Mathematics teacher by degree, steam engine locomotive engineer by dreams
Alva Cunningham, Engineer
As far back as he can remember, Alva Cunningham always wanted to be a train engineer.
He was fascinated by trains, particularly steam-powered locomotives, and has collected steam whistles since the age of 15. He says it’s been “in his blood” his whole life.
He recalls visiting Silver Dollar City (now Dollywood) with his family when he was a boy and that his favorite attraction was the train, which was the only steam engine locomotive in the area at the time. He was a frequent visitor in the ’70s and ’80s; so much so that he got special privileges such as riding in the engineer’s cab. Also, he is a Dolly Parton fan.
Cunningham grew up in Middlesboro Kentucky, but his ancestors on both sides lived in the Union County area during the Civil War. His great-great-grandfather, Mordecai (aka Mordecia) Cunningham is known to have died serving the Union Army on November 16, 1863, in Maynardville, however, his family has never been able to identify where he was buried. If any history buffs out there have any information, the Cunningham family would be happy to hear it. His father is a retired funeral director who writes and sings gospel music.
His mother’s family, the Praters, moved up to Campbell County, Tenn., then to Bell County, Kentucky. She was a nurse for 20 years, then went on to teach nursing at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) for 20 years. After high school, Cunningham followed in his mother’s footsteps to LMU, and midway to earning his degree decided to major in mathematics with a teaching certification.
After graduation, he began teaching at the J. Frank White Academy, and also taught college level math courses and English as a Second Language to Japanese students at LMU during the first four years of his career. When a position became available at Union County High School, friends strongly encouraged Cunningham to come to Union County, and he is so glad that he did. He’s been teaching for 21 years and thoroughly enjoys it.
His advice for those interested in the teaching profession: it is great for those who are patient and love kids. It’s a lot of work to get started, but you can do it. You can earn a good living and lead a rich, fulfilling life.
Soon after he began his teaching career, Cunningham’s dream of working on a locomotive was realized when he was also hired to work at Dollywood full time during the summer and part-time on the weekends. As God would have it, this just happened to work perfectly around his school schedule. He has worked at Dollywood for 20 years now and has seen several other fellas retire through the years. Only one co-worker has longer tenure than Cunningham. This is the only ride at Dollywood that has one crew doing not only the operation but also maintenance and repairs.
Cunningham’s advice to others with a passion for operating steam engines: it is an on-the-job training gig to get started and you must work your way up to engineer. He advises that you must, “Be prepared to sweat and be able to think on your feet.”
There are two jobs associated with running the locomotives. A new hire will start learning the tasks of the fireman, and then after two to three years of mastering those basic tasks, the fireman can start training as an engineer.
- Perform basic maintenance (including greasing and oiling)
- Shovel coal to fuel the fire
- Keep the steam pressure up
- Keep the fire going
- Keep water in the boiler and the tender
- Operate, regulate speed, and stop the train
- Handle complex maintenance issues and repairs (if something breaks and you can’t repair it, you have to make a new one in the machine shop)
There are more steam engines operating today than back in the ’50s and ’60s, but not by much. Most of them got scrapped once diesel-powered locomotives came on the scene because they were not only more fuel efficient, but much less work for the crew and lower cost due to being easier to maintain.
Of the approximately 2,000 steam-powered trains still in existence today, most are on display in museums. Only a handful are still operational, which is why we are so fortunate to have one nearby at Dollywood. There are also a couple more running out of Knoxville, including Three Rivers Rambler engine 203, which Cunningham helped to restore about 20 years ago.
Cunningham’s biggest surprise? Being fortunate enough to have his dreams come true and working locomotive engineering into his schedule! He believes everyone should pursue not only a career but also his or her dreams, even if they are separate endeavors.
He is happily married with two children, Derick and Haven. Derick is 20 and works at Food City here in Maynardville and Haven is 15 and a sophomore at UCHS.
In his dual career pursuits, Cunningham has the support of his wife, Kelly, and likewise is extremely proud of her achievements. She has realized her dream of opening a delicatessen and is the proud owner of Kelly’s Deli in Maynardville. Cunningham recommends that you stop by the deli for lunch sometime and check out “The Friendliest Eatin’ Place in Town.”
Kelly’s Deli is at 3624 Maynardville Highway and is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone: (865)745-3149
Kelly’s Deli - “The Friendliest Eatin’ Place in Town.”
3624 Maynardville Highway
Maynardville, TN 37807.
Phone: (865) 745-3149
Hours: Monday-Friday 10 am – 3 pm
The impact of COVID-19 on learning, especially in elementary reading and math, continues to be a concern for Union County as well as our state and nation. To mitigate some of the pandemic's impact on learning, Dr. Jimmy Carter announced at the March Union County Board of Education meeting that summer school will be from June 1 through June 25 with a maximum class size of eighth students per teacher.
Beginning Thursday, April 8, the Union County Health Department is moving its vaccine clinic to Alder Springs Church at 708 Hickory Star Road across from the Union County Humane Society.
Vaccines will still be administered by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Extended appointments are available only on Tuesday. To make an appointment, call 866-442-5301 or 865-549-5343 or to book an appointment online, go to vaccinate.tn.gov.
Local agriculture partners collaborated and hosted the annual National Ag Day Farmer Appreciation Breakfast on March 23. Farmers and producers from across Union County were invited to celebrate their hard work and dedication in honor of the nationally recognized day.
The farmers received a complimentary breakfast and a bag full of promotional items in recognition of their efforts throughout the year to preserve our county's farmlands and rich agricultural history.
The Master Beef Producer program is an extensive educational program developed to provide information to assist you and other Tennessee cow-calf producers in improving the profitability of your cow-calf operations. The classes provide opportunities to gain knowledge in current beef cattle management practices that are important to the profitability and sustainability of the industry.
The 2021 Union County Business and Professional Association Golf Classic will be played at the beautiful Three Ridges Golf Course, 6101 Wise Springs Road, in Knoxville on June 19. Tee time is 1 p.m. with a barbeque lunch by Li'l Jo's included in the entry fee. Golfers will receive goody bags, door prizes, as well as compete for Closest to the Pin and Longest Drive.
As we look forward to having our routines return to near-normal, a good attitude is still essential for tackling the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and the changes it has created in our day-to-day lives. Taking care of your health by addressing pain and then finding time for physical activity, rest, time in nature, and safe socializing can help lessen stress and anxiety.
Country Connections by James and Ellen Perry
“Time Changes Everything” was recorded in 1940 by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan: “Heavenly shades of night are falling, It’s twilight time, Out of the mist your voice is calling, ’Tis twilight time.”
These beautiful lyrics were sung by Tony Williams and The Platters in the late spring of 1958. It was an international hit with lyrics written by Buck Ram in the ’40s. He later became the manager of The Platters.
Dr. Lauren Effler, Pre-K director for Union County Public Schools, announces that registration is now open for Pre-K students enrolling for in-person learning next fall.
The Pre-K curriculum, designed to get kids ready for kindergarten, teaches important things such as letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Children are also taught social skills like interacting with other kids, cooperating and working with others, and how to problem-solve.
By Harlen Hunley and Ty Edds
On March 8, the Lady Red Devils got the season off to a good start with a solid win over Claiborne County with a score of 3-0. They got hits and runners on at the right time to push across the runs needed and solid pitching from Aleyia Satterfield to shut out the Lady Bulldogs.
Lady Devils win over Clinton
By Harlen Hunley and Ty Edds
HMMS vs. Seymour
The Horace Maynard Baseball team has been rolling since an opening day loss on Tuesday March 2, as they traveled to Seymour in a 2-1 loss.
The Red Devils played solid defense with solid pitching as eighth grader Ty Edds toed the rubber and was relieved by Garret Graves trying to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring. As a bloop hit to left scored the winning run from third base in the last inning. Edds, Maddix Wyrick, and Aiden Bowman all had hits in the game for the Red Devils.
Big Ridge State Park has a large diversity of trees. The park is around 3,600 acres in size with only a couple hundred acres at most that is mowed and not wooded.
Of course, one of the purposes of our Tennessee state parks is to preserve and protect our natural resources.
This was not always the case. Before the park was set aside for preservation it was farmland with little of it wooded.
Volunteer Interpreter, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
One of the more popular trees in the spring is the eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis), which blesses us with a beautiful bloom of purple pea-like flowers that pop out on the trunk and large branches as well as on twigs. Another common name for redbud is Judas tree, which comes from the belief that Judas hung himself from a Middle Eastern redbud after betraying Christ.
Philippians 4:6 is one of those verses which many Christians have hidden in their hearts. It is Paul the Apostles version of 1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”
We find Paul once again in prison for preaching the Gospel. He has written this letter to the Philippians so that they will not lose hope in Christ, because of the situation in which Paul finds himself.
Let’s think about what is going on by imagining ourselves as part of a possible conversation between two first century new believers in the city of Philippi:
Most fishy tales are probably tall tales about the one that got away. Mine are just the opposite in that I have never had any luck with fish in any capacity.
For instance, the last time I went fishing, I fell into Bull Creek. That wonderful experience is in my story, “In the Creek.”
My woeful fish tales started at a very young age. You see, my mother always had a fish tank.
Union County High School girls’ basketball coach Roger Murphy is stepping away; but he isn’t going too far.
Murphy has coached the girls team for the past fourteen years and says the timing is right. Murphy’s tenure was highlighted by winning the district tournament championship in 2015-16, the first for the program in over thirty years.
We have a TV star in our midst, Union County! Kara Cooke was modeling when she graduated from Union County High School in 2018. She then enrolled in classes at Gage talent agency in West Knoxville, going once a week for a couple of months where she learned skills such as working the runway, how to pose for the camera, and how to apply make-up. She also took acting classes. One of her instructors started The STAIR Agency for models and actors and she followed him. Her career took off after auditioning and being selected for a spot in Knoxville Fashion Week.
Nothing has ever been simple for me, not even riding the school bus home when I was a child.
When I was in the first grade, my mom would always pick me up after school. From her car, I would watch my friends board their school buses. Of course, I wanted to do that too. I thought they were having a fun party with no teachers around.
If you’re like most people, most of the time you definitely want to be in the “in” crowd. There you’re accepted, adored, idolized, and never alone.
That is, you’re never alone until your thinking starts to depart from the “status quo” of your “in” crowd. Then you risk becoming an outcast, as most groups struggle with a free thinker within their “in” crowd.
I am fond of cats nowadays. That was not always the case. I remember back in my childhood when I thought my dad was perfect and knew everything about anything. He hated cats! So I did, too. I would express my dislike at every opportunity. Then we moved to Summers Road in Union County. We had mice galore. They were everywhere and didn’t care if we saw them or not. All food had to be stored covered and sealed.
I dropped by Maynardville Public Library to see what is going on and man is there a lot! In addition to their amazing way of seeing us through the pandemic with their interactive website, which offers online reading and something for everyone, library staff members have been busy refreshing and revitalizing the building inside and out, as we all look forward to getting out and once again enjoying public spaces together.
On Friday, March 12, Luttrell Elementary School students from each homeroom class who logged the highest amount of reading on their own time were invited to attend Donuts with the Principal.
"We are very proud of these hard-working students and look forward to seeing who will win next month's prize,” said Instructional Facilitator Steva Bates.
Every year, the Smoky Mountain Home School 4-H Club takes an active approach with getting involved in our community. This past year has presented its own unique problems with COVID and the restrictions to club events and activities that have come along with those restrictions. But, in spite of this, we want Union County to know that we are still here.
Chiropractic is a health care profession that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic services are used most often to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches.
This story is about a memory from my early childhood that I don’t remember. At all. But I have been told about it several times over the years.
First, I need to give you a little bit of background information. I’m sure most of you all are aware of how much I love chocolate. As much as I love it; my Mamaw Jo loved eggs. And she was very proud of that fact.
You may have noticed that the farmers market is accepting applications for a manager, an assistant manager and a demonstration chef but, it is also the time of year to turn in your vendor applications. Perhaps you have wondered if the Union County Farmers Market is the place for you – we think you’ll agree that it is!
More than 250 people logged onto The Quarantine Happy Hour on Facebook Sunday, March 7 to hear Union County native Sarah Morgan weave her beautiful music.
Morgan started with the dulcimer then moved to guitar. Her angelic voice made for a splendid ending to a beautiful day here in East Tennessee.
One of the most common and well known therapeutic procedures performed by doctors of chiropractic is spinal manipulation (sometimes referred to as a “chiropractic adjustment”). The purpose of spinal manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypomobile—or restricted in their movement—as a result of a tissue injury.
If you are as old as I, you will recognize the quoted title above from many episodes of the 1970s television situation comedy Sanford and Son. Junkman Fred Sanford, portrayed by Redd Foxx, called his son Lamont a “big dummy” in practically episode of the series. If you are not as old as I, thanks to the wonders of cable television and retro channels such as METV and Antenna TV, these old shows can become favorites of a new generation.
We weren’t sure how she did it. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I don’t know if I would’ve believed it. Who am I talking about? Our dog Pobby. She was the one that gnawed on my bible in my story: “Eating the Word.”
She was a tiny stray puppy that we took into our home and our hearts. Before she was housebroken, we didn’t want her to go into our living room while Tim and I were at work. At that time, the living room had bifold doors, so we just closed them. The doors were difficult for us to open, so we assumed Pobby wouldn’t be able to open them either.
The first Friday in March is when Tennessee celebrates Arbor Day, while Kentucky, Virginia, and the nation designate Arbor Day as the last Friday in April. The dictionary defines a tree as "a woody perennial plant having a distinct trunk with branches and foliage at some distance above the ground". This simple description falls short of what a tree is to humans and other life forms. What is a tree? Let me count the ways:
Mayor Chandler called the meeting to order at 7:10 PM
Prayer by Gordon Bright
Present: Mayor Chandler, Vice-Mayor Philips, Gordon Bright, Josh Collins, Rebecca Lock
Reading of Previous Minutes: Mary Ann Brantley. Motion by Richard Phillips, Second by Gordon Bright to approve as read. Motion carried.
Police Report: Chief Eddie Muncey said March has been busy but smooth. He commented the City received a check for $1900 from Union County for drug related fines processed.
Bobby Glenn, Race Director at Knoxville Track Club (KTC), describes the third race of 2021’s “dirty dozen” as, “In the wooded hollows of Big Ridge State Park east of Norris near Maynardville, the 11-mile course delves into long forgotten, mud-slogged crevasses thought to be haunted by haints, demons, banshees, phantoms, and poltergeists” No doubt in reference to Big Ridge’s ghost hikes in October!
The Paulette Elementary School team left to right:
April Bull- 4th Grade Math Teacher, Casey Hurley- Instructional Facilitator, Missy Fugate- Principal, Katelyn Shetterly- Kindergarten Teacher, Chris Justice- Music Teacher, Allie Giles- Special Education Teacher. Not pictured: Michelle Branscomb- 3rd Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher
The Tennessee Behavior Supports Project (TBSP) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (funded by the Tennessee Department of Education) is proud to announce that Paulette Elementary School has been selected as a 2020-2021 bronze level RTI2-B Model of Demonstration School.
Nestled right in the heart of downtown Maynardville, you will find a new business, Mission Hope Pediatric Therapy, LLC. Back in September, founder and owner, Brittany Buckner, opened the doors to her dream business, doing exactly what she loves - helping others.
The purpose of chiropractic treatment is to help the body’s potential to heal itself. It is based on the scientific principle that restricted spinal movement leads to pain and reduced function and performance. Chiropractic care is non-invasive, non-surgical and drug-free. The type of chiropractic therapy provided depends on the cause of the patient’s sciatica. A sciatica treatment plan may include several different treatments such as ice/cold therapies, ultrasound, TENS, and spinal adjustments (sometimes called spinal manipulation).
As a child, I spent many a spring or summer day romping through the yard as I chased flying insects. If it had fluttering wings, it fascinated me. Whether it was a butterfly, bee, or lightning bug, I followed it with envy. Fortunately, I didn’t do that with birds. That may have gotten a little messy.
Multi-published local author Brooke Cox will hold a book launch and signing Sunday, April 25 from 2-4 p.m. at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.
Cox will launch her latest novel Dinosaur Eggs, Two Guys, a Girl, and a T-Rex. The book has 5 star reviews with one reviewer calling the book a “Wonderful middle-grade allegory.”
Cox is also re-launching her first mystery novel with a new title and cover. Until the Moon Rises, A Conniving Cousins Mystery. Cox plans to create a mystery series from the book.
Cox will also have her Saucy Southern Stories books available.
Homeschooling Mothers are invited to an evening of encouragement on Monday, April 26, 2021 in the Hardees Meeting Room in Maynardville at six p.m. Speaking will be Christine Brackney, a veteran homeschooling Mom who will focus on keeping your vision and choosing the educational choice that best meets the needs of your child. Info: 865-992-3629-Connie Dickey
Maggie Dykes – age 93 of Sharps Chapel, passed away peacefully at home with her family by her side on Thursday, April 8, 2021. She was a member of Oak Grove Baptist Church.
Voyd C. Keck, age 90 of Halls, formerly of Union Co., passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Sunday, April 4, 2021. He was a member of Christ United Methodist Church of Halls. Graduated class of 1950, Horace Maynard High School. Retired from University of Tennessee Physical Plant as General Supt. of structural maintenance. He was a 49-year member of Masters Lodge #244 F. & A.M. K.C.C.H. Scottish Rite of Knoxville, Areme Chapter #466 O.E.S.
Mitchell Steven Beason-age 68 of Luttrell passed away Friday morning, April 2, 2021 at his home. He was a Christian and had a great love of dogs, cats and all animals. Preceded in death by parents, Mitchell Lee and Martha (Woods) Beason; siblings, Lucille Ford, Gene Beason, Agnes Dyer, Bernice Vaught, Mary Beeler along with several nieces, nephews and other family members.
Arlene “Leigh” McFarren-age 63 of Corryton passed away Thursday, April 1, 2021 at her home. She was a member of Mountain View Church of God of the Union Assembly, Luttrell. She was an employee of Knox County Sheriff’s Office for the past six years, formerly with T.V.A.
She was a loving wife, mother and nana. Preceded in death by granddaughter, Sophie Holly and Grandma Betty who raised her.
Rev. Clarence E. Bull-age 92 of Maynardville passed away peacefully Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at his home. Preceded in death by parents, Silas A. and Murlie Burke Bull; brothers, Lloyd Bull, Junior Bull; sisters, Billie Bruner, Edith Pratt and infant sister, Sue Ann Bull; great-grandson, Brayden William Frye; father and mother-in-law, Rev. Fate and Etta Oaks; brother-in-law, L. G. Oaks.
Larry Eugene Norris – age 76 of Andersonville, born June 10, 1944 passed away at U. T. Hospital at 3:30 a.m., March 26, 2021. He was saved at age 12 at Snoddley Baptist Church and joined Macedonia Baptist at age 14.
He is preceded in death by father, Tommy Norris; brother, David Norris; and grandson, Adam Norris. Larry is survived by wife, Dora Johnson Norris; son, Roger Norris; mother, Mable Norris; aunt, Ruby McBee Hutchison; brother-in-law, Gary Johnson; cousin, Yvonne Foust; special friends, Ricky Hutchison and Betty Waggoner; and pets, Oscar and Lily.
Angela Renee Ballard-age 40 of Rutledge went home to be with the Lord Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at U. T. Medical Center. Preceded in death by sister, Christina Lee; nephew, Skylar; father, Richard Ballard, Sr.; grandfather, Bud Givens; grandmother, Naomi Ballard.
Survivors: son, Jayden Reed; mother, Jama Gibson; grandmother, Polly Givens; brother, Richard Ballard; nephews, Christopher, Trey and Terry; great-niece, Neveah. Special friend, Tony Winstead.