Bobby Thompson, a Grundy County native, may have retired from civil service in 2002, but he continues to take an active role in the community. He shares just how busy retirement can be.
Bobby was born in Beersheba Springs and has lived their his entire life.
“I was born in the first house on the right, on Stone Door Road. My parents were George and Amelia Gertrude (Etter) Thompson.
“My father was a carpenter, a jack of all trades. He could do plumbing, electrical work, remodel and build houses. I was his handyman. I would be close by and would hand him his pliers or whatever. My mother was a school teacher.”
“Wilda Hillis was one of my favorite teachers at the Panhandle School. Her son, Donny, and I ran around together. She would pick me up for school.
“I went to Grundy County High School and one of things that is different today is the bus system. When I was a student, Grundy County only ran four buses for the whole county. You had to walk to the highway to catch the bus and walk home when you were dropped off. It did not matter if it was raining, cold, or snowing – the buses did not go down side roads like they do today.
“I went to almost all the games at the high school. That would be football and basketball because there was not a baseball team at that time. The school ran a bus that would pick you up, take you to the game, and then take you back home – or to the highway and drop you off. It cost one dollar to ride the bus to the games. They would pick you up on the highway and it was usually dark when they dropped you back off. I did not have it so bad – I only had a little less than a mile to walk home.”
Bobby describes himself as too short to play basketball, but he did enjoy playing baseball during high school and after graduation.
“I played baseball for the Mountain Valley League. And, I played softball for the Rescue Squad.”
After graduation, in 1955, Bobby found that jobs were hard to come by on the mountain.
“In 1955, you couldn’t buy a job. I worked for B.M. Brown and Sons starting when I was a junior in high school. I stayed on there after graduation. By 1956, I was married and needed to make a living for my family. I had gone to Indiana with a cousin and filled out over 50 job applications, but never heard back from any of them. I came back home and one day the Beersheba Springs Postmaster came in the store and said he was resigning. He asked if I would like to be his leave replacement.
“He resigned six months later and I was appointed acting Postmaster of Beersheba Springs. I served a year’s probationary period and took my Civil Service exam. On September 26, 1956, I was appointed postmaster.”
Bobby served as the Beersheba Springs Postmaster for 46 years, retiring on March 29, 2002.
“Every day was different. I met all kinds of people and had different problems to solve. The patrons were always nice and supportive. We got along good for 46 years.
“This is interesting: When I first started working as postmaster, first class stamps were three cents and a postcard was two cents. It stayed that way until around 1962 when prices started going up.”
Bobby met his wife, Carrie Ann Griffith, at a church youth event.
“There was a group of us going to a weenie roast at rock Island. I was driving my dad’s pickup truck and had about 10 people with me. Carrie was one of them.
“We married on May 27, 1956, and have one son, Bobby Joe. Bobby Joe is married to Donna Keagon and they have one son – our grandchild, Logan Allen. Logan is 19 now and studying vocational maintenance at Vo Tech in McMinnville.”
Bobby has spent many years serving the community, both during his time as postmaster and after retirement. He is on the board of Big Creek Utility District and a member of the Grundy County Equalization Board. In addition, he has been on the Ben Lomand board for 25 years, serving as president of the board last year.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Bobby was a Boy Scout and Cub Scout leader. His troops attended scout camporees and competed with other troops. At that time, “Scout Nights” were held in Nashville and the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts were able to attend racing and ice hockey events.
One of his favorite activities is serving on the Beersheba Springs Arts and Crafts Fair board.
“We just completed our 48th year. I have worked in various positions with the fair. I started as a parking chairman and have served as overall chairman. I am currently a board member.
“Jane Oertli, Margaret Coppinger, Dot Crow, and Brenda Morgan were the women who got the fair started 46 years ago. They used to wear old-timey dresses and run home tours by bus during the event.”
Bobby says he has been an active Mason for over 50 years.
“I received my 50 year membership card last year. I served as chaplain for the Sewanee 405 Lodge in Tracy City for 8 to 10 of those years. I was district chairman of the 15-18 District which covers Grundy, Marion, Bledsoe, and Sequatchie counties and includes eight lodges.
“In 1996, I served as Grand Marshall for the state for one year.
“I have followed the York Rite route and the Scottish Rite route. In 1987, I received the 33rd Degree in Washington, D.C. It was quite an honor.”
If all of these activities did not keep Bobby busy, he has served as treasurer of the Beersheba Springs Rescue Squad for all 40 years of its existence. He is also the secretary and treasurer of the Hunerwadel Cemetery Association.
In their free time, Bobby and Carrie like to travel. He has been to almost all 50 states. He also enjoys gardening.
But, home is where his heart is.
“I was born in Beersheba, grew up here, and have no desire to live any other place.”