"All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination."
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
That first year at Georgia Tech, starting in the Fall of 1962, had come and gone. I had started to school again in September of 1963 but had to come home to Armuchee early for financial reasons. Since I’d worked at Pepperell in Lindale the Summer of ’62, the winter of ’62/’63 and the Summer of ’63, I went back to Pepperell to see if they’d let me start to work early (I would have returned at the Tech school quarter’s end before Christmas anyway). Instead of going to the Personnel Office, that's what they called HR/Human Relations back in the day, I went straight to my old boss, Coolidge Green. Telling Mr. Green my story and my needs, I guess he took pity on me and said they’d take me back, but he jumped all over me for coming straight to him without going through the Personnel Office first. He said he’d handle things with Personnel and told me to report for work the next day. This was a Monday, therefore Tuesday would be my first day back on the job.
I gave both Otho Hawkins and Albert Duke phone calls about getting daily rides with them. Since my job was going to be on day shift, and since I knew Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Duke well and had ridden with them for a year, everything worked out well in that respect since I had no car. All I had to do was be ready each day at 6:00 A.M. They were always prompt and I don’t remember ever making them wait the three years I rode with them to and from Pepperell. They usually alternated weeks in their driving. Mr. Hawkins worked in the Loom Repair Parts Room and Mr. Duke worked in the Dye House; both had worked at Pepperell for some time and taught me a lot about the workings of the mill. And since my Daddy had lived in Lindale, he knew a lot of the people I would work with during my tenure there.
The reason I was working at Pepperell (and also the reason for going to Georgia Tech) went back to the year before, my senior year at Armuchee High School. In the late winter of ’62, I’d been accepted to attend Georgia Tech. I had no idea what I wanted to study or do in life, and I also had no money and little hope of getting any by Fall. There I was with a letter of acceptance to Georgia Tech, which many kids in that day would have given their right arm for, and my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to go. Shortly after being accepted, the Floyd County School System held a sort of school seniors’ jobs and college day. The sessions I attended were at West Rome High School. One of the day’s sessions was held by Mr. Smith, who was Plant Manager at Pepperell in those days. His talk was all about the textile industry and the Lindale Plant. I Listened attentively and after the session I waited for the other kids to leave the room so I could speak with him. I told him my story about the Georgia Tech acceptance, and having no money, and no job and no prospects, and then I came out and asked if there might be a way he could help me out of my dilemma. Mr. Smith said he’d think about it and talk with Mr. Lindsey, my school principal and neighbor who happened to be there that day.
Back at school, Mr. Lindsey advised me to ask three people to write letters of recommendation and then send them to Mr. Smith, endorsing me for both a job at Pepperell and a Scholarship offered by the Georgia Textile Manufacturers Association. I immediately asked Mr. Lindsey if he’d write one since he’d known me all my life and he said, 'sure.' I saw Mr. Tom Harris, Armuchee Math Teacher, after school and asked him if he’d write one and he agreed also. At church Prayer Meeting that night at New Armuchee Baptist Church, I told our Pastor, Rev. E. S. Morris, my story and asked him if he’d write a letter too. He also agreed.
All this occurred on a Wednesday. The following Monday, Mr. Lindsey called me into his office to tell me Mr. Smith had reviewed all my letters and had told him I would be allowed to work at Pepperell (after I graduated) for the summer, and this would give me some money for school at Tech in the Fall. And if that weren’t great enough, he said Mr. Smith told him I would be awarded the scholarship as well. Tech had accepted me into their co-operative program whereby a student could go to school for a quarter and work alternate quarters to get hands-on experience in his chosen field. If I kept my nose clean, the job at Pepperell would also be there for me after each quarter when I returned from school. Between what I’d make in the summer at Pepperell and what I’d get in the Scholarship, I’d have enough to go to school. It’s hard to imagine how happy a seventeen year old kid could be with such developments over just a few days!
It was a number of years later when I really thought about how the stars had lined up for me that Winter/Spring of 1962. Sure, I’d had to study hard in school and do well in my courses. I’d had to apply to Georgia Tech when I didn’t know if I’d even have a prayer. I’d had to take the SAT tests. I’d had to agree to go to the Senior Day sessions. I'd had to gather the gumption and initiative to approach Mr. Smith that day about a job and a scholarship. And thank goodness I’d known my principal, my teacher, and my pastor well enough to ask them to write letters for me. I couldn’t help but think, “I was such a kid back then. What did I know about all this stuff that was swirling around me then?" But I guess in looking back on that time, I didn’t know any better than to just plow ahead, do something and hope for the best. Not a bad lesson to learn at a young age.
Now, what does all this have to do with November 22, 1963, you may ask? I will have to invite you to watch for the next installment for that answer.