Safe in the Sun Thanks to OneBlock Number: 45
Safe in the Sun, Thanks to One
By Nora Worthen
In the 1920s and 1930s, as factories began operations in Marion and surrounding towns, the people living in the mountain counties, dreaming of a better way of life for their families, gave up their farming and hunting way of life to live in the mill villages in various towns and work in the factories. This new way of life promised a regular paycheck and a somewhat easier way of life for the Byrd and Webb families from Yancey, Madison, and Buncombe Counties.
The Byrd and Webb families settled in the mill village of Cross Mill in Marion to raise their families. K. C. Byrd and Zelda Webb were born in this mill village, attended schools at Cross Mill Elementary and Marion High, and on December 1, 1950, were married and started their own family.
Prior to their marriage, and just after World War II, K.C., looking for any kind of work he could fine, traveled to Norfolk, VA, much like other young men his age, and landed a job with the electrical crew working on the ships docked in the Norfolk Shipyard, which included the Yorktown and other carriers and military ships. Having received some basic electrical training in Norfolk, he eventually went to Chicago for more formal electrical training, then returned to Marion and qualified for his electrical license.
K.C. Byrd landed a job for McDowell County School Maintenance, and in the evenings and on weekends worked part time wiring houses and operating a business out of his home. In about 1970, after having developed a customer base, he was able to open K.C. Byrd Electrical Contractor.
By 1966, K.C. and Zelda’s family had grown to include five children, Cindy, Chris, Kee, Mark, and Jonathan, all growing up and working in the family business at one time or another. Today K.C. Byrd Electric is still a family business, with Cindy acting as office manager, and the three brothers working together to operate it day to day. The company has progressed to a very diverse business doing all types of residential and commercial electrical work. In the last 10 years, due to the downturn in the economy, it has branched out to include solar energy and security business.
During its 40 years of operation, K.C. Byrd Electric has moved from the family home to a location on Railroad Street (that now houses The Strip Shop), to its present-day location, which Mr. Byrd bought and remodeled sometime in the early 1970s. The East Court Street brick building was built in the 1940s or 1950s and at one time housed Marion Equipment Company, and later a car dealership where cars were designed and built for a while. When Byrd bought the building, it was full of car parts, motors and fenders.
Today, the East Court Street building is host to one of the McDowell Quilt Trail blocks, which the Byrds call “Safe in the Sun, Thanks to One.” Jonathan Byrd, whose formal educational background is in graphic arts, created the design. Kee Byrd outlined the family’s specific guidelines for what they wanted to reflect in the block as follows:
The mountains, shown in shades of gray from dark to very light, depict the family’s mountain heritage. “We like the mountains and are proud of our heritage here,” declares Kee.
The flying, birds in colors of blue and white, depict the seven individual members of the Byrd family. The birds flying toward Heaven individually and collectively depict the family’s religious beliefs as a Christian family.
The symbol of the bright orange sun has a double meaning, which represents the renewable solar energy that is a new part of the business, and, again, symbolizing the religious faith in the Son of God.
The jagged yellow border that frames the quilt block represents the lightening bolt, which is the traditional symbol for the electrical business.
The portion of the name, “Safe in the Sun” means solar energy, as well as the family’s feeling of security as being safe in the Lord. “Thanks to One” is in honor to K. C. Byrd, Sr., the father of the family, who started the business 40 years ago and provided the path for a successful life in which the other six members of the family are or have previously been involved.