James Vernal "Vern" Jenkins said on his birthday last week that being 103 is "just about the same as 93."

James Vernal "Vern" Jenkins said on his birthday last week that being 103 is "just about the same as 93."

Jenkins was born on Jan. 21, 1907. Last week, he celebrated his 103rd birthday with his family and fellow residents at Carriage Court Communities, 2320 Sonora Drive.

Jenkins summed his life simply by saying he always had a job and never drank alcohol.

"I just lived an ordinary life, I guess," he said. "Nothing too awful exciting."

Verlin Jenkins, son of quite possibly the oldest man in Grove City, said his father grew up on a cattle farm in Gallia County.

Jenkins' son said his father graduated from high school in 1926 when he was 19 years old. He missed a year of school due to sickness at a younger age.

After he graduated from high school, Jenkins said, his father gave him $1,200 to learn to be an electrician at Chicago Engineering Works Inc. in Chicago.

He said he spent 16 months studying what his diploma called "theoretical and applied electricity." He graduated on March 9, 1928.

Jenkins said his fellow students weren't the hardest-working people. They drank more than they studied.

"They were drunks," Jenkins said. "That shows you what kind of college that was."

Jenkins' sons, Verlin and David, said they understand the electrical vocational school was run by gangsters during Prohibition.

Later, Jenkins got a job with American Telephone and Telegraph Co., known today as AT&T.

He worked in Cincinnati for about three years and then he found a job through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in the Grove City area.

His sons said their father was hired as an electrician in 1937 under the rural electrification program. The program hired electricians to wire houses for rural residents.

Jenkins and his wife Eva Mae Jenkins married in 1938. They had three daughters and two sons. His wife died on June 8, 2009.

Eventually Jenkins joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and worked under a contract with aircraft manufacturing company Curtis Wright Corp. during World War II.

By 1950, Jenkins had purchased property in Grove City's town center.

His sons said Jenkins purchased a two-story white house and a four-chair barbershop for $5,100 from Bill Grossman. Jenkins turned the shop into an appliance store called Jenkins Electric. The building still sits in the town center just south of the Little Theatre Off Broadway, 3981 Broadway.

He sold the town center property for $34,000 in 1966.

In the 1960s, Jenkins worked as a building inspector for Grove City. He was hired by Bill Grossman, apparently as a replacement, because shortly after Grossman hired Jenkins, Grossman retired, Jenkins' sons said.

"I was never without work," Jenkins said. "That's the main thing. I don't ever remember being unemployed. That's a fact."

Jenkins said he doesn't have a secret to long life, but he offered some sound advice for living longer than most.

"Whatever you do, stay away from liquor," he said.

He recalled stories of close friends and family members who drank too much. He said a friend once asked to borrow $1.38 to buy some whiskey, but he refused.

"Just to watch people waste away knowing what it's going to do to them," Jenkins said. "I always hated to shun people you've known all your life."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com