Smith named Russellville Senior of the MonthPublished 5:26pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Longtime Franklin County resident Earl Smith, Sr., was chosen as the Senior of the Month for August at the Russellville Senior Center.
Smith was born in Isbell in 1935 and grew up in a three-room sharecropper’s shack in the small community.
“We could just feed the chickens right through the floor,” Smith joked.
He spent his childhood years attending Rockwood School, which he attended for nine years, and working in the cotton fields during cotton season.
“We took certain times off from school during the year to pick cotton,” he said. “That was when we got all of our chopping and picking done.”
After nine years at Rockwood School, Smith said he transferred to Russellville where he went to school for the next three years.
Before he finished school, however, Smith earned quite a distinction – in all 12 years that he attended school, he never missed one single day.
“I was at school every single day we were in session,” Smith said. “I got the measles when I was young, but I got them during a time we were out for the cotton-picking season, so I didn’t have to miss school – just the cotton picking, which I didn’t mind.”
When Smith finished high school, he said he formed a farming partnership with his father, which they operated from 1953 until 1970.
“When my father passed away, I couldn’t operate the partnership by myself so I sold it,” he said.
After moving on from the farming business, Smith because a Charter bus driver for 32 years and even had his own tour company for 18 years.
These jobs took Smith to all 50 states and he said it was a great career to have.
“I got to see things that many other have to pay to see,” he said. “I enjoyed it very much.”
Smith said his favorite places to visit were some of the theme parks across the country and the western part of the United States.
“I loved the scenery and the things to do out in the western country,” he said. “It was sometimes a challenge to put a tour together for people to go out west because everything is spread so far apart. That could be a challenge but it was worth it to go there.”
He said if he had to name a favorite state, it would have to be Hawaii.
“I’ve only been to Hawaii once, and there’s just no way to explain it in words,” he said. “You just have to go experience it.
“The weather was perfect and I got to see things like where Jim Nabors and other famous people lived.”
Smith said he worked right up until he was 75 years old and said he wouldn’t mind continuing to work and drive because it had been such a good career.
“I had so many good times over the years,” he said. “I once drove a bus for George Bush, Sr., when he was the vice-president and had come to tour Redstone Arsenal.
“I drove country music stars Bill Anderson and Little Jimmy Dickens when their band came to Decatur. They took a boat and traveled up to Florence and then I drove them back to Decatur. Little Jimmy Dickens had actually locked his keys in his car and I stayed while one of he band members got them out.
“I also drove President Jimmy Carter when he kicked off his re-election campaign at Spring Park in Tuscumbia. I carried him from the park to the airport.”
Smith said he wouldn’t trade the life he’s had for anything.
“I’m a very fortunate man to have had the opportunities I’ve had and to meet the people I’ve met,” he said. “I can’t think of a more fortunate man than I am and I’m very thankful for it.”
Smith said he was also very thankful for his family, which includes his wife of 57 years, Marjorie Willis; his daughter, Dawn Garrison; his son, Earl Smith, Jr.; his two grandsons; his three great-grandchildren; and his sisters, Janice Riner, Martha Wheeler and Daphine Copeland.
In his spare time, Smith said he enjoys reading, spending time with family, being an active member of Washington Avenue Church of Christ, and coming to the Senior Center.
“We’re very fortunate to have the Senior Center here in Russellville,” he said. “I enjoy coming here. There’s good people here and I’m glad to know them.”