Zack’s and the white short-sleeved shirt
In the summer of 1970 I had just turned 15, and back then, 15 was the age when you could legally get a job as a teenager. There were few places in McDonough at that time to get a part-time job and still be able to go to school. Zack’s Grocery Store was one of those places and I already had my name on the list at Zack’s. If you came to live in McDonough after 2002 you may not know anything about Zack’s Grocery Store but it was as much a place to visit with all your friends and neighbors as it was a store. For those of you who don’t get it, just think facebook! Really the only difference is that you are in person, face to face, making eye contact, responding in real time, being able to shake someone’s hand, and sharing a laugh. LOL, how cool is that! Zack’s was my first choice and I wanted to get on as soon as possible. I knew other boys who also had their name on that list – Marlin Miller, John Walker, and Bob Mangham. But you had to wait your turn until an older boy either got a full time job, went off to college or joined the service. You see, once you got hired you held on to that job because there were very few opportunities available.
The phone rang one morning in July and it was Bennie Carmichael from Zack’s asking to speak to me. She told me that they had an opening and wanted to know how soon I could go to work. I told her whenever they needed me. She asked if I could come that day and I said yes. I was elated!
My mother drove me the few miles to the store and dropped me off as she had some errands to run. As the store manager, Melvin Carmichael, was telling me all about what I would be doing as a “bag boy” there during my work hours, he informed me that I would need a short-sleeved white dress shirt to start. I didn’t have one, and when I told my mother what I needed she quickly took me to the Square to Jesse Gasses Store to get one. As we walked into the shop, Raymond Gasses, Jesse’s son, greeted us. Now Raymond and his father Mr. Jesse were very good salespeople. Once you entered that store they were going to do whatever it took to make the sale. Later on my father told me about the day he had gone to Jesse’s store to buy one shirt but Mr. Jesse talked him into such a great deal that my father left with a whole box of shirts. That tells you just how good he was at sales.
My mother told Raymond that we were looking for a white short-sleeved shirt, since I had a new job and needed one badly! He didn’t have one either, not my size anyway. My heart pounded quickly. What were we going to do. There were no other clothing stores that could help us. The closest one was in Griffin and we didn’t have time to make that trip. Just as we were preparing to leave Raymond found a long-sleeved white dress shirt. It was July and much too hot to wear a long-sleeved shirt. But Raymond, as usual, had a plan. He told my mother that Sara, his sister, could cut off the sleeves to make it short sleeved. We said yes and 10 minutes later I was on my way to work! When I arrived dressed in blue jeans, tennis shoes, my white short-sleeved dress shirt, Bennie clipped on the signature red string bow tie, which I still have stored in a cigar box, and I was an official bag boy at Zack’s Grocery Store. Life was good!
I worked at Zack’s all during my high school years and when I think about those days, I am so glad that I lived in McDonough during a time when everyone who came through those small-town grocery store doors had a story to tell and someone who took the time to listen.
Jeff Reeves is a lifelong resident of McDonough and has recently joined the Times as an advertising sales representative. He and his wife Betsy have one son.