"How old are you? You look a little young."
"I'm 24." Then Pavalon laughed. "You should see my father. He's almost 50 and he looks only two years older than me."
"Can you teach?"
He got the job. Within six months he was running the school. Two years later he raised $1,800 by selling his car, moved to Milwaukee and opened his own TV school. He was 21. His first daughter, Marcy, was five days old.
"How I hated to give up that car," recalled Pavalon. "It was a brand-new convertible. It was beautiful. I polished it twice a day. It was the first good thing I owned in my whole life. But I sold it and I took the money and went to an auction in New York City. Some electronics company had gone out of business, and there I was, a scared kid, bidding against big-time surplus dealers. But they were looking to make fantastic profits, and when I outbid them by $5, they stared at me like I was out of my head. But they let me have the stuff. I bought a tremendous amount. And I took it all right back with me to Milwaukee. I didn't dare let it go by itself. I was afraid I'd lose it.
"Then, after the school opened, I went to auctions in Chicago, cleaned up the equipment I bought and sold it to my students. They had to have it when they graduated, so I figured why not make an extra profit? I even worked out a deal with a finance company to make loans on the equipment if a student didn't have all the money. Finance is only logic. I didn't have any money. So it was a question of how you do it. You figure it out. You've got to be self-reliant in this world. If you can't stand by yourself, you're sunk."
Pavalon soon found himself running out of TV repair students. There are only so many. He added two courses: one in air-conditioning and refrigeration, the other in appliance repair. He knew nothing about either, but he knew how to find out. "I went to technical people who knew. If I can make you tell me so I can understand, then I can put it in words so other people can understand. I was a translator, a screening device."
He sat down with draftsmen, with dentists, with physicians. He spent hours with experts in appliances, in refrigeration, in air conditioning. "Dentists and doctors," he says, "they are so darned technical-minded. They can't go right to the students. They go way over their heads. I bet I know more about taking out an appendix or casting a gold inlay than any layman alive. I love reading medical journals. My dentist says I'm the only guy who gives him a grade after he cleans my teeth. But I'm nuts about my teeth. I'm afraid I'll lose them, and I don't know what the devil the fear is from."
Later Pavalon added courses for radio and television broadcasters and for hotel-motel executives. Today there are 15 resident schools, in 12 major cities, and 11 home-study courses. In 1968, 18,293 students were enrolled, paying fees of close to $15 million.