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National Guard plays important role

By By Lowell McGill
I received a nice email this week from a lady from north Alabama whose flood claim I handled in 1979 during Hurricane Frederic. The email was in Christmas card mode, very unique as she designed it herself.
She wanted to thank all those from Atmore who assisted her during that trying time. She was referring to the local National Guard and various local church groups. She remembered Mary Ann Keller, a former Atmore resident who lived in south Baldwin County at the time of the storm. Mary Ann was one of many women in an organization there that prepared food for those whose homes were destroyed.
I and other adjusters were always invited to their food site because all eating establishments were destroyed.
Adjusters came from all over the country to help settle losses. There were so many losses in that storm. I became friends with three of these adjusters, one from Michigan, one from Rhode Island and one from Texas.
The one from Texas actually was our claims manager. We worked for Crawford and Company, a large Mobile based firm under contract to settle flood insurance claims. We handled most of Arthur Holk's claim work as he was the local State Farm Agent and was affiliated with Baldwin Mutual Insurance Company. Floyd and Arthur were brothers.
I remember Jr. Everette and "Snap" Melton, well known to most every one in Atmore, requested that I handle their claims. Jr. has lost a brand new business there. He needed some help with the wind portion of his loss and I was assisted by one of my adjuster friends to help him receive his settlement. "Snap" had pure flood damage, which I closed for him.
I remember coming into the office one morning and I saw John Garrard's loss notice on Dave Atkins stack of work. I told Dave I knew this man as he and I are from the same town. John, whose loss was on the east side of Gulf Shores, was closed out by Dave. You see, there were so many losses and not enough adjusters to handle them. Dr. Garrett from Uriah had a loss near Wolf Bay, which I handled. Jack Hodges, a friend of mine from younger days was damaged also by the storm. I even handled Kenny Stabler's claim over on Ono Island. His loss was not that bad, but it was interesting meeting him. We talked about his dad, who worked in Atmore during the time I-65 was under construction. I remember seeing his dad come into Martin Auto Parts for items needed in the construction of the interstate. Carlton Martin, an avid Alabama Crimson Tide lover, often talked with Mr. Stabler. I spent many Saturday afternoons at Martins with Carlton, Hiram Cabiness and Billy McDonald watching college football games on TV.
Sandy McGill, former Atmore resident, was the administrator of the Foley Hospital. His secretary was very helpful to my trio of adjuster friends as we hired her to type the narrative portion of our claims. I remember her first name was Lunette. She was an excellent typist. I was glad I could furnish her "extra work."
Steve Moseley, my Jr. High principal of Perdido received damage at his summer home. I was honored to help in his claim settlement.
But getting back to the National Guard, not enough can be said about the important role they played. I remember getting bogged down on Ft. Morgan road, which "washed out" in segments. They pulled me out twice as it was difficult getting into this damaged area. They also transported many residents to and from their damaged homes.
I handled Dr. Stanley Crews' loss on Ft. Morgan road. He was on the staff of Faulkner Jr. College in Bay Minette. Items from West Beach Boulevard washed up on his property, an indication of the wide spread storm surge. We became friends after that and he was very helpful to my sons who attended that college and played baseball there.
Things did not always go well. Seasonal dwelling owners sometimes did not realize we had to take care of those whose permanent home losses usually had first priority.
Walter Pilot was the chief operational officer for our company. Walter, who was from Coffeeville, had a close relative from that town who invented some type of turkey calling or hunting items. I know that his products were marketed nationwide. After Walter died his sons carried on in his name. It was called "Pilot and Associates" and today they are one of the largest, well-respected catastrophes adjusting firms in the country.
My wife and I were down in Gulf Shores just for the ride a few weeks ago. I hardly recognize the place today. Homes that I adjusted are no longer there. Instead, there are countless high-rise condos and new businesses. Many living there now are experiencing difficult times with the high cost of insurance. Some have actually lost all insurance coverage. One friend of mine is trying to sell out but can find no buyer.
Disasters like Frederic often bring change and usually for the best. New jobs and tourism are now common along our beautiful south Baldwin County beaches.
I told you last week that I would try to have a column this week on our "number, please" telephone operators of the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. I"ll have it ready next week for sure. You will particularly like what I read in a news column from a northern newspaper. The column theme was "Harper Valley Operators."
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net