Herman Hangs Up His Keys After Four Decades

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For the past 44 years, he has been the one one to call when you needed more fuel. With a warm and welcoming face, he has spent countless hours delivering the power source to many throughout the Panhandle area.

But John Herman of Raymond officially hung up his truck keys on Nov. 29, retiring from Home Oil Co. in Raymond.

A 1964 graduate of Lincolnwood High School, he chose to remain in his small hometown and serve his fellow neighbors. In 1975, he began his career in the fuel industry, working as an agent for Standard Oil. After roughly a year-and-a-half, the company sent him to Janesville, WI, to undergo a two-week jobber basic training course.

When the Raymond native became a certified jobber, he became self-employed, buying the bulk plant from Standard Oil. He owned and operated Herman Oil Company, selling Standard Oil's product, for ten years before selling out to Home Oil Co. in Raymond in April 1986.

"When I started in 1975, gas may have been about 25 cents a gallon and diesel fuel was about 17 to 18 cents a gallon," he said. "And back then, there was even a six cent tax on motor oil, which there isn't today."

The fuel industry has changed drastically since Herman climbed aboard. He explained that products aren't the same as they were when he started, for example, gasohol–a mixture of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol–was not introduced until the 80s and is now what everyone burns in their vehicles today. 

In 1975, customers mainly had 300-gallon overhead tanks for gasoline and about 500 gallon tanks for diesel fuel. At that time, Herman's truck could transport 2,500 gallons per load.

"Some customers would get transport loads of fuel, but other customers would have 3,000 to 4,000-gallon storage tanks," said the petroleum salesman. "So with my truck it would take me two deliveries just to fill one tank. And when you're busy in the spring and fall, it would take me a little while to do that."

The amount of gasoline and diesel fuel they transport has increased since the mid-70s as salesmen are now allowed to carry 7,500 gallon of fuel. Home Oil Co. has a special transport truck that retrieves fuel from Hartford Wood River Terminal Oil Company, LLC in Hartford, and takes it to the bulk plant just north of town. According to Herman, there are seven storage tanks there, with some carrying up to 20,000 gallons.

Herman began his tenure with 250 fuel oil customers who heated their homes with furnace oil and just before he retired, he only serviced seven of those customers.

"A lot of them were older homes out in the country that heated with fuel oil and most of those homes have been torn down," he said. "I think out of the seven that I had left, two of them took out the oil and replaced it with furnaces."

Over the years, Herman has spent plenty of late nights making sure his product was delivered in a prompt manner and has enjoyed building relationships with his customers.

"I always prided myself on the service I gave to my customers because everybody(competitors) was selling the same product," he said.

When it was finally time to bid farewell, Herman said he was on third generation customers.

"I thoroughly enjoyed all my customers, developed friendships I've had for 44 years and most of them I would call my best friends today," said Herman. "That's the part I loved the most, the comraderie I developed, and that's what I'll miss the most–seeing and talking to my customers."

In addition to his career, he has served as a charter member of the Shoal Creek Golf Course; is a 40-year member of the American Legion, where he serves as finance officer; served as a Raymond Park Board member for 16 years; and is a retired volunteer firefighter of the Raymond-Harvel Fire Department.

The retiree has been married to his wife Cheryl for over 50 years and they share three children, Ty Herman, Kerri Brockmeyer and Tara Gilpin, and nine grandchildren. During his retirement, he will enjoy spending more time with his family, continue attending his grandchildren's sporting events and will take a trip to Florida with his wife in April.

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