The Germantown Museum

A project in the making

Enter Our Virtual Museum

In Times Past………..
by Andy Pouncey
March 16, 2006

Each person’s life is a compilation of stories. Their experiences are layered like colors on a canvas. The completed picture makes us what we are today. Hugh Frank Smith’s life provided us with a wealth of stories filling this column for over 20 years. His daughter, Sunde, in last week’s column called Hugh Frank the consummate storyteller. 

Likewise, Germantown is a canvas full of stories, stories of lives brought together, building on one another. From 408 citizens in 1950 to over 40,023 today, each person became linked to at least one other person or group through a common bond, whether it be volunteerism, a civic organization, residential development, government, religion, social event, business, education, or a vision for the future. In 1939, citizens formed the Poplar Pike Improvement Association, uniting to keep objectionable houses, businesses and unsightly signs off Poplar Pike, reaching out to cooperate with other suburban garden clubs and PTAs in the beautification of this road. 

In 1984 and again in 2005, citizens were appointed to committees to look into the future and develop a community vision. These meetings offered reflection on stories illustrating where we came from as a tool for moving forward. 

In Times Past will focus on this city’s history dating back to1825 and covering as many topics as there is information. My resources include interviews with citizens past and present, Board of Mayor and Aldermen minutes, images of the city, newspapers and frankly, anyone with a Germantown story. Please email me if you have a question that may generate a story.

One of my favorite people in Germantown’s history is the late Hugh Ford. Hugh at the young age of 34 was appointed City Clerk/Manager in February 1954, replacing the first manager, C.C. Burford. Hugh, originally from Middleton, Tennessee, worked in Memphis for Chicago Southern Airlines. Following the merger of Chicago Southern and Delta, and Delta’s move to Atlanta, Hugh and his wife Billie chose to stay in Germantown. The Germantown census was fast approaching a total of 900 citizens.

Hugh received legal advice from City Attorney Bruce Law who was given a credit of $1.50 per month on his water bill in exchange for his services. Garbage collection in 1954 only took a half-day. 

Hugh’s office and his family’s apartment were in the same building. The apartment was sandwiched between the Fire Station and the old City Hall (current Park & Recreation Department offices). At first blush, this appears to qualify as the City’s first home-based business. The public was Hugh’s business. Hugh drove the fire engine, ran the water department, and maintained the streets. His wife Billie assisted by answering the phone and collecting money from customers paying their water bills, even if it was 9 p.m.

I asked Hugh, “how did you ever separate your work life from your personal life?” He
stated that “it was hard. I just opened this door and I would be in my office, and then I would open this door and I would be back at home”. You guessed it; it was the same door. He said that after three or four years “I was about to go nuts.” As a result he moved back into the house that he and his wife built on Germantown Road in 1947.

By 1972, the community had grown to approximately 5,000 citizens, and excessive demands were being placed on Hugh’s time. A resolution in 1973 created the city departments we have today and Hugh was appointed Public Works Director in charge of the water, sewer, streets, public grounds, and health and sanitation departments. But who knew them better than Hugh? Upon Hugh’s retirement in 1982, the new public services complex was named the Hugh S. Ford Public Services Complex. Hugh and Billie’s lives were part of the Germantown story; and through other stories you will learn more of their involvement in the life of Germantown.


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