Gerald Ford, Sr. grew up in Grand Rapids, a city that still reflected much of its frontier and agricultural roots, but also one that was investing more deeply into industry, especially furniture manufacturing. This transition was being furthered by railroads.
In 1903, Gerald left school after completing the 8th grade. This was not unusual in those days, when parents had to decide whether their child would pursue a trade or a college degree. Gerald worked as a cashier for the Grand Rapids, Holland, and Chicago Railway, selling tickets to those traveling to the Windy City.
By 1914, he began his career in paint, working as an assistant sales manager for the Alabastine Compan, selling an inexpensive whitewash used on interior walls. Shortly after he married Dorothy, he took a job as sales manager for Heystek & Canfield, a paint production firm that sold their product to contractors and furniture manufacturers. In the early 1920s he would become a salesman for the Grand Rapids Wood Finishing Company and from there start his own business-- Ford Paint and Varnish.
As an adult, he stood 6’ 1” and was often described as the straightest-standing man around. “Kept himself in good physical condition,” his step-son remembered. “He had jet-black hair, which he combed in a pompadour with a part down the middle,” said Junior, who would comb his hair the same way.
Ford Sr. loved to hunt and fish. “I used to try both with him, but I had no interest, so we kind of didn’t get together on that,” Junior recalled. But Dad and son got together on so much more. They played baseball together, and Senior took an active interest in Boy Scouts with each of his sons, seeing three attain the rank of Eagle. “He went to every high school and college football game I played in, in the state of Michigan,” Junior said. Senior taught his step-son the virtues of hard work, civic responsibility, and personal integrity. “Whatever he got into, he was highly regarded and eventually chosen for some position of responsibility.”