Nostalgic Notes

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, August 6, 2008

By Staff
Jaycees of 1954 active in several projects
By Lowell McGill
New homes dotted the Atmore area in 1954 and 1955. In fact, many Veteran GI-Government- financed houses were being built here.
Quite a few of those homes were built for those who were employed at Monsanto and who moved to Atmore from Monroe, Conecuh and Baldwin counties. They found Atmore centrally located with a relative short drive to their work. The going price for an average home was $12,130.
Another event of importance in 1955 was the Atmore area being named one of the most productive cotton producing communities in the state. Cotton was also named the “King Crop” of Alabama.
The Rev. George Merkel was elected district governor of Rotary International and Kay Cunningham became a “Dixie Darling” with Southern Mississippi’s Pride of the South Band.
Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 45th birthday and The First National Bank observed its 40th anniversary.
S.Y. Bagley was named manager of Bedsoles department store and The Mobile Symphony staged a grand concert here in the Rachel Patterson Auditorium. The Atmore Advance kicked off a big subscription drive with a brand new car to be awarded to the person selling the most subscriptions.
The Atmore Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) was active with several meaningful projects.
Sam Ford, who was the president of this organization here in 1954, furnished me some interesting information about these projects.
Sam, who now lives in New Orleans, was the advertising manager of WATM at that time.
One of those projects was a drive to raise Christmas shopping tour funds for underprivileged children. WATM donated a day for call ins and those who donated were announced on the air. Sam would write spoofs and tape them. Local officials such as Mayor Dees and Mr. Rollins, the town clerk, were challenged in these spoofs to donate.
Leading citizens like Randolph Maxwell and Rupert Watson were also written into Sam’s writings.
Sam said the overall idea worked real well and each time someone called in a donation a Jaycee member would hustle out to their home to collect the donation. He said that event may have been the very first for a radio telethon.
Another project was sponsoring an Easter Sunrise service at the local Palms Drive In Theatre.
He said one Easter morning the Rev. John McCrummen was to stand on the roof of the concession stand to conduct the service. But, a heavy rain came and he was forced inside where he spoke over the speaker system which was heard by those sitting in their cars. Sam said during the sermon those in attendance would blow their car horns as if to say "Amen."
Sam, who was president of the Jaycees in 1954, handed over the gavel to George Keenan in 1955.
In addition to his work with the Junior Chamber of Commerce, he paid visits to the local prison along with the Rev. McCrummen and other local ministers. He said he was there on some occasions when inmates were baptized at a local creek.
Sam was a very talented man. Not only did he have a knack for writing, but he had a wit that seemed to fit all his narratives. He was one of the best radio ad writers and advertisement salesmen I have have ever known. His rich, resonant radio voice provided inspiration to me.
Next week I hope to have that column on the tanker contract ready. As you have probably been reading and heard and seen on TV the “Chicago Connection” has now poked its ugly head into it. I have gathered much information from various sources and I think you should be kept abreast of all that is going on related to this matter. There is a Mobile organization, of which you can become a member, leading the fight for our being awarded this contract.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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