Fred Hammonds, local realtor who “done good”, grew up with me. We were only a year apart in age and both needed money all the time. I was usually content to either do without or wait until some fortunate circumstance pulled me up to the level of others my age temporarily. This was during the “Big One” in the early 1940s, and scrap metal was in high demand for the war effort. Scrap iron which brought one cent per pound at the scrap yard. And if you could pull fifty pounds to the yard it was a cause for celebration. and a visit to McConnells Ten Cent Store. It later became Almand’s Variety Store, and was good for some candy and either a comic book or a “Big Little Book”, and a nickel’s worth of salted peanuts for tossing into the air and catching them one at a time with the mouth.
Anyway, Fred Hammonds and I were good buddies. We walked the railroad tracks almost daily, throwing railroad gravel at targets of opportunity telling tall tales, and thinking of ways to upgrade our financial circumstances. Now try to understand that our normal circumstance was being flat broke, and to upgrade from there would seem to be simple. But it didn’t seem to be simple to us –ever! At least to me it didn’t. Fred was a lot different in that respect. He was a born business man. Neither of us was given an allowance. There were times when I thought that only rich folks went to movies other than the Saturday matinee, when one could get in with a Capitola Flour token, which came in a 25 lb sack of Capitola flour. That didn’t produce a lot of movie tokens.
My point here is that Fred was industrious. While the rest of us somehow impotently bemoaned our lack of money, Fred would often think of something seasonal to bail him out. He would often invite me to join him in a venture, and I usually refused. That sure didn’t deter Fred. He would go it alone. In summer it might be going blackberry picking, wild plum or muscadine picking, and selling them door to door. In the late fall he would scout the woods for mistletoe or nice holly which he sold during the Christmas season through New Year’s Eve. I always figured it wouldn’t be worth the effort. But Fred would earn dollar after dollar that way, while I did without. We often seined the branches around town for minnows – Boar Tusk Branch, which most of us called “Bo Touch”, Tanyard Branch and others. Mr. Jim Clay ran the local theatre and had a fish pond out on Smyrna Road. He bought our minnows, sometimes paying a nickel each for the minnows, especially horny heads. We both took paper routes for several years. Fred and I delivered the two Atlanta Constitution routes in the morning. Fred and Jimmy Walker delivered the Atlanta Journal routes in the afternoon. See what I mean? Fred was a hustler. He was a believer in the power of pulling hard on one’s own bootstraps and he pulled on his to great avail.
We once somehow got the formula for making “Home Brew”, and secretly made a five gallon churn full of it. We tasted it, but were afraid to drink it. Fred suggested that it would sell pretty good, and he sold the drugstore bicycle delivery boy an R.C. Cola bottle full for a quarter. The delivery boy drank it all on the spot and after a few minutes of talking could not ride his bike back to the drug store. We sold a gallon to another friend. He hid it in his family’s barn loft and added sugar and kept “feeding it” until finally he threw it out.
Ah…how my wicked youth gives me great pain! But this is not about my wickedness or Fred’s, but about Fred’s industrious nature. He was a model for modern day entrepreneurs when he was only a kid. And he has remained such all his life.
May Fred forgive me for telling all this. But the truth will make you free. And I like being free.
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