George Gemellos grew up on a farm in Lodi, worked hard and followed his dreams. Now, the 86-year-old has written a book about his experiences, “I Was Never Meant to Work for Others.” Gemellos talks about Lodi in the 1930s, his life and diving into self-publishing.
Q: How would you describe “I Was Never Meant to Work for Others” to a stranger? Isn’t it your life story?
A: “I Was Never Meant To Work For Others” depicts the days of my youth, of my trucking experiences and episodes I found myself in: my farming endeavors, my interactions with relatives, my escapades in learning to fly an airplane, many poems of real people and animals and much more. It is primarily my autobiography.
All these true stories were stored in my head as I had no direction how to format or edit it, much less publish it. By divine intervention a new neighbor (Steven Shaw) moved in next to us, who happened to know the ins and outs of editing, formatting and whatever else it entails. It took him and I one year to prepare it and publish it.
Q: What was Lodi like when you were growing up on a farm in the ’30s?
A: Growing up in Lodi in the ’30s, it was a small rural farm community of approximately 5,000 habitants.
Watermelons were the predominant crop then, although there were lots of tokay vineyards. Tokay grapes were selling for only a dollar a ton and didn’t become popular until later.
Property on Lodi Avenue went for about $2,000 with a house on it. In 1927, my dad bought a 25-acre vineyard with a house, barn and chicken coop for $12,000 on Sargent Road, 31⁄2 miles west of Lodi, where later in the late ’30s he established the Lafayette Winery.
Q: What’s are the most shocking changes you’ve seen occur in Lodi over the decades?
A: The shocking changes over the last decades were development and population explosion. Prime farm land was blanketed with housing and business development.
Q: Can you describe what you’ve enjoyed doing with your entrepreneurial spirit?
A: As for my entrepreneurial spirit, I enjoyed writing and being my own boss.
Q: What kind of work did you do throughout your life?
A: I drove the big-rigs for 29 years. That was my passion and obsession as a little boy. I also had a popcorn truck in Oakland. I went into tokay vineyard farming. I had my own trucking business. I worked for big-time farmers on and off, bought apartments in Arizona and I bought a mom-and-pop store (the Idlewild Inn) on the corner of Highway 12 and DeVries Road, and retired from that venture. Working for myself, I had control of my life and I loved it.
Q: What tips do you have for people who want to follow their dreams but still work?
A: For people who want to follow their dreams, their obsessions and passions, you may have to work for a while for someone else until you are in a position to fulfill those dreams. Don’t give up or despair.
Q: How long have you been writing? How long did you plan to write this book?
A: I’ve been writing since I was 16 years of age on and off, of many things and places.
Q: As an 86-year-old, what do you do for fun?
A: Now, at 86, my fun days are over. On Dec. 14, 2011, I developed multiple health issues and spent 3 months in hospitals and rehab places and was given 3 months to live. My wife of over half a century — her health issues were worse than mine — passed away on June 24. This is the most profound, traumatic experiences of epic proportions that has all but devastated me.
Q: What is your key to happiness?
A: The key to happiness is loving what you like doing best and to pursue the fun things in life. By the same token, taking care of your responsibilities. Or “look towards the sunshine and you won’t see the shadows.”
Look for “I Was Never Meant to Work for Others” at www.amazon.com in Kindle format and paperback.