07 May 65 : Investing, US foods, explaining work and allsorts : Gadsden, Alabama, USA

This continues the letter dated 5th May 1965 which began:

Dear Family,

Friday 7th May

I am now by the pool, and it’s only 2:30 and we have finished for the week – what a job!! It’s scorching hot and I’ve just been in the pool.

You seem to have been very concerned about my comment about investing my money. At the moment it is in a bank and I am getting 4% interest, which is quite good, but by buying some shares it could double in a few years. It could never do that on 4%.

The fellow we are working with bought $1,000 worth of shares in COMSTAT, the new space capsule which is being used for TV and telephone over the Atlantic. It was a six million dollar gamble as it could have gone wrong, and gone off into space.

However it worked, and now his shares are worth $2,500 – all in 12 months. Still, we are getting some professional advice from a fellow in Florida who is a financier.

I was very surprised to hear that you are not getting the right kind of news. I tell you everything we do, and where we go, and what I think. I don’t really know what else I can tell you. I have told you many times that I am very well and very happy to be travelling the world at last. I eat ordinary food although I have been trying more American food lately. I had some sweet potato cobbler yesterday – a sort of pie made of sweet potato – a real southern dish.

I don’t drink much at all because I don’t like American beer, and everything else is too expensive.


Tony in a motel pool


I have been doing a lot of sunbathing and swimming lately. That’s about all I can say, if there is anything specific you want to know, let me know what it is, and I will answer you – but quite honestly I don’t really understand what you want me to tell you.

In Gadsden where we are staying now we have found a terrific place to eat. It’s very small and inconspicuous, but when you go in you eat ‘family style’. This means that you sit down at a big table with all the locals, and pass around huge bowls of food, and can help yourselves to as much as you like.

It’s great food and we usually have a bit of everything. There are always three meat dishes e.g fried Chicken, pork chops, and beef stew. Vegetables include fried okra, eggplant, corn, sweet bread, succotash, all things I have never had before. I am trying them all – but usually only once.


May 1961 SKF advert
1962 SKF advert


Now then, for Dad’s benefit, I will try to explain my job. ‘Nice Bearings’ is the subsidiary company, who are the selling agents for SKF Bearings to the Automobile Industry. In other words, any bearing which goes into a motor car is an SKF bearing in a ‘Nice’ box. All bearings sold to general industry are in SKF boxes.

Due to the size of America, it is difficult to deliver bearings from the factory to customers direct, so all over the States there are huge warehouses. These are private concerns and they stock all the various replacement parts for the automobile trade. They buy direct from SKF, and all the other manufacturers of parts, and hold large stocks of each product – and then sell to the stockists. These, in turn, sell to garages, or the private customer.

Now, assume that there is a warehouse in Atlanta, Georgia, who carries a large stock of bearings, but not ours. The SKF man for that area would keep on trying until he can persuade them to stock only SKF bearings instead, and sign a contract to that effect.

When he does this he informs our office, and we move down to the area and start work. We go into the warehouse and convert the numbers of the competitors’ bearings to our numbering system. This is done with the aid of charts and interchange books.

We then bring in supplies of new ‘NICE’ boxes, and rebox all the competitors’ bearings into our boxes, and stamp on our number with a large stamp. We then have to change all their cards, or record systems to our numbers.


1961 SKF advert


We then install all our catalogues and show them how to use them. These are very complicated and this takes some time. We then put up all our advertising signs to encourage sales, and remove all the competitors advertising. If it is a really big contract we organise a ‘launch party’ for all the staff. We then go to all his customers (the stockists who he sells to) and do the same things. When all these have been done we are free to move off to another area, and another warehouse.

I hope this will help you to understand roughly what I do. It gets a bit monotonous when we are actually re boxing, but the constant travelling breaks it up a lot, and makes the job in general very pleasant. Often we finish at 2 or 3pm and haven’t time to get to the next job, so we have the rest of the day off.

Sometimes we have travelled as far as 200 miles just to re-box a few bearings, so sometimes the job is just like a holiday.

Yes, I did receive a photograph from Mam a few weeks back. At first I couldn’t imagine what it was. I thought it was a scene from Macbeth with the three witches, and then I recognised the one in the middle as Mam!!  I send her a card  occasionally which I am sure she appreciates.

She said in her letter how concerned you all were about the ‘terrible thing’ we had experienced recently in America. I don’t suppose she has a clue as to what a tornado is! Think of it, neither did I until we actually met one.

I’m glad you are seeing a lot of Carol now that she is in Bristol, and from what I hear the wedding plans seem to be progressing smoothly too. Sounds quite a crowd that you have coming. I certainly hope everything goes off alright.

Fancy you even considering going to Spain – I never thought I’d see the day. I certainly hope you do, as I’m sure you would enjoy it. Although, I think you would like France or Austria even more, but of course Spain is very cheap and they certainly get some good sunshine there.

Twice this week we have been mistaken for the Rolling Stones – of all people! This is because they were in Birmingham, Alabama, last night, and twice in restaurants people have thought we were them. I had a crowd of waitresses tell me they had seen me on television, and had recognised me!! They seemed very upset when we informed them we were not the Rolling Stones.

1965 03 21 Colin in Gatlinsburg

Colin is 26 tomorrow (Sunday) so that makes him too old for the Army, and as he hasn’t heard anything from them yet he thinks he is out. I hope so anyway. I still haven’t returned my forms yet, but I am out on age grounds – that’s for certain. It was announced yesterday that next month they plan to draft extra men due to the various crises which this country is taking part in.

(Note: This refers to the fact that Colin had been eligible to be drafted into the Vietnam war)

The Bellhop at this motel returned from Germany only last Thursday, having just completed his two years service.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and all the radio commercials (there must be thousands in a day) are for suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts, and one made me smile. The fellow said quite seriously “So, rush to your nearest Volkswagen dealer and get your mother one, for Mother’s Day” – this just shows how little having a car means over here.

To be continued… 

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