Tommy Roberts has gone to the birds… well, birdhouses

After making his living for almost 50 years in photography in Seminole, Tommy Roberts is now working for the birds in his retirement.

Roberts got started in woodworking when one of his sons took a woodworking class in high school. He currently makes birdhouses and mailboxes, some of which have been auctioned off across West Texas for charity benefits.

Roberts’ daughter, Bennett Elementary School teacher Robna Dulin, had her second-grade students raffle off a birdhouse for the past four years to benefit various Frenship charities. Since she is now the reading interventionist, Dulin has handed off the raffle to Donna Branch’s third-grade class.

Roberts’ youngest daughter, Kelli, has been raffling off the birdhouses at her school in Patton Springs for about 12 or 13 years, he said. He also has two sons, Kenny and Donald, who both live in Lubbock.

Roberts said he is glad that his birdhouses can benefit others.

“I made my first clock after my youngest son took woodworking class in Seminole schools and made himself a grandmother clock,” said Roberts. “A grandmother is not quite as tall and quite as bulky” as a grandfather clock.

Over the years, he made many more clocks for his relatives, then cedar chests for each granddaughter. When clocks became too heavy to lift as he got older, he began making birdhouses, he said.

“I concentrate on birdhouses because it’s something everybody can enjoy,” he said. He has several different models of birdhouses he makes, including churches, rockets and castles. The model currently up for auction at Bennett Elementary School is of a feed barn.

Although a heart attack six months ago has temporarily sidelined the 86-year-old, he says he will be back in the shop soon.

“I’ve got three fingers that have been cut. I’ve got to keep going,” Roberts joked.

Roberts was born in Fisher County, and moved west to Seminole in 1947 with his wife, Evelyn. They started a studio in Seminole, and for 45 years, he took all the school pictures there and in other area schools over the years. He also took wedding photos, sometimes shooting three generations of weddings in some Seminole families. He finally retired in 1995 after shooting his last wedding.

“I got out of the photography business at just the right time,” Roberts said when asked about digital photography. Anyone can now take nice photos and print them out on a home computer, he said.

“You can sure make 5 by 7s and 8 by 10s real easily,” he said.

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