His business associates called him “Mr. Connors,” or “Old Man Connors.” His friends and relatives called him, “Arch.” His employees, when he wasn’t present, called him “Fire-in-the-Hole.”
Construction crews, just before setting off dynamite, yell “Fire in the hole,” as a warning to take cover, explosion about to take place.
It fitted Arch Connors to a T.
Since the Twenties, he had driven a Plymouth.
They were always black, until the mid-Fifties when he bought a shiny new red, two-door model. It was a sparkler.
Few were brave enough to ride with him when he was driving, at least after the first such experience.
The unwary or the unknowing would come back from those first rides without saying very much.
However, it usually required soothing words of assurance and liberal use of a crowbar to pry their fingers away from the door handle, and to get their feet off the dashboard.
Family wags said he had scared more hell out of people than the preacher at Woodstock Park Baptist Church–and he was a real stem-winder. That included those riding in the car and those unfortunates who happened to choose a cross walk when he was approaching an intersection. Despite many predictions however, he never had a wreck, and his driving never hurt anyone–physically that is.
When his Plymouth braked up sharply at a job sit in a swirl of dust, the men passed the word–“Fire-in-the-Hole.” They all knew what it meant–Old Man Connors was on the job, better step lively and look alive.
Like his father before him, Arch Connors was a builder who took deep pride in the quality of his houses–and he could spot a wall out of plumb or a bowed rafter in a heart beat.
Besides the Plymouth, his trademark was a Panama hat–a white Panama hat–that he wore year round but for a few weeks in the dead of the short Florida winter, when he changed to a brown felt fedora.
He kept his hats neatly stacked on the refrigerator in the kitchen, alongside the box of King Edward cigars, several of which he stuffed into his shirt pocket on his way out the door, moments after kissing his wife Eva, goodbye.
He smiled often and had a great sense of humor, but his temper was legendary.
When things weren’t going right, he could and did on frequent occasions, demonstrate a creative command of the English language, particularly its Anglo-Saxon heritage in the area of profanity. With smoking emotion and blasphemous delivery, he could point out errors of judgment, shoddy workmanship, or simple stupidity on the part of employees, suppliers, and sometimes children and grandchildren. When matched to the right occasion, the words and delivery were just short of awe inspiring.
As a little boy I would often go across town to spend the weekend with my grandparents. At first, my father would take me.
Later, I would ride the 26 North Shore bus downtown and transfer to the 32 Woodstock bus that still stops directly in front of the old house on Broadway and Melson Avenues in West Jacksonville.
On Sunday mornings I would always go to church with my grandmother. It was nice to be taken around and introduced to all her friends at church, and to sit with her during the service. My grandfather never attended, but he was never far away–usually he could be seen in his Plymouth (he always bought a Plymouth), parked under a big oak tree near the auditorium, reading the Sunday paper and smoking a cigar. There was a reason, as I was to find out when I was a little older.
Many years before, Arch had been a member at the church and a member of the building committee. When the roof needed repairing he was asked for advice as to how it should be fixed. Several other opinions were offered. He warned them that the roof would leak if it were not repaired the way he recommended.
The committee turned down his proposal and he turned his back on the church. From then on he would drive my grandmother and me to church, but he would not go in.
The roof? It began leaking several years later exactly as he predicted it would.
He didn’t reenter Woodstock Church until the funeral of his youngest son, Archie, shot down and killed in Korea trying to rescue a Navy pilot.