40 years and counting
David Gregory has been building custom cabinets since 1974
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
In 1974, David Gregory got married and took two weeks off from work at Torrington. When he got back, he turned in his notice before going to work with his father, building cabinets.
Forty years later, Gregory's Custom Cabinets is still in business at 408 Union Boulevard in the building that Gregory and his father, Grady, moved into before the road was even paved.
The front area of the building is filled with an assortment of cabinets, bed frames and chairs people have brought to Gregory for repairs, along with an old Pepsi Cola cooler one of his sons picked up while he was in college and a pay phone Gregory bought in Virginia which he plans to install in a wooden phone booth.
Down the hall is Gregory's office - the walls are covered with photos of his sons when they played college football for Tennessee and South Carolina and a photo of himself swinging a softball bat while playing for Tabernacle Baptist Church. Two filing cabinets fill a corner of the office; inside are plans for most of the projects Gregory has worked on, including custom dollhouse cabinets and fire truck beds he once built.
Stepping through the doorway into the shop, a visitor notices an old piece of 2x6 wood above the door to the storage room. Gregory explains that his father signed and dated it when he did the framework for a building in town. When it was being demolished, someone spotted the writing, cut out that piece of wood and gave it to Gregory.
The shop itself takes up half the building; machines for cutting, sanding and drilling wood sit at various locations, all of them covered with a layer of sawdust. Suspended from the ceiling is an exhaust system that draws the sawdust from the air and blows it out the back of the building. Connected to this are pieces of rope, each one with a wooden handle that's painted green and red. Gregory pulls down on the green side to activate the exhaust system and the red side to turn it off.
Several cabinets in various stages of construction are at one end of the shop. The back wall has shelves filled with hundreds of pieces of scrap wood. Gregory says he uses them as needed instead of wasting a new piece of wood.
A lot has changed in the past four decades.
Grady Gregory, who left his job at Conso to go to work with his son, died 17 years ago. Gregory's hair, once black and curly, is now thinning on top. His black beard is speckled with gray. Gregory doesn't work seven days a week anymore, either. After having quadruple by-pass heart surgery, he was out of work for three months. Since then he's cut back to working five (sometimes six) days a week.
But through it all, his love of building custom cabinets is still there.
“I'm not bored; I love challenges,” he says, adding that every cabinet he builds is different.
A hammer, saw and a wood plane used to be the tools of the trade - now everything is cordless or runs on air, Gregory says.
“If the air compressor goes down I'll go home,” he says.
Gregory doesn't use a hammer and seldom uses electric tools. And he doesn't use a wood lathe. He had one once, but the knife got stuck while he was operating it and snapped back, breaking his wrist. He sold it soon afterwards.
Wood is more expensive, now, too. Shelving board used to cost 37 cents a foot; now it's $2 to $3 a foot, Gregory says.
He began working with his father when he was in the seventh grade; the shop was in the back yard of the house. Grady Gregory was a policeman, operated a paint shop and built cabinets in his spare time. Gregory says he put the hinges on cabinet doors using a “Yankee screwdriver” - he had to push down on the handle to drive the screws.
During the past 40 years he estimates he's worked with about 90 percent of the housing contractors in Union. He also built 116 cabinets for one of the housing projects in town. He says he measured every unit; all of them are custom made.
Gregory proudly says he built all of the furniture in his house, including a bedroom suit and kitchen cabinets. He and his wife, Melissa, would go to auctions and buy furniture but he couldn't find anything to match it so he built his own. He built one cabinet using just a photo for a model.
Gregory says he uses mostly poplar for his cabinet doors, because there's not as much grain as with other wood. He says he uses the same quality of wood for each cabinet whether it's for a house costing $45,000 or $450,000. He also uses moderate density fiber - MDF - for cabinet doors.
Much of his work comes by word of mouth - people call him. He says he once submitted a bid to build the wooden lockers in Williams-Brice Stadium for the USC football team and got beat out by $45.
Nowadays, Gregory finds himself competing with building supply giants Home Depot and Lowes for projects, as well as IKEA. Most of them use cheap particleboard for their cabinets, Gregory says.
“Mine are hard wood; they are better quality,” he says.
Gregory also makes counter tops - solid surface and rolled - not granite. A 35-year-old counter top saw sits in one corner of the shop. He and his father paid for it using 10 cents per foot of counter top they produced. Grady Gregory cut grooves in the wood at different angles beneath the saw, each one wide enough to hold the edge of a counter top.
When asked about his profession, Gregory will quickly answer that he's a contractor.
“I don't sell anything,” he says.
(Gregory's Custom Woodworks is located at 408 Union Boulevard. The phone number is 426-2792.)
Main Street to become ‘Thunder Road’
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Labor Day weekend will see Union County become a motorcycle Mecca when a bike show is planned in conjunction with four enduro races.
BUC RAILROAD LIVES ON IN NEW BOOK
Organizers expect the Thunder Road People's Choice Bike Show to attract hundreds, if not thousands of motorcycles to Union's Main Street, according to Torance Inman, executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, one of the event's coordinators. The 100 blocks of East Main and West Main streets will be closed for the show, he said.
Bikes are coming from all over the Southeast, Inman said.
“We really don't know how many to expect,” he said. “We could see as few as several hundred to as many as several thousand.”
The show was named Thunder Road because of the noise large groups of motorcycles make when they travel the road, Inman said.
A similar show in Chesnee has grown into a four-day event, he said.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 12 p.m., when bikers will take a tour of the county. After heading west on S.C. 49 they will turn onto the Bishop Road, Old Buncombe Road and ride through the Sumter National Forest before making a stop at the Union County Dragway. Then they will ride down the Wilson Road to the River Road and then to Lockhart, via the Old Union Road. The bikers will then take S.C. 9 to the Pea Ridge Highway and the Kelly Road before returning to Union around 2 p.m.
An awards presentation begins at 3 p.m. with categories for custom, American made, metric, English/European, chopper, rat, trike/three-wheel, sport and best of show. Because it is a people's choice show, ballots will be given to everyone who attends, as well as those who register, Inman said.
Food vendors and motorcycle paraphernalia vendors will also be on Main Street.
All proceeds from the show will go to the Wounded Warrior Project and Miracle League of Union County. Other coordinators of the show are the Union County Tourism Commission, Union County Recreation Department, Southern Legends Motorcycle Club and the Christian Motorcycle Association.
At the same time as the bike show, four enduro races will be taking place around the county, both on and off the road, Inman said. Racers will start at the site of Big Buck on S.C. 49, race down Terrapin Road, along Mudbridge Road and on Randy Hawkins' farm off Highway 215, he said. This will be a national event with more than 500 motorcycles, he added.
Sponsors are still needed for Thunder Road. Presenting sponsorship costs $200 - the sponsor's name will appear on one of the nine awards presented. T-shirt sponsorship costs $100 - the sponsor's name will be on the back of 300 T-shirts given to those who register and also sold. Registration sponsorship costs $50 - the sponsors can include items such as fliers, coupons and pens in goodie bags to be given to those who register.
Sponsorship deadline is Aug. 15. Call the Chamber at 427-9039.
By ANNA BROWN
The Buffalo-Union-Carolina Railroad was more than just a train that served Union and Buffalo textile mills.
It was a friend to the community for 50 years, offering rides to ball games and other special events and even serving as an ambulance service.
Retired educator Robert Grady and retired psychotherapist Dan O'Shields are writing a book about the BUC. They are gathering historical facts, stories and pictures about the railroad. The 22.3-mile railroad served Union County from 1900 to 1950. They hope to compile a book that will be available for sale sometime in 2015. They hope more people will come forward with stories about the train and pictures.
“We think it is a story that is a long time waiting to be told,” Grady said.
Grady and O'Shields said they both have had a longtime interest in trains and they remember talking about trains when they rode back and forth to college together many years ago. Grady said he developed a deep interest in the Buffalo-Union-Carolina but could find very little information about it, including nothing on the Internet. Around 12 years ago, Tim Mitchell, a co-worker at the Union County Career and Technology Center, brought him a set of pictures.
“He came in my office one day at school and said, 'Robert I hear you have been looking for pictures of the BUC. My grandfather was the engineer,'” Grady remembers. “He had a sack full of pictures. I was looking too far from home in doing research, I guess.”
O'Shields said the book will document the history of the railroad.
“As much knowledge that we can gather and come up with from newspaper reports and other sources,” he said. “There is not a lot that is actually written down. We are also trying to gather as many pictures as we can. The third part is stories from people who either remember the railroad - and we have a few who actually rode on the railroad. And we have people who have information passed down through their family. We have gotten quite a few good stories - probably 20 or 25 - but we know there are more out there. Some people may be hesitant to give us stories or talk about history. Some people may not understand that what they know is important.”
T.C. Duncan started the BUC Railroad in 1900 with the first section completed between Union and Buffalo. O'Shields said Duncan had two major reasons for wanting a local railroad.
“The roads were in terrible shape,” O'Shields said.” He couldn't depend on transportation to get equipment to the mills to build the mills nor could they depend on the roads to take finished goods to ship them off. The other reason was the Southern Railway was the only railway that ran through Union and the freight rates were extravagant.
O'Shields said Dr. Allan Charles points out in his book, “The Narrative History of Union County” that it cost more to ship something to Union than it did to Greenville.
“What Duncan wanted to do was to add a connection to a second railroad,” O'Shields said. “His first thought was to go to Glenn Springs and then on to Spartanburg. The Glenn Springs Railroad was there. He planned to connect to that.”
Duncan initially named his railroad the Union-Glenn Springs Railroad and it remained that way until the 1920s.
“For some reason we would love to know he changed his mind and decided instead of to Spartanburg he would go to Pride,” O'Shields said. “Pride was a non-existent place at that time - between Carlisle and Neal Shoals.”
Grady said Pride was the place Seaboard Railroad came into Union County. Pride was named for one of the daughters of a Seaboard Railroad official. There is a common misconception that the railroad was the Buffalo-Union-Carlisle railroad.
Pictures show the railroad track in Buffalo while the mill was being built.
“The line was there before they actually built the mill,” O'Shields said.
Records show that Duncan still considered trying to tie in at Glenn Springs until about 1910. He also had a very forward thinking idea.
“He was thinking about an electrical line instead of steam,” O'Shields said.
Duncan was a busy man.
“He built Union Mill in 1894 and turned around and built the second Union Mill right after that,” O'Shields said. “He built the railroad, started on Buffalo Mill and built Neal Shoals (power plant) all by 1905.”
“This is a time when there were no trucks, no highways; everything was carried on the trains,” Grady said. “It's amazing over a 10-year period he did all this. Buffalo did not exist before - the railroad created Buffalo.”
The textile mills caused an explosion of population in Union and Buffalo between 1890 and 1910.
Part of the community
The BUC became a part of the community. Grady and O'Shields said the Progress newspaper refers to it as “the railroad.”
“They would run special trains - in the paper it had, 'Special train running tonight to the ballgames at Buffalo,'” Grady said. “One article said a man got hurt badly at Buffalo Mill and a special train brought him back to Union to the hospital. They used it sometimes as an ambulance service. It's amazing the way it served the community.”
"When the railroad started, it may have had exclusive passenger runs, but toward the middle and end the train would haul freight and a passenger car or two," he said "Tickets could be purchased to go from one end of the county to the other. We talked to a gentleman who lived in Buffalo as a child who told us that his mother would give him a quarter on Saturday. The quarter would buy him round trip passage on the train, plus pay for a movie ticket while in Union. We've also heard that the train ran specials to transport people to and from the county fair. This was back when the county fair was located in the area of the Timken ball park.
The train also made official stops along the way.
"This was a time when there were no paved roads in Union County, very very few automobiles, no buses, etc. so it was either ride the train, ride a horse or buggy, or walk," Grady said.
Through their research Grady and O'Shields have found that the train experienced derailments and at least one or two bad wrecks.
“One was on Hobson Creek near Neal Shoals,” O'Shields said. “That was the worst and we think one person was killed. We don't know the date but Robert guesses it was in the 1940s because of the color of the cars. There was a passenger car wreck in the 1920s, also.”
One night in 1939 two men “stole” the train for a joyride. The train had been left unattended near the present Union Oil Mill.
“A couple of guys were walking around town looking for something to do and saw the train sitting there,” O'Shields said. “One said, 'I want to blow the horn.'”
The men got on the train and one pulled a lever. The train started going backward and they both jumped off.
The train derailed near Oak Street.
With the help of Clerk of Court Freddie Gault, O'Shields and Grady found court documents showing the fine that was levied on the men.
The BUC had a beautiful depot on the corner of Dunn Avenue and Keenan Avenue. Children set the fire that destroyed it.
Grady and O'Shields said they have found three families in Union County who had relatives who worked for the BUC - the Mitchells, Belues and Jenkins. They said Phil Moore, whose grandfather was section foreman for Meador Station, had provided some excellent stories, including about his relatives taking a push cart to town.
The BUC was much like the Cannonball on the television series “Petticoat Junction.” O'Shields and Grady said one story they collected was about a day the train was already late because of mechanical problems. Nevertheless, a mile into its run it made a stop for snacks and drinks for those on board. Other times the train stopped so those on board could pick blackberries.
All things come to an end and improved roads helped lead to the demise of the BUC.
“We have financial reports and it did lose money the last year, but overall it did not,” O'Shields said. “And probably they just did a different focus - the people who bought the mills may not have wanted to be in the railroad business. By the 1940s the roads had improved and trucks were delivering more goods. They just didn't need it like they did before.”
The BUC started with two Baldwin locomotives and went to three. Southern Railway bought the line and destroyed the engines. A crowd gathered to watch.
“They brought in a crane,” O'Shields said. “They lifted the engines in the air and dropped them. Parts went everywhere.”
Two number plates and a bell from one of the trains are on display at the Union County Museum. A local man has another number plate in his possession. The rest of the parts were loaded up and taken to North Carolina for scrap.
“It was sad,” Grady said. “This had served the county for 50 years.”
(Anyone with information about the BUC Railroad or who has pictures they would like to share may call Grady at 426-5086 or O'Shields at 427-9422. O'Shields' email is email@example.com. Grady's email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Formula for good marriage: Patience, faith and love
By ANNA BROWN
Norma Wessinger Glymph remembers that the first time she ever saw her husband, Mack, she thought he was very handsome.
“He looked like a million dollars,” she said. “And he had a brand new green Pontiac convertible.”
Mack, home in Newberry after fighting two years on the front lines in the Korean War, was impressed by Norma's good looks as well.
“I thought she was a beautiful girl,” he said.
About a year after they met, Mack and Norma tied the knot at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Newberry.
Friday, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. She was 18 and he was 24 when they married.
The formula for a good marriage is simple, Norma said.
“Patience, faith and love,” she said. “You are going to have disagreements. You have to have patience and talk it out or be quiet until it blows over.”
Mack and Norma both graduated from Newberry High School. He is six years older and they did not meet until her senior year.
After graduation Mack worked in construction until he was drafted into the Army. He served in Korea from 1951 to 1953 as a heavy equipment supervisor for the 13th Engineering Combat Battalion. He was discharged as a sergeant first class.
He came home and was working for Sloan Construction when mutual friends introduced him to Norma, a pretty Newberry High majorette.
“He would come to the ball games,” Norma said. “I remember coming to Union and marching.”
Mack's job required a lot of travel and until their children, Lisa and Alan, were born, Norma went with him. As Lisa was preparing to start first grade, the Glymphs decided it was time to settle in a home. Mack was named superintendent of Sloan's Pacolet asphalt plant. They began building a new house in Union.
Three months after the Glymphs started building their home Mack was called to work in Florida and in Cuba, where Sloan paved the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
After four years he was home in Union for good and continued his career with Sloan locally. He retired in 1994 but continued to work in construction for several more years.
The Glymphs are members of Augsburg Lutheran Church.
Lisa - now Lisa Hayes - and Alan both live in Newberry. The Glymphs have three grandchildren, Staci Vaughan, Brittany Hayes and Dereck Greene. They have two great-grandchildren, Jasper Hayes and Mattie Vaughan.
The Glymphs said they are glad they settled in Union.
“We've enjoyed Union,” Norma said.
“It all worked out for the best,” Mack said.
Author: Book helps preserve mill village way of life
By ANNA BROWN
Dan O'Shields says he wanted to write “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?” in part to help preserve the mill village way of life he enjoyed so much growing up.
“From what I have seen the mill village culture is slowly disappearing; it's dying,” he said. “I felt like during the 1950s was such a good time for me. It wasn't for the families probably because there wasn't much money for the adults. For the kids it was a treasure trove of playmates all over the place. I saw that as a good time.”
Those reading the book will recognize places like Jail Hill and Union's downtown area, but they should not recognize any people - all are products of O'Shields' imagination.
“I guess everything we write is part of us in some kind of way,” he said. “Some of the personality characteristics of my family are certainly taken from what I remember but as far as any character, everything is fictional. I do describe some of the stores on Main Street. West End School is a big part of it but every event is fictional and all the characters I talk about are fictional.”
“Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?” is in part a story of a boy named Benji who wants very much to own a baseball card featuring the legend. But some things happen that readers might not expect.
O'Shields asked his friend, Union County Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly to write a review of the book and this is what she said:
“'Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?' the story of a boy growing up in a mill village, will resonate with all who lived that experience,” she said. “Many familiar places along Union's Main Street will revive memories of times past. But in the style of most southern authors, it is also a story of the human experience, the good and the bad and the very bad. Written in the narrative form, the tension builds from the everyday life of the boy, Benji, whose heart's desire is to own a Ted Williams baseball card, to a riveting conclusion. A real page turner! Great job author and Union native, Dr. Daniel O'Shields.”
O”Shields grew up on Lybrand Street and later on the Seigler Road. His wife, the former Kathy Kingsmore, also is a Union native. A retired psychotherapist, he worked in Orangeburg and later Colorado for many years. He holds a Ph.D. and his career included time spent working on a Navaho reservation in Southern Utah. He and his wife returned to Union County to live in 2005. He worked in private practice before retiring.
In his free time O'Shields began pursuing his writing interest. He has had several articles and short stories published, including an article on mill village porches in Sandlapper magazine, articles in “Birds and Blooms” and “Antiques and Collectibles Journal” and a short story about mill village grocery stores and delivery people in the on-line magazine “Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.” He read this piece in March during the USC-Union Literary Festival.
O'Shields has written the last two plays for Boogaloo Folklife presentations.
O'Shields said he started “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams” two or three times before he completed it. He said he read excerpts to his friends in the Union County Arts Council Writer's Group - Stephanie Bentley, Marilyn Mitra, Sally Parker and Father Louis Miller - and they greatly encouraged him and helped gently prod him forward
Friend and retired English teacher Jack Kelly III helped edit the book. Another close friend, Edward Riggs, helped with insightful comments and honest remarks.
O'Shields thanked his wife for her work with the book, including editing, offering computer skills, patience and guidance.
Mrs. Parker drew the cover picture, which features clock towers much like those on Buffalo Mill. O'Shields said he was very happy with the cover.
“It encompasses the feeling that the mill was the giant 'thing' overlooking the houses,” he said.
Copies of “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams” are $12.95 and are available at the Union County Museum, the Union County Arts Council, Economy Printing, Something Special, Union County News and Amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds from books sold at the museum and arts council will be donated to those two organizations. O'Shields plans to hold a books signing at the arts council and the museum soon.
Pretty in pink
Kaye Driggers becomes a national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics
By ANNA BROWN
Time was running out and Kaye Driggers was falling short of what she needed to do to accomplish her goal of becoming a national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The Union native and her husband, Baptist minister Dr. Tim Driggers, prayed boldly to the Lord, as Joshua did when he asked the sun and moon to stop while he was engaged in battle.
Then Tim saw an announcement that those working toward becoming a director had been given 24 extra hours because of computer problems.
“If I had not gotten that extra 24 hours, it would not have gotten done,” said Kaye, who has won a pink Cadillac Escalade as part of the reward for becoming a national director. “God is so good. That was the most emotional part for me, to know that God loved me enough and wanted this goal for us, too, that he gave me 24 hours to get it done. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in Mary Kay and I have done a lot. I have won 11 Cadillacs and that is nothing compared to becoming a (national) director. You have to motivate and inspire. The 10 directors I had - I had to keep them motivated and going and then I had to produce 10 more.”
Both Kaye and Tim grew up in Union County. She is the daughter of Buck and Bessie Vinson and he is the son of the late Bill and Paunese Mitchell. Tim and Kaye have four children - Justin, Joshua, Jessica and Jenna - and nine grandchildren
During Tim's Army career, he and Kaye moved 17 times. She was first introduced to Mary Kay at a cosmetics party in Fayetteville, N.C. in 1979.
Over the years consultants tried to recruit Kay, but she did not become interested until she was living in Mesa, Ariz., in 1995.
“My Mary Kay consultant was my neighbor,” she said. “We were walking buddies. She worried me to death about Mary Kay. I told her no for about 18 months. She said, 'Sit down and let me explain how we make our money.'”
Kaye bought a Mary Kay starter kit but kept it for three weeks before she told anyone.
“I was afraid of what my family and friends would say,” she said. “But I believe God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, 'Your family and friends don't pay your bills.' I picked up the phone the next day and started booking parties.”
In six months she had earned her first car - a red Pontiac Grand Am - and she became a sales director.
Last year, Mary Kay treated Kaye and Tim to an all-expense paid trip to China. They had dinner on the Great Wall. This year they will go to Hawaii.
In May, while Kaye was working on her national director goal she went to Build a Bear and made a bear wearing an Hawaiian outfit. She recorded her voice and put it the bear saying, “You can and will be a national sales director by June30.”
“I played that over and over the entire months of May and June and that got drilled my mind,” she said. “What you think about you bring about.”
She named the bear “NSD” for national sales director. She plans to take it on stage with her when she is introduced during the national convention.
Kaye said she believes in Mary Kay as a beauty aid.
“We have awesome products,” she said. “I absolutely love the product. It makes women feel good. It makes them feel confident.”
Kaye's daughter-in-law, Sarah Driggers, is an executive senior sales director with Mary Kay and has earned a pink Cadillac. Kaye's daughter, Jenna Ellerbee, recently earned her second car and has become a sales director.
Alison Coker of Union works with Kaye and recently earned the title of sales director.
Kaye said motivation is the key in selling Mary Kay.
“One of my husband's favorite quotes that he has given me, and he uses this when he preaches a lot, “If you don't see it before you see it, you will never see it,'” she said.
Kaye said she hopes her career with Mary Kay will continue to grow and she can continue to recruit directors.
“I would like more women working with me,” she said. “I want to be able to inspire them. “
Kaye's theme song for the national convention is Bruno Mars' “Just the Way You Are.” She said she doesn't feel women are told enough that they are wonderful and special.
“That is my passion; this is my ministry,” she said. “I love to tell women you are amazing just the way you are. You need to be authentic. That is one thing I had to learn myself. If you look at some national sales director with Mary Kay sometimes they look perfect. I had to keep telling myself, 'Mary Kay needs a national like me.'”
Arson suspects say they are innocent
By ANNA BROWN
Two Union businessmen accused of setting fire to houses they had interests in have proclaimed their innocence, saying they had no motive to commit arson.
“I am ready for my day in court,” said William Howard “Wahoo” Gibson, one of the men charged. “I was scheduled to buy that house and I was going to make a profit on it. The fire caused me to lose money.”
Gibson, 44, of 126 Foster Farm Road was charged Tuesday with three counts of third-degree arson. Two of the charges were filed by the Union Public Safety Department and one charge was made by the Union County Sheriff's Office.
Robert Fred Small, 62, of 1818 Jonesville Highway was charged by the public safety department with two counts of third-degree arson.
The State Law Enforcement Division Arson Team assisted in the investigation of the cases.
Gibson and Small are accused of setting fire to two houses in the 700 block of Thomson Boulevard on May 13. The houses were in Small's wife's name.
Chief Sam White with the public safety department said authorities immediately thought the fires were suspicious in nature because neither unoccupied house was connected to utilities. An investigation determined an accelerant was used to start the fires.
Neither house was insured. White said there would have been no direct financial gain in burning the houses. He declined to elaborate on a motive because the case is still under investigation.
Small said he did not set fire to the houses on Thomson Boulevard and he felt that authorities did not question him appropriately about his whereabouts before he was arrested. He said he had approval from the City of Union building department to tear down the houses and had moved heavy equipment there for the demolition.
“I moved the tractor down there to destroy them and they caught on fire,” Small said. “Did the tractor catch them on fire that night? I don't know.”
Small said while he was at the houses earlier on the evening of the fire Gibson and another man pulled up and talked with him.
All three men left, Small said. An hour and a half to two hours later, Small said he received a call that the houses were on fire.
“I had no motive, no insurance,” he said. “There was nothing for me to benefit from it.”
Small said he bought the land because he wanted the road frontage and he had intended to develop it.
Small said he thinks he is a target of authorities because he speaks out about injustice and wrongdoing in local government.
In December, Small and an employee of his recycling business were charged with purchasing nonferrous metals and failure to purchase by check. According to court records, the charge against Small was dropped.
Gibson also is charged with setting fire to a $300,000 house in bank foreclosure on 246 Meadow Woods Road on June 9.
Sheriff David Taylor said Wells Fargo owned the house but Gibson had placed a deposit on it and was scheduled to take possession of it on June 11.
Taylor said there were issues with the water and sewer system in the house that Gibson may not have known about until he put down the deposit.
Gibson said he had been to the property on Meadow Woods Road several times in connection with purchasing the house but he had not been there on the morning of the fire.
Jack O’Dell, Midway BBQ founder, dies
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
For many people, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without Jack O'Dell's barbecue and hash.
O'Dell, whose food is a Fourth of July tradition in Union County, died Friday at age 86.
“He loved to see people with food,” said Jay Allen, O'Dell's son-in-law. “He'd rather see people enjoying food than anything else.”
O'Dell started cooking his barbecue and hash when he was 13 in a field next to his father's store in Monarch. He borrowed money from his sister, Ethel Holden, to purchase a calf and pig and then borrowed enough pots to cook in.
“He was a fighter from the word go,” Allen said. “A lot of people don't know this, but he went under three or four times before he was successful in his 40s.”
In a 2010 interview, O'Dell recalled the days when as many as 45 people cooked hash and barbecue in Union County.
Customers would sit all night long while the meats were cooked, visiting and enjoying the aroma. They brought their own plates and buckets to carry hash and barbecue home. O'Dell remembered on one occasion some folks visiting Union County from California were in the crowd on a July 3rd night.
“Back then that particular night was as good a holiday as any,” he said.
For years, O'Dell held a full time job to support his wife, Louise, and their three children: Col. John O'Dell, Jeannie O’Dell and Amy Allen. He cooked hash and barbecue on weekends and holidays as a sideline. He borrowed pots from others and cooked in a field. If skies were threatening, he would call the funeral home and ask for a tent. O'Dell's Grocery burned in 1970 and shortly after that, O'Dell opened Midway Barbecue on Main Street, Buffalo. O'Dell chose the address: 811 Hash Boulevard.
“His hash will go down as one of the best ever,” Allen said.
For more than 30 years, O'Dell was a familiar face at Midway Barbecue, where he cooked, served and greeted customers.
“He loved Midway; he put his heart and soul into everything he did,” Allen said. “He loved people and he loved to eat. Eating was his favorite hobby.”
When O'Dell's health began to decline he asked his daughter and son-in-law to take over the business.
“He hired Amy and I - he needed two people to do the work he did,” Allen said. “He was leery about asking us to come back; he was scared to death we wouldn't make it. He told me, 'Don't put your own money in this; if you do, close the doors and run.'”
O'Dell had one rule: “Do not ever change my recipes,” Allen said. “We haven't and we never will.”
O'Dell always put his family first, Allen said.
“He cared about his kids and his grandkids,” he said. “He didn't care for material things. He always told me, 'Put all your energy in Midway. Don't try to invest in other things. It's just you and your family. If you manage the small things, the big things will happen.' Being a product of the Depression the small things meant a lot.”
Odell served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a fireman first class on board the submarine USS Odax, SS484 and was member American Legion Post 22 for more than 60 years.
“Nobody loved his country, his family and his God more than him,” Allen said.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. today at First Baptist Church conducted by the Rev. Robert Emory.
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