Columns

2017.10.11 Take a day off, Jack Smith

By DAVID GREEN

If you walked into the World Headquarters of Jack Smith’s Good News store in Morenci on the right day, you would see him turn to his calendar, rip off a page, and say, “Well, I guess I’ll take the day off.”

Or maybe it was a monthly calendar and he took a month off. It’s been a while and it’s hard to remember the details, but dozens and dozens of people remember Jack’s sense of humor.

I’m sure I first encountered Jack when accompanying one of my parents to his store to pick up photos, get some more camera film or purchase candy. But I really got to know him when I became a paper boy.

Jack’s store was the headquarters in Morenci for newspaper delivery. I recall parking my bicycle in back of his store on Main Street, then walking in to find my stack of Adrian and Toledo newspapers that Jack had counted out. That’s where papers were folded and stuffed into a heavy canvas bag before I headed out on my bike to toss them onto customers’ porches—and into bushes and once onto a porch roof.

That was the start of a good friendship.

I would stop in for Sen-Sen candy or an odd chewing gum like Clove, Beemans or Black Jack, but often it was just to visit and exchange jokes.

I remember the day I stopped in with John Bryner and placed a box on Jack’s counter with wires coming out of it. The wires were connected to an empty lightbulb socket.

I told Jack that if he were very careful, he could stick his finger inside the socket and not get a shock. Touch the very center without touching the sides, I said, and I demonstrated the technique with a worried look on my face.

I don’t know if he knew it was just a sham, but I got him to do it. Jack was always game.

I don’t remember if I told Jack or Jack told me that my first name was Da and my second name was Vid, but after that visit, he always referred to me Vud. That’s stuck with me for 50 years.

Eventually I went off to college, but I would stop in for a visit when back in town. And eventually I was back in Morenci to live and Jack emerged as one of the official tourist sites to see when friends visited. Let’s see…I think my tour of Morenci included the sewage lagoons, the state-champion dogwood tree at the cemetery, the railroad trestle support at the park, and Smith’s News. Jack was right up there in the list of what made Morenci interesting. I introduced him to many people over the years.

My wife became a big fan of the Harry London chocolate mint candy available in his store. Jack became a big fan of our children as they grew up and spent time in front of his counter. Of course he was interested in everyone’s family. That’s just the way Jack operated in life.

I still remember our last encounter, a few years before his death in 2015. 

It was a rare day indeed. Both of my brothers and my sister were in town and we were at the gas station preparing for a geocaching venture.

We were pumping gas for our trip when Jack suddenly appeared in a car on the other side of the pump. We got out, announced the rarity of encountering all four Green children at once, and we started in pumping his gas, washing his windows, and visiting for a few minutes.

As always, a visit with Jack Smith was a good way to spend some time. But I’m still envious that he owned a little battery testing device. Lucky guy.

Note: Jan Emmons recently brought in two photos of Smith News. See page 12 for recollections of Jack from several of his former customers.