When he was 18, Tom Hiltz received a draft notice in the mail. It was 1968, and the U.S. was deep in the throes of the Vietnam War. He and all the farm kids in his neighborhood hopped on a bus to San Antonio to get their physical exams at an army recruiting station. They sat in their underwear, as doctors took their weight and blood pressure, determining if they would spend the last of their teen years in uniform.
Growing up in a military family, Tom’s childhood was nomadic. As a young child, he grew up in Newfoundland, Canada. His parents and two brothers shared a 600 square foot cubicle of on-base housing. The average low in the winter was -43 degree Fahrenheit; for only three weeks in the summer, temperatures would hover above 60 degrees. His childhood was a blend of marsh, tundra, and desert. From Newfoundland to Louisiana, and Arizona to Texas, Tom and his brothers spent most school years in a different zip code.
“You either make it in the military or you don’t,” describes Tom. “You’re always moving in the middle of the school year and can’t make permanent friends. I would go to the lunchroom with my tray and not know where to sit. I moved from table to table until there was a smile instead of a sneer.”
For Tom, childhood was a cyclical routine— move, make new friends, sit in new classrooms with different teachers and new subjects. The first time Tom had his own room he was in high school. They had just moved to Tucson, and the housing they were given had a pink room. His oldest brother didn’t want it, so he snagged it. When his family moved from Newfoundland to Arizona, all their furniture got shipped to Germany by mistake and they found themselves in a new house, bare to the bone. “New”, was the common chorus in the Hiltz household.
When Tom received his draft notice, he felt like his life-long aspiration to be an Air Force pilot, just like his father, had been placed in his mailbox. After his trip to San Antonio, weeks went by, and his neighborhood friends got their assignments. He waited patiently but never received a notice. So, he called the recruiting station for answers.
“At the time, my dad was flying in Vietnam and had been shot down. They told me they couldn’t put a father and son in combat at the same time.”
As his friends got shipped off to their new lives, Tom’s mom told him he couldn’t sit around and run the car out of gas and drink beer. So he enrolled in college, met his wife, and spent six years working his way through school.
“During the day I would study for my classes. I was getting my degree in psychology. In the afternoons, I would fix Mazda engines on my dining room table—it was my hobby.”
A hobby turned into a career. He became a factory representative at BMW for 14 years. However, it turned out that being a factory rep was a lot like being in the military—lots of travel. Tom had his sights set on stability, so he looked south, to Texas.
As a teenager, Tom’s family was living in Texas outside of San Antonio. He spent summers working on a farm in McKinney, a small town with a community feel 30 miles north of Dallas. He knew he wanted to raise his kids in a place like McKinney, a town where everyone knows each other, there’s accountability, and community.
So, he did.
Tom and his family packed up and set roots in McKinney. For the first time, he wasn’t on the move. He built a house, furnished it, and then didn’t want to move a thing.
“After being in the military, I didn’t want change. After I furnished my house, I didn’t want to rearrange a single piece of furniture.”
But then, something changed—grandkids. Four to be exact.
When grandkids came, Tom and his wife were on a furniture hunt for the first time in years. They wanted a space for their grandkids to sleep, play, create—to be kids in the fullest sense. So, they started researching Murphy beds as a way to maximize space. They concluded their guest room house could be a playroom in the day and a bedroom at night. After a research rabbit hole and reading a lot of reviews, they chose the Lori Wall Bed for its simplistic design.
“Not only was what I got out of the box quality, but the service was top-notch. The cheap ones are cheap; they’re not going to last with grandkids,” Tom says.
With their Lori Wall Bed, Tom and his wife created a space their grandkids love. During the day, shelves hold precious pictures, sippy cups, and children’s books, and the room transforms into a fort of pillows and blankets with tunnels leading all the way to the living room. Often, every corner of the room is covered in blocks. And when it comes time to sleep, the magic from the day is packaged into a toy box in the corner and the kids rest their heads on dachshund-shaped pillows.
“They love the space,” says Tom.
For Tom, the best part of his Murphy bed investment is the added time he gets to spend with his grandkids. Tom’s two-year-old grandson has two motorcycles: one gas, one electric. At two, his favorite things to do are to watch Curious George and enduro motorcycle races. Sometimes, Tom takes him to a local field to ride. His grandson loves airplanes, and when he’s riding if he sees an airplane, he’ll stare up into the sky and lose track of where he’s going.
“He thinks crashes are part of motorcycle riding. He imitates what he sees in the enduro races,” says Tom. “When I take him around the street, he’ll go as fast as he can and crash into a neighbor’s yard. We call it fake crashing. When he’s four, he can start racing. He’s going to blow all the other kids out of the park.”
Since getting his Murphy bed, Tom’s grandkids are over all the time. Tom watches doll shows with his granddaughter—despite hating the shows. He goes on McDonald's outings featuring chicken nuggets, apple slices, and best of all, free toys. And he takes all four grandkids to the dollar store with an allotted allowance of five dollars. His granddaughters roam the store for the best five-dollar doll they can find while his grandsons buy as many toys as they can—five, one-dollar plastic race cars are the usual go-to.
Tom’s military upbringing played a big role in shaping his values. He appreciates his blessings, works hard, lives a simple lifestyle, and also knows the value of space. Growing up in small, impermanent spaces, Tom has learned tricks over the years for maximizing space. He knows the value of giving small spaces functionality, of creating rooms where you can sleep, work, play, and dream. And the Lori Wall Bed, his newest discovery, has provided that for his grandkids.