My father was born and raised in Shamrock, a small town 89 miles east of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. In its heyday there were 3,778 people living in the once popular stopover on historical Route 66. With the construction of Interstate-40, the town was bypassed and all but forgotten (think of the movie Cars before Lightening came to town). Today there are fewer than 2000 people living in Shamrock.
Shamrock has become a sad and dismal place with many lawns that have not been tended, partly due to harsh winters and frequent droughts, but mostly, I believe, because the residents have lost some of their spirit. With the loss of tourists, Shamrock is little more than home to one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country and the famous U-Drop Inn, which inspired Ramone’s auto paint shop in Cars.
My grandfather, Joseph Marshall Adams, owned and operated Adams Motor Freight for a number of years. It was Shamrock’s sole transfer and storage company. He had four trucks that hauled mostly military goods, arms and equipment to US Air Force Bases in Amarillo and Oklahoma City.
In 1944 my grandfather sold his trucking business and purchased the Douglas Hardware Store. He changed the name to Adams Hardware.
Three years later my father was born.
Leroy Wall was one of the store’s most loyal and trusted employees. He made deliveries, repaired refrigerators, washers, driers, installed windmill parts, pipes, etc. Leroy worked at the hardware store for more than 20 years and remained a close family friend for the remainder of his life.
My grandmother, Ruby McCasland Adams, had worked in the early 1930’s for American Telephone and Telegraph Company as a telephone operator. Although she had helped out at the hardware store, she had little knowledge of many of the important functions until my grandfather’s sudden death in 1953 from a heart attack.
Ruby, with three young sons at home had little choice other than to assume the full responsibility of running Adams Hardware. Leroy Wall was a huge factor in her ultimate success. Her sons Robert, a senior in high school, and David, an eighth grader, helped after school and during school breaks. My father, Michael, was just six years old when he lost his dad, but helped the family out by sweeping floors and other odd jobs.
My grandmother was told by the owners of Kersh-Griffin, one of the competing hardware stores in Shamrock, that her business would not last a year. Already a pillar of strength, I can only imagine what this comment did for her determination. Needless to say, Adams Hardware outlasted the other three hardware stores by many many years.
When Ruby died in a tragic car accident in August 1979, her oldest son Robert elected to stay local and manage the store. David lived, worked and was raising his family in Dallas and my father was about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of his life; he and my mother had accepted teaching positions in Karachi, Pakistan. I had just turned seven years old and would be in my mother’s second grade class that fall.
The hardware store was built in 1900 and to this day is a sight to behold. The original wood floors are still beautiful and the ceiling is entirely covered in tin tiles, probably worth a small fortune. The cash register, scale and safe, as well as the show cases and fixtures date from the late 1800’s. My sister and I have an etched glass scissors case and are proud to have this small reminder of our family’s early years.
Sadly, Adams Hardware has been closed for the past 15 years, along with many of Shamrocks once thriving businesses. The shelves and storage area still contain unsold merchandise and share the space with my uncle Robert’s vast Coca Cola memorabilia. Everything sits as if frozen in time, preserving memories, family history and collecting dust.
This post was written with love (and a little help from my aunt Gail and uncle David) for Lucas, Leah, my father and my hero, Ruby.