Story by Rebekah Yancey
It was 1975. Becky Watson was a sophomore at Morgan County High School who yearned to earn her own money and taste independence. So Watson, then Worley, visited Kroger in Hartselle and applied for a job.
She was hired, and over the years she turned her extracurricular job — earning less than $2 an hour — into a 47-year career at several Kroger locations in the Tennessee Valley.
Originally from Hartselle, Watson – a wife, mother and grandmother – retired from her decades-long career at Kroger, where she provided service with a smile and became family to many of her colleagues. and customers.
Reflecting on how time has changed the grocery industry, Watson said early in his tenure at Kroger, UPC codes weren’t used and employees were trained in all facets of the job – from from bagging and storing to working at the cash register, providing customer service and more.
“Everything had a price, and you typed in all the numbers and calculated the tax,” Watson said. “We offered Top Value stamps that customers could collect and redeem for gifts. When I hired, we didn’t have baggers and checkers; we have done everything. We even cleaned the bathrooms and swept the floors.
Watson has spent several years working in different departments, including the produce and frozen sections, with stints in dairy and floral. She moved into management succession for 10 years before moving into full-time management, where she worked for the rest of her career.
“It’s so funny,” she added, “that my last day as a clerk was March 31, 2004” — and her last day at Kroger was exactly 18 years later.
Katrina Sharp has been employed at Kroger for 10 years and has worked at the Hartselle site for five years. She said Watson was like a second mother. “She’s my Kroger mom,” said Sharp, who runs the floral department. “She’s helped me every Valentine’s Day, every Mother’s Day. I think that’s where her passion lies.
“To describe Becky – you can’t put it into words,” Sharp said. “She’s one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met and she cares about people on a more personal level. I hope I’m half the woman she is. She’s special. He there aren’t many Beckys in this world.
Drake Posey agreed. “She treats everyone with care. She has a very strong heart and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty,” he said. “She will be greatly missed.”
Hartselle Kroger store manager James Blake has known Watson for six years and calls him an inspiration. “She looks after everyone, takes care of everyone and she tries to do too much most of the time, but we all love her and we will miss her. It’s going to be bittersweet,” said said Blake.
Watson said she doesn’t yet know what retirement has in store for her. Always busy, she says she will have to force herself to slow down and enjoy the next phase of her life with Tony, her husband of 41 years.
“It’s going to take some tweaking,” Watson said. “I think my knee replacement surgery was the divine way to prepare for retirement.
“Tony wants me to use the Kroger mic for about a month to deprogram myself,” Watson added with a laugh. “He knows if I go in there and something’s out of place, I’m going to put it in the right place.”
For Watson, the job was never just a paycheck. She said working at Kroger had a profound and lasting impact on her life.
“It’s not just about coming here and working. People have lives, and you have to be able to feel for them and care about them — there’s so much to do,” she said. “I have ‘Kroger kids,’ many of whom have moved into management and done great things with their lives. I’ve gotten so many text messages from all over with ‘Congratulations, Mrs. Watson!’
Overall, Watson said she was grateful for her years at Kroger, the relationships she made and the experiences she had. The most valuable thing she said she ever received from Kroger was her dog Zoe, which she found outside the store one night while working late. Once a constant companion to Watson, the poodle mix died in March at the age of 14.
“It was an adventure,” she says. “It’s so much more than selling groceries.”