Mr. Fixit and I decided to take a daytrip to explore a little of my history. The trip took us to Whitwell, Marion County, Tennessee where I lived for about a year and a half when I was five years old. Forty years ago when we were visiting my family in Kentucky, we took a trip to see the Whitwell area. I wasn’t driving during that trip so I had no clue now how to find the houses where we had lived. On this trip all we had to rely on my 60 year old memories to find the little community, Sulfur Springs Crossroads, where we lived. It wasn’t on the map.
I don’t know where my dad worked immediately after WW II. I know that he managed a small grocery store in Paducah, Kentucky, when I was three or four. At the time, TVA was building power generating plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I suppose that he wanted to make more money so he applied at TVA. He was hired and sent to the southeastern corner of Tennessee. I don’t know for sure the name of the plant in Tennessee, but I think it was probably Hale’s Bar Dam. We moved there the summer when I was 5.
The house we found to rent was very nice. It was furnished and had a nicely appointed kitchen with running water, a “cow patch” across the road, and a mountain in our backyard. There was no indoor bathroom or its own outhouse. We had to use the outhouse of the landlord’s house which was next door. Another drawback was the coal mine trucks and the lumber trucks that raced up and down the road.
Gary, my older brother, learned to milk cows and to trap mink and muskrat. I learned to trap minnows. I also discovered whittling. I traded my cap gun and holster for a pearl handled pocket knife and spent many hours sitting on the porch whittling blocks of wood and sticks down to nothing. We also learned to run into the house when the bobcat who lived on the mountain came to visit. I learned to walk on stilts that my dad made, and I learned to ride my bike. We played cowboys and Indians with the boys across the road and explored the woods. Dad checked us for ticks on a daily basis.
The school we attended had two classrooms which served six grades taught by two teachers. It also had an outhouse and the water was from a pump fed by a sulfur spring. The water was almost undrinkable. And the smell! Horrible!! Miss Wilma, my teacher, wasn’t great, but I learned to read and spell above my grade level. My math, however, was terrible. My dad took over teaching me to add and subtract.
We lived there until after Christmas. I remember the presents I received that year. We had to move when the landlord’s son was unexpectedly discharged from the army.
The house was no longer there when we looked for it on that trip 40 years ago; there was only an empty lot. I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Fixit and I couldn’t locate where the house had been. I remember details about the location, but I had no idea where to start looking.