Sunday, October 7, 2007

Smiley Pete

He was named Smiley because he had a way of baring his teeth that looked like a grin. He had a daily routine: hamburger and waffles at Brandy’s Kitchen, a bowl of draft beer at the Turf Bar, a Hershey bar at Short and Lime Liquor, a dog biscuit and water at Carter’s Supply and, in the evening, popcorn at the old Opera House, when it was a movie theater.

Pete, who was part spitz, part shepherd, part bird dog and a few other unidentifiable bloodlines, belonged to everybody and belonged to nobody. Somebody at Welch’s Cigar Store made sure he got regular baths. And once, during a rabies scare, downtown merchants took up a collection and housed Pete in a kennel until the danger was past.

After his death on June 18, 1957, a plaque with Smiley Pete’s likeness was placed in the sidewalk at Main and Limestone. That plaque was removed in 1990 and put in the hands of Robert A. Welch, who owned Welch’s Cigar Store. He restored the plaque and gave it to the city archives, where it remains awaiting replacement downtown.

Pete’s friends buried him under a big sycamore tree at 904 North Broadway. His gravestone says: “Smiley Pete — A Friend to All and a Friend of All.”

A Smiley Pete Award is given annually by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
Its purpose is to recognize an individual “who makes others enjoy being downtown.”
Cross it before you toss it

by Linda Niemi & Lu-Ann Farrar

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