Cobb County Oral History Series, No. 52
Interview with Stinson Adams, Jr. Conducted by Thomas A. Scott
Wednesday, December 16, 1998
Location: Marietta Parts Warehouse, 170 N. Fairground St., Marietta
During World War II Mr. Adams worked at Marietta's Bell Aircraft plant in the B-4 Building, where the B-29's were inspected.
TS: Mr. Adams, why don't we begin by doing a little background on you. First of all, when were you born and where you were born?
SA: In 1913, March 3rd. I was born in Fredonia, Alabama, which is just across the line from West Point, Georgia, on a farm which was an original land grant farm. We raised cotton and corn and all kinds of things at that particular time. The Depression came along. "The Depression." Everybody my age remembers.
TS: Well, from 1913, you were about 16-years old when the stock market crashed.
SA: That's right.
TS: Go ahead and tell me about that.
SA: From that point, I graduated from high school, I guess at sixteen or seventeen years old. We lived real close to Auburn (API) at that particular time.
TS: API? Alabama Polytechnic Institute?
SA: That's right. Auburn University today. My family thought I was too young to go to college. So, no jobs to be had, except down in the cotton mill, in this section. Five or six well known, big, large cotton mills. Most of the kids I went to school with, when they would get out of school, they'd get a job in a cotton mill. We didn't have many high school graduates at that time. So, my parents decided I should go to college, which there weren't many people doing at that particular time.
TS: It is remarkable. Your parents must have been exceptional to want you to go on with your education.
SA: Well, my mother was a Brenau girl, and my daddy went to business college back in those days which is bookkeeping and what not.
TS: So, your mother came up to North Georgia [to attend Brenau] then?
SA: No, actually, Brenau had a school that they started in Eufaula, Alabama. A branch. All the colleges today have branches at different schools. She was one of the first graduates of Brenau in Eufaula, which they sent professors from Brenau in Gainesville down to Eufaula. I don't think it lasted five or six years. Since the depression came along, there weren't many people able to go to college in those days.
SA: My father was a bookkeeper. We had a big farm and he operated a cotton gin. The depression came on about that time and nobody had money. So, since I played high school football in my high school, I applied to Ogelthorpe for a scholarship. I guess I weighed 115, 120 pounds. I didn't stand a chance.
TS: Were you a quarterback?
SA: No, I was an end.
TS: That is a light weight for an end.
SA: Well, of course, you just played where the coach told you to play. I was pretty fast so they thought maybe I could get out there and catch it.
TS: You'd be a split end today.
SA: That's right. At Ogelthorpe, of course, I didn't make the team. I didn't think I could make the team, but I still had to have a scholarship. So I said, "Coach, since I'm not making the team, but I need my scholarship in order to stay in school." He said "Well, we'll make you manager of the team." So, I had the same scholarship as the football players but just playing water boy. We played Auburn in football. We played the University of Alabama in football. We played some of the big teams. Let's see, we played University of Alabama when they won the Rose Bowl in -- that would be 1933 or '34. But that was my football experience. I graduated from Oglethorpe. Jobs were kind of hard to find. Real hard to find. I worked for S. H. Kress making eighteen dollars a week.
TS: Were you a salesman?
SA: I was a floor manager on Broad Street. I worked at Broad Street for quite a while. I was really mechanically inclined; so I thought I needed to get into the automobile business. So I worked at mechanics at different garages. I wasn't a super mechanic, just plain old grease monkey.
TS: With a college degree.
SA: With a college degree.
TS: Working as a grease monkey.
SA: That's right. Just anything that came along you were willing to do it.
TS: With the Great Depression, you couldn't be too proud.
SA: Not when a dollar would buy as much as it would back in those days.
SA: But, anyway, from there on, I went to work for ordnance at Chandler Warehouse, which shipped automobile parts all over the South to army bases.
TS: Where was that located?
SA: West End.
TS: And they're making automobile parts?
SA: It's a warehouse for automobile parts. We shipped them to all the ports and camps in the South as the war began. At that time, the majority of people that I knew had joined the Navy in the athletic department. But, of course, since they don't need water boys in the Navy in the athletic department, I decided that wasn't the place for me. But, about that time, war is declared, and Bell Aircraft in Niagara Falls--Buffalo--needed people to come up to learn to be aircraft mechanics. So I guess probably fifty to seventy-five people from this vicinity went to Bell Aircraft in Buffalo--five-hour session in Niagara Falls with the airport.
TS: So you were one of fifty to seventy-five who went up there from the South?
SA: From the South. They were going to send us back down to work at Bell in Marietta. Well, let's see, that was 1942.
TS: That makes sense. Before the plant opened up here.
SA: The plant was being built.
TS: And they just recently built the plant up there at that time at Niagara Falls.
SA: That's right. So, Niagara Falls would assemble the planes, would assemble the Airacobras, which were sent to Russia.
TS: Oh, they were? The Airacobras went to Russia?
SA: I would say the majority of Airacobras went to Russia. The Russians would come over, and we would have them ready to fly. The Russians would come over and get them at Niagara Falls and fly them back to Russian. Of course, the Airacobra wasn't as popular as some of the other mustangs back in those days. It was the only liquid cool engine that I had ever worked on--had a radiator. It had Allison Engines. The crank shaft is between the pilot's legs, active propellor. This crank shaft had an 8 mm cannon in it in the propellor. Of course, it had 40 caliber machine guns shot through the propeller.
TS: It's in the propeller itself?
SA: This cannon shot through the propeller shaft. So we were proud of that plane. It did a good job. We had a few problems with it--always having trouble with the liquids. Of course, if you're upstairs and you lost your coolant, you're in [trouble].
SA: I don't know how many we manufactured; but, of course, the weather had a little something to do with it. They asked me to stay and work at the airport up there. Twenty below zero is a little bit too cold. Bad weather. Niagara Falls is a very cold town, because the Falls creates a mist; and that mist is always cold and damp. Of course, that didn't bother us at the airport, because we were always inside.
TS: But you didn't want to go outside.
SA: Not if we could help it.
TS: That might have been a good idea--because it's so cold in Russia--to have the planes made in a cold climate.
SA: That's right. The first thing the Russians would do--you see, Niagara Falls is next to Canada. The Niagara River is the dividing line in some places. There's a Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls, Ontario. Our pilots, when they took those little planes, would fly under the bridge. Which, if they were caught doing it, they were -- well, they didn't fine them, because they couldn't fine the pilots, but they penalized them, of course. So the first thing those Russian pilots would do was to take off flying back to Russia under that bridge, knowing there was nothing we could do about it. I don't guess we were ever paid for those planes.
TS: Well, probably not. They were our ally in World War II.
SA: I guess not. That's right.
TS: Well, I was up at the Niagara Falls plant in October, and it's pretty much an empty factory. They've leased out different parts of it to different companies, but there's only about sixty employees up there. Actually, Lockheed Martin owns the building now. They've got about sixty employees of their own. That's about it. Other than that, it's pretty much an empty building. It was small compared to the plant here, but it was huge compared to just about anything else.
SA: That's right.
TS: Well, that must have been some experience. Was that the first time you had ever been North when you went up there?
SA: Yes, it had been my first time.
TS: How were you received up there?
SA: We were able to work and do our jobs. We got a good reception. Of course, at that time, I had a little six-year-old boy and my wife, but most of them left their families here. It was kind of hard to get food and places to stay there, like it was in Marietta when this plant was built. So a few of us got our wives to come up and make a home for us there. It was hard to find places to live. We were fortunate to find a cottage for rent on Cayuga Island, which was in Niagara Falls. I guess that the Niagara River was fifty yards from my front door.
TS: I know you were cold that winter.
SA: That's right. Well, of course, everybody was cold that winter.
TS: All those winds coming in off of the lake.
SA: That' right. It was cold. Of course, the Falls were frozen over, and that was to be expected.
TS: Well, did they treat you differently as a Southerner up there? Were you kind of an oddity, because you came from the South?
SA: Not really. They wanted us to stay and work there instead of coming back to Georgia. But, like I say, the weather had a lot to do with it. Schools had a lot to do with it.
TS: Right. You didn't want your kids to be educated up in--
SA: Well, it wasn't that. It was just that we had to carry our child quite a distance to school. We didn't have buses. It was too far to walk. But, as far as reception, it was great, because when we came to work, a lot of people didn't work like we did.
TS: They didn't work as hard?
SA: Well, we didn't think they worked as hard; and they thought we worked too hard.
TS: Well, that's what Mr. Croop told me yesterday. He was from Buffalo, and he thought that Southerners worked harder than Northerners. That's just the opposite of the stereotypical view that we've got of Southerns being somewhat lazy, because of the climate and Northerners being the aggressive "Go Getters."
SA: But on each one of those little planes, after they were test flown the first time, there were two mechanics. One would have the right hand side and one had the left hand side. The person who worked with me was a German. He was second generation German. So he liked to sit on his tool box. To me, I thought I was patriotic. I wanted to get this war over with, and we wanted to win this thing. He would sit down on his tool box and tell me the value of the unions. He said if you would just join the union, you wouldn't have to work so hard.
TS: So that's why Northerners didn't have to work as hard?
SA: Well, now he was the exception, I would say. I really think he wanted the Germans to win, and I used to tell him that. It was kind of hard to believe. Of course, as I said, we each had something to do on the plane.
TS: Well, what was your job exactly?
SA: Mine was the cockpit. Some of the instruments tell you the condition of the engine. If they went bad, you'd have to disassemble part of the cockpit to get to the instruments. It was a painstaking, hard job to do; but of course, it was done. Then we tested the doors. You had two doors to get in the cockpit. The pilot would be able to pull the latch and lean against this door, and the door came off. So he could get out if he was shot. They would do it on the ground, but when they were in the air, it was too much pressure. They could never get those doors to perform right. So I don't know how many Russians were [killed as a result].
TS: Well, does the door swing out?
SA: No, the entire door just came apart--fell off.
TS: You'd have more pressure inside than out, wouldn't you?
SA: No, undoubtedly, we didn't, because you couldn't get the door open upstairs. Up in the air it was different. It was the same way with the B-29, the Bombay doors wouldn't open, because you had the pressure.. It's different being up in the air with pressure on the plane than it is on the ground with no pressure.
TS: Well, they must have made the correction in a hurry for the bombers, didn't they?
SA: That's right. Well, of course we could change that. We took care of that problem on the B-29. I don't know if they ever solved that problem in the Airacobra.
TS: That would account for a good many of the Russian casualties.
SA: That's right. Anyway, that was just one of the problems. Of course, I guess all aircraft give you problems like that, which are minor in one sense.
TS: How long did it take you to learn your job after you got up there?
SA: I guess I did when I got up there. In other words, they promised us we were to be in supervision when we came back here. They wanted us to learn all we could about aircraft manufacturing. For a while, some of us were on the line in Buffalo. We started off with the fuselage building and put different components on it until it got out to the airport. Some stayed on the line the entire time they were there, so when they came down to Bell Aircraft, they could work on the line here. See, there weren't very many aircraft mechanics in the state of Georgia at that particular time.
TS: No, I wouldn't think so. There weren't that many anywhere in the world, were there?
SA: That's right. The few we had up there had worked on piper cubs, which at that time was a popular, small plane built in Pennsylvania. Some of the people who worked with me in the airport flight lines had worked on piper cubs. Of course, there was quite a bit of difference between piper cubs and the Airacobra fighter. They were like I was. They had to learn all over again.
TS: But, if you've got mechanical smarts, you're getting in on the ground floor.
SA: Well, it helped. Of course, when we came back to Georgia, I'd ask some farm people to just give me some mechanics who had worked on automobiles. If they were mechanically inclined and knew how to tighten a nut and were willing to work, we could make an aircraft mechanic out of them. In my crew I had only one person who had ever worked on an aircraft before. He was my union steward, which made it easier on me at that particular time, because some of our garage mechanics went to work for us at the airport on the flight line at Bell. After about two weeks [one of them] said, "I can do anything anybody asks me. Why don't I get the same amount of money." The same old thing. So I sent him to this union steward who had been an aircraft mechanic for fifteen to twenty years, a long time. And he explained to him. He made it easy on me. So I never had to go through the labor union.
TS: Were you ever tempted to join the union while you were in Buffalo?
SA: No, I guess, maybe that's the southern part. I thought maybe if I had to be a union member to have a job, I didn't need a job.
TS: Too independent? SA: Well, that could might be me. TS: Didn't want anybody to tell you what to do?
SA: Maybe. Well, of course, people tell you what to do all the time. Even now, my wife tells me what to do. But I'm not a union member. Of course, I'm not talking about unions.
TS: Well, back down here, you'd be in a supervisory position where you couldn't be in the union anyway.
SA: That's right.
TS: When did you come back down here?
SA: Let's see, next year is 1943. It was the day we left to come back here.
TS: So, that was right about when the plant was opening up?
SA: That's right. They were beginning to manufacture parts for planes. We had a B-29 that had been manufactured by Boeing that we used to work on. We already had a B-29 here, and we had it out in the B-4 building. TS: The B-4 building is what? B-1 is the main assembly building and B-2 is administration. What's B-4? SA: It came out of two big doors where the planes came out. Next to that was a hanger with three bays in it. When the plane was released from the main plant out at Bell, they were brought over to the B-4 building. The engines had been installed normally, but they had not been unpickeled to preserve them till you could use them.
TS: Meaning that they were in oil when they came?
SA: That's right. They were in oil. So we would take this ship out of B-1 building. Then our inspectors would go over it and write up the things that hadn't been completed in manufacturing. So we would get the plane ready to go down to the nose hanger where the engines would run for the first time. Then after they were run for the first time, the inspectors would shake it down again, and you okay it for flight. It was flown by a company pilot; and after if was flown by a company pilot and all the problems had been erased, we would turn it over to Army inspection. Then we would turn it over to Army pilots. They'd eventually buy the plane, and ferry command would come pick it up--the people who would fly it to different bases.
TS: So, they built the plant in the main assembly B-1, and then the inspectors go in and find the little mistakes that have been made?
TS: But it doesn't go back to B-1; it goes straight to you at that point; and you get the last crack before the engines are run?
SA: That's right. TS: And then testing first by Bell and then by the Army? SA: That' s right. And ferry command comes.
TS: Well, you all must have done a pretty good job, because my understanding is that none of those planes every crashed.
SA: That's right. We had one one time that had the air rods, in other words, the steering mechanism was wired wrong. The cables were wrong. In other words to turn it to go to the right, you'd turn to the left.
TS: The wires crossed?
SA: That's the only thing that I ever remember that caused us any problem at Bell Aircraft.. I don't' know how many airplanes we built. Do you know?
TS: Well, I think it's about 663, give or take a few. Which is quite a few.
SA: That's right. In a short length of time with farmers, housewives. People who had never seen a plane before. Unreal.
TS: What did you think of the workforce that they assembled ?
SA: It was fantastic what they could do. You just wouldn't believe it. Of course, under the circumstances, we didn't have enough gas. I had an A-sticker. Just enough to go from my house to the flight line. You couldn't drive on the flight line. I had a sticker that made me go to the flight line. Of course, I would go in early; and I would probably be the last one on the line to leave at night. But food was rationed. In Niagara Falls, you could go over to Niagara Falls, Ontario, to buy food, shoes, steaks, big, thick steaks.
TS: All because it's in Canada? They're not rationed the same way?
SA: That's right. And the Canadian people--you'd know them and work with them. I'd say, "How about bringing me a pair shoes, number 71/2 B or something." They said, "Give me the money." And we'd would give them the money. Of course, it's cheaper too. Just things like that.
TS: I wonder what the difference was, because Canada was in the war.
SA: I didn't have anything to do with that. I didn't know that.
TS: You just know that it was cheaper and more available.
SA: That's right. You could go to a restaurant and have steaks you couldn't buy in Niagara Falls. Grocery stores the same thing. Go to department stores-- like watches. You couldn't buy watches in USA stores.
TS: So, you loaded up before you came back?
SA: No, not really, because we didn't have enough money. You couldn't buy the things you would have bought, if you had been able to. I think 95 cents an hour is what they paid us.
TS: That was pretty good--95 cents.
SA: It was, because most of people were making 50 cents. A lot of people were working for me, since I was a salaried person. People working on planes. I had ten crews, and each crew had ten people. Some of these people working for me made twice as much money as I did, because I needed them to stay overnight and make overtime.
TS: So no matter how many hours you worked, you were on salary?
SA: That's right, but I was just glad to be working and do a job.
TS: Well, tell me about the planes that came to you. Did the inspectors find lots of things?
SA: No, not really, and the pilots didn't find very many things wrong.. I would talk to the ferry command--see the people that worked on the flight line had a cafeteria of their own. We were in a little world of our own. We were just different from the people at the plant.
TS: Was it in our own building that you had your cafeteria?
SA: No, it was in a separate building. Then, eventually, they built another hanger on the flight line which had three planes for each bay. So we could put in nine planes--office in the middle. But we had no radical problems. The ferry command would come in to pick up the planes tomorrow morning, and we'd have it ready to go, sitting on the flight line. I said, "Fellows, you fly the Boeing, too? " They said, "Yeah." I said, "Now, just tell me which plane would you rather fly, which one you felt better with--which one you had the least problems with." I don't know whether it was because I could give them liquor that they'd tell me, "Bell Aircraft is the best plane." It really doesn't make sense because Three Feathers and cigarettes were hard to get back in those days. And so when the ferry command boys came in, they'd always want: "Can I get some cigarettes?" We'd have cigarettes that they could buy that I couldn't buy. They'd have Jack Daniels that I couldn't buy. There wasn't nothing wrong with it. That was part of it.
TS: It was illegal down here, wasn't it? To buy any Jack Daniels?
SA: It wasn't illegal. Not at all. It wasn't illegal. No. We were wet.
TS: Wet in Atlanta? What about Cobb County? Wasn't Cobb County dry?
SA: Well, there was an air base out there.
TS: Oh, you could get anything you wanted? SA: Not anything, but, I mean, you could buy liquor. They may have come from a dry county-dry state.
TS: So, you gave them Jack Daniels?
SA: Yeah, and I had to drink Three Feathers. That doesn't make sense to you, because you've never had Three Feathers, which was made out of molasses.
TS: Three Feathers?
SA: Three Feathers. Like chicken feathers. That was the name of a popular brand of liquor back in those days.
TS: I see, but it wasn't very good?
SA: Well, of course, I'm no connoisseur.
TS: But this is pretty cheap liquor?
SA: Well, none of it was cheap, but it was not as good as the Jack Daniels that the pilots wanted. But that was just one of those things. That's part of it.
TS: Did you get to know Larry Bell at all?
SA: No, but Jimmie Carmichael came by my office every night on his way home. Jimmie Carmichael lived at the end of the runway. There's a cemetery out there now. At the end of the runway was Jimmie's house. Jimmie would come by every night and come by my office. We'd have a big blackboard that had the numbers of the planes on the board and their status. He'd say, "Have you moved this plane today or tonight, is it ready to fly or has it flown or what's it status?" He surprised me at the amount of his knowledge concerning the plane, because, he was really, like a lot of us; not aircraft minded.
TS: He was a lawyer.
SA: But he was a good man. He said, "Now, if you need me for anything" (which is kind of unusual); he said, "You have my phone number; the phone is at my bed." He said, "If you get in trouble and need anything, you call me, and I'll turn it loose for you." I said "Jimmie, if I have to do that, I don't need this job." See, it's easier working on second shift, which is the night shift, which is what I was on, than it is the first shift.
TS: Why is that?
SA: Well, we could expedite it a little bit easier at night. You had to have engineers in the daytime to tell you what to do. At night, you just did it.
TS: They didn't have engineers working at night?
SA: Well, we had engineers there, but not like they did during the days. Does that make sense to you?
TS: Doesn't make any sense to me why it would be that way.
SA: Well, it didn't to me neither. So we used to have problems with the planes vibrating--engines would vibrate. The pilot would fly it, come back down, and say, "Engine No. 1 would vibrate." Which meant that the propeller was out of balance. The propellers were balanced on a special machine and had to be perfectly balanced, like automobiles tires today. So I'd go in at night, and I go in thirty minutes early to tie in with my same person I had in the daytime. He'd tell me about planes that had problems. He said, "Plane No. 2 out there needs a propeller." I said, "Why didn't you put it on? Why did you wait for me to come and put it on?" He said, "Well, we couldn't get one supplied by government supplies, which was in part of the main plant where these propellers were assembled and balanced. I said, "Well, do they have any up there in the thing?" He said, "It is locked up." He said, "The man in charge locks it up at night." No second shift. I had two people from Harlan, Kentucky.
SA: Harlan. It's a mining town. I had three vehicles. I had a motorcycle, station wagon, and a pickup truck that was assigned to me on the flight line. So I said, "Fellows after you eat dinner tonight, I want you to go up to the main plant, go up to the propeller shop, and get this propeller that is on a stand on wheels. Hook it to your truck, and bring it down here." I said, "The crew chief on this plane that needs a propeller on the No. 1 engine will have his propeller ready to take off when you get there. As soon as he gets here, take that propeller off, put it on your stand, and take it back to the plant. Put it back in where you found this one, and in the morning we'll fly." I said, "Jimmie, if I ever get caught doing this, I will get in trouble." He said, "Well, don't do it, but I want the plane to fly." Occasionally, we'd have a carburetor. When I first went to work there I thought we would repair these things.
TS: The carburetors?
SA: Every carburetors needed repairing, we would do it. If a propeller was out of balance, we would balance it. But someone else did all these things. So if we needed a carburetor an engine-- I've seen these boys from Harlan, Kentucky. There would be an engine. I'd say, "Take your tools and go up there and take a carburetor off the engine. Bring the carburetor down here, and we'll start the plane tomorrow. It's probably illegal even now to do it.
TS: Yes, because there were just fewer people working at night. Nobody to stop you?
SA: Well, we didn't have any supervision to stop us.
TS: Were there two shifts a day or three?
SA: Actually, some of them had three shifts. When I first went to the airport, we had third shift. I was in the B-4 building. When the pilots would fly a plane and bring it down and write down what's wrong with it, they had a crew chief that the pilots would tell them what to do. Well, the crews weren't doing their jobs. It's easy to sleep at night if you're on second shift and third shift. Some of those pilots weren't getting the job done. TS: The pilots weren't? SA: See, the pilots were in charge of the flight line. The people who flew the plane came down, told them what was wrong. The crew chief, he gave it to them and said, "This is what I want repaired." They weren't really doing their jobs quickly enough or well enough. So they came over to the B-4 building where I was working and said, "We need somebody to go down and look after the flight lines at night and somebody to look at the flight lines in the day time. I said, "Why tell me?" "He said, "We're going to send you down there to flight lines on the night shift, and we want this work done. There's too many people not working." I said, "Maybe I can't do the job." They said "Well, we think you can." I went down. I called all the crews down, and I said, "Now, you know why I'm here." I said "We're going to get some production or somebody's going to the army." If you laid down on the job, we turned their names in and--
TS: They got drafted.
SA: I said, "I don't want to be the person to draft anybody, but the job is going to start happening." And I guess he's 6'4" weighed 250 pounds. He said, "Hey, squirt, what are you going to do about it if we don't?" "I said, "Well, what are you going to do about it, if I don't like it?" He said, "I'm going to give you the worst beating you ever had." I said, "Well, why don't you do it now?" He said, "Well, we'll talk about that later on." So it was nip and tuck for about a couple of weeks. This had nothing to do with this airplane business, but, anyway, after two or three weeks, we had everything all straightened out. I don't have scars, but I can run fast.
TS: Well, were these atypical workers that weren't working hard? Was that a big problem throughout the plant to keep people working?
SA: No, not through the plant. I didn't have trouble in the B-4 building. Of course, I wasn't in charge of the B-4 building. I was assistant of the second shift in the B-4 building. We didn't have trouble there. I just think that the pilots didn't have time to stay there and see that the job was done. They depended on crew chiefs to do it, and the crew chiefs weren't able to get it done. Maybe they weren't convinced that it should be done. But, the job wasn't being done at that particular time. It's just one of those things that happened. So, after a while, we had it down.
TS: Sounds like you got it straightened out.
SA: Well, when you tell a man he's either going to go fight--
TS: That's pretty persuasive.
SA: That's right.
TS: Was there much turnover in the plant?
SA: No. The majority of the people down here wanted to get the job done. They were proud of it. There was no loafing. If you told a man what to do, he would do it. Of course, supervision had something to do with it, but I can't say there was any loafing. Not near as much as up at Niagara Falls.
TS: How did the people from Buffalo fit in when they came down here?
SA: They didn't last long.
TS: They didn't?
SA: The department that I was in--we brought a person from the flight line down here to the B-4 building. He just didn't understand these rednecks. There are two or three ways you can tell a person how to do something. He could tell those things up in Yankee land--how to do it and they would do it. But, these rednecks boys down here--you didn't have to say "Mr." to do it, but you could ask them to do it and no problem at all. If he didn't understand what you wanted him to do it, you'd show him one time, and he'd do it with no problem. That doesn't make sense, does it?
TS: Well, sounds like the Northerners were a little too abrasive when they came down.
SA: That's putting it mildly. But they thought they could come down here with a bunch of rednecks. Of course, they had worked on another plane.
TS: They felt superior to the rednecks.
SA: And that didn't work. It didn't work. So it wasn't long before they sent them back. They did a good job up there. Everybody liked them up there.
TS: But the workers down here wanted Southerners to be supervisors?
SA: No, I wouldn't say that. They just didn't wanted [them] to look down on them. They didn't want to be treated as rednecks. Of course, they were as smart as anybody else. Of course, we're doing the psychology thing. We just did the job.
TS: Okay. Well, tell me, were most of the workers well educated?
SA: No, not really. See, of course, I dealt with more mechanics. They had to know the different sections of the plane, and they had to know how to run the engines, put gas in them, put the fuel, check the oil, and all those kinds of things. Whereas, people on the line, they did the same thing day after day after day, and it became just second nature. I mean, you didn't have to think. At the airport on a flight line was different. Each plane that came down had something different.
TS: So you really needed people who had some mechanical ingenuity and who could think and figure things out?
SA: Well, they did. Of course, we tried to put a crew chief in charge of these ten people. If he had trouble, he came to us. You see, each day we would pull a "daily." I mean, we had people who would check the radio and run up the engines, check to make sure we had enough gas to fly.
TS: That's pretty important.
SA: That is important. And had people to do these various things on the plane. The crew chief had people who would do this. So here I am with an A sticker, three gallons of gas a week to go to and from work. Everyday we drained five gallons of gasoline out of each engine to be sure there is no water or contamination. TS: This is the same kind of gasoline you run your automobile with? SA: One hundred octane gasoline.
TS: Oh, this is really high quality.
SA: Back in those days, I guess, seventy-five or eighty was the most you could buy for your own automobile. So we drained out five gallons of gasoline for each one, checked the water, checked the oil. But, anyway, we checked everything that needed to be checked. This gas was put in the drain and just ran down the Chattahoochee River, I guess. Just thrown away. I don't know where it went to.
TS: Just wasted.
SA: Just wasted.
TS: So, that was very tempting.
SA: So, there I am. A half gallon of gas in my car.
TS: I bet you added a little bit.
SA: I hated it. That was the only thing I hated about the entire job was throwing gas away.
TS: I thought you were going to tell me you actually siphoned it into your own car.
SA: Well, of course, 100 octane probably wouldn't run in it.
TS: Car wouldn't be used to that?
SA: That's right. See, cars back in those days were sold and bought because of the tires. If you had a good set of tires, you could sell you car regardless of what kind of engine you had or what condition your automobile was in. So, rubber and used tires were a premium. Meat was a premium. Food was a premium.
TS: Right. How far were you living from the plant?
SA: Let's see. Morningside Drive is right down the street from me. I lived in Atlanta, and I had to come back and forth on the access highway--called Access Highway--which is South Cobb Drive. We had a streetcar that came to the plant and turned around, but it took too much time. So I had bought a used police car before I went to Niagara Falls.
TS: What model was it?
SA: [It was a] '39 standard Ford, 85 HP. Of course, the City of Atlanta policeman had got all the goody out of it. I said I could make it last till I got something else. So my wife drove that car with two ladies and three other kids up to Niagara Fall. It took them about three days. My wife had never driven that far before. Of course, she was a good driver. These ladies had never done it either. Kids fussing and fighting. Do you remember seeing Dust Bowls? I told my wife. I said, "You came from a Dust Bowl didn't you? Luggage tied all over the thing and just--some used tires.
TS: Were the roads that bad or the tires that poor?
SA: The tires were that poor, and the roads occasionally were. Dirt roads, you see, from here to Niagara Falls. Got there before Thanksgiving. Finding a place to live was just almost impossible. Like finding a place in Marietta. Like I said, I lived in West End, came here every day to work. That was tiresome. Took at least two hours--an hour coming and an hour going back home.
TS: From West End, that a long way. Now the Access Road is South Cobb Drive. Did it go all the way into Atlanta?
SA: Yes, it was built to let people come to Bell. So it came time I said I have to do something. I can't keep on doing this. If we had to stay late to get the plane to fly the next morning we did it. That's when the people that worked for me made more money than I did. But my wife had an uncle who was working for Atlanta Gas Light in Marietta. He was in charge of Atlanta Gas Light in Marietta. So I called him one day. I said, "Fred Cook, I've got to move."
TS: What is your wife's name?
TS: And so you told Fred Cook that you had to move?
SA: I said, "Fred Cook, I have to move to Marietta." I said, "I'm going to quit my job [if I don't move]." I said, "I can't do it. Seven days a week. No time off." I said "What can you do for me?" He said, "There's a pasture where Morningside Drive is, right down the street. They're building duplexes. He said, "There isn't any place in Marietta you can move to, but when the first house is completed in a new subdivision. I guarantee you'll get it." I said, "How can you do that?" He said, "You want to move?" I said, "Yes". He said, "Trust me. The first house finished, you move into it, a duplex." You know, the first house finished, the streets weren't paved, one telephone on the corner. You had to park your car on Nuway Laundry. Nuway Laundry was about two blocks from where I lived. Mud up to your knees. Couldn't drive down to your house. So I said, "Well, I'll take it." Of course, I had no alternative but to take it. So, we moved in there. A friend of mine that worked for me at the plant--he said, "How did you get a house?" I said, "I don't' know how I got it." He said, "Where did you move?" I said, "I moved into a duplex." He said, "Let me have the other half of the duplex." I said, "You'll have to talk to the people that own the house." So he went to see them, and nobody else had applied. They had a long list, but he worked at the airport for me. So they let him. So two people moved on that street. That's where all the marijuana and coke is sold today.
TS: Now, the Nuway Laundry, this is like the one on Page Street?
SA: Yes, Page Street. I parked my car at the Nuway Laundry on Page Street. But, it was better than driving all the way to West End.
TS: So, this was new housing that was built for the workers at Bell Aircraft?
SA: That's right. Like Pine Forest. Pine Forest was built at that time.
TS: You say you got to know Jimmie Carmichael pretty well by him coming by everyday. What about Rip Blair? Did you get to know him?
SA: Well, Rip was running the [city] at the time. Rip didn't spend much time [at the plant]. If he spent any, I never saw him. But Jimmie would come by, like I say. For one month, I believe it was February, we didn't fly a single plane. The weather was so bad, the pilots couldn't get it up. So we would take it out on the ramp and run it up and check it out and bring it back. We sold those planes without ever flying them, which was unusual. But they needed them, and we were proud of it.
TS: Well, you were doing about one a day, weren't you?
SA: I really don't know. We just did them. I wasn't interested in manufacturing. I was interested in getting them through.
TS: Right. Well, the housing you're talking about, those are pretty neat houses still, I think.
SA: They were well built. Very well-built. When the thing was over, we just knew there was going to be a mass exodus from Marietta. Just everybody was going to move, you know. I'd say on our street all I saw was trucks. In the meantime, I was going to go into business for myself. So, I told my wife, I said, "Well, we are going to be the only ones again on this street." But people started moving back in as soon as they moved out. A lot of people had bought these houses and didn't want them anymore. They just had to buy the houses to move in. So, they'd come by and say, "I'm going to give you my house." I said, "I don't want your house." But a GI could buy these duplexes for a very normal price, and I couldn't buy them, because I wasn't a GI. But, some of these people who owned houses--single family houses in Marietta--would come by. I was in business at that time. They'd say, "I have a house, and I want to move." One man came down and said, "I'm moving to Columbus. I owe one month payment on the house. I paid for it for five years. I'll give you my house, if you'll take it. I want to leave. I don't' want to have it on my credit." So I could have bought a dozen, but didn't need them. I bought one and still own it. I built a house out in the country fifty years ago, and these people rented this house from me when I moved. They are still in this house. Still pay me rent.
TS: Is that right?
SA: Occasionally, they come by and say, "I don't pay enough rent. I want you to raise my rent." Doesn't make sense. "House needs paint. I want to paint my house. Will you buy the paint?" Of course, the man who rented from me originally was the manager for Kroger. He is dead, and his wife still lives there. But that is just how things worked back in those days.
TS: Do you remember when the plant closed down?
SA: Yes. We still had airplanes in the airport at the flight line, and we completed what we had to do on the planes. Then they gave people tools. Mechanics, I think we gave them the tools. See, in the beginning, they were issued tools to work on aircraft. Big tool boxes. Big sets of tools. Good tools.
TS: A tool box per worker?
SA: A tool box per worker. Most of the time, we gave them to them to take home and be a mechanic somewhere. So I had wanted to go. Everybody I knew was going to work for themselves. I said, "I'm going to find me a job. I want to work for somebody else."
TS: You said that?
SA: Yes. I said that's my opinion.
TS: I think it's really interesting that there didn't' seem to be any great unemployment problems when twenty-eight thousand workers got laid off.
SA: Well, it wasn't any, especially because Jimmie Carmichael had a Number 1 man named Thomas S. Perry. He's a friend of mine. I've known him a long, long time. He had an automobile warehouse. I was going to get into the automobile parts business-garage and all that stuff. So he sent word to come by. He said, "You can be the last man in the airport to leave." I said, "Thank you, but I don't want to do this. I want to leave as quick as I can. I want to get out of it. I need to stop doing seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. I just need to do something else. I've got to get out. He said, "Well, you can be the last one in the airport, if you want to be." I said, "No, just terminate me and let me get out." And as soon as I could I left.
TS: Was this right after the Japanese surrendered?
SA: That was when it closed.
TS: It didn't take long did it after the war?
SA: No, no. It was just over with quick, because they didn't need b-29s anymore.
TS: So, you left as quick as you could.
SA: Within reason. I'd say maybe a week or two after.
TS: At the same time everybody else who was being laid off.
SA: Right. TS: Okay, now, you said you wanted to work for somebody else, but that's not exactly what happened. SA: I couldn't find anybody who would put up with me.
TS: I see.
SA: I didn't have the qualifications to do anything, but I wanted be in business for myself. The man who lived next door to me had been selling cars. TS: Now, this is while you're still on Morningside Drive? SA: We lived on Morningside Drive, next door. His name was Manley. He was from Royston.
TS: Royston, up in Northeast Georgia?
SA: That's right. I said, "Manley, let's start go into business."
TS: What's first name?
SA: Raymond. I said, "Let's open us up a garage." See, some of the men that worked for us on the flight lines didn't have jobs. They had been mechanics before and were still mechanics, of course. So, I said "Let's open us a garage." He said, "Well, it takes money." I said, "I think we can do the money business.". So, Judge Daniell, J.J. Daniell--
TS: Yes. I met him once.
SA: Did you? A real good friend of mine. So I said, "Judge, I'm going to buy a piece of property on the Four Lane highway [U.S. 41] and open a garage and a service station, just get my foot in the door, and see how I can do." I said, "Tell me about money." He was in charge of a loan company here in town, Federal Savings & Loan. He said, "How much money do you need?" I said, "I really don't know. I haven't gotten that far along." He said, "Go down and talk to Mr. Smith who operates it for me and tell him I sent you." I said, "Okay." So I go talk to Mr. Smith. He said, "Judge Daniell sent you?" I said, "Yes." He said, "How much you need?" I said, "It's not how much money I need; it's how much money I can afford." But, anyway, we go on the Four Lane highway. The Four Lane highway comes to Roswell Street.
TS: Right. Roswell Street, the Big Chicken.
SA: That was before the Big Chicken.
TS: The Lassiter farm.
SA: There was one Texaco station, and I think it had a little restaurant in there with it.
TS: Of course, you had Pine Forest across the street.
SA: Pine Forest was up the street from me. In the meantime, I had tried to rent an apartment in Pine Forest years before. Impossible. Just full of people. Couldn't rent one. So, I found a man that had seven-eighths of a lot next to Dobbins--right inside. A man named Wiley, an educated man. I think he taught school. He was too old to be in the Army. He had a brother and sister. Just typical Southerners. No drinking, no smoking, church-goers, just foot of the cross, just straight people. So, this man had this acreage (little triangle) next to Dobbins Air Force Base, and the Four Lane highway had just been built. Everybody along that road had given property to [the government] to get the Four Lane highway built. He wouldn't give them his. He said, "You're going to have to buy my property." I guess he was the first one who sold any. So we bought [the little triangle] from him for $750.00, which is a lot of money for land back then. So I went up to the county courthouse. A man named Heck-
TS: John Heck.
SA: John Heck was Commissioner. He had a man named Herbert McCollum.. Do you know him?
TS: Oh, yes. I did an oral history with him twenty years ago.
SA: I'm ten days older than he is. He was born in March. I was born ten days earlier than he. But, anyway, I go up to Herbert, and I said, "Herbert, I want to build a garage, the simplest garage you can build, and probably have a service station," and told him where it was. He said, "Well, I'll let you know a little secret. It's been zoned from here to the river. No businesses." I said, "Looks like I lost $750.00, doesn't it?" He said, "Well, I imagine so." I said, "Well, what can I do to get this thing going?" He said, "I tell you what you do. You go down and see Otis Brumby [publisher of the Cobb County Times], and if he'll sign a petition saying it's okay, that he doesn't mind if you put in this big garage and service station, we'll just get you a permit.
TS: Well, what's Otis Brumby got to do with it?
SA: Of course, he didn't tell me. I didn't know, and I don't know to this day. So a couple of days I asked. I said, "Who is Otis Brumby?" I said, "Ain't he the newspaper man?" He said, "Yes, he's the newspaper man." Why he sent me to Otis, I don't know, but I went down to see Otis. Otis's son [Otis, Jr.] was a little boy about this big. The maid came to the door. I said, "I would like to speak to Mr. Brumby."
TS: You went to his house?
SA: Went to his house down on the creek. In his bathrobe he came to the door. I told him who I was and what I wanted. He said, "There's not any businesses along there." I said, "I understand that." I said, "But what if you lived way out in the country? What if your car breaks down? You can't get to work. All those people can't do that printing business for you. You'd have to have somebody come out and get you." I said, "Of course, you know everybody in town." He said, "What do you want me to do?" I said, "I want you to sign a petition saying it's okay if I start a little business." He said, "Hand me the petition." He signed it. I went up to Herbert [McCollum]. He said, "How did you get this done?" I said, "I know his girlfriend." He said, "You lying."
TS: You knew his girlfriend?
SA: It wasn't true. I was lying to Herbert, see. Naturally, it wasn't true. So he said, "I'm going to give you a permit." He said, "Give me some plans." I said, "Okay." So, I gave Herbert some plans. I went down to the Judge's business, borrowed one thousand dollars. So we built a building--just a shed. That's all you needed for a garage. [I] called the people I used to know and said, "You got a job." Mud knee deep. So S.A. White was the Sinclair dealer here in town. He was [later] killed in an explosion. So Judge Daniell--I said, "Judge, we might have to in gas." I said, "We really don't want a service station. We want a garage, but we might have to put in gas." I said, "What would you advise?" He said, "Well, put in one. What can you loose?" I said, "Who should I see?" He said, "See S.A. White. He's a good man. He's a friend of mine." So, I went to see S.A. I said, "S.A., Manley and I are building a little garage over on the Four Lane highway." He said, "What?" He said, "You can't get a permit?" I said, "Please listen to me. We are building a garage on the Four Lane highway, and we would like to buy the gas and oil from you." He said, "There's not one over there." I said, "Just tell me, will you do it or not?" He said, "Yes. I'll do it." "What size tanks do you want?" I said, "We want the largest tanks you make." He said, "You won't need the largest tanks." I said, "What are you saying?" He said, "You can't make it over on the Four Lane highway." I said, "You want to sell to sell me gas or not?" He said, "I'll put in a 550 gallon tank."
TS: Five hundred fifty?
SA: Two tanks. One for ethel and one regular. I said, "That's too small." He said, "Anytime you run out of gas, you call me at home; and I will personally bring it to you." I said, "You might have to eat those words." He said, "My word is my bond." I said, "Okay." So he said, "Sign this contact saying you will buy from me for ten years." I said, "I don't mind signing it, because you don't think I will be there for two years or less." So we did it. Raining and bad weather--it was hard to get it built because of the weather. But we got this thing built and put pumps in the ground. Put two tanks--two pumps. Mud, I never seen so much red country mud in my life, knee deep. I told Manley, "Let's buy some gravel, so people can get in the place. Nobody's coming in like this." So we bought gravel, and in about two weeks the gravel was gone. It was sucked down in the mud. So we had to take our last few dollars and pave it, so people could get in and out. So, we did it.
TS: You were worried about going bankrupt at that point?
SA: It was tough. It was nip and go. We still lived on Morningside Drive. I believe it was worse on Manley than it was me, because he had been use to getting that paycheck everyday. He was selling automobiles, and he was a pretty good salesman. So we got it paved, and S.A. put in the little tanks. We were on R.E.A. Every time there was lightning, there was no electricity and you couldn't pump gas. We've had people come from miles around to buy gas from us who we'd known at Bell. Couldn't pump it. No electricity. Nothing we could do. I called S.A. I said "I have a problem." He said, "What is it?" I said, "No electricity. Can't pump it." I said, "What about those old hand pumps? Do you have any of those?" He said, "I have one and I'm going to bring it over there and put it in for you." I didn't have to ask him. I said, "Bring it over there." He brought it over there. Of course, you could only sell ten gallons or five gallons. You couldn't fill a man's tank. We were the only one that had the old-fashioned hand pump. But when the power went off, we had gas. We had a customer who came by here one day and said, "Cobb County is wet; why don't you people sell beer?" I said, "Man, I don't drink beer." He said, "I have a beer store in Buckhead. He said, "I sell beer by the case?" He says, "You have no idea how much beer you can sell." I said, "I don't have a place to store it." He said, "On top of the roof. Store it up there." I said, "Well, how do you do that? Is it legal?" He said, "Yeah, it's legal." I said, "How did you do that?" He said, "You get a license."
TS: Go back to the county.
SA: Go up to the county next Monday. Herbert McCollum. Same old Herbert. I said, "Herbert, I am having a little problem." He said, "You don't want another license, because I ain't going to give you one." I said "Don't tell me you ain't going to give me one." I told him I wanted a license to sell beer by the case--no drinking on the premises. He kind of laughed. Did you ever hear him laugh. Kind of sneering kind of laugh. He said, "Now, I'll tell you what to do." He said, "Go back to the man you bought the property from. Go back to those preachers again. You don't have to worry about signatures. Same two across the street, same two on this side. Tomlinson owned a little motel at the top of the hill. Very nice people. He's a pilot. Retired from the Army. His wife was very well educated--a pianist. Everybody liked them. Great people. Mr. Wiley had a brother. Both of them old bachelors. Of course, Mr. Wiley who I bought it from who owned the property--Sunday School teacher, just tops. He said all I had to do was get these people to sign. I said, "Is that all?" He said, "I have a license waiting for you."
TS: Tough one to get to sign, I bet.
SA: He didn't say which Wiley, see?
TS: Oh, I see.
SA: So the other Wiley came down first. He come down, sit around, and talked. Just an old farmer. So, he came down one day I was open. Sunday, too. We were opened twenty-four hours a day on Sunday. I said "Wiley, I've got a job for you." He said "What is it?" I said, "We want to sell beer by the case." I said, "You've known us for a while. We aren't going to do anything wrong or illegal." I said, "If you will sign this petition, I will have a quart of Champaign Velvet beer in that little refrigerator over there every month for you. You just come down and drink it anytime you wish. He said, give me that signing.
TS: You got that signature.
SA: Got that signature. So I called Tomlinson. He said, "Fellows, you've been keeping up my car as long as I've know you. You've been doing a good job. I like you. But my wife will quit me if I sign this thing." I said, "How's it going to feel being a bachelor?" He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, we aren't going to tell you wife. She doesn't have to know you signed it, and I know she's not going to come around and buy the beer." I said, "Sign this thing and it will keep us in business." So, he signed it. Monday morning I went to see Herbert McCollum. You could hear him a mile cussing and fussing. He said, "You faked these signatures. They didn't sign it." I said, "Go ask them." He said, "I'm going to do what I said I'd do. Here's the license." We sold beer forever and ever and ever by the case. We'd add a dollar to the case. Every Friday afternoon Father [Joseph T.] Walker-did you know Father Walker?
TS: The Episcopal priest? Walker School is named for him.
SA: He did it the right way. Nobody else ever had a church that did it the way it was supposed to be done except Father Walker.
TS: He followed the book of prayer to the letter?
SA: He is tops. Every Saturday afternoon, he drove a Chevrolet down there. He said, "I'm going to unlock the trunk. You know what to do." He got a case of beer every Saturday.
TS: So he just opened it, and you stuck it in?
SA: No, he didn't open it. I put it in.
TS: So, I guess, this is a pretty typical when the plant closes down that a lot of people went to work for themselves or created jobs for other people.
SA: That's right.
TS: And that's what kept the economy going in those years. You all had learned some things at Bell, I guess, that you could carry over into your own businesses.
SA: Well, of course, you learned something everyday, I guess, even if you are going to Kennesaw State.
SA: Hopefully. I like it. Wyman Pilcher was a good friend of mine. Of course, Wyman is dead now.
TS: We've got a building named for him.
SA: That's Wyman. [When he was a community member of the presidential search committee,] he said, "What do you think about a woman being president at the college?" I said, "You must be out of your mind." He said, "I know a lady we are going to make President of Kennesaw State." I said, "Don't talk to me about it. I didn't even get out of first grade." I said, "You didn't graduate from the University of Georgia." I said, "You done good because you had a brother that really pushed you on. He said, "Well, we're going to make her president." I said, "Well, that's great. I like it." She's been a good one and still is a good one.
TS: Well, how did you get this business [Marietta Parts Warehouse] started?
SA: Well, I used to call S.A. White when we'd give out of gas in the wintertime. It was just cold, cold, cold.
TS: Tell him to bring some more gas out?
SA: Yes, I'd tell him: "S.A., get up out of that warm bed, put your long handles on, crank up that truck, and bring me a truck load of gas." He didn't mind much in the summertime, but he didn't like it much in the winter.
TS: I bet not.
SA: But he would do it. See, kids would come. We had a good business. Kids would come by. They'd have a dollar and buy a dollar's worth of gas.
TS: Being on the Four Lane, you couldn't have had a better location seems to me.
SA: Yes, but other people got the message. First thing you know, they were all up and down town, which we didn't mind. I mean, you have the best mouse trap, and those mice will just keep running. Anyway, a man who traded with us regular worked for the Life Insurance Company of Georgia, which was formed by McEachern, John McEachern. My kids went to [McEachern] High School. If you've been on campus lately, it's like a junior college. It's a wonderful place.
SA: When we moved out into the country, my daughter in the second grade said, "Daddy, I'm not going to a country school." I said "Francine, you are going to be the first Adams that I know of going to a county school in Cobb County." She said, "My brother went to Marietta." I said, "Well, we lived in Marietta, but we live in the country now. So, McEachern owned the Life Insurance Company of Georgia. This young man was his nephew, married, and had one child. He came by and said, "How did you boys get such a business." I said, "It just takes hard work, that's all I know. Just work at it." He said, "Would you sell it?" I said, "We never thought of selling it." I said, "You got cash?" I said, "That's the only thing I can understand, is just cash." So he made us a proposition. In the meantime we had one parts store in Marietta at that time, and we were paying more for parts here than we would in Atlanta. But I had some friends that used to work for me that worked in part stores in Atlanta. I called them every afternoon and gave them an order, and they'd bring it to me. I'd save about 50 percent. So this man in town called me. I knew him, and I liked him. He just charged too much. He came around, and he said, "Boys, you're not buying enough parts from me. You've got too much business not to buy [from me]." I said, "Bob, we just buy in Atlanta. It's cheaper." I said, "We were actually thinking about going into the parts business." He said, "Why don't you go into the parts business?" I said, "We may go into the parts business." He said, "You got any money?" I said, "That has nothing to do with it." I said, "We'll just go into the parts business." And we did. This boy bought us out [bought the garage on the Four Lane]. A little hole in the wall, not much bigger than this. It wasn't "Riches to Rags," but we knew the people. We tried to treat them right and sell them parts to make money. Bob was a member of NAPA, which is a national chain, a big chain. He had to buy his parts from these people, and they told him how to sell it. Instead of making like 20 percent like we were making, he had to make 30 percent and 40 percent to pay those people, which is his business.
TS: Well, you undercut his price then.
SA: So we just got started. TS: About when was this? 50's or 60's? SA: Fifty years ago.
TS: Fifty years ago? 1948? SA: Yes, '48. Fifty years ago. TS: So it didn't take you long in that filling station before you were in the parts business?
SA: Well, this is not Horatio Alger.
TS: Yes, but you've done all right in it.
SA: Well, we just worked. My hardest day is Sunday. We're closed on Sunday.
TS: But you work on Sunday anyway?
SA: Well, I didn't come around here and work. I used to. We were open twenty-four hours. But we moved up town and went in the parts business in a little bitty triangle building, very, very small. We had more parts than we had space.
TS: Now, where was this located?
SA: Where Powder Springs Street crosses the railroad tracks. It was a little triangle building. The triangle part we were in. There was plumbing next door. We were looking for a building site, and on Atlanta Street was a two-story frame house and we bought it. We didn't have to talk to Herbert [McCollum] about that. This was city [property]. The Korean war came along about that time. Unless you had foundation laid and the building started, you couldn't start a building during that time. Steel was impossible to get. So we had plans drawn. Charlie Thomas, a contractor, bid on it. I believe he said for fifteen thousand dollars he'd build it for us. So we told him, I said, "Well, you build it." A garage, filling station, parts house. We really wanted a parts business. We thought we'd try one more time with S.A. White. So we couldn't find the steel. Charlie called and said, "Hey, I can't get the steel. Just forget about me building the building." He said, "If you can get the steel, I'll build the building." So S.A. came by my place, and he said, "Where are you going to build the building?" He said, "That is one of the best locations in town." I said, "S.A., we've got a problem." He said, "What is it?" I said, "We want big tanks and you want to give us little ones." He said, "You know you can get any size tanks you want to this time." I said, "We can't get steel." He said, "I' just happen to have some steel at the stock pile." I said, "Well, what do you want to do?" He said, "Let me build it according to your specifications, how big it is or how little it is or what, since you know it." So we couldn't go any other way. So we called Charlie Thomas and said, "S.A. has the stell to start first of January." And he did. We were on Atlanta Street. IIn the meantime, S.A. White said, "This just cost you fifteen thousand dollars to build this building. Let me pay for it, and anytime in three years you can buy it back for what it cost." He said, "You're good fellows. We like you." So Coca Cola and some other companies wanted to know if we could keep up the trucks. I said, "What do you mean keep up the trucks?" They said, "Lubricate them and change the oil all that kind of stuff." They were on Roswell Street across from the cemetery.
TS: As I understand it, your business was where Milton Ledford Automotive is today (southeast corner of Atlanta and Waterman Street). You said you stayed there for ten years?
SA: We stayed there because we had a contract. Across the street from us Vuner Walker had a Studebaker dealership. He's dead now, I believe. And across the street from us was a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer. But next to it was this building Vuner Walker owned. What was the automobile that they didn't make but three?
TS: The Edsel?
SA: No, that was later on. Three or four automobiles. During the war, they needed cars real bad. Anybody who made an automobile in those days could sell it, if it had an engine and four wheels. Anyway, he had a Studebaker dealership, and we were across the street where Ledford is. Walker lost it playing poker. That's the H.P. Leiter Dry Goods Store.
TS: That's the Leiter that was on the [Marietta] Square?
SA: Right. And he had a partner that played poker. In this building, they had a second floor. That's where they played poker. But Walker lost his building and his dealership to this man who was a Jew. But, anyway, he's my friend.
TS: He lost it to Leiter?
SA: He was Leiter's partner in the dry goods business. So now our ten years were up. Before it was up, I talked to the man who won the store. He had sold it. I don't know who he sold it to, but he bought the building from the person he sold it to. Five businesses were in the building at that time. So I bought the building and told these people they would have to move. We had to put our parts store in there. So we moved across the street. No service station or garage. And then the city and the county decided they were going to widen the street--Atlanta Street. Traffic was bad when Lockheed shifts changed. [Traffic] was unreal. Couldn't get in or out. So Ernest Barrett [the county commission chairman] told me, he said, "We are going to condemn your building on Atlanta Street."
TS: Ernest Barrett? Now, this was still in the city limits, wasn't it?
SA: Yes. The county was building the street [South Marietta Parkway].
TS: I see. You were on the zoning board for the county?
SA: Yes, and Ernest told me before: "We are going to widen Atlanta Street." I said, "Ernest, you are going to kill my business." I said, "There is not a vacant lot in the city limits in the City of Marietta that I can build my business on." He said, "Well, we are going to pay you for it". I said, "Well, that's the only way I can make it and pay for my building." So, let's see, Ben Smith, [the] county lawyer: I said, "Ben tell me what to do." Of course, on the zoning board he was our lawyer. He said, "Let me handle it for you. I'll handle it for you."
TS: Now, are you talking about when they were going to put the loop through--the underpass under the railroad tracks. So were talking about late '70's at this point?
SA: That's right. So, they condemned it. Ben said, "Let me handle it for you." In the meantime, Ben got cancer. Before Ben could handle it, he died with cancer. There I was standing with my bare face hanging out. How did Buddy come in?
TS: Buddy Darden was, I guess Assistant D.A., wasn't he?
SA: No, he was representative at that time. Buddy said, "I can get you ten thousand dollars." I said, "Buddy, that won't do me any good at all." I said, "They're going to pay me for my building. But it cost me ten thousand dollars to move. Ten thousand dollars won't help me." I left ten thousand dollars on the table. I found this lot which is a field.
TS: This one here on Fairground Street?
SA: So there I was with my pants hanging out. They made me move before I was ready to move. So I gave a man a contract to build this building. I asked the city to finally give me a permit. That's why I'm over here now. That's it.
TS: Well, why don't we wind it up by reflecting on the impact that Bell Aircraft had on this community. Of course, Lockheed comes in five years later with the Korean War, but, certainly, Bell Aircraft is what got things going around here.
SA: That's right. That's right. Were you in Marietta before?
TS: Well, I got here in '68. It already changed a lot by then.
SA: That's right. It changed a lot and for the good. I like Marietta. Marietta has been good to me. I'm for Marietta. I've known the Mayor [Ansley Meaders]. I've known her since she was a little girl. I knew her daddy. We used his bank. Her daddy was president of Cobb Exchange Bank around the corner. She's a wonderful girl. She's done a wonderful job.
TS: Well, it made a lot of people prosperous, didn't it?
SA: That's right. Maybe I had been somewhere else, I would have been less prosperous. I might have been in jail for selling beer.
TS: That's really an amazing story, I think, of the impact Bell Aircraft had on this area.
SA: That's right.
TS: The fact that so many people started businesses and did so well.
SA: But I don't know anybody that used to work for me [that started businesses]. I had a lot of people work for me. I don't' a soul that worked for me, while I was at Bell Aircraft. Of course, a lot of them went back to work for Lockheed and down on the flight line.
TS: What did those people do from the time Bell closed until Lockheed opened and they went back to work at Lockheed? What were they doing in those five years? They seemed to be working somewhere.
SA: The one's that I knew went back to work at Lockheed. See, I would see some that were mechanics went back to working on automobiles or farm machinery, what have you. But--
TS: They are just be getting by?
SA: They'd just get by. That's right.
TS: So, Lockheed was kind of a salvation, too?
SA: That's right. Lockheed contacted Manley and me. We were on Atlanta Street. But I said, "No." I'd had enough. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Just quit.
TS: Didn't want to go back to seven days a week?
SA: That's right. Of course, I have since then, but it's different. You know, you're working for yourself. No pressure.
TS: Well, I appreciate you talking to me today.
SA: You know a lot of things happened.
TS: Well, it's a great story.
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Updated on August 10. 2000