Arts & CultureEveryday People

Everyday People

Driving down West Broad Street one morning, I passed a woman outside of a furniture store, hauling lawn mowers and rocking chairs to be displayed out front… in high heels. But what really made me take notice was that she had a big smile on her face and was waving and shouting to her friend driving by. For a second, I actually thought she was hailing me.

I took it as a sign. I immediately made a dangerous lane change sans blinker, followed by a potentially disastrous U-turn, in hope of getting an interview. It was worth it. Living in Athens her whole life, Cynthia Jackson had a lot to share about our city and much more.

Flagpole: So, you are in sales here. How long have you been doing that?
Cynthia Jackson: I’m a sales consultant, yeah. I’ve actually been here for four years and before that I was in the banking industry, so I did that for, like, five years. So, you know, all that consists of selling, because when you work in a bank, you’ve got to promote debit cards, credit cards and all that. Yeah, I’ve been in sales for four years now.

FP: Do you enjoy sales?
CJ: Um, kind of. It has its ups and downs. I’ve been very blessed in sales, because ever since I came here I’ve really been doing good. And I know one of my [advantages] being in sales is I know a lot of people in Athens, because I’ve been here all my life. So, that helps me out with keeping up… Most of all, I just like helping people and having people be happy. Like if you just came in here and you want to buy something, I want to make sure you get the best deal, the best product, and you’re happy. Because if you’re happy, you’re gonna send somebody else to see me.

FP: And you were a teller at the bank?
CJ: I was a teller at the bank. I sure was…

FP: That takes schooling, right?
CJ: I thought it did, but the only thing I had to do, when I got hired at the bank, I just had to have cash-handling experience. I didn’t go to school for that, so that was a blessing. I just had to have worked with dealing with money before, you know, like working in stores, like retail stores and stuff like that. So, that’s really the only experience I had. And, of course, I had to take a couple of classes once I got hired at the bank.

FP: Did you enjoy dealing with money every day?
CJ: Yeah, it was OK. I mean, not really; I more liked the environment. You know what I’m saying? I love helping people, that’s my main thing. And, I guess I kind of like that, you know, I’m in, I can dress up, do all that. But, it was OK counting money… I guess I’d like to work back at the bank again, not as a teller. I would want to be something higher up.

FP: Where else have you worked?
CJ: Before I worked at the bank, I worked in industrial plants. So, I worked at DuPont and I worked at Carrier Transicold. When I was at DuPont, I got there right out of high school. I was a machine operator. I did that for almost five years… And then [at Carrier], I was a machine operator, also. So, at both industrial plants, of course, I had team members I worked with, and we all were on this machine… So, that’s what I did when I first started working. But, I didn’t want to get stuck in working at plants all my life, so I tried to make a change.

FP: How long have you lived in Athens?
CJ: I’ve lived in Athens 41 years. I’m 41, so I’ve been here all my life.

FP: So, you’ve seen the city change over the years.
CJ: Yeah, for me, being 41 and growing up [here], Athens is totally different from me being a little girl. When I was growing up they had little stores—like, you know, we’ve got the mall now, of course, but I remember all the stores that moved, like Belk and all that. So, all that’s changed… Out on the Eastside, kind of where I grew up at, sometimes when I go over there I don’t even believe it’s still where I grew up at. They’re building so much here in Athens that it’s getting so big, so things have really changed. For the better, of course.

FP: You grew up on the Eastside?
CJ: Like, over on Carver Drive… close to the bypass. So, that’s actually where my grandmama stayed… But, I stayed over there so much, it’s just like I grew up on the Eastside, because I went to school at Cedar Shoals and everything.

FP: Have you been back to Cedar Shoals?
CJ: I actually have. Even my high school has changed, it’s totally a new school. And I have two daughters, 21 and 14. So, my 21-year-old graduated in ’08 from Cedar, and my 14-year-old is a ninth grader over there. So, I still get to go over there… It has changed, because I’ve been out of school a long, long time.

FP: What do you do when you’re not working?
CJ: On my free time, now I’ve kind of become laid back since I got two daughters, and they’re growing up before my eyes. It’s scary, because like I said, my baby’s 14, so time’s just flying by. So, I try to spend my time with my husband and daughter when I’m not working. And I faithfully go to church. I do a lot of things at my church… I’m on a praise dance team at my church.

FP: A praise dance team? Tell me about that.
CJ: The praise dance is awesome… I want to say there’s like eight of us, and we dance in church once a month on the third Sunday… Me and the ladies, we meet every Thursday at our church. We pray and worship, first of all. Talk about each other, like how our week and stuff has been. And we just actually start, like, dancing… A pastor preaches the Word, and you might have different people doing other stuff, but dancing is also a ministry, too.

FP: So, is it like an improvisational kind of dancing, just feeling the music?
CJ: Exactly, just feeling the music and whatever the song may be singing. You know, like sign language? It’s kind of like that, we’ll be doing stuff like that. So, it’s a wonderful thing…

So, that’s really pretty much all I do. I love to shop, don’t let me leave that out. That’s my downfall, but I try to stay away from stores. So, other than that, just being with family. Family is the most important thing to me. And church and work—that’s all I really do.