Monday, April 16, 2018

“Underneath that metal, there is a building made of oak.” Said Mr. Woods. He was talking to the buyer of his home on Austell Powder Springs Road. He spoke of how he acquired the place in parcels, over time. “The lady that built that shopping center had some land left over and she asked me if I wanted it. It was zoned commercial, but I lived there. My family lived there.”

Mr. Woods was a TV repairman. That’s not something you hear of these days, but in the sixties and seventies, you had to maintain your TV. Not everyone could afford to go out and buy a new one. We’d bang on the top, turn the vertical hold, move the rabbit ears, jiggle the buttons and finally call Mr. Woods. He would come to the house with his doctor’s bag and go to work.

Back then,Mr. Woods was tall and lean with black hair and a dark complexion. His eyes were deep-set and serious. He’d smile, but he was focused on his work and within minutes of walking in the house, he’d be focused on our TV. He’d ease it out from the wall and take the back off. He had been trained and certified on the most complex sets of those days. He was the only certified GE repairman for miles. We sat and talked about his TV days a couple of weeks ago.

“People would go to Sears and buy a new TV and I sold the same TV at my place.” He said, “Something would go wrong with the TV and Sears would send them to me so I was servicing the sets even though they drove right past me to buy one. I didn’t mind. I was paid by GE.”
Gene Woods made work look easy. He was one of those guys who could do anything. He seemed to approach everything in the most unconventional way, but the end result seemed to be better than if he’d followed the rules.

“The TVs in those days,” he said, “Were made here and there and one place would do something different than another place. I figured out how one set had a bad place on the board. It was always soldered when it should have been left open. After a while, this would cause a problem with that particular set. When I figured it out, I was fixing them all the time and GE wanted to know how I was fixing them because the other repairmen couldn’t figure it out. They were just replacing the sets. I started buying the sets, fixing the solder and then selling them used. They were better than new. I finally told GE how to fix it.”

As you can imagine, the days of repairing TVs began to fade like a black and white picture tube. Mr. Woods was not ready to retire and he still had the buildings. He would buy and sell used trucks. I’d look at every truck he had. I stopped by in my 1969 Camaro one day. It was in prime and, like every teenager in those days, I was committed to painting it whenever I could make enough money. In the meantime, it was solid, red primer. “When are you going to paint that thing?” asked Mr. Woods.

“I can’t afford it right now. But maybe this summer.” I said.

“Go get the paint and hardener,” he said, “and we’ll paint it here.”

At that time, he had an awning out on the right side of his building. We spent one Saturday taping up the Camaro and Mr. Woods painted it bright red. He always wore coveralls. He didn’t get over-spray on the house, the awning, the bushes or his blue coveralls. I never entered the Camaro in a car show, but the bright red looked a lot nicer than the red primer.

“How much do I owe you Mr. Woods?” I asked him after we finished.

“Aw don’t worry about it.” He said.

Not long after that, he opened the garage building as CG Muffler Repair. That’s the thing about Mr. Woods, he really could do just about anything. There didn’t seem to be a learning curve for him. He just started doing exhaust systems and he was doing it right. I started selling cars and I took all of my exhaust work to Gene Woods for as long as he had the muffler shop.
Years later, Mr. Woods sold one of his buildings and rented the other one out to a church. “I guess you could say I started that church.” He said.

He retired to his childhood home place on the outskirts of Powder Springs. His father had built the place. In the past few weeks, I’ve gone out to see Mr. Woods several times. We talked about the old days. “The Cherokees camped right here,” He said, “It’s not written in the history books, but they camped out right on this spot when they were removed from this area and were forced to go to Oklahoma.”

On the colder days, you could count on a fire in his wood stove. The house would be warm no matter how cold it was outside. “I could put another log on there and it would run you out of here.” He’d say.

I had called Rodney Woods a few weeks earlier. He and I went to school together and he was the middle son of Mr. Woods. “What’s your dad going to do with the old place?” I asked.
“It’s funny you should ask,” said Rodney, “He wants me to have it. I think I’d probably sell it.”
That’s how I ended up listing the old Woods place.

“Yeah,” said Mr. Woods when I called him, “I want to do that for Rodney. I’ve already done something for the others and that’s all I’ve got left to do.”

We spent many evenings discussing the details of the property, sitting around the big dining room table. “We all still eat around the table.” Said Mr. Woods. “Everybody always sits in the same place and this is where we say grace and eat like a family should.”

I’ll forever cherish those visits.

We sold the property in 33 days and closed on April 4, 2018. We stood out in the parking lot at Hallmark, Bowman and Hallmark and Mr. Woods was all smiles.
“Well,” he said, “That’s it. That’s all I had left to do.”

I didn’t think a lot about it then, but I’ve thought a lot about it since.
I went by the place and got my sign. I picked up a white rock and wrote Mr. Woods on it with a Sharpie. I reflected on the years I’ve known Mr. Woods. I thought about the TV clinic, the trucks, the muffler shop and the metal covering the old house.
He had finished his work here. At the closing, he said, “I am glad it is going to be a church. Looks like I started another one.”

Rodney told me that he’d thanked his dad for what he’d done for him. “I told him I loved him.” Said Rodney.

No one could have know that Mr. Woods would suddenly pass away four days later. Sometimes we talk about the time in which it takes us to sell a property; if we do it quickly, we may even brag about it. I sold Mr. Woods' property in 33 days, but I am reminded of one of my wife's favorite sayings, "It's the dash that counts." In this case, it's really about the time I enjoyed with Mr. Woods and his family during that 33 day period. 

For Carol Gene Woods, his "dash" fell between October 12, 1934 and April 8, 2018.

Mr. Woods, you made your dash count. We will never forget you. 
Photo taken at the closing. Photo by Adanna Nwaneri.