Close of ’66 brought about growth

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This week, we close out our coverage of people, places and events from the year 1966. For the past six months, I have highlighted that year in most of my columns.

The year was capped by a welcome announcement from Masland Carpets. The Carlisle, Penn. firm announced that Atmore had been chosen to build a $3.5 million plant. Our town was selected from a list of a dozen other sites from locations in several states. Initially, the plant would employ more than 130 with more to be added later. The local plant would manufacture carpet for both residences and businesses.

We learned that some of those original employees are still working, while many have retired with excellent benefits. The entire community is proud Masland made us their first choice back then.

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Monsanto, another firm that employed countless local and area residents, recognized Escambia County employees for finishing on top of its United Fund drive. In fact, Escambia County employees topped Santa Rosa and Baldwin counties employee donations.

Speaking of plants, the Vanity Fair Corporation announced plans to unveil a new line of apparel. Attractive robes and loungewear would soon be produced in certain VF plants throughout this area. The Atmore plant employed more than 300 workers at that time.

The Floral Garden, operated by the Masons, had their Grand Opening featuring floral arrangements, pottery, china and crystal. The building was located, and still is, at the Frisco overpass on Hwy. 31.

Kelly Young, service manager at Friendly Ford, was presented an award of excellence for performance in diagnosis of Ford mechanical problems.

North Atmore was hit by a small tornado in November causing damage to mobile homes, barns and the main office of Clarence Manley’s Auto Auction. Soon after that storm several residences were flooded with rising water. Those weeklong rains damaged the home of Fred William Hadley on Popular Street and other homes. Water also rushed down South Presley Street and Church Street.

The L&N Railroad made traveling a lot easier by building a crossing over the railroad at North Presley Street.

For some reason, several moonshiners became active during the fall. But local authorities didn’t take long to raid stills near Jack Spring Road and North Escambia. Atmore police chief Houston Wolfe led the raid of the local “moonshine factory.”

The ECHS marching band unveiled new uniforms at the opening game of the football season. The uniforms were dark blue trimmed in white and threads of red. Jim Elkins was bandmaster.

The Blue Devils football team finished the season with an undefeated 10-0 record, capturing the Region 1 championship. The team was coached by C.P. Floyd and assisted by Floyd Adams and Bill Gandy. Adams would go on to capture baseball championships at Tate High School and Jefferson Davis Community College, while Gandy would score outstanding records coaching several teams in nearby Florida schools.

Atmore merchants and business leaders raised funds for the Blue Devils to travel to New Orleans to see the Alabama vs. Nebraska match up in the Sugar Bowl. The one-day bus trip included a nice meal in the Crescent City.

One of Atmore’s top department stores, Bedsoles, drew big crowds with a half price sale on women’s dresses and Winn Dixie sold cube steaks for 10 cents a steak.

Well-known medical Doctor George Salley passed away that year. The 90-year-old physician served Atmore residents for many years.

The D.A.R. Good Citizen awards went to Marry Emma Floyd and Dick Lodge. They were seniors at ECHS.

Sherry Robinson was selected Atmore’s Junior Miss.

Tammy Beasley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Beasley, was selected as fall carnival queen at A.D/ Kelly School in Wallace.

Atmore native Greg Salter received the Bronze Star for bravery and exceptional service in Viet Nam.

Now, it’s time for a dab of local news. George Talbot, who writes for the “Mobile Register,” said Monday that EADS stands a good chance to win the tanker contract. He has been following this story, as I have, since the contract was “taken from us” last year. He says European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) have emerged as the clear favorite over Boeing, its competitor.

If you remember Northrop Grumman sought it first, but later dropped out after learning that politics became involved.

But a series of events may have titled the scales in our direction. First, Boeing has fallen down on previous government contracts. But the most important factor, in my opinion, was mistakenly sending important paperwork to the two bidders. In other words, Boeing received EADS documents and EADS received Boeings. This left egg on the faces of those who would decide on the contract winner. Or, as one writer said, he thought that mishap was intended to make both sides happy with a “split contract.”

In any event, Talbot’s article carried the best news we have had since the contract was taken from Northrop Grumman.

If EADS is awarded all or part of the contract, there will be jobs galore in Mobile where the planes would be built. It also creates the possibility for Atmore and other surrounding towns receiving related plants. Atmore would certainly have to be considered because of its unique access to Interstate 65.

I remember when Brookley Field came onto the scene in the early 1940s. My dad went to work there and remained on that job until his retirement 24 years later. Countless others from our area worked there too.

Wouldn’t it be a blessing if those World War II buildings become alive again? Only this time they would be building planes rather than repairing them.

Next week, I want to tell you about a conversation with a man and his wife about why they don’t eat in some restaurants. This couple always eats out on Friday nights. Rather than explaining it now, I’ll wait until next week, but they simply said “we don’t like what’s on the restaurant TV at supper time.” In so many words they say some restaurant TVs are tuned to “young folks jumping music rather than evening news casts.” I’ll have more of their conversation next week.

After thinking about it, you know, it does make sense doesn’t it?

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

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