Even at 80 years old, Paul Day is still something of a ladies’ man. At his day-long birthday party last Friday a steady stream of women came and went, and all of them had a kiss on the cheek, a big hug and huge smile for Day. He called them his “sweethearts.”
Of course, Day is also plenty popular with the gentlemen in this town, as was evidenced by the equally large and steady stream of men who came to wish Day a happy birthday, shake his hand firmly and slap his shoulder heartily. Throughout the day, dozens of Day’s family members, friends and customers stopped by Day Lumber, east of town on U.S. 160, for some cake and a bit of reminiscing with their favorite lumber dealer.
Day has been a popular guy in Pagosa ever since he arrived in the area in 1946, according to Fred Harman — another 80-something Pagosa man, and one of Day’s friends from way back.
“All the girls used to compete to get invited to come have dinner in the cooking tent we built out at the old Fort Lewis College when we were both students there,” recalled Harman. “Paul provided the lumber and I got the cook stove, and we built ourselves a big dinner tent out behind the campus. The dean got so annoyed with us cooking out there, but he let us.
“One night we had the dean’s daughter, Floe, to our tent for dinner; the next day Paul and I were walking along and we heard the dean call our names. I was so scared that he was mad, but all he said was, ‘I just want you boys to know that last night Floe had the best time she’s had in years.’”
Day and Harman met back in the ’40s, right after Day first moved to Pagosa from Salem, Mo., with his brother to pursue their lumber business in a wilder, less-logged area. Day met Harman on a lumber delivery out to the Harman family’s ranch.
Day got to know other old-timers, like Lee Cox and Red Sisson, through the timber trade as well, he said. “Cox and Sisson would log the forests, and deliver the logs here to Day Lumber where we’d sell them.”
As a Pagosa business owner for over 63 years, Day declares that running a company is no easy task, a sentiment that many younger Archuleta County small-business managers can probably relate to.
“It’s challenging,” said Day. “It used to be a rough hog deal. There’s an old-country song that talks about a man and his wife who split, ‘cause the gravy were too thin.’ Sometimes around here, too, the gravy’s been awful thin. Overall, the business has been a gradual uphill, but there’s been lots of backslides, too,” he added, with a chuckle.
Day’s work has been about more than just hanging around his lumberyard to keep things running smoothly. Through his decades in the business, he has driven more than 3 million miles, picking up lumber and supplies to bring back and sell at Day Lumber. In the first three days of the week of his 80th birthday, he had already run two loads out of Albuquerque and one from Cortez.
The SUN asked Day what advice he has for the more greenhorn business owners in the area.
“I see people coming in here and starting a business and getting rich quick, but then they start screwing off,” Day said. “You got to be consistent with your customers, be steady and reliable.”
Day’s customers are plenty satisfied with the service at Day Lumber, if the birthday party-goers are any indication. One guest last Friday, Donna Brooks, said she has been coming to Day Lumber since 1975 when she first came to the lumberyard for some building supplies. Brooks joked that, back then, Paul’s lumber company was the only one around, so they didn’t have a choice; but her big hugs, smiles, and bouquet of flowers for Day betrayed her huge soft spot for him, not just a lumber supplier, but also as good friend.
Luckily for all his dedicated customers, Day has no intention of changing his steady and reliable ways. When asked if he has any plans to retire, Day simply said: “I don’t know how.”
It’s clear that his only plan is just to keep on keeping on.