February 23, 2021

Sunday in the Smokies: Sally, Arley, Katie and Harriett

FRIENDS THROUGH FUDGE

This photo is one of the few I have of Katie as she looked when I first met her.  After the disappointment of losing his Hawaiian sweetheart, Glenn began noticing a young woman who rode the bus every morning as they went to work.  He was working at Epperson Hospital by then, and she told him her job was in the business office at Foree Hospital. She and her parents had bought a house recently across the Decatur Pike from the log house which was now Glenn’s home. She was Katie May Blair.

Before long, he brought her to Sunday dinner to introduce her to us.  I was fascinated!  She was soft-spoken with soft brown hair. I especially noticed her hands—she had short plump fingers and wore a dainty cocktail ring with tiny diamonds. She ate very slowly—carefully chewing each bite.  Being an outspoken child, I naturally asked her why she ate that way!  She smiled and politely told me she chewed each bite 100 times because it was healthy.  I liked her from the start.

Katie usually preferred tailored simple clothes.  For her wedding she bought a white crepe dress to wear but that morning she decided it just wasn’t her.  So she wore her blue gabardine suit with a white blouse and pearls instead—and her sister Zeola (her matron of honor) wore the white crepe bride’s dress.

One Sunday after church—again with everyone still in their Sunday best clothes—we took a road trip to the Smokies.  My parents, Glenn and Katie (who were married by now), and my girlfriend Joanna enjoyed an afternoon stopping at overlooks like this one, and had a picnic lunch at a roadside park.

Years later, after Glenn died in 1960, Katie became friends with Rhoda Deakins.  She was a lovely woman who never married.  She had family in Middle Tennessee that she visited often and I’m not sure how she got to Athens.  She was a member of our church.  Rhoda had a slight lisp and was always gracious and kind. She worked as a secretary for my brother Monte at the Athens Hosiery Mill. By then, Katie had an office job at the Athens Stove Works.

Rhoda

Rhoda convinced Katie to join the local chapter of Pilot Club International.  Organized in 1921, this was a women’s organization focusing on friendship and service.  In Athens, these clubwomen had several fundraising projects for community needs. They sold cookbooks published by the national group, Claxton fruit cakes, homemade aprons and more.  Absolutely the most popular was their Christmas fudge sales! 

They worked for months—each member made many pounds of creamy chocolate-pecan fudge, peanut butter fudge, and other varieties. All from their secret no-fail recipes.  I know large quantities of marshmallow crème were involved. The Pilot Club ladies carefully cut and packaged the fudge in Christmas boxes for sales.

While they made fudge together, these working women like Katie and Rhoda became close friends.  What will power it took to make all that candy and not sample it (much).  It was impossible to eat only one square of the rich and delicious Pilot Club fudge!  

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