From the Publisher’s Desk – Sept. 11 issue dedicated to all first responders

By Lisa Whaley

I will never forget where I was on Sept. 11, 2001.

My children were small. Ginny had just started kindergarten that year. I had dropped 1-year-old Mary off at her grandmother’s so I could pick up a little extra work with some clerking duties at the Johnson City Press.

I was sitting in what was once referred to as the sports department to do my work. Most of the sportswriters had yet to come in and all was quiet.

On the wall above the desks was a television that ran all day so we could stay up to date on national news. I would type, and glance up, then type and glance up again. I don’t remember if I saw the moment of the first plane flying into the Twin Towers. I remember seeing the replay and sharing the nation’s belief that something had happened to the pilot or plane to cause this horrible accident.

Then I saw the second plane fly into the building.

In that split second, everything changed. In that second, not only were steel and glass shattered, but so too was the belief that United States soil was somehow immune to world conflict.

True, we had weathered Pearl Harbor, but that had been decades and oceans away from our mainland. We had fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but no one had ever dropped a bomb on New York or Washington, D.C.

As I drove back home later that afternoon, I wondered if war had finally come to America.

Yet as I look back, I can see that from that dark moment, and from those ashes, there arose such a tribute to freedom that, for years to come, we all stood a little taller as Americans.

In those moments, race, religion and political affiliation truly ceased to matter. We were joined together in something bigger than ourselves.

Nowhere was that sentiment more clearly illustrated than at the sites of those terrorist-implemented atrocities — the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon Building in Washington and that lone field in rural Pennsylvania.

At each location, brave men and women rose up — to provide comfort, save lives and avert disaster. They did it quickly. They did it selflessly. They did it for their brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends and even strangers.

They showed each of us who we want to be when we say “I am an American.” They showed us what we, as Americans, do best when we are in real danger. We unite.

Today, The Erwin Record has the privilege of publishing on the anniversary of 9-11 and in doing so would like to dedicate this to all first responders who, like those brave souls on 9-11, continue protect the lives of those around them.

And we thank them for reminding us, again and again, what it means to be a true American — different yes, but united always.

May we never, ever forget the sacrifices that continue to teach us this lesson.

Hood’s Winks – Trestle, train and young boys

By Ralph Hood

I recently was reminded of the 1950s and the Altamaha River where we Boy Scouts camped, hunted, fished, and disobeyed our scoutmasters by crossing the river on the nearby railroad trestle. My mind leaped back almost 70 years to the dark night I was certain that my death on that trestle was imminent.

Crossing the trestle at night was a rite of passage. We took the new boys across the trestle and enjoyed evil pleasure in scaring them horribly.

We discussed what we would do if a train came while we were in midtrestle. We knew it was too high to jump from trestle to river. We all had theories, the most prevalent being that there was room to lie on the side of the track, outside the rails, without being hurt. We had all tried it—when there was no train coming—and believed that it would work. We knew it would take courage to lie there without moving, but we also knew that we, of course, had that courage.

Walking the trestle at night had its problems. If you used a flashlight it was easy to get confused between the tops of cross ties and the gaps between. It was almost like being hypnotized.

In the depths of this misconception, you actually had to feel with your feet to be sure which was which. (It was widely believed by those who had not tried it, that this optical illusion could be avoided by walking in the dark without the flashlight, but we didn’t believe a word of it.)

On the night of my near death, we had walked all the way across the trestle and were midpoint in our return. I felt helplessly for each step. At that point someone shouted, “Look!”

I looked.

There was a train in front of us, not yet on the trestle but headed our way! You could see the headlight coming round the bend.

Sadly, I must admit that the emergency plan never entered my mind. I never considered it. I—who had heretofore been unable to walk at more than a slow creep because of my optical confusion—then ran full tilt across those ties trying desperately to reach the end of the trestle before the train did. In absolute full panic I dashed toward that train at full gallop, oblivious of gaps between ties and of darkness itself.

I made it. I dove from the end of the trestle into gravel and dirt, rolled a few times, then arose scratched and bruised but alive by the very skin of my teeth.

Immediately I realized something was amiss. Where was the train, the screaming whistle, the roar of the locomotive?

There was nothing. It wasn’t a train after all, but only a one-eyed car on the road beside the train track.

I was much abashed.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Fall calendar beginning to fill up

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

We are four weeks into our school year. Last week our school’s safety awareness week was held. We had some excellent training, both our fairly regular fire, evacuation drills, and shelter-in-place drills, but also active intruder and shooter drills.

These yearly drills are made to make both the students, the faculty, and maybe most importantly, the first responders a little better in what we do. They also help highlight issues and procedures where we can do better.

Earlier this year I was invited to give a speech to the yearly Tennessee Lifesavers Conference that’s getting started today at a convention center in Murfreesboro. My lecture will highlight our efforts at our high school in utilizing and implementing the Reduce Tennessee Crashes program. These programs have allowed me using various activities made available through their traffic safety portal online to promote and inform on a range of teen driver safety issues.

We also recently held our first SADD club meeting of the school year. We have a great group of students who are willing and able to be positive peer role models in our school and community. We also signed up a few new freshmen for the club, which is great since we need new and excited members to fill in for the seniors when they graduate. We have several important events lined up this fall school season. Starting on Sept. 10, which is World Suicide Prevention Day, and in October, we will kick off the national Teen Driver Safety Week.

Another exciting project we have in the pipeline for this fall is a SADD club sponsored giveaway. Close to 20 indoor felt slippers were donated to the club by a business owner from Norway. These thick warm slippers were hand made by craftsmen in Mongolia using merino wool and genuine leather. They are made based on Norwegian design and Scandinavian wool traditions. Our goal is to give these away with warm socks and other fall and winter necessities to a few of our elderly, especially those living by themselves.

Until next time, be safe, have fun, and if you know of someone in need, try to help.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Thank you – to the teachers who make a difference

By Lisa Whaley

There is a feeling in the air: that crisp, fragrant reminder that fall is right around the corner. School buses have hit the road again and, if you listen carefully, you can now hear the happy chatter of children early each morning as they prepare for another day at school.

It always makes me a little nostalgic each year, and a little regretful, that fall school days have long passed me by.

Though I was happy each summer, I loved school as a child and was more than delighted in September when it was time to buy pencils, notebooks, crayons and lunch boxes and set back about the task of learning.

I relished the discovery of new ideas, the exploration of new worlds and then, the chance to read, read and read some more

But this year, rather than the classes, the subjects or even the books I loved, I have been thinking a lot about my teachers.

I remember Mrs. Welch, a teacher with a sweet smile and a special way of making a little third grade student feel warm and welcomed.

I remember Mrs. Barnes, a strict and intimidating instructor who was in charge of a classroom of rambunctious fourth graders

For years, I thought I didn’t like Mrs. Barnes. She had short dark hair, cat-eye glasses and a stern, no-nonsense look. She gave me my first low-grade – “NS” for needs improvement in penmanship. Sadly, I still fall short in that skill.

But she was also the teacher that would patiently read to us such classics as “The Wind in the Willows,” “The Secret Garden” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Now, rather than recalling her with dislike, Mrs. Barnes makes me smile – and I lay at her feet my ongoing love of everything from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

There was also gentle, kind Mr. Peterson.

Mr. Peterson taught science and math. He was an older teacher, one of those that was sometimes mocked by the “cooler” kids. But as Mr. Peterson was teaching me algebra, chemistry and trigonometry, he was also teaching me to believe in myself.

“She’s Stanford material,” he would tell my mom.

I truly believe I have Mr. Peterson to thank for some of the confidence I needed to leave my small, small town and succeed somewhere beyond its quiet streets.

And then there was Mrs. Towery. Mrs. Towery was my English teacher, as well as my German teacher. She was smart, funny and uniquely herself. She introduced me to the art of choosing the best words to paint the most vibrant picture. Like Mr. Peterson, she helped me to feel smart and self-assured. She gifted me with so many skills I needed to succeed.

Teaching is not an easy job. It takes lots of hard work. It takes time. And it can take money, if you want to do it well.

Still, the best teachers, I have found, give even more than that. They give of themselves.

Often under-appreciated. Occasionally mocked and ridiculed. They just keep giving because they believe they can make a difference in their students’ lives.

And they do.

This fall, while I am busy reminiscing, I want to pause and say thank you – to all the Mrs. Towerys, Mr. Petersons and Mrs. Barnes out there.

It may at times seem like a thankless profession. But you are making a difference. You are changing lives.

And I promise you, your students will remember you well.

A Refreshing Knapp – Newfoundland revisited

By Ray Knapp

Wheeling overhead, seagulls shrieked angrily, trying to rouse the sleeping Puffins to fetch their breakfast. The cold, restless waves of the north Atlantic beat against the base of the stark, craggy bluffs of Gull Island, just off the coast of Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland.

The small island is separated from the Cape by a narrow, precipitous channel. These bluffs make safe roosting and nesting places for up to an estimated 260 thousand pairs of Atlantic puffins during summer. My son, Mark, and daughter, Kim, outfitted in coats to ward off the cold, were snapping pictures and shooting scenes early this month.

The tour guide lustily sang the Newfoundland “Bow Wow” song in an effort to keep the 50 or so tourist interested in the scenery as he interspersed the song with bits of history about the cape where John Cabot first discovered Newfoundland in 1497. This kept most of the tourist from noticing the few at the rail who were having trouble keeping breakfast down as the tour boat jostled through the rough water.

For amateur photographers I thought they did a good job. The still pictures and film showed thousands of puffins. Not kin, just standing 10 inches high, but looking remarkably like miniature penguins; they don’t waddle to the sea and hop in. Instead, they fly from their perch. Spotting a school of herring or capelin, they dive head first at an amazing speed and return to their brood with a mouth full of tiny fish. Some fall from their beak and the ever-present gulls pounce, squabbling to be first to the dropped fish.

In 1959, I received orders out of Ice Observer School in D.C., to report to the Navy Base in Argentia, Newfoundland. Prior to leaving the states, all sailors received a briefing on what to expect at their overseas duty station. One of the things we laughed at – sailors married more Newfoundland girls, than girls from any other overseas station. Guess what? I not only married, but two of my children were born there. In 1963, I was transferred early to NAS Memphis, Tennessee, or my third child, Kim, would also have been born there. Back in the states, someone informed us about birth control and it was five years before our fourth child arrived.

Determined to be the best navy weather forecaster possible, I asked, and received orders out of Memphis to the Navy’s forecasting school in 1965. From that school in Lakehurst, New Jersey, I received orders straight to a ship out of Norfolk.

I hadn’t been on that ship a year until I was transferred to yet another ship, the USS America, CVA 66. It was due for deployment the day before my youngest daughter, Cindy, was born. Luckily, I wrangled emergency leave to care for my wife, who was having a caesarean delivery, and of course to care of my other three children.

When leave was up, I flew into Naples and caught up with the Carrier. Nine months seems like an eternity sailing around the Mediterranean. This cruise was even longer, thanks to the six-day war between Israel and the United Arab Republic (Egypt.) It turned into an 11-month cruise.

My baby daughter was just short of a year old when we pulled back into Norfolk. I was expecting some cushy stateside duty when I got a call from the personnel office. A personnel chief tossed me my new orders. I was a little crestfallen when I read, Report to Naval Weather Center, Argentia, Newfoundland, for duty.

Those orders are why Mark and Kim were there this summer. By the time we left Argentia for my duty station in Atlanta, they were old enough to visit cousins, aunts, and uncles in Grand Bank and Grand Beach.

However, 50 years just melted away, so Mark said, and they were welcomed back as if they had never left the island.

Pictures of the once busy and important navy base showed a deserted aircraft runway, buildings falling in, excepting the control tower where I worked, and once showed Bob Hope the Latrine’s location.

“Thanks kids, for the memories.”

Officer Norway’s Corner – Recalling fall memories of Norway

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

It might be a tad early to talk about fall, especially with 90-plus degree weather outside. But in the area where I grew up in Northern Norway, the signs for early fall are underway. Summers that far north can sometimes be a “hit and miss” kind of deal.

Most of Northern Europe experienced a pretty decent heatwave earlier this summer. But all that warm weather did not reach much above the Arctic Circle. That far north, the temperature was hovering in the 50s to the high 60s with just a handful of days touching on the 90s.

Fall used to be a special time growing up. Fall was harvest time, and we used as a family to go out picking blueberries, lingonberries, and cloudberries. To pick the latter one, we usually had to walk for an hour or two out into the marshlands where these berries would grow. Cloudberries are very juicy, and they taste a bit like a cross between a raspberry and red currant. We would typically use them for various dessert dishes and in cake fillings, and some would make jam out of them and have them on toast.

On the coast of Northern Norway, because of the harsh winters (in particular), there are no forests to speak of, mostly smaller bushes and just up from the shoreline, moss, and grass covers the landscape. One would think that those vibrant fall colors we usually experience in our area would be absent that far north. The moss has vibrant fall colors, like yellow, red, green and burgundy, turning much of the landscape into a tapestry of colors.

Fall was also the slaughter season. We would often buy fresh reindeer meat directly from the Lapplanders up in the mountains. Sometimes they would close the deal offering some fresh reindeer blood to drink, and talking about blood. I remember my mother used to purchase pigs blood. The blood would be used to make blood pudding and blood pancakes. It might sound a little gross, but they are actually pretty good, especially the pancakes, which my mom used to make with raisins, bacon bits and drizzle a little honey on top.

Like I mentioned in a previous column, fall is my favorite time of the year. Football season is kicking into gear. Soon we truly can enjoy sitting outside into the evening around a bonfire, taking in that crisp cooler fall air, sipping on a pumpkin-flavored fall drink, maybe roasting some marshmallows, with family and friends.

Until next time, have fun, be safe, and make your very own plans for the fall.

Adam’s Apples – An honest man

By James Mack Adams

I am thankful my public school years provided me with what some have called a classical education. Part of that education included Greek and Roman literature and mythology. I have also benefited from the study of Latin. All of these have been assets in any writing I have done since.

During those public school years, I was introduced to the Greek philosopher, Diogenes. Living in the fifth century BC, he was a practitioner of what was called cynic philosophy. Diogenes was known to indulge in some strange behavior in promoting his beliefs. One of his most well-known acts was carrying a lighted lantern, even during the day, and holding it up to the faces of random strangers. He said he was looking for an honest man. I don’t remember if he ever found one. Being a cynic, he probably was not expecting to find one. 

This leads into the theme of this column. If I were asked to name the most honest person I have ever known, it would have to be my grandfather. It is too bad Diogenes could not have run across Joseph Preston (J.P.) Adams. He could have then extinguished his lantern and stopped looking.

My grandfather considered service to Wise County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be a calling. Other than for a short time as a mine superintendent, J.P. was employed in some local or state government position.

My earliest knowledge of my grandfather, or ‘Big Daddy’ as we grandchildren called him, was the 1930s. During that decade, J.P. served as sheriff of Wise County, Virginia. He was at times referred to as the ‘High Sheriff.’ That was a title, common in early England, that made it into the vocabulary of our Appalachian region during the early settler migrations from Britain.

It seemed to me, as a youngster, that Sheriff Adams and his deputies spent much of their time locating and destroying moonshine stills. Moonshining was a big industry in those parts during that era. Prohibition ended in 1933. However, it was still illegal to make and sell unlicensed and untaxed alcoholic beverages. 

I always knew when my grandfather was getting ready to go into the hills to search for and destroy a still. He would sit in a chair while buckling his leather leggings. I have a photo of him and his deputies standing beside a still. He is wearing the leggings. I have another photo of J.P. and his deputies dressed in suits and hats and posed beside an old car. That photo reminds me of Eliot Ness and his men.

Later in his government service, my grandfather became an inspector for the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Part of my grandfather’s job was investigating and approving the issuance and renewal of licenses for businesses to sell beer and wine. He became famous for his very tough and thorough inspections.

J.P. was given a state-owned car to travel his extensive Southwest Virginia territory. No one drove or rode in that car but my grandfather. The state car never, and I mean never, left the driveway except on state business.

My grandfather worked out of his home on the west side of Norton. I remember the large roll-top desk with all the cubbyholes and the squeaky wood desk chair. Sundays were the days grandfather worked on the reports that he either sent or took to Richmond. When my cousins and I were at his house on Sundays, we knew to be quiet because Big Daddy was working in his home office.

Joseph Preston Adams was an avid Democrat. Hanging above the fireplace in his living room was a large framed portrait of President Woodrow Wilson. When election time came, grandfather made sure all of his children and voting-age grandchildren were properly registered to vote.

In appearance, Joseph Preston Adams had a striking physical resemblance to President Harry S. Truman. President Truman had a sign on his White House desk that read, ‘The Buck Stops Here.’ The same sign would have been appropriate sitting on my grandfather’s large roll-top desk in Norton, Virginia.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Saying good-bye to the Capitol

By Lisa Whaley

I had a plan.

As soon as I found a free evening, I was going to head to the Capitol Theater on Main Street, purchase popcorn and settle in for the perfect old-time movie theater experience.

Then I was going to write a column about it and share it with you, our readers.

But alas, it was not to be. Before I had a chance to buy that ticket, owners announced the theater had closed for repairs. I was going to have to wait.

I counted the days, the weeks and then the months.

Then, last week, owners had another announcement. The Capitol Theater, currently known as Capitol Cinema I and II, would not be reopening at all.

“The roof support was compromised in December 2018 during the heavy snowfall we had,” explained owner Jan Bradley, granddaughter of original owner Earle Hendren.

The cost to repair was too prohibitive, so the hard decision was made to make the temporary closure permanent.

I could have cried. Of course, my loss was one of “what could have been,” but it was a loss just the same.

Erwin was unique in that, unlike so many other small towns in America, it had until recently been able to retain its downtown movie theater and all the nostalgia that such a theater evoked.

Opened in 1940, the site became the gathering place for Friday night dates and Saturday afternoon matinees. Throughout the years, it also became a symbol of one part of the good old days we actually got to carry with us into the present.

I’m sure we could fill each and every page of The Erwin Record for weeks to come with all the stories out there about first dates, spilled sodas and popcorn, magical movie experiences and occasional mischief-making.

For me, I think part of the appeal of the Capitol was that it brought to mind the stories my dad shared about growing up in Walla Walla, Washington, a town not unlike Erwin in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Afternoons, he said, when not riding around town on his bicycle, were either spent at the Capitol Theater or the Liberty Theater downtown.

At the Liberty, you might find “Gone with the Wind” or “Citizen Kane,” he told me.

The Capitol Theater, on the other hand, was famous for its westerns like “Way Out West,” or “The Big Stampede.”

My dad preferred the Capitol. He couldn’t have imagined his childhood without it.

Erwin’s Capitol Theater’s contributions to both young and old have been every bit as rich. It was a business, true, but it was also the gift the Hendren family and its descendants brought to the town.

The Capitol Theater in Walla Walla was torn down long ago. The Liberty Theater has been renovated and now houses a Macy’s.

It is my hope that someone, somewhere sees the value in this old downtown theater, takes up its cause and continues its legacy.

I have yet to give up on my dream of an old-time movie theater experience in downtown Erwin.

Hood’s Winks – I have seen the other side!

By Ralph Hood

I have been to the mountaintop and seen the other side!

I have been an aviation writer since 1986. As such, I was well aware that there is a shortage of pilots and aviation mechanics. I figured I was an expert on the subject.

Then I went to a meeting last week and found out the shortage of aviation professionals is far more amazing than I thought.

A little history…

When I first met Richard Blevins, he was head of training at the Bell Helicopter plant in Piney Flats. He is now head of the aviation department at Northeast State Community College. He is a fine man.

Blevins held a meeting last week on the demand for aviation professionals.

Y’all, I had no idea!

Blevins showed us facts and figures about the opportunities for careers in aviation. He spoke in terms of thousands of jobs available—even hundreds of thousands.

Blevins also pointed out that the southern United States are leaders in aviation employers. Our young people won’t have to move far to get a job—a good job—in aviation.

On the other hand, Blevins explained that China is trying to lure pilots from all over the world by offering them over $300,000 per year. Yes, I really did say hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—plus benefits! They are also luring aviation technicians/mechanics for big bucks.

Blevins gave us the figures and the source of the figures. The numbers are flat-out amazing. The shortage may not last forever, but it will last for decades.

If you know a young person hunting a good career, tell him/her about aviation.

Now, just for the fun of it, let me tell you a little story about Richard Blevins…

When Blevins was in charge of training at Bell Helicopter, he showed me a brand-new helicopter. The price of that beautiful helicopter was, of course, way, way out of my range. I told Blevins that if I ever won the megabucks lottery, I’d love to buy one of those helicopters.

Mr. Blevins responded, “If I ever win that lottery, I want to use it to help young people get a good education.”

I wish we had more people like Richard Blevins.

Please send comments to

Officer Norway’s Corner – Getting ready for a new school year

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

It’s hard to believe that we are just a few short days away from starting yet another school year. When the last day of school arrives, it seems like there’s “an ocean of time” until school is back in session, but at least for me, it’s more like a “flash in the pan,” and the summer is slowly coming to an end.

My summers are a combination of work, training, and a little vacation. One of my highlights of the summer was meeting the former principal of Columbine High School, “Mr. De” himself, Frank DeAngelis during the SRO conference in Pigeon Forge. He had a compelling and moving presentation about that tragic day 20 years ago and his road forward from there.

Our SADD club also had a great year. The big highlight for our club was to win a national video contest about the dangers of driving distracted. Also, last school year our high school, for the second year in a row, was awarded the gold award from the Tennessee Highway Safety’s Office. This previous school year, we also were on top of their leaderboard of all the 208 registered high schools in Tennessee.

But that was all last year. This year we once again start with a blank slate ready to focus on teen driver safety, a renewed focus on all the SADD USA activities – ranging from traffic safety, substance abuse, teen mental health and more. We will also have a renewed focus on a reasonably new trend among teens, vaping. According to the Federal Drug Administration, the number of U.S. high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018 to 3.05 million, or 20.8 percent. Vaping is a growing problem, and with the help of our SADD club and Christy Smith with the Unicoi Prevention Coalition, we will focus much more on this in the years to come.

I am genuinely looking forward to all these challenges and being able to work with our students, administrators, faculty, and staff. Parents, caregivers, and fellow law enforcement professionals are an essential part of this team effort to make our high school a safe place for all to be. Our first game for our beloved Blue Devils football team is Aug. 23, and with that also is the kickoff for the fall season. I hope both will be great and last a long time.

Until next time, be safe, have fun, and go Blue Devils!

Hood’s Winks – Life changers

By Ralph Hood

I am fascinated by history that changed our lives.

I remember when Gail and I first bought a fax machine. Overnight, it changed our business-to-business communications. Instead of sending messages by mail—and waiting, waiting, waiting for the responses—we sent faxes. The fax was instant, and we loved it.

Then came our first computer. With the computer we had email, and the fax died away quickly.

Credit cards changed things. When I was a kid, it seemed that the only card was the Diners Club card, first issued in 1950 and used—we heard—only by wealthy people. We, of course, didn’t qualify.

After that, credit cards spawned like rabbits. When I first started traveling constantly, I took at least $200 in cash. Credit cards changed that. Cards paid for hotels, rental cars, airline tickets, and meals. The card company printed out a record of exactly when, where, and to whom I had paid with a card.

Life was good, and then it got better…

The ATM at every bank changed our lives greatly. I got signed up ASAP and it was wonderful. As long as I had money in my bank account back home, I could get money out of ATMs all over the country. Cash in my wallet was almost unnecessary.

Funny thing about ATMs—people who didn’t travel didn’t use ATMs much. I remember one day in Louisville, Kentucky, when a businessman offered to take me to lunch. I stopped on the sidewalk as we walked by a bank and got a $100 from the ATM. The businessman was shocked beyond belief. He signed up at his bank the next day.

When I first started traveling, I had to use payphones. Every airport had a line of pay phones reaching from hither to yon, and I think I must have used most of them over the years.

Then cell phones came along and changed my life. I could call and talk as I walked through the airport or sat drinking coffee. Amazing!

Satellites changed our lives, too. I was but 16 when the first satellite was launched and orbited the earth at altitudes not even dreamed of at the time. It was called Sputnik, and it was Russian. The so called cold war with Russia was going strong and we—who could create wonders—had been outdone by the Russkies.

Today, satellites flit around the earth in numbers you and I can’t even imagine. They improve our communications and lower our costs. They are wonderful, and we don’t even know when we are using them.

As someone once said, life is wonderful!

Officer Norway’s Corner – Recalling memories of summers past

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

As one grows older, especially for those who grew up without the internet, social media, 200 TV channels, smartphones, and cars with built-in WiFi. I often think back to those carefree days of years gone by, and at times longing for those years again. Summers in the little fishing village where I grew up was just that, carefree.

My dad, who operated his own carpentry business in the basement of our home, always kept busy, and summers were no exceptions. He would make custom staircases, servicing many of the carpentry needs for the fishing fleet, even building dollhouses and wooden toys. He would also donate bags of sawdust to the circus who always came to town during the summer, and we would receive a few tickets to the show in return.

We had a red VW Beetle in the early 70s, which we used on several vacation trips, mainly to northern Finland and Sweden. The drive to reach Finland was less than three hours. I remember it felt a little “exotic” crossing the border and start seeing signs and names of another country.

On the northern coast of Norway, there are not much of any forests to speak of, but that genuinely changed as you drive into northern Finland. Miles and miles of roads winding its way through pine forests. After a day of driving, we would find a campground, usually located next to one of the many lakes. If it rained, we would rent a cabin, if not, we would set up our tent, fold-out our camping chairs and a table. My dad would get some coffee going, maybe he would add a drop or two of homemade shine to it. We would sit outside talking, often until the early hours of the next day, and go to bed while the midnight sun still was shining.

Those were indeed days to cherish and remember, days that later in life became beautiful anchors of memories of a not so distant past in years, but lightyears from where we are now. Today we are always connected, always in the now, workwise and with friends. Vacations, concerts, even weddings have, in some ways, been turned into quick posts on social media. I am guilty of this, too, but with my childhood and early adulthood in mind, I am also aware of what truly matters in the long run. What indeed forges long and rewarding relationships, be it with friends or a significant other. Thankfully social media has not yet been able to cross that bridge, the human, face-to-face connection.

Until next time, be safe, have fun and don’t lose that human connection.

A Refreshing Knapp – What difference will it make?

By Ray Knapp

You may recall last month’s column when I was telling about the three old books Nathan Hashe had loaned me. I wrote mainly about the one for use by teachers from kindergarten through high school. But the book that held my attention the most was the one about a foot thick with the ornate backing and two hasps (one missing) holding it together. The 1,354 pages of this book, not counting numerous illustrations and references, is history in itself; compiled from the writings of William Smith, LL.D. from the works of 16 scholars from Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England who worked on the Bible daily from 1870 to its printing in 1890.

Unique – it has a side-by-side, verse-for-verse in parallel columns the King James Version of 1611 Bible to more updated pronunciation of English words, as well as going back and translating all the Greek writings of the oldest extant – some dating back to the first century A.D. And, where differences exist between the King James Version and this update/revision occur, notations exist giving reasons in the differences of translation and punctuations.

It appears this copy of this bible was first owned by The Fellowship Tract Club, 1120 S. 53rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Inside the bible was found a tract, which asked the question, “What difference will it make 1,000 years from now? It named off various things that wouldn’t make any difference; the one that caught my eye was, “Would it make a difference if a man had paid $1.50 for a meal, or .15 cents? It made me realize that tract had been written a long time ago.

The written words in this book could keep a person interested and you would certainly learn a lot about the bible, as biblical scholars had given a synopsis of each book, the time frame in which it occurred, and an opinion whether it had been written by the same author or not, and other tidbits of information. But what really made me reflect on whose hands this bible had been in before Nathan placed it in mine, was kind of heady stuff. How had it made its way down to Erwin from Philadelphia?

Stuck between the pages was a bobby pin; between two more pages in Judges 4, was a Lilly; flattened and as dry as the pages of the book. The Biblical verses tell about the 4th Judge of Israel, a woman named Deborah. Has this dried Lilly anything to do with an actual woman named Deborah whom the flower was placed in the Bible between these pages for?

Though it doesn’t mention the year, an obituary was also found in this book for Mrs. Frank T. (Toney) Runion of Erwin, who died at her home on Twin Oak Street, Friday at 5:30 p.m. She was only 39 and survived by her parents. It appears she was related to a lot of people from this area, like the Sparks of Rocky Fork, Briggs of South Carolina, Shelton’s and Ray Hardin of Flag Pond, and Rice of Erwin. The funeral was at the First Baptist Church with Rev. R.C. Smith officiating. Her husband had died about seven years previous. Something you don’t see in today’s obituaries, are flower bearers. In her case she had the three Duncan sisters, also Thelma Lilly, Flora Haynes, Mrs. Dollie Six, and Mrs. Dana Garland as well. Though the year wasn’t mentioned, it must have been in 1932 as a news blurb (Copywrite 1932,) with headlines reading “Japanese Tanks Lead Attackers.” “Bloody Hand to Hand Encounters Reported” is on the back of the obituary. This news article is referred to by the Chinese as the Shanghai Incident, or 9 Day Battle of Kiangwan.

Other than these bits of the past, there were dried four leaf clovers between some of the pages, showing people were superstitious back then, as – or more so, than they are today.

We all may think, what difference will anything make 1,000 years from now? Well, think back 2,000 years when things were happening in this book, translated into 683 languages as of 2018. Just perhaps what we do today, will matter 1,000 years from now.

Adam’s Apples – College memories

By James Mack Adams

It seems to me many university graduates reach senior citizenship status before they have any interest in returning to campus for alumni weekends and other such events. That can be explained. During our prime years, we are busy with work, career, and family. As far as the old alma mater is concerned, we have been there, done that, and are ready to move on. No looking back. Right? 

That feeling will sometimes change after our working life ends and retirement begins. Memories from our past start to kick in. We wonder how the old university has changed since we walked its halls in our white buckskin shoes those many years ago. We remember classmates and friends and try to visualize how they must look now. Would we recognize them? Would they remember us? Yearbook pictures might not be too helpful 50 or 60 years later. We might, however, recognize the twinkle in the eyes, the shape of a chin, the gait in a walk. 

I am writing this from personal experience. I graduated from East Tennessee State College, now East Tennessee State University, in June 1957. I never returned for an alumni homecoming, nor had a real desire to, until the spring of 2007. That was the year the class of 1957 was honored, and its members were inducted into the university’s “Golden Fifties” club.

Jo and I have attended the annual “Golden Fifties” reunions for the past several years. She and I were classmates during our years at ETSC. Jo volunteered for several years as a class agent for the reunions. Her job was to make personal contacts with alumni and encourage them to attend. 

My first impression on my return to ETSU was that things certainly have changed since the day I received that coveted degree. During those years I was away, my little college grew up to be a major university. It is still growing.

I recall attending the freshman class orientation in the fall of 1953. If my memory is correct, at least half or more of the incoming freshman class could be seated in the auditorium of the old Administration building. Dr. Burgin Dossett was the president of ETSC. Frank G. Clement was the governor of Tennessee. James H. Quillen (Quillen College of Medicine) was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 1954.

The Korean War was in cease fire, and many veterans were enrolling in ETSC under the GI Bill.  I remember Jesse Hurst and Woodson Harris, two combat vets of the 24th Infantry Division and residents of Rogersville. 

Woodson and Jesse became my housemates on one of the tree streets.  Jesse was rather quiet and reserved, but Woodson shared stories of being dug in at night only a few yards from the enemy positions. A shrapnel scar from an enemy grenade was visual evidence of his combat service.

Under the universal military training legislation, all physically able male students were required to take two years of military training through the ROTC program. Veterans were exempt. The training involved classroom instruction and military drill. I wanted to try for a commission, so I applied and was accepted for the four-year ROTC program. Twelve members of my commissioning class attended the 2007 reunion. Some have since passed.

I still try to attend ROTC events on campus when I can. One day I was chatting with two cadets in Brooks Gym. One of the cadets asked me what years I attended ETSU. I told him, “Well, when I was a student here, Madison Brooks, whose name is on this building, was the basketball coach.” He looked at me like he was thinking, ‘This guy is old as dirt.’ Of course, he was too respectful to comment.

The mode of student campus dress was very different in the 1950s. The style was shirt and slacks for boys and skirts and tops for girls. Shorts were worn only during athletic participation.  Jeans were a no-no. 

Jo and I now often take a short cut through part of the campus when driving to medical appointments on State of Franklin. In doing so we observe students on their way to or from classes. We laugh together and jokingly say, “Ella Ross would be appalled.” Ross was dean of women during our campus days.

It’s the same place, but a different time. Several young people in our Parish are now enrolled in ETSU. They love to hear Jo and me tell stories about how it was in ‘the old days.’ And we love to share them.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Remembering my last mission overseas

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

My last mission overseas, this time on behalf of both the UN and NATO, came up in the spring of 1995. The Balkan civil war had been going on since the spring of 1992, and a multi-national UN force had since that year, with various success and indeed serious setbacks, been deployed to the area.

Norway decided in the spring of 1995 to send down to Bosnia a mechanized infantry platoon, which was tasked to provide security to the many supplies and aid convoys going into the area of operations. During this time the mission was under a UN mandate, a mandate the UN struggled to uphold. We operated Finish made Patria Pasi (SISU) armed personnel carriers (APC) with a heavy machine gun mounted on top, and a crew of 11, a driver, commander, the heavy machine gunner, and 8 light infantry soldiers in the back.

Even with this setup, because of a rather weak mandate and, confusing rules of engagement, we often found ourselves being stopped and held back in various military checkpoints. The checkpoints were usually operated by just a couple of militia soldiers from one local militia or another who knew our situation and would indeed take full advantage of controlling our movements in our area of operations, which was frustrating for us to say the least.

We were stationed at a former Bosnian military air base in a city named Tuzla. For many months we would take frequent incoming artillery attacks from nearby mountain tops where Serbian forces had set up artillery positions for the sole purpose of harassing us at the air base. During one of the attacks, a Norwegian soldier was killed when the vehicle he was driving to get to a shelter was struck by an artillery shell.

On Dec. 20, 1995, the UN mission as a result of the Dayton Agreement was transferred over to NATO. We had just a few short weeks of getting all our vehicles painted from the UN white color to their original camouflage paint scheme. Apparently, this change in mandate did not reach the guys covering the Serb artillery positions who for months had inflicted death and destruction on us at the air base.

They fired at us again, but this time we had people who called in an air strike by U.S. F-16 fighter jets, scrambled from the Aviano Air Base in Italy. I have to admit it was a sight to behold to see them take out these artillery positions once and for all.

As mentioned in the beginning, this mission was the ninth and last one for me. I had just turned 31, not really old in the military, but certainly a little older than most of the replacements that came to relieve us. I felt that it was time to end my time with the Norwegian Armed Forces after nine tours, lifelong friendships, and hardships, which shaped me into what I am today.

If I had the chance, I would do it all over again, and probably adjust a few decisions I made back then to wiser ones that age and experience bring with it. It was also during this last mission, at a vacation trip to visit friends in Atlanta where I met the sweet woman who would be my wife. This year we will be celebrating our 22nd year together.

Until next time, have fun, be safe, and chase your dreams.

Hood’s Winks – My prison time

By Ralph Hood

Well, okay, it wasn’t really a prison—it was a jail.

In the early 1960s, I was a student at Clemson. My frat brother, Bill, and I attended the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech football game.

Bill and I were a help to each other. One of us seemed to be in control every time the other became, shall we say, somewhat out of control.

The day of the football game was a bad time for me, but Bill—thank goodness—was in full control. To make it short—I managed to get fairly deeply under the influence of beer.

That day I offered to fight an entire fraternity at Georgia Tech. They took me at my word and came barreling out of their frat house to accept my offer. Bill told me to shut up, then he somehow convinced them that I was a “good old boy” who had enjoyed too much beer.

No, that incident was not what got me in jail.

Later that evening I went searching for a pack of cigarettes (I had several vices back then). The Atlanta police—for some odd reason—decided I was a risk to the public, put me in a paddy wagon and, with very little ceremony, locked me up for the night.

Bill couldn’t find me. Being no fool, he called the police and they filled him in. He was smart enough to tell them that he would pick me up, not that night, but next morning.

I was ashamed.

The next spring when I was graduating and interviewing for jobs, a Fortune 500 company wanted to hire me. I knew they were going to run a check on me and feared they might find my horrifying criminal record. I finally got a copy of my arrest. I expected it to say that I was arrested for violating this law or that law, but that’s not at all what it said.

Under “cause of arrest,” the record said one word—“drunk.”

There was no dignity in that. I was sore afraid.

The Fortune 500 company never said anything about it, so I really did get the job. More importantly, my parents never found out about the episode!

Those of you who have known me since we moved here 12 years ago, will be totally surprised to learn that I ever drank a beer at all, thus proving that I did learn a few things along the way.

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From the Publisher’s Desk – Each of us have a role to play in the fight

By Lisa Whaley

I have always believed that one of the best things about being in the newspaper business is that I am continually learning something.

Sometimes it’s a lesson I expected. Sometimes it takes me by surprise.

That was certainly true last week as The Erwin Record staff worked to put together the finishing touches on a special section spotlighting women in our region. I’m sure you saw it in our last issue and I certainly hope you enjoyed the articles.

The Erwin Record’s  “Women Today” included just a tiny slice of individuals in Unicoi County who continue to make a difference. Some are well known. Others are precious mostly to their families.

All, I believe, play an important role in our region.

One even gained recent statewide attention as shown in the article in today’s paper on Page 2A. Erwin’s mayor, Doris Hensley, was chosen as Mayor of the Year by the Tennessee Municipal League on June 25.

When we started her article for the June 26 special section, we had no idea Hensley would be so honored. It was an exciting discovery for everyone involved.

It also pointed very clearly to something that I am sure we are all becoming increasingly aware. Erwin and Unicoi County are well on their way onto the list of “places to be reckoned with,” thanks in no small part to the people who live here.

Hensley was first elected as mayor in 2012, ready to lead a community forward through railroad closures, financial challenges and those never-ending stories of Erwin’s role in the hanging of “murderous” Mary, the elephant.

She took up the challenge and marched forward. But, as Hensley stressed repeatedly, she was not alone. She credits a united community willing to work hard and share challenges as the key to Erwin’s success.

And that success continues to grow. In the relatively short time I have been here, I truly believe Erwin and Unicoi County have become more beautiful every day. New businesses are opening all the time, often the result of another’s dream given a chance to bloom. 

The community, too, seems eager to get in on the act, joining together to celebrate their valley whenever they get the chance, from Unicoi to Erwin to Flag Pond and from strawberries to apples to hiking trails.

Everyone is proud of their home and seem to be excited about the future.

But I also learned something else this past week. That future, as well as our past, owe a lot of thanks to the women who helped shape it, both during our yesterdays and throughout our tomorrows.

As Sandy Lingerfelt, CEO for Clinchfield Credit Union shared, Southern women do what needs to be done, but they do it with grace.

They have strength. And they have faith. And like the beautiful mountains, they are an important part of this valley home.

Tomorrow, as we celebrate our nation’s independence and pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms, let us never forget that all of us — both men and women —  have a role in that fight.

And sometimes, that fight is simply at home as we work to protect the people and the places that we love.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Uplifting stories mean so much

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the Aug. 3, 2016, issue of The Erwin Record.

By Connie Denney

It was a dark and stormy night. …. Well, it did rain, if that counts!

That dark-and-stormy-night part could help set the mood, though. You see, I was leaving downtown Erwin, starting up Bogart Hill when it happened. The first sign I had that something was wrong came with the profound thud of the right front portion of the car hitting the pavement. A tire had blown.

I had been in Erwin a short time when I learned the name of the portion of roadway identified as “Bogart Hill.” Just in case you sit elsewhere as you read this and are not familiar with local road names, let me enlighten you. It is an area with few options. If you are off the road, you are into a guardrail or beyond; or, you are against the side of a mountain. Even if you could move your car, there’s no place to go. I was in the road. 

This is among the times for which I am extremely grateful for the instant communication of the cell phone age. My 911 call brought help right away. Next, a roadside assistance call, next a call ahead to deal with what I knew would be a late arrival. If it were going to happen, it’s good it was not a bit farther ahead, as cell phone service could have been iffy.

The two officers who came to my aid kept the traffic moving and me out of harm’s way. They were professional and polite. Rain came. They did not complain, not even when it took the wrecker a while to get there. I do remember one of them looking out toward Erwin as the moon’s outline became visible – a full moon. They probably anticipated a busy night.

Yes, they were just doing their job. Yes, they face situations a lot more threatening to their health and well-being – although, standing in the road on Bogart Hill on a rainy evening is not to be taken lightly. Still, it was a big deal to me. I appreciate their work, their risks. That was months ago. With so many recent reminders of uncertain times, the certainty of help a phone call away is comforting, indeed.

Speaking of help, it is not always the result of a call for it. Here’s another local story. A friend who had to make some dietary changes asked her visitor if she could use some non-perishable food items. The visitor replied, “I’m sure I know someone who could,” although she was not sure just who that would be. On the next stop of her outing, it occurred to her to ask if that person could use the food. Feeling uncertain at first and hoping she asked delicately, she knew it was OK when she saw the softening of the other woman’s face and the beginning of tears. 

The first woman did not think she was doing anything particularly noble by offering something she did not need. The second person did not see any effort on her part. The third person just knew someone cared and was grateful. 

If you have an uplifting story, do let me know. We need them. (Email them to

Officer Norway’s Corner – UCHS SADD Club has winning formula

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

The summer in our neck of the woods is well on its way, when this is in print, we are just days away from July. Many take some time off from a hectic schedule, to create even more hectic days packing for a vacation to the beach, or visiting family and friends.

This week we were able to send two of our Unicoi County High School SADD club members and a chaperone on a little “vacation trip” of their own, representing our club and our high school to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the 2019 SADD National Leadership Conference.

First, a little background. In late February our club entered into a national contest hosted by the National Road Safety Foundation and SADD. Our task was to make a short video about the dangers for teen drivers (and other drivers) when driving distracted. We only had a few days to come up with a plan, get some props for the video, and with the excellent help from our high school’s very own videographer, Dustin Street, who shot and edited it, we ended up winning the whole national contest knocking out submissions from more than a 120 other high schools in the U.S.!

The biggest challenge for us was the fact that we had to keep this under wrap until this week when the winner was announced at the national conference in Scottsdale. Part of the winning price is $2,500 for our club and a fully sponsored trip for three to Arizona. Just a couple of weeks before school was out, a 15-time Emmy award-winning production team from New York, Alan Weiss Productions, arrived here in Erwin and with the same SADD club members who appeared in the first video was cast in this new PSA video (Public Service Announcement) which this week had its premiere in Scottsdale. It will later air in over 200 TV stations all over the U.S. as part of the Teen Kids News Network.

Needless to say, I am so proud of our SADD club members who took a good idea and made it great. Great enough to win not only this national contest but also their willingness to be a part of an organization like SADD. Our mission of the club is to promote a broad understanding of the risks facing teens and the importance of reinforcing protective factors, and by sharing their voices and their own perspectives on issues and laws and policies that involve the education, culture, health, safety, and treatment of teens.

Until next time, be safe, have fun and enjoy summer.

A Refreshing Knapp – The past shapes the future

By Ray Knapp

We’ve all heard the old saying, “He’s like a goose … he wakes up in a new world every day!” Without any knowledge of the past, we would be like the proverbial goose, wandering about and looking for some food to sustain us. Fortunately we have a pretty good grasp of the past which comes from written records and not all of this is fed into Alexa, that little round gadget which can answer a number of questions and do a myriad of things, like turning on the lights, the TV – and change channels, lock the doors, play music, etc. However, it can’t dance or tell you anything that isn’t programmed into it.

My neighbor, Nathan Hashe, loaned me some old books, two bibles, one printed in 1892 and the other one so old it didn’t contain a date, and it is quite elaborate – about a foot thick with an ornate backing. Two hasps (one missing) hold the front together. It “may” be one of the first bibles of its kind printed in America. I reference Alexander Cruden’s Concordance first printed in America in Philadelphia, 4th Mo, 1806; this bible contains many references to his Concordance published in 1737, this and the very old appearance of the bible both point to its age.

The third book was not a bible; its cover was missing so there was not a title listed. This book was for teachers from Kindergarten through high school. If there was a title it may have been: “The Volume Library,” – a concise graded repository of practical & cultural knowledge designed for both instruction and reference. Its first copywrite was in 1911 by the W.E. Richardson Company; revised yearly, this edition’s copywrite was in 1927 by Educators’ Association.

Other than reading, writing and arithmetic it listed songs and music for kindergarten children, such as “Humpty Dumpty” and stories, Peter Rabbit, among other still remembered children’s songs and stories. Moving up in grades, the curriculum got tougher with foreign languages being introduced; French, German and Latin were the main ones. There were also various tables like weights and measures, but the one that caught my eye was Population and Statistical facts concerning the states.

For instance, in 1920, the population of Tennessee was 2,500,859 this was further broken down into native (white, I suppose) 2,002,870, colored 480,243, foreign 17,746. In order to vote you had to be a citizen of the United States for 1 year and 6 months, paid poll tax of preceding year, also not allowed to vote were those convicted of bribery or other infamous offense. Idiots, lunatics, paupers, convicted of felony, United States soldiers, marines and seamen. At least Indians and Chinese were allowed to vote in Tennessee. A few states wouldn’t allow them to vote, especially Indians as many in the western states remembered Custer’s Last Stand in Montana in 1876 and a clash between Cavalry troops and Yaqui Indians in Arizona in 1918.

Wyoming required you to be able to read state constitution in the English language.

Of course what kind of galls me is that members of the armed forces were put in the same basket with felons and lunatics. But what really galled the poor back then, especially Blacks and women, was the Poll Tax. It was a way of disenfranchising those who couldn’t afford to pay it. Tennessee didn’t abolish the Poll Tax until 1951, and some politicians of southern states fought for it another13 years. The 29th Amendment to the Constitution abolished Poll Tax in 1964.

By knowing about the past shows us the building blocks of how civilizations came to be. They tell us the wrongs and rights of the past and point a way to the future. The old bibles not only contain the Old and New Testaments, they also tell who, when and where the translation from the original Greek and Aramaic to the other languages of the world occurred; sketches of religions other than Christianity are also within their pages. “The Volume Library” shows us that education was a serious undertaking; I doubt that many schools teach Latin today. Yes, I love old books; they are the written continuation of our heritage.