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While anchored in Alameda, California, near San Francisco, Max and a group of buddies traveled to Richmond. While walking down the street, his sailor cap blew off and landed at the feet of a group of …
While anchored in Alameda, California, near San Francisco, Max and a group of buddies traveled to Richmond. While walking down the street, his sailor cap blew off and landed at the feet of a group of girls. One of the girls caught his eye, Beth Allen. A short time later, Max and Beth were married in San Francisco.
When he achieved enough points to be sent home, Max brought Beth back to Tennessee. They lived with his mother and father for a short time. It was a change of pace for Beth, as the Manley house did not have electricity.
In 1942, his uncle bought the old Caledonia schoolhouse. Moved by a mule team, the schoolhouse ended up on Como Road adjacent to where Max and Beth would eventually call home. His father, grandfather and uncle put the house together, finishing three rooms, with one still incomplete by the winter. The following summer, Max entered the Navy. When he returned from the war, he bought the house from his uncle. Beth and Max called the house home for 25 years before moving into the brick home next door.
Once home, he began farming. After two dry years, he knew it was time to make a change. He decided to sell his cows and equipment and payoff everything he owed. This left him with $35. By this time, he and Beth had two children Sharon and Janet.
He took a job helping build a house and attended a farm school program for veterans. He was paid $97 per month. A friend he met during the class suggested he start selling insurance. While in training, the insurance program paid $75 a week for 13 weeks. He had planned to return to farming after the 13-week training, but in the end, he was making $100 per week. “I never did go back to farming,” said Max.
He attended classes in Jackson and obtained his GED. Max had contemplated college but decided it would be more lucrative to take over an established State Farm Insurance business and built it to where he could make a good living. In the four or five years it would have taken to finish college, he was able to obtain some independent companies and a real estate license.
In 1956, Max’s father died at age 55. Max’s mother, Virgie, decided she wanted to move to town. Instead of buying a new home, she had her house jacked up and moved to Paris Street. Once on the foundation, she remodeled the house and had the facade bricked.
25 years after starting his insurance business, the Maddox and Chance Insurance agency offered to buy the business. Max priced it at a rate he thought no one would meet, but they agreed to his price also hiring Beth as their secretary and leasing the office from the Manleys for five years.
After selling the business, Max began trading cars and horses as a hobby. One of Max’s favorite horses was one he named Rebel. He purchased the horse as a colt and it lived for over 15 years on his farm. Max joked he had named all his horses “Rebel” for 20 years.
During McKenzie’s 1969 Centennial Celebration, Max along with Guy Revel and Hub Crossett made a pony express ride to Nashville and hand-delivered an invitation to Governor Buford Ellington requesting his presence. Max rode one of his Rebels.
When his granddaughter, Sherry, a cheerleader who painted the backdrops for the football team to run through, asked Max to help with the team’s entrance. Dressed in a red coat and cowboy hat, Max portrayed the Colonel as rode “Rebel” across the field to open the games. He considered circling the field carrying a Rebel flag each time touchdown was made but decided against it.
During one game, his dash down the turf coincided with the team’s entry on the field, leaving “Rebel” jumping and dodging players. Fearing he was “going to get somebody killed” he stopped riding Rebel during the games.
His retirement from the insurance business allowed him to develop a hobby in Amateur Radio Service. With his experience, he served as an examiner, overseeing exams taken by other ham radio operators. He also attended weather school, learning to recognize weather patterns including tornadoes. It came in handy one afternoon as he was entering the Catfish Restaurant. He wanted patrons of an approaching tornado just before the winds destroyed a portion of Gaines Manufacturing and leveled Tommy’s Carpet.
He was a commander of the American Legion while serving as vice president at the McKenzie VFW. When the president of the VFW left shortly after the election, Max served as commander of both organizations.
Over the years, Max had several health scares. In 1969, he underwent lung surgery. In 1974 and 1975, he had open-heart surgery. Around 1997, he started feeling fatigued during his daily routine around the house.
“I’d go down to the barn to feed and walk down there slowly. Then I’d get one bucket of feed for one horse and I’d have to sit down and rest awhile.”
When he developed a respiratory infection, a visit with his physician didn’t seem to help his symptoms. Beth suggested he go back to the doctor. Not wanting to sit around in a doctor’s office, Beth said the alternative was the emergency room. At the emergency room in Paris, “it wasn’t but a minute till the doctor came in,” Max recalled. “I was going on with my bull to him when my head flew back and my mouth flew open.” The seizure escalated into code blue (cardiac arrest). Later, Max learned his heart stopped three times.
He underwent open-heart surgery for a third time, waking up in Jackson, three or four days later. About a year later, he began working towards increasing his stamina. His exercise of choice was working behind a tiller. He would till one row of his garden and sit down to rest. Then he’d work up another row.
“It wasn’t long before I could till the whole garden without stopping,” he boasted about his improved health.
On April 28, 2007, Max died at age 81. He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Beth was laid to rest next to Max in February 2012, at age 85.
If you asked a person about Max Manley they usually refer to him as a character. I never saw Max upset, usually, he was laughing or working his magic into making someone else laugh. I close this story simply by saying, “I love and miss you, Max.”