Chauncey Leon Smith, also known as Smitty, was born in San Diego in 1910. His parents Leon and Birdena Smith were pioneers in the east county in the Cottonwood Valley now known as Barrett.
In his early years he enjoyed playing the violin. He looked back on it as enjoyment, but I really doubt that he enjoyed having to practice when he was younger.
After high school he raised watermelons on the ranch and hauled them to town in his model ‘T’ pickup.
Smitty’s creativity was shown in 1927 when he entered a contest at Ocean Beach for the most dilapidated Model ‘T” Ford. His “T’ was pretty bad, but he took extra steps to make it worse by adding tires over his regular tires that had loose pieces of material on them so they would slap the pavement as it rolled along. HE WON!
In 1944, Smitty and Margaret were married in the Bair home in La Mesa. He joined the Navy and was shipped out to sea on his way to Australia and New Zealand. Once, while on liberty in Australia, he wandered into an Allis Chalmers Tractor showroom and saw a poster showing his Home Ranch with himself sitting on the tractor. He was proud as could be and told the person in the salesroom that it was him and that was his ranch back in California. Their response was, “Yeah, this is another G I story. ” He went on his way knowing he was right.
One of the jobs that Smitty took after World War II was as an electrical troubleshooter for Mountain electric. He and Margaret moved to Campo where they were also caretakers for some property.
Later, he would go to work for San Diego Gas and Electric as a lineman troubleshooter. This meant long hours, many times in the snow and other hard conditions. He worked for SDG&E for more than 20 years
Margaret’s health was fragile, and in time she lost lung capacity and passed away in the late 1970’s. His compassion and caring attitude was foremost in her last years.
He was lonely and as he said just a few months ago, “Some people don’t find a lovely lady to enhance their lives once” but he was blessed twice in his life with loving women.
He married Ceil and she became a very important part of his life. Smitty told her that she would have to put up with all the ‘widows’ in his life as well. If any of them had needs, he was off to help them. Whether it was fixing something that was broken, transporting them to a store or Dr. visits, or any other help he could provide to them. In many ways, he was the Lone Ranger of his day. He would appear and take care of the needs of others. Repair a light, pick up groceries or a prescription, and then be off to help someone else.
CEIL WAS TO BECOME KNOWN AS THE ADMIRAL.
Ceil and Smitty shared their passion for travel in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and the South Pacific. There was the trip to the southern hemisphere and Europe that brought a lot of happiness into their lives. They went to Australia and New Zealand, England, and Scotland where they rented R.V.s and enjoyed traveling together. One of the joys of these experiences was to share the trip with others by presenting only the best of his slides in a special slide and picture show. Even to this day, a number of his pictures are displayed in the sun room in Smitty and Ceil’s home.
A man never to be idle, he took on a number of projects. His pictures, a shell collection, .. each shell with a story and how it was a significant part of his life. To go along with this, he started to buy shells in Mexico and make night lights and sell them in some shops in the San Diego area.
In 1956, Smitty organized Helix Showmasters to provide an organized way for members to share pictures of their travels. It had a 20 year successful run with members exceeding 175 or more.
After meeting members of the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association, he came to realize that a number of things from the past were being lost sight of and he wanted to be sure that people did not forget what the past was like. He searched the countryside for old engines and engine parts and started to restore old stationary engines. He had several prizes, but most likely his favorite was his 1901 Hardy.
He had a special trailer made and when he was able, traveled from show to show. The familiar sound of the putt, putt, then a louder putt would echo around the show grounds. One of the joys of his life was telling about and showing off his engines. He did a great job of it. As time went on, he was not able to move about well enough to show his engines, but the engines are still a memento to his desire to keep a window open to the past.
Smitty will live on in our minds and we will miss him greatly, but we will not forget his drive to keep busy with meaningful things that enhanced the lives of others. He appreciated his friends calling on him and if he could speak to you this morning he might say
“Carry on, keep the old engines running, keep yourself busy doing something useful, seek out who you can help and make their life better by touching them with kindness.
Yes, Smitty left his indelible mark on our lives. We’ll miss you Smitty. Members of Branch 22
Submitted by Branch 22 Secretary, Ruth A. Warnock