CLANTON, Ala. – Odean Cleckler, 89, said she has been doing her best to help run her husband's used-appliance business since he died a decade ago. This week, that work landed her and her son in jail.
City officials arrested the pair for disobeying a court order to clean up Cleckler's Appliance and Parts, which is surrounded by hundreds of old stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers along a main road in town. Friends are now volunteering to help clean up around the store, but Cleckler said it's not that easy.
"I appreciate them, but I got a guy here who knows what to throw away and what to keep," she said in an interview Thursday. "That's my business and I've been doing it for years."
Clecker's husband Reuben Clecker died in 2008 after decades in the appliance business in Clanton, a rural town of about 8,700 people located roughly halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery. Responsibility for the shop fell on his widow and son Randy Cleckler, 64.
Located near the town's Walmart store, it's hard to miss the Clecklers' shop. Old appliances line the front of the business, and hundreds more sit on the ground in rows behind the shop.
City officials contend the appliances are both an eyesore and a health risk since the old machines hold standing water that can serve as a maternity ward for mosquitoes. A municipal judge acting at the city's request ordered the business to clean up, but nothing happened.
That resulted in both mother and son being put in jail after a court session on Tuesday, a move Mayor Billy Joe Driver said he regretted. "I didn't want her in jail, just putting it like it is," Driver told WBMA-TV.
Randy Cleckler remains in the Chilton County Jail under a 30-day sentence, but records show his mom got out on a court order after spending what she said was her first night ever behind bars.
"It was an old hard floor with a pillow under my head. It wasn't fun, but I survived it," she said.
Driver said Randy Cleckler did "absolutely nothing" to remove the old appliances, leaving officials with no choice but to act. The mayor said appliances began piling up at the store following Reuben Cleckler's death in 2008.
"Mr. Cleckler didn't have all those. He would move out the older ones and sell of some off some of them," said Driver.
The minimum dumping charge at the county landfill is $12, and Odean Cleckler said people bring her old appliances that the shop uses for parts. She said she's trying to both honor the city's wishes and help customers who prefer fixing their appliances to purchasing new ones.
"If someone needs a part that we can pull off an appliance we do that to help them out," she said.