First Gas Station and Hospital in Haleyville

From the Haleyville Advertiser, October 10, 1952 & November 21, 1952

T.P. Blackwell, 76, lives in Memphis, Tennessee now, but he likes nothing better than reminiscing about the Haleyville he knew 45 years ago when he operated the first filling station in Winston County. Mr. Blackwell, hale and hearty in spite of his years, is a brother of Will Blackwell of Haleyville.

In 1909, Mr. Blackwell put in the first underground gasoline tank for his filling station. The tank held five barrels of gasoline. The station was located on Main Street in Haleyville where Odum's now is. Mr. Blackwell operated the station for ten years and owned the first commercial truck in the county. He says that he sold about 2500 gallons of gas annually at an average price of twelve and a half cents per gallon.

With a twinkle in his eye, Mr. Blackwell relates an incident that occurred while he was employed by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1907. The trestle over Brushy Creek was being built and a large number of men were working on it. One afternoon a work train, made up mostly of flat cars and gondolas with the engine in the middle, picked up the men and started backing up on the main line toward Haleyville. Upon reaching what was then known as the Clinton Siding, the train went on the side track but instead of stopping, began to gain speed. The engineer, a Mr. Perry, tried to stop the train, but discovered, to his horror, that he had no brakes at all and no air. He used up his supply of sand, but the train continued to pick up speed. The grade was steep, seven percent in places, and extremely crooked. Faster and faster the train sped. The fireman jumped, then in rapid succession, the 150 laborers jumped.

So did the officials, including the bride superintendent, a train dispatcher, and another high-ranking employee. The only ones left on the runaway train were the engineer and Mr. Blackwell, who was riding on the front car. The train rocked and rolled, the wheels screamed, and several times it looked like the train was going to leave the rails. But, finally the track leveled out, and the runaway slowed and came to a stop. Mr. Blackwell says he never thought of jumping at any time and the whole thing happened so fast that he didn't have time to be scared. After the incident was over, the officials called everyone together and asked them to keep the occurrence quiet because several might lose their jobs if it became known. Mr. Blackwell laughingly states that if anyone loses their job over it now, after 45 years, just call him, and he'll help them out.

Another incident related by Mr. Blackwell concerns the only person injured in any manner during the construction of Brushy Creek Trestle. It seems that Mr. Blackwell was quitting his job on the trestle and offered it to an acquaintance of his named Dave Pelfrey, who was only working part-time on the project. Mr. Pelfrey gladly accepted the job and one week later fell off the trestle to his death in the rocky stream below. That was in July 1907.

Mr. Blackwell's wife is in ill health now, and he spends most of his time attending to her needs, but he would like to hear from any railroad men who remember either of the two happenings mentioned in this story. His address is 1576 Glenview Avenue, Memphis, Tenn. He promises to answer all letters.

The Flack residence in Haleyville, located on the site of the present high school building, became the city's first hospital back in 1926.

Operated by the Snoddy brothers, Dr. Tom and Dr. Sam, the three story hospital was next to the highest railroad point in the state, the highest being at Spruce Pine, Ala. The grounds were graded down some 30 feet before the high school was built.

The first blood transfusion given in Winston County took place at this hospital. Here also, the first glucose in the county was administered. Dr. Sam Snoddy states that he is sure the first county tonsillectomy was performed here. Prior to that time, people had to go to Birmingham or to the Tri-Cities for such an operation.

The X-Ray machine at the first Haleyville Hospital was a huge thing and had to be transported here in a railroad car. It weighed several tons and was considered to be the last word in equipment. The same machine now is portable and can be carried in a suitcase. It is much more powerful than the old one.

The hospital was completely destroyed by fire in 1932. For a time after that Dr. Tom and Dr. Sam operated a clinic on Haleyville's Main Street. In 1933, Dr. Tom Snoddy moved to Russellville where he later died in 1934. Dr. Sam Snoddy moved to Russellville in 1934, but he came back to Haleyville a few years ago. Haleyville now has two very modern hospitals: Wilson and Blake-Manasco.