Story By: Cindy Reid
Photos By : Shelia Scott
Vibrant and bustling, Pooler today is almost unrecognizable from its roots. In 1864, when it was called Pooler’s Station, there were less than 200 people, most, if not all, farmers. In 2000, the official U.S Census count was 6,239, in 2010 the U.S. Census saw a threefold increase to 19,140 and the 2017 population estimate was 23,816. This growth has made Pooler one of the fastest growing cities in the southeast. The people who remember “Old Pooler” remember a far different community than the one we see today. Long time resident and business owner Jack Brewton, at 85 years young, is one of the “Old Pooler” folks who have witnessed this phenomenal growth first hand.
Jack Brewton, owner of D & M Liquors, has been in Pooler since 1964. What he saw then wasn’t all that different from what Pooler looked like a hundred years before. He says, “In 1964, Pooler didn’t have any traffic lights and it was a lot of farmland. It didn’t look anything at all like it looks today.”
Of deep southern roots, Jack can trace his family back to 1792, when two of his ancestors sold their land grants in North Carolina to purchase property in Georgia. The family stayed in Georgia and they had a sawmill out at Cedar Creek many generations ago. Jack was is originally from Evans County, Georgia and says he attributes his work ethic to his early life. He says” I worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day because you do what you have to do to get on a higher rung on the ladder. “Achieving a higher rung was important because, as he says, “I started life after the Great Depression on 1929. I was born in 1934, the fifth of five children.” He says, “My Dad worked as a wage farmer for fifty cents a day, seven days a week. Back in the day if you didn’t work you didn’t eat. If you got sick your neighbors took care of you.”
The Korean War
Jack is a U.S. Navy Veteran of the Korean War. He recounts,” I left home at 17 years old. I served in the US Navy in the Amphibian Forces from 1951 until 1955.” He remembers the end of the war vividly.” In 1953 we brought the ship to the shipyards in San Francisco to have the barnacles scraped and the boat painted and then we headed back to the Pacific. After we got underway, we had to change course because an officer had a family emergency, his son had died, and so we headed to Midway Island and transferred the officer to a waiting boat, so he could go home. At midnight, the Captain of our ship got on the speaker and said ‘At ease men. The Armistice has been signed and we are now at peace.’ The Korean War was over.”
“I was mighty glad because that was my second tour; I had made my first landing before I was 18 years old, my second landing at 18 and another in 1952. I praise the day it was over.”
After the Navy Jack and his wife Sharon and their growing family moved to Jacksonville Florida where Jack worked as an electrician. He says Florida wasn’t for them and so they decided to move back home to Georgia.
He says he and his family got to his father’s farm in Georgia just before Christmas and his father said” ‘I made a big Christmas for you! I got the combines in the cornfield and you ‘all can collect all the corn you can and sell it for your Christmas present!’ So that’s what we did, men and women both, we collected all the corn we could and that’s what we sold, and had our Christmas.” Jack says although they were grateful, it also motivated him to seek out a more secure financial future for him and his family. Jack says, “That’s what kept me trying to get on higher rung”
They moved to Jesup where he worked first as an electrician, then in a furniture factory, and finally he became the manager of a service station. It was a busy time. He says,
“I was available 24/7, as manager of the service station and cab business.” Always self motivated, Jack says” I worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day because you do what you have to do to get on a higher rung on the ladder.”
Pooler Auto Parts
In 1956 he went to work for Brooks Auto Parts. He says, “I was in the auto parts business a long time. I had my wife Sharon working in it too, and when we were able to accumulate a little money we bought a piece of land from her father. That was up in Pooler. Everyone said ‘Ain’t a darn thing in Pooler!’ That was a long time ago and it’s home to me now.” They opened Pooler Auto Parts on Highway 80 across from what is now Wendy’s fast food restaurant. The business was there for four years before they moved it to where Cash America is today. He says,” I was in the auto parts business in Pooler for 23 years total.”
Due to the state widening the road, Jack lost frontage property and started looking for another business. “The lease on what was then a convenience store with a liquor store inside was up and the people running it were leaving and didn’t renew the lease, so I bought the inventory out.” He ran both D & M Liquors and Pooler Auto Parts for a while but he closed the auto parts business two years later.
D & M Liquors
He says at the time it was a steep learning curve with his new enterprise because the retail liquor business was radically different from the auto parts world he knew so well. He says, “I wasn’t prepared for the liquor store business. A big difference was in the purchasing side. In the auto parts business, the part is the same price whether you buy 1 or 1000 pieces. In the liquor business, it was a shock to find out that the price was dependent on how much you bought from the wholesaler. “I didn’t have any experience in that world- the liquor business is so regulated. I have to buy from people I am designated to purchase from, and you have to put x amount of cases to get the best prices and make a profit. That’s how it works. You can only be an owner or have ownership stake in two liquor stores in the whole state.”
He says he really did have a lot of help, because “ It was so different from what I knew that it took me a little while to learn it, and there was one salesman who helped me along because I was dumb! “ He eventually learned the business and today, D&M Liquors remains a thriving family business.
In 2017, Jack got sick and spent seventy seven days in the hospital and turned over a lot of the day to day management to his son, Randy. Now he’s back and is actively involved again. Jack says he stays busy in the store and also maintains his properties himself. “I do my own maintenance on our yard and on my properties. I keep them manicured.” When asked how he was doing he answered, “I am doing okay- not fine- but okay!”
Blessed by Life
When asked what he’s learned in all the years of working with the public, Jack laughed and said, “It takes all kinds to make a world!” When asked if he was satisfied with all he has accomplished, he said, “No, I still have not achieved what I want to achieve. I had a good talk with the Lord sometime ago. I told him I want to do better and the Lord said ‘you’ve got to work for it!’ I have had help along the way and every time I set my goals and met them, well I raise them again. I am still raising the bar!”
Jack says he is blessed to have his wife Sharon and daughters Patricia (Patsy) Rodgers, Rhonda Haire, and sons Randy, Darryl and Michael. They all live in Georgia, “In hollering distance” says Jack.
He says he has a few favorite spots in Pooler, “I really like Spanky’s, Sam Sneeds and of course Longhorns for a good steak”.
Always up for a drive he adds, “When I get down to the Altamaha River I like to go to Benton Lee‘s Steak House in Uvalda, on Highway 1. You can’t beat their rib steak!”
Asked if there is anything else he’d like to add, Jack says” I think there’s enough there!” And with that he said goodbye and went back to work climbing the ladder, one rung at a time.