Hancock Peanut Company

Life at Hancock Peanut Company in the 1960’s

“In the 60’s I started out working at Hancock Peanut Company, summers and weekends, in the store across the road from the “mill” as we called it, as I was too young to get a work permit to work in the mill. I worked with George D. “Daddy Buck” Hedgepeth pumping gas, serving hot dogs and barbecue, cleaning bathrooms, and picking up litter. Daddy Buck and I became good buddies. I remember when sales tax was added to purchases. The workers would buy a single item, such as a drink, and pay for it to avoid paying sales tax. They would then select a second item and pay for it.

The next year when I was 15 I graduated to the mill. I was the only “white boy” laborer and was given the nickname “None” by the other workers with whom I became friends. I was called that because they said “You ain’t never had none, don’t want none, ain’t gonna ever get none”. We spent the summer loading box cars and trailers with bags of peanuts. I was expected to pull my load which kept me in shape for football season. A hand truck with 4 to 5 bags of shelled peanuts often lifted me off my feet as I pushed them up a ramp and into a trailer. Box cars were a real challenge as two of us had to stack bags to the top of the car.

When times were slow we hid in cold storage and played a card game they called “Tonk”. One day we were playing on a high stack of peanut bags when I slipped and disappeared in a crevice between the stacks. Me friends quickly rescued me.

Uncle Garth would often give me special projects. One day he asked be to take a dump truck and a worker and drive to his cottage in Tuscarora, NC. to spread mulch and clean up the yard. What an adventure as I could drive a straight shift but had never driven a vehicle as large as a dump truck. Every Friday I had to spray two warehouses with insecticide. I left soaked in the mixture. I also got to bag both shelled and unshell peanuts into smaller bags for locals and tourists to purchase. The occasional tourist would ask where they could see a peanut tree. Every now and then a truck loaded with watermelons would visit the scales to be weighted. If we were lucky we might get a free melon or two.

Uncle Garth and Harvey Pope liked to play golf and would give me the afternoon “off” to caddy. While I got paid less to caddy, I was grateful that Uncle Garth allowed me to work at the mill.

I enjoyed my time at the mill. They were great times that made great memories.” – Sammy Johnson | 3.26.2024

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