First half of 1974 full of interesting events

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
The first six months of 1974 were especially eventful for Atmore and the surrounding communities.
City Service Corporation announced new oil exploration, joining other drilling firms making the area one of the most prolific oil fields in the state.
That year several local and area residents boarded railroad passenger cars here pulled by a steam locomotive. The excursion, from Atmore to Flomaton for most passengers, was sponsored by the area chapter of National Railroad History. The dark smoke puffing from atop the engine sparked memories of the 1940s and early 1950s when these trains were so popular. I remember after everyone boarded the train seeing sand from the engine compartment spewed on the tracks, giving traction as the big wheels got into motion. All those 1940 steam locomotive passenger trains were identified with a number. I mentioned this in an earlier column, but even-numbered trains (No 4, No 6, No 8 etc) traveled south and odd-numbered trains traveled north. Just wonder how many of you remember the number of the 10-10:30 P M northbound train that came through town each night. I am sure some you old railroad buffs remember that train. I’ll give you the train number next week.
Escambia County High School announced two new coaches. Glen Latham was named head football coach and Cornel Torrance was selected to coach the basketball team. Incidentally, in an upcoming column I’ll report on some BIG news for the 1974 football team.
Mickey Akins took first place honors for his working model of an electric generating plant at the annual Escambia Academy Science Fair.
The Atmore City Council voted to experiment with eliminating parking fees two days a week. At that time, parking meters were common sight along city streets. I can still see Mr. Phillips and other city policemen patrolling the streets and checking out those meters.
Construction began on Golden Dawn Nursing Home and Samco added two new buildings to their main plant located in Atmore Industrial Park.
Popular songs of that year included Ray Steven’s “The Streak” and Billy Swan’s “I Can Help.” Cal Smith released “Country Bumpkins” and Neil Sedaka reached the charts with “Laughter In The Rain.”
The Strand Theatre carried the movie “Blazing Saddles” for an extended run. The Mel Brooks feature was an enormous hit that year.
In national sports, Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home record and Lou Brock of the St Louis Cardinals set a record for base stealing. He was also named sportsman of the year
E.J. (Jr.) Hall of Poarch was named top row crop farmer in the county. The honor was a project of the Escambia County Extension Division of the Alabama Department of Agriculture
Billy Spears was honored for her outstanding service to Atmore Girl Scout work and H A Moring was recognized for growing the county’s largest tomatoes in his greenhouse.
A well-known grocery store, Jitney Jungle, went out of business that year, and the Bible was named the best selling book in 1974.
Clyde Dunn, long time North Baldwin Constable, passed away. The Perdido native was father to Mrs. Marshall Robinson of Atmore.
Darrell Copeland became an ordained minister. Dr. John Smith, Pastor of First Baptist Church, conducted the ceremonies. Darrell is the son of Mr. and Mrs. E.C. Copeland.
G.K. Fountain became the new name for Atmore Prison Farm.
Speaking of the prison system, a recent news release from Associated Press Wires from Montgomery indicated that all “over weight” Alabama workers, not just prison workers, may be required to pay additional fees for insurance premiums The story, carried on the internet August 22, stated “it has given its 37,527 employees a year to start getting fit-or they’ll pay $25 a month for insurance that otherwise is free.”
The story further stated “Alabama will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don’t work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behavior.”
According to the article some workers disagree with this announcement, calling it “too big brotherish.”
The AP report stated “the State Employees Insurance Board plans to begin charging in January 2010 if they don’t have free health screenings.”
One state employee was quoted already paying $24 a month for being a smoker and doesn’t like the idea of another charge.
I am sure you will be reading more about this as time goes on.
I would like to make a correction for an incorrect name I used in a story last week. I inadvertently stated Perry Wright was the Perdido railroad man who lost his life in a Biloxi accident. That man was Arthur Wright. Perry Wright was Arthur’s father. I regret this error, and I am happy to make this correction.
I will have more news from 1974 and other memorable years in upcoming columns.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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