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Textile jobs were good when available

Early 1966 brought happiness and grief to many in the Atmore area.

Five textile companies advertised in The Advance for workers in plants in Atmore, Monroeville, Bay Minette and Demopolis. It was a time when jobs were plentiful and the outlook was bright, especially factory work.

The local Vanity Fair plant was performing with “full force” with plenty of workers. The same could be said for Manor Slacks in Bay Minette.

Of course we did not realize that in the not too distant future these jobs, especially textile, would be moved “overseas” or across the border. Today, we rarely read of the need for workers like this.

Sadly, we lost three prominent residents that spring, George Stone, Aaron Grimsley and Steven William Hixon.

Stone, who was from Walnut Hill, Fla. died from an auto accident in Pensacola. He was highly regarded in the field of education and was a Florida District Representative. A trade school and recreational area and lake were named in his honor.

Grimsley was a local merchant and Hixon was a retired prison warden.

In some church-related news, the Rev. Fred Brown was reelected to the executive board of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Rev. Brown was serving as pastor of Presley Street Baptist Church at that time.

First Baptist Church called the Rev. Arnold McRae as its new pastor and the Rev. Jack Elliott was named new pastor at Brooks Memorial Baptist Church. McRae came from Cloverdale Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Rev. Elliott was from New Orleans.

Currently, speaking of new ministers, the Rev. Mike Grindle was recently named to serve as pastor of Presley Street Baptist Church.

Otis (Pee Wee) Stacy was named District 7 Constable by the Alabama Governor. Stacy filled the vacancy held by Houston Wolfe. Wolfe was named Atmore Chief of Police, replacing John Hammac, who was appointed Deputy State Fire Marshall.

The Atmore Saddle Club was active back then with numerous rodeos on the agenda. Ray Lambert was elected president of that club in 1966.

The Atmore National Guard staged a big western-country show featuring several well-known bands. Col. Tim McCoy, well known 1940-60s Saturday matinee cowboy star, was the main attraction.

Traveling down Hwy. 31 to the Baldwin County line at Perdido became easier as that highway was widened by the State Highway Department.

And, if you traveled to Monroeville you would see advertisement signs by “Madam Cochise.” The Palmist, also ran ads in The Advance for several years.

Many people made that trip to Monroeville mainly to see the courthouse, which was depicted in Harpers Lees famous book “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I remember going up there the day Gregory Peck came to visit.

And, there is some bad news for those of you who catch rattlesnakes. The Associated Press announced recently that rattlesnake roundups, like the annual affair held in Opp, may be coming to an end. The reason is because environmentalists and conservation groups say the Eastern Diamondbacks are dwindling because of the snake hunts. Wow, that’s hard to believe Opp’s role in all this means “bye, bye rattlers.”

That oil slick is still out there and now we are wondering if it will ever go away. It does seem to be heading on a southwest track, possibly into Louisiana. Modern day technology needs to step forward and curtail this intriguing disaster.

That oil slick near Louisiana reminded me of a story furnished to me by friend who lives in that state. I wrote about this back in 2007 in a column called “Number Please”. In fact, I received a lot of emails from former residents who lived here back during those old telephone days.

There was a mid-western woman, female, young lady (terminology used by Denham Spring’s late “Cajun” story teller Justin Wilson) telephone operator who everyone knew listened in on phone calls back when operators “punched in” telephone numbers much like our operators did back in the 1940s and 1950s.

As the story went, this operator was well respected and feared because many residents in that small town were afraid their conversations were being overheard. This was especially true for those who had “skeletons in their closet” and who were especially regarded as first-class hypocrites.

One day this operator quit her job because she had somehow accumulated great wealth. It was finally determined that she gained this wealth from information she, allegedly, “overheard” in phone conversations between a knowledgeable businessmen who placed stock orders over the phone. The operator began buying and selling the same stock used by the local professional stockman and became very wealthy.

Now, this certainly does not imply that our former operators tuned in on conversations. I say this because my wife was one of those “number please” operators. But, you know, she has never said one word about any phone conversations or “listening in” when she was at work.

There is one thing I have noticed. On occasions when we are out having an evening meal at local restaurants people will occasionally come by our table and speak to her in a very friendly manner. When I asked her what that was all about she would say “oh, it’s someone I knew years ago when I worked at the telephone company”.

I dare not question her. Moreover, since her good fortune I try to be more polite to her now.

My, my, “Harper Valley PTA” revisited.

On my computer print out this week from Social Security, I learned that “Isabella” reigns as the most popular name for girl babies. Jacob took top honors for boy’s names. Strange, I don’t hear those names that often. Do you?

Next week I will have a look at more news, people and events from the year 1966.

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net.