Hank Pritchett, 77, is retiring; Married his sweetheart when he was 17
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Nov 06, 2013 | 1310 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hank Pritchett has been semi-retired for the past few years. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Hank Pritchett has been semi-retired for the past few years. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
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Hank Pritchett, 77, is almost ready to retire. It won’t be much longer. For the past few years, he’s been semi-tired. He started working full-time as a teenager.

Pritchett was born in Wellington to J. C. and Ruth (Bryant) Pritchett. His family moved to Asberry when he was in first grade. He attended Roy Webb School. The Pritchetts moved to the Angel community when he was in second grade. There, he attended Cedar Springs School. That’s when his life changed. He met Eileen Holden.

Pritchett’s family moved several more times, but he never forgot his Eileen. 

“We were just children,” he said. “I never did fall out of love with her, and I still love her. She was beautiful.”

His father was a Baptist preacher, and he and Eileen would occasionally see each other at churches where his father pastored.

His father got into the saw mill business, and the family moved to Allgood, near Oneonta. Then, they moved to Chulafinnee in Cleburne County. Their next move was to Wellington where his parents bought a mom and pop grocery store. Pritchett graduated from Alexandria High School when he was 17. He was also 17 when he and Eileen married. She was 15 and still in school.

Most of their dating was in Pritchett’s father’s car.

“Sometimes Dad would loan me his car, and I’d take her out and buy her an ice cream or chewing gum,” he said “I’d hug and kiss her. She was as sweet as she could be.”

They often double dated with Eileen’s brother, Alford Holden, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth. The two couples decided to go to Mississippi to marry, because a blood test wasn’t required in that state.

“We didn’t elope,” said Pritchett. “Our mothers and daddies knew it. We didn’t have time to wait on blood test because Alford was in the Air Force at that time. He was on furlough and was getting ready to have to go back.”

They drove to Columbus in Pritchett’s 1941 Ford. He remembers the wedding well.

“The preacher that married us was telling us before he married us that it would cost $5,” said Pritchett. “He married us and I was so thrilled that I got married, we started out the door and he said, ‘Hey, buddy, you owe me $5.’ They wanted to call our mothers and daddies, but back then they didn’t have telephones and they couldn’t call them.”

Alford stayed in the Air Force and was killed in Vietnam in 1964.

For the first two years of their marriage, Pritchett worked for his brother-in-law, Eugene Turner, who was a building contractor. During the winters, he worked for Joe and Sophie Steinberg at their clothing store on the square. Then, he and his father bought a service station at Pecan Grove in Alexandria.

“At that time, the only thing there was our service station, cotton fields, pecan groves and Saxon’s Candy Kitchen,” he said.

In 1955, Pritchett bought a dump truck and went to work with Hodges and Co., building roads. Four years later he went to work at the Coca-Cola Co., and worked there until 1971. That year, he went to work at Draper Oil Co., in Anniston, and in 1985, he opened his own business, Pritchett Oil Co. He kept his company until 1995.

It was also in 1985 that he opened a service station on Alabama 204 in the West Point area.

“We stayed there until 2000 when the government pulled out all the old gas tanks and shut me down,” he said. “In 2000, the government put moms and pops out of business all over the country. Gas used to be 60 cents a gallon. The government took over and now it’s $4 a gallon.”

In 1991, he and his son, Mark, bought their first tow truck. Now, they have nine trucks. Mark’s son, Henry Taylor Pritchett, has one of the trucks in Chelsea, which is on Alabama 280 near Birmingham.

The Pritchetts will be married 60 years on Nov. 30. They have five children. Mark, and his wife Katelyn, live next door. Their daughters and their husbands, Vicky and Dwight Roper, Tina and David Bryant, Janice and Johnny Frank and Donna and Joel Nash, don’t live far away. The Pritchetts have 16 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

The family enjoys camping together.

“We all have motor homes, and we like to go camping,” said Pritchett. “We love to go to Guntersville State Park, Pigeon Forge and just different places. Sometimes we go to Gadsden and camp on the river or Noccalula Falls. We just visit around.”

He and Eileen have ridden motorcycles for 40 years.

“We don’t advertise it,” he said, “but sometimes we just go. She rides with me. I still have one, It’s a 1200 Honda, and it’s pretty heavy, so we don’t ride much anymore. We’re still young at heart.”

Pritchett said his favorite things are attending West Point Baptist Church, where he’s been a member since 1947. His father pastored that church in 1947-48. He was baptized in Boozer’s Lake.

“The Lord has been so good to me,” he said. “He has really blessed me over the years.”

Pritchett has several plans when full retirement comes. He mentions three.

“I’m gonna cut my grass and rake up pine straw around here and just keep on lovin’ Eileen.”

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com.
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