John W. Hodge, Jr. was volunteering to serve his country. At the time, the Atlanta native was an eighteen year-old freshman at Alabama plytechnic Institute (today we just call it Auburn University). On March 22, 1944, his military service began when he was inducted into the Army Air Corps Cadets. His first assignment was “on-the-line trainee” at Columbus Army Air Field in Columbus, Mississippi where he did maintenance work on Army AT-10 Bomber Trainers. The AT-10 was a unique plane in aviation history – it was made out of plywood!
The lanky 6’4″ cadet attended Physical Instructor’s Training School at San Antonio Army Field in 1945 and became a Physical Instructor at Harlingen, Texas, with the rank of Corporal, until his discharge on November 3, 1945.
John returned to the “loveliest village on the plains”, Auburn, Alabama, in 1946 to continue his education and shenanigans as a Kappa Sigma fraternity member.
John received his degree in Mechanical Engineering in June 1949.
After working for both Lockheed and Union Carbide, his entrepreneurial spirit took over and he turned to wheeling and dealing in the mid 1950’s. He and friend, Mayes Pierce, traveled to small towns and sold used automotive parts, tools and other surplus items from a 1948 Chevrolet panel truck.
One of John’s biggest gambles in the establishment of the Hodge Army Navy store in 1955, was his purchase of 38,000 military bomb boxes. He paid $190 (1/2 cent each) for the entire lot and since each box was over 3 feet in length, they also covered several lots! Fortunately, there was a housing boom and John ended up selling the boxes at 10 to 15 cents a piece to housing constructors. He ended up making over $4500 on his $190 investment. No doubt that convinced him that the surplus business was where he belonged. His course in life, and the Marietta area had been set.