Leroy “Bud” Taylor has been a “builder” most of his life. The Taylor name has long been synonymous with integrity, honesty and dependability in the business of construction, whether it be a church, houses, businesses or various other jobs handled by Taylor Construction.
“Bud” shares his story, which also proves to be a tribute to his late father, Forrest Taylor, another well-known and respected name in Fayette County.
Meet Bud and Mary Ann Taylor as they welcome us into their lovely Vandalia home.
Bud’s Early Memories
“I was born in Naperville, and we came down to Pleasant Mound, where I went to the first two years of school, and we moved to Vandalia when I was in the third grade,” he said.
“When we were growing up, we were poor, really poor. There were six of us kids (Bud, Ed Taylor, the late Dan Taylor, Marilyn Bauman, Janice Barnes and Sue Carter).
“During the Depression years, we lived in Pleasant Mound, and we ate just what we raised. My dad butchered meat and peddled meat.
“Even when we moved to town, we butchered our own meat. I got in on that quite a bit. But I had a real good family I grew up in,” he said.
“My dad, without a doubt, was the hardest worker I ever knew. We didn’t have a vehicle and we lived at Pleasant Mound,” he said.
Dad was working at Ford Roofing Plant here in Vandalia, and he would walk back and forth to work from Pleasant Mound. (approximately 15 miles from Vandalia). Then we finally bought an old Model T truck, and he drove that to work.
“Then, when we moved to Vandalia, he would work in the construction business with my uncle, Roy Emerick, and he would still have to carry his tool box home. He would go down the railroad track and walk over to uncle Roy’s house by Central School,” Bud said.
“Dad was such a good person, he was always working. He worked hard and was seldom out of a job. He was a good craftsman, better than me, and he could still outwork me to the day he died,” he said.
“The week before he died, he was out breaking up concrete with a sledge hammer in his front yard. He had a bad sidewalk he wanted to fix,” Bud said.
“Dad bought the old Buser hardware store, back in the alley, and Dan kind of took care of the store for him,” he said.
“I graduated from Vandalia High School, but I was never a good student. I got by, but I didn’t realize what school meant until I was in the junior and senior years – then it was too late to make up grades and all of that.”
“I started the third grade in Vandalia, in what they called ‘the dog house’ at Washington School,” he said. “It was a little building at the south end of the (Washington) school.”
The school was later rebuilt.
“I went from there to the old McKinley School, played basketball there and went on to high school, where I played basketball up until I was a senior. I worked at the Vandalia Dairy all through high school. When I got out of school, I went to work for my dad, at Taylor Construction, which he started.”
“One day in January, 1951, Rod Withers, Russell Murphy, and I decided we were going into the service. We went to St. Louis.
“The branch we wanted to go in was closed for that day, so we joined the Navy. From there, we all went to boot Camp and came home, and when we reported back for our assignments, Rod and Russell went on aboard ship and I went up to Class A builder’s school,” Bud said.
“We took certain tests, and I asked to go there.
“It was a real learning experience. When I went into the Navy, I knew that to get anywhere, you had to be on your toes, study and learn, and I came out pretty successful,” Bud said.
“I made my grades, rates and everything as quickly as could possibly be made. I was in charge of the carpenter’s shop almost continually for three years.
“From there I went on to Davisville, R.I., and then spent 18 months in North Africa and a year in Guantanimo Bay, Cuba.” He said the climate there is excellent, with a sea breeze all the time.
In the Meantime – Mary Ann
They were in high school when they met.
“The first day, she walked into the assembly, and, you know how the upperclassmen look down and try to pick out their girlfriend,” Bud said.
“She walked in from the Shobonier bus, I saw her and we’ve been together ever since. She was 14 at the time.”
We’ve been married 58 years, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything. She is the best friend I have today.”
When Mary Ann was just out of high school, Bud gave her an engagement ring.They were married by the late Rev. George Karr when he was home on leave from boot camp.
Mary Ann started working at First National Bank. After they were married, the bank allowed her days off to go visit Bud at base when possible.
“I remember my mother had to go sign for me to get married, because I wasn’t 21 yet,” Bud said
Back Home Again … for Awhile
When Bud was discharged from the service, he came back home and worked with his dad again. He eventually started his own company, which he operated until 1980, and then he began travelling on the road all over the United States, for other companies, still in the construction business.
“Before retirement, they were building cancer treatment centers,” he said. “We were in Virginia, Washington, D.C, New York, Michigan, the state of Washington, Los Angeles and Texas, all in the matter of just a few years. “
Taylor Construction contributed to Fayette County and Vandalia also.
“My dad built the First Baptist Church educational building while I was in the service,” he said. “We built the Free Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church. We changed the configuration of St. James Lutheran Church on the hill. We built the jail, and a lot of houses. Just about everywhere in Vandalia, you can see something we have done.”
Memorable Building Experience
“Probably the most interesting job when I was not in my own business was when I sent out to the Union Station in Washington, D.C,” he said.
“A parking garage was being added to the station, and when he was sent to take charge, the job was already behind schedule and $22 million dollars over budget,” Bud said.
“While I was out there, I suggested that the contractor be terminated. I spent 10 months out there on that job. I don’t know when it actually got finished, or even if it is finished today, but the contractor bid it in for a lot less than it could be built in. They terminated him and I was brought back into St. Louis to work for a while,” he said.
“The most enjoyable job I ever had, and Mary Ann was with me, was doing renovation work in the mother house with the Catholic Sisters in Adrian, Mich.
“Those nuns were terrific. They treated us like family We ate with them and we partied with them. We were always invited to their parties. The job just didn’t last long enough,” he said.
Tribute to Forrest Taylor
In response to the respect associated with the name, Bud said,” I came from the age when my dad gave his word that he was going to do something, and what it would be worth to him, and that’s what it was.
“When my sons were in the business, one son called and said, ‘Dad, we’re going to lose some money on this job. What can we do about it?’ I said, ‘Well, you know you told them what it’s going to cost you to do it and that’s what it’s going to cost you to do it. What ever you lose, that’s to their benefit.’
“That’s the way we lived. When I went out traveling to work, I worked for people who were not honest, and I didn’t stay with them.
Bud and Mary Ann were baptized and became members of the First Baptist Church on their first wedding anniversary while he was home on leave.
After the service, he taught the young boys Sunday school class, and also ran the church bus ministry for many years. As many as five buses were once in operation, transporting more than 500 to Sunday school and church.
The bus ministry also took the children to church camps and functions. He recalled once when they took the kids to a fair. “The bus got hemmed in and we had to take a fence post out to get out,” he said, laughing.
He also taught an adult men’s class, alternating with Clarence Alender, and has continued to serve on various committees and offices and as deacon.
He recalled attending the old McKinley School.
“On the first day of school there, in an assembly. Miss Elam would get out a paddle and said, ‘This is the board of education,’ and she used it, liberally. If boys got into a squabble, a fuss or a fight, Mr. Bannister would get out the boxing gloves, and when they wore themselves out, he would make them shake hands, and that would be the end of it.”
He remembered going to the old Steinhauer Store across the street from the school, “and running down to Andy’s for lunch. I could get five hamburgers for a quarter or three hamburgers and a half of a pie, the little pies.
“And if we went down early enough in the morning. Dale Slater worked at the bakery next door to Andy’s, and we went there early enough in the morning, he would pass out day-old rolls to us at the back door.”
“When Rod and I were in the Navy, we went down to boot camp at San Diego. Dale Slater was the cook there. He (Slater) was in two wars. World War II and Korea,” Bud said.
“It’s not easy to retire,” Bud said. “Of course, I didn’t stop everything, I was still out on the job every day.”
Bud finished up a school job in Rockville, Ind., and hasn’t worked since.
He still mows three yards. “But it’s not easy not to have something to do when you get up every morning,” he said. About today’s young people and the problems with alcohol and drugs, he said, “The young people today need to be in church, to realize there is a supreme being, and they need to be where they can learn about it.
Mary Ann said that she and Bud now just kind of do what they want to do, enjoy the grandkids and help the kids when they can.
They have three children – Brad, Linda and Brian.
“They never gave us any trouble and all three have a degree in engineering. They are raising their children the same way, and we are proud of them,” Bud said.
They are looking forward in the near future to meeting with the men that Bud served with in Africa so many years ago. They have all stayed in close contact with each other and have met together frequently.
As for Bud’s health, “I never smoked or drank, I’ve had a good life, and if they don’t run out of spare parts, I’m gonna be all right,” he said.