Jack Wells has spent most of his life among Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Ruffles and Cracker Jack. And it’s been a lot of Funyuns.
On March 12, Wells celebrated four decades as a Frito-Lay sales route driver. He sees his life as a rags-to-riches story. Not rich with money, but abundant with family, friends and a job he still enjoys.
Wells grew up in Grayson County. His parents had a long-distance marriage: his mother raised the family in Virginia while his dad worked at Bethlehem Steel in Maryland.
“My mom raised my four sisters and myself in a four-room house with no running water,” he said. “She is a saint for being able to do that, I think,” he said. “We’d heat a tub of water on the stove, and everybody took a bath in the same water. But all my sisters and me are in good health. When we got something, we really appreciated it. We’d get a pack of hot dogs and cut them in half so we’d have more pieces.”
When he was 12, the family united in Maryland, where Wells graduated from high school in 1969.
“I went to work at an Italian bakery, doing route sales, same as I do now with Frito-Lay,” he said. After 10 years, PepsiCo, of which Frito-Lay is a subsidiary, hired Wells in 1979. Eighteen years later, Wells asked for a transfer to Wytheville, where he has worked for 22 years.
“I grew up this way,” he said. “I have a lot of relatives here. It’s the closest I could get to where I grew up in Grayson.”
Forty years and Wells still loves driving his route.
“I’m more or less my own boss, and I meet so many friendly people. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years,” he said.
Wells credits his parents for his strong work ethic. His sisters have it, too, and he and his wife, Linda, have passed it on to their children. Linda has been a big part of his success, he said. They are parents to Joe Wells, Steve Wells and Amy Blymire. Joe and Steve also work at Pepsi; Amy is a kindergarten teacher in Maryland.
Wells’ route takes him all around Wythe County. In addition, he also drove the Bland County route for 10 years. All that time on the road selling snacks has given him a pretty good idea of what’s popular.
“Doritos and Lays Potato Chips are about neck-and-neck,” he said.
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