I’m not really sure what Dad did after he and the family moved to the “old Willis Schoolhouse” in 1939. He told me that he had worked for Clark Tire Service in Gastonia at some time for a couple years; I believe it could have been during this time before he went into the Army in 1941. I knew that Dad had been in the Army during World War II, and I had always assumed that he, like many of his young friends, had joined after hearing about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I had always wondered why and how Dad had been spared the horrors of being shipped overseas and fighting on the front lines. It was not until I started this family research that I may have found the answer. In Dad’s belongings, I found his “selective service” card from July 1941 that had classified him as 1-A; and I also had his service discharge papers which showed that he had not “enlisted” but had been “inducted” in August of 1941; so he had actually been drafted four months before the Pearl Harbor attack. I’m sure when he reported to Fort Bragg for induction, Dad was probably not that excited about the path his life was taking; but apparently this, what you might say became a fortuitous little life event, is what kept him here in the states for the entire duration of the War. Since he had received all his training, and had shown expertise in doing so, he was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama to join an Infantry Training Battalion, and in doing so he became a part of the training corps that would ultimately train many of those other GI’s who joined the Army after the December attack and that would ultimately fight the battles.
Since I wasn’t around and I never asked the question; I’ll rely on my sisters who apparently did ask the question of how our parents met. According to them, our parents were introduced to each other through their younger siblings. It seems that Roy Lee McGinnis and Rachel Rhodes had met somewhere; possibly at school, or a “swing dance”, or maybe even at an “old tent revival” ( I understand that was supposedly a good place for “youngsters” to meet ); but I don’t really know. I do know that my parents were both 25 years old when they married on February 7th, 1942; and with a little time computation it appears that Roy Lee was probably about 18 years old when he met the 15 year old Rachel. According to their marriage certificate, Roy Lee was 20 and Rachel was only 17 when they married in February of 1943. I think it very possible that Rachel’s parents would not allow Rachel to date the older Roy Lee unless they were accompanied by a chaperone. I think the idea of introducing my parents to each other created the perfect chaperone couple for Roy Lee and Rachel; problem solved. The rest is history, and the two unions led to the off-spring that would be the “double-first cousins”.
Even though our Mother joined our Dad in Alabama while he was stationed there, Mother returned to Gaston County to give birth to my two oldest sisters, Dian and Charlotte. At the war’s end, Dad was discharged in October of 1945, and he returned once again to the old Willis Schoolhouse in Dallas. He was determined to acquire a farm, and to carry on the occupation of his father. It didn’t take him long to lay the groundwork for that dream when in April of 1946 he purchased a 35.5 acre tract of land on Kiser Road; not very far off of Philadelphia Church Road, and a little over a mile from where the family was living. It would be years before he would have some of the land cleared and build the house that we would all eventually call home. Dad was able to utilize his “GI Bill” benefits to receive a meager stipend and to attend the local school where he attended classes in “modern farming techniques” given by the local Gaston County Agricultural Extension Agency.
As his “GI” benefits came to an end, and as a supplement to his farm income, he eventually took a job with Summer Hardware and Implement in the town of Dallas; he may have had other jobs along the way as well, but this job is my first childhood recollection of his employment. I believe it was around this time that our Dad had to make a decision about the path he would take; he found himself with a wife and four children under the age of 12, and he probably questioned whether working for a salary would be better for his family than a life of farming where income could be an uncertainty. He had invested money, time, and toil in clearing land where he had intended to plant crops that would support his family, but as he ultimately made the decision to ease into the world of time-on-the-clock; he hatched another venture in his mind. He learned that he could obtain through the forestry service, at little to no cost, tree seedlings; as long as he agreed to plant them. So on his cleared land, about three acres in front of our house and another 10-12 acre field on the property, he planted 10,000 cedar trees (the number that I seem to recall, it could have been more, but I don’t believe less). It may have seemed like a crazy idea to most people at the time, but within about 8 years or so, he was selling the trees to individuals and by the truckload as Christmas trees. It never provided the fortune that he probably sought, but it did provide a little extra money for the family at Christmas time. So while he did go off to work in the farm implement business, he remained a farmer; a tree farmer.
Little did he know that his job at Summey Hardware; one where he was responsible for ordering and selling the repair parts for all the local farmer’s tractors and equipment, would be the foundation for what would become his life’s occupation. He would eventually become the “parts manager” at the John Deere Company in Charlotte, and would even follow his entrepreneurial spirit in trying to open (with a partner) his own tractor and implement company in Rock Hill, SC. Unfortunately, I believe he received such opposition from me and the rest of our family against making that move to Rock Hill that he pulled out of the venture and put his goal of owning his own company on hold. In a round about way, the job he had in Charlotte would actually lead him to his next employment tract. Since he was having to drive to Charlotte everyday, he decided to buy a Volkswagen van and to start a “car pool” to share the expenses for the commute. This automobile purchase fueled his love of and commitment to the Volkswagen; the family owned three VW’s in the early 1960’s (as can be seen in the photo gallery), and this would lead him in time to take the position of “parts manager” for the Volkswagen dealership in Gastonia. He would later make a move to take the same “parts manager” position at the VW dealership in Shelby.
Within about a year or so after I graduated high school in 1971, it was with great heartache to my sisters and me that we found out that Mother and Dad had decided to separate, and that was finalized with a divorce a couple years later. I believe it was probably sometime in 1975, while working in Shelby, that he was approached by a salesman representing a fairly new auto parts company called “Carquest” about opening an associated, independently owned auto parts store under their banner name. I believe the idea re-ignited his life long dream of owning his own business. I had worked several summers with Dad in the dealership parts departments and had gained some knowledge of the “automotive parts” field. It so happened that I had left N.C. State a few months earlier and was still trying to find meaningful, long-term employment. I think all this played into Dad giving real consideration to the “Carquest” idea; so after offering Ellen and me, and my sister Charlotte and her husband Ray, a chance to join him in his new venture, we opened “Carolina Country Auto Parts” in early 1976. We opened the store in the old “First National Bank” building at 148 W. Trade Street in Dallas; the old bank teller counter became our sales counter and the old bank vault became our office. We struggled our first year to find our customer base, and Ray and Charlotte decided it was best for them to pursue other business opportunities; but we eventually found our footing. We slowly grew the business enough to allow us to buy property and build a new store in Dallas in the early 1980’s. Dad was active in the business until about 1986, and even after that, between his cruises and charter bus trips, he tried his hand in becoming a distributor for a log cabin company and also in selling mobility equipment for the disabled. As for the parts store, I ultimately sold the business in 1992 in order to make that return trip to Raleigh and N.C. State.
In the late 1990’s, Dad began having issues with living on his own, so he moved into an assisted living facility in Gastonia. He found it hard to adjust to remaining on their property, and since he had a friend that lived less than a mile away, he would decide to walk to their house for a visit. On one of these walking visits, he stepped out in front of a car, was struck, and end up with a broken leg. This became the cause of his having to leave the assisted living facility, making the trip to be with us in Raleigh, needing to be hospitalized, and unfortunately leading to his death in February, 2001. He is buried beside his father and mother in the Philadelphia Lutheran Church cemetery outside of Dallas.