The Beginning of the Golden Years

While the Great Depression ushered in difficult financial times, it also marked the beginning of tobacco's phenomenal growth in the Fairmont area. Ironically, it started when Fairmont lost their sales supervisor, R. W. McFarland, to the Lumberton market. McFarland had been in Fairmont for eight years and was a veteran of the tobacco business. Under his leadership, pounds sold went from 5,000,000 in 1924 to 18,500,000 in 1929 and more than 31,000,000 in 1931.

C. B. Rowlett was sales supervisor in 1932 and 1933. I. A. (Shorty) Barnes was supervisor in 1934 through 1936. Neither of these men distinguished themselves though both were competent tobacconists. Members of the Tobacco Board of Trade felt that something extra was needed and, in the spring of 1937, hired Charles B. Stafford of Clarksville, TN as Sales Supervisor and Executive Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

Stafford grew up in the tobacco business. His father, A. C. Stafford, owned a tobacco company in Clarksville, TN and Charlie grew up helping his dad. After graduating from prep school he took a job in Clarksville to learn to be a calculator and stayed there for seven years. He then spent eighteen years in Greenville, NC as a calculator and book man. He came to the Fairmont market with 25 years of experience working on the floor during the sale.

Charlie Stafford was perfect for the Fairmont market. He knew all the important people in the industry on a first name basis. His knowledge and skills merged perfectly with the warehouse owners who also were knowledgeable tobacconists. Charlie stayed abreast of industry goings on. He was the first to know of an approaching problem -- mold, black shank, etc., and often secured the services of the Tobacco Research Service to help remedy the situation.

He made certain that Fairmont's sales results were highly publicized in area newspapers and on radio, making sure to cite not only the farmer who owned the crop but the tenant who grew it. After the season he would have the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a dance or a chicken bog for the farmers and tenants. He constantly travelled throughout North and South Carolina promoting our market and was responsible for designing and selling the "Tobacco -- Fairmont Leads" license plates, posters and billboards that became associated with Fairmont.

When the U. S. Department of Agriculture began to formulate rules to regulate tobacco sales, Stafford and several other well-connected industry leaders went to Washington, DC to try to have input into the way price controls worked. The result was a relatively smooth transition for farmers and warehousemen.

Stafford continued the Fairmont market's daily program on WBT Charlotte. It came on at 6:15 p.m. during the season and gave the day's market report. He did not do it live as he would when WFMO began broadcasting in 1953 but phoned the station himself to give the report. He was hired to increase the market's visibility throughout the two Carolinas and he understood what the new medium could bring our town.

Planters Warehouse was built by W. L. Gregory and E. E. Bullock of Oxford, NC. They were joined in the warehouse operation by N. B. Tuck of Henderson, NC and G. P. Royster of Oxford. The house was located at the intersection of Cottage and Walnut Streets and made a significant increase in the available floorspace on the market.

In 1939, Joseph and John Monroe Holliday built Holliday Warehouse on South Main Street where the community park is located. They partnered with C. A. Blankenship and Earnest H. Frye to operate the warehouse. They were the eighth warehouse operating in town. The Hollidays were one of the largest tobacco growers in the world and their move to the Fairmont market was a large plus for everyone involved.

All of these events set the stage for the phenomenal growth of the Fairmont Tobacco Market in the late 1940s and early 1950s.


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