Bill Skougis owned a small diner near the high school, and Ford worked there throughout his time as a high school football star:
“There was a little restaurant across from the high school. Bill Skougis, who ran this hamburger stand, always hired football stars. My sophomore year, when I played well, he offered me a job. He had about four of us, maybe five, working, for which we got paid $2 a week plus lunch. But he limited us to 60 cents worth of lunch. We had to work one night a week from 6 to 10. My job was to work at the counter, washing dishes and making hamburgers. And when people left and paid their bill, I had to handle that part of the job.”
In 1930, when Jerry was sixteen, an unexpected patron walked through the doors of Bill’s Place during a lull after the lunchtime hour. A large, well-dressed man approached the counter and addressed Ford.
“Are you Leslie King?”
“No,” replied Jerry.
“Are you Jerry Ford?”
“You’re Leslie King. I’m your father. You don’t know me. I’d like to take you to lunch.”
Jerry had remembered that when he was about thirteen years old, his mother had told him of her previous marriage to a man named King, but he did not see why any of that would matter at the present moment.
“I’m working,” was Jerry’s reply.
“Ask your boss if you can get off.”
Jerry told Bill that he was having a personal crisis and that he had to go to lunch with this person. Bill consented, and Jerry left the restaurant with Leslie King. Outside of the diner was parked a nice car with a woman sitting in the front seat who King introduced as his wife. They had a meal at the Cherie Inn, where King explained how he had found Jerry. He was passing through the city; he had picked up a new car in Detroit and was en route to Wyoming. He knew he had a son who went by the name Ford and was currently attending high school in Grand Rapids. He was going to go to every high school to ask for him, but he had guessed South correctly on the first try, and they told him that he was working at Bill’s place.
Jerry remembered much of the conversation to be “superficial,” and conversed with King to be courteous. “It was a hell of a shock for a sixteen-year-old kid,” Ford recalled. “I was not frightened by him but by what I was going to tell my parents that night. And I was really terrified about that. He meant nothing to me.” After lunch, King took his biological son back to Bill’s place and handed him a twenty-dollar bill before departing. Jerry told his mother and step-father about the incident later that night, once his brothers were in bed, and his mother told him the entire truth about her previous marriage. Jerry’s fears proved unfounded, as his parents reassured him that they loved him, and told him to put the whole ordeal in the past.
The only other time anything took place between Jerry Ford, Jr. and Leslie King was when the former, needing cash to continue his college education, wrote his biological father for financial help. The letter was ignored. Years later, Dorothy Ford successfully sued her ex-husband for the child support payments that had not been paid. King passed away in Arizona in 1941.