You grew up on a farm. Did that prepare you to work at a Co-op?
Our farm was in Cullman County and I grew up with five brothers and
sisters. We lived just four miles east of Cullman. Daddy’s property,
where we used to farm, now joins the Cullman Medical Center. We
lived in a community with no name and I went to East Point School for
eight years. I graduated from Cullman High School in 1955. We just
had our 50th reunion.
Did you go?
Fifty year reunion and fifty year career; you must have started at the
Co-op right out of high school.
Yes, I did. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got out of
high school. My daddy said, "The Farmers Exchange (at Cullman
County) wants you to come in and work a few days." Carl Ellard was
my boss and every night I would say, "You want me to come back
tomorrow?" Finally, he said, "You keep coming back until I
tell you not to." I’ve worked steady with the Co-op ever
since; never asked for a job and never drew an unemployment
So you were an on-the-job training project?
I’ve had good teachers. I couldn’t have done it without the
managers and employees I’ve worked with through the years.
Chad Federer (Manager, Cullman County) says one of your secrets is
that you "sorta mother us a little bit."
(Laughing) I guess I do tend to mother the ones I am working with
now. They are so young! But very good at their jobs.
has good things to say about you, too. He admires the fact that you pay
attention to what you’re doing and when you get it done, you get it
right. And he also said this: "For a lady or woman in an
agribusiness retail store like she ran, there’s not another one in the
Co-op system that has been successful like hers. The attitudes of
farmers about women, you know, but she’s earned their respect."
Before I became a manager, I always tried to keep in mind that if this
store was mine, would I do this or would I do that and I kept that
thought when I was running the store. I tried to make my best interest
How did you happen to become the first female manager of a Quality
Mackie was the manager at the Walker Farmers Co-op and he called and
asked me if I would take the job. I didn’t think I could do it.
We talked on a little bit and he said, "If it
gets to be too much for you, you can step down and
do your old job."
Was that a con?
I think he thought I would be more comfortable if he put it that
way. I did a lot of praying about it. I knew lots of people down there,
but I think it was the responsibility that really gave me mixed
feelings. I had been in the store about a year when we decided to
expand, and I thought "goodness gracious, I’m going to
have to make a $1400 a month payments." I think I worried more
about making those payments more than a man would.
How many stores in all have you worked?
Besides Jasper and Cullman, I was at the Arab store part-time. Next thing
I knew I was manager there for about 10 months. Steve Hodges took my
place and I came to the Cullman store part-time.
Do you have a philosophy about work?
My daddy said before he died, he wasn’t able to give us a whole
lot growing up, but one thing he did was teach each one of us to work.
His advice has served me well. Another thing is I have always
tried to take care of other people’s things with the care I would give
What do you do when you’re not working?
I love to keep my yard and I like to travel when I get the chance to go.
Back in June I went to South Dakota on a farm tour trip. In August I
went to Italy and Switzerland. That was a wonderful trip, and I’ve
made a few other short trips around here. I’m not ready to stop
working, though. I’ll keep working until they run me off or I get to
where I am not able.
would surprise people to know about you?
I don’t know how many people it would surprise, but I have been
going with a man for about two years. We go out twice a week. I have
known Kenneth Neal for 40 years. I was best friends with his wife.
Really nice people.
You are the most active semi-retired person we know. How do you do
I get up at 4 every morning and walk until 6:30 with a friend. I try to
do it at least four to five times a week.
Why not retire again and live it up full time?
You know, when I’m not working, I automatically answer the
phone, "Cullman Farmers Co-op." I said I would
never marry a farmer, but I guess I’m married to the Co-op.
Sharp is a freelance writer from Alabaster.