It was a bear to process this game animal

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One very cold day, back in the early 1960s, I stopped at Bill Bartel’s Frozen Food Locker for a chat and a cup of coffee with Bill and his chief assistant, Bully Brooks. Bully and I coached a youth team back then. Bill was always inviting friends over for coffee. There were a couple of other men who stopped by that day, but for the life of me I cannot remember who they were.

During our chat, a real tall heavy-bearded man wearing overalls and an “overalls style jumper” came in with a pickup truck load of fresh meat to be processed, wrapped and stored in the lockers. The license plate on his old model truck was Santa Rosa, Florida. Bully and Bill helped the man unload the meat to the processing room.

At first, the man was reluctant to tell them what the animal was that they were to process. Bill, who had walked back with the man to his old truck, came back in with a patch of real black animal hair that he found snared in the hinge of the door on the tailgate. Bully looked at it and said “Bill, that’s bear hair.” To which Bill replied, “That is exactly right. This is meat from a black bear the man killed in a swamp between Jay and Milton.”

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At that point, Bill became a little hesitant and told Bully he needed to “look up the requirements” for processing bears’ meat. He said I know they do this in Alaska and “some folks I knew over in my home state of Louisiana” used to do this. Bully said, “Heck Bill, we better find out more about this before we process and freeze it.” Bill agreed and said, “You know, after thinking about it, there may be some legal quirks too about how we should handle this bear meat.”

Of course, I was not there when the man came back to get his meat and I never asked why the meat could not be processed like any other animal. I did find out that killing a wild bear had to be reported to state authorities and certain regulations had to be met before the animal could be removed from the site where it was killed. Authorities say bear meat sometimes has tendencies to contain parasites and must be processed in a manner to keep down spreading onto the hands and body.

So, if you kill a bear make sure you know all the rules and regulations before you “skin” it and process it.

On another subject, one of the first things I did after installing my Netflix movie set top box was queuing up movies that featured Paul (Burch) Smith. As you know, he was born in Atmore and wound up with a long time movie career.

I found several of his movies and TV shows were carried on Netflix. Even though he made 39 movies, 50 stage dramas and several TV shows, not all were carried on this outlet.

Much has been written about Smith so I will not dwell on his biography. He did appear in an old movie I recently watched on TV, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

I sometimes run into his niece Sarah (Blalock) Moye at Busters and I talk with her and her son Mike Moye quite often. Sarah and I both remember seeing Paul’s photos displayed freely at the old Lowery House. She and Ouida were classmates at ECHS back in the 1950s.

Some confuse Smith with Atmore’s own Tarzan White. Both were of the same stocky build. But Tarzan was more the outdoor type known for hopping freight cars, roughing it and traveling coast to coast on those rumbling trains. Of course he did this prior to his becoming a well-known professional football player.

His sister Pauline, who taught me at Perdido School prior to moving to New Mexico, would often talk about his exploits. Smith was, on the contrary, a very polished actor.

Now, let’s take a look at some news from 1954.
McMurphy Dairy Bar (now Busters) had its grand opening in May. It became one of Atmore’s favorite places, featuring meals, sandwiches, milk shakes and a popular hangout where friends gathered to share news and make conversation. Right across the street was McMurphy Dairy, where milk trucks were dispatched for home delivery of fresh milk.

Atmore potato sheds had a banner year, with six sheds in operation. These sheds offered jobs such as unloading the trucks in from the field, grading the potatoes as they were carried on a moving wide belt, bagging culls and high grade spuds, sewing bags filled potatoes, rolling filled bags into waiting iced train cars and stacking those bags in the cars. Many teens, and grownups, as well, found gainful employment during the potato season.

The fresh aroma from the grading operation was very becoming. Some older folks found enjoyment watching the grading operation as they sat in their parked cars.
Another aroma typical to Atmore was a delightful smell of fresh coffee being processed at Atmore Coffee Company. Dixie Blend was their famous brand.

Piggly Wiggly, known for their bargains, advertised onions at 3 cents each and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes at 20 cents for a 12-ounce box.

Two from here made the news in May that year. Assistant coach W.J. Slovinac resigned from ECHS to take a similar position in another state.

David W. Coker was awarded a Commendation Ribbon for Meritorious Service in Korea. The former ECHS grad was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ben F. Coker of Route 2 in Atmore.

Next week, we will have more news from years gone by.

You can email Lowell McGill at