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Glazer: Utility family welcomes one of its children
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One of my favorite parts of any story is the epilogue. After all, in real life, most stories don't have an ending, just more story. And so it is with my columns. Here's an update on a recent piece:

Back in August, I wrote about the men and women of Georgia Power Co. Kylan Warren, a young lineman from Ellijay, had been killed in a horrific workplace accident. His co-workers rallied together to plan a huge fundraising motorcycle ride that sadly became a memorial ride after he died on the morning of the event.

My father spent 32 years with the same company and I grew up in the Georgia Power family. I wrote about the courage and camaraderie of utility workers. I talked about how dangerous their work was and how seldom those of us in the general public show our appreciation.The response to the column was immediate and profound.

The phone started ringing and my e-mail inbox filled up. I heard from Georgia Power employees, both current and retired, from all over the state. A few of them had known and worked with my dad. They shared stories of those days. Some I had heard before, some I hadn't. It felt so good to know that he was still remembered by someone other than me.

Larry Pardue, now retired from GPC, came by my shop. We chatted for a while about my father and the column. Larry left, then turned around and came back in. He said, "I just want you to know, Junior Hamrick was the hardest working man I've ever known."

What a gift that was. A gift and a fitting epitaph for a man who's been gone for three decades.

While researching the column, I met Phil Lazenby. Phil has racked up 38 years with the company so far and he understands the importance of remembering one's roots. To that end, he and others formed the Heritage Preservation Club of the Georgia Power Co. They meet regularly and as it happened, their yearly Founder's Day luncheon was scheduled in a few days at the headquarters in Atlanta. Not much can entice me inside the perimeter, but in this case, I made an exception.

I'd never been to GPC headquarters. It's an imposing edifice near the World Congress Center. Security is tight and these folks don't play. The personnel were focused and vigilant. Phil had to escort me in and I was given a bar-coded pass that had to be swiped every step of the way. Airport security could learn a thing or two from these guys.

On display outside the conference hall was a lovingly restored maroon 1951 Chevrolet pickup bearing the Reddy Kilowatt logo. Remember Reddy Kilowatt?

There was also a replica of a line wagon, the precursor of the bucket truck. It consisted of a horse-drawn wagon mounted with a ladder topped by a platform. These were used for line work in the 1920s.

I recall the power company from my dad's day as a mostly white guys club. Not so any more. The attendees at the meeting were gloriously diverse. They were also gracious and friendly and I found myself regretting my failure to pursue a career with that organization. But, as my dad always said, "Sweetie pie, life's just full of missed opportunities."

This meeting, as with all GPC meetings, started with a safety review. Fire exits were noted. The location of defibrillators was pointed out. A pre-arranged outside meeting place in case of evacuation was specified. Nothing was left to chance. That's SOP for the GPC.

The guest speaker was a young executive from MARTA with a passion for streetcars. In the early part of the 20th century, Georgia Power Company (then The Georgia Railway and Power Co.) operated streetcars all over Atlanta. After they were decommissioned following World War II, many were sold at auction and often were incorporated into rural houses. Several have been recovered from demolished houses and restored. It was a fascinating talk delivered as only someone with a genuine love for the subject can.

I left that day with shiny new membership card to the Heritage Preservation Club.

Phil and his fellow members hope to establish a Learning Center to exhibit the artifacts that have been collected over the years. One employee who worked with the company for a remarkable 59 years bequeathed what may be the largest collection of power meters in the world. They date back to 1897. These alone deserve display space.

Meanwhile, company employees are moving to have Kylan Warren memorialized in the Walk of Fame at the International Lineman's Museum in Shelby, N.C.

A week or so after the Founders Day lunch, The Times forwarded a letter that came to me there from Michael Garrett, president and CEO of Georgia Power Co.: "Your article has touched the Georgia Power family in many ways. You put in words what we all know about this great group of people. So much that I shared it with everyone in the company. Your dad would be proud."

Mr. Garrett, I think that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

 

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