Waiting for the phone to ring

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

This year OOIDA celebrates its 40th year, and we’ve been talking a lot about the Association’s history. Many of you members have heard about the first office, a small trailer tethered to a light pole in the parking lot of the old Dutchman truck stop in Grain Valley, Mo. Many of you have asked: What happened after the trailer? Here’s the story.

After a year in the trailer, OOIDA’s office moved to the west end of the Laundromat on the main street through Oak Grove, Mo., just east of Grain Valley on I-70. That was 1975. OOIDA’s total assets in 1975 were reported as $860.36, a figure that OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston says was “generous.” Jim quit driving that year so he could work daily in the Association’s first brick-and-mortar office.

It was there that Jim (the newly elected president and the only employee) decided members needed their own magazine to cover the activities of the fledgling Association and to help the organization grow.

“The Association needed an official publication,” Jim says. “If other magazines would not write about OOIDA, we needed one that would.”

The cost of printing Land Line during its first year was $2,613.37. Looking at old accounting documents, I see that appears to be three times what Jim’s salary was for a whole year.

To lend perspective, OOIDA’s July 2013 issue of Land Line was delivered to more than 219,000 readers. The Association has a number of websites and in 2005 went to the satellite airwaves with “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM’s Road Dog Channel 128.

But in 1975, that kind of reach wasn’t on OOIDA’s radar. We actually don’t know what the circulation was, but we know there was only one phone and it wasn’t very busy.

After a couple of moves, including nearly 18 years at a renovated truck stop at Exit 24 in Grain Valley, OOIDA broke ground in 1997 on a new building nearby and moved in 1998. In 2003 – OOIDA’s 30th anniversary – the Association once again began building additional office space, a new three-story building that was connected to the 1998 facility. That building is work force central for 300 employees who serve the business needs of about 150,000 members.

“We could have never imagined that we would have a switchboard that takes about 15,000 phone calls a week,” says Jim. “It doesn’t seem that long ago we were sitting at the Laundromat, waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it would be a member prospect.” LL