March 16, 2021

            Sunday afternoon at the springs


These are three of my favorite photos from the pre-1920 era in McMinn County.  This first one shows a group—two young men and five young women—posing for a picture at the springs.  Notice the overturned bucket at the right.  The young men are both wearing suits and rakish straw hats, and two of the young women have on large hats.  The man on the left is probably Clifford Cate—and I was always told the third woman from the left—smiling brightly—is Sallie Cate, a cousin who disappeared from the family circle for 50 years.

I wonder if they’d gone to church on a warm spring Sunday and then the “young folks” took a picnic lunch down to the springs. Or maybe there was a “dinner on the grounds” after church.

This second photograph is a bit more adventuresome!  Five young women, one young man, climbing an embankment at the edge of the woods.  Harriett is the second young woman from the right, holding hands with a friend or cousin.  I think the couple standing at the top—wearing darker colored clothes—are Robert Hurst (who later married Harriett) and Abbie Hutsell (who later married Clifford Cate).  This gathering looks like fun, with everyone more relaxed. Maybe they just went for a walk in the woods—with Robert making sure they didn’t get a snakebite or take a fall down this embankment.

This third group shot is the strangest!  That looks like quite a hill—I almost wonder if it was an Indian burial mound. And it’s a larger gathering—about 16 people.  The four men are oddly positioned—one standing between two women, another one standing in front of the women but facing off to the right, and two seated in front. At least a couple of the men seem to be older.  Harriett is the 6th woman from the right, just behind the seated man wearing the dark jacket. I don’t recognize anyone else in the group. All the women are wearing summer hats—and on the left, someone has dropped their fan on the ground.  

Over a century later, it’s certainly a different world.  And yet hikes, picnics, outdoor barbeques remain very popular with groups of family and friends. Probably the greatest difference is in the style of dress for outings today—with the women wearing pants or shorts, men in jeans—and the only hats probably would be baseball caps. What’s not changed is that it’s very enjoyable to spend time with friends.

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