Strong Work Ethic Defined Early Businessmen
By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. Just before I started this column, I learned of the death of Ann Crowson Henry who was a member of my senior class and a good friend in high school Our class had only 27 and and many of them have passed away. Those include Ralph Wallace, Robert Lawshee, Aldene Tatum Allen, Curtis Early, Bill Knight, and John “Bud” McMinn. There could be more that I don’t know about.
Classes were smaller in those days, and I’m sure the bonds were closer. We started school in the middle of the depression and were in junior and senior high during World War II. We were the second post-war class. Back to Ann, who married Hamric Henry’s brother, Louie, a well-known doctor in Whitehaven for many years. He died at a relatively young age.
I first met Louie when I was playing with the Beck children. He and W. F. were close friends. Even then he was a friendly outgoing individual, and what I appreciated was he didn’t look down on younger kids as so many older kids did in those days. The Henry boys epitomized the strong work ethic that so many young people had. Hamric worked for the McLarty Company and Louie for the Nolan store.
I heard a story about how at a party, a store owner said that he had to leave early to open his store. Robert McLarty reportedly said, “I don’t have to get there early, I have Hamric Henry to open for me.”
Ann’s dad, Dow Crowson, was a successful business owner for many years on South Main. He and William Sissell had a service station across from Hendrick’s Ford, and then later across the street where he operated a service station and later a Pontiac/GMC dealership for many years. At one time Water Valley had five new car dealerships.
Howard Kelly had a Chrysler/Plymouth agency in the 30s and Cliff Busby had a Chevrolet agency, and Hendricks had Ford. After Kelly closed his agency, Jimmy Wilbourn had a Dodge/Plymouth agency. Mr. Crowson had Pontiac/GMC and Mr. Trusty had International Harvester. In later years, Mr. Spencer had a Studebaker Agency and Douglas Clark Oldsmobile and later Vernon Johnson had Chevrolet/Olds. Today, anyone wanting to buy a new automobile has to go out of town to make the purchase. Cliff Busby was a Ford dealer first, and the Lancaster Brothers were Chevy dealers who sold to Busby. Hendricks became the Ford dealer.
Edwin Blackmur’s father, J.V. Blackmur, was the first Ford dealer, in 1914, and Dudley Kelley has one of those early Fords that he has on loan to an antique car museum. When Mr. Blackmur started his agency, the automobile was still considered a rich man’s play thing, but Henry Ford changed all that. I see that some people still believe that Henry Ford invented the automobile, but that honor belongs to Karl Benz. What Henry Ford did was make the automobile affordable to the average working man and, as they say, the rest is history.
Henry was reviled by other business tycoons for establishing a minimum wage of five dollars a day, saying he would wreck the country. Henry didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart, turnover in the factory at that time was 100 percent per year, and this reduced this turnover.
Also as he stated he wanted his employees to be able to afford one of the cars they had made.
He was also an avowed pacifist, but his Willow Run plant produced B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II. Henry was one of the wealthiest men of his day, yet it was reported that his wife yarned his socks as long as he lived.
This is not unusual for men who rose from rags to riches, as H. L. Hunt was supposed to buy his suits from J.C. Penney’s bargain basement.
This is one of those times that I thought all of you were as tired of politics as I am and needed some light reading. Let me hear from you either at charlescooper3616@sbcglobal,net or P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.