NAPLES – Bridgton author Alice Anderson’s new book, “Richard E. Dyke: Just a Man from Wilton, Maine,” is a must-read for anyone wanting to know more about the owner of Windham’s best-known companies, both past and present: Bushmaster Firearms and Windham Weaponry.
And Anderson gets right to point on the first page of the book summarizing the main goal of one of the Lakes Region’s best-known and most successful entrepreneurs:
“Purpose and a dream are two different things. A dream sounds like this: Someday I’d like to own my own business. A purpose sounds like this: I will own my own business by the time I’m 40. Dick Dyke sounds like this: I will be a millionaire and have my own successful business by the time I’m 40 and I will help others achieve their dreams by providing work for them. Dick made his first million before age 30 by living his life on purpose.”
So starts the 67-page book, written in 2011, on the 78-year-old Dyke. Anderson, who lives in Bridgton and has spent the last 13 years chronicling the companies and entrepreneurs who have built Maine, was commissioned by Dyke last summer to write the book, which chronicles his childhood in Wilton, his education at Husson College in Bangor and his rise as a self-made multi-millionaire and owner of about 70 businesses. The up-to-date biography also includes last year’s founding of Windham Weaponry.
Dyke, contacted at his wintertime home in Nevada, said his intended audience for the book was “mainly for the family and Husson’s Dyke Center for Family Business, which I built and funded for small business people to come and get free advice on how to start a business, and how to grow a business.”
Dyke said the director asked him in early June of last year to compile a biography so she could distribute copies to visitors of the center as well as attendees of a speech he was scheduled to give later in 2011.
While the book explores Dyke’s core values, it also details his early life, his parents and how he got into business. Dyke’s brushes with fame are mentioned, as well, and offer the reader insight into Dyke’s personality.
An avid dancer and tap instructor as a high school student in Wilton, Dyke traveled to a dance convention at Radio City Music Hall in New York City to learn from dancing’s early greats, including Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
“They would be on the stage showing the routine and all of us instructors were in the seats in front of them,” Dyke said. “If you wanted to learn that routine you’d go up on the stage and they’d teach you the steps at the same time. What a thrill when Kelly came over and said, ‘Let me help you get your balance right for this step.’ Then he asked me to come out front and do the entire dance with him. It doesn’t get any higher than that for a dancer.”
Another brush with fame that played prominently in the book, and that might surprise those who know Dyke, was his conversation with Queen Elizabeth II.
When he was treasurer for B&M Baked Beans in Portland, Dyke inspected an investment made by the chairman of B&M’s board in British Antigua. Known as The Engineer’s House, the historic waterfront building was being renovated into an inn and upscale restaurant. But the work was mismanaged, and Dyke on arrival managed to take over construction himself. Several years later, during the queen’s 25th jubilee, she visited the island and Dyke was among 200 attendees of a lavish party held in her honor.
Dyke knew his chance to mingle with the queen would be brief, so he planned beforehand to ask about her children, since Prince Charles was visiting America at the time. In the book, Anderson describes how Dyke would research a company or business opportunity to see if he could tweak it somehow so it would turn a profit. If his research and planning convinced him something was a good investment he would pursue it with gusto, as he did with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and speak with the queen. Anderson describes the interchange, quoting Dyke, as follows:
“We were given instructions on how to greet the Queen. Never speak to her. She speaks to you. Never shake hands. She holds out her palm and you touch your fingers to hers. That’s it.
“Most of the guests were diplomats wearing white jackets, black trousers, and medals galore. In my brown suit I stood out like a sore thumb. They announced me: Richard Dyke from the United States. Neither the Queen nor the Duke said anything to me. The room was packed. I was on my tiptoes with my elbows behind me for balance, looking for a drink. Someone touched my elbow. I turned. It was the Queen.
“So you’re Mr. Dyke from the United States. What brings you to Antigua?
“I’m chairman of the board and one of the owners on the inn in Nelson Dockyard.
“Oh, that’s one of my husband’s favorite spots.
“I said, It’s a pleasure to meet you and we in the United States are very happy that your son is visiting our country.
“It’s so nice that you are talking about my children because most people forget that in addition to being the Queen, I’m also a mother. And tell me about your children.
“This was all within a two-minute span. The crowd had backed away a bit. I heard the old diplomat standing behind me say, Who’s the guy in the brown suit talking to the Queen?
“She eventually said to me, this has been a delightful conversation and I have other guests. We parted.
“Then the [British Antigua] prime minister came over to me and said, What were you talking about with the Queen?
“We were talking about our children.
“He replied, I’ve never had that long of a conversation with the Queen and I’m the prime minister of the country!
“Then talk about your children, I suggested.”