Working: Kenneth Smith

By Patrisha McLean | Mar 15, 2009

Rockland — “Only one in the world,” Kenneth “Smitty” Smith said about the brass belt buckle that reads "McDonald’s." It reflects his current job as janitor for the fast-food restaurant in Rockland and, because he made it himself, his former job as owner of Smitty’s Welding Works.

“Everyone in the country knew about us,” said Kenneth about the business behind his house that employed his late wife, son and son-in-law. “We did trash liners and flower pot liners for Disneyland in France.”

Stateside, he worked on “99 percent of the boats around here,” and for Penobscot Poultry in Belfast, built all of their “chillers” and “a rig that pulled the heads off.” His innovations include aluminum bodies that don’t rust as steel does for boats and trucks, and a chicken plant assembly line contraption that prevents chickens from dropping to the ground.

He can tell you the exact distance between his former and current workplaces -– 200 steps -- because McDonald’s “had a toy they give the kids that marked off how many steps you take so I did that."

“Used to come down here to get lunch,” he said about McDonald’s. “Me and the boys.” When he retired 16 years ago, turning the welding business over to his son, “I asked if I could do maintenance for them and I’ve been doing it there ever since.” He continued to work afternoons at Smitty’s, “just for the fun of it” until his son died and the business closed.

Kenneth’s McDonald’s shift is six mornings a week and he is unfazed by the 4:30 a.m. starting time. “I’ve done it for years and years earlier than that.” Lunch, taken in his parked Ford truck, radio station tuned to old country, is at 7:30 a.m. “It’s good coffee,” he said about the McDonald’s brew in the Styrofoam cup, but as for the food, “I have my own meals. Once in a while I’ll take a biscuit but that’s about it. And I usually give it to the seagulls.”

“They don’t know anything about maintenance so I do what I want,” is how the 82-year-old describes his duties at McDonald’s. “Anything that’s broke down that needs to be fixed or needs to be installed I do it. In the summertime, pull out all the weeds. Keep the place clean.”

Often when he reports for work in the morning, “All the garbage bags are full and the birds have been in them and spread it around. But it’s part of the job. I just do it because I want something to do. I can’t set home and do nothing, not at my age.”
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