Late October 1997 brought massive ice- and snowstorms to Lincoln. The trees were still clinging to nearly all their leaves. Branches and limbs were taxed by the great weight of building snow and ice. Trees bent until snapping, alternating with electrical transformers in making the sounds that many recall being as startling as gunfire. Images taken of the city for several days following the storms recall a warzone. Conditions were so unsafe for traveling that Mayor Mike Johanns “cancelled” Halloween.
Bob Moline, President and COO of HomeServices of America, was Woods Bros’ comptroller at the time and still new to the career. He recalled that Halloween was a time for some serious fun around the Woods Bros offices. “We had open houses, and the agents decorated. Everyone was in a costume. People worked on decorative themes, and we even had judges come in, so Halloween was lots of fun and intensely competitive.”
Moline remembered that the conditions outside were, “Horrific.” He continued, “Everyone figured the Halloween open house was off.” In spite of the mayor’s call for foregoing tricks and treats, Moline said, “I got an afternoon call from one of my bosses – I think it was Gib Eley – and he said, ‘Bob, call the radio station and let them know that we’re not cancelling. We’ll have that open house and give people a place to come and trick or treat.’ So, I followed Gib’s order.”
A little later that day the young Moline, new to real estate, looked up to see standing in his office doorway a very unhappy and stern Pace Woods Jr. “Mr. Woods had a red face, and I never saw him so angry,” Moline said. “He looked at me and asked evenly, ‘What are you trying to do, override the mayor?’ I was stunned, and I knew I had to fix it.”
Moline called the radio station to call off the event, and Gene Brake, managing broker of the Pioneers office at the time called the TV station, though he did end up keeping his office open that night. Agents agreed to leave decorations up and return to the office in their costumes a few days later for a postponed open house. “It was after Halloween by a few days, but everyone had a great time,” Moline said.
Gene Brake, now CEO of HomeServices of Nebraska, remembers the mayor later answering that his biggest mistake as a mayor was cancelling Halloween.
“Bob and I were vindicated,” Brake said.