Lineage: Lester Lee, John Thomas, Lewis Patterson, John James, John, Elias, Thomas, Solomon born 1680 Lancashire, England by: his nephew Melvin Alred
Lester Lee Allred was the second child of John Thomas and Olie Ander Allred. Lester had made the move to Lincoln County, Alabama, in 1910 with his parents and back to Floyd County, Georgia, in 1912. He helped on his father’s farm until he got a job in Rome in 1919 with Gulf Refining Company driving a one-horse wagon loaded with ten-gallon cans filled with kerosene. He would make his route around Rome each day delivering full cans of kerosene and returning with empty containers.
In 1921, he was promoted to driving a new truck with a 325 gallon tank. That’s when he expanded the route out into the countryside covering Floyd and Chattooga Counties, Georgia, delivering kerosene and gasoline to farmers and country stores. Lester told me he always carried shovels and other tools to repair the roads where needed. Also, he kept a long chain for towing or being towed as the case might arise.
On November 30, 1924, Lester married Ruby House. About this time, he decided to take another big leap of faith and took a distributorship at Pam-Am Oil Company. This meant furnishing his own truck and being paid on a commission basis. Lester bought a truck with a 750 gallon tank. Like all of John Allred’s children, Lester was a hard worker and his business grew rapidly. Lester’s contract stated that his commission would be paid by the gallons he sold, regardless of the price. This was very fortunate for him because, when the great depression came in 1929, the price per gallon dropped to an all-time low, but his volume increased.
On the 28th day of April 1930, their first child, Patty Ruth, was born. Twelve days later, Lester bought the property at 11 East Main Street (Deed Book 141, Page 213). He employed a contractor (Mr. Roberts) to remove the old house and build his family a new home at a cost of $7,000 according to permit records. The house was constructed of solid brick walls and a slate-rock roof with brass gutters. At this writing, 84 years later, the roof and gutters are still in tact. Recessed steam heaters warmed the house in cold weather. The daylight basement provided parking for two cars. It took the construction crew fourteen months to complete the job. No mortgages were recorded against the property. Remember this was during the depression. A second child, Barbara Anita, was born July 18, 1933.
In 1935, State Congressman Frank L. Baker convinced Pan-Am Oil to cancel Lester’s contract and award it to him. Lester found another gasoline supplier and was able to convince twenty-six of his twenty-seven retail outlets to make the transition with him.
Lester and Ruby’s third child, Lester Lee, Jr., was born August 9, 1937. Lester remained in the oil and gasoline business the rest of his business career, retiring in his mid-seventies. As fate would have it, I, Lester’s nephew, was hired by Pan-Am (now American Oil Company), to work in the same building where Lester had been a Commission Agent. In 1971, I became a Commission Agent for Gulf Oil Company working in the same building where Lester made deliveries in 1919. Both places of business were only a short distance from Lester’s house. He would come by often, and I would encourage him to tell me about his experiences in the gasoline business.
A few funny and interesting things I remember about Uncle Lester were:
I remember Uncle Lester stepping on children’s toes and then Lester Lee Allred apologizing, pretending he didn’t know;
Bobby, my four-year-old brother retrieving a hammer from the tool shed and breaking a bone in Lester’s foot, because he (Lester) had stepped on his (Bobby’s) injured toe;
How he handled his competition when they repeatedly undercut the price of gasoline; the fruit jar of refreshments he kept under the truck seat to share with friends;
Making it clear he wanted his losses refunded when he caught a man using loaded dice in a crap game; Forgetting about time when he was challenged to a game of checkers.
Some comments from his three children:
Patty Ruth: “My dad said that he knew very early on that farming was not for him. He was fascinated by the automobile and wanted to learn to drive. By the time he was courting Mother, he was driving a sporty touring car. Daddy developed an interest in flying and planned to buy an airplane, but Mother must have convinced him to build a house first. We moved into our new house when I was 14th months old. Daddy never got his airplane, but he often took us to the Old Rome Airport to watch an air show on Sunday afternoons. He took us up in an airplane when I was very young. He was an adventurous fellow. We have a picture of him standing on the frozen Oostanaula River circa 1940. He was a loving and devoted father. Mother and Daddy played golf in the early years of their marriage. One of my special memories of Daddy was when he was visiting us at our beach home. We missed him one day, and I found him enjoying the view of the Atlantic Ocean from his perch on an old palmetto log. We sat and watched a ghost crab trying to take a stick of gum into his den. Finally, the tide drove us back.”
Barbara Anita: “Daddy always carried his gun with him on his service trips so he could hunt for quail. He would stop on a service trip to Curryville to play checkers with his friends. On trips to the chicken farm, he would take the grandchildren with him, which they loved. He loved watching ballgames and attending the ones at Celanese and Lindale and sometimes to Atlanta to watch the Atlanta Crackers. He was able to stay in his home, which was built in the latter part of the depression, until his death August 31, 1979. I would always meet him when he came home and ride from the street to the back of the house where he parked. Mother said I would tell him, everything that had happened that day. I have to add the time Daddy couldn’t get his truck started and when he had it checked, they said it had sand in the gas tank. Lester, Jr., was playing in the sandbox near the truck. Daddy didn’t believe that Lester, Jr. could get the cap off and asked him to try to see if he could. Lester, Jr. did get it off, and then he confessed that he put the sand in the gas tank.”
Lester Lee, Jr.: “My memories consist of as a kid going with Daddy on the oil truck. It was exciting to get to find something to do while he would play checkers with all on-takers at John Bolt’s one-gas-pump grocery store. We are talking hours. The only thing that made it a little bearable was having a lunch of a can of sardines with soda crackers, and a big orange filled with a pack of salted peanuts. (No Moon Pie.) At least two days were spent at Lindale going through all the alleys between the houses. The alleys served as a place for five-gallon cans for heating oil as well as two-seater outhouses. On one of those days, we were unlucky enough to get behind the wagon that emptied all those big oaken buckets from the outhouses. When we traveled in the country delivering gas for tractors to farmers, we would play Cow Poker. Daddy would count the ones on his side, and I on my side. If we passed a cemetery, it cancelled the count of the one, depending on the side, and he had to start from zero. The only problem was I didn’t get a prize when I won. Occasionally, a one-gas-pump grocery or beer joint would run out of gas before their scheduled delivery by oil companies and would call Daddy. One time, we were at this type store near the Georgia-Alabama line. It would take at least a half hour to empty Daddy’s truck, so I would find things to kill time. At that time, gas for your car cost about 15 cents a gallon. I happened to look at the pump where we were and the price was almost one dollar a gallon. I asked Daddy how they managed to sell much of that price. His answer was: “The condition they are in when leaving, they don’t have a clue what they are paying.”
Some of the mountain roads we would travel were so curvy that Daddy would have to go a little forward and a little backward several times to make a curve. As I looked out my window and saw the drop off, it would be so scary I would not only close my eyes, but try to crawl under the seat. When it came time to make the ticket for a delivery, Daddy could do that figuring as fast in his head as most people could with an adding machine or calculator. Do you think there might be a connection between that and Patty and I becoming math teachers?
Lester Lee Allred was born October 21, 1897, in Floyd County, Rome, Georgia. He died August 31, 1979. Ruby House Allred was born January 20, 1909. She died November 24, 1994