Roberts has job/ hobby cracking pecans, shelling peas
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Aug 27, 2013 | 1509 views |  0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thomas Roberts charges $3 to crack six pounds of pecans. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Thomas Roberts charges $3 to crack six pounds of pecans. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Thomas Lee Roberts liked 13 months before he could retire from Standard-Coosa-Thatcher when the mill shut down. Even though he had worked there 32 years, he wasn’t eligible for retirement because he wasn’t 62.

“I was out of work,” he said. “I couldn’t draw anything. The company wouldn’t pay you if you weren’t 62, and I liked 13 months.”

Roberts make his mind up that there was only one thing to do. He got himself a lawn mower and started cutting grass. He made quite a name for himself and almost ended up getting more yards to mow than he could handle.

He still mows a few yards today, but not many.

“I’ve cut down now,” he said. “I’ve had so many customers.”

As time went by, Roberts found another job which turned into a hobby.

“One day a fellow by the name of Sam Goss backed up here,” said Roberts. “He had a bunch of pecans in the back of his truck.”

That was a lot of pecans for a person to shell, thought Roberts. That’s when he set out to find a machine that would do the job. He found one and thought while he was at it that he’d find one to shell peas as well.

Roberts charges $3.50 to shell a bushel basket of peas and $3 to crack six pounds of pecans.

“It keeps me busy if it’s a good year,” he said. “I come out here about 8 in the morning. My wife brings me dinner sometimes. I close at 4.”

Roberts doesn’t take appointments.

“I just take them as they come,” he said.

If he gets behind his son, Thomas Lee Jr., who lives in Piedmont, helps.

Roberts was born in Cherokee County. He and his wife, the former Nellie Atkinson, have been married 57 years. They are members of the First Congregational Methodist Church. They have lived in their home on Alabama 21 for 44 years.

“Arnold Young framed up the house,” he said. “I did what I could and hired other people to help. Roger Hall and his son did the brick work.”

At one time Roberts planted his five acres in vegetable gardens. For the past few years, he’s fenced the back part off and bush hogs it. He continues to grow vegetables in a smaller garden.

Roberts put a ditch in his yard to good use. He dug it deeper so it would hold enough water for him to be able to pump water into his garden.

At one time he sold vegetables in front of his house. He placed what he calls an honest box next to the vegetables, and those who bought them could put their money in the box.

“Most people were honest and paid,” he said. “I still got my box.”

As a young man Roberts worked at Bud Kirk’s Service Station which was located where the gazebo is now. That’s where he met his wife.

“She pulled up to get gas one day,” he said. “We talked a little. I had seen her around.”

It wasn’t long before he called her. Their first date was at Young’s Truck Stop.

Their daughter, Lisa Ann Roberts, lives in Alexander City. They have three grandchildren, Ashley, Adam and Chandler, and four great-grandchildren.

Roberts remembers the day in the late ’50s when a train coming through town caused a lot of excitement. It was carrying shells, and the shells began going off.

“They pulled it off down close to the ice plant,” he said. “Shells were going off everywhere. You couldn’t go up there.”

Roberts has a hint of asthma, but said at 79, he’s in good health.

“I had a wreck here a few years ago,” he said. “I passed out and ran off the road. I was in the hospital a few days, but they never found out why I passed out. It’s never happened again. I like to fish, but I hadn’t done a lot of that lately. I used to have a place on the lake, but we sold it. I built a catfish pond on my son’s land and stocked with a bunch of albino catfish. It had seven. There’s just one left now.”

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Roberts has job/ hobby cracking pecans, shelling peas by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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