Smith had reputation as hard worker, outdoorsman
Published 2:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2016
Ed Smith moved to Florala from Mississippi around 1924, following an older brother to work at Jackson Lumber Company.
“His brother sent him a train ticket, and he arrived with two quarters in his pocket,” his son, Charles Smith, said. “ His job with Jackson Lumber Company was ‘firing the boiler of a steam powered skidder,’ as he said. This was a machine similar to a locomotive engine on tracks, used to pull and load the large virgin yellow pine logs and transport them to the mill in Lockhart.
“Daddy always told us that he soon realized this wasn’t the work for him,” Smith said. “He began working at the present corner site of his filling station in a garage for Mr. Berryman McNeil.”
This property was sold to Standard Oil Company of Kentucky, and they built the filling station there in 1928.
“Daddy was the manager,” Smith said. “He bought the station from Standard Oil in the late 1940s and ran it for himself.” Ed Smith served Florala as a member of the fire department, fire chief, and also once served on the Florala City Council. “I remember him telling us that our mother was attracted to him because he was a ‘big shot councilman,’ ” Smith jokingly said. “He worked hard, seven days a week, twelve to fourteen hours a day, for many years. Greasing cars, trucks, tractors, changing oil, and fixing flat tires. All the farmers, pulp wooders, and loggers used him to repair their large tractor, truck, and skidder tires.
“During World War II people could not buy tires or tubes,” Smith said. “Daddy had a knack for repairing and vulcanizing tires and tubes to keep people going. He could make an old, worn out tire serviceable again.”
Smith nickel slots behind his building which many of the local men loved to play. He sold firecrackers, sparklers, cherry bombs and TNTs during Christmas season. He sold fish bait – worms, minnows and crickets, and with his wife’s help, raised the worms right behind the station.
“He helped many people by giving them credit and extending them small loans, much of which was never repaid,” Smith said. “He was a good man, and did not deserve to die this way. He would have given David Bonner money if he had asked for it,” Smith said.
“He would greet you with, ‘How’s the cat a hopping?’ and he always told my sisters and me to ‘tell the truth if you die hard.’
The elder Smith worked on the corner in downtown Florala for more than 53 years. “Mr. Ed,” as he was affectionately known, was 73 ½ years old at the time of his death.
“In his younger years, he loved to hunt quail and catch ‘redhorse suckers from Yellow River,’ ” Smith said. “He never killed a deer, but was a crack dove shooter, saying ‘you could fill a train car with the doves I’ve shot.’
“ I could go on and on about our dad. Very few of the folks who knew him or his close friends are left. We all still miss him,” Smith said.
The younger Smith restored his dad’s 1928 Standard Oil Station in 1988, and sold frozen yogurt, ice cream, hamburgers and hotdogs there. He closed that business in 1993, but still maintains the authentic look of Ed Smith’s Fillin’ Station.