In 1962, Southland changed phones

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In 2008, I wrote about some people and events from 1961 and 1962. In 1961, Southland Telephone Company changed over to the dial system.

For years, operators would “punch in” the number you wanted to call. I bet you remember that changeover because we had to refer to our new telephone books to find all those new numbers. It was a contrast to our picking up the phone and hearing those pleasant sounding lady operators say “number please.”

Do you suppose those ladies ever listened in on those conversations? I don’t think so because my wife, who was one of the operators back then, never gave me any indication of “knowing any secrets.” (Even today she does have a habit of giggling when certain names come up).

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You must understand I am only jesting. Those were fine upstanding ladies. And a few of them are still living. What a wonderful era of all those “number please” operators.

Adolph “Doc” Sutton was a true entrepreneur throughout his highly successful business career here in Atmore.

It began in the 1940s. He turned a sincere love of music, especially Big Band music, into a unique business that captured the hearts of everyone.

He came up with the ideal of placing “juke boxes” in locations where people would take to the dance floor.

I am not sure this concept could have begun from his “Hangout” fun business situated on the beautiful white sands on the Gulf of Mexico at Orange Beach. He and lovely wife Ouida drew crowds galore to this “paradise” location. Ouida complimented his business with her very own fashion clothing store next door. By the way, my wife Ouida was named after Mrs. Sutton as they were neighbors in Atmore for a while back then.

Over the years, Doc built a flourishing route of juke boxes here in south Alabama. Along the way he added pinball machines, which provided hours of entertainment for the young folks.

His entrepreneurial collection led to his establishing a leading restaurant here in town. In time, he added the bus station office, where passengers would come inside and order food and other refreshments. At one time his hamburgers were referred to as “the biggest hamburger in Atmore.”

In later years, he added a taxi service to his restaurant location.

Yes, he was a remarkable man, certainly Atmore’s true entrepreneur.

There were several other men and women who worked long, hard hours operating their businesses here.

I remember men like Sandy Furney, who operated the local bakery and bread route. Each morning he would deliver his fresh baked bread to stores in and around the Atmore area.

Then there was Dee Gibbs who transported gasoline to area gas and service station. He brought gas to my Dad’s Pure Oil Station in Perdido. WOCO PEP was a popular Pure gasoline. I remember when I was just a very small boy my parents let me ride with him to Stockton where he had gas customers. He took me by the post office where my dad’s sister was the post mistress.

Tire repair firms like The Brantleys and Robinsons achieved success through the efforts of their hard working owners back then and how can I ever forget the dedication applied by Tom and Ernestine Miniard creating a tremendous following at WATM.

Martin Richie carried his Atmore Advance business to the top of county weekly newspapers. I heard Jerry Clower say one day when he was speaking to local and area farmers that he was an Advance subscriber since the very first day he came to this area selling farm related products.

In some news from 1962, Atmore residents pitched in to help tornado victims in Milton, following a deadly disaster in that Santa Rosa town. A.R. Holmes resigned his head coaching position at ECHS and took a similar position in Georgia.

Also in the 1960s, Gerald Stanton’s prize dog won an advertising contract which featured his picture on a large bag of dog food. Gerald raised hound dogs, which competed on “Coon on a Log” contests. His dogs captured several national titles over the years. In fact, one of his dogs “Sugar Foot Stoney” won the national title three times.

And in the mid 1960s, Willy Smoot gave our law enforcement officers fits as he eluded their efforts to capture him. But one night he was captured in one of our drug stores with a batch of “dope” in his pockets. Willy had made a name for himself for several months, eluding officers following several breakins. My friend Jr. Roberts can really fill you in about the escapades of Willy Smoot.

Well here it is almost football season. How do we know? Southeastern Conference Media days in Hoover began this week and are the main reason we know. Yes, it’s only a few weeks away and weekends will be filled with games galore.

Next week we will have more news from Atmore’s yesterdays.