Remembering past locations around town

Published 11:14pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sams Place, that long wide masonry-frame building located on East Nashville Avenue where Pepsi Cola now stands, was somewhat a landmark here for several years.

Built back in the 1940s it was the home for automobile and truck repairs, auto parts and batteries and lawn mowers and outboard motors.

Those tall glass windows on each side of the building allowed rays of sunshine to penetrate into every crack and corner bringing warmth and comfort to those who not only worked there but to those who traded there.

I write about this former old Atmore firm because of the passing last week of Paul Mason who spent many years of his working life in this building.

Established by Mr. Sam Byrne back in those days of old he later welcomed his son Tom and Ed Mason as partners. Paul, Ed’s son began working there when he was in high school. And Betty Anne Mason, Ed’s daughter, made her debut there when she was in high school.

Recognized as one of most spacious repair and auto parts shops this business thrived for many years until it closed several years ago.

Tom worked with the firm for a number of years before he entered politics and was eventually elected mayor of Atmore. The Byrne Park, housing the tennis court, walking path and several ball parks, was named in his honor. The old Byrne Field, which was located where City Hall now stands, was named after Mr. Sam.

Ed and his wife Lola often joined family friends Mr. and Mrs. Cary Powell for weekend fishing outings. One of their favorite spots was the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida. This foursome could boast of their bountiful angling as they always brought back large catches of fish.

Ed, Paul and Betty Anne were in charge after the Byrnes left. Many talented mechanics learned their trades there.

I am looking for photos of this old building as I want to present to my readers the way Atmore “looked” possibly before many of you moved here.

This was one of many Atmore businesses that we grew up with back in the 1940s and 1950s.

How many of you remember our big three story hotel which displayed a sign “Up in Norman’s Arms?” I’ll write about that in another column.

In news of another nature I found it difficult to handle that extremely gripping cold we experienced Sunday and Monday.

It reminded me somewhat of that “No Name Storm” that occurred March12-13 1993. If you remember we were blasted with heavy snow flurries, some of which latched onto my wooden backyard fence for two days. Tops of pine and cedar trees were twisted and blown off.

The storm seemed to grow stronger as it slammed into Florida’s west coast, after leaving upwards of 8 inches of snow in south Alabama and southern Georgia.

The strong winds created hurricane like conditions in and around Tampa and southwest Florida. I was called in to work flood claims where water and snow measured 10 inches in homes and businesses. Tornadoes also spun out of this storm and I saw the results of a huge tanker boat overturned in southwestern Florida.

While that storm was regarded as “the Storm of the Century”, some forecasters say when conditions are “just right” it could happen again.

I know the economy of Appalachia Bay was sent into disarray as oyster beds were destroyed and oyster boats were sent sailing skyward.

Speaking of working in Florida I sometimes saw advertisement wanting men to hunt alligators. When there is an abundance of these reptiles that state hires hunters to come in, catch them and haul them away.

These men are referred to as nuisance alligator trappers and they are partly compensated by their marketing and sale of alligator products-hides and meat. These nuisance hunters are called in quite often. And, the hunters are always glad to sign on as the work is very lucrative. Some alligators bring in as much as several hundred dollars. This does not always compare to those Louisiana hunts where  one big “gator” is worth one thousand dollars.

Finally, I was amused at the headlines of a news story I read on a few weeks ago. This was a page of basketball scores with one score catching my eye—Flomation gives McIntosh girls first loss. Of course they were referring to Flomaton.

Perhaps I should not bring this to your attention. After all how many times have you notices misspelled words in my column. I blame it on my spell-check not turned on.

Next week we will travel back to those yesteryears with more stories of people places and events from the Atmore area.

“….yes…it always whispers to me…those days of long ago…”

Lowell McGill can be reached at l

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