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HUGH OLIVER This is Mike Moncus interviewing Hugh Oliver at Poplar Creek Care Homes on November 17, 2003 in an interview for the Troup County Archives. MIKE MONCUS: If you would, just read us what you have there. HUGH OLIVER: O.K. Came to LaGrange in 1945 and bought the store at 110 Ridley Avenue. All that was there was a cash register that didn‟t work and a produce box. Aubrey Brown rented the meat market from me and put in equipment. We made a good team. Mr. Henry Haralson was my right-hand man. Coca-Cola cost 5 cents and bread was 15 cents. Oh, I‟m not positive about that bread business, cause I‟m not positive about that and I don‟t want to put some stuff out there. MIKE MONCUS: That‟s about right for the „40s. HUGH OLIVER: O.K. I ran this store for 31 years and closed the store in April 1976. The City wanted to tear down the building and build a parking lot, so I had no choice. I mean that put me out of business. We had special items such as baked ham that we baked ourselves. Customers talked about how good it smelled when they entered the store. We also had a home baked cake of 10 different varieties baked by Mrs. Gladys Benefield. We supplied ground beef to Parrish Café and the Plantation Restaurant. The restaurant, the Plantation, got 20 pounds a day. I don‟t know whether that was treated there or not but that‟s what they bought. The Callaway Mills‟ Guest House folks eat also as well as my wife‟s lovely fruit baskets. Using the fruit we sold, she designed special baskets using unusual items such as pomegranates on the top and at Christmas the baskets that were ordered … Our butcher, Billy Smith worked 20 years and Charles “Butch” Ways, called him “Butch,” worked when he was 8 and 9 taking small deliveries to the Fire Department and jail, then later he became the regular deliveryman and you know, you know it. That‟s all I have here. MIKE MONCUS: Can I ask you some questions now? HUGH OLIVER: All right. MIKE MONCUS: First of all, what year were you born? HUGH OLIVER: 1909. MIKE MONCUS: 1909 and where were you born? HUGH OLIVER: Enon, Alabama. MIKE MONCUS: Now where is that, what‟s that close to? HUGH OLIVER: Polk County, Union Springs. MIKE MONCUS: What was your Daddy‟s name? HUGH OLIVER: Claude, C. L. Oliver. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. And what was his business? What did he do for a living? HUGH OLIVER: Farmer. We lived in Enon and my father was four plows apart from that. The reason they did that was because the colored people at that time were immune to malaria. They had this little place called Enon and that‟s where most of the farmers lived, you know way back there, that was even before my time, that‟s where I was raised, at Enon. MIKE MONCUS: So you grew up on a farm? HUGH OLIVER: No, we just had 20 acres. The farm was about 4 miles from our house. That was, ran about 420 acres, I guess. It wasn‟t a big farm. MIKE MONCUS: What kind of school did you go to as a youngster? HUGH OLIVER: Well, I went 3 years in Enon and they closed the school. I went to Midway. I graduated from Midway in 1927, I believe it was. MIKE MONCUS: So you graduated from high school in 1927? HUGH OLIVER: That‟s right. MIKE MONCUS: All right now, that was just before the Depression. After you graduated from high school what did you do? HUGH OLIVER: I got a job training dogs, bird dogs. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. You trained bird dogs? Now can you remember when the Depression hit in ‟29? HUGH OLIVER: ‟29, I think that‟s when it hit and it lasted „til about ‟35 until they started building things for the war. MIKE MONCUS: What were you doing? What kind of work were you doing during the Depression? HUGH OLIVER: I worked. In the winter I trained dogs and in the summer for 5 years I worked at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta. MIKE MONCUS: So during the Depression then? HUGH OLIVER: I‟ve always had a job, I never had any trouble having a job. MIKE MONCUS: So you moved to Atlanta? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, I lived in Atlanta at the East Lake Country Club. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. HUGH OLIVER: And I worked there I think 5 years. I‟m not positive, either 4 or 5 years, it wasn‟t for all the year. I trained dogs that hunted with people in the winter and then in the summer, when they needed me, I worked at the East Lake Country Club. See they didn‟t have a lot of people playing golf in the winter. MIKE MONCUS: So, during the 1930s you were training dogs and working at East Lake in the summer time? HUGH OLIVER: That‟s right, did that for 5 years, I believe. MIKE MONCUS: What did you do after that 5 years? HUGH OLIVER: Let‟s see, I believe I worked at Coca-Cola Company, I believe. I stayed with them 3 or 4 years at Atlantic City, I believe. I went to Springfield, Massachusetts first. MIKE MONCUS: You worked for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Now do you remember what years you worked for them? HUGH OLIVER: I think it was around ‟35 or ‟36 or somewhere about, not too far from that. I‟m talking about maybe 3 years. I worked in Atlantic City, I think it was called. MIKE MONCUS: Up north. You worked up north? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, I worked in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I sold Coca-Cola there. I mean I drove a Coca-Cola truck for several years, I don‟t remember how many. MIKE MONCUS: Now, where were you and what do you remember about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of ‟41? HUGH OLIVER: I remember we woke up and turned on the radio and heard that they had attacked Pearl Harbor. I remember all about that war and how they destroyed ships and things and that kind of stuff. MIKE MONCUS: Were you in the military? HUGH OLIVER: No, they wouldn‟t take me on account of my feet. I have broken arches. They didn‟t take me, they would have taken me for limited service. See, I think I was in my 30s when they examined me, so they didn‟t take me. They would have taken me for limited services if they‟d needed me. I had limited service on account of my feet. I broke my arches. Jumped off a Coca-Cola truck on a cement floor and broke my arches. MIKE MONCUS: What do you remember the most about and tell us a little bit about how you felt about Franklin Roosevelt, President Roosevelt. HUGH OLIVER: Well, I wasn‟t too enthusiastic about it. I wasn‟t against it, but I thought it was going to be some kind of government control about anything, that‟s, I might have been wrong about that but that‟s the way I felt about it. MIKE MONCUS: What kind of president do you think President Roosevelt was? HUGH OLIVER: I think he was a real liberal. I think he did a lot for programs inside of the United States and in a lot of ways he did a good job, I‟ll say. MIKE MONCUS: Did you ever know of anybody or did you ever work in any of the programs he started to put people back to work? HUGH OLIVER: No, I always had a job. I never had any problems with getting a job. I was never out of a job and most people had to work for them. I don‟t think I ever applied for a job, but I worked for this fellow and then I‟d go up. Course I didn‟t stay with them that long but I never had to apply for a job. MIKE MONCUS: Where were you and what kind of job were you doing during the war, ‟41 through ‟45? Where were you living and what was your job? HUGH OLIVER: I was living out at Alabama and they had about, I don‟t know how many farmers out there. They had a whole lot of land. I trained dogs out there and that was in the winter. Then they had their farms out there in the summer. I don‟t know how many acres of land, they had 1000 acres of land they rented or owned out there. It was Dupont people… they were ladies and I hunted with them. I trained the dogs and hunted with them. I worked for Henry Banks at Garrison, Alabama. I think. I don‟t know it was 10 or, I reckon it was at least 10 years, might have been longer than that, but anyway I worked at Garrison. MIKE MONCUS: Now, you said you, first of all, let‟s backup, when did you marry? HUGH OLIVER: (laugh) Let‟s see, I married, I can‟t think of it. MIKE MONCUS: About what year did you marry, was it before or after the war? HUGH OLIVER: It was before, I believe. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. HUGH OLIVER: Let‟s see, I think I was 30 years old, and would have been 31, when would that be? I was born in 1905. MIKE MONCUS: That would have been about ‟39 or ‟40. All right, what was your wife‟s name? HUGH OLIVER: Mary Nell, that was her given name, her last name was McClain. Her daddy was over Chehaw, he was the… agent out there fact I know it was and when those hunters came from Wilmington, Delaware. The DuPonts hunted down there, where I trained the dogs. When they came, I went to Chehaw to meet them cause they had sleepers on those trains. They came through Chehaw, just beyond Tuskegee you know. There was no railroad in Tuskegee, just out from Tuskegee. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. Now you say you moved to LaGrange in 1945 and you bought the grocery store. Now how did you find out about the grocery store in LaGrange? HUGH OLIVER: That‟s right, my wife‟s uncle. My oldest child was a baby at that time and course they wanted to get me… Her uncle and aunt were pretty close to them and they wanted to get that baby up there close to them I reckon. MIKE MONCUS: So your wife had a relative in LaGrange. HUGH OLIVER: But they didn‟t buy the grocery store, I bought the grocery store. MIKE MONCUS: But your wife had a relative in LaGrange who told you about the store. HUGH OLIVER: Let‟s see. I reckon so, I reckon that‟s what it was. MIKE MONCUS: O.K. Who did you buy the store from? HUGH OLIVER: I believe the man was named Borders. MIKE MONCUS: Borders? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: And so you bought the store and you opened the store. HUGH OLIVER: No, the store was already there. MIKE MONCUS: So you bought the store and you just continued operating the store? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, for 31 years MIKE MONCUS: For 31 years, from ‟45 through ‟76? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah that‟s when I quit. MIKE MONCUS: You told us when you read your reading there a lot about the store. Now, let me ask you some things. In the „40s and „50s when you were running the store, who were some of the customers that you remember the most, just, the people who came in and traded with you? Can you remember any of their names? HUGH OLIVER: Mrs. A. G. Pope, she ran a parts place there and she was a colorful lady. She traded with me and one time I was fixing to go home. She called up and what she said was, “when you come home leave me some groceries out there, Mrs. Pope.” I said, “ I wanting, do you want me to bring you something that I want to eat for supper?” She said “Lord a mercy, I thought it was day, I took a nap, I thought it was daytime.” That‟s the kind of store I had there, you know. It was fine when we worked in it. I had a pretty good business but I delivered groceries and charged people. MIKE MONCUS: Tell me something about your, you say you delivered groceries and that is you delivered them to peoples‟ houses. HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. I had a man that did that in a truck. MIKE MONCUS: Oh, I see, so you delivered them in a pickup truck. HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, I had every morning set at 8:30, or whatever time. I had a time, and you put them on the truck and the orders that I had and deliver them to the house. MIKE MONCUS: Now did you sell to folks on credit? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Did your people pay you like they were suppose to? HUGH OLIVER: Well, I tried to keep it below 40 percent of l percent if I could, you know. I think one time it was about 2 percent. Some of them come in there, who didn‟t have a job, and they‟d say, “Mr. Oliver what we goin do?” Well I had one lady to do that and we worked around. I just never did lose. I never taken over a half percent or something like that, you know so, one time it was 2 percent but most of the time it was about a half a percent. MIKE MONCUS: So most of the time most of the people paid you like they were suppose to back then. HUGH OLIVER: Well, a lot of „ em that beat me was colored people. I‟d sell them something that, some of it, I couldn‟t have sold anyway. I don‟t mean all of it but it was being mixed in there where I could get rid of stuff that, in other words I felt like I came out on top of it…I had some that they had money. MIKE MONCUS: You remember any funny things that happened in the grocery store there Mr. Oliver, any funny stories connected to the grocery store, other than the one you just told about Mrs. A. G. Pope? You remember some other funny things? HUGH OLIVER: I had one lady, she forgot to order some cheese and I had a man to deliver it. She called me up there and told me that she wanted me to send the cheese back out there. She said, “Just anytime now.” I had a truck she said, “Just any time between the next 15 and 20 minutes.” (laugh). Things like that happened, but I don‟t know anything real funny. But I had a man, he started out delivering on a bicycle, you know and then I got a truck. He drove that truck. Everybody in town knew “Butch.” They didn‟t have no trouble back then. Now he‟s 55 years old but he works at, he got him a good job, Kroger‟s I think. MIKE MONCUS: Works at Kroger‟s now? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Well, Mr. Oliver HUGH OLIVER: It‟s getting me. MIKE MONCUS: It‟s getting you? It‟s getting you good, Mr. Oliver. You done a good job. I guess we about finished, Mr. Oliver. How old are you now? HUGH OLIVER: Well, in 1909, I‟ll be 94. MIKE MONCUS: 94 years old. 94 years old. Do you have any children? You mentioned your daughter a while ago, you have any children who you‟d like to record on here and tell us who they are and where they are? HUGH OLIVER: I‟ve got 2 daughters. MIKE MONCUS: And what are their names? HUGH OLIVER: One is in North Georgia and the other one is in Columbus. I forget what the name of that place where the other one lives. MIKE MONCUS: Well, what are their names? HUGH OLIVER: Annelle is the oldest and Margarite is the youngest, she lives in Columbus. MIKE MONCUS: All right, so Margarite, what‟s her married name? HUGH OLIVER: Hay. MIKE MONCUS: Margarite Hay and she lives in Columbus and then Annelle is the older one and she lives somewhere in North Georgia. HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, Toccoa I think. MIKE MONCUS: You have any other relatives? HUGH OLIVER: Not here, I have in Midway. MIKE MONCUS: Over in Alabama? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Most of your relatives and family is in Alabama? HUGH OLIVER: Well, I mean that‟s where quite a few of them left. Most of them have gone all over the United States. There‟s a few of them left down there. MIKE MONCUS: And let me try one time now to, exactly where was your grocery store on Ridley Avenue? HUGH OLIVER: It‟s the closest thing you can get to the Court, it‟s about that far from the Court House, a little farther than that, just about that distance maybe, just about that distance out there. MIKE MONCUS: From the Courthouse? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah, I mean, from the property. MIKE MONCUS: And there‟s a parking lot there now, where your store was? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: What was on the corner there, past your store? HUGH OLIVER: A filling station. MIKE MONCUS: A filling station. All right so we know where it was now and anybody who looks at this will know exactly where to go to know where your store was. HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Well, Mr. Oliver I appreciate … HUGH OLIVER: It was straight across from the hotel. MIKE MONCUS: Across from the Colonial Hotel, right, kinda across from, there use to be a bicycle shop over there. HUGH OLIVER: Right across the street, right. MIKE MONCUS: Right, called LaGrange Bike Shop, and that‟s where it was? HUGH OLIVER: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Well Mr. Oliver I appreciate you to talking to us and telling us about your background and about your grocery store. Before I turn it off is there anything else you want to say? HUGH OLIVER: No, I don‟t know of anything. I was raised in a little community. It was out of Bullock County, Enon, Alabama, but I don‟t know of anything else. MIKE MONCUS: But you‟ve been in LaGrange since 1945? HUGH OLIVER: That‟s right. MIKE MONCUS: That‟s many years you‟ve been here and so we gonna just adopt you as a LaGrange person. (laugh) HUGH OLIVER: How‟s that thing gonna look, if I‟m going to look like a monkey I don‟t want it.
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