By TACOM Public AffairsJanuary 16, 2018
(Editor's note: The following article is part of a series of stories from TACOM or Army Tank Automotive Center (ATAC) newsletters in 1968. The terms "ATAC" and "TACOM" are interchangeable throughout this series. This story ran in the January 1968 issue of "The Detroit Arsenal News.")
The Army let him slip through its fingers twice and if they had missed him on the third try ATAC's Commanding General would be without one whale of a cook.
Specialist 6 Carl E. Smith joined ATAC in June of 1965 as the Command General's cook and has held the job ever since to the gastronomic delight of all concerned.
His entry into service was twice delayed because of unexplainable mixups that serve as interesting conversations pieces because they are rare.
"I just like cooking and I try to put my very best into it," he said. "I especially like the holiday dinners. You've got to work hard but it sure looks nice when you're finished … if it's done right."
Sp/6 Smith is generous with his recipes. He gives then out freely but there are three that he refuses to share with anyone.
"I have two recipes for Tuna Loaf and Zucchini Squash. They're my own and I own and I won't let them out. I have a special way of preparing corn beef and I want to keep that to myself but the rest I'll give away."
The 14 year career man delights in preparing all types of foods ranging from his corn beef to exotic Polynesian foods, but barbecuing is what he likes best.
"I love to barbecue. I use my own sauce and the recipe for that is another thing I've kept pretty well under my hat."
Cooking for ATAC's first family is particularly satisfying for Spec. Smith. The General's wife is known to be a dedicated cooking enthusiast and Smith is loud in his praise of her culinary skill.
"Mrs. Lollis is a real fine cook. There isn't a thing about cooking that she doesn't know and she sure loves to cook."
Asked if he ever had swapped recipes with Mrs. Lollis, Smith said, "Mrs. Lollis must have every cook book that was ever written. She is hardly in need of any of my recipes." He admitted having used a recipe Mrs. Lollis gave him for a special dinner party.
"It was a recipe for Beef Stroganoff and it was really out of this world. It was delicious and everybody has been asking how to prepare it."
Cooking for special occasions is often a cooperative effort at the General's home. "When we have something special like a dinner party, Mrs. Lollis enjoys helping out and working with me on it."
The modern day world of ready mixes and foods that are pre-prepared and frozen are not for the Army cooking expert.
"When I bake pies, or biscuits I start right at the beginning. I make my own crusts and fillings."
To illustrate the point Smith revealed that ATAC's Commanding General is a pie fancier.
"General Lollis is particularly partial to coconut and banana cream pies. I make a batch of pie crust and put it in the freezer. In that way," he added, "I can bake up a pie in no time when the General is in the mood."
Early this year Sp/6 Smith will re-enlist for his final six year hitch which will give him 20 years service at retirement. He's enjoyed a long satisfying association with the Army that he says has given him a chance to see quite a bit and learn a lot. In looking back at what has been and still is a rewarding career, he observes, with irony, "You know, it's a funny thing but I didn't decide to stay in the Army until almost the last minute when they were ready to separate me after doing my two years in the draft."
He was called up for the draft and passed his physicals in 1948 and 1950. On each occasion the Army, for some reason, failed to follow through with orders to report.
The Army succeeded on its third attempt in 1954. Specialist Smith said, "I could have gotten out of it, but I really didn't want to."
He was sent to Fort Lee, Va., for training in supply work and there's an explanation for that. Though he had done a lot of cooking in civilian life, it was a hobby type of thing. He worked as a stock clerk for a St. Louis, Mo. firm and he feels it was this background that influenced the Army decision to make a supply man out of him.
It was shortly after his arrival at Ft. Lewis, Wash., as a supply specialist that his military cooking career got its start. A shortage of cooks plagued the 629th Ordnance and Smith was pressed into service. Less than a year after his induction he found himself firmly entrenched as First Cook while still holding the rank of a Pfc.
Sp/6 Smith's interest in cooking began while he was still in school in St. Louis. He learned by watching his mother, and his father also was an expert hand with the skillet.
"Father used to cook for the family when mother went to the hospital to have a baby," Smith said, and since there were eight children he left the impression that father really knew his way around the kitchen.
His talent for cooking first became apparent when Sp/6 Smith won a first place Blue Ribbon prize for a yellow cake with chocolate icing that he baked in a school competition.
Smith likes to reminisce about going to Army Cook's school. He was sent to take an 8 week course in 1957. "Since I had been cooking for two years the Army felt they better get it on the record, so they sent me to Cook and Bakers School," he said. "I spent most of the time as an assistant instructor. The instructor said I already know more about cooking than the course offered," he said with an amused smile.
On his only overseas assignment Smith was in France with the Transportation Corps. He was First Cook for a crew aboard an Army LST that transported supplies from ocean freighters to unloading docks. His cooking obviously was appreciated.
"They had a parade for me when I left on a new assignment in 1961," he said with a note of pride.
His last assignment before arriving at ATAC was with the U.S. Army Support Detachment at Fort Wayne in Detroit. "I got there last in 1961 in time to handle the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners," Smith said. "It was at Fort Wayne that I first started getting requests for some of my recipes. I had a number of people ask for my dressing recipe after the Thanksgiving meal."
After that first holiday meal Smith said, he just sort of inherited the job of planning and cooking all the Christmas and Thanksgiving meals for the rest of the time he stayed at the Detroit installation. It was one of the chores he enjoyed most.