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Vita Sua in a Bygone Mobile

Part 8 in a series: Business and sentiment share quarters uneasily and when a resolution finally comes, it's a Schock.

Previous installments: 1, 2 , 3 , 456, and 7.

By A.D.
Mobile Bay Times
These 1959 days were difficult ones for me. I was still working evenings at the paper. After finishing my day at SR, if there was still a little time before my 5 p.m. reporting hour at the paper, I would go by mother's house to check on the tenants, collect rents, or whatever needed to be done. Or perhaps just lie down for a bit of rest before going on to the newspaper job.

I would come back to mother's house for supper about 7 o'clock.
In the past mother had always prepared my supper on the evenings
when I worked at the paper and it was a great joy for her to have me there. It is very
lonesome fixing a
meal just for one's

With mother gone, I
would prepare some
canned soup or other
such food as needed
only warming.

It was gloomy in the
evenings in that quiet
apartment. All around
me were the
precious treasures
that mother had
gathered over the years, drawing on resources that were always rather meager. She had obtained some beautiful antique pieces and particularly in recent years, with the children no longer draining her resources, had made her little section of the world a beautiful place, amidst a downtown area that was slowly decaying all about her.

I very seldom missed  a day going by the house, even on the days when I did not work at the paper. It may be difficult for a reader to understand but, I'm sure, in my mind, each time I came by, I was visiting my mother. There was a certain comfort in being surrounded by the things that were dear to her.

I have seldom visited her grave site. That isn't mother. Mother is that old apartment, with those lovely things so painstakingly and slowly gathered over the years.

It pained me to know that all those relics would soon have to go. It made absolutely no sense to keep the old house and, even if we had, after a few years of neglect, it would have become a shambles. In this day and age, when hardly anyone lives in town, it would have long ago been looted by vandals.

Our rental income in 1959 was $2,034.50 and we cleared $1,202.70 before depreciation.

In 1960 we had a more stable year, just 11 tenants in the five apartments, grossed $2,072.50 and netted $1,021.71 before depreciation. That was the year, however, that we lost one of the two remaining tenants of mother's day, Mrs. Flossie Smith.

The tenants which we were getting in those days weren't the cream of society and Mrs. Smith, who loved quiet and order, finally could stand it no longer. I hated to lose her, for, although she always greeted me with a barrage of complaints when I came by, she was, of course, a good tenant and one of the few remaining ties to my mother.

However, Mrs. Smith came back to us in 1961. She had lost her job as switchboard operator at the old Battle House Hotel and needed cheaper lodging.

I made the difficult decision of renting mother's apartment to her. As it turned out, she was only able to pay the rent for one month and, after that, lived there without charge in return for looking after the house.

By that time, I had left my job at the paper and did not get to visit the house nearly as often as I had done in the past.

Early in 1961, we
lost another of
mother's tenants
when Mrs. Bassett
died. The links to
mother's days at
57 South Lawrence
Street were grad-
ually dissolving.

With Mrs. Smith
in mother's apart-
ment I could no
longer indulge my-
self in my bitter-
sweet habit of
spending an hour
or so reminiscing in
those surroundings. Of course, I visited her from time to time but it wasn't the same.

The old house, by now, was living on borrowed time. It was just a matter of time before I would be confronted by the necessity of some major repair, which might very well take an entire year's gross income or more. Had that happened, it would have been a tough decision for the three of us to make -- whether to throw good money after bad or to shutter the place.

Of course I was most anxious to keep the house going as a profit-making operation. Albert Schock, my potential buyer, on the other hand, was biding his time, awaiting the day when I would find it too difficult and too expensive to maintain and would sell to him at almost any price to get it off my hands.

I knew that he was under some pressure for he had to find parking spaces for tenants. He made temporary arrangements at parking areas within a few blocks of his building but his tenants weren't too pleased with these arrangements and, when he had vacancies, he sometimes lost prospective tenants because he could not provide on-premises parking.

Early in 1964 we lost Mrs. Smith. Unable to find employment, she had reached the point where she couldn't make it even with free rent. She was forced to move in with a niece who lived on Old Shell Road and there she lived the last few years until her death. 

My landlord days now were nearing an end. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to spend much time at the house, the downtown area was obviously fast moving into a Ghost-town as far as residents were concerned and, hanging over me, all the time, was the certainty that before long I would be confronted with a major repair bill.

Out of the blue, Albert Schock came to our rescue.          

(Chapter IX: The wrecking ball, the parking lot, all gone but memories.
Motorists pull in to fill up at Billups, selling gas for 18 cents a gallon. phote courtesy of USA Archives
Uncle Henry

Some of Mobile's latter day Southern belles in crinoline grace the entrance to the old Roxy Theater at the local premiere of "Gone With The Wind." photo courtesy of USA archives
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