In 1941, Henry left home at 15 years of age and went to Lanett, Alabama where he got a job in a textile mill. Lannette,
West Point, Georgia and several other small mill towns along the Chattahochee River formed what Henry calls "The
Valley." He lied about his age in order to get his social security card (told them he was 16 but was only 15.) "I clean forgot
about it until I got ready to apply for my social security. I'm actually a year younger than the social security records show."
He made $0.40 an hour and worked as much overtime as they would let him. He saved up enough money to buy a car, but
the more difficult thing was finding gasoline. "You could get 3 gallons with a ration stamp, but I had to buy the ration stamp
for $2.00 per stamp. The gasoline cost me $0.30 a gallon but with the cost of the ration stamp, it cost $2.90 for 3 gallons.
Almost as much as I made in a day."
"Did you buy the stamps on the Black Market?"
"Well, yeah, I guess so. What it was…you could get more stamps for a truck than for a car. So, these people would get extra
stamps for their trucks and just sell the extras."
Henry showed an early entrepreneurial streak.
"Now, the Valley was dry, but up in Lagrange you could get a beer. So, I would charge $0.50 per person to haul folks up to
Lagrange and back."
"How many did you haul at one time?"
Henry laughed as he thought about that. "Did you ever see that program on TV...where they found the oil in the backyard
and moved to California?"
"Oh, you mean the Beverly Hillbillies?"
"Yeah. You know, people hanging out from everywhere. Had 'em standing on the runnin' boards, standing on the bumpers,
and hangin' on everywhere they could. Had twenty people in all."
"I had a 1941 Plymouth coupe, and sometimes it would just stop running. You had to let it sit for a couple of hours and then
it would crank right up. Well, I had no driver's license, no tag. One payday, we were going to Lagrange and, sure enough, it
just stopped. But I didn't realize it until too late and so I had to leave it sittin' out in the road. It was blocking the road. I saw
a store at the top of the hill, so I said, 'Let's walk up to the store and get a soady pop.'
"As we started walking back from the store, I looked up and there was a highway patrol car sitting behind my car and an
officer was waiting for us to come back."
"Whose car is this?" the officer asked.
"Well, sir, I reckon it's mine," Henry replied.
"How cum' you leave here in the middle of the road?"
Henry then explained how the car would stop from time to time and that he would just wait for a couple of hours and then it
would crank right up.
"Well, take it over to ol' Smith down the road. He's pretty good at fixin' cars."
The officer never said anything about the missing tag or asked me for a license.
"Were you in Alabama or Georgia?"
"Oh, we was in Georgia, almost to Lagrange."
That was not the only time he had a close encounter with the law. I don't remember which town he said this happened in,
but it was somewhere in the valley.
"Me and this other ol' boy was in town, and…I was bad about drinking a little in those days…we had gone to this place and
started drinking. We met this girl…and she weren't no little girl, either…and she started drinking with us. Actually, she drank
a whole lot more than we did. Well, we got back to the car and she pretty much passed out. So, there we was trying to figure
out what to do with her. We didn't know who she was nor where she lived. Had no idea where to take her. Well, we was
sitting there in the car discussing what to do, lo and behold here came a policeman up beside us. And, I'm thinkin', well,
Henry, you've done it now. You are in trouble for sure."
"What you boys doing?" he asked us.
"We proceeded to explain as how we was tryin' to get this girl home, but we didn't know where she lived, and she couldn't
The officer looked closely at the girl. "Well, boys. I tell you what you need to do. That there is the Police Chief's daughter
you got in your car. You follow me down here about two blocks and I'll give you a signal to show you where to put her out.
Then, I think it might be wise for you to get on out of here."
"I did everything on my birthday. On my eighteenth birthday, I joined the Navy. On my twenty-first birthday, I got
Henry and Jean were the sixth and seventh children of Homer Judson Head and Jessie Ada Denty and were raised in Wylam,
Alabama, near Birmingham.
"I got my degree from the University of Wylam," he laughed. "I been in all these meetings with all these people with
degrees and such, and I always tell them I got my degree from the University of Wylam."
"I never learned anything in school. I was too dumb to learn and too stubborn to try. You know how I learned? When I was
in the Navy, I started reading everything I could get my hands on. Wasn't much else to do, and they had a library you could
borrow books from. That's how you learn. By reading."
He spent three years in the Navy but never left the U.S.
"Joined the Navy to see the world! And, then I spent three years stationed in Florida, fixing airplanes."
Jean and Henry then talked about their Daddy's business.
"Daddy raised flowers. He built a truck he called Black Mariah. Made it from a car frame that he put a bed on."
Henry slept in the greenhouse to keep the fire stoked throughout the night.
"Yeah," Jean said. "And you know who had to keep the fire going after you left home. I did."
Henry then told me how his Daddy got started in the flower business.
"We had these ferns hanging on the side porch. People would all talk about how pretty those ferns were. Now, we had
nothing in the house to eat. I mean not a thing. Daddy had lost his job…this was the Depression…and we had nothing."
"Daddy," Henry said. "Why don't we see if we can go into town and sell some of these ferns?"
"Daddy said OK, so I took a bunch to town and sold them. Made $15.00. More money than we had seen in a year."
Eventually, Mr. Head was able to build a greenhouse in the backyard and began to raise more flowers. Jean and Henry would
load a little wagon with flowers and pull it into town and sell flowers.
"Daddy was good at raising flowers but he wasn't a very good businessman."
"You know," Henry mused. "There I was in the Valley where I didn't know anybody and nobody knew me. Fifteen years old.
If anything had happened to me, my Mama and Daddy would never have known a thing."
January 22, 2005
Pine Mountain, Georgia