Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Is it finally over?

Newbury Pond, Rugby, Tennessee

Is February finally over? How can the shortest month on the calendar be the longest month in the living? Spring is sure to be a bumpy ride, but we can trust in where it is going. That is never true with February, when the slightest anticipation is quickly dashed by wind and cold and clouds. Goodbye and good riddance, you will not be missed bleak month!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Visitor Center

Our new Morgan County Visitor Center in Wartburg is nearing completion, and I must say it is turning our to be very attractive. When it opens this coming month it will be a central point for tourist information on, among other things, the Obed Wild and Scenic River; Historic Rugby; Frozen Head State Park; and the Cumberland Trail State Park, a 300-mile-long strip from Cumberland Gap to Chattanooga. The Visitor Center will also house the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Morgan County Heritage Quilt Trail, hence the "Grist Mill" pattern quilt block on the gable.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Museum/restorations that interpret a specific time in history all seem to fall prey at times to a common pitfall. Over at Living in Williamsburg, Virginia Darryl and Ruth daily post photos of Colonial Williamsburg that frequently contain costumed interpreters. I always get a chuckle when seeing an authentically-reproduced colonial-era costume on someone wearing sneakers. Perhaps those are just their commuting shoes and they will change later, but the anachronism still gets a chuckle.

When looking through some old photos from Pleasant Hill Shaker Village I noticed something out of place on this young lady:
I enlarged the photo, and yep, there are wedding and engagement rings. You see, Shakers were, are, celibate. Married couples did join the church at one time, but they afterward lived as brother and sister rather than as a married couple. Children, if any, were taken into a children's order and raised away from their parents. This young interpreter apparently either forgot to take off her rings, or else that isn't a requirement at this museum. I'll have to ask next visit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Puppy Love

We stopped by our son's house a few days ago and got treated to some play time with their puppy.

Mac (short for McGruber) is a mostly Border Collie rescue who is now eight months old. Border Collies are working dogs, bred to high energy and intelligence, who demand exercise and attention. Things can get ugly fast if you fail to meet their needs.

A tennis ball or a frisbee will keep their attention until they drop from exhaustion, which usually doesn't happen until at least two throwers have been worn out.

Playing ball with Mac brought back memories of Scotty, the Border Collie we got when my son was four years old. Scotty was a grandson of the famous Wiston Cap whose sire had been imported from Britain by a local breeder. I asked my sons, then 4 and 8, to give him a Scottish name. "Let's call him Scotty." Thank you Star Trek!

Mac is a delightful dog. Now if my son and daughter-in-law don't flunk obedience training ......

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Oak Ridge Public Library

One of the amenities the army provided in the Townsite area was a public library. It, too, was a wood-frame, temporary structure and was later torn down. The Ed Wescott photo above documents a book-mobile service the library offered to neighborhoods during the war. Note the wooden sidewalks.

The library was moved to the new Civic Center complex in 1970, located in an area that had become known as "downtown" on the Oak Ridge Turnpike across from the high school.

The library occupies the building to the right, while the building to the left contains an indoor pool, gymnasium, and game and meeting rooms. The park-like campus includes a bandstand where summer concerts are held, with attendees bringing lawn chairs or sitting on blankets on the ground.

Central to the park-like campus is this fountain and free-form sculpture. I'm not sure anyone has ever defined what the sculpture represents, but to most folks it looks mighty like a whale. The building of the library introduced me, and I think many Oak Ridgers, to the architectural term "clerestory." You can just see in this photograph the line of windows above the lower roof line, which provide light and a sense of openness to the interior of the library.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chapel on the Hill

Just west of the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Townsite the army built one of three chapels in the new town. It was completed late in 1943 for use by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish congregations, all of whom participated in the dedication. Services were scheduled for different times among the users. According to reports, a Protestant minister at the dedication referred to "this chapel on the hill" and the name stuck.

One of the congregations worshiping in the chapel was a non-denominational group that had been organized before the first chapel was built in the town. Known as the United Church, the group bought the building in 1955 and continues to meet there. Our older son attended a nursery school operated by the United Church before starting public school.

The Chapel on the Hill remains one of the best-maintained Manhattan Project structures in Oak Ridge, despite having had heavy, continuous use for 68 years. Remember, these were built as temporary structures. Hats off to the United Church for their excellent preservation of this historic structure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Townsite - Oak Ridge

The photograph is a view of Oak Ridge, Tennessee's, main business district during the Manhattan Project taken by the army's official photographer, Ed Wescott. The buildings are all temporary, war-time structures designed to make life as nearly normal as possible for the 75,000 residents who lived and worked inside the fence at the super-secret facility. It had stores, a theater, barber and shoe shops, a grocery store, and a bank. In the background is the then headquarters office building that was known as "the Castle on the Hill."

The Townsite business district remains, now called Jackson Square. I tried to reproduce the photo at the top as nearly as I could, but apartment buildings now stand where Mr. Wescott stood and I had to shoot this photo from slightly lower on the hill. The theater in the corner remains, now housing the Oak Ridge Playhouse, which is currently doing Brighton Beach Memoirs. The department, drug and grocery stores are gone to the new centers of retail along the Oak Ridge Turnpike and S. Illinois Avenue. Much of the space has been converted to offices, although some specialty shops and eateries remain. In the background, the Castle has been replaced by a modern federal office building.

At the far eastern end of Jackson Square sits an Oak Ridge institution, Big Ed's Pizza. The business was started in 1970 by Ed Neusel, who died in 1998. It's now run by family members. Neusel may well have been the most beloved businessman in Oak Ridge history, for his many contributions to youth and families over the years. While the pizza itself has both ardent fans and detractors, Big Ed's has to be on the bucket list for anyone who would claim to have visited Oak Ridge. Passing it up would be a bit like visiting New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The cry of a deaf cat

I've written before that our Stevie is deaf. Yet when he's being petted he will issue cries, a sound unlike anything ever heard coming from a cat before. What is he trying to say? What is the emotion that's locked inside him?

I know his frustration; to have music in your soul and no means to bring it forward to share, to see the world as one great canvas with no means to hold it beyond that moment. So we take photographs and hope for the best, our own plaintive cry coming from a deaf cat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A cotton mill pt. 3

The Olympia Mill was the world's largest cotton mill under one roof when it opened in 1899. The building contains more than 334,000 sq. ft. on four floors and opened with more than 100,000 spindles and 2,250 looms. The two towers in front rise some 65 feet above the roof line while two towers at the rear rise to roof line only. The four towers contain stairs and rest rooms. The tops of the towers contained 15,000 gallon reservoirs to supply the building's sprinkler system. The mill operated from 1899 until 1996.

Today the mill contains 1, 3, and 4-bedroom apartments that rent for $800 to $2,600 (USD) per month. Along with the nearby Granby Mill, also converted to apartments, the complex offers an outdoor swimming pool, tennis and volley ball courts, indoor gym and fitness room. Located only a mile from the University of South Carolina campus, the complex is clearly set up to attract a young clientele.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A cotton mill pt. 2

Before the U.S. Civil War, the textile industry was located principally in New England. After the Civil War, reconstruction of the south and a desire to "bring the mills to the cotton" led to the development of a southern textile industry. That grow took place mainly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1899, D. A. Tompkins published Cotton Mill Commercial Features: A Textbook for the use of Textile Schools and Investors. His recommendations sound a lot like how coal camps were organized and run in Appalachia.

Mill owners were advised to locate their mills one to four miles outside cities, and to build houses to house their workers. The remoteness of the mills would allow the owners to increase income by operating stores to serve their employees' needs, keep operations away from the prying eyes of lawyers who might be inclined to sue over injuries, and being away from the temptations of an urban setting employees might tend to go to bed earlier and be more ready to work the following day. In short, the owners could maintain social and economic control over their workers. Further, being outside municipal jurisdictions the owners could escape paying property taxes and having governmental oversight.

The work week was from 6:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with an additional nine hours on Saturday. Yet wages were low, sixty percent below what was paid mill hands elsewhere. Children worked along with their parents to increase family income. South Carolina passed a law in 1903 that no child below the age of 10 could work in a mill. The age limit was raised to 11 in 1904 and to 12 in 1905. Part of the workers' pay was "in kind," gardens, housing, medical care, etc., which lowered the actual amount of cash the workers had to spend and limited their mobility further. Yet, unionization proceeded slowly. Many of the workers were better off than they had been before finding work at the mills and any attempt to strike was met with a lockout and eviction notices. Union membership did not become significant until the depression of the 1930s when production was reduced and a smaller workforce was forced to work harder to meet what production there was.

Starting in the 1930s the mill village ceased to be an asset for the mill owners and the house were sold cheaply. Some workers bought their homes; others continued to rent from new, speculator landlords. Eventually most mills closed as production moved to other countries and technology replaced many of the workers needed to operate a mill.

The mill village houses in the photo at top appear to be duplexes, although I read that they could be either a duplex or easily made into a single-family dwelling. We were struck by the fact they are what's called a "salt-box" design, which we associate with New England. Perhaps that design came south with the engineers who built the southern textile mills.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A cotton mill

We've passed this interesting textile mill in Columbia, South Carolina, several times. Known as Olympia Mills, it has now been converted to apartments with a target market of students from the University of South Carolina. Never having lived in the deep south, I know virtually nothing about the textile industry, but I did find a most interesting report prepared to support the possible inclusion of this mill and its mill village on the National Register of Historic Places.

Blogger Jennyfreckles frequently posts about the Salt Mill in Yorkshire and the model village Sir Titus Salt built to house and provide for the workers there. Since it was a model village, I assume it may not have been typical for British textile mills at the time. It certainly doesn't seem to fit the mold for textile mills in the southern US portrayed in this report. I'll address that tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sun Porch

This sun porch is on the front of The Lindens, built in 1880 as a residence for Nathan Tucker and his wife and named for the two European linden trees that still shade the front yard. Tucker was the first manager of the Rugby Commissary, originally a cooperative general store and now the museum store. Mrs. Tucker grew flowers on this porch which she used to decorate the altar in Christ Church. Now it's a warm spot to sit on a cool day, especially pleasant with the new crop of snowdrops and daffodils blooming just outside.

Monday, February 13, 2012


 We get our power from TVA
Our time zone is EST
Non-English speakers take classes in ESL
Who offers a class in TLAs?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Claiming Kin

These two ladies are double third cousins and they met strictly by chance. Conversation led to discovery of common ancestors and the working out of their genetic relationship.

So what? In earlier times when transportation was lacking and communities were often isolated, young men sought wives five miles from home. Soon everyone in an area was related and it was important to know just what those relationships were from a genetic standpoint. We did wish to avoid the consequences of being "inbred hillbillies." While that's no longer an issue, the habit was well-formed and genealogy has become a hobby for many.

So just what do terms such as "double third cousins" or "second cousins once removed" actually mean? Here's a primer that will help explain:

When counting cousins, the number of generations between the people of concern and their nearest common ancestor is the degree of relationship. For example, the children of siblings are first cousins because there is only one generation (their parents) between them and the nearest common ancestors (their grandparents). Likewise, the children of first cousins are second cousins because there are now two generations between them and the nearest common ancestors (their great grandparents). The two ladies above are double third cousins because there are three generations between them and common great-great grandparents in two family lines. You see, their respective great grandfathers were brothers who took wives that were sisters, giving them two sets of shared great-great grandparents.

The expression once removed adjusts for differences in the number of generations between the two people of concern and their nearest common ancestors. For example, the relationship between one sibling's child and another sibling's grandchild would be first cousins once removed. The degree of relationship is always the smaller of the number of generations being considered. Thus, it would be possible to speak of first cousins thrice removed, although the utility of it might be questioned.

It's really all quite simple. Just write the genealogies down side-by-side and count the intervening generations. And as for our two ladies, although they share 4 great-great grandparents, there are another 12 great-great grandparents between them that are not shared.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shaker settings - clothing storage

Living in large communal settings, Shakers had need for large areas for storage of clothing. They also had a need to keep housekeeping to the minimum. One result was built-in storage. The above sits in the top-floor hallway of the Center or Church Family dwelling at Pleasant Hill. Since it was away from living space, I'm assuming it was used primarily for out-of-season clothing.

On other floors, in what might be used as "retiring rooms," were built in storage. This one is found in the Church Family dwelling at South Union village in Kentucky. It has both drawers where clothing might have been folded and put away, and cupboards where clothing might have been hung.

Another room at South Union has a similar built-in, with the addition of a cubbyhole where a chamber pot is stored. Note that the room has both a fireplace and a free-standing stove. At some point after the building was completed, they gave up the fireplace for the more efficient stove.

We've put a similar built-in in our master bedroom. There is a shallow closet on the left side, with a stack of drawers on the right. A blanket cupboard is located above the drawers, and a walk-in closet sits behind it, beyond the small washstand.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stevie the Wonder Cat

It began with a morning phone call. It was our younger son, then a junior veterinarian in a practice in another county. This son would always build slowly into a topic before making his wishes known. Today was different; the words rushed out. "Dad, someone brought a kitten into the clinic today to be euthanized. He's way too cute to kill, will you take him?" This was important!

Knowing full well where we were going to end up, I still had to ask the questions. "Why was he brought in to be euthanized?" "He was born to a mother with feline distemper and he's brain damaged." "What does that mean, how can you tell?" "Do you know that singer called Stevie Wonder? You know how he keeps moving his head around? This kitten does that." "Oh, does he use a litterbox?" "Yes, and when he's asleep he looks normal!" "OK, but his name is going to be Stevie Wonder."

While the head motions have subsided over the years, he still cocks his head to one side when he looks at you. This, and other clues, makes us think that his vision is impaired, although he definitely isn't blind. The rapid head motions now occur mainly when he is faced with a decision, such as to go through the door that has just been opened or stay where he is. And it takes him longer to make a decision than it does the other cats.

Our first clue that he was deaf came when he climbed onto the canister vacuum for a ride while it was in use. The other cats hide out upstairs at such times. In addition, he lacks a cat's sense of balance. The first time my wife attempted to set him down when he was a kitten, he fell on his head. Even today he doesn't like to be picked up.

But living with two other cats, he's learned a lot. We call it cat classes. He's learned to get up onto the bathroom sink and get back down, using the commode lid as an intermediate step. He finally mastered drinking from the faucet, but is still trying to figure out the trick of letting the small stream of water wet the foreleg and lapping the water from the fur. But he'll get it in time. He has learned to climb onto the seat of rockers, where he likes to do racing dives to the floor. He has developed a game, which is based on Newton's Third Law of Motion, where he repeatedly climbs onto a chair and does a racing dive. The chair, of course, moves backward, usually hitting a wall with the force of a 12-pound cat. We remove the two Shaker rockers from the bedroom every night!

Although long since fully grown, he's still a kitten and does kitten things. The other two cats have learned to tolerate it, but only for so long. When they tire of his stalking and attacks, they'll jump onto a piece of furniture where he can't follow. Then comes the game of "treed." He fully thinks he has them trapped and they're usually happy to indulge him. Molly Maguire will even make helpless sounds to indicate duress, not understanding he can't hear any of it. She will eventually tire of the game, jump over him, and race out of reach.

He has developed so much over the past six years that we no longer call him Stevie Wonder. He's now Stevie the Wonder Cat. And he's definitely too cute to have been euthanized.

Are you quite through now?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shaker Settings - Separation of the Sexes

While Shakers were celibate, they also lived communally in large dwellings where men lived on one side and women on the other. Dwellings usually had two doors in front; one for men and one for women.

Once inside, a central hallway led to stairs on either side; one for men and the other for women.

We are neither celibate nor do we live communally, but there was one area where we thought separation of the sexes made sense when we built our current home. We built his and her bathrooms off the master bedroom. Hers has a tub with hand shower; mine has a shower stall. Otherwise they're mirror images of each other. We've discovered advantages of the arrangement we didn't even imagine when we decided to built that way.

One comment on the secretary desk sitting between the bathroom doors. It's neither an antique nor a reproduction. Rather, it's an adaptation of Shaker design. It's based on a Shaker sisters' sewing desk, which I don't own a photograph of. In addition to the three drawers on the left front, there are three large drawers on the right end. These latter drawers are accessible when the writing surface is in use without the inconvenience of lifting the writing surface or bending under the writing surface. It also is similar in size to the sewing desks, which makes it usable in modern homes.

There are Shaker secretary desks in existence. Like the one above, they're really too large to use in a modern home. This one had room for two to work at, probably an elder and an eldress who shared responsibility for managing a communal family's business. In addition to size, they are relatively rare and, thus, would be very expensive.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Snake Handlers

Snake-handling churches are one of those stereotypical views of Appalachia held by many outsiders. They exist, but most people who have lived their lives in Appalachia have never seen one, much less have visited one. They are rare, and seem to live most abundantly in novels, films, and the like. They are based on a text from the book of Mark in the Bible:

And these signs will accompany those who believe:
by using my name they will cast out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up snakes in their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing,
it will not hurt them
(Mark 16: 17-18)

The practice began in the 1920s, primarily in Appalachian coal camps. Coal camps at that time were difficult places to be. Shifts were long, typically 12 hours, and the workers were poorly paid. Boys as young as 10 or 12 would join their fathers in the mines to help make ends meet. Workers were kept in line by living in company-owned houses and being paid in script. The script could be used to buy the miners' supplies, food, and clothing at the company store, which sold goods at inflated prices. If nearby businesses accepted script at all, it was heavily discounted. Workers who protested could be fired and immediately evicted from their homes. Families faced the same fate if the miner husband/father was killed or maimed in a mine accident. Salvation to a better eternal life was important, and if "taking up the serpent" was needed to demonstrate one's faith, then so be it.

The best treatment of snake handling in churches that I've seen was Dennis Covington's 1995 non-fiction best-seller, Salvation on Sand Mountain. Covington was a reporter for a Birmingham newspaper when he heard of an attempted-murder trial to be held in Scottsboro, Alabama. A pentecostal preacher from rural Sand Mountain was accused of trying to kill his wife by forcing her to put her hand into a cage filled with rattlesnakes. She was bitten several times, but managed to make it to the road and flag down a passing car. Covington wrote of the trial and his followup visits with snake handlers in several states. The book is still available and I highly recommend it.

This video gives a light view of the practice. Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters were a gospel music group. Bagwell told stories between numbers and this one became a hit on radio in the early '70s. I still have a 45 rpm recording of it. Enjoy!