Town urged to ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ at JRT

The “Meet Me in St. Louis” cast is ready to debut the movie-classic play for the community starting Friday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 11.

By Pam Johnson

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is proud to bring to their stage the classic family musical “Meet Me in St. Louis,” based on the 1944 film starring Judy Garland and on the book by Hugh Wheeler.

It’s 1903 and the Smith family — as well as all of St. Louis — is preparing for the 1904 World’s Fair.

Each home is brimming with excitement, and the Smith family has their share of hopes and expectations for the fair as well as for their upcoming days, months and years. But, as the audience soon finds out, things don’t always go according to plan, which can wreak havoc on family dynamics.

“‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ is a charming, humorous and touching look into the lives of an American family,” Ryan Gray, who is both assistant director and portrays the son, Lon Smith, said. “But when an unexpected turn of events occurs regarding the family’s future, relationships are tested and ultimately come together in this timeless musical tale of endurance and love.”

Family tension and squabbles are a given for most any family…whether in 1903 or 2018. Yet many believe it’s how people handle those disagreements that shape and strengthen family relationships and grow them into something even stronger.

“It is about the importance of every member of a family, from the smallest to the oldest, really listening to one another and having empathy,” Liz Dollar, playing the mother, Anna Smith, said. “The Smith family works best when all communicate and have an equal opportunity to voice an idea. When you take the time to actively listen to one another and consider another’s point of view, you will discover more about that person and yourself.”

“I really like that this show is centered on a family,” Kylie Green, who portrays Esther Smith, said “They don’t always like each other, and they more often than not say the wrong things to their loved ones, but they have each other’s best interests at heart. It’s that familiar sentiment of ‘If you borrow my sweater again, I’m going to kill you,’ along with, ‘Dinner is ready – I made your favorite.’ I think audiences will walk out knowing exactly who our characters are, because they’re going home to them.”

Whether they’re familiar with the movie or not, audience member are sure to recognize songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” and “Whenever I’m with You.”

The music, the characters, the singing, the dancing, and everything about this show is designed to warm the heart and leave everyone with wonderful nostalgic feelings.

“This is a beautiful ‘slice of life’ story,” Director Karen Elb summed up. “It brings us well-developed characters that paint a picture of an average American family at the beginning of the 20th century. These folks are just at the beginning of the technological boom that vastly shaped and changed the next century. So much of how they view the world is different than how we view it; this story takes place before the phrase ‘world war’ existed. And yet so much about family and love has endured, and we can still see that reflected in our own lives today.”

Fourth-grader Sophia Dollar, who plays the youngest sister, Tootie, encourages everyone to see this production. “The show is family friendly, and it relates to real life because it shows the teenagers and kids in truthful situations. Also it’s funny, and you can learn some life lessons from it.”

The music and lyrics of “Meet Me in St. Louis” are by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. The show is directed by Karen Elb, assisted by Ryan Gray, with music direction by Jennifer Ross and choreography by Brittany Whitson.

The sponsors are Ferguson, Sonia King and Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Tabatha Bird, Vanessa Bushell, Hollyn Dixon, Andrew Duncan, Brent Edwards, Joseph Gumina, Shawn Hale, Isaiah Johnson, Charles Landry, Ashley Light, Mandy Mangiacotti, Shelly Mangiacotti, Catherine Phillips and Cody Shivers.

Shows are Jan. 26 through Feb. 11. Tickets are $16 general admission, and $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com. The theatre is located at 125.5 W. Main St., Jonesborough.

Town celebrates JRT director’s 5 years

Friends and colleagues gathered together at Stage Door to pay tribute to Jonesborough Repertory Theatre Artistic Director.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Actors, actresses, backstage crew members, co-workers, friends and neighbors all gathered Friday night at Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s Stage Door to celebrate the anniversary of Artistic Director Jennifer Ross’ five years with the company.

“Look what she has done with this community and the pride she has instilled in the arts here,” said Jules Corriere, outreach programing director for the McKinney Center, who has worked with Ross on several past projects. “She is putting on brilliant shows, at the same time she’s bringing these shows to our youth and at the same time she is bringing these shows to our seniors.”

The event — an open house set as a drop-in reception for Ross’ many friends and fans — featured candlelight, tasty appetizers and lilting music. But the most common accessory was the constant praise for the guest of honor.

“She is a visionary,” said Pam Johnson, JRT’s publicity coordinator and a long-time member of the company. “She has expanded this theater to become more than I ever thought it could be.”

Ross took over the reins as artistic director with the JRT on Jan. 14, 2013, with big plans and great excitement. “We have an amazing collection of talent already,” Ross said at the time. “And I have never seen such a wonderful group of people committed to the theater, people who want to support it and see it grow to the next level.”

But, she said, “We also want to give back.”

According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, Ross has certainly done that. Since she took over direction of the JRT, he said, such dreams as the JRT players, as well as expanded classes and opportunities have become a solid reality with the company.

“Part of it is her character and the fact that she is so community and people driven,” Browning said. “The way she interacts with cast members, and the community as a whole (makes such a difference.)  She is deeply concerned about the people, and you feel like you are part of a family. That not only draws people, it keeps people.”

Jonesborough team serves up smokin’ BBQ

Rocky Top Barbeque and the Moulton famiily took top honors in the October Jack Daniel’s World Champion barbecue competition after entering their famouse barbecue chicken, rib, pork butts and brisket. Pictured above, left to right is Mia Moulton, taste-tester; Rebekah Moulton, Walt Moulton and Jack Daniels Master Distiller Jeff Arnett.

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Tennessee’s oldest town has long been known for its world-class storytelling, but Jonesborough natives Walt and Rebekah Moulton put Jonesborough on the map recently for a spicier reason: barbecue.

The couple, who compete as Rocky Top Barbeque, claimed the title of Grand Champion at the 29th Annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in October of 2017.

The prestigious competition, which took place in Lynchburg, attracted 67 championship teams from the United States and 23 international teams, from countries including Austria, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

“It’s hard to get there, and if you do get there, it’s hard to win it,” Walt Moulton said.

Walt has been making barbecue for about nine years, and has been competing for about eight years. He started out in his backyard, making barbecue for friends and for parties. He then decided to enter an area competition.

“It’s fun. It’s competitive. You meet a lot of good people,” Walt said.

One of the best parts of competing is socializing with the other teams, said Rebekah Moulton, Walt’s wife and barbecue competition teammate.

“You have people from all different walks of life … it’s like a big family. Everybody’s good to you,” she said.

The couple, who won several other barbecue competitions in 2017, entered chicken, ribs, pork butts, and brisket into the Jack Daniel’s World Championship.

“When you win The Jack, that’s about the biggest thing you can do, really,” Walt said. “We’ve been fortunate.”

For the Moultons, barbecue is a family affair.

According to the husband-and-wife team, couples who compete together are common, and they often do well.

“She does all the organizing and keeping me straight,” Walt said with a laugh.

“We both know what’s going on,” Rebekah added, but both admit she is the one who keeps the team on track.

“I can anticipate what he needs,” she said. “I know when to say, ‘Stop talking and come over here, it’s time to do this.’”

The Moultons’ 3-year-old daughter Mia even has a part to play.

“She’s our taste-tester,” Walt said.

“If she tries the chicken and says it’s good, we know it’s going to win,” Rebekah said. “She’ll tell us if it’s not good, and if she does, it won’t do well.”

The couple travel all over the United States to attend competitions, and Mia usually accompanies them.

“She’s been to a lot of places in her little life,” Rebekah said.

While the pair are experts at barbecue, they only make their fare for fun. 

“It’s just an expensive hobby,” Walt said, “but it’s been paying its way. Anytime you have a hobby and it pays its way, that’s a good deal.”

Rocky Top Barbeque took home $10,000 for their win at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship last year.

According to the Moultons, there is no secret recipe to making great barbecue; it just comes down to practice.

“It’s like everything,” Walt said. “You’ve got to work at it.”

After all the success he has seen in the last year, and especially after his win in Lynchburg, he has been asked to teach classes on his methods, he said, and he is considering doing so in the future.

Next up, however, is another big trip for Rocky Top Barbeque. In February of 2018, the Moultons will leave their Jonesborough farm and head to Texas to compete at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, an event which features a variety of entertainment, including concerts, a carnival, and a parade.

According to Walt, it’s an event the family wanted to attend anyway, and now, thanks to their win at The Jack, they will have the opportunity to compete with their world-class barbecue.

“We had a good year,” he said.

McKinney artist, teacher brings new art form to Jonesborough

Kay Grogg is a teacher and local artist.

From STAFF REPORTS

Kay Grogg is a veteran teacher, having spent more than 30 years in the Washington County school system, serving first at Asbury Elementary, and then at David Crockett High School, where she has taught art and photography since 1992.

Last year, she joined the faculty of the McKinney Center as a teacher in a new form of art known as “Zentangle.”

Grogg, who earned her Master of Arts in Education from Tusculum College, took a master class and earned a certification in the Zentangle method during a five-day intensive in New England, with the founders of the form, along with 109 other teachers from across the world. A large group of teachers from Taiwan attended, in order to learn the method, so they could use it with their autistic students as a way to help them create and focus, and experience the victory of completing a piece of art.

“Zentangle is an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images, using repeated patterns. In addition to designing a lovely piece of art, the method increases focus and creativity, while reducing stress and anxiety.” Grogg said of the form. “I use it in my classes at school, and the effect it has on the students is incredible. It boosts their confidence, because everyone, whether they consider themselves an artist or not, can do it.”

Grogg also mentions the calming effect that Zentangle has on her students. “It has a sort of Zen-like quality, it is very relaxing.”

In describing how it works, she said it is a sort of metaphor for life. “You start with a pencil with no erases, just like in life you can’t go back and fix mistakes, but you can adapt, and make different choices. The teachers in this method say there are no mistakes. You just go in a new direction.” In helping students discover new directions after a perceived mistake, she helps them discover that they can continue to work on and develop the piece, without going back, and end up with a small masterpiece that incorporates the mistake into a new design, based on that “new direction.”

She says many of her students, both adult and teenagers, use it to relax and meditate and describes the ease of the form as one stroke, one line at a time.

In her one-day workshop at the McKinney Center, Grogg starts students with a 3 ½-inch square tile. They do a series of these tiles, and at the end of the class, put them together like a mosaic.

She says the biggest take away is that anybody can do this. A person does not have to be an artist to do it. But for those who are artists, she says that they report to her that doing Zentangle helps them to expand their creativity.

“I think it will benefit somebody who wants to do some kind of art but doesn’t feel artistic. It gives them a lot of confidence because they leave with something beautiful, of their own creation. “

She described a student in a class last month. He told her he could not draw, and couldn’t even make stick figures look good. At the end of the class, he was amazed and said, “Wow! I can do this! Look what I did!”

Grogg is the only teacher in the region who is certified to teach Zentangle.

“One of the things I am trying to do, both at David Crockett and at the McKinney Center, is to bring an awareness of this art form and drawing method to this area. Most people do not know about it. They may go to a craft store and see Zentangle supplies, but don’t have the knowledge of how to do it.”

Kay Grogg will be teaching the Zentangle method at the McKinney Center this spring, as part of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts.

To register for this new and fascinating art form, download the spring catalog at mckinneycenter.com or contact McKinney Center director Theresa Hammons at theresah@jonesboorughtn.org, or call (423) 753-0562

Stories recall past winters’ news in Jonesborough

This famous downtown photo takes us back even further in time, to the great snow of 1886. While such a snow could easily hit downtown Jonesborough anytime this winter — and even though the streetscape is still almost the same —  we are fairly certain the odds of ever seeing a cow stroll down Main Street are slim to none. (Photo submitted by the Heritage Alliance)

EDITOR’S NOTE: 

Residents of Jonesborough continued living their daily lives as the participation of the United States in World War I began in the winter of 1917, a hundred years ago.  The cost of a year’s subscription to the H&T was $1.25 a year – in advance.

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

On Nov. 1, 1917 the Herald and Tribune informed readers that the “SMALLPOX SCARE OVER – No New Cases Have Developed – The smallpox situation here has improved.  C. H. Haire, the only one who has smallpox, is convalescing rapidly and will assume charge of his business in a day or two.  Miss Ruth Haire, one of Mr. Haire’s daughters, has gone back to her position in high school.  No new cases are expected to develop.”

In other health related news, “JONESBORO PHYSICIAN HIGHLY HONORED – Dr. H. P. Panhorst, at the recent meeting of the East Tennessee Medical Association, which was held in Johnson City, was elected president of the Association.  Dr. Panhorst is eminently fitted for his position and will, no doubt, be influential in making the next meeting, which is to be held in Athens, a successful one.”

“ATTORNEY-GEN VINES HAS NO OPPOSITION” read another front-page  headline: “Attorney General D. A. Vines has announced himself as a candidate for nomination for circuit judgeship to succeed Judge Harmon, and it seems will have no opposition.  Mr. Vines is a self made citizen of Washington county, and well deserves any honor that has been conferred upon him.  He is eminently fitted for the position he seeks and he should be promoted to the bench without opposition.”

Other political announcements during November included this item on the editorial page: “We are pleased to announce the name of HAL H. HAYNES as a candidate for the nomination for Chancellor, subject to the will of the voters at the Republican Primary election to be held December 8th, 1917.”

Democrats also had an announcement: “The Democrats of Washington County are hereby called to meet at Jonesboro on Monday, the 3rd of December, 1917 at 1 o’clock p.m. to select delegates to select delegates to the judicial convention which meets in Nashville on December 10th, and to transact such other business as may come before the convention.  E. J. Baxter, Chairman; Paul E. Carr, Secretary.”

There was an editorial comment in reporting a suit with this headline: “WORKHOUSE SUIT DECIDED AT LAST – Saturday, the Supreme Court at Knoxville, in the case of Alexander Patterson vs. Washington county, affirmed the decision of the Chancery Court in which it was held that the workhouse tax levy was valid.  The suit was entered over a year ago, and the people in general are unusually glad to be favored with such a prompt decision.  If it takes our courts eighteen months to decide a common question like this, affecting only a county, how long O. Lord would it take to settle a matter affecting the whole State?

A teacher’s meeting notice was also front page with a headline and story reading: “TEACHERS’ INSTITUTE AT LIMESTONE – There will be a teachers’ institute at Limestone Nov. 2.  All teachers are invited and especially those of adjacent districts.  9:10, Devotional Exercises – Rev. Munsey; 9:40, Welcome Address – Frank Ruble.” The following speakers and their lecture topics included: “Dean W. J. Wilkinson — The School as a Social Center; Frank Ruble, G. A. McAndrews – History in the Public Schools.” This lecture was followed by lunch and an afternoon program.

The paper carried “NEWS NOTES” from Fall Branch, Bowmantown, Cherokee and Conkling that reflect the daily living of Washington county residents.  Following are few samples of those items: Fall Branch, Oct. 27 – Rev. H.N. Cate of Blountville filled his regular appointment at the Baptist Church Sunday; Miss Epps Haws, teacher in Erwin high school, visited her brother, Frank, here Friday; Madeline, the small child of Dr. H. L. Smith is very sick.  Bowmantown, October 29 – Ben Bowman has his new dwelling house almost completed; Dave Bowman, Jr. entered school at Washington College Tuesday.  Mrs. W. T. Mitchell and son, Tom, were shopping in Jonesboro Tuesday; Several people from here attended the fair at Sulphur Springs Friday; Born to Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Armantrout Thursday, the 25th, a son; Gathering corn and sowing wheat is the order of the day in this section.  Cherokee, Oct. 26 – The farmers of this section are behind in their work owing to the scarify of farm hands; Jasper Hale and Hunter Archer, who are working with a bridge crew at Paint Rock, N.C., spent Sunday with homefolk.  Conkling, Oct. 27 – Mr. and Mrs. Frank Odom and family who have been in Illinois for a few years, returned last Sunday; Mr. & Mrs. Jas Ruble have gone to Cherokee to reside on the farm vacated by John Edens; Born to Mr. and Mrs. John Sauls, a baby boy.

A report from the Board of Health stated: “544 DEATHS OCCUR IN THIS COUNTY – The annual report of the State Board of Health, just issued for the year 1916 shows that 544 deaths occurred in Washington county last year.  Of this number 51 died from pulmonary tuberculosis, 43 from pneumonia, 20 from infantile diarrheas, 18 from accident, 14 from cancer, 12 from typhoid and 12 from diphtheria.

The remaining deaths occurred from various other causes.  Seventy-four infants under one year old died during the year.  The number of births recorded is 857 for the year.  The death rate per 1,000 population was 15.5, while the birth rate was nearly 26 per 1,000.”

“While Jonesboro has the reputation of being a ‘quite town,’” the H&T story began, “it furnishes opportunity to keep its police force very busy, especially on first Mondays.  Last Monday, horse traders from a neighboring county, became involved in a drunken quarrel and a fight occurred.

Chief Boyd was soon on the scene and three offenders were arrested, taken before Recorder A. L. Shipley and fined…”

“SEEKS TO ENFORCE THE COUNTY COURT” read a headline with a dateline “Knoxville, Nov. 5 –A mandamus, seeking to compel the Washington County court to ratify the issuance of $750,000 in road bonds was asked for in the Supreme Court here last week.  The bond issue was authorized by a vote of the people some time ago, but the court thus far has failed to ratify same.  One company agrees to purchase $250,000 of the bonds when ratified.”

Volume 49, no. 31 of the Herald and Tribune was published on Thursday, Nov. 22, 1917.  “SHIELDS FARM WAS SOLD LAST WEEK” was front page news containing the following information: “The Shields Farm on Chuckey river was bid off last Thursday by L. E. Broyles, Jno., G’Fellers and Jno. L. Broyles at $12,000.  According to law this bid may be raised in 30 days.”

Other news items read: “Lonesome Valley, Nov. 20 – Mr. Tilley and niece Miss Elsie Nave , both of Johnson county, and Mrs. Lem Tilley of Rabbit Valley, took dinner at the home of Robert Archer Monday; There was a box supper at Keebler’s Institute Friday night.” The Honor Roll for Chestnut Grove School was announced: “All pupils averaging 90 and above are placed on the Honor Roll.  The honor pupils this month are: 8th grade – Howard E. Keys; 7th grade – Fannie E. Keene, Fred Stover; 5th grade – Mary Keys, William Saylor; 4th grade – Doll Saylor, Jeanette Keane.  Maze Murkey, Teacher.  There will be a box supper held at Philadelphia school in the First District Wednesday night, Nov., 28. Proceeds will go to the benefit of the school.”

Local artist explores art, culture

Janet Browning continues to merge a love of art with an appreciation for other cultures in her teaching. (Photo by Whitney S. Williams)

By JULES CORRIERE

From an early age, Janet Browning knew she wanted to pursue art as a career.

“I was always encouraged by my family. I remember my first ‘portraits,’ ” Browning said. “They would be of my family around the Thanksgiving table when I was 4 years old. My family made a big deal of them. It was so encouraging, so I continued to take art throughout grade school.”

Browning, who teaches several classes at the McKinney Center, including charcoal portraits and beading, did not stop her pursuit of perfecting her art in grade school. In high school, she had an art teacher, Paul Rupert, who realized her talent. He allowed her to work separately from the rest of the art class, introducing her to more complicated medias and methods.

“When I saw the effort he was making to help me become a better artist, it led me to pursue the arts as a living,” Browning said.

In college, she majored in figure drawing as well as oil painting and received her degree in Art and Education from East Tennessee State University.

She also spent time at the Art Students League in New York City.

After her studies, Browning taught art in the public school system for seven years, before founding ArtSmart Inc., which is an after-school art enrichment program that later became KidSmart.

This program operated in eight states and employed more than 100 teaching artists.

“This program was able to reach so many more students than I would have ever been able to reach in just one school,” Browning said of her impactful program. “The program allowed me to share my love and appreciation of art to a much wider group of people.”

Browning also owns and operates Hands Around the World, a store on Jonesborough’s historic Main Street that sells art from around the world that Browning purchases during several trips each year.

“My other love is travel, where I get to discover more about the cultures of the world, especially traditional ones.” She says she has always been interested in people — their culture, their lives, their faces –—  and Hands Around the World helps her share the art from these cultures with people in this community.

Tying off the last thread to a necklace she has just completed while sitting in her shop, surrounded by artwork she has brought back from Ecuador and Nepal, she looks up and smiles.

“The best is when I get to mix both my love of travel and my love of art.”

Browning brings her experiences of art, travel, and culture to the McKinney Center this spring, where she will teach classes in portraiture and beading. Registration is still open for these classes this week, with an early bird discount of $10 per class through Thursday, Dec.21.

For more information about Janet Browning’s classes, contact Theresa Hammons at theresah@jonesboroughtn.org.

To see the full spring catalog, visit jonesboroughtn.org.

Christmas shines with past holiday treasures

 

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

(Recalling Christmas memories sparks a wave of nostalgia in most of us.  A couple of hours looking through back editions of the Herald & Tribune produced the following articles about the season.  For many years, Paul Fink, the County Historian, supplied a history column for the H & T.  This story begins with one of Fink’s articles titled “Did You Know… Some of the Old-time Christmas Customs? – Editor)

From the Knoxville Argus about 1825.

“At an early hour, they (the students) take possession of the schoolhouse, kindle large fires in the chimneys, barricade the door, and wait, with shouts of defiance, for the arrival of the master.  He arrives and is denied entrance…Sometimes he calls others to assist in re-establishing his authority; but the besieged refuse to surrender, unless upon terms of honorable capitulation—a treat and a week of holidays. (Eventually, after capture, and what was described as a “cold bath,” the teacher agrees to his students’ terms.)

Fink writes that someone is the sent “for apples and cider, and sometimes, for refreshments of a more stimulating kind.  A general merriment and exhilaration follow, in which victors and the vanquished united in reciting with cordial glee, both the tragic and comic of the siege.

“The holidays are spent in rural sports and manly amusements.  The good wishes of the season obliterate all recollections of past differences between master and boys, and when on the next Monday, ‘books” is called, each one quietly and cheerfully resumes his proper position in the school-house…

“They (the students) continue studious and obedient until the approach of the next Christmas.”

This Christmas story was published in the Wednesday, December 22, 1993 edition of the Herald & Tribune.  Editor Kelly S. Arnold told readers under a heading marked “OPINION” — “If you had a chance to travel through downtown  Jonesborough at night, you have been treated to one of the finest displays of the Christmas spirit of any town in the area.  The decorations and lights are absolutely beautiful.”  The paper sold for 25 cents a copy or $10.00 a year.

Front page stories included a veterans’ honor for Jimmy Quillen, an article about ETSU re-accreditation, and information about state efforts to sign up eligible individuals for Medicaid. Washington County’s Fall Branch School received a historical marker approved by the Tennessee Historical Commission in recognition of its 150th anniversary.

On other pages, the Herald & Tribune printed two pages of Letters to Santa.  Among the letters, Hannah Cox wrote, “I know what I want.  I want a new desk for my room.  A watch for time.  I want a big T.V. for all of us, a lot of video games, a new fish, a frog and a new baby brother.  He needs to be 2 months old.”  Other letters wished “poor people would get clothes and a house.”  One writer said she wanted “ten presents this year.”

Agriculture Extension Agent Claudine Dixon wrote an article titled “An Ethnic Tour of the Holidays.” She told readers: “Let’s travel around the country and have an ethnic tour of the holidays… The Christmas Tree: Brought to this country in 1747 when the Germans settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania…Candles in the Window…An old Irish custom.  When Christmas was outlawed in Ireland by the Puritans in the 1600s, priests hid in the forests to escape persecution.  During the holiday season, Irish Catholic families placed lit candles in their windows in the hope that a priest would find his way to the house and bless it.  When the Irish came here in the 1800s, they continued this practice and the idea caught on rapidly. .Santa Claus…This jolly man in a red suit was based on the legend of St. Nicholas who was born of a rich and noble family in the third century…Left an orphan, he devoted his life to helping other people…However, the Santa Claus we know today – with rosy red cheeks and plump belly – was described in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ and a friend submitted it to a local newspaper… Poinsettias…This beautiful flower got its name from Dr. Joel Robert Poinsett, Ambassador to Mexico, who brought it here in 1829.  It is referred to by the Mexicans as ‘The Flower of the Holy Night.’’ Christmas Carols…The first was written by St. Francis of Assi in Italy in the 13th Century.  But, most of the carols we sing today originated in the 1800s.  ‘Silent Night’ was written by a priest and set to music by the local schoolmaster in the Austrian Alps in 1818. ‘O Holy Night” became the traditional song of peace when on Christmas Eve, 1870, a French soldier jumped up and sang it while facing fire of German troops.  The battle is said to have stopped and for the rest of the night there was peace on earth.  Christmas Wreaths…This familiar sight of the holiday season originated from the Advent wreath use in Germany… No matter where a wreath is used, its symbolic circle reminds us of the everlasting life promised through the Christ Child and the everlasting love of family and friends.”

Ten years ago, the Herald and Tribune was published with a dateline of Christmas day—Tuesday, December 25, 2007.  Readers were told “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in a reprint of an editorial by Francis Pharcellus Church originally printed in the New York Sun in 1897.  A second editorial by the newspaper’s staff was headlined “Pray for peace during holidays” that read in part”…Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday of the Christian year…Christmas customs are centuries old  The mistletoe, for example, comes from the Druids, who in hanging the mistletoe, hoped for peace and good fortune.  In this year of continuing combat by Unite States Armed Forces in sites throughout the world, the Herald & Tribune hopes that next December 25th the troops will be headed home.  A joyous Christmas 2008 in the newspaper’s opinion would include the gift of the return of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq…Merry Christmas!”

“Positive Points” by Linda Poland listed “Top 10 gifts for the Christmas holidays –Gift 10 – Affection—A huge Hug; Gift 9 – Favor – A special favor; Gift 8 -Game—A complete game; Gift 7—Laughter – 30 minutes of fun; Gift 6 –Prayer—Prayer request of your choice; Gift 5 – Compliment – One special compliment; Gift 4—Disposition–A Cheerful Disposition for not less than  one hour; Gift 3 – Listening– One-half hour of undivided attention listening; Gift 2 – Note – No more than one full page and not less than twenty-five words; Gift 1 – Forgiveness – Forgive all past hurts.” Poland wrote that a friend sent her the list of 10 gifts and “…it really made me appreciate the simplicity of Christmas.”

Staff writer Heather E. Seay wrote an article that was headlined “There’s nothing like a real Christmas tree” with quotes from local organic Christmas tree farmer Curtis Buchanan.  Also quoted were Bobby and Beth Westbrook, who operate a Christmas Tree Farm in Fall Branch.

Letters to Santa included a story written by Publisher Lynn J. Richardson describing the work of Valorie Hall, a letter carrier “who has official permission from the Post Office to take on a second seasonal job – Personal Assistant to Santa Claus.”  Ms. Cooper’s kindergarten class at West View Elementary School wrote letters to Santa with help from Mrs. Fleenor’s seventh graders.  The requests as published read: “Tony would like a skateboard and a monster truck; Bailey wants a Hannah Montana doll; Josh wants a Leapster in his stocking; Brandon would like a guitar, a boat, a barn and a tool set; Arien wants a dirt bike and a farm set; Dakota wants a toy truck; Megan wants a skateboard for her dog; Jessi wants a Dora cooking kitchen; Ethans asks for an e-pet and a reindeer webkinz; Cheyenne wouldn’t mind some makeup; Kai wants a toy rocket ship and a motorcycle; Hunter wants a big brown teddy bear; Marshall wants an airplane and a Cardinals baseball cap; Tabatha would like a television, a computer, and a bike; Kaine would like a fish and some turtle stuff, but also wants Santa to bring her teacher some love; Haley ask for an mp3 player, pillows, a horse and a camera for Ms. Cooper; Cassidy requests a puppy, a cat and a drawing board; Eric wants a toy Escalade and a boat; Jonathan would like a monster truck.”

    It has been 10 years since this list was compiled.  It would be interesting to know what these students’ Christmas lists look like in 2017.  Merry Christmas!

Teacher builds confidence at the potter’s wheel

For Kara Bledsoe, the journey as a teacher of pottery and wheel classes at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough has already been a rewarding one and she is looking forward to more.

From STAFF REPORTS

“Art has always been a part of my world,” Kara Bledsoe said, as she cleans up a pottery wheel used by a student in her “Young Potters” class. Bledsoe teaches pottery and wheel classes for youth at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

“As a child, my mother and father both made crafts and did local crafts sales, especially wood crafts. I was always around that, and I’d make things alongside them to take to the crafts sales also.” She described how, as a toddler, her parents would allow her to help with base coat painting, as well as helping to set up and tear down the shows, giving her a real view into a working artist’s life.

“I grew up seeing a value in creating things. My mother also sewed a lot of my clothes and made our Halloween costumes. That was a privilege I had in my upbringing. I was exposed at a young age to the creation process.”

Some of this process changed as she grew older. She told of a high school art teacher that was highly critical of students’ work, and how she shrunk as a creative artist under such scrutiny at a young age. “I didn’t thrive under that kind of pressure. There is a school of thought about teaching the realities of the harshness of life a person faces as a working artist. But I think first, there needs to be a foundation where a student can feel secure about what they are learning and what they are doing.”

Bledsoe stepped away from doing art in high school because of those critical pressures. She enrolled in environmental studies in college. The school offered an open studio, where a student could buy a bag of clay and just work on a wheel. In a short time, Bledsoe found her way back to creating art projects. As she helped others in the studio find their vision, it became clear that her path in life was to become an art teacher.

“I teach pottery wheel and hand-building. But to me, the most important thing I teach is confidence building, and allowing the students to get the confidence they need to create something they have in their mind.” Bledsoe goes on to say that especially in younger years, children need to get the sense of self-satisfaction from completing a project and fulfilling the vision that started in their heads and being able to follow through and make a finished work.

“Starting from scratch like that, children get a sense of not only completing the project, but they get to see how sometimes an idea can change, in order to make an even better piece. That’s an important element of learning, not just in art, but in life.”

Bledsoe, who has taught as the McKinney Center for three years now, earned her BFA with a concentration in ceramics from East Tennessee State University and spent several years teaching the after-school art program through the Johnson City Arts Corps. She has had a solo art exhibit with the Johnson City Area Arts Council, as well as several group art exhibits throughout the region. She was also a member of TACA. Bledsoe became a faculty member of the McKinney Center three years ago and will begin her fourth year this spring teaching children’s pottery and clay classes.

In addition to her art, Bledsoe is a mother to her young daughter, Rose, and enjoys spending time exploring creative opportunities with her child.

“I’d say my favorite thing about the work I do is that contagious moment when I feel kids getting excited about their project, and then at the end of class, everyone has their object they created. There is such a sense of joy and satisfaction, and that is where I get my satisfaction in life, too.”

To register for Bledsoe’s Young Potters class this spring, or other courses being taught at the McKinney Center, contact McKinney Center director Theresa Hammons at theresah@jonesboroughtn.org or call 423-753-0562. Full catalogs are available at mckinneycenter.com.

Jonesborough pooch ensures newspaper delivery

George faithfully delivers the Herald & Tribune every week to his owners Mac and Judy McAdam.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Herald & Tribune is usually delivered by mail or newspaper carrier, but for Mac and Judy McAdam, their weekly copy is delivered directly to their easy chair via 10-year-old collie mix, George.

George waits every morning for the newspaper carrier to drive through Ida Sue Drive in Jonesborough where he grabs the local paper and takes it to his owners as he has for more than 10 years

“He actually taught himself to do it,” Judy said. “The woman we got him from told us he liked to carry a stick. So we let him carry a stick around, but then he wasn’t happy with that.

“Then we read somewhere that some dogs should have jobs.”

Learning to fetch the paper was no task for this canine; George’s family said he even carries the mail, groceries and any delivered packages.

“We come home with the groceries and he comes right out of the door to meet us,” Mac said. “We give him a can of beans or a can of soup and he’ll bring it in. Sometimes he’ll come in and drop them and then sometimes he comes in and keeps them in his mouth for ransom to make sure he gets his pay.”

George takes it easy after delivering the morning paper to his masters.

George was adopted from a no-kill adoption facility in Greeneville on the Fourth of July almost 11 years ago. Even though Mac wasn’t totally sold on the idea of having another pet after having a dachshund and then a pit bull before they moved to Tennessee, the McAdam family finally adopted George to make their house a home.

“Mac said, ‘No, we’re never getting any more dogs.’ But when we came up here from Florida,it was kind of lonely without an animal in the house,” Judi said.

But before their pup started his newspaper “job,” the rescue dog needed a little TLC from his new family and forever home.

“When we got him, we heard he was left on the side of the road in a bushel basket with his brothers and sisters and he happened to be on the bottom,” Judy said. “I don’t know if that was what did it, and he’s the runt of the litter anyway, but he has hip problems. When we got him, we had to carry him up and down the stairs. He still has a hard time on the hardwood floors getting up.”

To build his strength, George and his people hit the walking trails every morning — after he brings the paper in, that is.

George isn’t the only one who benefits from his relationship with his masters, however; Judy said their furry companion has only added to their lives since they adopted him.

George lounges in the front yard until the mail truck makes its way to the McAdam yard.

“He has been just a love for us. It’s company; it gives you something else to think about other than yourself I think,” Judy said. “With him, it’s a little bit more than that because he runs our lives.”

“I said to Judy, ‘We’re 62 -years-old. He may outlive us.’ And he really could,” Mac said. I didn’t really know if we needed another dog, but he’s been a great guy.”

Now, when George isn’t bringing the paper to his masters, he can be found lounging in the front yard, waiting on visitors. Whether he’s laying in the yard waiting on a small white mail truck to roll by or sleeping by Mac and Judy’s feet, this fury part of the family loves his job as part newspaper delivery service and part pet.

George might make life a little easier for his owners by fetching the newspaper, but more than that, both Mac and George are just happy to have their companion — and a pet to hold and love and call “George.”

“We named him George because of Bugs Bunny and the abominable snowman,” Judy explained. “He picks up Bugs Bunny and he says, ‘I’m gonna hold you and kiss you and love you and hold you tight.’

“And he squeezes him and says, “‘And call you George.’”

JRT to present holiday ‘1940s USO Show’

Pictured left to right, Jen Fields, Catherine Squibb, Brittany Whitson, Joe Gumina and Hannah Love join their voices.

From PAM JOHNSON

This year, the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s very popular “1940s USO Show” has moved from July to December giving patrons a new way to experience this nostalgic, energetic, patriotic favorite. Performing familiar (and not-so-familiar) Christmas songs and original skits, the talented cast of the JRT will sing, dance and act its way into your heart.

The “1940s USO Show,” created by JRT’s artistic director Jennifer Ross, is in its 14th year. “The number one reason for doing the USO is to show support to our country and our veterans,” Ross said. “You can never show enough appreciation for what they’ve done for us and what they’re still doing for us.”

JRT’s USO show began back in 2004 with an idea to produce a patriotic musical for Jonesborough Days. Ross agreed to take on the project, and over the years it has become one of the community’s favorite productions. Typically, it runs during the 4th of July weekend, but this year, the theatre decided to honor the many requests for the return of a USO Christmas production.

“We felt like it was a very appropriate time of the year while thinking about being thankful for so many things, including our country and military,” Ross said. “And a lot of our Christmas songs were written during WWII to help cheer up the troops.”

Josh Baldwin, one of JRT’s USO show’s original members, pondered what he thought it would have been like to hear the Christmas radio programs while being stationed overseas during WWII. “I think from the standpoint of being a soldier, it was already hard enough being away from home, and to be away at the holidays was even harder. But to be able to hear familiar voices and familiar songs to remind you of home, it made you feel good. Because you knew there were people back at home wondering how you were; and that they cared; and that they wanted nothing but the best for you.”

All the show’s songs and skits are a special experience, as they have been for 14 years, but the highlight of each show is the Military Medley when members of the military are recognized. “The Military Medley at the end of the show is such a beautiful sight,” said choreographer Heather Allen, “and it’s worth all the hours and the blood and the sweat and the tears to see the men and women stand up who are our veterans and military personnel. Even on stage, we find ourselves breaking and crying.”

This show is not only popular with patrons, but also with the cast. Many have been in numerous USO shows, and this is what several of them have to say about such a special production:

“Our cast has a heart full of gratitude for our veterans and active service men and women.” (Brittany Whitson)

“The holidays are a time to focus on what we are thankful for. Thank you, veterans!” (Janette Gaines)

“This show celebrates the Christmas spirit of charity and peace while honoring the sacrifice of our armed forces.” (Joseph Gumina) “The USO Show allows the audience to know what life was like in the 1940s.” (Jessica Shelton)

“This show is the ‘Great American Song Book’ wrapped in feel-good fun and poignant patriotism.” (Sharon Squibb)

This season, JRT promises a show that is a fun, joyful, sentimental reminder of all our thanksgivings.

“When you’re counting your blessings, put our freedom at the top of your list,” Ross said. “We need to get beyond the negativity consuming our country and count our blessings. We have so many things to be thankful for. Think about that”

The “1940s USO Christmas Show” is written and directed by Jennifer Ross. Assistant director is Alexis Turner; choreographer is Heather Allen; and the band director is Lucas Schmidt. The performance is sponsored by Denny Dentistry, Morningstar Farm, and Sonia King and Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Lorrie Anderson, Austin Bird, Ramona Bird, Dan Cross, Jaclyn DiDonato, Jen Fields, Shawn Hale, Aryn King, Hannah Love, Ashley Light, Paul McQuaid, Jessie Scarbrough, Catherine Squibb, Don Squibb, Connie Taylor, Corey Tickles, Alex Vanburen, Christopher Ward, and Lucas Wilcox. Shows are Dec. 7-11 and 14-17. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.

Carter Railroad Museum to celebrate 10th anniversary

From STAFF REPORTS

November is National Model Railroad Month and marks 10 years since the dedication of the George L. Carter Railroad Museum at East Tennessee State University. To celebrate, the museum is hosting a special anniversary event Saturday, Nov. 18, at 11 a.m. The event is open to the public and refreshments will be provided.

The Carter Railroad Museum preserves the region’s historical ties to railroads and is dedicated to the memory of George L. Carter, who built the Clinchfield Railroad through 277 miles of mountainous terrain to carry coal from Eastern Kentucky to the Carolina Piedmont. In 1909, when the state’s selection committee visited the area while searching for a site for a proposed teachers college, Carter offered his 120-acre farm and $100,000 toward the establishment of the normal school, which became ETSU.

The museum’s model railroads are operated by volunteers from the Mountain Empire Model Railroader club (MEMRR) who provide information about local historic railroads and the basics of model railroading. The George L. Carter Chapter National Railway Historical Society and the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad Historical Society are also affiliated with the museum.

Located in the Campus Center Building at ETSU, the Carter Railroad Museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.

The museum can be identified by a flashing railroad-crossing signal at the back entrance to the Campus Center Building. Visitors should enter ETSU’s campus from State of Franklin Road onto Jack Vest Drive and continue east to 176 Ross Drive, adjacent to the flashing RR crossing sign.

For more information about the Carter Railroad Museum 10th anniversary celebration, contact Dr. Fred Alsop at 423-439-6838 or alsopf@etsu.edu.  For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

H&T looks back to past Thanksgivings

The annual Turkey Toss has been a longtime tradition in Jonesborough as the town celebrates the holiday season.

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

A look back at Thanksgivings past during the years 1945 and 1980 in Jonesborough provides a glimpse of how the holiday was observed. The year 1945 saw hope for peace in the ending of World War II while 1980 ushered in the Herald & Tribune’s computer-age and an era of prosperity for residents in Tennessee’s oldest town.

The United States had entered into a recession in January of 1980 but returned to growth six months later. Growth continued through 1990 creating what was at the time the longest peacetime economic expansion in the nation’s history.

The optimism of the time was reflected in a Forum printed in the H&T on November 26, 1980 asking the question “What are you most thankful for?” Mrs. Sherman Huffine from the Greenwood Community said, “For my family, my country, my friends and neighbors in my community…”

Mary Slagle of Boones Creek said, “For my good health. The Lord has been good to us and gives us many blessings.” Fall Branch resident Frank Bloome said, “That my wife, who has been very ill, is getting better and now I can get out and visit the people in my community.” Another Boones Creek resident Blaine Gilliam added, “To live in a free country and have freedom of speech and religion; also, that we are free to go and come as we please in our country.”

The feeling of thankfulness in 1980 was foreshadowed by a proclamation by Mayor Robert May in 1945 as World War II came to a close. It read in part as set out in the newspaper’s November 12, 1945 edition, “TO THE PEOPLE OF JONESBORO.

“WHEREAS, Again we approach the day which by custom, tradition and proclamation is annually set aside to be observed by all… namely, that of Thanksgiving…Perhaps not in recent years has it appeared that so much overt cause exists for gratitude than in this year which witnessed the triumph of military might…

“NOW THEREFORE, as Mayor…I do most sincerely have the very happy privilege to proclaim Thursday, November 29, 1945, as the first Thanksgiving day in Jonesboro since the recent war; and in so doing to call upon every person to observe the day in a manner most appropriate to the occasion; and do implore all to engage in Divine Worship on that day according to the dictates of the conscience of each.”

On the front page along with the Mayor’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was a story about “Saving The Old Chester Inn.” On other pages HOUSEHOLD MEMOS by Lynn Chambers told readers looking forward to Thanksgiving meals, “Now that food rationing has loosened up most of the eatable goods that we are once again able to get back on prewar standard, cooking problems need not be pressing. However, in spite of this lifting of restrictions, we still have at least one major problem—that of sugar. Little relief is in sight right now, and the situation will probably prevail for some months. What shall we do about dessert?” She then suggested recipes for Peach Sponge Cake, Open-Faced Apple Pie and Black Walnut Pie.

An advertisement told Thanksgiving shoppers, “Say Folks! When you are looking for Quality Groceries at the very best price, come in and see what we got — BENNETT’S in Jonesboro.” The recently opened Jackson Theater provided holiday entertainment. Open daily at 3:30 p.m., “Jonesboro’s Entertainment Center” said BRING ALL THE FAMILY to see productions like “Sweet and Low-Down —  Starring Benny Goodman, Linda Darnell, Lynn Bari and Jack Oakie — It’s ‘Solid’ Entertainment From the First-Down-Beat to the Last Kiss!” Other features were “Wild Bill Elliot as Red Ryder in Lone Texas Ranger” and “The Fighting Lady in Technicolor” plus “Laurel & Hardy in The Big Noise.”

Turning to 1980, ‘IRON MOUNTAIN: A HOLIDAY TRADITION” was a featured article. The owners of Laurel Bloomery produced a hand-crafted ceramic ware sold in 600 stores coast-to-coast. Resident artist Nancy Patterson Lamb, trained at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, said, “This is really a very logical place for a stoneware plant. This region is right in the middle of several good sources of clay. We are also near transportation to almost every section of the country…”

She continued, “Last year the Thanksgiving sale attracted over 8000 people. We had customers from Atlanta, Memphis, Washington, D.C. and New York.”

On November 19, 1980, the newspaper reported that “MAYFLOWER DESCENDANTS HOLD SESSION. – The Governor William Bradford Colony, Tennessee Society, Mayflower Descendants, convened recently in semi-annual meeting at the home of Mrs. Doris Lee Potter, Top O’ The Town Apartments, Johnson City. Mrs. John Howze, secretary-treasurer, Telford, conducted the business meeting… Through the courtesy of General Shale Products Corp., Johnson City, members were privileged to examine a brick which was used as ballast in the Mayflower ship in 1620 and afterwards in the house at Plymouth Plantation…” The story ended by stating, “The Mayflower Compact, signed in the cabin of the Mayflower, November 21, 1620, has been called ‘the cornerstone of civil and religious liberties in the United States.’”

A two-page grocery advertisement from Wright’s said Butterball 4-10 pound turkeys were 99 cents a pound – over 10-pounds were 95 cents a pound. Shenandoah Turkey Breast was $1.59 a pound; Fresh pack Ocean Spray Cranberries were 67 cents for a 12-ounce pack and an 8-ounce Pumpkin Pie was 89 cents. If you wanted the pie topped with Bird’s Eye Cool Whip, an 8-ounce package was 69 cents. Cranberry sauce was on sale at two cans for $1.09 while Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, regular or cornbread, sold at 59 cents a package. Telling customers “Have a Safe Thanksgiving,” the store’s special was Armour Grade A Turkeys, 10 to 14 pounds, for 85 cents a pound.

A new typography and make-up was the Herald & Tribune’s Thanksgiving gift to readers. In explaining the newspaper’s new format, the front page article on Wednesday, November 26, 1980 read, “We have re-designed our publishing package to make it easier for you to read… Our headlines are computer-set in Chelmsford – a distinct traditional type style which we believe conveys the flavor and feel of heritage-rich Jonesboro and all of Washington County. Our body copy, computer-set in  U n i v e r s, is crisp and contemporary, and indicative of forward motion and growth…Enjoy us…we’re exclusively yours!” Below the announcement of the “New and Renewed” Herald & Tribune available by subscription for $8.00 a year or 25 cents a copy, was a Thanksgiving pictorial containing produce of the season including pumpkins, apples and corn with a caption that read: “Come, ye thankful people; Come Raise the Song of Harvest-home; All is safely gathered in; Ere the winter storms begin.”

“Strong Prices Open Sales” at the tobacco market according to the H & T, with top amounts at $1.65 at Grower’s Co-Op in Johnson City. A report from last year’s Progressive Dinner sponsored by the Jonesboro Civic Trust “by popular request” repeated recipes that dinner guests enjoyed including a Cranberry Ring, Cornish Hens with Orange Glaze, Mary Todd-Lincoln’s Vanilla-Almond Cake and directions on how to prepare White Frosting.

Hamilton Bank with an office in Jonesboro told readers it would close on Thursday, November 27th in observance of Thanksgiving. Their ad read, “Long ago on a brisk clear day in a sheltered, wooded clearing, a harvest feast — a humble meal of wild turkey and Indian corn, was shared by native and newcomer… Today, in observance of this commemorative day of Thanksgiving, we shall be gathered together again in thanks for the blessings of a land bestowed upon a people, as it once was and as it is now.”

Alliance looks back to earlier Christmas feasts

Jonesborough serves as the backdrop for many Christmas memories.

from STAFF REPORTS

“We are delighted that you have joined us to share the Christmas season in old Jonesborough. For your enjoyment we have prepared a Christmas feast and tour of some of our lovely historic homes.  May you find this Jonesborough celebration a memorable experience.” 

This greeting appeared for many a year at the top of the Progressive Dinner program.  This December, the Progressive Dinner celebrates its 40th Anniversary by doing what it does best, welcoming guests to Jonesborough for a lovely evening of food, fellowship, and holiday cheer.  The event has become a tradition, not only for the community, but for people throughout the region who look forward to kicking off their Holiday celebrations with the Progressive Dinner. 

Traditions are a part of what makes us who we are.  This year, the Progressive Dinner and the Historic Tour of Homes, two long-standing Jonesborough traditions, are merging to form the Colors of Christmas. 

This new event holds to the traditions of the past and celebrates the preservation of Jonesborough’s historic buildings. Jonesborough’s commitment to preservation is another, long-standing tradition, and that tradition is the very reason the Progressive Dinner and the Historic Tour of Homes began. 

The Progressive Dinner was created by the Jonesborough Civic Trust as their major fundraiser. 

“When it first started, there wasn’t much like this going on,” Sue Henley recalled.  The event was instrumental to funding the preservation efforts of the Civic Trust, and it was unique. Here was an opportunity to see the homes and buildings that benefited from the money.

In addition to being a fundraiser, the Progressive Dinner has always been a “friendraiser” and community builder.  The event requires many volunteers, and there are multiple, moving pieces that have to work just right.  Or, at least they have to have the appearance of working just right to the guests. 

The Progressive Dinner has history of its own, and past Civic Trust member Sue Henley shared some of her favorite Progressive Dinner memories. 

She remembered a year where the main entrée was being prepared at Sister’s Row, and Ignacy Fonberg had the broccoli cooking at the Methodist Church. He knew exactly how many songs he could play on the piano before the broccoli was ready. 

Another year, they were preparing chicken at Tobie Bledsoe’s home, and there was a power outage in the stove. The volunteers divided up the pans of chicken and took them off to different ovens. 

The soup course was at the Broyles’s home (commonly known as the Cunningham house), and Sue called to tell them to stall a bit before bringing the guests up.  When they asked Sue what they were supposed to do, she did have an answer for them. 

“I don’t know, sing Christmas carols.” 

And sing Christmas carols they did. 

A chicken crisis occurred more than once, and one year there was a shortage of fowl in the fridge. The local grocery store and the Parson’s Table restaurant stepped up and came through with the rest on the spur of the moment. 

Of course, the guests never knew any of this was going on.

The Progressive Dinner truly is a “community endeavor,” Sue Henley assured.  When asked what made the event so special – “the people,” she replied without hesitation.  “It’s just always worked out.  It’s a wonderful, happy event.” 

And the happiness is one of the reasons why so many guests have returned year after year. 

“It is a perfect beginning to the Christmas season,” Rebecca and Pat Wolfe shared.  “Touring the old Jonesborough homes that have been decked out for the holidays is a treasured experience.  Then there’s the extraordinary food!  In the twelve or so years that we have enjoyed the dinners, never have we been disappointed with the cuisine, from the opening toast to the dessert.” 

Judge John Kiener has been attending the Progressive Dinner for many years, but one dinner stands out in his mind. 

“Our most memorable Progressive Dinner was in 2009.  I had just asked my wife Belinda to marry me. It was her first ‘public’ display of her engagement ring. Of course, we shared our good news with everyone on the bus. It was Belinda’s first Progressive Dinner in Jonesborough. Charlie Mauk from the Herald & Tribune met our bus at one of the stops and took our photograph. It was published in an edition of the weekly county newspaper. She had a delightful evening and we have been attending the event since we were married on May 1, 2010, in Mountain City.  I believe I have been to every Progressive Dinner sponsored by the Heritage Alliance.  As a past member of the Heritage Alliance Board, all the dinners have been special occasions for me.  I always marvel at how faithful the volunteers have been through the years, taking their time out of a busy holiday schedule to assist in the event.” 

The Progressive Dinner is an evening where old friends become family and new friends are made. 

New friends and family mean expanding traditions, and the Progressive Dinner has also grown and changed over the years.  The Civic Trust is gone, but its legacy lives on in the Heritage Alliance.  Today, proceeds from the dinner benefit the educational programs of the Heritage Alliance, programs like the Oak Hill School Heritage Education Programs, Town Tours, museum activities, and much more.  This year, the tradition of the Progressive Dinner will grow a little more as the Heritage Alliance joins forces with the Town of Jonesborough to present the Colors of Christmas. 

That’s the best part of traditions, they can grow to incorporate more, more historic buildings, more entertainment, while also holding on to what made them special in the first place, the preservation, the fine food, and the fellowship.

Celebrate history, celebrate fine dining, and celebrate friends and family.  Celebrate a one of a kind experience this Holiday season in Jonesborough.  As Sue Henley said, “It’s a wonderful, happy event.” 

For more information about “Colors of Christmas,” call the Heritage Alliance at 753-9580.

Jonesborough playwright debuts Alcatraz play in JC

Cast for “Breaking the Rock” include E.C. Huff and Sam Hayden, Daniel Reid, Sabra Hayden, Larry Bunton, Jonathan Edens and Kalin Bailey.

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Playwright Jules Corriere, the outreach director at the McKinney Center, will premiere her mostly true play, “Breaking the Rock,” this week at the Johnson City Community Theatre.

The play, which opens on Thursday, November 9, tells the story of the two infamous brothers, J.W. and Clarence Anglin, who escaped from Alcatraz in 1962, but met an uncertain fate.

While researching the play, Corriere spent a significant amount of time with the people closest to the brothers, getting first-hand accounts of their lives before Alcatraz.

While many contend that the brothers perished during their escape, which involved taking a handmade raft over the frigid waters surrounding the prison, Corriere was privy to evidence during her research that hints at their survival, including copies of photos, letters and notes.

Jules Corriere has been a playwright for over 15 years.

“I couldn’t believe the information they were sharing with me,” Corriere said. “They were guarded at first, but as time went by, they began to show me some really exciting things, like postcards and letters from all over, signed from ‘Joe and Jerry’, an alias the brothers used while on the run.”

Something that makes this play unique, Corriere said, is the amount of information that’s included that hasn’t been shared with anyone else, some of which you’ll get to see in photographs during the show.

When Corriere questioned the family on why they were willing to share information with her that they may not have shared with the FBI, she got an interesting answer: “We answered their questions, not that they ever believed us. But you ask different questions than they did.”

Corriere said her time with the Anglin family was fun and always a bit mysterious.

“I think I met the family at the right time,” Corriere said. “Decades had passed, and as members of the Anglin family were getting older. I think they were ready to share more details than they had in the past.”

“Breaking the Rock” doesn’t just focus on the Anglins’ escape from Alcatraz, but also delves into lives of the destitute brothers before their time in the famed prison, including their struggle with poverty.

“J.W. and Clarence really struggled with idea of good versus evil. They weren’t violent criminals,” Corriere said. “They really just wanted to escape this life of poverty they were leading.”

Corriere, who is also directing the play, said she is thrilled with the cast, all of whom do a wonderful job bringing the story to life on stage.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “I couldn’t have chosen a better team.”

E.C. Huff and Sam Hayden play the affable brothers, J.W. and Clarence, who make a deal with the notorious Bumpy Johnson, played by Daniel Reid. The characters of Marie and Robert, sister and brother to the Anglin boys, are played by Sabra Hayden and Larry Bunton. The cast is completed with Jonathan Edens and Kalin Bailey, whose characters are never far from J.W. and Clarence. They follow the escapees nearly all their days, as the age-old story of good vs. evil plays out.

“Breaking the Rock” debuts at the Johnson City Community Theater, located at 600 E Maple St. in Johnson City, on November 9. The play will be on stage through November 18. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at www.jccommunitytheatre.org or by calling the box office at (423) 926-2542. For more information, email info@jcct.info.

Local artist finds family connection through art

Feit now creates one-of-a-kind jewelry in her mother’s memory, thrilled that they share a talent.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough’s annual holiday craft show and sale, the Made Around Here Market, was designed to feature local artists and their crafts, but for Jonesborough resident and jewelry crafter Laura Newell Feit, her first year participating in the market means so much more than that.

Newell Feit will bring her hand-crafted stone jewelry to the November event where her mother and local painter, Polly Newell, was once a vendor herself back in the ‘70s.

“To get in a craft show around here is neat because my mother was so into the craft arena,” Newell Feit said. “It’s what I wrote when I applied for this; I said it’s just so neat because I knew I couldn’t paint, but just to be able to follow in her footsteps is special.”

A picture of Laura Newell Feit’s mother and a local artist sets near her work space.

Polly Newell passed away in 1998 after a full life of raising three children and painting hundreds of oil-based, acrylic and watercolor pieces that now grace her daughter’s home. The painter became known as a local artist in the community after traveling with her kids and husband, Clint — an Army lieutenant colonel who was involved in World War II, Korea and Vietnam — to live in a multitude of places such as Africa and Germany.

“This place feels like home,” Newell Feit said. “It’s really nice to be back here. And it gives me a lot of comfort still, too.”

But in 1972, after Clint Newell retired, the family moved to Tennessee’s oldest town — the place Newell Fiet always considered home.

After Newell Feit studied nursing at East Tennessee State University, she once again found herself on the move and lived in Arizona for 15 years and in Wisconsin for 10. But now that she’s been back in Jonesborough for just over a year, she feels even closer to her mother through her new passion for jewelry.

“I went to Michael’s to get some stuff to fix (a necklace) and I just fell in love with the beads. So I taught myself, went online and saw how to do it and started there,” Newell Feit explained. “I wasn’t doing anything art-wise. She never knew I could do this, I didn’t know I could do this. She was already gone. It’s just kind of neat to kind of follow in her footsteps.”

Feit looks over one of her mother’s many mountain paintings, inspired by her time in East Tennessee.

Looking through her mother’s art, you’ll find watercolor paintings of the Smoky Mountains, purple iris flowers and loads of birds and open fields often seen in East Tennessee. The jewelry artist said moving to Tennessee brought about the strong southern influence seen throughout her mother’s work.

“She’d paint things out of magazines, but when we got here, it was the South and the barns and all that kind of stuff. She was from Georgia so she was originally from the South, but she used to go out and take pictures of barns around here. The Smokies were definitely an influence — and she loved birds. I think that’s why I love them so much now.”

Meanwhile, fall colors, like what you might see in the surrounding mountains this time of year, also come out in many of Newell Feit’s hand-crafted pieces. But that’s not all Feit and her mother’s work have in common; Newell Feit inherited her mother’s generosity when it came to giving her art away.

“When she used to go in the hospital, she’d paint while she was in there. She’d give her paintings to the nurses and my dad would fuss, ‘Don’t give them away!’ But she gave away a lot like I give away. I’m selling my stuff right up the road, but I give it away a lot.

“I’m not in it to make tons of money. I’m in it because I love it. I love it so much, the time I spend on it is wonderful. I don’t feel like it’s work.”

Newell Feit had her jewelry ready for the Made Around Here Market, but there was another event she was preparing for when she shared her art with the Herald & Tribune.

Pictures of the Laura Newell Feit’s mother, along with her mother’s paintings, are still found throughout Feit’s home.

Sitting next to her work desk was another of her mother’s paintings and a photo collage of Polly Newell, ready for Newell Feit’s meeting with the local Schubert Group, of which her mother was once a member.

“At the Shubert Club, there are still going to be people there tomorrow that knew my mom,” she said. “It’s just amazing that my mom had that much influence. She was such a wonderful lady and now I can show my talent. Just running into people who knew her and knew her art is special.”

Newell Feit and many other craft vendors will be set up at the Made Around Here Market, held on Friday Nov. 10 and Saturday Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the Jonesborough Visitors Center, as well as an additional marketplace located outside in the main parking lot area. The event is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit Jonesborough’s Children’s Christmas event. For more information about the Made Around Here Market call (423) 753-1010.

W.C. Rowe is still remembered

W.C. Rowe was a Washington County Commissioner and is still remembered throughout Jonesborough.

By CAMEO WATERS

A man known for his genuine friendliness and uplifting sense of humor, one who was a talker as well as one who had a listening ear, one who was concerned about people’s needs — this is the life W.C. Rowe lived.

He also lived a life of a Washington County Commissioner, a Jonesborough resident, an esteemed banker, a father, a husband, a lover of Jesus Christ and a man who lived by the Motto of “to serve, not to be served”.

Rowe began his story in Jonesborough in the winter of 1938 when his family moved to Jonesborough and opened Mayberry Grocery.

“W.C’s childhood was full of memories of old-timers coming and trading at the store and also an abundant amount of socializing on that ‘famous’ corner,” Elaine Rowe, W.C Rowe’s wife at the time of his death, said.

W.C. Rowe’s memory lives on at W.C. Rowe Park in Jonesborough.

“He grew up listening to the men and women talk about farming, the times in general, especially about the depression and about their loved ones who were serving in the war.”

Spending most days at the country store or working the family farm laid the foundation for his knowledge in business and hospitality while also providing him with an appreciation for the value of a dollar.

Rowe married Kathryn Ford in 1950 and they lived in the Chester Inn for a time. They had two children, Jill and Bill Jr.

“W.C. reflected upon times he prayed that the Lord would grant he and Kathryn children,” Elaine Rowe said.

“He said that one dark night he looked up into the stars and prayed as he stood on Main Street in front of the Chester Inn. Nine months later, Kathryn gave birth to Jill. Eleven years later, his second miracle was born.”

In Rowe’s eyes, both children were miracles from God and Jonesborough was a sanctuary to raise children.

Kathryn and W.C. had a beautiful marriage of 43 years until she passed away in 1993 from breast cancer.

Before Kathryn passed away, she told W.C. that his heart was so full of love that she wanted him to marry again. In 1995, W.C. Rowe married Elaine.

“I have learned so much by his example,” Elaine Rowe said. “I am eternally grateful for our shared love and faith.”

Rowe’s career took a leap in 1970 when we went to work for Home Federal Savings and Loan. Rowe’s sense of humility, enthusiasm and work ethic paved the way for his successful career in banking and for community and political service.

In 1990, he was elected Washington County Commissioner and then reelected in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Rowe was serving his fourth term at the time of his death.

“I had a lot of respect for C,” Pat Wolfe, who was a Washington County Commissioner alongside Rowe, said “He was just a genuine person who loved other people.”

Rowe helped with a number of county building projects, including the Washington County Justice Center and Detention Facility.

Throughout his time as a Commissioner, he never lost sight of the positive impact his position allowed him to have on his community.

“He was a very excellent person and a fine commissioner,” former County Executive, George Jaynes said. “I miss him more than anybody.”

Rowe’s inspiration came from his grandfather, George Swartz, who was a farmer and a preacher.

And above that, Rowe drew inspiration on how to live life from the Lord.

“He was unashamed of his love for his God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Elaine Rowe said. “People were drawn to him because his faith was transparently sincere.”

Those who were lucky enough to spend time with Rowe were not left untouched by his upbeat nature and loving heart.

“My life is so much richer because I experienced his love and optimism every day,” Elaine Rowe said.

“W.C. was an example and role model to so many of us. His legacy is that he loved people and in return, he was loved.”

Rowe was a man whose story is not to be forgotten and, most recently, the Town of Jonesborough recently remembered W.C. Rowe at a the ribbon cutting for W.C. Rowe Park and the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2.

The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein gets ready to open

The cast is ready to perform the Frankenstein-themed play through Nov. 5.

By PAM JOHNSON

If you love the cult classic Mel Brooks movie “Young Frankenstein” starring Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman, you will be thrilled with this musical stage production (also by Mel Brooks) presented by a multi-talented cast at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

This show introduces Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkensteen”), who is the grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the well-known monster from the novel by Mary Shelley.

“The original Frankenstein is definitely not a comedy,” director Karen Elb explained, “but the core plot from that story is used as the backstory for our titular character. Young Freddie Frankenstein is a professor of anatomy at a prestigious school in New York where he struggles to distance himself from the infamous legacy of his mad scientist grandfather, the original Frankenstein we know from the novel and the 1931 film version. Early in our story, he receives word of his grandfather’s death and he must journey to Transylvania to settle his grandfather’s estate. But, as we find out, Freddie has inherited much more than an old castle from his grandfather.”

And thus begins the hilarious story of Freddie, his fiancée (Elizabeth Benning), his hump-backed side-kick (Igor), his new personal assistant (Inga), the estate housekeeper (Frau Blücher), and his own creation (the Monster).

If you’re in the mood to “laugh out loud” Elb encourages you to attend. “This script is hysterically funny, this cast is so talented and entertaining, and I’m certain everyone who sees it will have a great time!”

Not only will you enjoy the absurdity of this show, but the music is “to die for.” You’ll hear memorable tunes such as “The Transylvania Mania,” “He Vas My Boyfriend,” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” And what about a tap-dancing Monster? You can’t beat that!

“I think the audience will be blown away by the music and the dancing in this show!” Lorrie Anderson (Elizabeth Benning) said. “The audience is in for a real treat!”

“While most of the songs are hilarious additions to the story,” Catherine Squibb (Inga) remarked, “there are some wonderful and beautifully moving musical pieces within the show. Also,” she hinted, “there’s an incredibly talented lab assistant who yodels. What could be more fun than that?” 

Yes, there are many good reasons to come see Young Frankenstein, but mainly, just come to have a good time. “You could look into this show and find some sort of message I’m sure,” Sarah Sanders (Frau Blücher) stated. “There is the man who is trying to make his own name for himself despite the family’s reputation and expectation.

“You have the ignorant townspeople content to fear the unknown as opposed to understanding it. You have the lady looking for love in all the wrong places trying to fill a void, only to find love where she least expects it. I could go on and on. But I prefer to look at this show as just good, hilarious fun presented for pure entertainment.” 

However, Chris Ward (the Monster) does mention one other take-away message from the show. “It is a great source of fun and entertainment while also addressing the common message to never judge a book by its cover. There are many characters in this show that appear one way on the outside, but deep within you can see true compassion shine.” 

Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, come out to see this stage production. “The story is famous because of Mel Brooks’ original (non-musical) film,” Lucas Schmidt (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein) said. “The cleverness of the songs combined with the original story make for a new experience.”

Rounding out the cast are Tabatha Bird, Jaclyn DiDonato, Janette Gaines, Madelyn Goward, Shawn Hale, Aryn King, Lindy Ley, Ashley Light, Hannah Love, Jacob Maurer, Paul McQuaid, Dominic Peterson, Brigitte Reyes, Sharon Squibb, Corey Tickles, Jeff Waddell, and Lucas Wilcox.

The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein is by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan; music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. JRT’s production is directed by Karen Elb, with music direction by Lucas Schmidt and choreography by Lindy Ley.

It is sponsored by the Bank of Tennessee, and Sonia King and Mary B. Martin. (Please note that this show contains adult humor.)

Young Frankenstein runs October 20 through Nov. 5, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. 

To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.

Senior stories focus of new production

Stories from members of the senior center will be performed in the “Not All That I Carry” production on Nov. 16.

from STAFF REPORTS

Early in 2017, members from the Jonesborough Senior Center shared stories from their lives as part of the new Jonesborough Story Initiative. A World War II veteran by the name or Vern Dauerty, who was a medic during the Battle of the Bulge, told playwright Jules Corriere after the interview, “This is the story I wanted to tell, but it’s not all that I carry.”  Corriere immediately knew this would be the title of the production, because it spoke for so many of the seniors who were interviewed.

“Not All That I Carry” is a production filled with the real-life harrowing, heartfelt and humorous stories that were told during the interview process, and will be performed at the senior center on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

The interviewing team included senior center staff members led by center Director Mary Sanger, along with videographer Ron Zucker, Jules Corriere from the McKinney Center, and Jimmy Neil Smith, founder of the International Storytelling Center.

Gabe Gray, from the Jonesborough Senior Center, took a leading role in the filming and archiving of the stories. The Heritage Alliance archives will house these important local narratives. Transcripts of the audio recordings were made by Pam Kruger.

Once these stories were transcribed, they were sent to Corriere, who then crafted a one-act play. Corriere worked with composer Heather McCluskey to develop original music for the production. The play will be performed by members of the Jonesborough Senior Center, as well as area youth.

Some of the stories include the romance between an American G.I. and a beautiful Irish girl who meet under difficult circumstances in London; a young couple who eloped when FDR was president, and are still married today; a soldier who served with Elvis Presley in Germany; women who kept their homes and family together during the Great Depression; and young men who served with the Civilian Conservation Corps. These and more are the stories of the “Greatest Generation” featured in the play.

Before and after the production, there will be a photo exhibit of all the storytellers featured in the play, including current portraits as well as photos from their past. In addition, there is a companion magazine with stories from every member who participated in the story collecting, along with photographs. The magazine will be available for purchase.

This project began when the Senior Center received two grants in 2017. One, through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which assisted with the purchasing of new sound equipment, and one through the Tennessee Arts Commission, which provided technical support for the project.

Tickets for the Nov. 16 show are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and can be purchased through the Jonesborough Senior Center at (423) 753-4781 or through the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010. Seating is limited, and reservations are recommended.

Forest brings new haunts to old town

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Hales Community Ruritan Haunted Forest off Boones Creek Road is back and ready for business — if you dare.

The haunted forest event — which celebrates it’s 30th anniversary — opened a week early on Sept. 29 this year and will run through Halloween.

The event is supported by the Hales Community Ruritan and serves as the group’s largest fundraiser of the year to support various different needs such as school supplies and Christmas gifts for children throughout Washington County.

Even though the forest has been the backdrop for the haunted forest for many years, operators Robb Phillips and Cathy Shephard are also ready to bring new frights and sights to the community event.

“We have all new scenes up here every year,” Phillips said. “And we have a haunted escape room up here too. So we have two attractions.”

“I love getting out here and deciding, ‘what are we going to do this year?’ ‘what are we going to do different?’,” Shephard said, “and get out there and try to think of the best scary thing we can think of and go with that.”

Though Phillips said some of the scenes can be pretty scary, he stressed that the event is often a family affair and allows folks to do something with their friends and family to get into the halloween spirit.

“It’s something for families to do together. There’s not much going on with that anymore, but we get a lot of families in here,” Shephard explained. “The whole family is involved. And it gives friends something to do every year.”

The two friends also own and operate East Tennessee Ghost Tours and Escape Room 101 in Jonesborough, so featuring haunts and spooks for others’ entertainment is pretty familiar for both Phillips and Shephard.

“People like to be scared,” Phillips said, “And it’s fun to do, but it gives back to the community. We’re always trying to give back and help bring business around to our area and to Downtown Jonesborough. That’s a big part of why we do this.”

The haunted forest is open Friday and Saturday, now until Halloween from 7:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. The forest will also be open Thursday, Oct. 19 and Thursday, Oct. 26, but will close at 10 p.m. on those dates.

The haunted forest will also be open on Oct. 31. For more information call (423) 218-8648.

Celebrating a Milestone: Farm Bureau employee hits 50-year mark

Velma McKee

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Velma McKee, a native of Jonesborough, will celebrate a milestone on Oct. 1 of this year: 50 years as an employee at Washington County Farm Bureau. And what does McKee have to say about the achievement?

“Time moves on,” she said with a smile and a shake of her head.

McKee graduated from Lamar High School in 1963. After school, she worked for Steinway Clothing Company in Johnson City. She then did a short stint as a temporary employee for the Extension office before landing a job with Farm Bureau in 1967.

“I was sitting on the porch and my mail carrier came by, and she wanted to know if I might be interested in a job,” McKee said.

An employee at Farm Bureau was getting ready to go on vacation, McKee said, and they needed someone to fill in. She interviewed on a Friday, and was told to come in on Saturday morning.

“I didn’t even fill out an application or anything,” McKee said. “They didn’t have any back then.”

With only a short window for training, McKee hit the ground running, jumping into her new position with only four hours of instruction under her belt.

“If it hadn’t been for Bob Brumit, I never would have made it,” McKee said. “He was the agency manager then, and he helped me considerably.”

When the employee she was filling in for returned and announced she would be leaving Farm Bureau, McKee was offered the position permanently.

At the time, she said, the Washington County Farm Bureau in Jonesborough was very small.

“It was just me, Bob Brumit, and an adjuster, I think,” she said, “so it’s come a long way.”

Washington County Farm Bureau was formed in 1932 by farmers and farm leaders who wanted representation in both state and national affairs.

When it was formed, they didn’t offer all the services they do now, mainly just representation, McKee said.

Their first offices were in the Jonesborough County Courthouse.

“From my understanding, the first office was in the broom closet,” McKee laughed.

When she started, though, the Farm Bureau office had moved and was on Main Street.

Things were significantly different back then, she said.

“When I started, we had a manual typewriter and a manual adding machine,” she said. “We’ve come a long way from typewriters and adding machines to computers.”

McKee has worked in many facets of Farm Bureau over the years, and according to current Agency Manager Kevin Broyles, she is an integral part of the Washington County Farm Bureau team.

“She’s been involved in every aspect of our business,” Broyles said. “Velma is a tremendous asset as an employee.”

McKee’s current role is in customer service, which she said is the best job she’s ever had.

“I’m up front when you come in the door and I direct people where to go. I get to see about everybody who comes in, and they’ll say, ‘You mean you’ve not retired yet?’” McKee laughed. “I say ‘No, I’m still here. They told me they were going to have turn me out feet first.’”

McKee also serves as the Secretary of the Board, a position she has held since 1978.

Over the years, McKee has attended many conventions and women’s conferences with Farm Bureau, and the trips she has been on were a highlight of her career, she said.

“I went to Hawaii in 1977 for the first time,” she said. “We went to the big island and it seemed like a dream when I got back.”

She made a second trip to Hawaii with Farm Bureau in 2004, and a third in 2012.

“We had some really good times and met a lot of nice people,” she said. “I got to go and see places that I never thought I would.”

Her favorite part of working at Farm Bureau, and one of the reasons she has stayed so long is the people, she said.

Some of the customers have been with Farm Bureau about as long as she has, she said, and her co-workers are wonderful as well.

“The whole Board, when I started, they just took me under their wing,” she said. “They treated me like family. You couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

McKee received a dozen red roses and a plaque for her 25-year anniversary with Farm Bureau, and after 40 years of service she was presented with a clock.

“Time just keeps moving on,” she said again, gesturing toward the 40-year anniversary clock, which is displayed in her office.

At 50 years of service, McKee has no plans to retire, and she credits that in part to Farm Bureau.

“They’ve been good to me,” she said. “I think they’re good to all their employees.”

The Washington County Farm Bureau in Jonesborough is located at 1103 Boones Creek Road. They offer health, life, auto and home insurance, among other services. Their phone number is 753-2106.