When Kathleen Ludwig received a call from Mary Jane Grimmett asking whether she and her husband, Ron “Bunk” Ludwig, would be grand marshals of the Florence Labor Day parade, she asked why.
Grimmett told her it was because they had a business in Florence for more than 40 years and have been very active in the community. Ron joked Monday that it was a good sign they are getting old.
The long-lived business was Ludwig Truck Line Inc. Ron said his father, Sam Ludwig, started the business in 1922 in Clements with a team of horses and a box wagon. He hauled pigs to a railroad depot and brought back staple goods to sell.
Ron said he worked his entire life in the business until he retired in 2006, except for two years he served in the Korean War. His father ran the business until 1964, when Ron and Kathleen bought it.
“We ran all 48 (contiguous) states when we had it,” Ron said.
At its peak, the truck line employed about 25 people, Kathleen said. When they had a 75th anniversary celebration for the business, they learned it was the oldest operating truck line in the state.
When they sold the truck line in 2006, they included arrangements to guarantee all of their employees would have jobs with the new owners if they wanted. Kathleen said only two of their employees turned down the option.
Ron’s family moved to Florence in 1947, so he has seen a lot of changes and big events in town.
“The ’51 flood sticks in my mind,” he said.
He remembers the floodwaters reaching the tops of gasoline pumps downtown, although he said he couldn’t remember whether the waters actually covered the top or only everything except the tip top.
Kathleen moved to town in 1954, taking a job as a home economics teacher. As junior class sponsor, she learned early on about Florence Labor Day.
“My first obligation was running a watermelon stand at Labor Day,” she said.
Ron and Kathleen met by chance. Ron was a big basketball fan, so he went to a high school game on a January night 56 years ago. Kathleen was selling tickets to the game, and they quickly hit things off.
“We got married in five months,” Ron said.
They were married in a Christian church downtown that is no longer in the same location, he said. Ever since, they have tried to be active in the church. At various times, they have also been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, Labor Day committee, and Symphony in the Flint Hills, Kathleen said.
After having children, she stopped teaching to be a full-time mother to their two sons and two daughters.
She said she really enjoys the views from their home just west of Florence.
“I have appreciated and enjoyed the sunsets,” she said.