Hastings Garage: 60 years of service

Submitted to Dorchester Banner
George Hastings standing in front of the seed warehouse.

EAST NEW MARKET – As a lifelong farmer in Dorchester County I have had the opportunity to meet many individuals and families that were engaged in the business of providing agricultural services to the farm community. Some were much better than others but generally the farmers were well-served by the businessmen that made up the backbone of the county’s largest industry. None could be more outstanding in this field than George Hastings and his family.

They have devoted their life’s work to helping the farmers and their families. There can be no better way to judge a business than by talking to the people they serve and how that business has impacted the community.

On the corners of Baker Road and Route 16 is a farm just about 2 miles from Hastings Garage. When you come by the farm you immediately notice the beautiful herd of beef cows grazing on their pasture. All I could think about was that T-bone steak on that hind quarter laying on a grill with me close by. You can see how well the homes, grain tanks, sheds and machinery are maintained by the Wilson clan.

David Wilson has now taken over the crop production aspect of the farm. Dick Wilson, the father of David, of course has got to have his herd of cows. I also saw in the fields and lots close to the barns, horses, hogs, goats and a large flock of laying hens that produce some of the largest brown eggs I’ve seen in quite a while. I told Dick that those Rhode Island Reds had to be bow-legged.

Hay crops and livestock feed produced on the farm, insures that these animals get the best so that they can produce the best end product. I just wish that they planted some peach trees like Grandpop Wilson had on the home farm located on Fishing Creek just below Cambridge. There was no better juice running down my cheek than the fruit that “Peaches” Wilson grew.

When I asked Mr. Wilson his opinion of the Hastings operation just down the road, his response was positive praise all the way. Dick said that George Hastings was a close friend that would help you out night or day. Anything that was needed by the farmer in order to keep going, be it repairs, fertilizer, lime, seed or whatever — help was on the way.

Eddie Powell, another farmer and prominent businessman had this to say about George Hastings, “Anything the farmer needed help with, George Hastings was there. George is a man of faith and family values that in the beginning worked from the back of a pickup truck. Through hard work and honest dealings he became the owner and operator of a large agri-business that still serves the community.”

George Hastings was born on Taylors Island 87 years ago. At the age of 3, the family moved to Shiloh where his father farmed and later went to work as a carpenter. Later George’s father returned to farming, tilling land in the Puckum area. George and his brother Windsor, farmed together until George was drafted during the Korean War and spent three years in the Army.

After his service to his country, George started his mechanical vocation at Alban Tractor in Salisbury. Moving closer to home he worked at Ford dealerships in Dorchester County. Moving to downtown Secretary he started to work at what was to become Dick Todd’s home base for his trucking business.

Working in both diesel and gas garages certainly paved the way for George’s future work. George stated that he always liked working on engines and machinery — anything that required turning a wrench. In the early 1960s George began his career in a big way — his shop was the back of a 1956 Ford pickup with all the tools that he could afford. Farmers were his main customers and there was one particular farm that he seemed to work on more than others.

Up past Suicide Bridge, Calvin Saunders had a farm, but he also had a good looking daughter Anna Lee. Being a good neighbor, George always was sure to help out the Saunders family. Anna Lee’s brother had lost one of his arms in a farm-related accident.

The gathering chains and rollers on a corn picker do not know the difference between a man’s arm and an ear of horse corn. Mr. Hastings was seen working on Anna Lee’s brother’s artificial arm in a vice. He knew he could make the prosthetic arm work a lot better.

After all, a young farm girl had to be impressed with a man who could repair just about anything. Her brother even took his arm off before the operation began.

To make a long story short — George Hastings and Anna Lee Elizabeth Saunders were soon married in 1957. Hastings Garage was built at the intersection of Baker Road and Suicide Bridge Road.

The block building measured 40’ by 50’ and was the first structure erected on the corner. Over the years George and Anna Lee worked hand-in-hand, both night and day. There was however a little time away from the work since the family was increased by two sons — Jimmy and Jaye.

As time went by, George added on to his business by acquiring additional land and buildings. In the early days, all of the materials used on the farms was handled mostly by hand cart and hand labor. Since fertilizer and seeds were the main products stored in warehouses, the burlap bags and later, paper products made up the inventory.

One hundred and sixty-seven pound burlap bags of fertilizer were the spring season starter, with the seed containers following close behind. Later the bulk fertilizer and lime made the appearance along with the loaders and augers that could handle the loose products.

The first bulk fertilizer sheds were made of wood with V-shaped floors that allowed the fertilizer to flow to the loading auger. Many times the fertilizer would cake up and this would cause it not to run into the augers. George took care of this problem with a long drill bit and a good stick of dynamite. George said that he never blew up the entire shed but at times had to renail some boards that were laying about 20 feet away.

Large bulk storage sheds were later constructed for lime and fertilizer with payloaders replacing most of the shovels — but not all of them.

George had farmers grow fields of wheat, barley and soybeans that were certified as foundation seed by the University of Maryland. A seed warehouse was added to the picture along with a large addition to the garage.

A parts store, tire shop, office space and a related garden center were built. Land that was used for trucks, tractors and rental equipment was purchased across the road.

As the business got larger, more help was needed to handle the equipment and day-to-day duties. Everyone did whatever had to be done to insure the wheels kept turning. The main man for George in the garage was Shelton Hubbard, better known as “Bubby.” There was nothing that Bubby could put a wrench on and not fix. Bubby has been with George for over 40 years and still helps when needed.

When Bubby was a young man there was a problem with how he fixed his car. He made sure the vehicle was fast. However, after several tickets were given to Bubby, the law also wanted his driver’s license for a while. While Bubby did not have a driver’s permit Mrs. Hastings loaded him and his tools in the pickup and went to the trouble spot. Mrs. Hastings was sure glad when the State of Maryland sent back Bubby’s driver permit.

Mrs. Anna Hastings passed away on Jan. 25, 2015. A big personal part of Hastings Garage left that day but her family continues the business started over half a century ago. Both sons Jimmy and Jaye along with their sons, now run the day-to-day operation. Jimmy’s wife Kathy is Office Manager. With long time employees Patti Pritchett and Rex Bateman knowing every detail of the business, service never suffers.

Mr. George still goes to the store every day. When the fertilizer and lime is loaded Mr. Hastings is the man on the payloader. How many tons of bulk goods has been loaded by this machine and man is anybody’s guess. It sure is a long ways from the days when a long handled scoop shovel was the main loading tool.

George says that the farmers made his business what it is today. I say George Hastings made the business what it is today.