January 28, 2021

Martha Mitchell and Senator Strom Thurmond
Early 1970’s probably


This photo was in a box of newspaper photos sold at a flea market in Columbia, South Carolina.  Photographer Vic Tutte had a caption on the back—“Of course I’m Rhett Butler. Why do you ask?”  Martha and Strom certainly seemed like a couple from Gone With the Wind.

Nicknamed the ”Mouth of the South,” Martha was a Southern belle married to the powerful Republican politician John Mitchell during the Nixon era.  Much like George Conway spoke out against his wife Kellyanne’s boss Donald Trump, Martha didn’t hesitate to speak her mind and tipped journalist friends off to Nixon’s dirty politics.  When Mitchell moved from being Attorney General to reelection campaign manager, Martha’s outbursts became a threat to the Nixon campaign and she was held hostage, tranquilized and pressured to keep quiet. Viewed as unstable and hysterical, she was vindicated when Nixon resigned. This photo was from a happier time.

Strom represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate from 1954 to 2003 and was Governor before that.  A Southern Democrat violented opposed to civil rights and segregation, he bolted from the party in 1948 and ran for President from the States’ Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats), and later was a Republican.  His first wife died in 1960 and in 1966, he married former Miss South Carolina Nancy Moore.  He was 66 and she was 22.  About 1970, we were eating lunch at the downtown Columbia Morrison’s Cafeteria and the Thurmonds were at a nearby table.  They were with Nancy’s parents, who were much younger than her husband Strom!  They had two sons and two daughters, Nancy wrote books about parenting, and like all South Carolinians, we got a color photo Christmas card from the family each year. 

Strom hung on in the Senate until he was 100 years old, the only person to do so.  Only Robert Byrd served longer in the Senate than Thurmond.

There was one more surprise after Thurmond’s death, when we learned that when he was 22, he had fathered a child by a 16 -year- old African American maid who worked for his parents.  That daughter, Essie Mae Washington, eventually learned who her father was, they developed something of a relationship and he provided for her, but kept the secret.  His children from the marriage to Nancy publicly acknowledged her as a family member.  A memorial to Thurmond at the South Carolina Capitol lists his five children, the first being Essie Mae.

Dance on—full circle.

January 27, 2021

Richard Underwood (seated) and two coworkers 


Railroads were a big deal in the early 1900s—my father Arley and his father Jasper worked several years on railroads (repair crews, probably).  For Uncle Richard, it was his life’s work. I think he mostly worked with the baggage carts—loading and unloading train cargo.  Based in Atlanta, he would head out for a week at a time traveling throughout the Southeast handling the baggage.

He was a much more interesting person than I realized.  Mother said her mother was opposed to his marriage to her daughter Della.  He had been married before—and there seemed to be some mystery attached to that. As a child, I rode the train to Atlanta for a week’s visit every summer.  When he was home, he was loud and constantly smoking cigars.  Aunt Della and Juanita seemed to be pleased when he left for work!

In doing genealogical research on the Underwood and Cate families after Juanita’s death in 2005, some interesting details came to light about Uncle Richard.  His first wife had tuberculosis and died after giving birth to their son.  Since he traveled so much with his job, Uncle Richard sent his infant son to live with his maternal grandparents in Chattanooga.  The boy also suffered from tuberculosis and died when he was a teenager.  

Uncle Richard loved to talk about the places he went on the train and the people he met. He always seemed happiest when he left his house carrying his bag to start another week on the rails. He was an active member of a union for railway workers and received recognition for his years of service when he retired. 

He would come to our house alone to go to his family’s country cemetery in Tennessee for “decoration day” every year.  I always loved hearing his loud gruff voice as he talked and laughed, occasionally breaking down into paroxysms of coughing.  And I even liked the smell of his endless cigars. 

 He drove his car like it was a train!  It was always overheating or breaking down on the way.  He gunned his engine for several minutes when he started the car—making a dramatic exit. An  automobile was no substitute for a train.

January 26, 2021

Julia Ensminger Bales


My great-aunt Julia held court in her Victorian home just near downtown Athens, where she lived until her death at age 97.  She was three years younger than her sister Evalee, my grandmother.  She and her younger sister Callie Guthrie both played a key role in the lives of their nieces and nephews but Aunt Julia was the matriarch.

Mother adored Aunt Julia—she probably reminded her of her own mother, who died in 1930. And Harriett and Julia were definitely cut from the same cloth!  They both loved to be the center of attention.  Both were anxious worriers– known for their frequent deep sighs, which seemed to confirm that their worry patrol was on duty! 

Like Mother, Aunt Julia had spent many years as a widow after her mail carrier husband Stephen died in 1926. Her daughter Sarah Lee and son Howard (neither of whom had children) doted on her.  They both had outgoing and cheerful dispositions—and they lightened her moods!  Another daughter had died when she was a young mother and her four children were also loving and attentive to their grandmother.

When I was a little girl, Mother and I would go every few weeks to “spend the day” with Aunt Julia!  I loved lying on the rug in the high-ceilinged parlor—crammed full of antique chairs and love seats—upholstered with dark velvets. I’d read books I brought along and listened to the constant chatter of the two women—punctuated by laughter, a few of those deep sighs, and occasionally tears.  Aunt Julia reminisced about the “good old days” when she and her sisters were girls, they shared memories of their personal griefs and struggles, and discussed the current family struggles.  There was always some new family worry to report! Other times, Mother would host Aunt Julia at our house—sometimes also inviting her sister Callie as well. 

One thing those aunties always did was lie down for an afternoon nap—whether at their home or ours.  Maybe that was one of the secrets of their longevity.  Aunt Julia died at 97 in 1965, Aunt Callie at 98 in 1973—and Mother died in 2002 at 94.  I think the deep sighs probably added a few years, too.

“Spending the day” meant laughter, conversation, sharing a meal, taking a nap, and hugs and kisses all around. A gift indeed.

January 25, 2021

Bill, Joe and Jerry Rowden with Sally

Not all holidays were created equal in our family—and we don’t have photos from any of them except Easter.  This really is about the only holiday picture I recall seeing.  Easter Sunday was a special time up on the hill—for dressing up in new church clothes, a festive meal of ham, deviled eggs and asparagus with lemon meringue pie for dessert, and the afternoon Easter egg hunts in the front yard.

For five years or more, Tootsie and her three sons lived in a garage apartment Arley built for them.  It was just across the driveway from our back door and we four were always in and out of each other’s house or playing together somewhere on the property. The boys often went to Sunday School and church with my mother and me at the Ohio Avenue Church of Christ.  And on Easter Sunday, Mother and I wore corsages with our new outfits.  In this photo, I’m wearing a navy blue gabardine suit (homemade by Mother) with a white blouse, white anklets and red patent flats, and a red carnation corsage.  I was maybe 10 years old, Jerry 8, Joe 7 and Bill 4.  We got new Easter baskets each year but not much candy—maybe jelly beans and a chocolate bunny.  We dyed hard boiled eggs the day before for an afternoon egg hunt—and even occasionally ate some of them afterward.  Things were a bit more exciting a few years later when we moved to our new house and we got four Chinese geese from Mother’s cousin Sarah Lee in Olean, New York.  The prize find for Easter egg hunts then was a large goose egg dyed yellow—truly a Golden Egg!

So who is the dog photobombing this picture?  Our answer to Lassie, this collie (I think he was named Chester) wasn’t a longtime beloved pet but he enjoyed playing with the boys especially.  I’m sure he was helpful locating Easter eggs for their baskets!

Holidays then weren’t as commercialized.  Today Americans spend the most money on Christmas, followed in order by Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween.  These were all simpler occasions for our family. Yet even if not well documented by photos, an Eaves Easter up on the hill was a happy day for my three nephews and me!

January 24, 2021

Heather, Patrick, Jonathan and Michael Up a tree at Jekyll Island, GA, 1976


It was a vacation unlike any others—a week at the beach with Anne Cunningham and her sons Michael and Jonathan.  We were trying to find our footing as single mothers with two young children while working as department heads (she in Physical Therapy, I in Medical Records) at Providence Hospital. We’d gotten better acquainted over the last few months, and Anne said, ”Let’s take the kids to the beach together!”  It sounded like a good idea—and then she said we really must go to a beach I’d never heard of, where she and her family had always spent vacations—Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Beach trips were rarer for me—and my limited experiences had been in the Carolinas, Texas, and Florida.  I had been to Tybee Island near Savannah, but this Georgia beach was a very different landscape.  From my first glimpse of the beach, I was struck by its rows of gnarled trees.  They were twisted and bent from exposure to the coastal winds—but added a unique beauty to the landscape.  They looked like they belonged there—and had adapted to what might have been a strange environment for trees.

We carried coolers of food and took turns cooking dinner at our motel cabin near the beach. We talked about our challenges and hopes for our children and our jobs.  We were both Athens girls (Anne from Athens, Georgia and I from Athens, Tennessee), very different in many ways, but united in a determination to overcome our hardships. Anne called Heather “a princess” and she climbed highest in this Jekyll Island tree as she, Michael, Jonathan and Patrick spent time together on the beach. 

Our two families were in a strange new landscape—and sharing stories and beach time and meals helped us adapt and belong.  We weren’t doing it alone after all. 

January 23, 2021

George Lee (Jack) Cate in his 1949 Dodge


Uncle Jack fell off the back of a farm wagon when he was about 14 and broke his kneecap.  The country doctor said there was nothing to be done—his growth would be stunted and his knee unbending.  He never was much more than five feet tall, he limped when he walked and the affected leg always remained unbent when he sat down. 

The trauma of that accident changed the course of his life.  He was the youngest of four—his older brother Clifford was 14, sister Della 10 and Harriett 6 when he was born.  His parents died when he was 16.  And his siblings’ overriding question became, “What will become of Jack?” Over the years he lived with Della, Harriett and Glenn, and later with Clifford and family.  It was difficult—he couldn’t do much work on the farm because of his leg and because he was so short, he didn’t seem like one of the adults.  Jack seemed to be a burden to everyone.

For two years at the beginning of World War II, Arley took a job managing the Cleveland Chair Company and we moved to Bradley County.  He got Jack a job in the factory—and for the first time he had some independence!  When we moved back to Athens, he stayed in Cleveland, where he lived in a boarding house, worked, and worshiped at the Church of Christ there.  

Every other Saturday, he would ride the Greyhound Bus to Athens and walk from town to our house. When we spotted him starting up the hill, Arley would get his pistol from the house and fire a couple of welcoming shots up in the air.  Jack loved that!  

He was a good gift giver, too.  There would be boxes of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates for   each family, and thoughtful selections for each person.  I still use a beautiful white bedspread with appliqued lavender and purple flowers that he gave Mother—and a china cake plate with floral designs and gold trim.

Somehow in 1949 he bought his first and only car—this 1949 two-door blue Dodge.  My parents encouraged it, and how he learned to drive and got his license I’m not sure.  He was so happy! On the back of this photo, Harriett wrote, “He loved this car but didn’t get to keep it.”  Apparently most of the family thought this was a dangerous idea—that he wouldn’t be able to drive safely.  Convinced he had made a poor decision, Uncle Jack sold his car after only a few months. From the day of his accident, people had been telling him what he wasn’t able to do.

I’m so grateful that my Uncle Jack had those few months with this little car—sitting behind the steering wheel, able to go where he wanted to without limping at all!

January 22, 2021

Tootsie Rowden and Katie Hurst (standing)
Harriett Eaves and Sally Connelly (seated)


We celebrated my 30th birthday in Athens at my mother’s home—and joy and harmony prevailed.  Our beautiful baby girl Heather was just 9 months old and we couldn’t keep from smiling as she worked her way firmly into everyone’s heart. During our Christmas visit to Tennessee a few weeks earlier, she had contracted the “Hong Kong flu” with high fever—and we’d been terrified.  I also got that same flu and had a taste of the pain and misery she must have been feeling.  But now we were well and ready to celebrate my January 8thbirthday with family. It was a good day indeed.

In this photo we are in Mother’s living room—and I love the objects surrounding us.  In the corner behind me is the weirdly beautiful oak antique three-cornered table that was in Mother’s family.  Rescued from the smokehouse and refinished by my brother Glenn, it was a favorite item in his home.  After his death, Mother reclaimed it—and I now have this unique table.  On the table is an antique kerosene lamp that was in the Eaves family.  It was brass but originally coated with nickel.  My brother Pat removed the nickel and restored the shiny brass, refitted it as an electric lamp and replaced the broken plain white glass shade with a floral designed one. The story was that the original lamp lit the bedroom on Eaves Street the night Farrell was born.  Years later Mother gave the lamp to Farrell as a memento. On the wall is a framed tinted Olan Mills photograph of me at 18 months.  It’s still in that frame and now hangs in my Nashville bedroom.  Under it is a tiny reproduction of one of Mother’s favorite paintings—The Angelus (1857-59) by French artist Jean-Francois Millet.  She had a larger print of the same painting hanging on another wall. In front of me is an antique oak candlestand that Tom gave me for this birthday—from our favorite Athens dealer Mrs. Hughes. I passed it along to Heather for her home.

Happy faces—Tootsie, my father’s daughter and my half-sister, my sister-in-law Katie who was married to my mother’s son Glenn Hurst, and Mother.  Three widows with strong connections and very different in style and personality.  Tootsie was in her late 40s and teaching at City Park Elementary School.  Katie was in her early 50’s, working in the office at the Athens Plow Company and dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter Emily. 

There was a festive meal at Mother’s table, set with colorful linens, her Independence white ironstone dishes and Fostoria Americana crystal. And favorite menu items topped off by the traditional three-layered coconut birthday cake and Mayfield’s ice cream. 

My 20s were remarkable years—college graduation, graduate school at Vanderbilt, marriage, life and work in Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi, and most happily becoming a mother.  

Freeze frame. Cherish the memories of the people, the place, this day, the tangibles and the intangibles of a moment.

January 21, 2021

Pauline Miller with sons Jimmy and Johnny


After we moved to our new house on Burger Street, Mother got the idea it was a good idea to build a couple of small rental houses just down the lane on some of their property.  She persuaded her brother Jack who lived in Cleveland to purchase an older house just across the street from the new house—and she became the landlord for the three rental properties. 

The Millers were a young family just moving to Athens and they spent several years as renters in Uncle Jack’s house.  M.C. had been a World War II navigator—and spent some time as a German prisoner of war. He smoked constantly and was often angry or agitated.  He probably had PTSD but there was no word for it.  Pauline was always patient and gentle with him—and did her best to keep their two lively toddler sons from getting on his nerves.  

I loved talking with Pauline—and spent almost every hour I wasn’t at school with her and the boys.  She was the first person I’d known who had graduated from college—except my brother Easy who had played football and graduated from Duke when I was a baby. She told me about her professors and classes, the campus social life at Carson Newman College—and meeting M.C. while they were students there.  She’d majored in elementary education and taught until the boys were born but now wanted to be home with them.

She always asked me to join her and the boys for lunch—every day the same.  Campbell’s Soup (either alphabet soup or chicken noodle) and saltines, and sometimes a PB&J sandwich. The house was always cluttered with scattered toys and books, laundry waiting to be folded, beds not made—but Pauline was smiling and loving her rowdy little sons.  She probably hoped they would tire themselves out during the day so M.C. could have some peace and quiet when he got home from work.

After I did go away college, the Millers built a nice brick home near ours and a third son Larry was born.  When the boys were in school, Pauline went back to the classroom and taught at City Park Elementary for over twenty years. She and M.C. were together over sixty years.When I remember those conversations over a simple bowl of soup in Pauline’s cluttered and noisy kitchen, I see “love is patient; love is kind” in action.

January 20, 2021

Arley with Patricia Arden Eaves and Sally


What a year it was for Arley—with a baby daughter born in its beginning days and his only granddaughter born in its final days!  Here he’s showing off little Patsy to her Aunt Sally.  Just 11 months apart in age, this granddaughter and daughter both came to believe that girls could do anything and lived that out, although along very different paths.  Arley had a much more limited view of what women could do.  He usually took along a grandson when he went fishing—not his daughter or granddaughter. 

On this very day, I’ve just watched the inauguration of a new President and Vice President of the United States—and seen much to celebrate about what women can do.  Justice Sonia Sotomayer (one of only five women and the first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court) administered the oath of office to Vice President Kamala Harris (the first female, first Black, and first Asian American ever to serve as Vice President).  To me, the most powerful voice there today was that of 22-year-old African American Inaugural Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.” 

Pat (she mostly outgrew her early nickname of Patsy) was smart and lovely, was Miss Tennessee while in college, and spent several years in Washington working for Tennessee Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver.  He had encouraged her to become a lawyer, which she did after his death. Life wasn’t always easy—but she navigated the rough spots with courage and humor.  She adored her husband Mack, her children, Patty and Raymond, and her grandsons.  Later in life she went to Sewanee and got her M.Div. degree.  

It was special that we both wound up living in the Nashville area.  We reconnected—with visits and phone calls—talking about family memories, politics and faith.  Once, Raymond took the two of us for lunch at The Hermitage Hotel to celebrate Pat’s birthday.  I enlarged this photograph, framed it and took it to her that day.  

Girls and women have the potential to lead, to write, to influence and to change their world. Godspeed to our new Vice President, Kamala Harris!

January 19, 2021

Patrick and Heather with Libby Cole
Christmas, 1974


Libby lived in a brick bungalow on Trenholm Road, just across our hidden back yard, with her mother and two older sisters.  One of the first things we learned about her was that her late father had been the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  He died of a heart attack at age 54 when Libby (the youngest of six children) was just 8 years old.  The shock of his death and the sudden loss of their status as the Bishop’s family took an emotional and financial toll on the family—especially his widow and three daughters. 

After Tom and I separated, I took a job as Director of Medical Records at Providence Hospital—and the mad scramble to arrange child care for Heather (6) and Patrick (3) began.  How do you ever find someone you can trust to care for your precious little ones when you are at work? Over the years there were many different arrangements and caregivers—some wonderful and some a bit offbeat or weird. One saving grace was that my mother spent long stints of time with us and loved caring for them. 

Libby had already babysat occasionally when Tom and I went out for an evening.  Her best friend was another neighbor, Julia, whose mother Alicia was a close friend of mine. Alicia connected us with the Coles.  As I began working and adjusting to life as a single mom, Libby was a lifesaver.  She was about 19 and unsure of what path she should follow.  She had a magical connection with children—Heather and Patrick adored her.  With her beautiful, dark long hair (sometimes down, sometimes up), she was a calming but playful companion during this transitional time. 

That fall I decided it would be a good idea to take Heather and Patrick somewhere for a weekend.  Hickory Knob was a state park that had recently opened a resort with a lodge and swimming pool.  Everything seemed to be a first—and stressful—so I asked Libby if she would go with us for the weekend.  It was a good time together—and that experience gave me the confidence to take Heather and Patrick the next spring to Disney World in Orlando—alone.

We moved to an apartment at Quail Run—and eventually to our house in Williamsburg West. Other babysitters came and went—and finally none was needed.  Libby became a respiratory therapist, worked in Greenville, and continued to love and work with children.  One Sunday afternoon—perhaps in the late 1980s—Libby called to say she was in town and would like to stop by.  We were delighted to see her!  She sat on the sofa with Heather and Patrick all those years later—and they laughed together and reminisced about the fun they shared during those shaky days when she had helped them see that they too could get through a time of confusion and loss.

In 2002, Alicia was living in Florida and called me at Christmas time.  She broke the news that Libby had died in April—at 47.  A nephew was helping her move in Greenville and she suddenly collapsed—her heart gave out.  We were so sad to know she was gone.  Hers was a good and kind heart.

At Hickory Knob