This is one in a series of stories about retired employees of the Greensboro News & Record, which this year is marking its centennial year.
If John F. Williams Jr. had followed his father's wishes, he would have become a doctor and undoubtedly would have been ``on call' many times during his career to answer emergencies.Instead, Williams ended up in the newspaper business. But he still was ``on call' and often had to jump out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to take care of emergency situations.
Williams worked in the circulation department of the Greensboro Daily News and The Greensboro Record (now the Greensboro News & Record) for 37 years.
And he heard the clock clamor many times at 4:30 a.m. - sometimes even 1:30 a.m. - as he worked to get customers' newspaper delivered on time.
Emergencies sometimes cropped up when the newspaper press broke down or a carrier failed to deliver his newspaper. Williams would be called out of bed early to help solve these emergency situations.
But no more getting up at those early hours for Williams.
Since retiring in 1983, Williams passes his time working in his yard, working around his house, traveling with his wife, and just taking life easy.
``But I tell you one thing I don't do,' he says firmly. ``I don't get up early in the morning.'
Williams was born on Randolph Avenue in what is now a part of Greensboro. It was then in the country and his father owned a dairy farm there. When the city annexed Randolph Avenue, his father moved the dairy farm to southeast Guilford County.
``He only moved the dairy,' says Williams. ``We continued to live in Greensboro.'
The road on which the dairy farm was situated is named Williams Dairy Road in honor of John Williams Sr.
The senior Williams hoped John Jr. would become a doctor. But John Jr. had no interest in medicine. Instead he started out working in several government jobs and for several finance companies.
He answered a newspaper advertisement that solicited people to work in the Greensboro newspapers' circulation department, and soon was working for the Daily News.
That was May 1, 1946. He remained in the circulation department until he retired in 1983.
He had many jobs and at various times, worked for both the morning and afternoon newspapers.
``I worked in the field for years,' says Williams, who is now 69 years old.
``Working in the field,' meant being sure that there were enough carriers to deliver the paper and that carriers delivered newspapers on time.
``In those days, carrier jobs were widely sought after,' he says. ``If a carrier didn't do his job right, we got somebody else to do it.'
But as time went on, fewer young boys were willing to deliver papers. The newspaper began hiring more adults and more and more routes were ``motorized' or delivered by automobile.
Williams remembers the first route he helped motorize. It was in Irving Park and he thinks that was the first ever motorized in Greensboro.
``We kept getting complaints (about delivery) and I said, 'Why don't we see if we can't get somebody with a car to deliver those papers,' ' Williams says.
For years, he got up at 4:30 in the morning and worked at the newspaper for several hours before going home to rest, and then returning to the newspaper late in the day to work for several more hours.
Sometimes he had to get up even earlier. The Thursday morning newspaper was the largest weekday paper and when the newspaper's press broke down, Williams and other circulation officers were often called out as early as 1:30 a.m.
``We helped get the papers out so that they could get out to the carriers so the carriers could make their deliveries before going to school,' Williams says.
The last department Williams worked in was the dispatch department. He radioed subscribers' complaints to roving newspaper vehicles that then took care of the complaints.
He once worked in the complaint department. Some subscribers gave him a hard time when they called.
``But most people were nice,' he says.
A run-in Williams had with one former carrier took an unusual twist.
Williams fired the carrier.
``I don't remember what he had done,' Williams says. ``But I had to deliver the route for a while.'
Every morning when Williams went to pick up his papers where they had been dropped off by the newspaper truck, the former carrier would be there waiting in the dark. He never made any direct threats to Williams. Williams doesn't remember exactly what the former carrier did beyond that. But Williams felt uneasy.
Years later, the ex-carrier went into the Army. His conscience must have started hurting.
``He wrote me a long letter apologizing for what he had done,' Williams says.
Williams and his wife, Louise, have been married 43 years. Louise was a nurse and they met when John visited a friend who was a patient in Wesley Long Hospital.
They enjoy taking tour-bus trips and have traveled to the Grand Old Opry, to the Amish country and other areas of Pennsylvania, to a German festival held each year in Georgia, and to other places.
They also go to Washington frequently to visit their daughter, Nancy.
Nancy, who graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine, is a doctor, specializing in neonatal medicine at Washington Hospital Center. She was interviewed on a recent segment of CBS Television's ``48 Hours' program about child mortality rates.
And to have a least one doctor in the family probably would have pleased John Williams Sr.