Glenn Jenkins reached two milestones this month: On Jan. 1 he turned 100, and on Jan. 5, during the Kannapolis District roundtable meeting at Camp Cabarrus, he received a pin recognizing his 65 years of service to the Boy Scouts of America.
Jenkins uses a wheelchair and is hearing-impaired, but he is mentally sharp and attends the roundtable meetings every month as an active Kannapolis District committee member.
Jeff Parker, the Kannapolis district commissioner, said Jenkins is the oldest active Scout in Cabarrus County and the Central N.C. Council.
Jenkins said the 65 years of service pin provided his proudest moment, but he has many fond memories of his service to the Scouts. His son, Coite, was too young to join when Jenkins first started in Scouting.
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A friend, Jeff Smith, invited Jenkins to a Scout dinner, and he was instantly hooked on scouting. Joining the Lakewood Baptist Church Troop 45, he had no idea he would be leading the boys for 65 years.
On his wall at the Big Elm Nursing and Retirement Center in Kannapolis, there is a picture of him, his son, Coite, and about 24 other Scouts in a glass bottom boat at Key West, Fla., in 1955.
The group had taken a 1932 Chevrolet bus to Key West, an adventure that he and Coite would never forget.
The eight-day trip was plagued with bad water and mosquitoes, “The water stinked so bad you couldn’t drink it,” said Jenkins. “You just had to take a drink, back up a little and shake your head,” he said.
When the group reached Key West, “I pulled off my shoes and waded out in the ocean so I could tell somebody I had been out of the United States,” said Jenkins.
Camping back then was rudimentary. When they stopped, “We had two choices: We could sleep where we were sitting (on the bus), or we could get out on the ground to sleep,” said Jenkins, who chose to sleep on the ground if the mosquitoes weren’t biting too much.
Jenkins has lasting memories from his childhood. “One thing I remember better than anything else. I remember the first time I ever prayed. I don’t know what I said. Mother was pretty bad off, but she got well and lived many more years. I wasn’t but 5 or 6 years then,” said Jenkins.
He also remembers starting to work at Cannon Mills when he was 14. “I was paid 15 cents an hour until the Depression came and they cut me back to 10 cents an hour,” said Jenkins who estimated that he only earned a total of $350 for his first year working there.
Jenkins said that people were raising families on those salaries, “I could get three hot dogs for a dime and a cold drink was three cents,” he said. He was one of the first to sign up for social security and still has his original 1936 card.
The bosses at the mill then told him he would never see any social security money, but after retiring from the mill at 62 he has now received more than he ever put in.
Jenkins remembers when the only paved street in Kannapolis was Main Street and he only made it through the fifth grade in school. School was different then, they had no bathrooms and guns were permitted there.
“My brother would take his shotgun to school, lay it in the corner during class and then rabbit-hunt on the way home,” said Jenkins.
He has a picture with his classmates from his early childhood. Pointing to it he said, “I believe I am the only one in that picture still alive.”
Jenkins said the secret to his long life is that “I give more credit to listening to what my mama said and she never did me wrong. She never told us what we had to do, just what we ought to do.”
Jenkins has outlived his two wives: Esther, whom he married in 1927; and Lucille, whom he married after Esther’s death in 1999.
His children from his first marriage, Phyllis Marlow, 74, and Coite Jenkins, 68, joke that he may outlive them both, inheriting everything.
Jenkins has seen the Scout dues go from $1 to $25 a year but still plans to continue.
“I want to get my next pin, my 70 years of service pin,” said Jenkins, which he plans to receive five years from now.