"Two young men who didn’t have to turn to public works, however, were P. J. Zondervan, better known as “Pat,” and his younger brother Bernard, whom everyone called “Bernie.” Pat had left the family farm in nearby Grandville in 1924 to work for his Uncle Bill Eerdmans — the founder and owner of the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Bernie quit school two years later, having finished eighth grade, and joined Pat at the firm. It seemed to be a satisfactory arrangement. And it was — until one fateful day in the summer of 1931.
Although many people were not enjoying that long, hot summer, a few were. Babe Ruth was hitting homeruns long and often for the New York Yankees and had a little earlier asked for and received a fabulous $80,000 salary. When someone asked him how it felt to be getting a higher salary than President Hoover, Ruth replied, “I had a better year than he did!” Frankie Frisch of the St. Louis Cardinals and Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics were leading their teams toward baseball’s World Series and were on their way to receiving the Major Leagues’ first Most Valuable Player awards. Also that summer an act of Congress made “The Star Spangled Banner” — a common companion to sports events — the country’s national anthem.
On the other hand, the University of Michigan, which hadn’t sent a football team to the Rose Bowl since 1902, was facing the prospect of another grim season without a championship. One of their new freshman players that fall would be Gerald R. Ford, a talented center from South High School in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids was pleased with its new South High School auditorium that summer, but it was even more excited about the new DeVaux automobiles. On January 13, DeVaux-Hall Motor Corporation had wheeled the first of its stylish six-cylinder autos off the assembly line in Grand Rapids, with orders totaling 12,500. The cars sported a price tag of $685 and boasted a top speed of seventy to eighty miles per hour. They were to be used most notably as police cruisers. By summer, however, the firm’s plans had begun to sour in the deepening Depression. The company filed for bankruptcy in April 1932 after fourteen months and 5,554 cars.
The book business wasn’t good in the summer of 1931 either. Whether it was just the difficulty of trying to turn a profit or whether there were other factors, William B. Eerdmans wasn’t happy. His aggressive nephew, Pat Zondervan, was learning the trade well and was pressing Eerdmans to give him a share of the business. Uncle Bill wanted none of that. One day, when his irritation became too great, he told his twenty-two-year-old nephew, “You’re fired!” Pat, astonished, immediately left the office, drove over to get his belongings from the Eerdmans home, where he had been living, and went back to the farm.
His mother was surprised to see him. “Why are you home? What does this mean?” “Ma!” Pat announced. “I just got fired!” The date was July 31. What happened next led to the founding of a company that would soon begin to make a profound and lasting impact, not only on religious publishing but on the evangelical Christian world as a whole. This is the story of that enterprise, which Pat and Bernie Zondervan called the Zondervan Publishing House." From The House of Zondervan, Copyright © 1981, 2006 by the Zondervan Corporation
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