing’s. And that Wefing’s Man was a big part of that feeling. That's a feeling I don't often get anymore.
If you have a Wefing’s Man type fellow in your employ, I hope that you recognize him or her and that you realize just how lucky you are. His kind is special. Whatever you're paying him, it's a bargain - believe me.
Richard E. Noble is a Freelance Writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for around thirty years. He has authored two books: "A Summer with Charlie" which is currently listed on Amazon.com and "Hobo-ing America" which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" which will be published soon.