Old Southern Peppermills
A member of the woodworking division of CEBCO Smiley Productions

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Story of the Craftsman,
Charles Buster

Charles was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1946 to Charles Edwin Buster, Sr and Beatrice. Charles' father was called Eddie and ran a country service station. They lived with Eddie’s parents in a large but very modest house. Charles’ grandmother rented rooms to "train men" who ran the local locomotive from Vicksburg to the little town of Coahoma where Charles and his family lived. The train would run steam engines and could not make the round trip in one day so they spent the night at the Buster house. The “train men” would sit at the service station killing time and would make things of wood that were useful around the household. One thing they built was an octagon birdhouse with 4 levels. They also built a “loafers" bench and carved their initials in it, kind of to reserve their seat. This bench was kept at the service station until Charles’ father sold the business in 1960. Charles’ grandfather and father were both pretty good country wood workers. There is a picture of Charles and his grandfather driving nails in 1948 and Charles is so small he is still wearing his diaper. Charles’ favorite project as a youth was building boxes. Charles got into trouble for cutting up some of his grandfather’s wood to build boxes for things from a box to store his nails to a box to plant carrots in for a school project.

Charles took Industrial Arts when he was in the seventh grade. Back then, it was the standard thing to do. Girls took home economics and boys took “shop”. Charles’ first project in shop was a table with turned legs. That is where he got his introduction to the lathe. Charles found out early that turning duplicate objects was no easy task but he did enjoy turning wood on the lathe. Charles went on and in high school he took a metalworking class and learned to use the metal lathe. Charles went to college at Mississippi State University and polished his skills of lathe usage, both in the wood shop and the metal shop. In actuality, he admits that most of his education on the use of the lathe came from a few television shows and trial and error.

When Charles graduated from college with a teaching degree, he taught for four years with the middle school age group. He taught kids how to use the lathe as well as the other basic woodworking and metalworking tools. He got out of teaching in 1972 and found employment in many different areas but kept woodworking as a hobby even though he never had much of an actual shop. He built more boxes and even some furniture but most work was home repair and home construction type projects.

As you can see, Charles grew up around people who were woodworkers. It was kind of like a natural thing for men to work with wood and make things useful for around the house.

In 1984, he was at a gun show in Greenwood and saw this man and his wife who had a table showing and selling double-barreled shotguns. Charles’ first shotgun was a Parker Brothers 16 gage double-barrel shotgun and he has always loved double-barreled shotguns so he stopped to take a look. He saw the people’s name on the sign on the table and that they were from New Albany, Mississippi. He asked if they knew his friend who lived there. Of course they did and Charles gave them his contact information and asked if they would give it to his friend. Shortly he received a letter from his friend, Jim. They swapped letters a few times and all of a sudden, Jim asked if he had thought of getting back into teaching. He went on to say there was an opening in New Albany as an Industrial Arts teacher and he thought Charles might have a chance of filling the position. This lead to a move and much more.

Charles was hired as a high school woodworking and metalworking teacher in August of 1984. As part of his job, he would work at the middle school with his friend, Jim, and they would be team teachers in the 8th grade program. Charles did more work in the area of teaching electricity since he had worked in the two-way radio business and he also had his amateur radio license and had a better knowledge in the field than Jim. During that time, Charles and Jim spent much spare time working on presents for their wives. Two of the more interesting presents that Charles built for his wife are a mantle clock and a musical jewelry box. Charles and Jim also built a playground set for the church one spring holiday break.

Jim and his wife introduced Charles to Anita. Charles used the smiley face to sign his notes to Anita while they were dating. As a matter of fact, Anita did not realize who was writing the notes in the beginning because they were only signed with the smiley face. Charles and Anita married in December of 1984. Anita has been a very positive part of Charles’ life and has been very supportive in his entire life, as well as in Old Southern Peppermills.

Charles retired from teaching with 23 years service and went to work with a friend of his in the commercial two-way radio business. It is something different every day and it keeps me on my toes, Charles said. While teaching, Charles was president of the local branch of the National Education Association, the Mississippi Association of Educators for three years. He was state president of Mississippi Technology Education Association for three years. He was awarded Teacher of Excellence by the Mississippi Technology Education Association and also the International Technology Education Association. Charles is very active in the local council with the Boy Scouts of America where he has received such awards as silver beaver, vigil honor in the Order of the Arrow, and the Founder’s Award. He has served on national jamboree staff four times and was the director of an event for the southern region the last two times.

Charles and Anita’s backdoor neighbor, Bethany, has been a real help in promoting his products. Bethany works at the local museum and displays Charles’ peppermills and bracelets at the museum. She has helped to the point that Charles and his peppermills were selected as the Featured Artist at the Tallahatchie River Fest in New Albany in 2005 and was selected as a blue ribbon recipient for show. Therefore, one of his peppermills will remain on display in the museum. In April of 2006, the New Albany Gazette wrote an article on Charles and his peppermills.

In February of 2008, Charles received an application packet for submission to The Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi". He filled out the paperwork and wrote up several items and submitted that with examples of his work for juring by the guild. He received a letter of congratulations and acceptance into the guild in mid March. Charles says he feels this is a real feather in his cap because it shows that his work is considered worthy by his peers. He looks forward to the upcoming guild events so he can participate and showcase his peppermills and bracelets to a larger group of people.

Charles enjoys working with wood and visiting with people as part of his hobby. Since Charles has retired from teaching, he hopes to work in his shop and supplement his retirement income by building peppermills, bracelets, clocks, bandsaw boxes, and other items to go in his booth at the higher end craft shows, especially Chimneyville, the big craft show held by The Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi in Jackson, Mississippi at the Trademart the first weekend in December every year. Please check the Guild's website for times. His motto is “If you are not having fun at what you are doing, you are doing the wrong thing”.

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