Life of a Salesman

This summer I have been assisting with processing the O’Connor’s household records. It is an ongoing process, where I have sifted through years’ worth of receipts, invoices, and statements. This project, while at times tedious, still has stories to tell, in its own way. Many of the receipts are from different businesses in Milledgeville, and other towns in Georgia, that the O’Connor’s patronized. While a great number of these businesses no longer exist, some have left a particularly influential legacy behind, like the King Hardware Company of Atlanta. The receipts from this store help tell a story about the special connection between the King Hardware Company and Andalusia through Flannery’s beloved Uncle Louis.

Louis Ignatius Cline was the easygoing, candy-loving younger brother of Dr. Bernard Cline and older brother to Regina Cline. His presence at Andalusia was a significant one, especially after the untimely death of Dr. Bernard in 1947. The farm was left to both Louis and Regina as co-owners.[1] Regina would run the farm, while Louis would split his time between Atlanta during the week, where he lived at the exclusive Bell House, and Milledgeville on the weekends, where he would stay at Andalusia with Flannery and Regina.[2] 

While he is often described as having a low-key, laid back personality,[3] Louis was a professional salesman and quite good at his job. Similar to his siblings, Louis was an equally business-minded Cline. He worked for a time as a used car salesman, before he would become a lead salesman, and, eventually, Assistant Wholesale Manager at the King Hardware Company. He would also serve as a Junior Board Director assisting the company in maximizing profits and implementing innovative business strategies.[4] An exemplary employee, in 1952, he was awarded the “Distinguished Salesman Award” by the Atlanta Sales Executive Club.

1952 Distinguished Sales Man award presented to Louis I. Cline, King Hardware Co. by Atlanta Sales Executive Club, Presentation by William McMannus President of King Hardware Co (Andalusia Collection 2019.1.247)

The King Hardware Company of Atlanta, GA was founded by the prominent businessman George Edward King in 1882. The company began with a smidgen of capital and barely enough stock to fill up a room. It struggled in its first year but grew steadily into the giant that it would become in the Atlanta business community. As the company became successful, it acquired several other furniture stores, established its headquarters on Peachtree Street, and expanded to thirteen branches.[5] Louis would work at one of these branches.

As a sales representative for King Hardware, Louis put his position to good use and assisted Regina in the upkeep of the farm by providing many of the supplies and equipment needed for the house. Countless receipts of purchases made by Louis and Regina of all sorts of materials indicate how important Louis’s job was to the O’Connor household. His job also came in handy as Louis would work on repairs around the house, and, in 1958, add on three rooms: the parlor, his bedroom, and a second first-floor bathroom. Flannery would write about this development in a letter to a friend: “We are into our new wing finally. We have sister’s old drapes, Louis’s old sofa, cousin Katie’s old rug and chairs, and consequently it looks as if we have been living in it a hundred years. I have to hurry up and paint something to hang on the walls before my mother puts up somebody’s old pictures.”[6]

Until he passed away in 1973, Louis’ presence at Andalusia was a supportive one, where he was often a source of merriment and comfort to Flannery, and a lieutenant to Regina’s role as “Madame Commander of the House” as Flannery would say. He would leave his portion of the farm to Regina, granting her full ownership, as well as a lasting contribution to Andalusia.

[1] Amason, “From Agrarian Homestead to Literary Landscape,” 10.

[2] Ibid, 10.

[3] Gooch, Flannery, 64.

[4] Paden, King Hardware Company and Atlanta, 90.

[5] Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, 43.

[6] O’Connor, The Habit of Being, 372.

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