Stabler: Atmore was ‘tough’ opponent

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I met Ivan Jones in the 1950s when he was a teacher/coach at Perdido Junior High School. He left that job to become the head football coach at Foley High School.

It was at this south Baldwin school he would establish an amazing win-loss record where he became recognized as one of the most successful high school football coaches in the state. He established an outstanding 108-28 record, earning some state championships along the way.

In the early 1960s, a tall, lean young lad came into Ivan’s life and helped set the stage for his 14 years of gridiron success.

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That young lad was Ken Stabler.

Yes, Kenny began his journey of football accomplishments right there on that Foley football field. He would go to become an All-American quarterback at the University of Alabama and a heralded signal caller in the National Football league.

At a Perdido banquet a few years after he left coaching, Ivan told a group of us how Kenny had played an important role in his success as a coach. He described him as very wiry, “like a snake.” That term became his primary form of recognition throughout his entire career.

I met Ken Stabler in October 1979, following Hurricane Frederic. I received assignment through Arthur Holk’s office to handle his flood loss. He met me at his Ono Island home on a Saturday where I made my inspection and discussed his flood damages. Actually, he had very little flood damage, but there was apparent wind damage on the roof of his sprawling three-story dwelling.

Before I left that day, we talked about his success. I told him that I noted Arthur Holk was his insurance agent. I asked him if he knew Arthur’s brother Floyd Holk, who was our State Farm Agent in Atmore. He readily said his parents were friends with the Holks and he did remember when Floyd lived in Foley. I told him I remembered his high school playing days and when he played against our Blue Devil teams. He told me Atmore high school teams were always some of the toughest teams on their schedules.

I could not help but be reminded of my meeting Kenny when I read of his death last week. I also remember Ken’s dad, “Slim” Stabler, who worked for a construction company that was helping build Interstate 65 through the outskirts of Atmore. This was in the early 1960s. Slim would come in to Martin Auto Parts to pick up vehicle and machinery parts. On Saturday afternoons I hung out with Carlton Martin and my cousin Hiram Cabaniss who worked for Carlton. I went there where we watched college football games on TV.

Slim was a somewhat talkative man, very friendly and highly articulate. He seemed pleased talking with us each time he came in. Carlton took real pleasure when he came in, because the company he worked for was a big customer for the Martins.

I also became acquainted with Ken’s sister Carolyn in 1971. She worked in the office of the Robertsdale Independent newspaper, where I took my Tri-City Ledger newspaper make-up pages for runoff on the huge press. She was very friendly and was accommodating to me because it was during this time I was making tiring efforts to get my Tri-City Ledger paper off to a successful start.

Ken’s not in the Pro Hall of Fame yet. But, I hope now they will definitely vote him in.

Now, in some current news I must comment on the excellent video placed on Facebook by Mickey and Rita Salter. It was their answer to a despairing online story about Atmore being one of the “worst” places to live in Alabama. The Salters put together a video of Atmore as seen from the air. I have not learned yet how they technically did this, but they thwarted the notion that we lived in a non-congenial town. The aerial views of Atmore and some of its beautiful buildings are breathtaking. You get the feeling you are soaring over the entire town.

You should go online now and save this video to your computer. It is truly a treasure.

Now, let’s take a look at some news from 1954.
Fairhope Creamery made its debut here that year. “Churned Fresh Buttermilk” was one if its best sellers.

Nearby, Florida Forest Rangers donned their brand new green motif uniforms. They previously wore khaki clothing.

Ernestine Miniard reported on her early morning “What’s Going On” radio show a comment from a female train passenger. The lady was one of several passengers who disembarked from the Hummingbird Train in a layover while rail tracks were repaired. “You can just sense that friendly down South Southern charm here in Atmore,” Ernestine reported.

By the way, I believe Ernestine is still living in a nice retirement home in the Daphne-Spanish Fort area.

Mike Simpson and his son moved his Simpson Fertilizer plant to Atmore that year. Providing jobs to several local residents, the plant was located just off Highway 21 North near the Frisco railroad.

McMurphy Dairy Bar moved into its new East Nashville Avenue location. It became one of our more popular destinations for food and get-togethers. It carries on that same tradition even today under the name of Buster’s.

You should enjoy reading about some of Atmore’s most popular skillful carpenters in an upcoming column.

We will have more news from years gone by next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at