Parker helps make Brewton pretty
Published 2:08 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
Dennis Parker may not be known by his name by everyone who knows him. Some people just refer to him as the downtown flower man. He can be found almost every day of the week downtown watering flowers, raking the leaves, or more recently, putting up the Christmas lights in the City Park.
Parker retired from Smurfit Stone in 2001 after working there since 1966. His wife told him that he needed to get something else to do. This happens quite often when men retire and start hanging around the house. He was friends with Danny Howard and asked him about something to do. Danny gave him a job and put him to work with the Tree and Beautification Board working with Darryl Searcy. Howard is also a member of the Board and needed someone to assist Searcy in cleaning the park areas and then maintaining them. The project was to clean and clear the area that is now the Burnt Corn Creek Park. This was no easy matter to begin with and Hurricane Ivan did so much damage that the job had to be repeated after the storm.
The Tree and Beautification Board is responsible for the upkeep of the City Park, Burnt Corn Creek Park, Mildred Street Park and the boardwalk that runs behind the businesses downtown.
Now that the days are getting colder and shorter, Parker says that his hours will get a bit shorter too, until the spring comes and he has to start all over again. But he has plans for some of his new free time. He loves to hunt, especially turkey hunting, and in the next few months, he will be able to spend some time in the woods. He may add to his collection of turkey porcelain and look for Indian artifacts, although he says most land is now fenced off.
Parker grew up in the small community of Dixie east of Brewton. He comes from an old line of settlers who were in the area very early in its development. He attended school at Damascus through the ninth grade, but instead of going to W.S. Neal High School to finish high school, he dropped out to help his father run the family farm. They farmed 40 acres with two mules and the work was not easy. He said they did have the distinction of having the first one row cotton picker. He lived a quiet life the way farmers did in those days. He said those were the last days of living like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. When he was about 18 he joined the U.S. Army. After basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., he was sent to Texas for more training. At the end of that training everyone was being given their assignments and he was in the last five to be assigned.
His next assignment was at Fort McNair where had to guard “General's Row,” a group of mansions where generals lived. After that he was sent to Sandhofen in Germany and called an aircraft mechanic, “although I was never a mechanic on airplanes.”
Parker was away for three years, but his half brothers were also stationed in Germany and they were able to see each other during the time.
After serving his tour of duty in the military, Parker came home to Brewton and returned to farming. He then got a job at the pecan factory in Andalusia and that lasted about a year until the pecans got so scarce he had to look for another job. During this time he met Mary Douglas and they were married in 1963. His new job was with a Dr. Waters at Wing and their first child, Monte, was born in 1964.
After a few years, the McCall farm grew too small for all the trees and Container bought land at Rock Creek for a nursery. Parker went to work there with Ed Dennis in 1980 and retired from there in 2001. During this time, he and Mary had three more children, Timothy (1969), who was the second baby born on New Year's Day, Kevin (1969) and Brande (1975). Also during his last few years at Smurfit, Parker had a crisis in his life when he became severely ill with acute pancreatitis. He spent six months in the hospital and while he was recuperating, the family drove him around to see all the trees.