Casablanca, Bambi and Pride of the Yankees were released. Bing Crosby took Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to No. 1 on the charts on its way to becoming one of the top-selling singles of all time. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in five games to win the World Series.
The year was 1942. The United States had entered World War II in late 1941 and was still suffering from the economic problems of the Great Depression. But the renewed sense of patriotism following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the quick mobilization at home to support the war effort gave rise to an entrepreneurial spirit for many Americans.
Two such individuals were Alfred and Mary Clyde Douglas. Alfred, who had dabbled in trucking since 1938 and had recently received an honorable discharge from the Navy, moved his young wife from the Pleasant Home community outside of Andalusia, Ala., to the Deland, Fla., area. It was there in 1942 that they started Alfred Douglas Trucking — the backbone of this family’s legacy.
“My grandfather was never scared to take a chance,” says 39-year-old Billy Douglas Jr. “Today, it seems like we are less likely to take a risk, but not back then. People like my grandfather would take chances and work hard and hope that things would turn out well. He and my dad [Billy Douglas Sr.] are two of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.”
Today, with more than 300 years of combined trucking experience from drivers past and present, the Douglases are Truckers News’ 2010 Great American Trucking Family. Representatives of the magazine will present the award, which is sponsored by Rand McNally Intelliroute TND, to family members at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas on Friday, Aug. 27, prior to the Randy Houser concert.
Alfred and Mary Clyde both hauled fruit and other agricultural products in those early years. Alfred often bought the produce he hauled, sometimes in large quantities. The family business soon included Alfred’s brothers Hub, Dan, Poss, Jimmy and Henry, as well as Mary Clyde’s brother, Donald White.
When Alfred and Mary Clyde started a family, she returned to their Alabama farm, and the Douglas men followed the seasonal agricultural trucking opportunities in South Alabama, Florida and South Carolina and in regions as far away as New York State.
Over the years, the business prospered. Eventually, Alfred returned to Alabama for good. Still, he found ownership of the products he hauled to be a valuable enterprise. “Dad was one of the first to start raising watermelons around here after buying and selling watermelons in Florida,” says son Bobby Douglas. “He later sold the fruit business, but back then we worked all the packing plants and juice houses in Florida.”
Alfred and Mary Clyde added a truckstop to their portfolio in 1948, a welcome addition along U.S. Highway 29 for truckers and locals alike. Mary Clyde did the cooking at the truckstop’s restaurant (Alf’s Café) and handled the paperwork for the trucking business — all while taking care of her kids. These included future truckers Billy Sr. and Bobby and their nephew Sonny Douglas, whom Alfred and Mary Clyde reared as their own.
“She never turned away a hungry trucker,” says Toni Douglas, who is married to Billy Sr. and drove with her husband for 10 years. “If a driver showed up as they were closing, it didn’t matter that she had already cleaned the grill. She took care of him.”
The truckstop was destroyed in 1953 but rebuilt in 1955. It continued in operation under the Douglases’ ownership until 1972.