March 6, 2021

Our mountain home—briefly

ONE PERFECT WEEKEND WITH FRIENDS

It seems like a dream that we actually had a beautifully reconstructed log house on the Cumberland Plateau at Beersheba Springs, Tennessee, for a few years. Tucked in the trees across from the Methodist Assembly grounds and amid a row of summer homes—most of which had belonged to families of wealthy Nashville or Chattanooga families for generations—was the house we bought from Edna Davenport of McMinnville.  The chimney and the slave kitchen below were all that remained of the original structure, and she had reconstructed it from logs taken from other old homes.  

We spent long stretches of time there during the summers—and made briefer visits during spring breaks and celebrated several wonderful family Thanksgivings there.  Friends and families were eager to visit.

One perfect Easter break weekend we invited Val and Shannon Husley to join us at Beersheba.  Val was a graduate student of Tom’s and his wife Shannon was a strawberry blonde charmer from Louisiana.  I still have her handwritten recipe for Shrimp Gumbo.  “First you make a roux…” They brought along their large black French poodle, and we spent hours hiking around the mountainside with two-year-old Heather, sitting by the fire talking and feasting on some Tennessee and Louisiana favorites. Good friends, good wine, good conversation—always a formula for happiness!

Sally and Shannon at Beersheba

We had a Pack-n-Play set up in the living room for Heather—so she wouldn’t wander off while we were busy in the kitchen.  Once we were startled to hear her cry out—and all dashed in to check on her.  The big black French poodle had wandered in and was standing beside her—just at her eye level! She was terrified, and he was fastened up in the bedroom for the rest of the time.  He must have looked huge from her perspective!

There’s really nothing quite like springtime in the mountains—with friends.

Shannon, Heather, and Sally at Beersheba

March 5, 2021

Musical Entertainment, Athens Lions Club

AN UNCONVENTIONAL PREACHER

Bill Yates came to preach at the Athens church of Christ just as I was going away to Lipscomb as a sophomore.  He and Jean had met at Lipscomb and Bill preached several years at the West Nashville church of Christ after graduation. They came to Athens with their two young daughters, Lynn and Mickey, and moved into the “parsonage,” which was formerly our home. Harriett had built a smaller house down the hill, near the one Glenn, Katie and Emily lived in behind the old log house. 

Emily and Lynn soon became good friends and visited back and forth up and down the hill.  Whenever I was home for visits, Bill was always eager to hear the latest news from Lipscomb.  He was very personable and enjoyed going downtown to the local restaurants for morning coffee and a cigarette with local businessmen.  He took on a part time job at Miller’s Department Store on the square and became a familiar presence in the community.  Soon he was a leader in the local Lions Club.  During my summer break, Emily, Lynn and I provided the musical entertainment for a meeting!

Most of the church members enjoyed having a minister who was outgoing and well-liked in the community.  It had not been the norm previously.

In late August after my graduation from Lipscomb, Glenn suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while working at the funeral home in Chattanooga.  He had emergency brain surgery at Erlanger Hospital but died on the morning of September 1.  Bill had come down to be with us, while Emily (who had just turned 8) was playing with her Cate cousins and Lynn in Athens.  I went to the hospital to sign papers and then to tell Katie and Mother that Glenn had died.  Bill offered to drive with me to pick Emily up and give her this heartbreaking news, before taking her home to be with her mother and grandmother. As we drove in the driveway and saw the girls playing happily, he broke down and said, “I can’t do it.”  So Emily got into the car—and we sat there as I tried to explain to her that the father she loved so much had died despite all our hopes and prayers. In a flash, her childhood ended. Bill conducted the funeral service a few days later.  

The preacher kissed the bride

When Tom and I were planning to get married, Bill didn’t offer any specific advice or counsel.  He and Jean had experienced considerable tension in their own marriage and he probably didn’t think he had much to offer. We asked him to officiate at the ceremony (which we had at Keith Memorial Methodist Church) and I requested he include this passage from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:  “…let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love; Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…”

Bill and Jean later moved to Kingston and one summer invited Tom and me to visit them and the girls for a weekend on the lake.  There was boating and fishing, then fried catfish, hush puppies and slaw. Bill remained unconventional—a preacher who knew he was a broken and flawed person and also needed grace.

March 4, 2021

Caroling at the organ, 1970

FROM ALBATROSS TO METAMORPHOSIS

The Cate family got an oak “pump organ” sometime around 1910.  Young Harriett had learned to read “shaped notes” in their little Christian Church and wanted to play hymns.  Over the years, the organ became something of an albatross.  Of course, it had its moments.

When Glenn and Katie had their June wedding outdoors in front of the log house, a friend played “Indian Love Call” (from the Broadway musical Rose-Marie) on the organ.  And when I began taking piano lessons from Irene Grubb, I practiced on the organ until we got a piano. It followed us wherever we moved.  Occasionally Harriett would play a hymn or I would play something for people curious about its sound.

Whenever Harriett mentioned selling it, Arley and I would protest. So it continued to share our living room with my spinet piano. Then when I was a college freshman, a Lipscomb student from Alabama, Bill Hall, began making weekend trips to Athens to preach at our small church.  Harriett liked him (“he’s nice and tall,” she said) and he usually had lunch with us and spent the afternoon.  He loved playing that organ—and finally Harriett told him he could take it back to Alabama. A few years later, he went to Africa as a missionary and before he left, he put that organ in a U-Haul and brought it back to Athens!

Tom and I took it to Mississippi after we bought a house there and I spent an entire summer refinishing and refurbishing it.  Harold Snellgrove was the Mississippi State History Department Chairman and he collected old pump organs!  He was my consultant for the makeover, even showing me how to remove the reeds carefully and use fine steel wool to correct any “out of tune” sounds. I discarded the removable top portion which included a small mirror and box to hold music.  The dark layers of finish came off to reveal the grain of the oak panels.

The organ moved with us to MacGregor Drive in South Carolina, then to our upstairs apartment at Quail Run, then to Williamsburg West—and finally, to the garage den of my Nashville home.

My children had enjoyed picking out notes and pumping the pedals, and then my grandchildren did the same.

When it seemed to be an albatross again a few years ago, I looked for some way to preserve and get rid of it at the same time.  A friend introduced me to a young man who specialized in “legacy furniture.”  He came to see the organ and suggested several options.  My favorite was to convert it into a bookcase!  He hauled the organ away, and weeks later brought the finished bookcase.  The top panel is made from the carved medallions of the organ, the side panels are from the side panels of the organ.  The metamorphosis is complete!

March 3, 2021

Little Rascal Farrell

CLAIMING FIRST PLACE

When Harriett and Arley were married, a couple of Eaves grandsons already were in place.  Living just at the foot of the hill, Monte and Isobel had two little boys, Farrell and George.  As the older, Farrell had already claimed his spot as “Paw Paw’s favorite” and had free run of the place. He’d come up to Paw Paw’s and spend the night—and didn’t see any problem in continuing that after “Miss Harriett” moved in.  Why should his sleeping in the middle in their bed be any different? They worked that out and Farrell continued to spend as much time as possible following Paw Paw everywhere.  

When I crashed the party by being born, there was considerable tension between “Paw Paw’s favorite” and his new “little girl.”  Arley handled it by declaring there were some things girls did and others best left to boys.  I was always provoked when he took Farrell fishing and on other outdoor activities he thought unsuitable for girls.  

After Arley died in 1953, Farrell continued to remember him. There was a Pendleton wool red and black plaid shirt of Arley’s that he wore often, saying it made him feel close to Paw Paw.  Many years later, he had it carefully dry cleaned and sent it to me with a letter talking about his love for Paw Paw—and making one more claim that he was his “favorite.”

Handsome Young Man

Farrell and Fern have parented three wonderful children, Marilee, Monte and Meg, and delight in their grandchildren.  Even with a successful lifetime in the business world, Farrell always found great joy in his woodcraft and photography.  A family treasure is the 2003 book, Mr. Eaves and His Magic Camera.  A book jacket quote by Farrell: “ORDINARY cameras see what we see—the OUTER SHELL or skin of the world around us. MY camera and I PEEL AWAY this COVERING and innocently CREATE POWERFUL images, arranging highlights and placing AURORAS where there appears to be none.”

He shared Arley’s love of woodworking and carried it to the next level over the years.  A master craftsman, he created lovely pieces of furniture for his own home, built clocks and in later years, has become a master carver of birds, sea creatures, and animals.  Using driftwood he found in Texas, he patiently has created many magnificent realistic carvings.   

Farrell and Fern with Sam, Eli, Ezra, and Charlotte

In the summer of 2019, Heather and I took Camp Grandmama on the road and stopped by Signal Mountain for an afternoon visit with Farrell and Fern.  We toured his wonderful workshop out back and marveled at the variety of his handiwork over the years.  He shared his new ambition—to be the “oldest Eaves who ever lived.”  His father Monte –the previous record holder–died shortly before his 88th birthday.  Today Farrell is celebrating his 88th birthday, and now holds the title.  Congratulations, Farrell!

March 2, 2021

TUESDAY’S CHILD IS FULL OF GRACE

Mother and son in front of MacGregor Drive bay window

Tuesday, March 2, 1971, was a rainy springlike morning in Columbia, South Carolina.  Our second child was expected any day now and Harriett had already arrived to look after Heather when we went to the hospital.  I noticed pink buds on the Japanese magnolia tree outside our MacGregor Drive den window.  Feeling hungry, I ate a big breakfast.  Within an hour or two, I realized this was the day our baby was coming.

I called the OB-GYN office, then alerted Tom to cancel classes and get ready to go to the hospital. Since it was raining, I wore my seventies boots on the short drive down Beltline to the hospital on Forest Drive! 

As we were leaving for the hospital, Tom knelt down to reassure Heather (almost three) he would be back later that day and I would spend the night at the hospital with the new baby and then come home the next day.  He asked her what he could bring her when he came home later, and without hesitation, she said, “A red firetruck!”

There were four obstetricians in the practice, and for prenatal visits, expectant mothers would see them in sequence. Whoever was on call would deliver the baby.  My doctor, James Blair, was my favorite.  He had suggested we go to the smaller Catholic hospital—Providence—for the birth because Tom was terrified of hospitals.  All the doctors were excellent but one had a very abrasive manner and I felt least comfortable with him.  Of course, he was the doctor on call that March 2.

After a quick check by nurses, I was taken directly to a room while Tom paced in the hospital lobby.  Dr. Williamson popped in to check on my progress and told me he was going across the street to Drake’s Restaurant for a quick cheeseburger.  “You’ll have quite a wait,” he said briskly. “Don’t count on it,” I told him.

Before his order got to the table, he was paged to meet me in the delivery room STAT!  A healthy little baby boy was born just minutes later.  We hadn’t known whether we were having a boy or girl—and it was wonderful to have “one of each” in the family.

Tom joined me back in the room and gingerly held his newborn son for the first time.  We’d decided on the name Patrick Lawrence—Patrick for ta Confederate Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne (born on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland) and Lawrence, Tom’s middle name.  After visiting a few minutes, Tom needed to get some fresh air!  He kissed baby Patrick and me goodbye and said, “I’ll go get the firetruck now.”  A nurse’s aide in the room had a puzzled look, and after he left, she remarked, “Your husband doesn’t look like a fireman!”  Indeed.  Heather got her red firetruck as promised and the next day, she met her new baby brother Patrick.

Welcome home, baby brother!

Tuesday’s child is full of grace.  Happy 50th birthday on this Tuesday in 2021, dear Patrick!

March 1, 2021

FINE FOLKS LIVE IN FINE HOMES

The Sizer family from Monett, Missouri, were in and out of our lives until Arley died in 1953. After the Depression, they invested in manufacturing and lumber companies in Missouri and Athens, Tennessee.  When Fielding Parker Sizer, Jr. became new owner of the Athens Table Company, he turned to Arley with his years of experience at the factory, even during the dark years of bankruptcy. Mr. Sizer turned the day to day operations over to Arley, and the recovery and rebuilding began.  

Mr. Sizer and other family members would drive down to Athens every few months to check on the plant’s progress.  Harriett always had them over for a delicious home-cooked meal when they were in town, and Mr. Sizer seemed to enjoy his time chatting around our table. He and his wife Corinne had a son Parker who was about 9 years older than I, and Mr. Sizer had infinite patience with my talkative young self!

Only once did Arley make a reciprocal trip to Missouri.  He went by train and sent several postcards from there.  In one he said he was “staying in Mr. Sizer’s home and they sure are fine folks and have a very fine home.”  This photo was their Christmas card one year—even the name of the house seemed elegant.

This likely was the farthest Arley ever traveled from home, and his return trip was very eventful!  Going through Arkansas, the train followed the White River.  Record flooding slowed the train so much that it took 8 hours to travel just 40 miles! Often it stood still for hours waiting for the water to recede from the tracks. 

As I remember Mr. Sizer, it wasn’t his wealth or fine home that made him “fine folks.” Instead, it was how he saw the true capabilities and character of my father—even though he had very limited formal education and no wealth.  He seemed to think we were “fine folks,” too.

After Arley’s stroke in March, 1952, he wrote him a warm letter on company letterhead. “I do hope you will forget the Athens Table Company entirely until you have your health back. Your health and well-being is my first concern, and we will get along the best we can during your absence. This is the best chance to take your accumulated vacation which has been coming to you for a long time,” he wrote. And that consideration continued to the end.

February 28, 2021

Harriett with Glenn

THE SAME PLACE BUT A DIFFERENT LIFE

This photo of Harriett and Glenn was in albums found at the Underwood home—and was one I’d never seen.  It must have been taken shortly after Robert Hurst died—leaving Harriett a young widow in her early 20s and Glenn only 3. This was a favorite spot for family snapshots—on or near the front steps of “the log house.”  Glenn grew up here—with his maternal grandparents and sometimes Aunt Della and Uncle Jack.  Life wasn’t easy—Harriett went to work at Miller’s Department Store and Glenn said he would wake up nights worrying that they wouldn’t have enough money for food.  

The log house was strangely charming with its black and white logs and the rustic rock pillars beside the steps. When I was 3, we lived there about four years.  Over two decades after the photo of Harriett with Glenn, there’s a new snapshot taken in the very same spot –of Harriett with her 4-year-old child—this time a daughter! 

Harriett with Sally

Can this be the same woman?  She looks so much more relaxed—I love how she is sitting, with one hand on the pillar, her right hand on her knee, and has one leg and foot extended to show off her stylish pump. Gone is the strained solemn expression as she smiles happily. And I seem well aware that I’m her long hoped for daughter, with no worries about having enough food in the house.  Things weren’t perfect—but after waiting for a very long time, love has returned to Harriett and the log house.

February 27, 2021

THE SENATOR SHOWS HIS TRUE COLORS

South Carolina really knows how to have festivals!  There’s the annual Chitlin’ Strut in Salley and several Lowcountry seafood festivals.  But nothing can top the Irmo Okra Strut!  Since 1973, a late September weekend has brought everyone out to celebrate okra.  Only in 2020 was it canceled because of the COVID pandemic.

There were parades with the Irmo High School marching band, firetrucks, beauty queens—and of course, politicians.  No one halfway serious about getting elected in South Carolina would miss being seen at the Okra Strut.

Local crafts people and cooks had booths with okra cooked every way imaginable, wreaths and other crafts featuring the okra pod—sprayed gold or covered with glitter.  There were tee shirts and caps for sale, and every kind of okra trinket imaginable. Over the years, the festival stretched into two days, with a Friday night street dance.

In 2008, we decided Sam and Eli (about 3 1/2 years old) needed to be introduced to the Okra Strut.  I drove over from Nashville, Patrick and Julia brought the boys from Swannanoa—and we spent the weekend at a motel in Harbison.  We visited many Columbia and Irmo friends, ate at Lizard’s Thicket, and of course, planned to take in the Saturday Okra Strut parade. Friday evening Patrick went to get something from the car and when he got on the elevator, a familiar looking person was the other occupant.  He recognized Senator Lindsay Graham—and proceeded to speak to him.  The Senator responded cordially.The parade went off with the usual flair, until we saw Senator Graham sitting in an open convertible waving to the crowds. A small group of picketers were following him along the route protesting something or other.  Just as his car drew near us, the Senator lost his cool.  He loudly pointed at the picketers and angrily yelled a string of expletives at them.  It just wasn’t what we expected to hear from a U.S. Senator—especially at the Okra Strut.   He won re-election and over the past few years, his behavior has often reminded me of his angry outburst that Saturday morning.  Political leaders eventually do show their true colors.

February 26, 2021

First grader cousins
Delbert, Sally and Elbert with Joy

LAST FIRST GRADER ADDED TO THE CLASS ROLL

The Cate twins Delbert and Elbert were born to Clifford and Abbie Cate the July before I was born in January. Harriet said her sister-in-law Abbie gave her advice on birth control when she and Arley married, warning her that she was too old to have another baby.  Then Abbie was herself surprised with twin sons—after Leroy, Ralph, Hoyt and Dorothy were practically grown! Harriett was pregnant with me when she went to spend a couple of days with the Cates to help with the new babies that summer, but said she hadn’t told anyone yet.

When the boys turned six, they went to North City School and were in Mrs. Violet Riggs’ class.  With a January birthday, I was supposed to wait another year.  Already reading and ready to learn, I couldn’t wait. Harriett knew Violet Riggs well and asked her advice.  “If you can get Sally into some type of kindergarten program,” she said, “I think I can secretly add her to my class roll in January without any problem.”

Of course, there were no kindergartens in Athens, but another friend, Miss Willie Callen, taught a remedial class for local children who couldn’t learn in public school.  They may have had learning disabilities that weren’t recognized then or other special needs.  She agreed to take me as a “special case” and I happily went to the downtown upstairs office space where her class gathered. Then after Christmas break, I joined the first grade at North City School.

It was hard to come into the class after they’d all learned the rules.  I was especially nervous about going to the girls’ restroom, which was at the bottom of some stairs from the hallway.  The first time I needed to go, I persuaded Delbert to walk me to the bottom of the stairs, which he bravely did and then scampered back upstairs.

Violet Riggs and her North City First Graders

This photo of our first grade class was made in front of the school office.  Elbert and Delbert are in the center of the front row.  I am on the back row at Mrs. Riggs’ left shoulder.  I recognize little friends Adelia Ann, Edanna, Freddie Ross, Jimmy, Bobby, Gleda, George, Carolyn and others.  It looks like Elbert and Delbert may actually be barefoot!  Classroom rules were much different in those days.  It was a good but short school year—and I was grateful for an understanding teacher and my cousins Delbert and Elbert.

February 25, 2021

Coffee and beignets with neighbor Alicia, 1970

THE NEIGHBOR WE NEVER FORGOT

When we bought our first home in Columbia in 1970, a bonus was having the Dolans as neighbors just a block away—at the corner of Beltline and Trenholm.  John was a brilliant and irascible history professor at Carolina—a former Jesuit priest.  His wife Alicia was a gentle and creative woman, with the husky voice of a chain smoker.  

On this particular day, she had come over (probably without John) for coffee and homemade beignets with us.  This was before Patrick was born so Heather’s just 2 years old.  I loved the dining room in our Cape Cod home on MacGregor Drive.  The house had tall ceilings and plaster walls—there were two big windows in the dining room—and a wonderful recessed window in the living room.  The Mona Lisa look alike print on the wall was a souvenir of a trip to the National Gallery of Art.  It felt so good to make those delicious beignets and coffee to serve my new friend in our dining room.

Alicia had a son and daughter from a previous marriage and devoted a great deal of her energy to defusing John’s outbursts.   We thoroughly enjoyed visiting back and forth as neighbors.  A short time later, she took up a new hobby—first in making ceramic miniatures for dollhouses and then she created a unique design for Christmas ornaments on which she painted lovely designs.  She began selling her wares at area crafts fairs and by mail order. Soon she enlisted others including another neighbor Carol Buckley to create more of them. They are still among my favorite ornaments each year. They are as lasting as my love for this dear friend who once  was my neighbor.

Alicia’s ornament for my new house, 1980