City Hall custodian opens doors beyond workplace with wooden keys to city

By Bob Robinson
Star Staff

   Shirley Bowers, custodian for the City of Elizabethton, is opening doors far beyond the confines of his workplace.
   He makes ceremonial keys for the City of Elizabethton which are given to dignitaries and special guests visiting the City.
   Shirley operated A and L Radio and Television repair service in Elizabethton for 34 years before he retired in 1999.
   He then started making crafts in his woodworking shop. "I always had a desire to make something from wood as a hobby," said the self-taught woodcraftsman.
   Meanwhile, the Carter County native went to work with the City of Elizabethton as a custodian.
   City Manager Charles Stahl said he knew Shirley was a skilled woodcraftsman. Two years ago, he began making wooden keys to the city.
   "Shirley showed me a prototype of the key to the city. I found it was cheaper to buy wooden keys for the city from Shirley than it was to purchase brass ones. Now, keys to the city are custom-made and handcrafted by one of our residents," Stahl said.
   The rest is history.
   Shirley couldn't be prouder of the fact that the keys to the city he makes by hand from pine wood sits or hangs in the office of an important visitor to the City of Elizabethton.
   The self-taught woodcraftsman spends 25 hours per week in his woodwork shop, ABC Crafts, making anything people request.
   "I use pine, soft wood, mostly, and stain it any color desired by the customer," Shirley said.
   Today, Shirley's woodcrafts are scattered all over the Tri-Cities area and beyond. They include birdhouses, plaques, frames, wall shelves and book racks, to mention a few.
   Shirley's hobby turned business has been successful, thanks to word-of-mouth spread by satisfied customers.
   It has been a labor of love. "I enjoy serving people."