Grandpa’s Stories Weren’t Just Stories After All

Yesterday’s post was about my maternal grandfather, this one is about my paternal grandfather, Leslie Newland Bright. During the depression he sold Singer sewing machines to homes in the coal mining villages of Virginia. Here’s a photo from a company picnic in 1928.

My grandfather is in the middle first standing row

Singer Sewing Company Picnic 1928

That’s Grandpa standing just above the C in Co. here’s a an enlarged cut out of him from the picture.

my paternal grandfather

Leslie N. Bright

As the family lore goes, he started working for Singer as a S&C Man. That was sales and collections. He didn’t have a car then so he’d get on the train at a flag stop and ride up to a small mining village. This was mostly in the Virginia and Tennessee area. He’d go selling and collecting in the village. If he sold a sewing machine he’d ride the train back get the machine and then ride the train again to deliver it.

Eventually he became a manager for them and got a car allowance. He bought a new car every 90 days. Why? He said he trashed the cars driving those old mining roads in the Appalachians. The ruts were so bad that one time he set the car to drive then climbed in the back seat to help hold the sewing machine.

One of the tales he told was repossessing a sewing machine in an old mining village shack. He went in to get the machine and the family wouldn’t give it back. He shot through the floor of the shack making the chickens rooting under it fly. Then he got the machine and put it on his back. He then walked out and up over a small bridge. The father of the family shot at him but he kept going. Supposedly grandpa said he figured the man was a bad shot and if he didn’t hit him the first time he wasn’t gonna.

Now Dad heard this story growing up and put it down to the tall tale his father told. Then one day when they had a farm of their own a man came in to do business. As they were talking the visitor told of a Singer Sewing Machine man that came to his uncle’s house to repossess a sewing machine sold on credit. The man shot up the house killing some chickens, took the machine and calmly walked out as the visitor’s uncle shot at him. Grandpa sit there nodding at the story. He never said it was him. He never let on he knew any more than the man said. However, MY dad was stunned. It wasn’t a tall tale after all.

Grandpa left Singer Sewing Company during the depression. He said he didn’t realize how hard it was until he’d left the job. He went from that to pulling steel tracks from old mines. He had work down on his knees in the old mines pulling up the mine car tracks. Very hard work, really hard work compared to the Singer job.

As always I’d like to hear from you. You can comment here (your comment will show when I get it) or reach me on Twitter (@marylouiseklund) on Flickr or over on Google+. You can e-mail me at marylouiseeklund at either or

Until next time – enjoy what’s left of 2011!

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