Photo by Jon Anderson.
King Kindred, 79, celebrated 60 years of work with the Don Drennen and Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall dealerships by receiving a new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado truck as a gift. Kindred has decided it’s about time to retire but he hasn’t decided when.
It’s unusual to hear of someone staying in the workforce for 60 years, but one employee of a Hoover auto dealership can top that.
King Kindred, at age 79, has worked at the same auto dealership for all of those 60 years, even after it moved from Birmingham to Hoover and changed hands years later.
The Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall honored Kindred in September for 60 years of service and rewarded him with a brand-new blue 2015 Chevrolet Colorado.
Kindred well remembers his first day working for the Don Drennen Motor Co. in Birmingham’s Ensley community. It was Sept. 1, 1955, and his job as a 19-year-old was to wash cars. In 1963, he was promoted to the dealership’s service department, where he prepared cars for buyers. Since then, he has worn many hats, including working in the paint shop, driving wrecker trucks and transferring vehicles to other dealerships. He also held the job of new car service manager.
When Don Drennen Jr. moved the dealership to Hoover in 1972, Kindred came with it.
He worked for three generations of the Drennen family, including Don Drennen Sr., Don Drennen Jr. and Ward Drennen, and continued with the dealership when Ward sold it to the Hendrick Automotive Group in 2011.
Ward, who returned to the dealership for Kindred’s 60-year celebration, said he has had an unusual relationship with Kindred. When Ward was a teenager, it was Kindred who came to rescue him on the side of the road a couple of times after his vehicle had broken down. Years later, he would become Kindred’s boss.
They’ve known each other a long time, and Kindred is well loved and “one of my favorite people,” Ward said.
He said his youngest daughter, Emily, looked at Kindred as a grandfather figure.
Joel Smith, executive general manager of the Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall, said Kindred has been a loyal employee.
“He’s the kind of guy you want on your team,” Smith said. “This team loves you to death and appreciates what you’ve done.”
In recent years, Kindred said his job has been to open up the dealership in the morning and do things like making coffee, ordering supplies and changing light bulbs. He works about 70 hours every two weeks, he said.
Kindred treats the auto dealership like a second home, Smith said. He knows that, Smith joked, because he has seen Kindred asleep in the lobby numerous times when he arrived in the morning. He was never sure whether Kindred spent the night at the dealership or just fell asleep after opening up the place, he said.
Ward Drennen joked that Kindred was the same in his latter years with the Drennen family.
Smith said Kindred has decided it’s time to retire, but the details about that retirement are a bit sketchy.
“I’m going to work all of this year, and I might work next year. I don’t know,” the 79-year-old said.
Ward Drennen said Kindred retired twice with the Drennen family.
“We sent him to Hawaii with his family once and gave him a watch the second time,” Drennen said. “He’s a professional retirer, I guess. He’s very good at it.”
Kindred said he tried to retire, but every time he attempted to turn in his keys, the owners refused to let him.
When asked why he worked so long for the same dealership, Kindred said he has been treated fairly there.
“They don’t push me to do my job because I was going to do it anyway,” he said.
Kindred lives with his wife of 42 years, Willie Nell, in Birmingham’s Bush Hills community. They have six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When he does eventually retire, Kindred plans to travel to Las Vegas and wants to return to Hawaii and the Bahamas. Maybe he can get those trips when he hits his 70-year milestone at work.