After 48 years, one of the most well-known people in the Thomson workforce retired last Thursday as 2019 drew to a close. As dusk settled in and rain continued to fall, people stopped by the parking lot at a local tire shop to congratulate him. Simon Lee Morgan, 64, is known to most of Thomson as Pee Wee and spent 48 years taking care of people’s tire needs. He started at Thomson Tire in 1972 and after an ownership change four years ago remained in the same shop, which now is Jim Whitehead Best One Tire & Service on Augusta Highway. The tire shop was operated by the Norman family from 1958 through Marvin Norman’s retirement from Thomson Tire & Retreading Company in 2016. When Norman retired, he had 48 years in the industry. Pee Wee likewise retired with 48 years of experience as well, just four years later. The two men’s stories are intertwined throughout he decades and Pee Wee defers to Norman for most of the story telling. Norman moved to Thomson to work with his Uncle Bud (Norman) in 1968. Uncle Bud and Aunt Sue had no children, so Norman moved to town. Uncle Bud purchased the tire shop in 1958 when he came back from working as a welder overseas. “He came back and he wanted a shop and a farm. So, he bought Thomson Tire and then in 1963 he built the present building over there,” said Norman.
The younger Norman attended school here for two years, then went to work full time at Thomson Tire. He had moved to Thomson when he was 16. “In 1972 Pee Wee left Thomson Construction cleaning out cement trucks and came to work with us,” said Norman. “We all came up together. What I learned, I taught it to Pee Wee and vice versa. We just worked closely together.” As Uncle Bud slowed down later in life, Norman took over the business. “Pee Wee, he know’s what he’s doing. He learned it the hard way because Uncle Bud didn’t play. He taught us how to work. Me and Pee Wee and David (Hicks), he taught us to work,” Norman said. Hicks joined the team in 1986 and is still working. What is it about Pee Wee that makes so many in town know him? “Everybody in town knows Pee Wee because Pee Wee knows how to talk to people, he is polite to people, he makes people feel good around him, and he ain’t afraid to talk,” said Norman. “Yes mam. No mam. Yes sir, no sir, or I got this,” Norman said, as he explained Pee Wee’s interactions with people and how he spoke to them. But, he was also helpful more than just when in the shop. “I always told him if you are on the road and you come back to the shop and there’s somebody broke down, you stop and help then,” Norman said. Sometimes those that they helped might go on to be customers but sometimes they might not. The two believed in helping people simply because it was the right thing to do. “That’s just the way we were,” said Norman. “There ain’t no telling how many people we helped and took care of and they never paid a dime. We didn’t ask for no money.” Norman said Pee Wee always respected people and earned their respect. “We were always taught it’s good to have people to like you, but if a man respects and likes you — you’ve got a friend,” Norman said. Norman said from the time of Uncle Bud, through his and Pee Wee’s time as well, they provided tires for as many as six generations of Thomson families. “We didn’t want the fly by night business. We wanted the business that returns to you. When you get through a couple of generations and they come back to you for tires and work, that says a lot,” Norman said. “Pee Wee’s got that knack to take care of people, talk to people, and people enjoy fooling with him,” said Norman. “A lot of times people might not want to talk to the man in charge. They want to talk to the man that is on their level, that they understand and can talk to them, and Pee Wee was that man.” Pee Wee just puts it in simple, humble terms. “I went to my job, I did my job,” he said. With two men who worked closely together and consider each other family there are many old stories to share. Norman recalls a unique story of the adventures of Pee Wee. He was sent up to Washington to fix a tractor tire for a lady who lived way back off the road in a trailer. “The lady come to the door and Pee Wee went up there and told her who he was. He went and fixed the tractor tire and come back to the door and peeked around, she was standing in the door. He could see in the door and she had a .357 in her hand about six or eight inches long,” recalled Norman. Well, Norman later had to go to the house and apparently she was expecting Pee Wee and not him. “I caught her off guard and that lady didn’t play. We fixed her tire and left,” Norman said. “That lady turned out to be one of our best customers and just a delight to have around and see. But, a lot of times she would come out there with that .357 strapped to her side. We used to pick at Pee Wee about that.” He said it was common that once people met Pee Wee, they found he was a pleasure to be around. Pee Wee and Norman worked side by side and he became a member of the Norman family. He would often take Uncle Bud and Aunt Sue to the doctor’s office in Augusta. One story the two men share is about taking Aunt Sue shopping at Dillards. “Me and Pee Wee was raised old fashioned. So, Aunt Sue, she went to go into ladies wear. Well, Pee Wee didn’t feel comfortable in there so he stood outside,” said Norman. “And Aunt Sue was walking around in there getting what she wanted and Pee Wee was out there looking, stretching his neck up, walking up and down looking and people in there got scared. So, they called the security guard.” As the two tell the story, a large security man with huge arms walked up behind Pee Wee. The tire man simply told him his boss had told him to keep an eye on Aunt Sue, and he did. “Then from that time on Pee Wee would go down there and them ladies would bring Pee Wee and sit him down in a chair and Aunt Sue would go do her shopping and they would help her. They’d come back and Pee Wee would take Aunt Sue and put her in the car and come home,” said Norman. “See that’s respect and you don’t get that kind of respect if you don’t earn it. He earned that kind of respect.” For Pee Wee, he plans to keep his priorities in order during his retired days. “The man upstairs is number one. We are always number two,” said Pee Wee. He holds a second degree black belt in karate and used to teach karate to children. However, in retirement, he plans to fish, cut grass, and raise the two grandsons and spend time with family.