Old ‘Smoking Tree’ transformed into ‘Ole Smokey’ Pioneer mascot
GENTRY — In 1973 or thereabouts, Gentry opened up a new high school. In those days smoking was allowed on the school campus but only under the shade of an oak tree in the circle drive south of the school.
In early July, demolition of that building began to make way for a new school classroom building for the Intermediate School. Also to be removed in the demolition was the tree which had become known as the “Smoking Tree.”
Members and friends of the class of ’82 scrambled to save the tree, but no one was willing to be chained to it. Class members did the next best thing. They saved the tree for another purpose.
The tree was removed and carved by Lee Collins, with a chainsaw, to replicate the Gentry Pioneer mascot. The project is now complete, but there are payments yet to be made. The class recently began accepting donations to pay for the transformation but still has a way to go.
Anyone who would like to be a part of this project and make a small donation may contact Susie Weeks or Salty Teresa McFadin Lowry. They were also at the first home football game of the Gentry Pioneers with a bucket to accept donations.
The carving has been nicknamed “Ole Smokey” in honor of the Smoking Tree from which it was carved. It will be proudly displayed by the Gentry School District, possibly in a case in the lobby of the high school gym.
The Class of ’82 thanks all who contribute in support of the “Ole Smokey” project.
For more information or to donate, contact Randy Cripps at 479-752-7432 or Susie Weeks at 479-2282361.
What was once the old “Smoking Tree” was saved from demolition and transformed into “Ole Smokey,” a replica of the Gentry Pioneer mascot. The chainsaw sculpture will soon be displayed on the high school campus.