The Endangered Small Country School--Birchwood Elementary

Birchwood Elementary School, picture courtesy of Shannon Wright (because I can't locate mine!)

The year 2005 was momentous for me. I had been looking for work in an ever widening circle from Athens. I had interviewed in Monroe, Loudon, Bradley, McMinn, and sent applications to every school district that I could drive to in 45 minutes.

Finally in August, I sent applications to Knox and Hamilton counties, even as I cringed at the commute time it would be to any school in those counties. Two weeks after I had sent those applications, I received a phone call from the principal of an elementary school at the northern tip of Hamilton County.

“Would you be interested in doing an interim library position at Birchwood Elementary? she asked.

'Would I be interested? Heck, yes!' I thought.

When I went for my interview, I drove down I-75 to Cleveland and then west on Hwy. 60. In a teeny, tiny town (no traffic light), just east of the Tennessee River sat an old brick school building. Some of the linoleum-covered, hardwood floors had slight dips in them, there were a few cracks in the walls, some stains on the way high ceilings.

Still, I was entranced. I had worked in what I thought was a country school for 19 years, but this was the epitome of a real country school, one that had been there in one form or another for almost 100 years. I interviewed and bit my nails down to the quick waiting to hear back. It didn’t matter if I was a glorified substitute, I just wanted to be in that school. Long story short, I did that interim job for the remainder of the school year and was at Birchwood for another five years after that. I was the full time librarian, depending on Book Fair earnings and grants to put new books on the shelf, but I learned what a community school was really like. I taught children whose great-grandparents had also gone to Birchwood.

Birchwood School was once within the boundaries of the now defunct James County. The current red brick building was erected in 1930 after the original school, which was built in 1915, had a fire. It was a 1st-12th grade school for a very long time, and then it became a K-8 school. When the city and county schools consolidated, Birchwood became a Pre-K through 5th grade school. Not only were kids taught there, but singers used its stage for Saturday night musical events. Basketball games were played on the full court gym, and the annual Sandhill Crane Days is still held there. One of the cafeteria workers raised chickens, and so I often had farm fresh eggs when I headed home. One of the custodians fixed phenomenal lunches for us once a month, as well as during Parent/Teacher conferences.

When I was finally transferred to another school after six years, I missed the sight of horses and cows grazing across the street, the cranes calling overhead, and being able to learn every child’s name. I missed my commutes that were mostly on country roads softened by velvety carpets of fog. I missed the clanging of the pipes in the winter as steam pushed its way to old radiators, the twenty foot windows, and parents walking on the old track each morning. I missed the fun of making homemade slime for a principal challenge and ice cream sundaes for reading contest winners. I missed the ‘cityscape’ one of the secretaries painted on old lockers lining the hallways. I miss the feel, the ambience, and all of the gentle voices of the past at Birchwood.

That old school withstood deluges, tornadoes, and time, but couldn’t withstand societal changes that doomed an agricultural area on the northern tip of Hamilton County. Birchwood Elementary closed its doors to students in 2013, just two years shy of its 100th birthday. Thankfully, the county has allowed the building to remain open for community events.

Susan Kite is a member of Author’s Guild of Tennessee, a retired librarian, and author of five books of fiction. Check those out at: The author also has an extensive collection of stories on Archive of Our Own under the name of bookscape:



Promote Literacy, Read to Your Children

Joannah Kadron and Kaleb Hanna promote Tennessee's Agriculture Literacy Week

Remember those cozy evenings as a child when your mother or grandma invited you up in the lap of her rocking chair and tucked you under a soft quilt that she had made with her own hands from old hand-me-downs. She would let you pick a favorite book or two and you would spend the evening reading, giggling, and creating memories, all the while you were inhaling undetected skills that you did not perceive to be a part of the experience. “It’s never too early to start reading to your kids,” shares UT Institute of Agriculture Assistant Dean and Professor, Dr. Matt Devereaux.

Maynardville Scouts at Jamboree

Phoenix Patrol at Stadium Show: Front row: Juju Hancock (CA), Jamie Myers (TN), Cameron Caulk (SC)
Second Row: Helen Parris (AL), Emily Bogan (NC), Kirstin Pfaltzgraff (SC), Kate Parris (AL), Chamberlain Chuchill (TX),
Back: Perrin Shell (TX) . . . and 45,000 other scouts.

Scouts and leaders from one hundred forty-three countries gathered in West Virginia for the 24th World Scout Jamboree. It has been more than fifty years since this event has been held in the United States. Four years ago, it was held in Japan, will be in Korea in four more years, then Brazil.

More than 45,000 Scouts from around the world gathered at the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve near Beckley to “Unlock a New World” the theme of this year’s Jamboree.

UCHS Golfer Seth Bates Qualifies for Regional (again!)

Union County High School junior Seth Bates advanced to the Regional Golf Tournament for the third straight season. The student athlete from Plainview advanced out of the toughest district in the state to qualify for the regional tourney at Oak Ridge Country Club. Seth hopes to carry over his accomplishment in golf to a successful junior season in basketball for the Patriots. Great job, Seth!

by Coach Gary. D. Chandler and Coach Christian Chandler

The Great War In Union County

WWI: Neil Kirkpatrick

World War One had far-reaching impacts on American society and its citizens. Union County, Tennessee, was not excluded from these impacts. As we celebrate Veterans Day, we should all take time to remember those brave men who fought to "make the world safe for democracy," but also remember the citizens who suffered, worried and rationed to support the war effort.

There are many examples of such sacrifice. But, there are also examples of the joy these citizens felt when loved ones returned from the far-off battlefields of Europe.

Preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries

When relatively small abnormal stresses are repeatedly placed on normal joints, the injuries that result are called repetitive-stress injuries or cumulative-trauma disorders. The stresses placed on joints by poor posture, poor joint position during the performance of a task, and/or poor workstation ergonomics make these joints more likely to be injured.

There are three basic principles that are especially important when considering the impact of proper joint movement.

His Wounded Knee

Those of you who served in Vietnam remember the draft. I remember when the draft was activated at the start of World War II. It has been around a long time. My two brothers, Rodney and Russell were 12 and 10 when the '40s war began. Rodney joined the Navy when he turned 17. With the war over, most of his two year tour of duty was spent in a good-will tour of Europe and North Africa, ending at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

All Tied Up

Recently I went to a local pizzeria to purchase the evening’s supper. My hair was in pretty bad need of cutting, so bad in fact that it looked slicked down because it didn’t have time to dry in the morning before I dressed for work. The young girl behind the counter said that I looked so professional except for my wild tie and slicked back hair. She asked, “Are you a car salesman?” I replied, “No, worse, I work for the school system!”

Within the Lines

As old as I am, it is still difficult for me. No matter how much I struggle, I simply cannot stay within the lines when I color.

As a child, I often glanced over at the color pages of other children in my class. This included Sunday school as well. Their pages had pretty uses of colors and defined edges. My page looked as if I had colored while wearing a blindfold.

It really is no better now. When my daughter Sara was small, I would sit with her and color. I often heard, “Momma, you’re going out of the lines again.”

Top Wildlife Plants

Wildlife feed on a variety of food sources: woody plants, weeds, herbs, grasses aquatic plants, and cultivated plants. How each plant is used by wildlife is useful information for hunters, farmers, or anyone interested in wildlife and their habitat.


Enemy Mine

Butch sunning himself.

There are those who will say that dogs and cats are always natural enemies. That may have been true hundreds of years ago when canines and felines were competing for the same prey, but I contend the relationship today is much more complex. I give, as example, the friendship of Boots and Butch.

Boots was an orange Tabby kitten, with huge white polydactyl paws. He was a neighborhood stray, being cared for temporarily by friends who suddenly had to move. As the last box of dishes was being loaded in the rental truck, my friend asked, "What are we going to do with Mittens?"



Saturday, November 23, 2019 - 10:00

Maynardville Public Library would like to invite everyone to a very special celebration on Saturday Nov. 16th from 10am to 12pm @ Maynardville Public Library located @ 296 Main Street in Maynardville to help us celebrate our ONE MILLIONTH Imagination Library book being sent out!!! That’s Right ONE MILLIONTH BOOK!!!! Everyone is welcome to attend this very special event! We are so excited to share this with everyone and hope that you can come! Also if your child is not a part of the Imagination Library this will be a great time to sign up your child age 0 to 5yrs!!

4-H Hog Project

Monday, December 2, 2019 - 15:30

Join Now!
4-12th graders are welcomed to participate

Weekly meetings will be held on Mondays from 3:30-4:45pm at the 4-H office
October 21, 28, Nov 4, 11, 18, 25, Dec 2, 9

Other Dates
Oct 19 - Weigh-in, Eartagging, and Deworming at Jones Farm 9am
Oct 20- Ownership Deadline
Nov 1 - Eartag Deadline
Dec 13 - County Show in Knoxville
Dec 14 - Region SHow in Knoxville
Jan 6-9 - State Show in Murfreesboro

UCBPA Meeting

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 12:00

UCBPA meets the second Tuesday of each month for approximately one hour. Membership is $25 annually. The meeting begins at noon at Hardee's in Maynardville. Anyone interested in making Union County a better place to live, work, worship, or play may attend.


Stephen James Hurst

Stephen James Hurst-age 64 of Maynardville born May 29, 1955 passed away Thursday, November 14, 2019 at North Knoxville Medical Center. He served his country and was a veteran of the U. S. Army. Preceded in death by mother, Mary Nell Hurst; grandparents, H. M. “Smitty” and Rebon Smith; Fred and Zola Hurst.

Survivors: father, James Hurst; sister, Vera Collins and husband, Allen all of Maynardville; nephew, Matthew Collins; niece, Sarah Craze and husband, Daniel Craze and children, Jackson Houston and Chloe Craze. Best friend, Reid Bridges.

Velma Tarr Nicley Clark

Velma Tarr Nicley Clark-age 89 of Maynardville passed away Thursday morning, November 14, 2019 at her home. She was a member of Mt. Eager Baptist Church. Preceded in death by parents, William Henry and Ava Francie Schlining; husband, Luther Paul Nicley.

Survivors: son and daughter-in-law, Junior and Mary Tarr of Maynardville; special friend, James Nicley of Maynardville.

Teddy M. Todd, Sr.

Ted Todd, Sr.-age 79 of Maynardville passed away peacefully at his home while surrounded by family and loved ones Sunday, November 10, 2019. He was born May 30, 1940 to the late Marshall Todd and Geneva Todd Swindle. He was a member of Grace Full Gospel Baptist Church, Corryton where he served as a Deacon. Ted was also a member of Waverly Lodge No. 615, Martinsville, Indiana where he joined in 1962 and always remained a member in good standing with Indiana Freemasonry.

Randy Leo Relford

Randy Leo Relford-age 61 of Sharps Chapel passed away Saturday, November 9, 2019 at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. He was born February 3, 1958, one of fifteen children of the late Clifton and Ima (Wright) Relford. He was also preceded in death by half-brother, Clarence Evans; brothers, Bill Wright, Terry, Gary and Darrell Relford; sisters, Phyllis Thompson, Mary Ann and Darlene Relford.

Margaret "Maggie" Vera Parker

Margaret “Maggie” Vera Parker, age 12 weeks, passed away on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. She was the 1,274th ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) patient and she fought for weeks to stay on earth with her family while waiting for a heart transplant. She will be deeply missed by her family who treasures what time they had with Maggie. Preceded in death by grandfather Dan Parker.

Arlie Wayne Davis

Arlie Wayne Davis – age 71 of Luttrell, passed away at his home November 8, 2019 and is now in the care of his Heavenly Father. He was a devoted father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by his children and grandchildren and all who knew and loved him.

Jerry Lynn Simmons Sr.

Jerry Lynn Simmons Sr., age 83, was called home by his Lord and Savior on November 5, 2019. He worked over 40 years in construction and land surveying. He was a man of integrity and deeply loved his wife of 61 years. They were inseparable and an inspiration to all who knew them. He traveled all over the country and shared life’s adventures on the farm and lake house. Jerry was a wonderful man with a sweet spirit, and he was an amazing daddy, pops, and papaw.

Roy Vaughn Graves, Jr.

Roy Vaughn Graves, Jr. – 68 of Maynardville, went to his eternal home, November 4, 2019, surrounded by family and friends. He was a member of Hansard Chapel Methodist Church. His new life has begun, a life that will never know sickness, disease, sorrow or loss again. He is finally healed and made whole. Vaughn was so grateful for all his family and friends that were so supportive of him through the good and the hard times. He was owner and manager of Union Parts and Equipment in Maynardville for over 30 years, but his true legacy is his family, who he loved deeply.

The opinions expressed by columnists and those providing comments are theirs alone, and may not reflect the opinions of Russell Computer Systems, Inc or any employee thereof.