Synopsis Chapter 04

January 1957 to July/August 1957

After school was out for Christmas, we moved from Grandmother and Granddaddy Fry's house in Knoxville to live with my other grandparents in Maryville, Pop and Erma Stearns. They managed a three unit apartment building at the intersection of the Knoxville/Maryville Highway and the Alcoa Highway. We had our own unit and George and I shared a bedroom. There was concrete chinking missing between the logs by my bed, and I could see outside. The building was a genuine log cabin, not a kit, that had a second story added. We lived downstairs, Pop and Erma lived next door, and Erma's sister Edna and her husband lived upstairs. It was a tea house at one time, I don't know what else. The property was called Druid Hill. It had grass on about an acre, which I mowed for 50 cents a week. The entire property was probably 5 acres or so. It had a circular gravel driveway in the front and a spur that went to a garage in the back. The garage was wood frame with a dirt floor and had a workshop as part of one side. Pop taught me how to mix paint, as well as how to start a power mower without a recoil starter. I remember watching Truth or Consequences on tv in the daytime (with Bob Barker, I think), plus Saturday morning watching Gene Autry, cartoons, Roy Rogers, Pinky Lee, Howdy Doody, Fury, and finishing up with Sky King. The Maryville Drive In screen faced our back yard, we could watch movies for free. It was about a half mile away, so you couldn't hear the sound though. We had a big garden, probably a 1/4 acre. We all weeded, picked, shelled, and canned. Mother canned with the other women out of obligation. I don't think she was really into it. I kept a journal and called it my "Log". Mother threw it away when we moved to Jacksonville. I was still unhappy about leaving Hawaii and I said some unkind things about her and Dad in my Log. I kept a Log later in Jacksonville and she threw that one away too.

Druid Hill had a lot going for it. The Milligan family lived two doors away and had horses we could ride any time. We tried riding a calf they had once, but the calf wasn't having it. Gary, who was my age, and I played together, and set the windbreak between Druid Hill and the next door neighbors, the McTiers, on fire. We had a chemistry lab in the woods, I don't remember what experiment we were conducting. I do remember waking up in the middle of the night to fire truck sirens. Mother and Dad told me what we had done the next day and told me to stay away from Mr. McTier. He was pretty mad. He had a daughter older than me named Jody who I thought was pretty. Gary had a younger sister, Allie, and she played with us too. George never liked horses much as he had a bad experience on a shetland pony in Hawaii one time.

I made a little "fort" out of scrap wood at the edge of the field in back. It was about 4' by 4'. Pop tore it down just before we moved. It kind of bummed me out. I would have liked to have done it myself. I also built a very cool tree house on the other side of the house. I have pictures. It was a platform about 4' by 6' best I can remember about 6 or 7 feet up. I fell out of it one day and Mother and Dad and maybe Pop and Erma came over and started laughing at me. It knocked the wind out of me and I wasn't injured, but it made me feel disrespected. I built the fort and the tree house out of scrap wood and used nails that I straightened. Pop and Dad taught me how to use a hammer and a hand saw. I was 8. I used to jump off the one story roof to the ground. I did more of this later on in life too. I have some damaged disks in my back that were probably caused by jumping off roofs. We had a mixed breed (part bulldog) dog I named Rebel. We used to play hard and I called it rumbling. There was a plum tree in the front yard facing the highway where every one would gather sometimes in the evening. The adults would have cocktails and conversation. I don't think Pop and Erma drank. Pop used to and it caused him problems, so he quit. George and I would play and catch fireflies and put them in jars. I also had a little butterfly collection. I feel bad now about killing butterflies to pin them to a sheet of cardboard. It seemed OK at the time. Rebel and I used to walk across the field behind our house, past the drive in, and up a hill with houses and a general store on it. We just wandered around seeing what we could see. I sold White Cloverine Salve and Christmas cards door to door to make a little money and earn prizes. I didn't like doing it much after a while. Some people were really nice and others weren't so nice.

I read a hundred or so books from the Eagleton Elementary School library, mostly biographies. I wrote generic book reports for them and my teacher was a little disappointed when I turned the reports in at the end of the year. We went on a field trip once on a bus to Cherokee, North Carolina. I bought a tomahawk and a drum, I think.

My cousins, Larry, Danny, Fred, and Jane took George and I snipe hunting in the garden and field behind the garage one night. When I found out the next day what it was all about, I threw such a tantrum, I wasn't allowed to go swimming at the community pool with everyone else. I never liked being lied to.

We had a garbage dump between the garage and the garden. All the trash went there, cans, glass, newspapers, garbage, everything. This was common then in the country. Pop would burn it off once in a while. I think he just put more trash on top and burned that too. It was a pretty good sized mound when we lived there. One day it really flared up, and everyone went out and helped to put the flames out. I think Pop had a garden hose and we all had shovels. I remember being excited by the sense of community in working together and let down when the fire was out and the feeling was gone.


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