The self-education of Howard Woods
Feb 23, 2011 | 1684 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WORKING MAN — Howard Woods of Georgetown did what he could as a teenager to make it in a world where formal education was not a perfect fit for him, but hard work came as second nature.
view slideshow (3 images)
Having the intelligence not to let a lack of schooling interfere with his success, Howard Woods of Georgetown became as close to a self-made man as most people will ever meet.

When he was attending school in the late 1950s and early ’60s no one understood or treated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with anything other than a rod of discipline or a scolding tongue. Woods admits he had trouble staying focused in school and came to an academic crossroad in the eighth grade.

“I was always hyper, flying paper airplanes in class and talking to the young girls,” said Woods. “I wasn’t interested too much in getting my lesson like I should. They got on me several times and couldn’t get me to do what they wanted me to do.

“So the teacher said, ‘You’re not paying attention and you’re cutting up all the time. You might as well get a fishing pole and go down on the creek.’”

Woods said he did not take his teacher’s advice immediately but did skip school a lot.

“I couldn’t stand to be closed in or stay put for 45 minutes at a time from one class to the other,” he said. “I definitely had a problem, but I didn’t know what it was back then.”

Woods said he was “in the eighth grade twice,” being held back the first time, and finally gave up school altogether during his second time around in the eighth grade.

“I started helping my neighbor run his dairy farm — milking cows,” said Woods. “I worked three to four hours in the morning and about the same in the afternoon.”

According to Woods, the youngest of 18 children, his older brothers were constantly telling him to go back to school, but his parents, Bill and Mattie Woods, were more nonchalant about the matter and he decided against returning.

“I worked at the dairy for about six to eight months. Then I would go to my neighbor on the other side of Georgetown and work for him at his dairy whenever I got tired of working for the other,” he said.

Woods said he was able to raise and sell three calves, allowing him to buy an old 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air at the age of 16.

“It had $225 on the window sticker and I got $235 for the calves,” he recalled.

Woods continued to work the two dairy farms until he turned 17. Then the hyper teen went to work at The Village Lanes bowling alley for two years. Things started to changed, however, when Woods went to work at International Harvester Farming Equipment in Cleveland, according to Woods.

“I delivered parts to truck garages and assembled small grass-cutting equipment,” he said. “I knew how to use wrenches so me and another guy assembled the equipment together. I worked there for 95 cents an hour in 1963.”

Later, at age 22, Woods married his girlfriend Estella and set out to make a better living for the two. Although he never finished high school, Woods said he learned enough to know how to avoid getting into debt.

“My secret was to always pay as you go,” he said. “If you can — do it yourself, pay as you go and then you don’t owe anybody.”

Sticking to this simple formula for success, Woods began buying property.

“I bought 8 acres at an auction from money my wife and I saved up,” said Woods. “I still have that land. I had a thing for property. For some reason or another, when I bought land I always had change in my pocket. So I just saved and bought property.”

Later Woods said he bought a backhoe digger and went to work for himself doing construction while working at Bendix from 1970-75.

“I worked second shift. So in the mornings I worked construction with my backhoe in my own business,” he said. “I chose construction because it’s outside work and I don’t like to be housed up.”

From age 29 to age 62, Woods said he bought and traded seven bulldozers and three backhoes as he became a successful one-man company called Howard Woods’ Digging and Dozing Company in Georgetown.

“I did mainly residential and some industrial,” he said. “I pushed out trees, dug basements and footings and put in septic tanks. I made a good living for myself, my wife and my son.”

Woods said he also raised cattle which he traded over the years, and continued to buy property near his home.

Today Woods, 66, owns 244 acres of land in Georgetown, drives a luxury late model Buick, owns the house he built in 1968, so that he never had a mortgage, and is now semi-retired.

“I made very little mistakes in my business because I took my time,” he said. “I may have hired one or two people over the years — a handyman and a machine operator — but mostly I did it myself.

Woods said his wife ran the office, handling his bookkeeping and answering the phone, adding, “Behind every good businessman is a good woman.” The couple has been together 44 years now.

According to Woods, hard work, using common sense, making smart investments and avoiding going into debt have been the keys to his success. Still, the self-sufficient businessman said, “If I had to do it all over again I’d do the same thing — only with a little more education.”

Woods said he would encourage youths today to stay in school and finish their education and even return to get their GED if they can, but never feel like a failure if school is not a perfect fit for every student.

“All is not lost,” he said. “Find a job and stick with it. There is a lot of work out there. No one had to get me up to go to work. I enjoyed working. If I made it you can too.”