Living in Sharpe, Kentucky

As I have told you in earlier posts, I attended Sharpe Elementary School.  Here is a little history regarding the school. Reports indicate that a school existed in the Sharpe area during the Civil War days.  It became a two-room, two-teacher institution in 1915.  Education advanced in the area in 1917 when the first high school in Marshall County was built there.  It was a two-year high school.  In 1921, a second floor was added to the frame building of the school to allow for grades one through twelve.  The addition was provided through local contributions of labor and money.  In 1937, the frame building was replaced with a brick structure.  In 1954, another chapter was written in the educational history of Sharpe.  Grades 9 through 12 were sent to the new North Marshall County High School.  Basketball success at Sharpe was on the upgrade and reached a climax in 1938, as in celebration of the completion of the new gymnasium. Sharpe won the county, district, regional and state tournaments.  Uncle Cliff Thomasson and Uncle Albert Brooks played on that team.  Girls’ basketball was played at Sharpe, also, but the games were dropped after 1930.  (I found some of this information on the Sharpe Grade School History website.)  Aunt Mary Clay Thomasson played on the women’s basketball team.  The picture is of the 1932 basketball team on which Uncle Franklin Thomasson played.

Aunt Virgie Thomasson taught First Grade at Sharpe Elementary School and happened to be my little sister’s first-grade teacher.  She taught for several years at Griggs School, a one-room school in Griggstown, until it was closed.  I remember when I was small, old fashioned pie suppers were held at the Griggs School (generally they were held to raise money for some worthy cause).  If you don’t know what a pie supper is, well in the old days, ladies/girls would bake pies for the pie supper, and men would bid on the pies, trying to buy the one that a certain woman baked. This was really fun for the young guys who might want to court a certain girl.  So the pies would be put up for bid and the guy who bought the pie had the privilege of sitting and eating it with the lady/girl who baked it.  I do remember my mom baked a pie for me when I was about 8 or 9 years old, but I don’t remember who bought it.

Dr. Stinson was the local doctor and had an office in his home in Sharpe.  Everybody in the area went to him for a variety of ailments.   I remember one afternoon, while we were visiting some neighbors, I decided that I would play a trick on their dog while it ate.  I got close to the dog and started growling at it.  I didn’t want his food but evidently he thought I did and bit me in the face; he wasn’t playing.  My parents took me straight to Dr. Stinson’s and he painted the inside of my mouth with methyolate.  I learned a big lesson and never growled at another dog.

Outside the front door of our little cinder-block house, was an Angel’s Trumpet flower. The Angel’s Trumpet has some of the largest flowers you will ever see.  Each year, the plant would be covered in beautiful white blooms.  This was my Mom’s favorite flower.  Those flowers also attracted bumble bees, one of which I stepped on and was unable to wear a shoe on that foot for several days.

I will have another bee story for you in a future post.

See ya next Wednesday.



Growing Up In Kentucky

Growing up in Kentucky meant a lot of things.  You were firmly rooted to the south and surrounded by good ole folks that were referred to as hillbillies.  I tell ya, I am proud to say I am a Kentucky Hillbilly.  Hillbillies are good folks who have very little material goods but hearts as big as the sky.  Most will give you the shirt off their back and will invite a complete stranger into their home for fried chicken, white beans, green beans, mashed potatoes, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers/onions in vinegar (all of the vegetables are homegrown), cornbread or biscuits and lots of sweet tea.  Note that in Kentucky, meals are referred to as breakfast, dinner and supper.  In the early days, houses were not the elaborate two- and three-story manors that one sees today.  More often than not, they were little four-room bungalows with little or no running water, some even had dirt floors.  The only paved streets were the main roads that ran through the state; the rest were one-lane gravel roads.

Marshall County hosted a fair every year.  I think the county fair probably grew into Tater Day which I will tell you about another time.  Dad’s older brothers would take him with them to the fair.  One year Grandpa gave him a quarter to spend at the fair and Dad put it in his overall pocket so he wouldn’t lose it.  Unbeknownst to him, his pocket had a hole in it and when he got to the fair, he didn’t have any money to spend.  That night when he was getting ready for bed, he took off his overalls, unfolded the cuffs and there was his quarter.  He had carried that quarter around with him all day.

As I said earlier, families had cooked meals every day and all of the vegetables were homegrown.  Grandma and Grandpa grew a huge garden that had a patch of cherry tomatoes in one of the corners. When we went to their house, Cheryl and I would go straight to that part of the garden.  After we ate our fill of the tomatoes, we would go into the house and eat saltine crackers.  Grandma kept a good supply of crackers. They also raised cattle and Grandma made butter from the milk and pulled the cream off the top of the churn to be used for other dishes. Grandpa loved baked sweet potatoes and he would put so much butter on his potato that the potato would be swimming in it.  I tend to do the same thing; guess I came by that honestly.

Grandma raised chickens; and within the chicken pen, there grew a plum tree. There were several hens in the pen and one of the meanest roosters you ever saw.  It was a major challenge to get to the plum tree and not get chased by that rooster. There was also a huge willow tree in the backyard; my cousin Angelyn and I would play house underneath the branches.

I spent lots of weekends at Grandma and Grandpa Thomasson’s house. The windows were open during the summer because the big trees surrounding the house provided shade and there was usually a nice breeze blowing.  At night, I would lie in my bed listening to the night birds and bugs singing.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to those times just for one day.  Folks didn’t have much but they had each other and that was the most important thing.

See ya next Wednesday.

The Cows at the Pond

I believe I mentioned the house that our parents built in my story about the bicycles. So, today I’m going to share with you a little more about that house and the carport that Dad added.

Dad decided to build a carport on the house and he needed sand and gravel to make the concrete for the floor of the carport.  (The photo shows the house before the carport). He borrowed a tractor and trailer from our neighbor and off we went to the creek to get gravel.  Cheryl and I rode in the trailer behind the tractor.  As I said in an earlier post, we lived on a gravel road so we were safe riding in that fashion, at least in those days.  The little creek where Dad was going to get the gravel was a couple of miles from the house so we just tootled up the road enjoying the ride.  We were almost to the creek when my Dad noticed that one of the trailer tires was blowing up like a balloon.  So, we stopped just before the creek under some trees.  There was a fenced-in pasture and a pond next to the road where a herd of cattle were grazing.  It was shady there so it was a good place to stop until my Dad got back with another tire or a patch for the bad one.  It was really hot that day and the some of the cows were in the pond.  Now, if you don’t know, cows are very curious creatures so the ones out in the field sauntered up to the fence to see what was happening and some of them actually leaned over the fence. Dad told us to watch because he knew what was going to happen before it did.  Yep, the tire blew; and when it did, those cows took off running and went straight through that pond.  It looked like they were gonna run over each other trying to get away. It was one of the funniest things that I have ever seen.  It was really too bad that we didn’t have some way of catching that on film.  (The above photo is Cheryl, one of our many kitties and me in the living room).

We got our gravel but not before Cheryl and I played in the creek a little and drank some of the running water.  I tell ya, there is nothing any better to drink than cold water running over rocks.  I’m not sure folks would agree with me today about that, but in those days, it was so good.  Anyway, Dad got the gravel and he and a couple of neighbors pour the floor for the carport.

I tell ya, we had some great times at that house.  One of my sister’s and my favorite things to do during the summer was to play baseball in the backyard with a stick and walnuts. I think we even got Greg (in the photo), our cousin, to play with us some too.  One year, I hit a walnut way far and as I was sliding home, I slid on top of a walnut and skinned my knee.  I’m telling you, that was not fun and I still have that scar.  But I wouldn’t take anything for those fun summer days with my little sister.

I have more stories about Greg that I will share another time.

See ya next Wednesday.


My Sister’s Tornado

Today I want to share a different kind of story with you.

If you remember, April 27, 2011 was a day of tornadoes for the south.  Not only Alabama and Mississippi were hit, but Ringgold, Georgia was devastated by an EF-4 tornado.  And, what does this have to do with my sister?  Well, she lives in Ringgold and also is co-owner of the Sun Shop, a suntanning business in Ringgold.

I had been watching the weather channel all that day to see if we were gonna get any bad storms because if a storm, whether it’s rain or snow, comes through Atlanta, it’s likely it will come my way in South Carolina.  And that day was no different.  But as the day wore on, it seemed we might be spared anything really bad.

About 8:30 pm that night, I was all settled in my bed watching television when my phone rang.  I don’t get many calls, but I especially don’t get calls at night unless something is wrong.  I answered and it was Cheryl asking me if I could get on the internet.  I thought this was kind of odd since she has internet and is very savvy when it comes to computers.  Anyway, I jumped out of bed and went to my computer and asked what she needed. She said that she and her roommate were in the bathtub, had no power, it was storming, and she was scared.  Let me add here that my sister is not afraid of anything; so when she said that, I knew it was bad. She asked me to check the weather radar and tell her if the storm had passed or if they were going to get more.  I immediately pulled up the radar and thank goodness the worst of the storm was just passed her area.  It really scared me to know she was in the middle of a tornado and that there was nothing I could do to help her. I can tell ya I didn’t sleep very well that night.

At 6:30 the next morning, she called to tell me that they were okay, but that Ringgold was wiped out.  They were at the Sun Shop and she said the roof had been torn off but otherwise it was okay too. The auto detail shop next to the Sun Shop was a total mess and the furniture store across the street was cut in half by the tornado. McDonald’s was gone, Waffle Hut was gone and so many other businesses were completely gone.  The tornado just went right through the town and took almost everything with it, including some lives.

So now, here it is Februrary 2012 and the Sun Shop is finally open again.  I tell ya, Cheryl and Val went through some really rough times trying to get the shop back in order.  It was pretty much gutted and redone altogether. Now, the Sun Shop is bright and cheerful and they are as busy as ever.  Ringgold has recovered pretty well; several businesses that were destroyed have reopened.  But the lives that were lost can never be recovered.

As I have said before, I love my little sister and don’t know what I would do without her.  And, I know that someone was watching over her that night.

We had a bad tornado come through the south part of Marshall County when I was in high school.  I will tell you about that one in another post.

See ya next Wednesday.

Aunt Mary Clay

I want to share a little bit about one of my favorite aunts, Aunt Mary Clay Thomasson. She was dad’s sister, ten years older than he.  Aunt Mary Clay played on the 1930 girls’ basketball team at Sharpe High School.  She never married and all of the nieces and nephews were her kids.  One of her favorite sayings was, “El, I’ma tellin’ you.”  I can still hear her say that.

She lived with Grandma and Grandpa and worked at the shirt factory in Paducah until she retired.  Every afternoon when she got home from work, she would work the crossword puzzle that was in the local newspaper and could complete it in a very short time.  My sister and I both still like to work puzzles today; I guess we got that from her.  She also got McCall’s Magazine which had the Betsy McCall paper dolls and clothes inside. My cousin Angelyn and I both tried to be the first to cut those paper dolls out of the magazine. We also cut the models out of Aunt Mary Clay’s Sears & Roebuck Catalog and used them as paper dolls.  One Christmas, she bought Angelyn, Cheryl and me a Betsy McCall doll; I believe Cheryl still has hers.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, Aunt Edith and Uncle Chapel took Cheryl, Angelyn and me to the Ice Capades in Evansville, Indiana.  I believe Aunt Mary Clay and Aunt Avis came along to help with us girls, but I could be wrong about that. About the only thing that I can remember about the show was some of the skaters dressed as stewardesses and pilots, and a plane fuselage was one of the props. But, I loved watching all those people skate around the rink; they looked like they were having so much fun.

When I was five years old, I fell ill with cerebrospinal meningitis and spent several days in the hospital.  Aunt Mary Clay stayed at the hospital with me since Dad had to work and Mom had to care for my baby sister.  At one point, hope for my survival was fading so the doctor decided to give me a massive dose of penicillin and told my parents that if I survived the medication dosage, I stood a good chance to live.  Yep, I survived but I’m allergic to penicillin.

After Dad passed away, Cheryl took Mom and Aunt Mary Clay on several road trips.  One particular extraordinary trip was to Cape Kennedy where they watched a space launch.  She also took them to her home in Georgia.  When Aunt Mary Clay became ill and was in the hospital, most of us kids were there with her until the end.  While we were planning her funeral services, we discovered that her middle name was actually Isabella, not Clay.  Angelyn and I both admitted that at least one of us would have named our girls Isabella had we known.  After Aunt Mary Clay’s death, we went to her house to take the things that meant the most to us.  We all found treasures that would always remind us of our dear aunt.  Grandma made dozens of quilts and there were enough for each of us to have at least one.  I also found pictures of my dad and letters that he sent to Grandma when he was in the Navy.

Aunt Mary Clay was a special lady and I hope you enjoyed getting to know her.

See ya next Wednesday.