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.

March 15, 2021

London visitors Brett, Penny and Gary, 1999


We first met and loved Gary Seithel and his wife Barb in the early 1980s.  Gary was from the Lowcountry, a Clemson grad who was studying at Columbia Bible College. Barb was from Atlanta—and they both volunteered with our church youth ministry.  To earn money while at CBC, Gary did house painting—and he painted the interior of our house one summer. 

He and Barb went to London as missionaries, and were thrilled when their daughter Sandy was born, and a couple of years later, son Matthew.  When they made visits to South Carolina, we enjoyed time with them. And then a few years later, Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer.  They made a final trip home while she was undergoing treatment and fighting so hard to live.  Despite all the hopes and prayers, she died and was buried in England.  Gary was determined to continue their work in England.

When a couple from Barb’s home church in Atlanta came to London to visit their single daughter Penny who was working there, they looked Gary up. Penny soon fell in love with Gary and his two little ones, and in 1993, they were married.  A couple of years later, they had a son Brett and the following year, Nathan.  

Their family and ministry in London have thrived for these past 27 years.  All four children are now married and live in England, Sandy has two children and Matthew one so far.  Yesterday was “Mothering Day” in the United Kingdom, and Penny was lovingly praised by all four of their beloved children.

Sandy and Matthew

These photos are from about 1999 when they spent a few days with us in Columbia.  Little Brett and Nathan were fascinated when the ducks from our “lake” wandered up to the front yard!  Matthew caught a fish—and Sandy played the piano for us.  An ocean apart—still close friends.

Brett and Nathan with the ducks

March 14, 2021

Morning view from the Earwoods’ back porch, Saluda, NC


The Earwoods were friends from our very first weeks living in Columbia—and stuck with us through thick and thin.  Max was tall and handsome, a driven and successful executive with Piedmont Gas.  Nancy was short and outspoken with a self-deprecating sense of humor.  An only child, she adored her relatives in Alabama and doted on her daughter Donna and son Dale. 

They built a new even more elegant home in the Trenholm-Forest Drive area of Columbia.  Nancy had exquisite taste but brought in designers to help with the final touches on the new place.  After Donna married and had a son and daughter of her own, she lived in Asheville.  Nancy decided she and Max should build a “summer home” in Saluda, North Carolina.

It was her dream home—equally tasteful but much more rustic and informal, with antiques, homemade quilts, an open floor plan, fireplaces and porches. The view of the mountains from their back porch was breathtaking. Here she and Max could simply relax and enjoy a quiet life.

 Saluda was a charming village with a wonderful craft shop where local women were always engaged in making a quilt, other mountain crafts stores, one or two cafes, and apple orchards. To get to the Earwoods’ house, you had to cross the railroad track running right through the little town.  Going for a visit once, I waited for the stopped train there to move on. After ten minutes, there was no sign of movement so I backed up and went into a shop to ask about it. “Oh, the train engineers stop there while they have lunch at the café across the street,” they explained.  And they gave me the locals’ workaround to go another way!

Nancy played bridge with neighbor women, walked to a tiny Presbyterian Church for Sunday services and felt very much “at home” in this small mountain community.  After Max began having serious health problems, they spent as much time here as they could.  And after his death, Nancy seriously thought about selling her Columbia house and relocating to Saluda. Eventually it all became too complicated, and she reluctantly sold the mountain house and returned to Columbia.

It’s such a blessing to have a “heart home” (like my Beersheba Springs house and Nancy’s Saluda house) at least for a few years.  Mountain memories linger long after you leave.  

March 13, 2021

Mother-Daughter Differences


Sarah Lee Bales McGiveron loved being different!  She was taller than most of her family—almost six feet tall—and she wore her height proudly.  She loved to travel, she lived happily many years with her short and funny husband Frank on a farm in Olean, New York, she was an adventurous cook, she held grudges, she liked to “loaf” and go window shopping.

Her mother Julia (sister of my grandmother Evalee) didn’t quite “get” Sarah Lee.  She often wondered aloud why Sarah Lee wasn’t more like my mother Harriett.  Sarah Lee shrugged and said, “Well, I should have been Aunt Evalee’s daughter and Harriett yours!” 

She adored Frank and they always seemed to have so much fun together.  She was about a foot taller than he but that didn’t bother either of them.  They never had children but she was devoted to the five children of her only sister Anna Lee, who died young. She and Frank had hundreds of Chinese geese in New York.  Arley once bought four of them for our pond—but the Tennessee climate didn’t quite suit them.

After Frank retired, he and Sarah built their dream home between Athens and Englewood—a rustic house with a beautiful view of the mountains.  Within a year or two, he had a heart attack and died.  Broken hearted, Sarah Lee couldn’t bear living alone in their dream home, so she sold it and moved into her childhood home with Aunt Julia.  For some years, she pampered and cared for her mother.  

When Aunt Julia was in her 90s and no longer able to get around, Sarah Lee told Mother she wasn’t able to have company.  If she needed to run errands, she hired someone to stay with Aunt Julia instead of calling on Mother.  

After Aunt Julia died, Sarah Lee moved into a downtown upstairs apartment in a building owned by the Browning Circle Women’s Club.  She never drove and this was within easy walking distance of everything she needed.  She traveled to visit family and friends in California, Texas, Kansas and other places.  And without tension between them over her mother’s approval, she and Mother became much closer.

She took up a new hobby—collecting commemorative liquor bottles and decanters.  She never was a drinker but everyone who was began giving her interesting bottles.  She also scoured antique shops for finds.  Eventually she had something like 3,000 bottles on shelving throughout her apartment.

I especially loved the adventurous recipes Sarah Lee tried!  She had one for a sauerkraut salad that was amazingly tasty.  Another favorite was her green tomato mincement, with which she baked pies.  She also had quite a few “Yankee recipes” from her years in New York.

She was born on this date—March 13—119 years ago, and lived to be 96. Her last years were lonely ones in a nursing home with dementia.  I loved this tall, interesting and adventurous cousin Sarah Lee!

March 12, 2021


I loved my summer visits to Atlanta!  Spending time with Aunt Della and Juanita in their West End neighborhood was always busy and interesting.  And early on I gained quite a reputation for my city shopping sprees.

This photo was snapped by a street photographer one summer day when the three of us hopped on a trolley and went downtown for some serious shopping.  I’m holding Juanita’s hand and look like I’m really focused on the details of this shopping trip.  I wonder what is in the package I’m carrying.  Chances are that it is a book.

We would spend the majority of our time in the awe-inspiring Rich’s Department Store, riding escalators to visit every floor. Usually we would eat lunch there, too.  Other favorite stops always included Davison’s department store (later Macy’s), some shoe stores and my favorite, the stationery stores.  

If Mother was with us, there would be a mandatory stop at some of the hat shops. If she wasn’t with us, we often took in an afternoon movie matinee at the Roxy or Loew’s Grand (where the Gone With the Wind movie premiered in 1939). Mother didn’t care for movies.  For special movie only outings, Aunt Della and Juanita took me to the Fox Theatre which seemed like a palace and had a realistic starry night ceiling. 

From age seven (about when this photo was made), I went alone on the train to Atlanta.  Uncle Richard worked for the railroad, so they were always happy to meet me at the train station.  My parents would drive me to the L&N Depot in Etowah to catch the train.  The first time I went they said they cried when the train pulled out of the station. I loved every minute of the trip—and started up conversations with fellow passengers. 

Daddy always gave me some spending money for my Atlanta shopping, and Mother tucked it inside my socks for safe keeping.  Of course, I told everyone on the train about my sock money! When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to buy an instrument to play in the school band.  We went to a used musical instrument store and I selected a beautiful coronet.  It came with a velvet-lined case and smelled of the oil cleaner. Daddy sent the extra money and I lugged it home on the train.  After a few frustrating weeks, the band director concluded I didn’t “have the lips” for my cornet.  We donated it to the band and I just never wanted any other band instrument.

After the first super markets opened in West End and the Underwoods got a television set (which we didn’t have), I loved watching all the cooking shows.  I wrote down all the recipes and used my spending money to buy ingredients for them at the Big Apple Super Market, since of course we wouldn’t have those in Athens.  I got on the train to go home with two bags of groceries and my suitcase.  The passengers were naturally curious so I pulled all my finds out and gave them the television commercial spiels.  When we got to Etowah, they walked me to the door to say goodbye and watch my parents’ faces when they saw the groceries! Soon I was cooking up my new recipes.  One used Ballard’s Corn Bread Mix to make sautéed mush. Delicious!

March 11, 2021

Partying with Ruth, Barbara and Caroline
Christmas, 2001


Together at my Christmas open house, the four of us had unique stories and strong connections to each other. Ruth was a close friend and colleague from Providence Hospital days, and was once married to an Episcopal priest. She was Director of Volunteer Services and the Gift Shop at the hospital. Caroline developed a Providence relationship—first as volunteer and later as an employee– after her beloved husband died suddenly. Barbara was a close friend of Brailsford Sutton, who was married to a top cardiovascular surgeon at Providence.  Brailsford began bringing Barbara to a weekly noontime Bible study I was leading downtown.

I truly had never met anyone like Barbara—before or since!  She seemed so full of joy and hope, and had an overwhelming passion for sharing the love of Jesus with the poor and downtrodden.  Both she and Ruth were members of the historic Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown.  Although Barbara had many friends who were wealthy, she herself was quite poor.  She earned money by polishing silver and stringing pearls for local society women, also babysitting and cleaning houses. 

At Trinity, she was the liaison between the street people who existed near the church grounds and the Vestry members and parishioners.  The church was open to supporting weekly breakfasts and lunches to their homeless neighbors, as well as giving them winter clothes and Christmas gifts. Barbara got volunteers, manned the kitchen, and did all she could to provide necessities to all who came.  Of course, the Vestry did ask her to be sure these homeless guests were completely off the premises before parishioners arrived for worship services.

One of Barbara’s greatest thrills was making a pilgrimage to Israel with some friends.  There she met a Palestinian bishop and was delighted when he came to America to tell his story of struggles faced by Christians living in Palestine. While she was in Bethlehem, she discovered a young Jewish man who had emigrated there from New York.  He had researched the type of harp that might have been used by the psalmist David.  Soon he was creating handcrafted harps—the first to have been made in Bethlehem for centuries, she said.  Of course, she had to have one—and she started a new ministry.  She learned to chant the psalms using chords on the harp—and soon she was visiting seriously ill patients in hospitals and homes with her music. One night six weeks or so before Mother died, she came to her bedside.  Together we chanted psalms all through the night with her Bethlehem harp.

Each year at Passover, Barbara got out all her own best china, crystal, silver and table linens, prepared a feast with roast lamb, and invited her homeless friends to her home to share it.  She actually did so many of the things most of us just think about doing. What a gift she was!

March 10, 2021

Young Ruby Young


I love everything about this photo!  Ruby looks Spanish—so stylishly dressed with her dark bangs. She has such a confident expression.

She was a lifelong friend of Harriett and Della Cate, as well as Abbie and Themis Hutsell and others in their circle.  I assume at some point her family lived in their McMinn County community but am not sure how long. She may have been an only child, as she never seemed to mention any relatives.

Ruby finished high school and moved to Knoxville where she was working in an office job by 1940. She owned her own home on McCalla Avenue, developed a strong network of friends and lived an independent life. 

I have two letters Ruby wrote to Della—one from 1959 and one from 1977.  In 1959, she mentioned she would be getting three weeks’ vacation from her job that year—and that she would probably just stay home.  She also noted that she had a fall in the house that kept her hospitalized for two weeks, that she had bursitis in both arms and was about 40 pounds overweight.  She was probably in her late 50s then.  By 1977, she had retired to Parkwood Manor at 1024 N. Mary Street in Knoxville. Her health problems had worsened—she said she had been in the hospital to get cobalt treatments for osteoporosis. This had left her quite weak. She said she would work on her ceramics awhile and then lie down.

She was the ultimate giver of gifts!  Every birthday and every Christmas, she sent Harriett a carefully chosen gift.  In later years, it was something she made.  She took up ceramics as a hobby and after she retired from her job, she developed a significant mail order business.  She spoke of having customers in England, Montana, and Florida as well as locally!  One Christmas she mentioned giving gifts to 75 different people!

One year she gave Harriett a lovely metallic floral pin.  She wore it often for many years—and the pin is clearly visible in many of her photos.  She also cherished the handmade ceramic pieces from her friend Ruby—white swan candleholders, candy dishes, bowls.  Gifts that represented her generous lifelong friend Ruby.

Harriett wearing the pin from Ruby

March 9, 2021

Patrick and Linda canoeing at Williamsburg West


Williamsburg West was the subdivision just off the Piney Grove frontage road in Columbia where we built our blue saltbox home in late 1980.  Heather described it as a “make-believe” neighborhood.  In many ways, it was that.

J.C. Roy was the builder of the Colonial style houses in the subdivision.  There were six or so different designs and floor plans from which to choose.  Ours was one of the last built, and was on a steep lot backing up to a community pond (which we lovingly called our lake).  The pond was ringed with some of our neighborhood homes and just across the water, the Lakewood Condominiums.

Our back yard sloped down to the water.  We had a full-sized above-ground basement floor, with one side eventually converted to a bedroom for Patrick. An outside door from the bedroom opened directly onto a small concrete patio with a basketball court.

A co-worker at Providence Hospital, Linda Zember went through a divorce and she got “custody” of an expensive aluminum canoe, which she asked to store in our back yard until she had a place for it.  Whenever a missed shot at the goal went too far into the pond to reach, Patrick would take the canoe out to retrieve the ball.  This photo shows him with Linda canoeing around the sparkling pond together.

The pond was stocked with fish—and there were quite a few successful fishing expeditions there—with guests like young Matthew Seithel from London and Hunter Connelly from Nashville fishing with Patrick. And there were ducks—mysteriously fed and cared for by some caretaker. We had a beautiful view of the water from our dining room bay window.  

There were just over thirty homes in Williamsburg West, tucked into quiet cul -de -sacs. There were tight restrictions on what color the houses could be painted. When one owner violated the rules and used a more vibrant color of exterior paint, there was an outcry and eventually the owner capitulated and repainted with an approved color.  

Life in Williamsburg West was very real. Its families experienced broken marriages, anorexia, agoraphobia, tragedy, births and deaths. And a pond was a lake! For twenty-one years, 159 King George Way was home.

March 8, 2021


One Sunday in 1975, Heather, Patrick and I piled into the Buckley’s Volkswagen bus and headed to a parking lot in downtown Columbia.  For months, a local artist named Blue Sky had been painting (after dark, then covering his work with a tarp) a mural on the side of the AgFirst Farm Credit Bank building on Taylor Street.  He had announced a dramatic public unveiling of the completed mural—precisely at sunset on this particular Sunday.

The entire side of the building was covered with stitched together dark plastic garbage bags suspended by ropes from the rooftop.  Blue Sky and several assistants waited on the roof until the time was right.  Just before sunset, the booming sounds of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture spread through the streets. Dramatically, they lowered the covering to reveal a very realistic mural called “Tunnelvision.”  No longer looking like the side of an office building, it now appeared as if you could drive through this tunnel into the beautiful sunset just ahead.  It was a magical experience.

Twenty-five years later Blue Sky was commissioned to create a large public sculpture at the street edge of that same parking lot downtown. The mural would remain visible behind it. For over a year, Blue Sky again labored in secrecy as he worked on the massive piece. By that time I was working for Pete Cannon in his downtown office building a few blocks away on Washington Street.  We watched the work going on and couldn’t imagine what it would be.  Of course, that was exactly as Blue Sky intended.  Finally on February 18, 2001, he again scheduled a dramatic unveiling of the structure.  I took a couple of friends along to watch the show.  Imagine our surprise when firetrucks came down the street, with sirens and flashing lights and pulled up at the curb nearby.  An announcer reassured the startled onlookers that this was part of the show. Blue Sky’s father it turns out had been a Columbia fireman at one time and his artist son was paying tribute to him. (Blue Sky was born as Warren Edward Johnson but legally changed his name to Blue Sky in 1972.)  

When Blue Sky removed the tarp covering the gigantic structure of concrete and steel, it was a burst fire plug—with pumps pushing streams of recycled water up into a spray fountain.  Confirmed as the world’s largest fire hydrant, the tilted structure was almost 40 feet high and weighed 675,000 pounds. Officially named “Busted Plug Plaza,” the site attracted local dogs—just like all fire hydrants do.  The pumps quit working in 2012 so there’s no longer water at the site.  

Blue Sky is in his 80’s and still has a gallery in Five Points.  I took this photo on a visit back to Columbia—both Tunnelvision and Busted Plug Plaza are visible. Public art at its best!

March 7, 2021

Former Minnesota Viking Bobby Bryant Meets a Fan


Christmas, 2001, was our 22nd at 159 King George West—and proved to be our last one there.  Unique in many ways, it was a lovely holiday finale.  Already working in Nashville, I came home for a week or so to prepare and host a festive Open House for friends from near and far.  Julia and Patrick were planning a May wedding and she spent that Christmas with us in Columbia, as did Steve, Heather’s friend from Minnesota. 

The night I got to Columbia from Nashville, I stopped by our favorite Harbison Barnes & Noble for a latte and met up with Mike Pierce, a friend from church.  When I told him I needed to get a Christmas tree, he offered to go with me right then to pick one out, carry it home for me in his SUV and put it in the tree stand at my house.  You couldn’t pass up an offer like that!  He heroically struggled with bracing the tree—wedging small pieces of wood in the stand to hold it straight.  When he left, he made me promise to call him if it didn’t stay straight.  Sure enough, the next morning, it had toppled over! Mike returned and rigged a secure brace with a wire stretched from the tree trunk to the mantle!  It stayed and was one of our best trees ever. Surprising Southern hospitality indeed.

I cooked party food for days—and Heather helped me finish up when she arrived from Virginia. The day of the party, Steve mentioned that he was a huge lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings.  Patrick asked him if he knew of Bobby Bryant, who’d played for the Vikings for about 15 years after being a great football and baseball star at the University of South Carolina. It turned out that Bobby was one of Steve’s childhood sports heroes—and when Patrick mentioned that Bobby was now a member of our church in Columbia and lived in a nearby neighborhood, Steve could hardly believe it.

Although we knew Bobby and his wife Stephanie fairly well, they weren’t on our party guest list.  So I called someone who was a closer friend of theirs and asked if they could arrange for a surprise meeting that evening.  Bobby was delighted to be in on the fun, and after the party was well underway, he rang the front doorbell at 159 King George Way.  Steve was speechless with delight—and there may have even been an autograph! Southern hospitality once more!