By Ken Bonner
The Daily Sentinel
SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — It’s the same every day — choose the ball, do some stretching and then take to the court for a little hoops action.
Homer Booth has been doing it this way for years. Going to the Scottsboro Recreation Complex is a special part of his day. The time spent shooting basketball keeps the 86-year-old U.S. Army veteran as fit as can be and going.
Booth walks in, greets the staff with a big smile, a wave and a little chitchat. Then he gets down to business.
He scans the rack of basketballs in the lobby searching for ball No. 1. When he doesn’t find it, Booth carefully looks over each orange ball, whether tattered or new, before deciding on the one he’ll use.
Booth loves visiting the Rec*Com. He enjoys shooting by himself or with a little competition from anybody who happens into the gymnasium while he is launching shot after shot from 15 feet away. That’s his spot. He is always ready for a challenge to play the age-old game of H-O-R-S-E.
“You don’t play H-O-R-S-E with him,” Dee Wolf, a worker at the Rec*Com says. “He’ll beat you.
After stretching, Booth deftly dribbles the basketball — changing from his left hand to the right several times — to the free-throw line. His first shot is an air ball. The second isn’t much better, barely hitting the rim before ricocheting harmlessly off to the right. Seemingly the first two misses help him find his range as he rips off five in a row that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. Game on.
“I’ve always liked it,” Booth said of basketball. “I finished high school when I was 16 and only played one year. Then I played two years in junior college.”
Booth is a shooter. He sets his feet well, squares up, and his release and follow-through are much the same on every shot.
He grins at a compliment. It is big, wide and sincere — the kind that exudes confidence, a love of life and people.
“I average playing five days a week. I play with all ages,” Booth said.
Shooting hoops isn’t only Booth’s passion, it serves as the exercise he needs for his heart and to keep his body in shape.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” Booth says.
He had heart surgery in 1996 about the time he and wife, Dorothy, moved to Scottsboro to be near their daughter, Janet (Billy) Carver, her children, and son, Donald, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and lives and works in Huntsville.
“If it wasn’t for this place (Rec*Com) he wouldn’t be living,” Dorothy says. “This is what he likes to do. He’s been at the gym ever since (recovering from the surgery). Scottsboro is very good. It’s made for the very young and very old.”
The Booths will celebrate their 64th anniversary on Aug. 28.
Homer was born and grew up in Eupora, specifically in the woods of Choctaw County. His aunt delivered him. His dad had taken a horse and buggy to get the doctor because a bridge had washed out and there was no way to get to their home by car.
“She said I was dead,” he said. “But, I was good to go and here I am.”
Booth was drafted into the service during World War II just before his 18th birthday. After training at Camp Shelby and then in Florida, he was off to Okinawa about the time the war ended. The trip was eventful as the ship he was on had to navigate its way through a typhoon.
Booth served in Okinawa, then was transferred to the Philippines, where he went to diesel mechanic school. He was sent back to Okinawa, where he finished out his tour of duty with the Army Air Force running generators for the base.
Booth went to school on the GI Bill. He attended college and then transferred to Mississippi College in Clinton, where he graduated with a degree in business administration.
Life was good. He went to work with Firestone in Memphis, Tenn., and retired after 32 years when the company was purchased by Bridgestone. He kept working for the new company on a part-time basis for four more years before hanging it up for good.
During that time and after his final retirement. Booth spent time in the garden, helping neighbors, volunteering and fishing. Life was good.
“I guess I was kinda the black sheep of the family,” Booth says. “One brother was a doctor (the late Dr. James E. Booth of Eupora), two were pharmacists (Glenn Booth of Eupora and Marion Booth of Starkville), and my sister was a nurse (the late Ruth Booth Rowlen of Eupora).”
You realize, Booth is kidding. He’s satisfied.
‘Aiming for 100’
Today Booth enjoys life. He and Dorothy attend Agape Baptist Church.
“It’s been rare to miss a Sunday there,” Booth says. “The last couple of years I have to be careful. I go to sleep easy.”
Janet is nearby and though the grandkids are grown and scattered they still come home for visits. And, Donald comes to town a couple of nights a week so there is some friendly competition on the pool table and then at the Rec*Com.
“I have bad days,” Booth says, “but I’m aiming for 100.”
That’s what his smile is all about, his zest for Dorothy, the kids and his friends at the Rec*Com. Yes, he’ll keep playing H-O-R-S-E as long as he can. He’ll keep playing to win too.
“I’ve seen times I’m tough to beat,” Booth says matter-of-factly.
That demeanor, that quick, purposeful gait to get to the court speaks volumes. Homer Booth has a positive attitude. He loves life and makes each day count.