Memories from a lifetime on the road

Published 12:31 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those of you living here in the 1940s-1980s will recall Atmore businesses closing their doors at noon on Thursdays and taking a half-day off work. Have you ever wondered why they did this? Judge Emilie Mims quizzed me on this a few days ago and I told her I really don’t know the answer to this. I told her I would try to find out, so if you know why this was done please let us know.

I do remember on one occasion back in the 1960s Mr. McNighter, the TV repairman, was leaving his repair shop located in a back room at Watson Hardware Company, locking his doors precisely at noon. I remember his telling me “you just did get here in time to pick up your TV, don’t you know we close at noon on Thursdays?” I told him “I do now.” He laughingly told me “you had a bad tube, that’s all that was wrong with it.”  He let me pick up the set before he left, even helping me place it in the trunk of my car. Watson’s closing was just one example of businesses “getting out of town” on Thursdays.

All businesses did not close. Doctors, medical offices and some professional people worked the full day. I am not sure if City Hall took a half-day off. That four or five hour Thursday work loss was made up entirely on Saturdays as all commercial businesses remained open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Currently I don’t enjoy traveling any more. This is due to my traveling extensively in 37 states for over 30 years assisting folks who had suffered flood damages to their homes and businesses. As a National Flood Insurance contract claims adjuster I was afforded the opportunity to meet and talk with people and increase my knowledge with cultural, geographical and world-affair experiences. I wish I had been given the opportunity to enter this field of work earlier in my life but unfortunately it came later. In addition to writing up damage estimates, the work required my writing effective descriptive narratives, similar to those I learned in college journalism, speech and English courses and through the expertise of Martin Ritchie, the Advance publisher in the early and mid fifties. It proved so beneficial in my current stage of life.

But, you know, one thing I remember  in my travels was seeing names on signs, marquees and buildings of former Atmore residents no longer living here. In Montgomery at Maxwell Field you have seen that Maxwell  name throughout that huge Air Force Base. And, I am sure you are aware that this military installation was named in honor of the late Lieutenant William C

Maxwell, a former Atmore resident who was a member of the prominent Maxwell family here.

And, when working flood losses in Huntsville, Alabama I saw a sign, Fern Bell Park at a city ball park on Whitesburg Drive. I was told the sign was erected in honor of Bell’s many youth -related contributions when he and his family were residents of that town.
While traveling to Tampa back in 1983 to work flood losses due to that famous “no name” winter snow storm that slammed through here and onto the west coast of Florida containing 95MPH winds, I saw a sign in front of a church that read “Ralph Coleman” Pastor. Ralph, a native of here, was serving as pastor of that church, which was located on the main highway between Perry and Tampa Florida. Ralph and his nice younger brother, Homer, grew up with my sons and were fine Little League ball players.

These are remembrances of a few  former residents embedded in my mind because of my job. Years ago I ran into Coach Herbert Barnes while he and his wife were vacationing in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas following Hurricane Allen smashing into Brownsville, Texas causing damage there to cities west of there.

My work took me to Pikeville Kentucky in 1984 where I was assigned all the flooded schools in that county. Devastation from rushing waters down those mountainsides was unimaginable. On one occasion I worked losses in nearby South Williamson West Virginia, not too far from the scenes of the Hatfield- McCoy famous feuding, another enlightening experience.

A week or so prior to my making that trip I watched a PBS musical program that featured the exceptional vocal and instrumental talents of The McLean Family Band from Berea, Kentucky. After I finished my work in that state, Ouida and I motored over to that town in hopes of meeting this group. But, I learned from those at Berea College who knew them that they were on tour.

About two weeks ago on Facebook I ran across the leader of the band, Raymond McLean, telling him how much I enjoyed their music. I told him I first heard and saw the band on PBS 25 years ago. Their close harmony blended so marvelously well with such compatible instrumentation. The closeness of the family and the resonant quality of their music is an inspiration to all. He gave me permission to mention his group in my column. So, for those of you are interested, you can watch them and hear them on You Tube, or better still Google “The McLean Family Band.” My favorite song of theirs is “Blue Kentucky Moon.” If you do find them online please tell them you read it here.

Well, too much about me already. And, guess what? I did not use pieces on Airbus, politics or the Creek Indian meeting with the County Commission (some commission members, anyway) this week.
We will have more news from Atmore’s yesteryears in our column next week.

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

Lowell McGill can be reached at