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Three generations of service
Nov 25, 2009 | 867 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Smejkal Electric celebrated its 60th anniversary last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Friends, family and members of the Bee County Chamber of Commerce attended the historic occasion. Cutting the ribbon is Waylon Ford, whose grandfather, Frank Smejkal, started the company in 1949, and Waylon’s wife, Sandy Ford, and two children.
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When Frank Smejkal and his wife, Rose, opened Smejkal Electric and A/C in November 1949, the shop had no running water or restrooms and only two drop lights to work by.

Now, 60 years later, Smejkal Electric and A/C, Inc. is celebrating its 60th year of successful operation in Beeville.

The Smejkals opened their first shop at 106 E. Hefferman St. By 1952, the company had prospered, and moved to a new, larger location at 309 N. St. Mary’s St. where it remained for the next 13 years.

It was during those years that Frank’s sons, Gus, Frank Marvin and Johnny, joined the business and worked their way from dust rags and brooms to learning the electrical trade and eventually became licensed electricians themselves.

Joe Smejkal, Frank’s older brother, worked with Frank beginning in the early 1950. He was well known in the community and had a quite a reputation as Mr. Fix-It, repairing appliances from his work bench which still remains in Smejkal Electric and A/C to this day.

Frank said it was difficult to operate a business in early years when service calls were only $3.50. His wife and children tell of many instances where a disheartened Frank would come home saying, “I don’t know if we’re going to make it.” Ever confident, Rose would reply with a smile, “Oh yes, we will!”

Bookkeeping was done by pencil and paper as there were no calculators back then.

Frank began to see a community need arise in the air conditioning and heating industry and began plans to branch out. He was among the York A/C class of 1955, which was only one of the first of many training classes the electricians now had to attend in order to advance in the HVAC field. The new trade provided a seasonal balance for the business and its customers.

After 13 years at the St. Mary’s Street location, the Smejkals realized they were outgrowing their shop and began plans to construct a new 5000-square-foot facility. The new shop was to be built on the south side of town on land that was owned by Frank Smejkal on U.S. Highway 181 Business Route. Construction was almost complete when Hurricane Celia struck the Gulf Coast in August 1970. Fortunately only a few leaks were detected but Smejkals’ building remained unscathed. The business celebrated its grand opening/21st anniversary at 2158 Business 181 South on Nov. 24, 1970.

In 1990, Smejkal Electric and A/C welcomed its newest family employee, Frank’s grandson Waylon Ford. Waylon is the oldest son of Frank’s daughter Linda Smejkal Ford. As with each family member, Waylon had begun his “career” at Smejkal’s as a young boy with a dust rag and broom. Waylon worked part time while he attended Texas A&M at Kingsville until he completed his bachelor of science degree in May 1999, at which point he joined the company full time. Waylon learned the trades of A/C and electrical industries, from his grandfather, older cousins and uncles, but treasured the life lessons he gained from his grandfather the most. As Frank neared retirement years, Waylon recalls the conversations between his grandfather and himself about “one of these days” the business being passed on to him to carry on the family name and quality service. This became young Waylon’s dream.

Frank Smejkal retired in 1998 and the business was turned over to Johnny Smejkal and his wife, Dorothy. They carried on the business for the next 11 years, even through an unstable economy and countless stumbling blocks. Some weeks were hard pressed to make payroll, and there were weeks that Johnny, as owner, did not receive pay himself, so that his employees and bills could be paid.

After a long battle with diabetes and its many complications, Frank Smejkal died at the age of 87, in July 2004.

“He was the cornerstone of not only a business, but a family, who mourned the loss but celebrated the legacy he left behind,” family members say.

Waylon continued to work as a journeyman electrician and A/C technician learning daily under the caring hand of his uncle Johnny Smejkal. The two attended classes and seminars together and assisted one another with troubleshooting to supplement this learning. Waylon was eventually made assistant manager of Smejkal Electric and A/C and began to work on electrical and A/C projects independently.

After much study, in November 2006, Waylon Ford became the third member of the Smejkal family to achieve the status of master electrician following his grandfather Frank Smejkal and uncle August “Gus” Smejkal. Less than a year later, Waylon also obtained his Class A, Texas Air Conditioning Contractors license, which allows him to install and service air conditioning units of unlimited size and tonnage, unlike the standard Class B license.

These licenses are a large part of the requirements business owners must possess in the HVAC and electrical trades in order to comply with regulations imposed by the state of Texas.

In November 2007, that dream finally became a reality as Waylon, along with his wife, Sandy, purchased the business from his uncle Johnny Smejkal, who had entered retirement years. In their two years of ownership the two have realized firsthand the ups and downs of owning a business, and take pride in knowing that they are now the extension of “Grandpa Smejkal’s” hard work.

Both of the Fords’ children have already grown up inside the business, just as the Smejkal children did.

Waylon is frequently asked if his son Payton will carry on the family business. He doesn’t have much comment on the matter, but you can see his answer by the light in his smile.

On, Nov. 19 2009, Smejkal Electric and A/C, Inc. celebrated its 60th year of successful operation in the community.

“This is not the accomplishment of one person, but now three generations of family members who have contributed to the success of the company over the years,” said Sandy Ford. “Although Rose and Frank’s sons and grandsons played the most visible roles in the company, each of his children and grandchildren have at some point provided a sort of ‘labor of love’ in caring for the success of the business.”

From dust rag and broom duty, to cashier, from A/C tech, to master electrician, all have had some part in making this dream a reality, Sandy said.

“As they celebrate this milestone, the family of Waylon Ford along with the entire Smejkal family would like to wholeheartedly thank the people of Beeville and the surrounding communities for their continued patronage of Smejkal Electric and A/C, Inc. over the last 60 years,” Ford said. “It is only by the support of the community and the blessing from God, they say, that one man’s dream has become reality.”

A special tribute to Frank and Rose Smejkal, and their family has been set up inside Smejkal Electric and A/C.

The community is invited to stop by and enjoy a short stroll down memory lane.



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