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Continued: Glen Taylor: Soul of a billionaire

  • Article by: TERRY FIEDLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 26, 1998 - 3:51 PM

When the family sold the farm in later years, all of the proceeds went to pay the bank.

Student-athlete

Like his mother, Taylor was a good student, the salutatorian of his 42-person class at Comfrey High School, which had about 200 total students in four grades.

Like his father, he was a good athlete. He ran track, played baseball and was the starting quarterback on the football team and a starting guard in basketball. At about 5-11, 165 pounds, his current height and weight, he had to rely on quickness.

Taylor's participation in high school sports ended prematurely.

Taylor's girlfriend, Glenda, who lived on a neighboring farm, became pregnant. Just 16 and juniors in high school, they decided to get married and live with Taylor's parents. Taylor hired himself
out to a neighboring farmer to earn more money, in addition to helping his father at home.

Hearing the news of the couple's marriage, the Comfrey High School principal expelled Taylor.

"He was afraid that I would set a bad example," Taylor said. "As he put it, he `didn't want anyone to think that this was the right thing.' "

Taylor says teachers appealed on his behalf, and after a two-week expulsion, he was allowed to return to school - on the condition that he could no longer participate in extracurricular activities. He missed most of his junior year in basketball and then spring sports, and he would not play any sports in his senior year.

As further punishment, the principal tried to keep Taylor from speaking at commencement, as he was scheduled to do. Teachers intervened again, and he gave the speech.

Getting a start

Three days after he graduated from high school in 1959, Taylor came to Mankato to look for a job to support his family and his schooling. He applied to be a clerk at a hotel and to work at a
drugstore. Then his brother suggested he apply at a print shop run by a man named Bill Carlson. He was hired on the spot.

"I wasn't excited about working at a printing company; I was excited about making a dollar an hour," Taylor said.

Life was hectic as a father, a student and an employee, but by this time Taylor already had learned to be a good "outliner," he says. By quickly sorting out the most important concepts from the
least in lectures, he was able to take notes and complete his homework during class, as he had in the last years of high school.

Taylor, who studied math and physics and expected to teach, took pleasure in solving complex problems. In college, he made sure he got his bills paid within his budget by cashing his check each week and dividing the money into the envelopes that represented the amount needed to meet monthly expenses. If he overspent in one area, he had to borrow from another envelope.

Taylor brought his analytical and organizational skills to what's now known as Carlson Craft, a business that generated annual sales of about $150,000 printing wedding invitations, among other
jobs.

Back then, most printers regarded wedding invitations as a low-volume, time-intensive nuisance. To make things more convenient for themselves, they limited selection. You could get invitations
printed with black ink on ivory or white paper. That was it.

There were also just two main formats of text - one for Protestants and one for Catholics. The printers also took their own sweet time finishing the jobs.

Taylor, who joined the company full time in 1962 after graduating a year early, had no preconceived notions. "A lot of my competitors were in their 50s and saying, `This is the way it should be done.' I was young and listened to other young people."

Mankato State students told him what they wanted and, by 1964, he was beginning to put the ideas into print. In time, Carlson Craft offered different colors of paper and ink, and different wording,
such as lines from poems.

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