This Saturday at Jackson’s Auto Parts and Hardware in Carrabelle, George Jackson is going to hang up his shirt.

He’s not retiring, even at age 87, but he is shedding the uniform he’s sported for 55 years, even since on July 1, 1963, he went into business at a Standard Oil Station in the middle of Carrabelle.

“I’m not going to quit but I’m going to retire my shirt,” said Jackson. “I’m going to hang it on the wall. I’m going to see what it looks like not to be in uniform.

“Kind of be a citizen, not a slave,” he said.

Actually, for many long years Jackson has been a model citizen, active in the community, elected county commissioner, and elected, and appointed a couple times, a Carrabelle city commissioner. He helped save the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce with Gene Squires, and he’s been an immense help to the Franklin County Senior Center.

“I’ve been around and tried to be involved in my community, I’ve always wanted to help,” he said.

Not bad for a guy who was told 55 years ago by a friend of his wife’s, on the eve of their opening their new business, “not to worry, you won’t around long.”

But Jackson and the Eastpoint girl he married, the former Virginia Butler, kept that business going, a continuous business that played a huge role in the 64 years they were married. The business thrived, expanded, relocated to 712 Northwest Avenue A, across from the IGA, and this Saturday will mark its anniversary in business with a special event. (See sidebar)

“We made it 55 years and we really appreciate the people and we want to be able to let the people know if it wasn’t for the people of Carrabelle and Franklin County we wouldn’t have been able to be here,” said Ronnie Jackson, who together with younger brother David, run the store for the family.

To understand the origins of Jackson’s auto parts and hardware, you have to go back to the farm George Jackson grew up on between Chipley and Cottondale.

It was his father’s and his mother’s health wasn’t good, so George dropped out of school in the eighth grade and went to work, part of the year on a relative’s tomato farm in Ruskin.

“Then I’d come back and help my dad,” he said.

In 1949, his mother’s health was bad, and she had three brothers in Franklin County, one of whom, Buck Creamer, was a shrimper with a fish house in Apalachicola. The other two uncles lived in Eastpoint; Wilbur Creamer had a little grocery, and Frank Segree Sr., married to George’s aunt, had a seafood business.

“I came down and worked in the seafood business that was just not my thing,” said George Jackson.

Cleve Randolph operated gas pumps at the Apalachicola airport, and that interested George, then age 20.

“I worked in the seafood business with my uncle and aunt for a while and then had a chance to get the job with Mr. Randolph and I stayed with him,” he said.

He and wife Virginia s stayed a year at the old Army barracks at the airport, and then he went to work for Randolph at the Standard Oil plant on the river, across from the old jail behind the courthouse.

That’s where he worked for a dozen years, from 1951 to 1963, as he and his wife, married two days before Christmas 1950, began their family.

Ronnie was born in 1951, David a year later, Phyllis two years after that, and lastly Yvonne, five years after that.

In 1963, with $80 in his pocket, he bought Randolph’s service station in Carrabelle. “He endorsed my note at the Apalachicola State Bank,” he said. “I borrowed all the money.”

Fourteen years into ownership, after Jackson had enclosed the mechanics’ bays, he added auto parts to his offerings in 1964.

“Paul Keenan, he owned lots of stores, and had a warehouse in Albany, Georgia and one of the salesmen was calling on me and asked “Why don’t you put auto parts in there? I’m going to take this up with him (Keenan).”

Later, Jackson got a visit from John Dumont, and the two men talked for a while “I said ‘Look john, I don’t have no money,” recalled Jackson. “Two weeks later he came in one morning. We got off to one side and we sat down and he told me Mr. Keenan had approved my dealership here, and he was going to send 50,000 auto parts and $5,000 operating capital.

“That’s the way I got started,” George Jackson said. “ I didn’t have no money but I could work.”

Keenan’s company was eventually sold to Carquest, and Jackson’s has remained the only parts store in town.

In 1975 Jackson’s joined the Ace Hardware franchise network. Four year after that, Jackson bought two houses on the site and moved them and built a new building at 712 NW Avenue A. They held on to the old service station for 28 years, until they sold it in 1991.

Because so many people would ask him “Do you have any lumber?” Jackson ordered some two-by-fours one day. “Before I knew it they were gone,” he said. “That’s how I got into the building material business.

“We never supplied many contractors. I wanted to supply the everyday guys who walked in and wanted a two-by-four. Then we edged out and started delivering stuff,” he said.

“You have to do what you have to do in a small town to survive,” said Jackson. “I could look ahead and I could see things that I should do and keep up with the times as they changed.”

Now living alone, after the passing of his beloved wife four years ago this October, Jackson reflected on his career, and what the future holds.

“I never had a job in my life I could work eight hours a day and go home,” he said. But I didn’t overwork myself. I always was on time, never late with payments.

“My life’s been so good and all,” said George Jackson.