It would be fair to say that Doug Franks has influenced thousands of lives.
Franks, who runs City Upholstery, Havelock’s oldest upholstery business, spent much of his life on local baseball fields where he coached generations of young players.
“I have coached the grandkids of the kids I coached,” Franks said. “I have managed or coached in over 500 baseball games and I have probably been to over 1,500 baseball practices.”
Two years ago, Franks stepped back from his active role in local Babe Ruth and Little League baseball, but he still gets approached all the time by former players.
“The biggest pleasure I get is being in Bojangles and having somebody come up and say “Hey coach, do you remember me?’” he said.
It might take a minute, but Franks eventually gets around to knowing exactly who’s asking.
“I’ve had some real difficult kids to coach and those are the ones I’ve had the most pleasure with,” Franks said.
Franks, 71, doesn’t name names.
“I just hope I’ve been a positive influence on everybody I’ve been associated with,” he said. “You can’t please everybody. I hope I have pleased the majority of them and been a positive influence.”
Franks is not a native of Havelock but has been here almost all of his life. He remembers when all the roads heading out of Havelock were dirt.
“I moved here in 1949 at seven years of age and I’ve been here ever since,” Franks said. “My father was a tenant farmer up in west Craven and we were starving to death, and he got a job at Cherry Point.”
He remembers when the community shopping center at the corner of Jaycee Street and Cunningham Boulevard was the center of all activity in Havelock.
“That was the life of the town,” he said.
Franks was in the first class to attend the first Havelock High School in 1956, which was held where Havelock Middle School is today.
“It was a real wild bunch we had,” Franks said. “It was a lot of real wild things going like you’d see on TV, generally just tearing up things that we shouldn’t have been. We took all the bolts out of the stalls in the bathrooms. The principal took them out. We never had any stalls in the boy’s bathroom after that. The kids were lighting the trash cans on fire. We’d turn all of the Bunsen burners on in the lab and all of them would be blazing the gas out when the teacher come in.”
The students would take unofficial, unapproved field trips in the woods adjacent to the school on some days, he said.
“It was just a wild time. David Miller, who is one of my best friends, and his friend, David Seaton, caught a big copperhead and they snuck him into our class and until they got caught they milked that snake every day,” Franks said. “They had a jar and a piece of linen cloth and they would take this snake out every day and, just like you see the professionals do it, they would take that snake’s head and milk the venom out of it every day. We were freshmen in high school.”
After high school, Franks had a decision to make about what he wanted to do with his life.
“I was given a choice to get a job, go in the army, go the school or get out, so I hit the street walking and the first place I stopped was an upholstery shop, and I took a job there for $15 a week. I was 18,” Franks recalled.
In 1964, Franks did a brief stint in the army and when he got back, he got married. He tried a job at the post office but didn’t like it, so he took a chance and started his own upholstery business.
That was 1967. He has been at his present location at 611 East Main St., since 1970.
Franks still works every day with five employees.
“I’m friends with them. I don’t Lord over them,” he said. “I’ve had several good employees, some kept as long as 25 years.”
He still takes time to work on the old PFAFF commercial sewing machine, piecing together jobs for cars, boats and airplanes.
“It is second nature for me to sit down and sew,” Franks said. “I take what they don’t want to do.”
Franks was an avid water skier until a back injury kept him off the skis five years ago. He still hunts and is a rabid Havelock Rams football supporter, more than a half-century after attending the first-ever Havelock High football game in 1957.
“I’ve actually had an active life and an enjoyable one,” Franks said. “It’s just like the commercial says. A body in motion stays in motion. I’ve never been a couch potato.”