Norm Ludwick says he’s always looked for the positive side of life, so at age 84 and despite the recent 50th anniversary of Sherwood Auto & Camper Sales that he founded in 1966, it should not be surprising that he has no plans to retire.
“Life’s been good to me and I always loved working with public. That’s why I haven’t retired,” Ludwick said Monday in his small office at Sherwood. “People ask me why I don’t retire. I tell them, ‘What am I going to do? Go home and wait to die?’”
While he had helped out at home for years, Ludwick’s professional life started when he was about 12. He had a daytime Cincinnati Post paper route and in the evenings set pins at the White Cloud Bowling Alley on West Main Street in Hillsboro, pretty much across the street from where he lived. It’s where Moon Tractor is located today.
“It was the entertainment spot in Hillsboro. If you wanted to do something, that’s where you went because you could bowl, play pool, dance, eat and roller-skate,” Ludwick said.
The son of Glenn and Margaret Ludwick, Norm said he grew up on what was pretty much a small, working farm. His dad had an egg, cream and chickens business, plus a Carnation Milk route he drove every morning, and that Norm took over when he was 15.
When he was 14, Norm started working at an Ashland Gas Station across the road from the west end of the former Hillsboro High School location, then the next year he started running his dad’s dairy route in the mornings before he went to school. He worked for Jimmy Shelton at a car lot on Catherine Street in Hillsboro for a while, then at a gas station on East Main Street. In between he built a homemade motorbike, fixed up bicycles and resold them, and “hustled” cars.
“I never realized I did all that staff until I got older, because I guess I took it for granted,” Ludwick said. “I was busy, but I loved every minute of it. If I could go back, I’d do the same thing all over again.”
After graduating from Hillsboro High School in 1951, Ludwick served in the U.S. Army for a couple years. When he got out he drove an oil truck for three years during the day and worked at a gas station in the evening, still hustling cars from the station. He said he sold about two a week.
Then came a partnership for 12 years with Charlie Dodds at an Ashland gas station in Hillsboro. “He was a wonderful person. We never had an argument. Not even one. I can’t say enough good things about him,” Ludwick said.
It was 1966 when he opened Sherwood with partner Tom Goolsby. At first they sold just cars and trucks, but influenced by his love of camping and annual summer trips with his family out west, Ludwick decided he wanted to start selling recreational vehicles.
“I took the family out west and never had so much fun in my life, so when I got back I went into the camper business,” Ludwick said. “About 1970 I bought a new motor home and about everybody in the country came out to look at it.”
But Goolsby didn’t like selling campers or RVs, Ludwick said, so they parted ways amicably and Goolsby started Westview Motors.
These days, Ludwick said, Sherwood’s business is split about 50/50 between selling cars and trucks and RVs, and his son, Ronnie Ludwick, pretty much runs the business. But Norm is always around.
As Ludwick talks about other parts of his life it is not hard to tell what things are most important – his family, his business, kids, and positive thinking. He said he loves 4-H and that kids today need a good work ethic more than ever. He said he loves his business and being around people. And as a couple of his grandkids ran around the Sherwood lot, he said his favorite times have been spent with his family.
“We all need a lot of love and attention in life. That’s very important. It means a lot,” Ludwick said. “Life is really precious. If you look for good things in life, good things will happen.”
And he said his plan is to work until he’s 100.
“That means I’ve got 15 and a half years to go before I retire,” he joked. “My work has been fun. I’ve got super people around here. There are no arguments. I don’t allow it. We’re all like one big, happy family. I’ve been blessed here.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.