Ronald George Morgan is the oldest of eight children and the first in his family to graduate from an institution of higher learning. So last June, nearly a dozen Morgans drove out to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs for Ronnie's big day.
It was one of those bursting-with-pride occasions. Mama took snapshots. Ronnie's four brothers pounded his back and endlessly "gave him five." His three younger sister planned wet kisses.
But as dusk began to gather, Ronnie Morgan was taken aside by his father, Ron.
The father didn't make a big deal about it. He didn't have to. He just grasped the newly commissioned first lieutenant by the starched sleeve of his military dress coat and whispered, "It's June, Ronnie."
That meant it was Crazy Time again.
So it went without saying: first lieutenant or no first lieutenant, would young Ronnie please get his hindquarters back home to Fairfax, Va., right away so he could help on the truck?
Young Ronnie did, of course, just as all his brothers have since each reached the age of 8, just as their father has for 27 years.
And it seems Ronnie will do the same this summer. Now a career Air Force officer stationed in Phoenix, Ariz., he is scheduled to bring his new wife east to introduce her to the family, and vice versa. But it would not amaze a single Morgan if Ronnie were found breaking down a few compressors in his spare time.
The organization exerting such pull is not the Mafia, not even the Air Force. It is Ron Morgan and Sons, a Washington-area air conditioning repair and contracting business that prides itself on being a family operation.
It was built family-style, maintained that way and made successful that way, and any Morgan worthy of the name expects it to remain that way.
As the Morgans put it (prepare to groan), the family that fixes together mixes together.
For more than a generation, various Morgans have given up summer vacations, double features, loves and laughs to tear apart balky window units. But this is no equal opportunity employer: The sons work the truck and the daughters work the phones and the books. Ron Morgan wants it that way.
"I'm a Southern man, y'see," Morgan explained. "I believe the women do the chores and the men do the work."
Crazy Time is all work, for both sexes. But no Morgan has ever complained, rebelled, gone into microbiology or otherwise failed to respond the way Ronnie did last June. When it's Crazy Time (mid-June to mid-September), Morgans don't make excuses.
Still, what the Morgans have built is only one line of type in the Yellow Pages. They have never been big-league enough to be audited by the IRS or sued by the EEOC. The business grossed more than $150,000 last year, but as Ron Morgan puts it, "I can't remember ever being in the Fortune 500."
The office of Morgan and Sons is the dashboard of six pickups. The board room is Ron Morgan's hip pocket. The parts inventory is whatever will fit in the Morgans' basement. The phone number ends in a pair of fours, not three zeroes.
"But it's always been able to put beans on the table," says Ron Morgan, a 47-year-old native of Washington who sports two tattoos and an early-Warren Beatty crew cut and who has been "into air" since the Korean War.
"It's Mama's security and the kids' benefit. Doing it family-style is the only way I've ever been able to fly."
Ron Morgan and Sons flies like a berserk glider during Crazy Time.
Twenty-five house calls a day are common. Twenty-hour working days are expected. Every call will be a crisis - especially during the pollution days of deepest, darkest August. And someone else will catch the catfish on the lower Potomac.
"I could get to hate it if I didn't love it so much," Morgan said.
Another thing he loves is sharing a little of the Gospel According to St. Ron. The subtitle is: How to get the most performance - and the fewest problems - out of your window unit in the Crazy Time ahead.
First, says Morgan, be sure to oil the motor before starting.After that, do not whip the cooling knob to high. In fact, don't touch the cooling knob at all. Simply let the unit's fan run by itself for a few minutes. "You'd be surprised how many of 'em burn out because people don't do this," says the man who must pick up the pieces.
Then be sure the filter is changed or cleaned - about once per Crazy Time will do. If the unit or the wiring is new, be sure the amperage of machine and electrical system match. If they don't, "it's a fire hazard, sure as hell or taxes."
As for saving on electricity bills, Morgan recommends running units on low during the day and being careful to limit the number of times doors or windows are opened. Although he knows it isn't for everyone, Morgan also suggests running units at 3 a.m. on especially hot nights to "get the humidity out of the house early." And he strongly prefers window units to a central system.
"Central is lovely," Morgan says, "but you don't want to be cooling the basement if you're never down there." Morgan acknowledges that he has a central system in his own home, but only because his son, 19-year-old Nonnie, put it in. "He can't do enough for his mother," says his father.
Morgan, on the other hand, just might have done too much for his sons. Isn't it possible that he has spawned and trained some competitors?
"If his name is Morgan, he won't do it," says the leader of the pack. "He's been born and raised that way.Maybe now you're getting down to whay we mean by family." CAPTION: Picture, Ron Morgan and his son Otto. By Craig Herndon - The Washington Post