THE EARLY YEARS 1916 - 1938

My father, Frank E. Mackle Jr., was born in Atlanta on July 23, 1916.

Like his father, he was the youngest child of the family.

His brother Elliott was eight and his brother Robert was four when Frank was born.

His father was well established in the Atlanta area at that time having moved there from Jacksonville about five years earlier and having overcome his earlier financial difficulties.

There is little that I know about his childhood years except that there was considerable movement from place to place and several financial ups and downs for the Mackle family.

The three Mackle brothers
around 1917 

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The Mackle Family
around 1925

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The Massachusetts Letters
1933 - 1934

Vanderbilt Freshman Class
October 1935

 

 

 

DAD

 

 

In between the moves and the financial problems were periods of considerable success and a fairly affluent life style. So the problems when they came must have caused serious changes in their lives.

The one that had to be the greatest influence on Dad’s life occurred in Birmingham when Dad was in his teens.

In Birmingham, his father enjoyed considerable success in the 1920s. The records of his construction activities are numerous. He was an influential member of the Rocky Ridge Country Club. Other newspaper accounts refer to him as a ‘prominent figure" in Birmingham and chairman of the Citizens Committee.

In the late 1920s or early 1930s, however, the Great Depression was affecting everyone and in 1933 the family moved from Birmingham to Nashville. Around this time - apparently due to the financial pressures - Dad was sent to Massachusetts to live with his aunts and attend high school there for a year or two. 

This was apparently a very difficult time for my father.

After Dad died I found an old rusted metal box in his office containing six letters - five  from his father and one from his mother - from late 1933 and early 1934. They give a glimpse into one of the more difficult times of his life. 

They are worth reading in detail but a line or two - written by his Father in the November 28, 1933 letter gives the tenor of the times - and his father's optimism in spite of the difficulties.

"Looks like you will be the one to have a cinch going to school as things look good here. I cleaned up all of those bills - business and personal - amounting to about twelve hundred and on top of that we dont have to worry about money until the spring at least and I have two or three sure contracts for after the New Year. The Ford Owen gave me is fine and looks like new. The new house is fine the only bad feature is that you are not here to share it with us but that will come soon..... Your Loving Father, Dad"

In retrospect - after his lifetime of accomplishments - I can't help but believe that these times - the Depression - his father's financial difficulties - his being sent away to Massachusetts at seventeen years of age - had a lifelong impact on him. 

Many who lived through this era came away from it scarred for life. For Dad it was - while difficult - a positive influence on his life. Living through the worst of times seems to have only made him more optimistic about the future. Optimism was truly the characteristic that was constant in him through the years. This must have been a test of that though.

Dad's favorite pastimes as a youth were golf and baseball. I understand - and the letters from his father refer to the fact - that he played baseball in high school.

Dad graduated from Milton High School in the Quincy Massachusetts area on June 7th 1934.

Dad wanted very much to go to Annapolis. I do not know if he was accepted or not but the family's financial condition made it necessary for him to attend Vanderbilt in their hometown.

In college Frank Jr. majored in Civil Engineering. Reflecting on the hard times he once told me that he was the "only one from his graduating class to have a job" some time after graduation. And of course he attributed that to the fact he was able to work for his father.

At Vanderbilt, Dad was - perhaps for the first time - forced to defend his faith against the bias that existed in those days against Catholics in the South. In any event he gave credit for his strong beliefs to these challenges.