The May 18 full moon, some call The Flower Moon, a blue moon because it is an extra full moon for the season, illuminated the heavy blossoms of the blackberry brambles around our hometown that now bakes in 90-degree weather.
I estimate that Giles Auto has been in business for about 70 years and one man has been there most of those years.
You know Darrell Giles and his older bother, Landon Giles. There is also a living sister, Peggy Blazer. But my recent encounter came after Sharon Bryant at the Plain Talk told me that Darrell had an interesting old book for me to see.
Darrell’s daughter, Debbie, helped me coordinate my visit last week—I believe on a not-so-hot Monday compared to what has happened to temperatures since then. Darrell was at the counter looking up parts and helping customers. Then he went to get the big book.
He brought out one of those courthouse-style larger document holders with metal spine. The pages must be about 12-by-16 inches, and every other page was a detailed map in fine blue lines and writing. Later I learned it was a TVA survey book.
There was no date on it but I estimate it went back over 50 years. The pages had maps of Hawkins, Cocke, Hamblen, Carter counties and specific maps of Rogersville, Nolichucky River, Church Hill, Clinch Mountain, and Holston Valley.
Many names I never heard of such as Gravelly Valley, Short Mountain, Gun Town, and others I did know, Brushy Mountain. Where did this interesting book come from?
Darrell didn’t know the exact origin but he found it earlier this year when removing personal items from an old building at his campground Off Cosby Highway. He has sold that property at Green Forest Road to a Knoxville doctor. That explains some house renovation work I’ve seen taking place.
He is kin to Wade Giles, former Newport City Recorder. Darrell’s father was Benton “Windy” Giles, former general sessions judge and county squire. Maybe they were able to get hold of the TVA book?
Glancing at the maps, and there were many dozen. We began to review the years and family connections. I asked when they had moved into the current Giles Auto location. He walked over to a sidewall and removed a large frame showing Plain Talk articles I had written in September 2006. That was the time the new store opened in what had been the Floyd Crowell recapping business.
Darrell will turn 80 on Sept. 2 and promises to finally retire sometime during his 80th year. I’m not betting on that. He looks younger, happy and is glad to talk and help his customers. But he does have some health issues.
Since he was about age 15, Darrell helped Windy who was running the Economy Outpost Store in Newport for Walter “Cathead” Shults, who was in the war. He was an uncle to the Giles clan. Another retailer of that era you old timers will recall is Eddie Skylar.
Benton and wife, Lillian (Cureton) Giles, had six children. I’ve named three and the deceased girls were: Kathleen Murr, Betty Evans, and Leona Fowler.
I asked, what Cureton family and perhaps my late friend M. L. Cureton? Darrell said yes, they were related.
Windy was a worker and saved $1,500 during the hard World War II years, enough to fund his own auto parts store. It opened where the Plain Talk & Tribune (PT&T) had been in the building now occupied by Willie and Robin Green’s Newport Office Supplies. In that same building, PT&T photographer Preston Moore had his photo darkroom.
By the mid 1950s Darrell was working with Windy. By 1959 he had married Louzella Lane. They have three children: Debbie Parks, Rusty who runs the Auto Parts store day-to-day, and Karen Denise Giles, who works at Newport Utilities.
“I was barefooted many days at the store,” said Darrell. I’m sure he was a tall lanky teenager with a keen interest in autos and auto parts. “I liked people.He recalled that Windy would sit outside on the stone window ledge during lunch and often sold a Case knife or two to men walking by.
Landon is three years older than Darrell, so when Windy was ready to retire the sons bought the business. It was then located at what I call the Bryant building across from Gary Kyker’s Auto Service off East Broadway. That’s where the business was when I knew it in 1972.
Giles Auto is still very much a family operated business and one of the last such in this area. Rusty is young enough to keep the doors open for many years and he has the help of another old timer like Darrell, Jim Williams, who is much younger.
We will check back in a few years to see.