Sam Walton and Donald Peterson
After a ball game in the summer
of 1932, young “Sammy” Walton and a group of boys wanted to go for a post-game
swim. One of the local team boosters gave the boys a lift from Shelbina,
Missouri, just a few miles east, to the North Fork of the Salt River. After
crossing railroad tracks and farmland, the boys found the old water stop for
steam locomotives that marked the north bank of their favorite swimming hole.
Rather than taking the time to
change into swim trunks, one of the boys, Kyle Peterson, decided to forgo
clothing altogether. Upon hearing that a carful of girls had pulled up, Kyle, in
a panic, urgently asked his younger brother Donald to retrieve his trunks from
the shore. As he swam back with the trunks, Donald reached a part of the river
where the current was strong – too strong. The man who had driven the boys out
to the river jumped in to pull Donald out, but the panicked child pulled the
man under with him instead.
Actual location - decades later - where Sam Walton jumped in to save Donald Peterson. Revisited by The Walmart Museum Oral History Team.
Sam Walton, then just 14 years old,
used training he had learned as the first Eagle Scout in Shelby County, grabbed
Donald Peterson from behind and pulled him to safety. On shore, Donald was blue and unconscious; Sam
knew he had to act fast. Administering CPR, Sam’s quick thinking saved Donald, who
went on to live to the ripe old age of 86, a popular member and leader of his
community of DeKalb, Illinois.
What makes this story so
important to the Walmart culture is in how the incident has become part of
Walmart’s “DNA”. Sam, at such a young
age, demonstrated exceptional leadership and the willingness to jump in and
help when help was needed most. That trait has manifested itself in Walmart so
many ways over so many years.
Here at 105NorthMain, we’ll bring
more stories to our digital museum that demonstrate the leadership and
willingness to “jump in” that Sam Walton imparted to his company for decades to
Newspaper story about the incident.