Bell still has strong work ethic

Published 3:59 pm Friday, April 9, 2010

He lives in rural Butler County within five miles of where he came into this world. Growing up on a farm with nine brothers and a sister, work in the fields started at an early age, Emmett Bell recalls.

The need for extra hands to work meant Bell’s education ended in the fifth grade at Searcy School, after attending several small country schools like Pine Grove in Crenshaw County, Daisy School and Mt. Zion.

“When I started school at Pine Grove, there was no such thing as school buses. My teacher, Mrs. Ellis would ride her horse right up to the edge of our porch and I would climb on. I felt bad because my brother John had to walk to school. But Mrs. Ellis weighed about 400 lbs. and she could only carry one of us.”

Email newsletter signup

Tragedy struck the Bells when an inherited medical condition took the lives of three of his siblings when they were small.

“My twin brothers died within a month of each other. And my only sister – oh, my daddy thought the sun rose and set over her – died when she was just two. They were playing and just fell over dead. And that was mighty sad,” Bell says.

He eventually got a job at the Merrimac hat factory (later Reigel/Boss Gloves) on Greenville. In 1941, Bell was drafted.

“I went for training at Ft. McClellan and then waited for orders. Well, Miss Pet, who handled the draft notices and all, somehow got mixed up and put my letter in the Dead Letter box. So I ended up missing WW II,” he says a wry shrug.

In 1948, he ran into Miss Pet, who suddenly realized Emmett Bell was very much alive. “So then I ended up in the Army,” he chuckles.

After infantry training, Bell was sent to Utah to serve. His elderly parents’ poor health allowed him an early discharge, and back to Butler County he came to look after them.

In 1951, a pretty girl named Daisy caught his eye at a dance in Highland Home. The two both worked at Boss Manufacturing but had never actually met. After dating a year, they married and went on to raise two sons and a daughter.

Bell is proud of the fact all three of his children got their high school diplomas, with his daughter going on to obtain a college degree.

“I was determined they were going to get the chance I didn’t have,” he says.

In 1964, Bell was seriously injured in an accident with a cut-and-press machine, losing his left hand.

“It took nine months before I could go back to work, but I had those three children and I was determined to do it for them. The management folks passed away who were going to help me and the new management wouldn’t keep their promises,” he says with a shake of his head.

“Some said I should have sued. But I said no, I will work and the Lord will see me through this.”

Today the retiree, who put in nearly 50 years at the plant, has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren (“and I hear I’m fixing to have another one”). And he likes to stay busy in his garden.

This self-described “people person,” who attends the Greenville Senior Nutrition Center with wife Daisy, likes staying busy, period.

“I still like to work. It’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” he says with a smile.