He could recall each building that once stood on the Marietta Square. He remembered when The Earl Smith Strand Theatre was just an empty lot, when the original courthouse stood on the Marietta Square, and when the restaurant Shillings on the Square was Schillings Hardware.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in my life,” Hurst said. His family who farmed in Temple and moved to Marietta for a better life.
“Back then was The Depression and the farmers just got to where they weren’t making anything. My family moved to Marietta for work at the Marietta Knitting Mill on Roselane (behind WellStar Kennestone Hospital complex),” Hurst said.
The Marietta Knitting Mill (now known as the McLauren Mill Lofts) opened in 1911. Guy Northcutt, Sr. managed the nationally known company that produced state of the art hosiery and socks.
“To maintain a job at the knitting mill, (an employee) had to make production. Back then jobs were hard to find, and everybody was hunting one,” Hurst said.
The mill continued producing hosiery for companies including Champion, McLaren and Rolane until the 1960s. At one time, it was known for production of the Radium sock for which Radium Street, running alongside the lofts, was named. Its most recent use was as a small antique mall until its residential development.
W.H. (Howard) Benson, Sr. (father of Dr. Earl and Dr. W.H. Benson, Jr.) rented the house to the Hurst family. The Benson family was the last owners of Marietta Educational Garden Center on Kennesaw Avenue before deeding the property to the Marietta Council of Garden Clubs.
“Back then, (there wasn’t anything) but shacks (on Nelson Street)” Hurst said. “There wasn’t anything here from here to (Kennesaw) Mountain except two houses over there. There was just what you called wagon trails over there.”
When the Hursts moved in, there were only four small houses on the dirt road off Kennesaw Avenue. Their address was Route 1, Marietta, and located in the county. Today, many large homes also occupy the dead-end street.
Hurst said George Keeler (who inherited Tranquilla, an antebellum home and landmark on Kennesaw Avenue, now owned by Beth and Greg Griffin) requested that Hurst ask his neighbors whether they would like to remain in the county.
“The neighbors said no,” Hurst said, explaining that several years later legislators passed a law allowing the City of Marietta to annex the property.
The Hursts moved into their home when Kennesaw Mountain was individually owned before the government purchased it for the park. Kennesaw Mountain provided many fond memories for Hurst.
“Me and my daddy used to go after a rain and pick up mini-balls and bullets and take them up to Schillings Hardware and sell them to them for 5 cents a pound,” he recalled.
The modest two-bedroom home housed the Hurst family including Hurst’s two brothers and two sisters.
“Over my life, I wondered how we slept but you just make do,” he said. “It was just a little rundown street. I used to tell people I lived in rich section of town but on a poor street.”
Hurst couldn’t confirm the reason he was told as to why the houses on Nelson Street were built. “I was told that there was a train wreck out here on the railroad, and it was loaded with lumber. The fellows bought that lumber and built these houses out here,” he said.
After the Hursts purchased the home, they rebuilt it and added on to it. The 9-foot ceilings are original. Most of the paneling in the home was manufactured by W.P. Stephens Lumber Company. On the den wall, a deed to the house dated 1895 hangs along with family photographs. After his parents died, Hurst lived in the home with his older sister Grace until her death in 1979.
“Grace took over the house, and I made a living,” he said. Hurst worked at Western Auto Company for 35 years. After the company closed in 1976, he worked at several other similar companies in the area.
Among the improvements Hurst made to his home was adding brick to the outside, some coming from the First United Methodist Church of Marietta when it was located on Atlanta Street. Though most of his peers have died, Hurst is much beloved by younger friends and neighbors. He had pneumonia and is on oxygen and in hospice care at home.
“I do have a real friendly neighborhood here. I didn’t realize I had so many friends until I got sick. They’ve been real good to me,” he said.
Betty King is Hurst’s neighbor of 49 years. For 40 years, their backyard on St. Anne’s Road adjoined his side yard. Nine years ago, King built a new home across the street.
She describes Hurst as a wonderful neighbor, saying, “To know Claud is to love Claud.”