Mr. Butch Long of White House Fork retired from the purchasing and warehouse department of Baldwin EMC in 2012. We asked him to sit down with Tim Hobbs, who took over Long’s position as manager of the department in 2012 and has been has been with Baldwin EMC for 20 years.
Tim Hobbs: I had the pleasure of working with you for a few weeks before you retired, but when did you first come on board at Baldwin EMC?
Butch Long: I started in February of 1979 and had six months to learn my job before [Hurricane] Frederic hit and everything was crazy after that.
T.H.: Did you start out in Summerdale?
B.L.: No, when I was hired I worked up in the Bay Minette office. I had always wanted to work for the co-op and finally made it. I thought I wanted to be a lineman, but the warehouse wound up being a good fit. Up there, I worked mostly in the warehouse, but was up front a little, taking bills, and sometimes I’d work after-hours as a mechanic. Back then, you just did whatever they asked you to do. I even did a little staking as well.
T.H.: How many employees worked in Bay Minette at that time?
B.L.: Oh, there were about a dozen of us or so. We were so tight-knit, it was like a family. If someone was sick or there was a new baby, we were always cooking for them, just helping each other out. I can remember a lot of laughing and cutting up, but we always got the work done.
T.H.: So when did you move to the Summerdale office?
B.L.: After about five years I was moved to headquarters and worked my way up to manager of purchasing and warehouse.
T.H.: I’m sure everything was different in the department back then, in terms of keeping inventory.
B.L.: Well, you had to have great penmanship because we wrote everything out by hand! You had to know the codes for the connectors and parts like that. There was a special book we had to break down all the work orders.
T.H.: You didn’t have a pick list?
B.L.: Sure, I did. I had to make my own! Now everything’s punched into a computer and it makes it a whole lot simpler. I still remember staying over a whole weekend when we transferred all those numbers over to a computer. It was a lot of work, but it ended up being such a blessing.
T.H.: How else did the co-op change over the years you worked here?
B.L.: Well, after Frederic hit, everything was blown wide open. The beach was completely wiped out and all of the sudden everyone was putting up these big condos, changing the landscape, and the rest is history. I was here for the warehouse expansion in 2011. That was a huge improvement.
T.H.: I guess everything just keeps growing.
B.L.: It’s still growing today, but now I can enjoy it in retirement.
T.H.: What have you been doing to keep yourself busy, anyway?
B.L.: I play with a bluegrass group and I travel quite a bit throughout the southeast and the Carolinas. I’ve been playing the banjo for 30 years. I also have a woodworking shop and that keeps me busy.
T.H.: What was your favorite part about working here?
B.L.: I loved how it just felt like an extension of family. By now a lot of the guys I worked with have passed on, but we used to get together once a year, with our families, like a big reunion. It was fun and I always looked forward to that.