View Issues‎ > ‎2019 Issues‎ > ‎1907 July 2019‎ > ‎

190701 July 1, 2019

Collins Wynn
LHS '64

    Like most of my male school friends I started my working career pushing a lawnmower either at home or around in the neighborhood usually picking up $.50 or $1 and slowly graduated to fixed pay jobs. Because my Dad was a Huntsville Police Officer, he moved around all over Huntsville and knew a lot of people. Consequently, he was always coming home with a new job for me. He got me started on my first 3 jobs and I found the ones at Gibson’s Bar-B-Q and Terry’s Pizza on my own. The worst jobs I ever had were my first two and I learned from them right away that I wanted nothing to do with the restaurant /kitchen business no matter how much money was involved.

    My very first job was in a restaurant kitchen at the corner of Governor’s Drive and the Parkway and was a Huntsville staple although, for the life of me, I cannot recall the name even though I can still see the sign in my mind’s eye. It was on the order of an old-style Shoney’s and lasted, I think, until the Parkway was widened some years ago. I don’t recall the salary, but you can bet it wasn’t much – didn’t matter anyway because I lasted one day. Washing dishes for 9 hours straight in the hot, steamy, and grimy rear room of a restaurant kitchen was no fun whatever. I did not return after that first day and moved on to my next workplace adventure. I was about 14 at the time - I think a kid had to be 14 to hold a real job.

    Not yet completely disenchanted with the restaurant kitchen business I moved on to general flunky employment at George’s Restaurant on Wellman Avenue between Russell Street and Jackson Way in Five Points and the Rebel Inn in West Huntsville at the corner of Triana Boulevard and 9th Avenue. Most of the time I was at George’s in Five Points but from time to time I was “loaned labor” to the Rebel Inn. My salary was $.33 hour and I was assigned various duties including washing dishes but at least I didn’t wash dishes all the time. Which leads me to the story of how some unknown soul unwittingly ate my finger in the summer of 1961. It had been a long day and my last chore was to peel a bag of potatoes for the evening shift after which I was free to go. I was sitting on a crate in the back of the kitchen with the bag of potatoes on the floor by my left leg with a big steel bowl between my knees where the cleaned potatoes were placed. I’m sure y’all have all seen the double-edged potato peeler gadget that has a single handle on it. To use it I held the potato in my left hand and swept the peeler swiftly back and forth slowly rotating the potato as the peel was sliced off. Well, in my haste to be gone, I managed to slice off a sizable portion of my left index finger and watched as it fell smack into the almost full bowl of freshly peeled potatoes.

    Now, my dilemma became what to do – if I told the owner he would throw it all out and I would have to start over and be another hour or more getting out of there. Or, I could say nothing, bandage up my finger, and high tail it home leaving a piece of me to be served up for dinner that night. Of course, I chose to say nothing and have chuckled about it for 60 years. I can’t forget the incident because I have a prominent scar I see every time I look at my left hand.

    From that I tried to find something a little less structured and got myself a paper route. Although I always had just enough money to pay for my papers, I never did have much of a profit, but I always had fun. Overall it truly was a good business experience. My route was all of Halsey Avenue in Dallas and it ran west on Halsey from Windham Street to Dallas Street then south for two blocks to Stephens Avenue.  During the year or so I kept the route I met some interesting people. On the southeast corner of Halsey and England Street lived two elderly spinsters who, I think, were retired sister schoolteachers. Their wooden house was covered with fake brick asphalt shingles and tarpaper. They were both very kind to me and I was always careful to make sure their paper was up on the porch where it would stay dry. When I would go by to collect on Saturday morning, they would often make me come in and sit with them before I could get paid. Their house was clean but musty and always seemed to have a fire
blazing in the potbellied coal stove in the living room regardless of the time of the year. They each wore massive type ladies’ shoes with their hose rolled down to below their knees. Across the street lived the “Tattooed Man” – I don’t mean one or two like some of us have now – since he often wore no shirt you could see he was covered with them from the neck down. Years later Rod Steiger’s character in the Ray Bradbury story “Something Wicked This Way Comes” reminded me of him. And, to top it all, I was in love with a red headed girl that lived at the start of my route on Windham Street. Although I never met her nor knew her name, I convinced myself my love for her was true – of course, by the end of the next week I had changed my mind and moved on to my next love.  So goes the days of our lives, huh?

    After my entrepreneurial career as a newspaperman floundered, I went back to the security of a fixed income position as a bag boy at a grocery in Parkway City and lasted there for a few weeks. Actually, the job was good – bagging groceries and carrying them out to cars for the customers. It suited my personality because I was able to move around and meet people. This is one of the places and circumstances where I learned to enjoy being helpful and useful. I didn’t stay there too long because the store was just too far from home and getting rides proved difficult (pre-driving days). I believe the store was a Kroger’s in Parkway City but I’m not certain.

    Shortly thereafter I worked at Albert Hall’s 66 Service Station on the corner of Oakwood and Jackson Way off and on for a while to pick up a few bucks. The job was pumping gas with a few general clean up chores. Although I didn’t work there long or much, I learned one of life’s hard lessons standing there next to a gas pump late one afternoon. I had just filled up a car with gas and told the lady driving “that’ll be $3.48” or some such (these were days of only “full service”, you know). She smiled sweetly at me and said, “put it on Buck’s ticket”, then cranked the car and drove off. I went enthusiastically bouncing into the office and announced to all present “somebody needs to put $3.48 on Bucks ticket” to which Albert loudly replied “Hell, boy, I don’t hold tickets. You’ve just been had, and you owe me $3.48”. In that instant I learned to regard smiling faces with considerable suspicion.  By the way, the urinal in Albert’s restroom had a hand printed sign over it which read “Please don’t throw your butts in the urinal, it makes them soggy and hard to light!”.

    After getting my driver’s license I expanded my horizons by going to work as a Carhop at Gibson’s Bar-B-Q, on the west side of North Parkway between University Drive and Oakwood Avenue. This was another one of those good experiences mostly because everyone there treated me as a part of the team rather than just some kid working part time. I really liked it. My first paycheck was $21.00 (a $.50-hour job): it was the most money I had ever had at one time. I asked the cashier to pay me in $1 bills, so it would seem like more. The job consisted of taking orders from people sitting in cars, then putting the orders together and bringing it back to them. Gibson’s used a system where the Carhops (all male, by the way) carried the outgoing orders by the cashier where they paid for the orders then delivered the food to the cars and collected their money back plus whatever tip they could wheedle out of the customer. This procedure meant that if a customer drove off without paying, the loss went to the Carhop not to the restaurant. Consequently, all of us paid close attention to our business and “drive-off’s” were rare. Also, this is the first time I ever saw a microwave oven; Gibson’s had one and they used it to heat up slices of pie. The food was great, but their menu was standard Bar-B-Q fare – beef and pork sandwiches and plates, etc. However, they had a specialty by-product called “Skins”. “Skins” were big brown greasy paper bags filled to overflowing with the fat and skin left when chopping up the meat. “Skins” were sold only out the back door and never in the dining room or the curb service area. Customers drove up to the back door and called out how many bags they wanted. Gibson’s wasted nothing. If there were no customers, the Carhops were pretty much on our own and spent considerable time sitting around on crates out on the curb telling old lies and inventing new ones. One cold, cold winter night in late 1962 around 8 or 9 PM (an hour or so before closing) my friend Goose (Jim) Shelton pulled up to the curb in the Blue Goose with an unidentified assistant riding shotgun (the unidentified assistant is currently a figure of some prominence in northeast Huntsville so I’ll refrain from using his name)(Goose and I have already ruined our reputations so our names don’t really matter). They had come by to rag me about having to work while they were out riding around and goofing off.  Also, they needed a spoon. Why a spoon, you ask? It seems the unidentified assistant had obtained a six-pack of beer and stashed it outdoors in some bushes near his house where it had frozen solid. After I got them a couple of spoons they sat quietly there in the car and ate a six-pack of frozen beer.  Simple
times, weren’t they?

    My premier high school was at Terry’s Pizza in North Huntsville.  Terry’s was located in a strip shopping center on east side of North Parkway across from Spry Funeral Home.  The business grew to be a thriving multi-location full service restaurant chain that was a Huntsville fixture for over 60 years, the Terry’s where I worked was the original little “Mom and Pop” business and the only pizza place (I think) in Huntsville at the time.  The place we had was about 20’ wide and 60’ long - just enough for a small kitchen, one large pizza oven, a counter, a few small tables, restrooms and a little storage space.  I got the Delivery Boy job just by walking in and asking for it.  The owners were a guy who worked for IBM and his wife who started the business as a family venture.  Lou and Doris Pejha(?) were super people and very good to me during the year or so I worked for them.  I understand that sometime later Lou left IBM and devoted his full-time efforts to developing the business.  When I was with them in 1963 and 64, we had a total of five employees (two cooks, two waitresses, and me).  Since we were such a small business everybody did everything - cooks delivered and the delivery boy cooked; we all took orders and shared in the clean-up chores.

    Unlike current pizza delivery businesses, at that time the business owned the delivery vehicles - we had an English Ford Anglia and a VW Bus - I enjoyed being paid to run around all over north Huntsville in someone else’s vehicles using their gasoline.  During the time I was with them Lou expanded the business to include the “bar” that may still there today just a few doors down from the start-up location - I remember giving the ceiling its original black paint job and helping to build the bar.  At the time we had to go outside to move from the original restaurant to the bar area because there was a small business between the two sections that would not sell out.  It was a good job and environment for a teenage boy because I got to see many of my classmates who came by to pick up carry-out pizzas.  In fact, I first met my future wife in early 1963 over the counter there at Terry’s.  It was a cool job and I doubled my salary from Gibson’s Bar-B-Que where I previously worked (from $.50 to $1.00 an hour) plus we had a
lot of fun.  For instance, there was no one named “Terry” - it was completely fictitious - as I mentioned, the owner’s name was Lou.  From time to time we would get calls asking to speak to “Terry”; rather than give the long-winded explanation about how there was no such person, we all just took turns being “Terry” - life was a lot simpler that way. There was a good strong sense of teamwork I came to appreciate very much, and which served me well in later pursuits.

        Memphis, TN - Once again my AT&T internet provider proved their fix of my system failed to really fix the problem with my system and late last week my internet went down making it impossible to work on the website properly. We have made a quick overnight trip to Nashville to return the grandson to his rightful home and I only have a short period to get this published.

    Thanks to Collins "C.E." Wynn I have a story to publish or otherwise you would have to read about my own youth once again.

    We have to get up and get home to be there between 2 and 4 P.M. (yeah, bet me) for the technician to show up. Hopefully it will be fixed and things can get back to normal.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Junior Brown

Shirley Jones Moore


    You made my day with the Junior Brown video. I have been a Junior Brown fan for many years. Ralph Emery had a tv show on the old Nashville Network that  we watched and often saw Junior there.  He also sings on several song, you might check out Highway Patrol or Sweet Thing,  two of my favorites.   Thanks again.




Join the Mailing List to Receive Notification When New Issue is Available 


 Email Me