Traveling to Charlottesville to visit my brother and his family on Saturday brought back memories of when I was off to school.

The mix of anticipation and sometimes dread filled my head as fear of the unexpected took over.

So did, too, the anticipation of getting dean’s list grades, something I never achieved, but to which I always aspired.

At any rate, I cut ties with my summer employer back home, whether it be Craddock Terry Shoe Factory or Leggett’s, either of which provided suitable temporary work, and began to look forward to my return to Randolph-Macon College.

Summers at Leggett’s always were memorable, particularly the summer of 1972 when I had the opportunity to go on delivery or work the storeroom with Hubert Vass, the “man with the plan.”

Vass deflected each potential problem with an “aw shucks” attitude and sense of humor that could defuse any potentially bad situation.

I never read the way I should between school years, but Hubert took me to the “school of hard knocks,” dealing with things in an upfront and straightforward manner.

Vass always kept things interesting and moving forward, no matter what the assignment, and he always had a word, or words of wisdom for me, some that can’t be mentioned in mixed company.

Vienna sausage and saltine crackers were his staple, far less elaborate than most, but still a reasonable alternative to more expense luncheon fare.

At any rate, he provided more than suitable mentorship for someone growing up, with all the bad and good breaks that come with it.

I think we all need mentors at some point in our lives, whether through a mentor role model program or some type of guidance, whether it be a contemporary or someone with more experience in the rough and tumble lives we lead.

I didn’t hurt me, or so most people think.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at