Reminiscing — By Barney O’Quinn

Reviewing the business, industry Hazlehurst had 30 plus years ago, we had a lot of jobs in the area, with more seeking to come. We had at one time four different daily newspapers in Hazlehurst – Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Jacksonville. 2019, down to one, Savannah. If people don’t bother to buy them, they are not going to bring them 100 plus miles to you. See how many libraries in Southeast Georgia have the Atlanta Journal Constitution on their computers! Wall Street Journal? New York Times? This tells corporate people a lot of info about citizens in an area.
Thirty plus years ago, locally, the Ledger had many different ads, some ads had two full pages. Some were local industries, such as Glennville Lingerie (we knew it as the Slip Factory), with pictures of their employees, whether 1, 2, 5, 10, up to 25 years or more with the same firm. Hazlehurst Mills had over 1800 employees, Amercord in Lumber City over 657 employees; we had Alco, Ero, a golf ball factory. We were trying to get Ero to expand locally, when (the late) James Cravey was manager. Alco had plans to expand in the early 1990s after closing two plants “up North.” While many of these jobs did not pay $15 an hour, locals were proud to have them, have a paycheck, with their dignity!
At that time in Jeff Davis, government was not the largest employer – whether it be the City, County, State, Federal, or Board of Education collectively. Some of our industries would donate “inkind” services, such as a new AC unit for the country club, installed with their labor/cost; wood, electrical wire/service for the then new gym on the Broxton Highway. Thirty years ago I thought we were doing well, moving forward for a small city in rural Southeast Georgia. Some 100 miles from a major city, with an international airport. We had more new businesses, industry ready/willing to come.
But others did not always think that way. I remember some telling me this, “I don’t want Hazlehurst to grow, I want Hazlehurst to stay just like it is” or “I don’t want Hazlehurst to grow, you’ll take in beer stores!!” I remember their facial expressions vividly. Surprise! – You plant a tomato plant or an azalea bush, one of two things will happen, it will grow, or it will die!! Either will not stay the same!
About 1966, if my memory is correct, McRae was attempting to bring an industry there – Sunbeam. 2019 that complex has Husqvarna, which employs 600 to 1000, 25 miles away. It is scheduled to close June 30, 2019.
About 1994 I met a man, Max, out on the pier, through a mutual friend. He said they had looked at Hazlehurst about 1974. This statement go my attention. “I don’t remember Hazlehurst having that many negatives, where we located had so many more advantages.”
In 2019, we have Generation Xers, Generation Y (millennials), which proceed Generation Z. Several millennials were elected to Congress November 2018. One of those was Katie Hill, District 25, California!
It is said there’s nothing for the youth to do in Hazlehurst. There’s nothing for young adults to do. On Dec. 28, 1989, a young lady I had met in 1975, we reconnected. She was in a powerful, political business situation, with her firm being a corporate sponsor of the Atlanta Braves. As you know, I was “fired” Jan. 9, 1990. She kept wanting to come to Hazlehurst. I reminded her it would be a cultural shock to what she was familiar with. She comes, pulls into my drive about 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, get out and says this, “Oh Barnie, let’s go where there’s a live band tonight.” My response, “You ready to drive another 100 miles on two lane roads?”
She grew up in Birmingham, Ala., personally knew the (then) NASCAR group known as the “Alabama Gang”, spent her adult life in Atlanta. She had never been on a dirt road before, thought I was taking her to the “jumping off” place!
When business, industries began to pull out/leave the area in the 1990s that meant ads – business, industries, pictures to go in the Ledger left also. Today ads are directed toward a more targeted market. I have seen full page ads for (the former) Alltel, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Republican Party, placed in the Jesup, Vidalia, Douglas, local newspapers. When these ads are not in the Hazlehurst/Jeff Davis market – what does that say about the people who live there? Closed minds? No money? Do everything on credit? No available extra money to spend? Credit maxed out? Or all of the above, with a few more thrown in?
The Ledger is a private business today. Ten years from now, will it be, say just six pages owned by a corporation many miles from Hazlehurst, who just use it for a tax write off? I hope Hazlehurst, and its people, can keep its “Mom and Pop” businesses it has now and not lose anymore. In the 20th century Jeff Davis lost it naval stores (turpentine) and tobacco auction businesses. They are gone forever, and not coming back.
****
QUESTION – There is a professional football team now (March 2019) practicing 36 days on a Georgia High School football field. What’s the team? Orlando Apollos. What’s the high school football field? Camden County High in Kingsland. Who is the head coach? Steve Spurrier.
SONG OF THE WEEK -“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel – recorded November 1968; 1969, released January 26, 1970.

Leave a Comment