Ray Boomershine Tells his Mahaska Story

In 1981, Ray Boomershine became the director of Mahaska Vending Services, but his story with Mahaska began much sooner in an unlikely place- a barber shop. When Ray was a barber in Iowa, one of his regular customers was Mahaska Bottling Employee, Ron Pettit. One fateful day, Ron brought in John Muhl to get his hair cut by Ray. John Muhl was the second generation Muhl to take over the Mahaska business. A friendship quickly developed between the two, and Ray was offered a job at Mahaska in the vending department by John on February 18, 1974.

Says Boomershine, “Providing services to our customers was the best part of my job.  This was a very people oriented business and I provided the best customer service and vending technical repair I could.”

For 41 years, Boomershine continued to build his story that continues through four generations of Muhls. Ray, we thank you for your years of service, dedication, hard work, and friendship. And a big thank you to the Oskaloosa Herald for featuring this article.

For the full article, click here or continue reading below!


I was a barber in Oskaloosa, Iowa.  One of my customers/friends was Ron Pettit who worked at Mahaska Bottling.

Arnold Muhl joined his father-in-law Harry Morgan at Mahaska Bottling in 1922.

Upon his return from the Army in WWII, Arnold’s son John joined the family business and eventually assumed control of the business when Arnold retired.
 Ron brought John Muhl in for a haircut one day and we quickly became friends.
 Ron offered me a job in the vending department and helping with whatever John needed and my career with Mahaska Bottling began on February 18, 1974. 
I enjoyed being part of the Mahaska Bottling team.  Mahaska Bottling was the biggest soft drink distributor in the area and provided many jobs for Oskaloosa and central Iowa. 
I remember in 1962 when John purchased a can line and installed it in the Oskaloosa plant, becoming the biggest soft-drink distributor in the Midwest. At the time I was hired we bottled & distributed primarily Pepsi-Cola products, which were the biggest sellers. However, we had several independent brands and were on the cusp of acquiring the rights to Dr Pepper in central Kansas.
 In 1981 Jack Fleener, the Vending Director retired. I was offered the position. Providing services to our customers was the best part of my job. This was a very people oriented business and I provided the best customer service and vending technical repair I could. In 1974 we had bottle, can, visa coolers, and fountain equipment to maintain. This was not always easy as over the years they were continually changing the vending machines/equipment each time a can or bottle shape or size was added or was changed. It has been a very challenging job.

As time moved on John and Mary Lou’s son Brad joined him in the family business. They added Finnegan’s Ice line at the Oskaloosa plant and added ice to the products they sold as well as coffee, and Snack Express, a full line vending business. After adding Finnegan’s Ice, customers commented that John and Brad were two of the smartest people he knew for taking this step and as it turned out it was the hottest summer on record and ice was a big seller.

Brad’s first summer after graduating college John brought him to me and said “he’s yours for the summer – see that he learns about the vending side of the business” I must have done something right because he still speaks to me and I consider him a good friend of mine and my family.

Now Brad and Holly’s son Branden has joined the family business. Branden is adding his own ideas for expanding the company and taking it in new directions with the latest technology available and generations of business experience in his DNA.

Over the years John Muhl was not only my boss but a very good friend to myself and my family. My wife Marilyn, was the first person outside the Muhl family not employed by the company to visit John and Mary Lou in Vero Beach and on Longboat Cay. After Marilyn’s first trip, John always asked her to go before he asked me.

I have now had the opportunity to work for four generations of the Muhl family. It has been my pleasure to know each of them.

I feel very fortunate to have worked for the Muhl family for 41 years and there is not a day that goes by that Marilyn and I do not talk about John and remember him. He will always be with us. We miss you old friend.

As Brad says “a good gate swings both ways”, I gave them the best I had and they gave me an extended family.

These are just a few of my memories at Mahaska Bottling–I have enough to fill a book!

I never really quit being a barber. I continued to cut John’s hair until his passing on June 21, 2002.