Archie Smiley’s Family Christmas

Archie Smiley family at Christmas 12-24-1966The Christmas Eve Missourian caption reads  “It’s Great to be Home! ‘Especially for Christmas’ was the comment of Archie T. Smiley, 49, of 903 South Pacific, who recently won his battle for life following open heart surgery in Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. Here, Mr. Smiley decorates the Christmas tree in his home with the help of his wife and children. From left, standing, they are Thomas Wayne (Butch), Beverly Ann, Mrs. Smiley, Mr. Smiley and Theresa Lynn. Sheila Kay is seated on the floor.” (You can click on the photo to make it larger.)

I had heard of Mr. Smiley before, but didn’t remember shooting his photo or much about his story except that he had lost his hands and that he ran a bicycle repair shop. The 1966 story, which unfortunately has big chunks of type missing in key places, said that his hands were injured in a fireworks accident. Gunpowder entered his bloodstream after the explosion and caused blood poisoning. He was in the hospital on his graduation day, the story said, and the Chaffee High School principal “took him his diploma early for fear the lad might not live” to accept it later.

Stories mentioned that he played football in high school, repaired bicycles in a shop located in his home, drove a car and “managed handwriting better than most persons do with two hands.”

Lots of news for a nickel on July 5, 1928

While looking for the original account of the 4th of July accident, I stumbled across these stories in the July 5, 1928, Missourian. You sure got your nickel’s worth THAT day.

Community rallies for Smiley

Archie Smiley family at Christmas 12-24-1966

When Smiley needed heart surgery and family resources ran low, friends and strangers from all over the world started sending money. By Christmas Eve, the family had received about $2,200. His operation was to install a heart valve in a plastic cage inside his chest, said the story by Skeets Sonderman.

“Not only will this help pay my expenses, but now my family can have a nice Christmas. The children, however, will get mostly clothes and useful items. There will be toys for the younger ones, too,” he said.

12 Replies to “Archie Smiley’s Family Christmas”

  1. I get sidetracked by missing backstory. Did Mr. Oliver actually die of the insect spray or did the manager of the company just happen to find him. They “buried” the lead on this one, unless I just read too many old mystery novels.

    1. I don’t know how the story ended. I was tempted to scroll through some of the papers later in the week to see what the coroner’s inquest determined, but I didn’t. I was also curious to see whether the richest man in Europe really did confuse the door of the plane with the washroom door or if he was pushed.

      Poking around in old papers can eat up a tremendous amount of time.

    2. My Shy Reader friend forwarded me a copy of Mr. Oliver’s death certificate. His death was ruled an accident. Cause of death was gas poisoning due to him entering apartment when same was being fumigated. He was 49 years, 6 months old.

  2. Good point about Mr. Wealthy. Were plane cabins pressurized in that era or did they just fly low. I have certainly tried to walk into a closet rather than a bathroom in a private home, but I think I would notice the air whooshing by.

  3. I remember Archie quite well. Just talked to his son, Butch about a month ago about Archie. He was the only man I know that yelled as loud or louder than my father did at baseball games. He was also a very happy fellow, never letting his handicap bothere him that I could tell. When he was going to have his surgery, the youth in Cape sold loaves of bread, I think for 10 cents a loaf, to raise money for the family.

  4. When I was 16 in BSA troop 17 I decided to earn my
    cycling merit badge. Archie Smiley was one of the men who was councilors for that badge.
    as stated before Mr. Smiley was a very personable
    gentleman. Taking time to explain anything I had questions about. I completed the requirements by riding From our home at Sprigg and North st, to Puxico
    on hiway 51. The route I rode came out to 51 miles according to Dads speedometer. It took me 5 hrs.
    10 mins. I left home at 6 A.M. Had lunch at Puxico where the rest of the Troop met me for a campout at
    Lake Wappapelo. jaunty

    1. I rode with a Boy Scout troop working on its cycling merit badge on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. When we started out on the 50-mile ride, I had serious doubts that some of the boys would make it, but they all did.

      I told the group that I would stay with any Scout who wanted to get his 50 miles in, even if it took all night. The leader said, “It only counts if they finish it in a given period of time.”

      “Some times it’s not about the badge,” I told him, not happy with his attitude. “It’s finishing what you start.”

      When we got to the final leg, one boy was lagging way behind, so I told the group to go ahead and I’d stay with him. I knew he could make it, he was just slow. To make the miles go by, I kept him talking.

      When I asked him about school, he said he was a little uncomfortable with the idea of going to high school the next year where he’d have to find his way to different classes in different buildings: “I’m afraid I’ll get lost.”

      “Kid, that’s a nightmare you’ll have for the rest of your life. I wake up in the middle of the night even now realizing that I have a final exam for a class I hadn’t attended in a building I can’t find. Oh, yeah, and I’m standing in the hall naked. You’ll live through it.”

      He got his 50 miles in well under the deadline.

  5. I lived in Cape Girardeau from 1965 to 1968. Butch and I played football for the Central Jr. High Tigers, and baseball in the Babe Ruth League for the Braves! Mr. Smiley was our assistant coach, and a terrific fellow. I remember him well, and have often wondered what ever became of some of my Cape Girardeau friends. This message may get to tell one of them (Butch Smiley) hello from an old buddy, Jim Hinton.

  6. The Smiley’s lived down the street from us when I was in 9th grade and our families were good friends. Butch and my sister Linda are the same age. Such a nice, loving family. I remember Archie telling me that the only thing he didn’t like doing with no hands was pinning a diaper on his babies. He was afraid of sticking them. I’ve seen him take his wallet out of his back pocket and pull out a single bill! Amazing man! Wonderful family. Thanks for rekindling my memories of the Smiley’s.

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