PELL CITY – People used to see Bill Seales riding his three-wheel bicycle along the streets and sidewalks in the historic downtown district with a basket full of brown paper sacks, each filled with peanuts.
Others in the community would see Seales sitting in one of the local grocery stores or perhaps at high school football or baseball games with his bags of fresh roasted or boiled peanuts, prepared by his own hands.
Seales, who is fondly known in the community as “the peanut man,” and who would travel from business to business to sell his peanuts, was forced to retire two years ago because of his health.
The 66-year-old man, who has lived with the affliction of polio all his life, worked hard to make a living his entire life, despite his physical condition.
“… Bill Seales has demonstrated a strength and desire to overcome many physical restrictions that did not prohibit his willingness and determination to be an independent, productive citizen,” says a proclamation that was presented to Seales at Monday morning’s City Council meeting. “… Bill Seales, by his glowing example of determination, became a model of courage for many Pell Citians.”
Seales would make people laugh with his quick-witted humor and jokes, but more importantly, he inspired.
“He has been inspirational to this entire community,” said Pell City Mayor Joe Funderburg, who presented Seales with the key to the city and a document proclaiming Aug. 11, 2014, as “Bill Seales Day” in Pell City.
Seales held up the shiny gold key presented to him by the mayor just the day before.
“It fits everything but the door to the bank,” Seales said.
“You know why?” Seales’ first cousin Alice Kennedy chimed in. “Joe Funderburg knows you.”
Seales’ smile grew bigger.
People who know Seales frequently saw that smile. It greeted them as they picked up small bags of peanuts or listened to Seales tell a joke he learned along his travels through Pell City that day.
“Bill has always been a people person,” Kennedy said.
Seales’ aunt, Geneva Bannister, said their family is from Pell City.
She said Seales came to Pell City when he was 16. He would sometimes stay with her or other family members scattered across Pell City.
“That’s my love,” she said, watching as a photographer took a picture of Seales holding his gold-colored key to the city and proclamation.
Seales said he was caught off guard when he attended Monday morning’s council meeting, and the mayor presented the proclamation and key in front of a large crowd of friends and family.
“I was totally surprised,” he said.
Seales, who was married to his late wife, Karen Garret Seales, for 35 years, said if it hadn’t been for health issues, he would still be out there selling peanuts for a living.
“I loved it,” he said.
This was not the first award Seales has received. He was also presented the Chamber of Commerce “Citizen of the Year” award a few years ago, and he was an honorary member of the Jaycees.
An empty chair remains at Food Outlet store on Cogswell Avenue where Seales once sold his peanuts.
People sometimes ask about where and how “the peanut man,” who was a fixture in Pell City for more than a half century, is doing.
His family says he is just fine, but Seales admits he misses the peanut business, mostly the people.
“I’ve guess I’ve done pretty good for an ole poor boy,” Seales said, looking at the key with etchings that read, “Key to the City of Pell City, Alabama … To Bill Seales with gratitude.”
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.