Robertsdale business owner reflects on 90 years of life

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/13/17

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — From the Great Depression to owning her own business, Mary Bell Hamm has seen a lot in her 90 years of life.

A native of Andalusia, her father was in the construction …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Robertsdale business owner reflects on 90 years of life

Posted

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — From the Great Depression to owning her own business, Mary Bell Hamm has seen a lot in her 90 years of life.

A native of Andalusia, her father was in the construction business and Hamm remembers spending time on her grandparents’ farm growing up.

“I remember my brother was born during the Great Depression,” she said. “Times were hard. I remember we had to work on my grandparents’ farm to get by, but we made it through.”

A lot has changed over the years, she said, from roads to transportation to the way people communicate.

“One thing my dad always had was a car,” she said. “But we knew a lot of people who didn’t have one. A lot of people had horse-drawn buggies. That’s how people got around back then.”

She also remembers the days of telephone party lines, where there would be seven or eight people on one line. Nowadays, everyone has a cell phone that they can use all the time, but she admits that she has never owned one.

Eventually she would marry Quitman Hamm and two spend 12 years in New York, raising three girls before coming back to Alabama to start a small wholesale pecan company, selling pecans throughout the Southeastern and Midwestern United States.

Hamm would eventually acquire investment property around 1970 in Central Baldwin County and continued buying land with money from his pecan business.

They would eventually open Hamm Enterprises in Robertsdale, which remains in business today, buying, selling, renting and developing property and homes in South Alabama.

When Quitman Hamm died in 2007, she moved to Georgia to live with her daughter, but would move back to Baldwin County, living in Daphne since 2015.

“I wasn’t happy with the direction the business was going, so I decided to move back so I could be closer to it,” she said.

She hired Jeff Windham as president and CEO and, Windham says, she stays active with the company.

“We get together about once a month to go over things,” he said. “She is very knowledgeable about the business and always asks questions. We always strive to keep her up to speed with what’s going on and value her input.”

As for the day-to-day operation of the company, Hamm said, she is happy with the way things are going now.

“I just let (Windom) run things,” she said, “and he’s doing a great job for us.”

At age 90, Hamm says she tries to stay active, walks just about every day and enjoys spending time with her family, which has expanded to include 17 grandchildren.

“I’ve never drank or smoke,” she said, “and I just try to stay active.”

Recently her daughters took her on a cruise to celebrate her 90th birthday, which was Nov. 27. They threw a party for her on the ship, complete with a cake.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “They really took care of us.”