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.




Commissioners Express Gratitude at August Meeting

Commissioner Holloway welcomes Commissioner J. M. Bailey

Gratitude and appreciation draped the last Union County Commission Meeting of the commission elected in 2014. The new Commission will have eight new members. Many commissioners expressed their gratitude for the honor of serving the citizens of Union County. Others mentioned their appreciation for the chance to work with people from all over the county to do some positive things. The citizens erupted in applause for the return of Commissioner J. M. Bailey who has been struggling with a serious illness.

Thank You From Willow Ridge Center

Donated TV at Willow Ridge Center

The staff members of Willow Ridge Care and Rehab would like to thank all those who have so generously donated to provide a 19" wall mounted flat screen television for each of our resident's during their stay. The total cost of the television and mounting hardware comes to just under $100 each. For each $100 donation, we are placing a small sign on each television indicating who provided it. This is a daily reminder to our residents that they are cared for by the wider community. Over the course of a year, many people are touched by this gift.

Allyson Hanna Wins 4-H State Round-Up

Allyson Hanna (fourth from left) won her division at the State 4-H Round-Up.

Allyson Hanna has done her hometown proud by bringing home a state-level win from the Tennessee 4-H Round-Up and All-Star Conference. The 16-year-old homeschooler is a junior this year, and she won her division with a Senior Level 1 consumer education project on the Consumer Bill of Rights.

Hanna has been active in 4-H since she was in the fifth grade, and she credits the program with helping her grow as a leader and a team player.

The Digital Divide

The “digital divide” is the gap that exists between individuals advantaged by the internet and those individuals disadvantaged by lack of access to the internet. The divide has widened as technology has advanced with the advent of next generation fiber optic broadband that can make 1 GB broadband speeds available. The growing gap disproportionately affects rural areas as rural residents have few choices of internet service providers – or none at all. They pay higher prices for lower quality service.

Twenty-one Lessons

Twenty-one Lessons

Not everyone should take music lessons. There are some that have a hole in their bucket, like me. Mother thought it would be nice if one of her children learned how to play the Hawaiian guitar. Island music was popular back in the days before World War II. She picked the wrong kid, me.

Reborn and Still Kicking

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-One

Hello, everyone. My name is Oak Grove. I am a two room school building in the Sharps Chapel area of Union County.

For the past two weeks my “scribe” Ronnie Mincey has written articles about me, detailing pertinent points of my history for school terms 1932-1933 and 1934-1935. His main source for information has been the old registers on file at the Union County Board of Education’s Central Office, my “diaries”.


Sumac smooth

Sumacs are very common in our area, most often found in overgrown fields and areas that have been disturbed. While considered a weed by many, it does have the virtues of providing cover and food for wildlife, and nice fall coloration for human enjoyment.


Gumball Machine

I have always been just a little different. For instance, my idea of a fun place was not the same as most other kids’ back in the 70s. They wanted to go to the pinball arcade or the skating rink, whereas I wanted to go to the laundromat.

The only time we washed clothes there was when the electric pump on our well messed up. No pump. No water. No washing clothes at home.

Moral Authority

Archie Wilson

Seems like everyone has a Twitter, Facebook or some kind of social media account, well everyone except me. Thus far, I have avoided social media platforms, unless of course, you count the occasional religious article like this. But, I do read and listen to a lot of news, much of it digital. So even though I have no social media accounts, I still have exposure to everyone else’s social media rants via the news. I liken social media to the 1970s phenomenon of “Streaking”. Sooner or later you are going to get flashed! “Look out Ethel” If you don’t get the reference look up Ray Stevens song, “The Streak”.


Union County Board Of Education

Thursday, August 23, 2018 - 18:00

The next regular workshop and meeting of the Union County Board of Education will be held on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at Union County High School. The workshop will begin at 6:00 p.m. with the meeting immediately to follow.



Fun Day

Saturday, August 25, 2018 - 16:00
Fellowship Christian Church

Fun day at fellowship Christian church August 25, 2018 at 4:00pm to 7:00pm come and join us we will have games, food and a bone fire. Everyone welcome.

Area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders

Thursday, August 30, 2018 - 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!" Margaret Chesney


Ava Kathryn Easterday

Ava Kathryn Easterday, age 8, passed away August 18, 2018. She was a dancer at Prima Dance Studio. Ava attended after school care and summer care at Wallace Memorial and was a student at Powell Elementary School. Ava’s passion in life was to dance. She loved being at the studio and she loved competing. She loved anything pink, teal, sparkly, shiny and glittery. She was a true girly girl and full of sass. She loved to make people laugh and could light up an entire room with her beautiful smile. She was a free spirit and full of adventure.

Phyllis Keny

Phyllis Keny, 90, passed away Thursday, August 16, 2018. Born in Aberdeen, S.D. to Mae and Alphonse Zemlicka, she was very bright and talented in art and music, singing in the choir at Sacred Heart Church where her mother was the choir director/organist for many years. She attended Mt. Marty Catholic High School graduating in 3 years, then Northern State U. with a major in art. During that time, she performed as a singer at various campus venues. She tried out for a spot on the Laurence Welk traveling show in the Dakotas, before the age of TV.

Clay Edward Smith

Clay Edward Smith, age 57, passed away on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. He is preceded in death by father, William Smith; mother, Thelma Smith; and brother, Billy Joe Smith. Clay is survived by sisters brothers, Helen Williams, Linda Collins, Joyce Sheffield, David Smith, William Smith, Fred Smith and Michael Smith as well as several nieces and nephews. The family will receive friends at Mynatt Funeral Home Fountain City Chapel on Sunday, August 19th from 5-7pm. Family and friends will gather at Water Cemetery on Monday, August 20th at 10:45am for an 11am graveside service.

Frances Kilgore Norman

Frances Kilgore Norman, age 83, of Lakeland Florida, formerly of Knoxville, Tennessee passed away on August 12, 2018 at her home in Lakeland Florida. She was of Methodist faith. She was a member of Eastern Star, Mascot Tennessee Order. Frances was a certified nursing assistant. She worked at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and in Home Health Care. She was a loving mother, grandmother, and friend to many.

Dorothy Dean Hatmaker Weaver

Dorothy Dean Hatmaker Weaver, 83, is now with her creator and keeper, Jesus Christ. She died August 13, 2018.
She is survived by her son, Daniel Weaver; sister, Aileen Hatmaker Ruland; nieces, Kim, Tracy, and Renee; a great-nephew and a great-niece.
She is preceded in death by daughter, Candace Weaver Ayers; sister, Barbara Hatmaker Sizemore, and parents.

Thomas "Tommy" Edward Lawless

Thomas Edward Lawless, July 27,1940-August 11, 2018, Thomas (Tommy) Edward Lawless of Maynardville, Tennessee passed away peacefully, Saturday afternoon, surrounded by his loving family at his home on August 11, 2018. Tommy was a graduate of Clinton High School class of 1958. He continued his education at East Tennessee State College and then served in the United States Navy (Vietnam) on a Mine Sweeper as Second Lieutenant for four years. He taught high school math and retired from Frontier High school in Ohio.

Joseph Andrew Weaver

Joseph Andrew Weaver, 62, departed this life to be with his Lord and Savior August 11, 2018. He attended Gospel Light Church of God in Norris, Tennessee. He is preceded in death by father, Charles Weaver; step-father, George Duncan; grandparents, Dora and Jahue Brantley and Pearl Weaver.

Bessie Mae Delozier

Bessie Mae Delozier-age 87 of Luttrell passed away Wednesday morning, August 8, 2018 at North Knoxville Medical Center. The Lord has called. I must go home. I take this time to say goodbye to my family and friends. I was born May 10, 1931 to a pretty little part Indian girl, age 16, Grace Dotson, who married Bill Line. I married at age 16. God gave me 5 wonderful children, 14 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. I am so blessed with two wonderful step-daughters, three step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter. I leave lots of good friends.

Taniciah Montana Little

Taniciah Montana Little-age 60 of Speedwell was born March 31, 1958 in Middletown, Ohio. She went home to be with the Lord Monday, August 6, 2018. Taniciah was preceded in death by her husband, Larry Little; mother, Lucetta Jane Hodson, father, Pierce Hays; sister Gloria Prater; brother, Perry Hays; nephew, Joey Prater.

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