By Ryn Gargulinski
Haberdasher Homer Tankersley said he was amazed when his sons followed him into the clothing business. Pilot Brad Telshaw said he was not surprised to find his son in the sky. Coach Eric Roanhaus said his two boys perhaps followed in his football footsteps “because of the same lack of intelligence I had,” adding those who can’t find an honest job end up coaching.
No matter what dad’s reaction is, one fact remains clear. Some sons end up just like their fathers, at least where occupation is concerned.
All’s well that ends well
One of the worst times to talk to L.K. Howard or his son Lee Jr. would be when they are at work. Not because they are too inundated with customers, phone calls or paperwork — but because they can barely hear you. They drill wells for a living.
This loud and messy line of work has been passed down for three generations, according to the elder Howard. His father, Joe Howard, began the business with his three sons after working the wheat fields and in a boot and shoe repair shop.
L.K. Howard, who initially came to Clovis from Texas back in 1953, said drilling irrigation wells was a vocation born out of necessity.
“It was so dry around here,” said L.K. Howard, “the farmers couldn’t get anything to grow.”
The wells, which plunge down through the earth some 400 feet, sometimes unearth seashells, said L.K. Howard, but he has never found any fossils or artifacts of Clovis man.
Although the elder Howard said he joined the occupation out of the demand for it, his son Lee Jr. said he did not really make a conscious choice to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I just sort of fell into it,” said the younger Howard, perhaps not intending the pun.
It may be no surprise that some of the most influential people in Eric Roanhaus’ young life were his coaches. With 33 years with the Clovis Wildcats football program — including 28 as head coach — Roanhaus has influenced many young men, including his sons, while winning 10 state championships and one undefeated season during his tenure.
While dad is going strong in Clovis, Chad Roanhaus is entering his third season at Las Vegas Robertson High School. His brother, John, is an assistant at the school.
A California native, Eric Roanhaus majored in social studies at West Texas State (now Texas A&M), where he played quarterback.
“Early in my athletic career I realized my limited abilities,” said the player turned coach.
Chad Roanhaus played quarterback for his dad at Clovis and later set school passing records at New Mexico Highlands University. John Roanhaus was a lineman.
Eric Roanhaus said he feels his son made the most of his ability.
“Chad was limited by his gene pool also,” he said.
John Roanhaus “kinda bounced around,” according to dad, and ended up in Las Vegas coaching with his brother.
The elder Roanhaus said he’d be supportive no matter what vocation his sons chose.
“From one standpoint I can help them,” Eric Roanhaus said. “If they were heart surgeons, I would be no help at all.
“From another standpoint,” he continued, “just being employed is a good thing. Sons don’t necessarily have to follow in their father’s footsteps as long as they find their niche in life and go for it.”
Homer Tankersley said selling clothes is not that different from the entertainment business, where he got his start.
“In the clothing business you are selling a commodity. In entertainment, I was selling an intangible,” Tankersley said. “A salesman is on stage in front of his customers — it’s essentially the same thing.”
Not only did Tankersley pass down his love of music to his two sons, Paul and Phil, but they also ended up in the clothing business.
Tankersley sang with the gospel group The Imperials in the 1950s.
What started as a closet-sized men’s clothing store in 1961 is the only men’s clothing store left on Main Street.
Tankersley said the store has grow at least 10 times its size and now includes a women’s section and a tuxedo department — the sons’ idea.
Homer Tankersley said he could not have done it without God, his wife Doris, his longtime workers or the support of his sons.
“I didn’t push this store down their throat,” said Homer Tankersley, explaining both boys went to college on golf scholarships, another passion they shared.
Paul and Phil came back to Clovis to work with dad in the store on Main Street. “It was their decision,” the elder Tankersley said, adding that no matter what career his sons may have chosen, he would have been pleased. “As long as it’s honorable and what they want to do with their occupation and their life.”
Brad Telshaw said he got the best Father’s Day gift on Monday night — his first flight in a 757 jet — with his son as the pilot.
Although he hasn’t been in a plane in about 10 years, the art of flying is nothing new for Brad Telshaw.
The elder Telshaw got his start when his long-ago boss owned an airplane. “He took me for a ride, and I was hooked,” said Telshaw, who joined the Air Force right after high school.
“It was the only opportunity I had to break into aviation,” said Telshaw, whose excitement only grew when they sent him on tour in Vietnam then to England and Germany. He passed that excitement down to his son.
David Telshaw said his love of flying began with model airplanes — then flights with his father around Clovis airport when he was in high school.
“I was always fascinated with the sky,” said the younger Telshaw, who pursued a degree in aviation science at Clovis Community College and a career in the clouds.
After working as a flight instructor at Clovis Municipal Airport and then as a pilot for Mesa Airlines, David Telshaw landed his current job at American Trans Air, which flies military charters.
Father and son have spent hours flying from Clovis to Denver in dad’s privately owned plane.
“We worked together very well,” said David Telshaw of the precision it takes to successfully soar through thunderstorms together. “We can talk about pretty much anything when we’re flying.”
The elder Telshaw pointed out one more bond the airplane glued together. “Aviation kept me from being a bum and kept him from being a bum,” he said.