Local writer George Smith was at the Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County Thursday afternoon to sign copies of his second book, a collection of his Anniston Star columns titled “Roads.”
Between signing books for eager fans of his essays, observations and neighborly news, Smith regaled the crowd with tales of his childhood in the Calhoun County community of Pleasant Ridge.
“I was born at a very early age, but not in a manger,” he quipped. “I lived in a two-room tenant shack in Pleasant Ridge. The first five or six years of my life were spent in that valley, which is the prettiest place on the face of this Earth.”
Former Calhoun County District Attorney Bob Field was one of the fans in attendance to have a copy signed. Smith once wrote a column about Field, whom he described as a Yankee who came down South and stayed because there was air conditioning.
“I’ve known George for about 40 years and have always been a fan,” said Field. “We used to hobnob together back in the day; play a little country music and drink a little schnaps.”
Fellow Smith fan and Wellington native Pat Gardner recalled Smith’s early career as a columnist for The Star. She got into his writing because Smith used to work with her neighbor and she remained a fan through the decades.
“I started reading Mr. Smith’s work when he switched from sports to doing his column,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to read in a George Smith column.”
“I don’t either,” joked Smith, a former Star sports editor.
Many residents of the county look to Smith to deliver important news in his columns, according to Gardner. She said that he can always be counted on to give the highly sought “peach report” to Calhoun County residents in the summer.
“We have a gentleman who brings peaches to Anniston from his orchard each summer,” she said. “George Smith keeps us updated on when the peaches will be delivered every year.”
Several of Smith’s family members attended to support their favorite writer, including the mother of his daughter-in-law, Helen Robinson.
“He’s written so much about my grandchildren, but he calls them his even though their mine,” she said teasingly. “He’s a great person and my daughter married into a great family.”
Smith echoed her remarks about his family as he recalled significant stories from his childhood. He said he was blessed to have such wonderful family in his life.
“I remember walking home one time with grandaddy and he talked about chasing some agnostics, pagans and infidels,” he said. “I mentioned that I would like to meet one of those infidels, and he said don’t worry, you will.”
Smith also told the crowd how he won the affection of his wife, who had been voted prettiest girl in their class in grade school.
“I get asked all the time how I got her,” he said. “I say, ‘Well, I lied to her; that’s how men get ladies, they lie to them. If lying to your wife is a sin, God will be surrounded by women and nothing more.’”
Smith’s second book, “Roads,” can be purchased at the front desk of The Anniston Star for $9.99. Copies can also be purchased to be delivered, with an added shipping charge, by calling 256-236-1551.