Gibbs was talented local auctioneer

Published 7:14 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When Dee Gibbs took up auctioneering as a hobby back in the 1950s, he did it in a manner one would think he could make a living at it. He really became quite good at it.

The affable Pure Oil gasoline distributor devoted a great deal of time in his East Nashville backroom office practicing. On one occasion he came by our WATM radio station and made a tape. Not long after that, he made a second trip back to Arkansas for more instructions at the auctioneering school where he was studying this trade. After several months of schooling, he took on part time auctioneering jobs in and around the Atmore area. He even opened his own auction where townfolks brought in goods to sell.

In later months he made a second tape at the station one day when Tom Miniard and I were on duty. And, we could really detect improvement in his work. He had developed a mellow, dynamic chant, which really made him sound like a polished auctioneer. It was a pleasure to hear him talk about his desire to become an auctioneer.

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He told us how much he wanted to excel in this field but he said I got into it too late in life to “make a go of it.” And, even in later years Tom ordered him copies of Leroy Van Dykes’ 1956 musical hit “The Auctioneer.” By the way, internet sources say that recording ranks as one of the most popular hits of the 1950s.

Dee’s Pure Oil distributing business began back in the 1940s on Wilson Avenue. I remember as a young boy going with my dad to pay his account. I can still see a pretty young lady behind the desk taking the payment. She would always give me a lollipop. That pretty lady is still living today. She is Catherine Esneul Lowrey, widow of Charles Lowrey. The family home is still on South Carney Street.

I saw one of those colorful red, yellow and blue WOCO PEP signs on the interior walls of a stately restaurant near Miami several years ago when Ouida was with me working flood insurance losses following Hurricane Andrew.

There were many other old time signs on those walls. I remember the big Gulf sign, which seemed to shine like a bright orange harvest moon. The Sinclair sign also stood out. It was depicted with a dinosaur in the center engrossed with bright green and white coloring.

Texaco had a different sign back in those older days. It still had its big star but it also had a flaming red fireman’s helmet imposed with the wording “FIRE CHIEF.” Conoco’s sign on that wall still used the bright triangle and Esso’s sign contained its name in big letters ESSO. Back then Shell’s sign was shaped like a sea shell, but it still had its colorful yellow coloring.

Sadly, most all of these old signs are no longer with us. Some of the gasoline firms are totally out of business today.

Back in the 1950s, before Floyd Holk became the State Farm agent here, there was a man named Ray Zwiffel who owned that business. I do not remember where Ray came from but I do remember that he was a very kind and likable man.

He enjoyed the fellowship of those who flew crop-dusting airplanes. He particularly liked Geronimo, a popular crop duster of that era. There was one crop duster, whose name I cannot remember, who played a steel guitar and was real good at it. Tom featured him on the radio a couple of times a week and Ray paid the air time. Ray was here for only a short period of time. But he always told us at our coffee sessions how much he enjoyed “the friendly people of Atmore.”

The folks of south Baldwin County, Foley in particular, are just one of several happy groups who are benefiting from graciousness of our Poarch Creek Indians.

The tribe rescued the Foley based Blue Collar
Entertainment Complex after the initial owners dropped out of the development of the project. While they are waiting to rename the project, officials say it will have appeal to families throughout the entire South.

The complex will feature a large lake, several hotels, amusement rides, RV parks and family entertainment. This is just one of the tribe’s many gestures that have proved beneficial to versatile organization. They have helped schools, churches, corporations and communities in a very congenial manner over the past few years

And, even today county attorneys and our attorney general are still trying to put them out of business. What a shame. The tribe is responsible for hundreds of jobs for our residents and more jobs can be expected in the future. Only last week a well-known publication predicted they may possibly play an important role, along with the city, for our getting Airbus into our area. It is no wonder they received praise from a this publication because of their many community efforts.

Also, I thank them for having me as a guest at the “Night for the Elders” banquet last week. I am glad my August 2008 Advance Article fit in with the “Elders” theme.

More next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at