Editor's note: In the spring of 1989, News-Times columnist Barbara Seaborn wrote a series of stories about the newspaper's former community correspondents. One of them, Jennette "Bob" Smith, passed away Nov. 23 at age 94.
When you are the sixth girl in the family, there has to be at least one tomboy. Or so explained Jennette Smith, about why everyone except her children and high school classmates called her "Bob."
Perhaps the name was prophetic. Long before women demanded equal rights in the workplace, the 74-year-old Lewiston-Grovetown resident and News-Times correspondent did more "masculine work" than most men.
"I'm really an outside person," she said. "I'd have made a good farmer. I never did like keeping house."
But building it is something else. She still lives in the 200-year-old house that she and her father bought 56 years ago for $450 and enlarged with lumber from the trees on their own property.
"It was really my house from the beginning. My father told me he bought it with my money," she laughed. "He sold Raleigh products door-to-door and I was his secretary. He paid me $2 a week plus living expenses, and put the rest in the bank. Two dollars was a lot in those days. You could buy a pretty good dress for 50 cents."
She gave up the Raleigh business after she married and became the mother of twins, but the domestic life was never quite enough for her. For 30 years, back when the Lewiston community - Lewiston and Hereford Farm areas - was known as Sardis, she was election manager of her voting precinct. She also spent two years at Woolworth's in Augusta, delivered mail for the Grovetown postmaster, operated the Evans School lunchroom, and drove a school bus for another 20 years.
"I had good children," she said of the bus-driving era. Perhaps her constant supply of comic books had something to do with their "good" behavior. She also reminisced about the lunchroom:
"Things were a lot different then than they are today. We had to shell the peas and butterbeans ourselves, and beg soup bones from local grocers. Many of the children couldn't afford even the little bit the lunches cost then, so we let them pay with vegetables from their gardens."
By her Raleigh-day standards, her lunchroom salary was phenomenal: $13 every other week.
Excitement for the Appling native occurred primarily within the boundaries of her home, family and Columbia County.
"Before the twins were born my husband and I chaperoned the high school home economics class on their visit to Washington, D.C. That's the only long trip I've ever taken. I did ride a train once, and had a 10-minute ride in a small airplane out over the ocean. I don't have any desire now to fly or go anywhere except to visit my family. I like staying home."
Bob stays home more now than she used to, and she does more inside things. A half- finished afghan sits on the kitchen table waiting to be sewn together, and her daughter-in-law has put in an order for another one. She's active in her church - Lewis Memorial Methodist right next door - and still drives anywhere she needs to go. She deserves a medal for her driving record.
"I'm thankful that in all those years on the school bus, the mail truck, and in my own car I've never had an accident. I've been nicked a couple times, but I never hit anyone myself."
Athletically she thinks she could have been a good golfer if she'd had more opportunity, and she claims to be "a fairly good basketball player." She practiced in the barn "with the cows on one side and the mules on the other."
Bob Smith didn't become the Lewiston correspondent because of any ambition to be a writer. She took over for her sister, Etheridge Cliatt, who died a few years ago.
"I like people and I like to know what's going on in their lives, but I don't hound them for news and I don't get in on any secrets. I'm not much of a writer, but I like trying to let others know what's going on with my neighbors."
Her only other writing experience involves letters to the editor when the county offices were moving from Appling to Martinez. She felt they ought to remain in "the center of the county." After making her position known, she wrote again when someone opposed her stand.
From her front-row seat on Columbia Road near the intersection with Lewiston and Hereford Farm Roads, she's watched many things change, and accepted most. The road used to run closer to her front door than it does now, and she expects, when it's widened to four lanes, her walk to the mailbox will be shorter again. Whatever happens to the familiar offices, roads, school buses or voting booths, however, she plans to stay right there in her half historic, half modern house until health or circumstances force her to leave.
"I've done a lot of things, and I've made a lot of mistakes," she concludes, "and I can keep on doing the same things right where I am."
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance columnist. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
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