Young American Restorations

American Restoration

American Restoration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I recently began watching our way through the first two seasons of American Restoration through our Amazon Prime account.  For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the work of Rick Dale of Rick’s Restorations.  He and his employees take old pieces of Americana that are rusted and falling apart, and they restore these artifacts to like-new condition.  My husband likes the work and the craft of the show, seeing the process of restoring old, rusted, broken items into gorgeous pieces that look brand new.  The attention to detail, the mastery, and skill in their work is pretty impressive.  However, I find myself just as engaged with watching the relationship between the father and the son on the show.

Rick narrates the show.  As he says in his intro, he’s been doing this for 30 years, and he’s good at it.  By his side every day is his teenage son, Tyler.  Tyler reminds me of a little punk, but I say that with a smile.  Half his hair is brown while other half is dyed unnaturally blond, and then he spikes it into a faux-hawk.  He talks a big game with the other guys in the shop and gives attitude to his dad on a regular basis.  In an episode where one of his high school teachers comes in as a customer, we get the impression that Tyler isn’t a bad kid at school, but he’s not a stellar student, either.

All that being said, this kid has a bright future in front of him.  He works at the shop with the understanding that if he’s going to run it someday, he needs to learn a LOT.  His dad trains him well, doesn’t sugar coat things, and consistently places more and more responsibility on his shoulders.  Sometimes Rick gives Tyler responsibility because he recognizes his son’s hard work and wants to reward it (like when he makes Tyler shop foreman).  Other times, though, he uses the responsibility as an opportunity to teach his son important lessons.

In the episode with Tyler’s teacher, Rick stands back and lets Tyler give the estimate for how much the restoration will cost.  It’s important to give an accurate estimation, Rick says, because otherwise customers won’t be happy and they won’t come back.  Tyler needs to look at the item and judge how many man hours will go into it, what parts will need to be purchased, and any other expenses that may go into restoring the piece, and then hopefully leave a margin for profit.  In the narration, we hear Rick say how much he thinks the job will cost, but the estimate Tyler gives his teacher is several hundred dollars lower.  Instead of jumping in and correcting his son, Rick stands back and keeps his mouth shut.  “At this shop, we learn by doing,” he narrates.  “If he’s right about the estimate, he’s gonna get a bonus from the profit.  If he’s wrong, he’s gonna have to work extra hard to get this thing finished at his budget.”

As the episode progresses, Rick places the responsibility of meeting the low budget on Tyler’s shoulders.  “Tyler has exceeded my expectations at everything he’s done at this shop, but now, he’s entering new territory.  He’s taken on more responsibility, and he’s gonna have to learn some things the hard way.”  I love that.  Rick is clearly proud of his son and believes in his abilities, but he doesn’t shy away from the hard lessons, either.  He closely monitors the man hours the employees put into the piece, and when the budgeted hours are used up, Rick informs Tyler that he has to finish the piece on his own in order to avoid going over the estimate.  “Since you made the quote, this is all going to fall on you now,” he says.  To his credit, Tyler looks his dad in the eyes, nods understandingly, and says, “Alright, I got it.”  And he does.  He rises to the occasion, puts in the extra hours and stays up almost all night to complete the piece for his teacher on time and on budget.  They don’t make a profit, but that’s part of Tyler’s lesson.  Hopefully, when he runs the shop in the future, he’ll know how to make accurate estimates that will keep the customers happy and make money for the shop.

I couldn’t help but smile at the teacher’s closing comment to the camera.  “I always knew Tyler was talented; I just didn’t know in what.  And after seeing him do this, he’s incredibly talented.  I’m very impressed.”

Isn’t that what we do to our non-academic minded students sometimes?  We know they’re talented, we just don’t know in what?  And then we push them and push them to excel at academics, but the reality is that Tyler’s future isn’t tied to academic achievement at all!  Tyler’s future is working with his hands, carrying on the tradition of excellence in his dad’s shop.  He’s embraced that future, and despite his occasional attitude and cockiness, he works hard to prove himself, takes initiative to learn new skills, and rises to new levels of responsibility again and again.

One of my favorite moments in the show is when Rick places Tyler in charge of several projects, and Tyler in turn delegates one of the projects to the other teenage worker at the shop.  This other guy is often the joke of the shop, as he isn’t as quick to pick up on new things or take initiative.  He’s often given the more mundane, less skill-based tasks since there’s less risk that he might mess up.  Rick and the other adult employees are shocked when they learn that Tyler had given this guy the lead on a whole restoration project, but Tyler believes in him – and the kid pulls it off!  Given the chance to rise to the occasion, he takes it and does a good job.

Granted, that situation could have easily blown up in Tyler’s face.  That other kid could have royally messed up and damaged the item, but I don’t doubt that if that had happened, Tyler would have stepped up and taken responsibility.  However, he took a chance on the one other young person in the shop, and it paid off.

I love watching young people like this on TV, youth who are learning responsibility, taking initiative for their futures, and understand the fulfillment that comes from hard work.  Let’s find more kids like this for our teens to look up to and emulate.


2 thoughts on “Young American Restorations

  1. I always see these kinds of shows or know friends who have been working ever since they were younger, and it makes me wonder how I would’ve turned out if I had to work at a younger age. Growing up everything was provided for me and was denied permission to work as to encourage studying and academia. I find that friends who have worked a whole lot tend to showcase a lot of skill in responsibility and leadership, while those who haven’t are somewhat lost until they are able to gain that kind of ability or knowledge. Of course this doesn’t apply to all children but I think working at a young age is something I would encourage my future kids to do. I hope shows that display youth who are working encourage those who are watching to emulate such responsibility and initiative in their own lives.


    • Yeah, it seems like in our drive to push academics, we aren’t providing much opportunity to develop skills that are more practical to daily adult life. I always tell my students that age doesn’t bring maturity – experience does. I know very mature teens who know through experience what it means to really work, and I know very immature adults who haven’t really had to take responsibility for themselves yet. I don’t want to take away from the importance of academics, but it does bother me that academics often takes away from the importance of work. What kind of life are we grooming kids for if we don’t teach them to work?


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