50 Years and Counting

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PHOTO BY HANNAH LESTER / THE OBSERVER

BY HANNAH LESTER

HLESTER@
OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

OPELIKA —

Smith T Hardware Building Supply last week celebrated one of its employees –– Cecil Rogers –– who has worked for the business for 50 years.

“Any time someone is dedicated enough to work someplace for 50 years, that in and of itself, speaks volumes,” said Dozier Smith T, owner of Smith T’s.

Rogers took a job with Winston Smith T, Sr., Dozier’s grandfather, in 1972, right after his graduation from Opelika High School.

“I had just gotten married, right out of high school and Mr. Winston called me and talked to me for a few weeks and asked me to come to work the first of July,” he said. “Well, I told him Id worked for three or four years while I was in high school for the guy that I’d worked for, and I told him, I felt like I needed to give him a two-week notice. He told me that’d be fine and all that and that is when I started.”

Rogers, with initial aspirations of becoming a mechanical engineer, had taken some classes in high school that lent themselves well to his job at Smith T’s.

“I had a good bit of drawing background from high school so that gave me a little bit of a heads up here with pulling plans and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Despite the classes in mechanical drawing and drafting, Rogers said he didn’t know much when he took the job. But 50 years is a long time to gain experience and his customers have been a big help in that process, he said.

“More or less, over the years, the customers have taught me about everything I know, from their experiences and giving you little tricks and tidbits of information and they still do, after 50 years,” he said. “I still have people come in here and tell me something, a shortcut or something and I’ve just tried to pass that information on from customer to customer.”

Now, Dozier said that Rogers brings a lot to the table in terms of helping customers.

“He’s incredibly talented,” Dozier said. “He can do anything. He can solve any problem and his mind is just amazing. Just being able to see a problem in his head, with someone describing it, he doesn’t even have to see a picture, and he can come up with a solution for people.”

But, Dozier said that it is not just Rogers’ commitment to the store, but to his community that sticks out.

“Knowing his character and knowing all the things he does in our county and for so many different people, everybody just loves him, and we’re just so blessed as a business to have had him working for us,” Dozier said. “And you just feel like he’s just part of the family … He’s incredibly, unusually selfless.

“He will do anything to help people. He will go out of his way, take up his own time, even his own resources to come to help people solve their problems or to help them out in a time of need.”

One way Rogers has done this is by serving as the Salem Volunteer Fire Department Chief since 2005 and in the department as a whole for 31 years.

“[That] just shows, they don’t get paid for that,” Smith T said. “That is taking up their own time where they’re in the middle of the night getting up, helping people that have had wrecks, going to help people that have had their homes on fire, and putting those out. He’s just the most selfless person that I know.”

He has also served as an associate pastor in his church for 14 years.

Rogers said that his customers aren’t just “work”.

“I have very few customers, most of them are friends,” he said. “After you see them for day after day and for year after year, you know as much about them as you would your best friend: their kids, their family, what it is if they’re going through something … it’s like I’ve seen friends over the years. That’s one of the reasons it’s made it so easy to stay.”

Dozier had high praise for Rogers, but Rogers heaped praise on the Smith T family, too.

“They’re such good people,” he said. “They’re Christian people, but more than that, they’re so community-oriented, their concern is always for the betterment of Opelika and they pass that on to the employees.

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Winston Sr. told me, the first couple of weeks that I had worked here, he came out, he told me, he said, ‘when those people come through the door,’ he said, ‘I want you to treat them like they put a roof over your head, lights in your house and food on your table, because they do.’”

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