If Walls Could Talk

Ronnie Mincey

Hello, everyone. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Oak Grove. I am a two-room school building in the Sharps Chapel area of Union County. Let me tell you a little about myself.

If you were to search for records on me, about the oldest you would find are from the registers kept by teachers. These registers were and continue to be legal documents. Still in 2018, registers are often used to verify a birthdate for a former student who has no birth certificate and needs proof of birth for social security, disability, and other benefits.

Many fascinating facts are recorded in the registers. Every Tennessee public school teacher was required to keep a register of his/her class, and each principal had to keep one for the entire school. The earliest registers contained detailed information on a number of students (e.g., attendance, age, grade to which assigned, grades given for subjects, graduation information, parents and their places of employment/occupation, addresses, phone numbers) and school related items (e.g., inventories, condition of the building, square footage, date of construction, value of property). At the close of each school year, every teacher and principal was required to sign and have notarized an affidavit located on the first page of the register that the contents were accurate to the best of their knowledge. All registers for the Union County Public School System are on file at the Union County Board of Education Central Office in Maynardville.

These earliest register for me is for the school term beginning July 25, 1932 and ending March 10, 1933. I’m so old that my memory sometimes fails me, so I will consider these registers as my “diaries”.

The student who lived farthest from me was a third grader who lived two and one-half miles away. A school day for him would have included a five-mile walk, round-trip. In the early days, there were lots of small schools located within walking distance, for motor transportation to and from school was not widely provided by either families or the district until the years following World War II. As district-provided public transportation to and from school for every child became more widespread, it became cheaper to consolidate many smaller schools into one larger school. This is what happened to me and three of my sister schools (Union, Rush Strong, and Big Sinks). The four of us were closed as schools and our student bodies consolidated into the brand-new Sharps Chapel Elementary School in the fall of 1965. The last register for me was for school term 1964-1965, when I ceased to function as a school.

But thanks to those registers, my memories are recorded. In 1932-33, my teachers were Mr. and Mrs. H. E. and Duetta Anderson, who lived in the Sharps Chapel community. There was no what is now called “Kindergarten”—we had “Primer” classes. Ms. Anderson taught 61 students in Primer through fourth grade (14 dropped and 11 were retained or “held back”). Mr. Anderson served as principal for the entire school and taught 56 students in fifth through eighth grades (17 dropped and 18 were retained) and served as principal.

And this, what would in 2018 be called “chronic absenteeism” and “high dropout rate”, signified the times. The United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, and most of my students were from poor families that seemed to have more mouths than there were hands to feed them. Lots of students had to quit school to help work the family farms just to provide enough food for the family to survive. You will notice the dropout rate was higher in the upper than the lower grades, and attendance was better when there was less planting and harvesting to be done. That was why school started in July and ended in March—between spring plantings. Fall harvest continued to pose a problem for the attendance rate.

Teachers, along with doctors and lawyers, were considered in those days as some of the most highly regarded and well-paid members of the community. It was not considered nice to discuss money matters in those Depression days, but Tennessee public school teacher salaries were (as they are now) public record as they were paid with tax dollars. For the 1932-33 school term, Ms. Anderson was paid $75.00 per month, and Mr. Anderson $82.50. Only preachers shared the level of respect of these professionals, though they usually earned no salary at all, living on donations from the members of the flocks they served.

As will be noted later, the Andersons did not return to teach the following school term. Mr. Anderson did not list my original date of construction in his “Teacher’s Annual Property Report”, though his successor Nelson Chesney noted it to be 1895. Though at the time Mr. Anderson completed his report I was only 38 years old, he described my condition as dilapidated. I had two rooms, 1,008 and 740 square feet. Though my walls were described as “very good”, my steps “good”, my windows “fairly good” and my flues or chimneys “fair”, my floor was described as “poor”. My roof leaked in the valleys and had no gutters. Mr. Anderson called my doors “makeshift”. I had neither basement, ventilation system, nor paint at all. Mr. Anderson described my underpinning and foundation as “rocks and blocks of wood used for piers”.

I was heated with an “ordinary” stove; obviously, there was one in each room, as Mr. Anderson noted that one stove grate was needed in room two. The ratio of glass to floor area was listed as 1:13 in room one (Mr. Anderson noted that room one needed more windows) and 1:8 in room two. Both rooms had light from two sides.

My furnishings in 1932-33 otherwise consisted of 15 single and 42 double “patent” desks. Mr. Anderson described them as “new seats, good, old seats, great many (broken).” There was also one bookcase, six chairs, two recitation seats, 12 erasers and two coal buckets.
There were 18 square yards of blackboard, described by Mr. Anderson as “board painted and cardboard”.

In answer to, “What precaution has been taken for the safety of furniture, equipment, and supplies?”, Mr. Anderson wrote, “The windows and doors have been securely fastened.” He also noted on his affidavit page at the close of the school year: “The west door is locked and should be opened by the teacher next year. The other doors and windows are nailed.”

The source of water for the students and teachers was a spring not on the grounds (which consisted of one acre valued at $50 for the grounds and $150 for the building and heating plant discussed above). Arrangements for drinking were individual drinking cups and common dippers. There were no toilets for either boys or girls.

In summary, Mr. Anderson recommended more windows in room one, 48 additional square feet of blackboard, toilets, and “a new house” as the repairs and improvements needed at the end of the 1932-33 school year.

Times were going to get better for both me and the students I housed. Next week I’ll share how this happened.



Let Go and Let God

Photo by Sue Tharp

With the passing of time, it is essential to have the understanding of the importance of cherishing the little moments in life. Being able to enjoy these seconds to their fullest means the outburst of laughter, sharing of wisdom, and enhanced intuitiveness. Sandra Greene’s life is a depiction of this wisdom and peace.

Its Time for Chocolatefest


The Knoxville Chapter of the Kidney Foundation started Chocolatefest more than twenty-five years ago at Knoxville Center. Eventually, the chapter decided to forego the yearly event.When one of the former board members had an urge to bring the festival back, she asked past Chocolatefest judge and local radio personality Jennifer Johnsey if she would help. Luckily, Jennifer was happy to oblige.

What a Joke!

What a Joke!

Mincey’s Musings Year Two, Week Two

A frustrated conductor once asked a band player with issues, “Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” The player replied, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

This is a slightly tweaked missive that came my way via email. It reminded me of a joke I once heard at a meeting which I shall attempt to embellish for your reading pleasure.

Grandma's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Grandma's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Grandma made the best cookies, didn't she? She didn't work outside the home. Those were the days when she washed, starched and ironed her ruffled curtains and had time to crochet frilly doilies for the end tables next to the sofa. Ruffled curtains are things of the past as are crocheted doilies. She didn't have to get the kids properly dressed for school and then get herself to her job on time. She did have time to polish up on her cookie recipes.

Abraham and Carl

Abraham and Carl

Scratching your head? Who in the world are Abraham and Carl?

When we see the word “and” between two names, we assume they are connected in some way. For instance, I love the comedy teams of Andy and Barney (Mayberry), Lucy and Ethel and (one of my favorites) Laurel and Hardy.

For the record, Abraham and Carl are not a comedy team. In fact, they never even met for they lived thousands of years apart.

Scratching your head again?

Lemon - Cheese Salad

Lemon - Cheese Salad

I saw an article online the other day. It listed recipes that are outdated and thankful to be gone. I don't agree. Everyone of them are on my “favorites” list. I think the reason they are outdated is that they were over-used back in the day. I remember when I first discovered canned tuna fish. We had a Tuna Noodle Casserole about every other week. I have a good recipe for that, too.

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

One of the most important ways to invest in the future of agriculture is to invest in the people who will become tomorrow’s agriculture industry leaders. Students pursuing the agriculture industry often look for careers in planning, implementation, production, management, processing, education, or marketing ag products and services. Tennessee Department of Education predicts that over 60,000 high-skilled agricultural jobs open annually in the United States with just around 35,400 graduates in the Ag, Food, and Natural Resources program studies to fill the openings.


Wine and Canvas with Betty Bullen

Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 18:00

Betty is teaching another wonderful Wine and Canvas Class! This class we will be painting Red Breasted Blue Birds!

Sip on some wine and learn to paint from one of Union Counties best! Supplies are included.

Tickets are only $35 and must be purchased in advance by calling (865) 745-2902 or by coming into The Winery.

Seating is limited and fills up very fast so make sure you reserve your ticket today!

Area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders

Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 07:30
Area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders

"We invite all area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders to come together on the last Thursday of each month at Hardee's at 7:30 am. This is to be a time of fellowship, prayer, and discussion about how we as a community of Faith can work together to have a positive impact on our county. All are welcome!" For more information please contact Kathy Chesney at 865-566-3289.

Wine and Design

Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 18:00

Join us at The Winery for a fun Wine and Design event.
During this class, get ready for Valentine's Day by painting
and crafting a wine bottle and wooden love sign. The class is only
$25 and includes all the materials needed as well as a glass
of wine or juice. Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased
in advance by calling The Winery at (865)745-2902.

Class starts at 6 so please come early to taste our wines and choose your favorite.

February Pick Up Party at The Winery

Saturday, February 2, 2019 - 12:00

It's that time again and everyone is invited.
February is a Pick Up month for our Wine Club and we are having a party to celebrate.

Saturday, February 2nd from Noon till 8

Live Music From:
45RPM Noon - 3:30 pm
They will be playing music from the vinyl era, the tunes that you know and love!!

Overdrive 4-8 pm
Overdrive is a band dedicated to filling the dance floor at any venue they play at! Be sure to bring your dancing shoes!


Dale Wesche

Dale R. Wesche – age 39 of Heiskell, passed away Thursday, January 17, 2019 as a result of an automobile accident. He was a member of Fairview Free Will Baptist Church. He enjoyed the outdoors, fishing and 4-wheeling with his friends.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Wilma Wesche. Dale is survived by his canine companion, Gretchen; and a community of friends.

Nancy Byrum

Nancy Byrum, age 57, passed away Saturday, January 19, 2019. Proceeded in death by father George Byrum Sr., sister Debbie Patterson, brother Timmy Byrum, nephew Brent Byrum; and many aunts and uncles. Survived by mother Margret Byrum, daughter Fran Hancock, son Michael Scott Rolen; grandchildren Jared and Genny; brothers and sisters-in-law George and Maryann, Dennis and Teresa, Steve and Susan, and significant other Calvin Stafford; many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Gladys B. Ledford

Gladys B. Ledford, age 96, of Knoxville, passed away on January 20, 2019.
She attended Salem Baptist Church.
Preceded in death by husband David L. Ledford; daughter Patsy J. Price; grandson Brian Schwartz.
Survived by daughter M. Annette Rummell (Barry); son Charles “David” Ledford (Joy); 10 grandchildren; many great grandchildren and several great-great grandchildren.
Family will receive friends 4-6PM Wednesday at Mynatt Funeral Home Halls Chapel with funeral service to follow, Rev. David McGill officiating.

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson Obituary

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson, of Halls/Plainview, went to be with our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ on Friday January 18, 2019. Rosemary spent 4 years fighting a rare mantle cell lymphoma. Rosemary loved her family, was a believer in Christ, an animal lover, and an all-around genuine person. She was preceded in death by her loving parents, Roy & Mary Lynn Wilkerson; father in law, Raymond Johnson; and brother in law Ray Johnson.

Obituary of Lloyd Russell Lee Sr.

Lloyd Russell Lee Sr., age 68, of Knoxville, Tn was born July 6, 1950 and departed this earthly life on January 17, 2019 to gain his new body in heaven. His life was filled with the love of Nascar, Semi-Trucks, and Family. Lloyd was a self employed over the road truck driver for his entire life to provide for his ever-growing family. Married to Sandra “Sandy” Lee on January 4th 1969, they shared their love of 50 years with their 3 sons Rusty (spouse Mary Duso), Jimmy (wife April), and Billy (spouse Becky Litton).

Ted George Jones

Ted Jones, age 67, of Knoxville passed away on January 17, 2019. He was a bus operator for Knoxville Area Transit for over 43 years, and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union. He was a member of West Side Baptist church. Preceded in death by parents George & Neoma Jones, grandparents William Ellis & Flora Shuemaker, father-in-law Jack Jones.

Nathan Samuel Davis

Nathan Samuel Davis – age 23 of Maynardville, passed away Sunday, January 13, 2019.

He is survived by his parents, Luther and Julia Davis; and sister, Gabriela Eby.

A celebration of life service is being planned for a later date. Trinity Funeral Home, LLC, Maynardville, has the honor to serve the family of Nathan Davis. 865-992-5002 www.trinityfuneralhome.net

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