Century: Then and Now
ASHS column for 3 29 07
Jerry Simmons

     Century is a "small town with a magical ame and a unique spirit of its own, one of sawdust and Florida panthers. Like all small towns, it’s the place every kid promises he’ll leave at the first opportunity and never go back."
     So says novelist Tony
Simmons, talking about his book "Welcome to the Dawning of a New Century."
     In the book, one of the characters muses about the town dying, that it had outlived its usefulness. As one crosses the overpass
from Alabama into Florida, the four-lane highway reveals that the first parts of the town are "laid out
before you in shades of asphalt, concrete, and rust." The road is "bounded these days by old store-
fronts and older houses, by rotted shotgun shacks and
rusted mobile homes—and dotted here and there by open gas stations, closed and collapsing stores, and intermittent signs of renovation among the desolated."                                                       

     That’s only what can be seen along the highway, the author continues. A traveler could not see the "things that made the town what it was and could be again, the portions of history and architecture that existed off Highway 29, where Century had begun."
     All of these things he writes are true, especially the last part about the way it once was and could be again. The reluctance of all the present people to take part in making the town safe, secure and a great place to raise children is the greatest obstacle to that happening.
     Attending town council meetings, one can sense the interest of one group of people and the lack of concern by another group. The town is definitely divided along racial lines in that respect. It seems the majority of people who believe in the significance of town government and most often attend the meetings are blacks, while the whites stand around and lament what’s going on at city hall.
     If the whole town doesn’t get involved, and that means all races, then the whining should cease; but the town may truly die.
     Many recall the days of The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company and the way Mr. Hauss ran the mill and the town like a benevolent dictator. During that time, the town was well-kept, there was no crime to speak of, and people left their doors unlocked at night. The culture of that day was innocent compared to today, but it is a fact that Mr. Hauss was like a father to his employees and townspeople, whether they were black or white and whether they realized it at the time.
     Will Jones, a long-time employee of The ASLC and who worked in the office, was one of the first to be terminated when the Company sold out. There was an agreement with the newly-formed liquidating company (Alger Tenants-in-Common) that all employees would be kept. Also the agreement was that the mill would continue to operate in its usual way, furnishing employment to old and lifetime employees. There was to be no one to lose their jobs but Mr. Hauss, then Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Miller, then company President.
     On February 22, 1957, just over 50 years ago, Mr. Jones stated he, along with many others, did lose their jobs.
     Jones said, "Mr. Hauss was in the halls of the office when the ones to be kept and the ones let go were called in. I went by his office and said to him, ‘Well, I guess you know what [is] taking place.’"
      Hauss replied that he knew something was up, and when Jones told him, Hauss replied that it was not the way it was supposed to go. Jones said, "I feel sure that it was for this reason that Mr. Hauss wanted all records pertaining to The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company destroyed. He loved his old and faithful employees and he had a feeling that he had been betrayed in his dealings."
     My own father had the utmost respect for Mr. Hauss, and was in awe of him as well. Hauss and my grandfather, Aubrey Simmons, were good friends and were the two most senior employees of the company at its demise.
     My whole life has been about this little town, and it’s sometimes hard to accept that my son feels like it’s a place he might never want to come back to, as he says in his book. However, I felt somewhat the same when I left the area in the early1980s, but from the time I left, my fond memories of growing up here pulled on me to come back. I’ve been back "home" now since 1992 and I’m mighty happy that I am.
     This is one reason I hope all the political infighting and the problems facing the town will eventually be resolved. People who can do that will receive my utmost thanks. But it won’t be one person; it has to be everyone really pulling together and not giving lip service only.
     Y’all come.


A car (1937 Chevrolet??) making the turn onto Front Street from Jefferson. The picture was taken from the front gate of the Aubrey Simmons home (Mayo house) ca 1946.

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This page last modified on Sunday, April 01, 2007