Lawrence Riggins moved to Clovis in 1947 at the age of 20 from Haskell County, Texas where he was raised on a farm. After spending about a year and a half in the U.S. Army, Riggins started working in the carpet and furniture business and soon began selling Kirby vacuum cleaners.
He has been selling Kirbys since 1956. He said he is one of Kirby's oldest employees. Riggins said he has stayed in the field so long because he enjoys communicating with people and loves working for people.
Lawrence Riggins inspects a Kirby vacuum cleaner on Wednesday in his shop in Clovis.
Riggins said he has made a living, paid for his home and raised four children on money he earned from selling and servicing Kirbys.
What got you into selling Kirbys?
I sold carpet and furniture for about eight and a half years. I knew Kirby from working with carpet and furniture. I went to work for Kirby October of 1956. I started out with door to door sales and worked on up to an area distributor. Business started slowing down and they brought another fellow in here with me. After that they asked me if I would consider running the service center and I said yes. We sell Kirbys in Clovis and within a radius of about 200 miles.
Could you describe a typical work day for you at different points in your Kirby career?
Back in the 1970s I would go out every morning and start knocking on doors and getting into people's homes to show Kirbys. I'd usually start at nine in the morning and work till five or six in the evening. Sometimes I had night appointments. One time a fellow asked me to come in at 10 o'clock at night. That appointment lasted till about midnight. Today I usually open the store about nine every morning and start working on people's machines. I stay in the store now. It's a job that I thoroughly enjoy. I look forward to coming down here every day. It gives me something to do rather than sit at home, look at four walls and watch TV.
How did you manage to talk people into letting you in their home to show them a Kirby?
I would usually knock on the door, tell them my name and give them a minute to give me their name. If they didn't do that, I would usually open with the question 'how would you like to double the life of your carpet?' That would get their attention and they would ask 'what do you mean?' I would explain to them and bring the Kirby in and show it. I would show them how much dirt the Kirby would pull out that their other vacuum cleaner didn't and it would end up being a sale. The main thing in this business, you've got to get inside the house to show the Kirby. I've never had a lot of problems doing that myself.
What do you do in your spare time?
I'm active in my church on Sunday so I don't have a lot of spare time. Occasionally I'll go fishing. I usually go to this little lake over here at Bosque Redondo just south of Fort Sumner. I go over there late in the evening and do a little catfishing. I attend Central Baptist. I started attending there in 1947 shortly after I came to Clovis. I work as a greeter and as an usher. I take the offerings and help people find their Sunday school classroom.
How did you meet your wife?
She came in one day when I was working in the furniture store that was known as Bryson Tanner furniture company. She was looking for a job. We didn't have anything there so she left. That evening I went by the Silver Grill which was a restaurant at Seventh and Main to eat supper. A man came to me and said 'I'm looking for a young lady just out of high school to be my secretary.' I called the employment office and they told me her name, where she previously worked and gave me three addresses where she was staying at the time. I found her and took her down to the interview. When she got the job down there she was dating a different person. When they broke up I started dating her. She ended up being my wife.
What do you and your wife like to do for fun nowadays?
Occasionally we do a little traveling. If we do, we'll go see the kids or some kinfolks. A couple of the girls come by and pick the wife and I up and we go up to the mountains for a couple days. They tell me I need to get away more instead of working so much but I enjoy my work, why not do it.
— Compiled by CMI staff writer Benna Sayyedd
• Name: Lawrence Riggins
• Age: 85
• Hometown: Haskell County, Texas
• Occupation: Service technician for Kirby Company of Clovis
• Married: To Neva for 59 years
• Children: Lori, Darla, Steve and Scott.