Alec Armstrong’s Always Been A Working Man

alec_clippedsmallBy JOEL McNEECE
Alec Armstrong is proud to say he’s a “working man.” He was cutting timber at 11-years-old and hasn’t quit working since. “I never had just one job. I’ve always worked two,” said the 79-year-old Armstrong. “I worked night and day, seven days a week.”

Alec Armstrong is proud to say he’s a “working man.” He was cutting timber at 11-years-old and hasn’t quit working since. “I never had just one job. I’ve always worked two,” said the 79-year-old Armstrong. “I worked night and day, seven days a week.”

He still does. He works every morning at the Piggly Wiggly in Bruce. Afterwards he’s often seen working for “almost everybody in town it seems like.”
alec_clipped_oneHe mows grass, cuts hedges – whatever job needs doing, Armstrong is always willing and eager to work.
His tireless work ethic was instilled in him at a very young age. Armstrong was born and raised in the Mt. Tabor Community west of Pittsboro. He never met his mother, never even saw a picture of her. He and his brother, Rod Armstrong of Pittsboro, were raised by their father, Walter Armstrong, and grandmother, Frances McKey on the family farm.
“We didn’t lack for anything,” Armstrong said. “My father was a good father. He made sure we never did without.”
His father later married Lucille Shaw, who died in 1944.
“She was the only mother I ever knew,” Armstrong said.
His father died of pneumonia when Armstrong was 18.
“I just remember coming home and he was in the bed real sick,” Armstrong said. “He went to sleep and never woke up. I’ve been on my own ever since.”
Armstrong said he was big for his age, so at age 11 he was able to get a job cutting gum logs for the railroad.
“They would come by the house and pick me up in the truck every morning,” Armstrong said.
He worked with a man who went by the nickname “P-Vine Hall.”
“I held the saw and he would pull it,” Armstrong said.
So began a long career of work. He got a job in Bruce at Woodrow James’ service station where Clint’s is now.
“I remember people always calling me ‘grease monkey’ because I was covered in grease from working on the cars,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t care. It was a good job and Mr. Woodrow was good to me.”
He worked on the Martin Terry farm driving tractors and whatever else needed doing.
“I always had a way with tractors,” Armstrong said. “I could get on one for the first time and drive it like I had been on it for years. I can’t explain it.”
He worked for Dr. Davis for years on his farm and cut timber for years with Theron Plunk. He worked on the Boyd Construction crews that built the bridges over the Skuna River.
He worked at Buddy Massey’s Shell station on the corner of Hwys. 32 and 9. He spent 12 years at E.L. Bruce Company working in the hardwood flooring shop.
He drove trucks all over the country for 22 years. He said it was one of the favorite jobs he’s ever had.
“I liked moving around and going new places all the time,” he said.
He eventually quit it because it had become so dangerous and he needed to be closer to home to tend to his family.
He married Nona Ruth Armstrong in 1951 at the age of 21. They had two children – James Armstrong, who works with the IRS in Jackson; and Dorothy Jean Armstrong, who worked for Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. She passed away in 1987. His wife Nona Ruth died in 2000.
Other jobs through the years included a stint at Kellwood in the shipping department. He worked for Bobby Steele at Calhoun Apparel from 1992-99.
He worked at Ed Reid’s service station, Bruce Telephone Company, at Joe Holley’s sawmill and so many more.
“I’ve worked a little for everybody,” Armstrong said. “I even trained horses for a little while.”
Among his more exciting work was after hours. He worked as a bartender for more than 30 years at parties and gatherings throughout the region.
“The first opportunity I was given, I didn’t know anything about mixing any drinks,” Armstrong said. “But it was good work, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.”
Among Armstrong’s longest acquaintances was Jesse Yancy Jr. – reknowned politician from Bruce who served as City of Bruce attorney, district attorney and as a state senator.
“Jesse Jr. would carry me everywhere,” Armstrong said. “He was my lawyer, my boss man, my everything. He was a great friend.”
“I have so many tales of our good times together, but I better keep those to myself,” Armstrong said with a big smile.
Armstrong takes great pride in his home on the corner of Cook and George streets. It was one of the first brick homes in Bruce.
“There wasn’t nothing here when I built this house,” Armstrong said. “This whole area was just cotton and cow pastures.”
Armstrong also takes great pride in his children and five grandchildren.
“I worked to put both my kids through college,” Armstrong said. “That was very important to me.”
Asked why he was so determined to work at such a young age, Armstrong said for survival first, but also to provide more for his family.
“I wanted to have something,” Armstrong said. “Back then only the white people had the new cars and the big nice homes. I wanted that, too.”
“I didn’t want to go begging for it,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to get it on my own. That’s why I’ve always worked like I do. I didn’t care about white, black, blue, yellow, whatever color people, I just wanted to work hard and do the best I could for myself and my family.”
Armstrong said if there’s one thing he can impart on the young people today it’s “go to school and work.”
“Go to school. Go to church and go to work,” Armstrong said. “That’s how I made it – I worked.”
“Get a job and commit to it,” Armstrong said. “Do the job. Don’t try to run the job. If you’re willing to work hard, everything you want can be yours.”

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