Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THE CLASS OF '64 - updated

As you know, at least my “faithful followers” do, that my family moved back to Harriman, Tennessee in the summer of 1962. I had finished my sophomore year in Florence, Alabama. Soon after, my dad came home to inform us that he had found a job at the Bull Run Steam Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Dad was an electrician and mostly followed the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) power plant construction work throughout the Southeast.

Since we had lived in Harriman some 7 years earlier, he wanted us to again live there, giving him about a 25-mile one-way commute.

That summer, before school started, I spent time in Bennie Lowery’s basement, bashing model cars together. He was the only friend I had yet to make in the South Harriman area. I would not see old friends, nor make any new friends, until my junior year began at South Harriman High School.
South Harriman and the City of Harriman are separated by the Emory River, connected by two bridges. When we first lived in Harriman, there was only one. So, South Harriman had its own school system, and because of where we settled, in the Pine Hills area, that’s where I attended school. There was also no tuition, which made it more attractive to my father, making less than $10K/yr at the time.

I finished the first grade in the Harriman school system, attending Harriman Elementary. However, my second grade year found me at Walnut Hill Elementary, located on the east side of Harriman. I finished the second and third grades there.

For some reason, I was back at Harriman Elementary for the fourth grade, but only finished half the year there. My family moved to Indiana where I finished my forth year of school. The rest of the other eight schools I attended, over my first 12 years of education, have been outlined in this blog, so I will not go back into that explanation.

I write all this to point out that I made friends on the Harriman side of the Emory River during those three and a half years. Coming back to Harriman, and registering at South Harriman, meant that I would again see a few of those earlier friends who had moved across the river, and begin making new ones.

By the end of my sophomore year, it was announced that South Harriman and Harriman City Schools would consolidate into one building in Harriman. This was very painful for us, as well as the South Harriman community, because of school pride and an intense past athletic rivalry in both basketball and football. Gone would be the Orange and White, and the Pirate mascot we had be loved. We would have to learn to like Blue and White and become Blue Devils!

The first day of school was traumatic for most, and the authorities were very anxious about that first gathering of the formerly separate and proud student bodies in the Harriman Auditorium. Principal George Ballard welcomed us, “our friends from across the river” to Harriman. A mummer rose from the South Harriman students, as we looked at each other in disbelief – was that any way to start building a bond among his students? To us it was saying, “from across the tracks” with the connotations such a statement normally carries.

The consolidation was perhaps less traumatic to me, because I again saw the Harriman and Walnut Hill “kids” I had gone to school with earlier. Most remembered me as well and I began to feel comfortable sooner than some.

Through only a few rough weeks, the Class of 1964 emerged consolidated and dedicated to each other. We began with a 10-year reunion cycle and voted on that first occasion that we just had to see each other every 5 years. So, this weekend began Friday evening with a warm-up pool-side party at Kay and Bob Culton’s home.  
It was a casual time to gear up emotionally for the 45th year reunion party on Saturday. The warm-up was just the beginning of the fun we had and it carried over into Saturday evening, not ending until about midnight.
It was decided, what with our advancing age and the plain fact that we love and care for one another, that we would begin meeting every 3 years!

However, those of us still living in the Harriman area will strive to each other a few times each year. We all have grand and great-grandkids, so schedules will have to be worked out carefully.
The bond we forged in that one school year is very strong and we just hope we will have many more opportunities to gather as the Class of ’64 – best damn class ever to graduate from Harriman or South Harriman! Maybe anywhere…’cause we’re sixties kind of people!
UPDATE: Here's Morgan Alred's (second from right) Official Class Reunion photo. I'm in the left arch!

Also, don't forget to click on these to make them larger, and you can go HERE to see more photos of the reunion!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


My mom (on right) is 82 years old and out of her 6 siblings, only her brother Tom (center) and sister Nell (on left) remain. It’s getting harder for them to visit and be together. They are getting up in age and mom lives the furthest away in Kingston, Tennessee, with Nell near Huntsville, Alabama, and Tom in Florence, Alabama.

Tom is still the most capable of traveling; being around 10 years younger than the other two surviving Williams children, but even visits are becoming more infrequent. So, it is up to me to get mom to Alabama so they can gather and be a family for a little while a couple of times each year.

Nell is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and the other two siblings know that in time she will not remember them. Already she tells stories of their youth that neither of the other two remembers in quite the same way. During last week’s visit, Nell was telling a story of her and mom sitting on their grandmother’s back porch hammering nails when two Indians came out of the house. Mom and Tom do not remember anything about this, but I do remember being told that Grandmother Johnston’s brothers used to come visit her, and they were Indians. So, part of the story may in fact be true.

Great grandmother Johnston was a Morrison of North Alabama and was half if not full bloodied Indian. I’m not sure if she was from the Cherokee Indians of the area or another tribe that lived in the area. We know there were at least some Yuchi Indians around, but since we can’t verify much about the Morrison’s it remains unfounded. Most likely they were Cherokee.

Aunt Nell also was telling a story how great Grandfather Johnston first came upon his future wife, and Indian maiden, standing on the bank of the Tennessee River. The story goes he was very struck by her appearance and, to make a long story short, loaded her up and took her home with him.

That blood line and the Cherokee bloodline from the Mashburn side of the family is proof of my heritage. Maybe that’s why I always wanted to be the Indian when we played cowboys and Indians in the neighborhood. It was in my blood.

Anyway, I am moved to tears when I look at the photo of the three siblings sitting on Uncle Tom’s couch – Nell on the left and mom on the right of their remaining brother Tom. The literally had to be touching each other during the visit, as if they know time is their enemy. To make knowing that time will take each of them, they know that Nell may slip away from them even before she is gone.

In lighter moments, the evening we arrived Tom’s wife Carolyn had prepared BBQ ribs, potato salad, slaw, rolls, and other wonderful things like cheesecake for us. Uncle Lee and Aunt Nell drove down to eat with us and Nell and mom got to talk old times. That evening, Nell seemed to be completely together and they talked and laughed well into the evening. Also eating with us was one of Tom’s daughters, Amy and her beau Ken. I thoroughly enjoyed Stuart…he reminded me of my eye doctor, and seemed just as smart!

The last evening we all went to eat at Walton’s Restaurant near Elgin Crossroads, Alabama, and just a few miles north of Wheeler Dam on Hwy 101. Walton’s serves the best catfish in the North Alabama area and it is a “must” when we go down for a visit. The jalapeño hushpuppies they bring out for an appetizer “are to die for” and you have to force yourself to stop eating them or there will be no room for the catfish! Oh yeah, if you go, you must try the Possum Pie!

Nell and Lee and Tom’s daughter Gina met us there and we had a great time.

I always dread “going home” as mom refers to the trip, but once there I always have a great time. They are wonderful people and Judy and I enjoy being around them. Tom also entertained us with his new Wii and I pulled a “buttock” muscle bowling! You really can get a workout on those things! I also like the cow racing!

So, we made plans to go back in September when there will be a big Indian meet at Spring Park in Tuscumbia, Alabama. I look forward to that very much…maybe there will be some kinfolks there too!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I took my mom to see her remaining brother (Tom with white beard) and sister (Nell is not shown) in Alabama this past week. She and we had a wonderful time talking about the old days and driving around the country side.

One stop was at Tom Hendrix’s (t-shirt with American flag) place and the rock wall he’s been building for over 20 years. It’s a fascinating story!

You should look so good when you’re 75 years old, however, you’ll have to work very hard and take the “medicines” (we would call them herbs) Tom Hendrix’s great-grandmother taught him about years ago. It’s to her, Te-lah-nay, that the rock wall Tom has built over the past 20 years is dedicated.

Hendrix’s wall is a memorial to his great-great-grandmother; a Yuchi Indian named Te-lah-nay, who was moved along the “Trail of Tears” with the rest of her tribe to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma in the 1830s. The wall represents her gripping journey there and her struggle back to her homeland in North Alabama. Hendrix has recorded her story in his book, “If the Legends Fade.”

She is the only one to come back on record,” Hendrix says.

The wall is unique in many ways — its lack of cement, its various colors, the way it twists and turns about a quarter of a mile in mimicry of Te-lah-nay’s journey, and the way it seems to rise from the ground like a thick road or the remains of excavated ruins.

A late Lakota medicine man, whose name Hendrix said it is forbidden to mention in accordance with strict Lakota tradition, once walked the length of the wall and afterwards gave it the name it bears today — Wichahpi or “like the stars.”

Lifting about 2,700 pounds a day for 20 years, he placed each stone, taking them first from the ground to one of his 3 old pickup truck beds, to one of the 27 wheelbarrows he wore out, using one of the 1800 pairs of gloves he wore out to place the on the wall, one at a time just like the footsteps of her journey.

To date, he has placed nearly 7.5 million pounds of rocks in the wall. People bring him rocks too, some from every state, 127 countries, one from space, and even one from Mr. Everest. You can make an instant friend if you bring him a rock.

Tom is located on County Road 8 near the Natchez Trace in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Tom loves to talk to anyone that stops by, and his dogs will also greet you. The white one he calls Pavarotti, because he likes to sing, and the black one is Molly. They guard the wall by day, alerting Tom to your arrival, and the “rock faces” guard the wall after dark.

Oh yes, don’t stop by after 5PM…that’s family time he says, “We eat at 5:30!

Visit Tom’s website by CLICKING HERE!

See my photos of the wall by CLICKING HERE! Read the info then click on Slideshow!

Saturday, June 06, 2009


School is out, but Corey is still tying up loose ends, but he decided to relax a bit and called me Friday to see if I wanted to hit Wild Wings for lunch...the question goes without asking...YEAH!

On the way, I got a text message from Jeff, who seems to be enjoying his fishing trip. In the attached photo, he was holding some weird brew, but they're all good.

At Wings the waitress asked us what we wanted to drink. Corey responded with his usual
un-sweet tea, and I followed with the same answer. Corey looked shocked and said, "Dad...that ain't right! What's wrong?"

I'm currently taking an antibiotic so I thought better of mixing alcohol with it. Anyway, I continued my non-alcohol day into the evening at my Class Reunion's warm-up party (more on that later). Probably the first party I've attended in some time without a beer or a drink in my hand. It actually turned out well...may do that more often.

After eating, Corey wanted to go to Dick's Sporting Goods, with his usual, "
You like Dick's don't you dad," running joke.

I got very tickled at him trying to convince his wife that he needed a new pair of golf shoes, but Tia would have no part of it. So, he bought a box of balls, and I ended up with two golf shirts.

Being with Corey is one of the great pleasures of my life!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


This past Sunday, Judy and I took Terri and Steve to Atlanta to see the "Jersey Boys" at the Fox Theatre. I hadn't been feeling well, so Judy asked Katie if she wanted to go. However, Katie is too wrapped up in Zack right now, so she declined. Well, I didn't want Judy to go alone, so by Sunday morning I was feeling much better and went. I sure am glad I did!

The show was fantastic...I had no idea the Four Seasons had that many hits, but I seemed to know every song. If you look back over your life, you always wonder where the time went. Well, we spend part of it listening to 2 and 3 minute songs on the radio, sitting in movie theaters, clipping our toenails, or some other insignificant thing, but the sum is our lives...minute by minute.

The time we've spent setting in theaters has not been a waste of time. It's those times that we've
shed the stresses of life. You get lost in another world and forget our troubles. Even walking into a theater, especially one like the Fox in Atlanta, just relaxes us and fills us with great expectations and hope of seeing and experiencing something far different than our mundane lives.

My brother-in-law Bill, has worked part-time at the Fox for ages. I'm sure it was just to remove the stress of being an accountant that drew him to the off-hour work. Bill took Terri and I on a "back stage" tour of the theater.

Since spending time on the Princess Theater project,
I've been interested in old theaters and their history, especially the story of their restoration projects. So, as we walked around we happened to meet Len Tucker, the Director of Operations at the Fox. He took us even further into the secret places of the Fox.

It turned out, after Terri told him about my current work, that he offered the Fox Theatre's assistance in our local theater project. This knowledge base will be invaluable to us, so even without the "Jersey Boys" show, the trip was a "networking" landfall!

GO HERE to see the photos I took of the Fox (click on Slideshow). It will only give you a small feel for the grand ol' need to go there yourself!