From the Publisher’s Desk – Have you been breaking the law?

By Keith Whitson

“It is unlawful for any person having custody or charge of any pinball machine where the same may be operated to permit any minor under the age of eighteen years to play, operate or use any such machine or to loiter about the same.”

We have an article in this week’s issue about some new laws going into effect this year in Tennessee. The idea prompted me to research some examples of silly laws still on the books in our state as well as others.

Another Tennessee law states “A person operating a scooter, in-line skates or roller skates shall not attach the same or himself to any moving vehicle upon the roadway.” I don’t know how bad that problem had to get before they came up with a law, but it doesn’t seem like anything I would even consider doing.

Bingo games cannot last more than 5 hours in North Carolina. It is also against the law to sing off key in that state.

You may not sell toothpaste and a toothbrush to the same customer on a Sunday in Rhode Island. I have no idea what the reasoning of that would be.

In Utah, marriage between cousins is against the law, but only if they are younger than 65.

You are not allowed to eat fried chicken any other way than using your hands in Gainesville, Ga.

Don’t try selling your eyeballs in Texas. It is illegal. Did someone really attempt to do this and the state was afraid it would become a trend?

Red cars cannot drive down Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minn. Maybe it angers the bull in the pasture nearby.

Bear wrestling matches are prohibited in Alabama. Obviously someone was drunk and lost a bet who had to take that sport up.

You may not take a picture of a rabbit from January to April without an official permit in Wyoming. I tend to look better myself in the warmer months.

In Washington you cannot buy meat of any kind on Sunday. There is always the option of road kill.

It’s illegal to attend a public event or use public transportation within 4 hours of eating onions or garlic in Indiana. That must require a special page of safe menu items at restaurants.

In Idaho it’s illegal for a man to give his fiancé a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds. Someone must have literally said “I can eat my weight in chocolate.”

In Idaho it is also against the law to kiss in public for more than 18 minutes. However, that is longer than you can kiss in Halethrope, Md., which has a limit of 60 seconds.

In Washington a motorist with criminal intentions must stop at the city limits and telephone the chief of police as he is entering the town. That would have to be the dumbest criminal to ever live if he told the police before he committed the crime.

If you are found stealing soap, you must wash yourself until the bar of soap has been completely used up if it is in Arizona. I love that one. Just so you don’t have to wash  your mouth out with it as well.

If you have a mustache, it’s illegal for you to kiss a woman in Eureka, Nev.

Here is another favorite. It’s against the law for a woman to drive a car on Main Street unless her husband is walking in front of the car waving a red flag in Waynesboro, Va.

You can be arrested or fined for harassing Bigfoot in Washington. It is also against the law to have sex with an animal that weighs more than 40 pounds. Maybe that is how people were harassing Bigfoot.

In Georgia is against the law to use profanity around a corpse.

In Ohio it is illegal to get a fish drunk but a policeman can bite a dog if they believe it will calm the dog down.

An old city ordinance in Cleveland, Ohio prohibits women from wearing patent leather shoes in public. The reason? Shiny footwear could act as a mirror and allow a nearby gentleman an unintentional peep show up her dress.

Women in Florida can be fined for falling asleep under a dryer in a hair salon. If you’re a woman living in Michigan, you might want to check with your husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, your hair belongs to your spouse and you’ll need his permission before you can alter it.

Forget about trying to publicly adjust your stockings in either Dennison Texas or Bristol, Tenn. Performing such a lewd act could land you a sentence of up to twelve months in the state penitentiary.

If these laws were enforced today, we would all be put in jail. Hopefully our new laws will be more appropriate for the times.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Erwin’s nightlife filled Main Street

By Connie Denney

What nightlife?

Well, a few nights before Christmas characters of the sacred observance—Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, guiding stars, four-legged creatures—led the candlelight Nativity Parade walking on Main Street to the steps of First Baptist Church. Candle bearers lined the street, falling in to make up the group gathered for the outdoor manger scene and brief service.

This most recent project of RISE Erwin was supported by community churches and individuals.  It brought folks to a well-lighted, decorated downtown.

This bringing together seems to be at least a part of what the organization, which stands for Rejuvenate, Invest, Support and Energize, is about. President Jamie Rice explains that it started over a year ago just after CSX left. Members tend to be folks who have been away and come back, entrepreneurs, professionals, who love the community and see it as the best place to live. They are aged 25-40 mostly, but that’s not required.

The mission statement:  We will collaborate and advocate for a sustainable future-focused community.

When I asked how its projects—many of which center on events downtown—reflect the visioning/planning process organizers went through, Jamie referred to the RISE message, noting, “Every detail and event we are involved with is with these thoughts in mind.  We feel that downtowns are the heartbeat of every community and we are focusing on that…..”  She offered that “a vibrant and livable downtown“ benefits all.  “We want the outside world to see Erwin as an authentic Appalachian experience with an outdoorsy, healthy, active lifestyle. We are on the edge of it all.”  She drew attention to the river and Appalachian Trail, along with proximity to Asheville and the Tri-Cities.

She’s quick to point out the appeal of small, locally-owned businesses.  Further, she’s prepared to give statistics showing a greater percentage of revenue benefiting the local economy when money is spent in locally-owned businesses rather than chain stores.

So, what’s next?  RISE sees building on successes from last year, such as the farmers’ market and outdoor festival.  “RISE also wants to build relationships with existing industries and support them with their needs.  Example, one leading company has expressed interest in getting new hires plugged into the community.  This helps them with retaining their personnel and less employee turnover.  We are very excited about this possibility.”

The passion to do what needs to be done is illustrated in the story of Jamie and Kristin Anders, co-owners of The Bramble, an event venue on Gay Street.  They have something at stake—always a motivator!!

Although their husbands were best friends growing up here, Jamie and Kristin first met at Kristin’s wedding.  “We became fast friends, and God started our path together when she and I worked together in the building industry in Asheville about nine years ago.”  Both lived in Unicoi County and commuted.  “When we started having kids, we knew we needed something closer.”

Sharing an entrepreneurial spirit and a can-do attitude, they saw the A. R. Brown Building, their current business site, as a “once glorious structure on the verge of collapse.”  So with the support of their husbands, they started the renovation process.  “It took two years, but I think our dedication to historic accuracy and eye for detail paid off.”

Library Happenings – Grandchildren intrigued by book knowledge

By Angie Georgeff

Whenever I visit my three grandchildren, I read them stories.  Robbie is now eleven, so he does not need me to read to him, but he still enjoys a story as much as anyone.  Elizabeth is six, so she and I take turns reading paragraphs, with Robbie stepping in if he thinks his sister is taking too long to sound out an unfamiliar word.  I hope I was more patient with my younger brothers back in the day, but we were closer in age than Robbie and Elizabeth.  Caleb is five and still primarily a listener, so he is happy to have me read to him.

When Robbie objected to a proposed book on the grounds that it was too long for a bedtime story, I countered that it wasn’t exactly “War and Peace.”  Of course, I then had to explain that “War and Peace” is famous as a very long book.  That prompted Robbie to ask how many pages it had.

While it sounds like a straightforward question, it actually isn’t.  If there were only one edition, I could easily have checked the bibliographic record online and given Robbie the precise answer I know he was expecting, but “War and Peace” was originally published in Russian in 1869 and has been reissued many times in numerous languages.  There is no consistent number of pages in these versions.  The edition we have here at the library has 1,136 pages, but others available in the OWL catalog have between 696 and 1,456 pages.  Perhaps the best answer would have been to say the first edition published in 1869 had 1,225 pages.  I settled the question for Robbie by saying “about 1,000.”

Naturally, Robbie was intrigued and he wanted to know whether I had ever read such a long book.  I told him that I read it in high school, along with another novel by Leo Tolstoy called “Anna Karenina,” which was a little bit shorter and a lot better.  For now, I advised him to stick to “Harry Potter.”  The Battle of Hogwarts is a lot more exhilarating than Tolstoy’s exhaustive description of the Battle of Borodino.  Napoleon might have appreciated that level of detail, but I did not:  I just wanted Tolstoy to get on with Natasha’s story.

BookShots

James Patterson’s “BookShots” lie at the opposite end of the spectrum from “War and Peace.”  These small paperbacks average fewer than 150 pages and are designed to be consumed in just one sitting.  In response to requests from our patrons, we were one of the first libraries in the region to get them.  Whether you prefer a quick read or an extended “vacation” to a new world set apart from ours by time or space, we have books you will love.  Come in soon to choose yours so you’ll be ready for that snow day you know is coming!

Movie Night – ‘Sing’ has good story but lacks humor

By Bradley Griffith

It’s always nice to have a good movie you can take the entire family to during the holidays.  The movie theater around Christmas is always a good bonding experience.  “Sing” fits the bill and is an animated movie the entire family can enjoy, even if it’s not packed with laughter.

Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) is a koala bear with a dream.  He owns a music theater and dreams of returning to the heyday of the theater when the best acts performed in his theater and the shows were always sold out.  Sadly, Buster made a series of bad decisions that has the theater on the brink of financial (and physical) ruin.

Buster, along with his best friend Eddie (John C. Reilly), who is a sheep, and his elderly assistant iguana Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), must find a way to save the theater.  Inspiration strikes Buster in the form of a singing competition to be held at his theater with a grand prize of $1,000, all the money he can scrape together.  The only problem is that Miss Crawly accidentally put an award of $100,000 on the flyers for the contest.

Based mainly on the $100,000 prize, thousands of animals line up to audition for the show.  From rapping alligators to a group of young red pandas who sing in Chinese, many different animals with different singing styles audition.  Buster and Miss Crawly must choose the finalists who will perform in the theater to what Buster hopes will be a packed house.

Buster chooses gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), pigs Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and Gunter (Nick Kroll), and porcupine Ash (Scarlety Johansson).  An extremely shy elephant named Meena (Tori Kelly) is too bashful to sing, but Buster hires her as a stage hand.

As all the finalists begin rehearsing for the big show different problems crop up in each of their lives that may prevent them from continuing in the contest.  At the same time, Buster has his own problems fending off creditors and keeping the theater open until the big show can bring in more money than he has ever dreamed.  Or not.

“Sing” has a very good story to back up the first-rate animation.  Each of the main characters is battling a different issue in their life.  Even though the odds are against them, they refuse to give up on their dream.  It’s a movie about family, chasing your dreams, and believing in yourself.  It’s a lesson that even adults need from time to time.

The glaring, and only, fault of the movie is that it simply isn’t very funny.  Sure, there were a few laughs from the audience, but this type of movie needs copious amounts of humor to propel the story forward and keep kids engaged in the story.  “Sing” is as serious as an animated movie can be with singing and dancing animals.  In a few parts, it’s even sad.

Other than the hijinks of the elderly, but quite spunky, Miss Crawly, the funniest scene of the movie was the auditions.  Much like “American Idol,” the auditions of animals that can in no shape, form, or fashion carry a tune generated the most laughs.  Even though the commercials for the movie focused on the auditions and the different animals performing their unusual acts, the audition scene in the movie lasted no more than five minutes and provided no laughs that weren’t in the commercials.

I don’t mean to imply that “Sing” is a bad movie.  It just wasn’t what was expected based on the promise of the commercials.  It’s a good movie with good singing, excellent voice work by the actors, and a good story.  It’s just not that funny.

Grade: B+

Rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril.

From the Publisher’s Desk – My G.I. Joe is missing in action

By Keith Whitson

The coast was clear. I placed my finger underneath the fold and gently eased up the corner. As I pulled the well tucked flap away, I caught a glimpse of what was hidden underneath. The photo and the wording told the story. Quickly, I placed the flap back around, resealed the item and hid all traces of any tampering.

I would be about as anxious as a young boy could be right about now if it was the 1960s and ‘70s. Christmas as a child was huge. I more than likely had already secretly peeped at every gift I could. Still, I knew there must be more hidden somewhere.

Everyone gathered at my grandparents’ home on Christmas Eve to open gifts. Santa would leave a few additional items to be found on Christmas morning.

Most of our shopping was done in downtown Johnson City. There was no mall, Toys “R” Us or online shopping. In fact, there was no “line” to get on at that time, except maybe the clothes line. I don’t  consider myself old, but I have witnessed major changes in my lifetime and I am not sure they are all for the better.

My toys required a little bit of technology and a whole lot of my imagination. G.I. Joe went on some amazing adventures in his plastic Jeep. Peanuts characters, Matchbox cars, Hot Wheels and more brought great excitement as I ripped the paper off, gave a quick glance and reached for the next gift to open.

I was recently curious about toys of the generations. I did a Google search, something impossible as a child, and found the following.

In the 1910s, the most popular toys were a Teddy bear, Erector Set and Lionel trains.

In the 1920s toys were Crayola Crayons, Tinker Toys and Raggedy Ann.

The 1930s brought Monopoly and a Viewmaster Slide Viewer.

The 1940s saw Scrabble, Slinky and Silly Putty as the top picks.

In the 1950s children loved Yahtzee, Hula Hoop, Barbie and Play-Doh.

In the 1960s, the most popular toys were G.I. Joe, Etch a Sketch and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.

In the 1970s you had UNO, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, Pong, Connect Four and Speak and Spell. I recall games such as Pong. It was one of the earliest arcade type video games. It used 2-D graphics. Two straight lines on the screen represented paddles which you would use to knock a dot back and forth.

In the 1980s we were driven crazy by Rubik’s Cube. We also enjoyed Koosh Ball Transformers, Teddy Ruxpin, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lego.

In the 1990s the list included Pog, Beanie Babies, Power Rangers, Buzz Lightyear and Tickle Me Elmo. That decade also brought us the Game Boy with its most popular game, Tetris. It became the must-have item. There was also the Furby, an electronic toy which you had to “raise.” There were mad rushes to grab up one before the store sold out again.

The 2000s brought us Razor Scooters, Bratz Dolls, RoboSapiens and Tamagotchi Connexions, It was also the decade that brought millions of families together – in front of their TVs. They were all glued to their Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Playstation 2, Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii.

It may also be the last time many families looked each other in the face. A selfie now and then, sent through a text message, is all parents see of their child’s face. Otherwise, it is never lifted from the screen of a handheld device.

In looking at top picks for 2016, I found much more advanced game gear, drones and devices I had no idea what they are. I am sure each comes with a detailed guide of how to use them. For me, I might eventually figure it out. For today’s youth, they pick it up and instantly start enjoying the device. I will just stick to using my imagination. It has gotten me this far in life.

The last time I entered a Toys “R” Us store I was overwhelmed and panicked. It was a mad house of hurried adults going in circles. It can be entertaining if you’re not one of them.

To all the readers of this column, I wish you a blessed Christmas. May you find happiness in this joyous season. May your credit card not have a meltdown before you do. May your health be good, your family together, your needs met and your hearts full of love.

Remember, the best gift of all is, indeed, “the reason for the season.” Share that gift with everyone you meet. It never needs updating or replacing because of a newer model. It has been the top gift for every generation.

Ready, Willis and Able – She took mountain grit and gave her heart

By Janice Willis-Barnett

She was determined to track down the story. So Christine (Chris) Tipton harnessed her inherited mountain grit and along with husband Sam Pinkerton explored more hills and hollows and talked with more folks than can be mentioned in this brief column. The result was Chris’ book, CIVIL WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS, published in 2000. The book tells the story of the Civil War Battle of Red Banks that occurred here in Unicoi County, near the Nolichucky River on December 29, 1864.

At the time that Chris was working on her book, she and her husband Sam Pinkerton were organizing a reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Red Banks. Remember the reenactment in 2000 and 2001? Chris, Sam, and a host of other folks put in much hard work to carry it off. They also worked to get the historical marker that is located near Red Banks, which notes this part of our Civil War history.

At this year’s Unicoi County Historical Society Christmas dinner, we awarded Chris with the much deserved WALTER B. GARLAND ANNUAL PRESERVATION AWARD in appreciation for her work in preserving Unicoi County history and heritage. She had expected to express her appreciation and then be able to spend the rest of the evening enjoying the entertainment for the evening. But it didn’t happen that way.

Our expected entertainment didn’t show up, so Historical Society President Angela Miller asked Chris if she would speak. Chris kept us laughing and sometimes on the edge of our seats as she shared stories from the Battle of Red Banks reenactment days. It is amazing the many “crises” that can come up when dealing with ordinary citizens turned Civil War soldiers for a weekend.

There are too many noteworthy things about Chris’ book, Civil War in the Mountains to mention in this column. But I have to include what historian, Jim Maddox said in the book’s foreword. He tells about Chris and Sam being out in the mountains looking for folks who might recall Civil War lore.  They stopped at one home and Sam went to see if Chris could talk to the folks.  Sam came back to the car laughing and said, “Come on Chris and meet another one of your cousins.”

Chris and I aren’t blood related, but we are definitely kindred spirits.   We don’t hesitate to tell anyone that we are proud to be from the south end of Unicoi County.  What is there to be more proud of than having the grit to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?

This is my farewell column. I truly appreciate the opportunity that Publishers Keith Whitson and Mark Stevens have given me to write for the Erwin Record. I appreciate the Erwin Record and the part it plays in our community.  Thanks to all of you who have let me know that you read and enjoy my work. Merry Christmas and God bless you for your kindness.

Library Happenings – R.E.A.D.S. offers convenience during winter

By Angie Georgeff

My favorite book of 2016 has been Dominic Smith’s “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.” The haunting winter landscape “At the Edge of a Wood” links three unforgettable characters: still life artist Sara de Vos, the first female master painter admitted to the Dutch Guild of St. Luke in 1631; Marty de Groot, a wealthy New Yorker who inherited Sara’s landscape some 300 years later; and Ellie Shipley, an Australian grad student who is so captivated by the painting that she is persuaded to forge a copy that is used to steal the original old master from Marty’s bedroom.

Ellie’s copy is good – so good that Marty does not immediately notice the theft. When he does, he becomes obsessed with revenge. While Marty and Ellie become more and more entangled in a web of deceit, Sara’s story unfolds petal by petal to the end of the book. Your library has this novel available in regular print–and now–large print editions. You also may borrow it either as an eBook or audiobook through Tennessee R.E.A.D.S. Give us a call at 743-6533 if you would like to be put on the hold list for the physical items.

Tennessee R.E.A.D.S

Our R.E.A.D.S circulation increases year after year, and there is often a spike during the winter months, which I believe can be attributed both to Christmas presents and inclement weather. If you are giving your loved ones a smartphone, tablet or eReader during this holiday season, be sure to let them know about R.E.A.D.S. All they will need is an eligible device, Internet access and their library card. We have bookmarks at our circulation desk with instructions printed on the back, so pick one up to include with your gift. The lucky recipient will be able to start reading a good book right away.

Buying eBooks and audiobooks can be quite an expensive habit, especially for voracious readers, so it makes sense to borrow them instead. R.E.A.D.S is available anywhere in the world there is an Internet connection twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. And the books return themselves, so you’ll never incur a late fee.  It couldn’t be more convenient or budget friendly.

Holiday Hours

Since the holiday falls on Sunday this year, the library will be closed from Friday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Dec. 26 for Christmas and Christmas Eve. No items will be due on those dates, but you may deposit books in our drop boxes if you wish. They are located at the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi. Please do not place DVDs in the drop boxes, since they may be damaged if heavy books fall on them. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Movie Night – ‘Nocturnal Animals’ best in middle of movie

By Bradley Griffith

If you decide to see “Nocturnal Animals” at the theater heed my advice and go five minutes late.  Not that the ending was much better.  The most surprising thing about the film is that despite the awful beginning and the ending that is not an ending at all, the middle part of the story is actually very good.

The plot of “Nocturnal Animals” is a story inside a story.  Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) owns a Los Angeles art gallery that appears to be very successful.  She’s stuck in a loveless marriage to a man who runs a failing and virtually bankrupt business.  From the outside, she appears to be a happy and successful woman.  On the inside, she is very unhappy with how her life has turned out.

One weekend while her husband is in New York on business she receives a package from Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), her ex-husband of twenty years.  Edward was an aspiring novelist when they were together, but he was never able to write the great American novel.  In the package is a manuscript written by Edward that has already been bought by a publisher.  Edward wanted Susan to have an early copy.  He dedicated the novel to Susan and titled it “Nocturnal Animals.”

Intrigued and with nothing else to do for the weekend Susan begins to read the manuscript.  This is where the second story begins.  For while Susan is reading the book, the viewer is watching the story unfold in Susan’s mind.

The book is about a family driving through the night in deserted West Texas.  The father, Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal), is peacefully driving the family in the middle of nowhere until an old, beat-up car with three men inside runs them off the road.  After a tense confrontation on the side of the road the leader of the men, Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), takes the wife and daughter. As Susan reads the manuscript she remembers her time with Edward, how happy they were at first, and how she did a terrible thing to him just before their divorce.

The opening sequence of the movie is the worst scene in the history of cinema.  It’s so awful that I refuse to write about it.  It’s meant to be provocative and edgy, but it’s just plain horrendous.  I will say that the opening sequence, and the entire movie for that matter, is not for children of any age.  The scene lasts about five minutes and you won’t miss anything.

The ending of the movie is only marginally better.  The problem with the ending is that there is no ending to the story.  The movie just stops.  It stops before the resolution of one of the storylines.  The only possible explanation is that the filmmaker wants you to reach your own conclusions.  He wants you to decipher the meaning of the ending and the entire story.  It’s a conversation starter.

The remainder of the movie is excellent.  The passages from the manuscript are expertly woven with Susan’s present and her past with Edward.  The novel has the ring of non-fiction to it when read by Susan.  You can almost read her thoughts as she begins to understand the meaning of the story in the manuscript.  The storytelling aspect of the movie is fantastic.

As far as the acting is concerned, everyone brought their A-game.  With very little dialogue and even less action Amy Adams conveyed a multitude of emotions from despair to confusion to outright anger.  Michael Shannon excelled as the Texas lawman trying to capture the three men who took Tony Hastings’ wife and daughter.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson was nothing short of astonishing in his portrayal of the vile Ray Marcus.

“Nocturnal Animals” is a difficult movie to grade.  It’s definitely not a movie for everyone.  The beginning deserves an F and the ending gets a D+.  But the majority of the movie is so well made and packed with so much tension and drama that it elevates the entire film.

Grade: B+

Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Get those cookies and milk ready

By Keith Whitson

Santa sure is fast for a fat man. I just saw him in one store and somehow he managed to beat me to the next one. Rumor has it that he is appearing somewhere in most every town, city and state today. If the election wasn’t already decided, I would swear he is trying to be our next president.

Santa – the myth, the legend, the man – has more powers than any superhero on the market. He can be everywhere at the same time and deliver toys for all of his stops in a single night, while riding through the air in a small sleigh, powered by tiny reindeer.

There must be other locations where he restocks his gifts. They can’t all fit behind him in a small sleigh at one time. My guess is Area 51 in Nevada. Why else would it be so secretive?

How many toys does Santa need? I tried to find out, but information is limited. I think there must be some sort of top security to such data. A study done a few years back shows that there are over 6 million letters going out to him every year. He evidently has a huge network of employees to open mail and make a list to go by. Santa then checks it twice to make sure nothing was left off.

Santa can go down a chimney and not get stuck and he can also get into  homes without a chimney. He sees you when you are sleeping. He knows when you are awake. I find this all a bit disturbing.

I imagine that Santa also takes time to use the bathroom in at least one third of the houses he stops at. You can’t drink that much milk and eat that many cookies and expect otherwise. Not every house leaves a snack. A survey I saw estimated the number to be around 4.5 million throughout roughly 30 countries.

If we average three cookies per plate and about 8 ounces of milk per home, North America would be somewhere around 3 million to 4.5 million cookies and about 1.5 million cups of milk. Goodies in general all over the world would  come to about 9 million pieces of international cuisine and 36 million ounces of milk or whatever.

I didn’t find any study to indicate whether Santa leaves more at the homes with the best treats. I feel bad even bringing it up. Hopefully he won’t be offended by anything in this article. Santa, I sent you my list by certified mail this year. You can’t claim you didn’t get it like you did last year. Check that list. I’ve got to be on there somewhere.

Santa actually looks pretty good for someone who consumes that much food. In fact, I am thinking about following his diet plan. Milk and cookies must give plenty of energy and super powers. I will call it the Ho Ho Healthy plan.

The one super power I have observed Santa bring is brightness to children’s eyes and the joys he fulfills for so many.

The Erwin Record has teamed with the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce for years to make photos of the children with Santa during the downtown tree lighting ceremony and breakfast with Santa events. After the tree lighting the children go into Erwin Town Hall and gather to hear Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and to catch an appearance of Santa.

It turned out everyone at the office was busy this year except me. Nervously I took on the challenge. Was I nervous over capturing the moment of each bright eyed child sitting on Santa’s lap or nervous over being around the all-knowing St. Nicholas myself? Maybe a little of both.

The room was full. The excitement was high. The anticipation was building. Santa arrived just in time, carrying a sack of candy. Stuffed animal toys had been delivered by his special team earlier. A line formed with anxious children of all ages and I took my place, which turned out to be the best seat in the house.

I got to witness the looks on every child as they approached Santa. The awe in their small faces was magical. Every child was different. Some ran up as if he was a favorite relative they  hadn’t seen since this time last year. Some approached with a shy demeanor and warmed up to him after that. Some didn’t want to leave his presence after the encounter. After all, they had waited in a line that must have seemed like forever to a small child. Others were unwillingly placed in Santa’s care and cried from fear. One wanted the toy but only while stretching out his little arm and standing a safe distance away.

The lists have now been made and the wishes spoken. It is time to wait for the magical day of Christmas.

I just had a thought – what about the children who receive puppies, kittens and ponies delivered in a sleigh from Santa? Evidently he can also travel with live animals. This man is amazing! Look up on Christmas Eve night. It may be raining cats and dogs.

Is it too late to increase my score for this year? I think I’m on the “Naughty List.”

Hood’s Winks – Science is doing ‘bang’ up job

By Ralph Hood

When we look at a distant star, we do not see where that star is now; we see where it used to be. We actually see not the star but the light that traveled to us from the star.

Light travels at the unbelievable speed of 186,000 miles per second! Repeat—light travels 186,000 miles in one second!

That is a hard concept to comprehend. The late, great scientist Admiral Grace Hopper—who often had to explain the speed of light  to powerful people—carried around a piece of wire that was 11.8 inches long. She explained that light would travel the length of that wire—almost a foot—in one billionth of a second!

Our Hubble telescope has found and can “see” a galaxy in space that is—hang onto your hat, now—more than 13 billion years into the past! (We have a new telescope—the Webb—that will be launched in 2018.)

Do I understand all of this? No, I certainly do not. Can I explain it? No, I cannot; I can’t even comprehend it. I write about it only because it is so awesome and amazing.

Here’s another fact that I can’t comprehend: We can now see back more than 13 billion light-years, and that puts us within 200 million years of “seeing” the Big Bang! If we can increase that, will we actually see the Big Bang happening?

Holy cow! Can you believe it?

Speaking of holy, some say that this is all bunk, that God built the universe and all that is in it.

I totally agree. God did create it all. Man has never created anything. We’ve reshaped many things, but always using God’s creations.

We have, however, discovered many things about the universe that God created. God allows us to learn about, and use, all of his laws. How wonderful!

Where will all this end? It won’t unless, and until, we know and use all God’s laws and, I think—hope—that that will never happen.

One problem that remains and confuses is that our universe is expanding at an ever-increasing speed. That does not jive with what we know. A bullet comes out of the gun barrel at its fastest speed, then decelerates. Our universe came out of the Big Bang and is still accelerating. I can’t figure that out and am not totally convinced that our scientists have either. I just checked with a friend who is a true scientist. He says the current theory is that the Big Bang is still going on and still accelerating!

I can’t stand it. I lie awake at night wondering about all of this. It’s enough to drive one crazy.

By the way, if all of this doesn’t confuse us, we can always try to understand the speed of gravity!

Library Happenings – Order sent for large print books and audio

By Angie Georgeff

The large print books that arrive each month through our standing order plans are very popular, but we realize Christian fiction, westerns and cozy mysteries do not satisfy every appetite for large print books. That is why we concentrate on other genres when we place our December large print orders. Thrillers, romances, historical fiction and nonfiction all have their fans.

We just sent in one of the two orders that we usually place this time of year and another will follow it by the end of the month. We also are working on a large (at least for us) order for audiobooks. If you have any special requests for large print books or audiobooks, please let us know as soon as possible. The deadline is looming and we greatly value your input!

In the order that has already been placed, I included the large print editions of the two novels published this year that I have enjoyed most. The first runner-up is Eowyn Ivey’s “To the Bright Edge of the World.” It is 1885 and newlyweds Allen and Sophie Forrester have moved from Boston to Vancouver Barracks in the remote, rambunctious Washington Territory.

Lieutenant Colonel Forrester is chosen to lead an expedition into the heart of the inconceivably vast Alaska Territory. Bitter weather, impenetrable terrain and native tribes with a reputation for cannibalism stand fast between the men and their objective. Meanwhile, Sophie remains at Vancouver Barracks chafing under the restrictions imposed by her pregnancy and the army’s expectations of an officer’s wife. Her interests lie in ornithology and photography rather than in clothes and social functions. Sophie and Allen’s stories are told in journal entries and letters which they write knowing they may never reach their intended recipients.

I never had any great desire to visit Alaska until I read Ivey’s first novel “The Snow Child” and this, her second. Now I’d love to go, just not during the winter!

Thank you!

We want to thank the ladies of the Erwin Monday Club for putting up and decorating the Christmas tree in our lobby. With its red cardinals and poinsettias and its pine cones and cinnamon sticks, it is a treat for the senses. I hope you all will have an opportunity to come by and see it.

And while you’re here, take a few minutes to relax from the bustle of the holidays and color a new bookmark for the winter. We have a station set up with colored pencils and four new designs: Christmas trees and ornaments for the holidays and snowflakes and snowmen for the bleak midwinter.

Movie Night – ‘Don’t Breathe’ offers relief of holiday shows

By Bradley Griffith

While December isn’t exactly the perfect time of year to watch a horror movie, at least it provides a change from the almost overwhelming Christmas programs on TV.  “Don’t Breathe” is about as far as you can get from a Christmas movie, and it’s now available for rental at home.

Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three teenagers living in dilapidated and downtrodden Detroit.  Alex lives with his dad who runs a home security business.  Rocky has a terrible home life with her mom, her mom’s boyfriend, and her sister.  We aren’t shown much about Money’s backstory, just that he is a true dirt bag.

The three use their unfortunate lives in a dying city as justification for being thieves.  The opening scene of the movie shows them entering a home and stealing anything of value they can get their hands on.  It’s clearly not their first burglary.  Alex takes keys from his dad’s office to homes that are protected by his dad’s security service to gain entry to the homes.

Even though Alex is clearly in love with Rocky, she and Money are dating and are planning to move to California as soon as they can burglarize enough homes to make it out of town and to the west coast.  They see their big opportunity when Money learns about a blind man sitting on a pile of cash.  The mark, simply known as The Blind Man (Stephen Lang), received a cash settlement when his daughter was killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver.  A source tells Money he received $300,000 to settle the lawsuit.  His home is protected by the security company run by Alex’s dad.

Against Alex’s better judgment, he succumbs to peer pressure and agrees to break in to the Blind Man’s house at night and take his money while he sleeps.  What they didn’t count on was an old, blind man fighting back, and fighting back with a vengeance.

The best aspect of “Don’t Breathe” is the novel idea of trying to evade a blind man in the dark in a home that he knows well while the intruders know nothing about the home.  There’s one particularly memorable scene where everyone still alive is in the basement and the Blind Man shuts off all the lights.  The Blind Man knows his way around while the others are flailing blindly in complete darkness.  Attempting to avoid a formidable blind man who knows the terrain makes for some interesting silent standoffs.

Unfortunately, the part of the movie that makes it interesting is the same part that in the end causes its downfall.  While plot holes are common in just about every movie in the horror genre, there are too many in “Don’t Breathe.”  Why wouldn’t they take flashlights into a home of a blind man at night?  He couldn’t see the flashlights.  What makes them think that a blind man in a derelict part of town would keep $300,000 in cash in his home rather than a bank?  Most importantly, how can the viewer connect or empathize with three kids robbing an old blind man?

The “heroes” are thieves who can’t believe their bad luck when they try to rob a blind man and he actually fights back.  Not that the old blind man is a saint himself, but I had difficulty in thinking of Alex or Rocky as the good guys and, at least at the beginning of the film, I found myself rooting for the Blind Man.  The protagonists of a story don’t have to be pearly white, in fact, it’s better if they aren’t.  But criminals as the main characters who are robbing an old blind man who lives alone prevents you from having any type of emotional connection about whether they survive.

On the positive side the movie is well made and acted, particularly by Stephen Lang who makes an old blind man in a white tank top menacing.  The problem is that three of the dumbest thieves ever captured on-screen don’t exactly make you want to root for them.  In “Don’t Breathe,” there are no good guys.

Grade: B

Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Newspaper offers glimpse in time

By Keith Whitson

“As the old saying goes, ‘All a mule can do is try.’”

This was a comment in the first issue of a small publication on July 12, 1935 called “The Erwin Tri-Weekly.” I recently discovered a copy of this newspaper and enjoyed looking through the eight pages of content. The newspaper was published under the effort of Wayne Bannister and Doran Ingram every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.

Erwin has had a handful of newspapers over the years, with The Erwin Record as the longest running, being established in 1928. Local publications intrigue me and, in many ways, contain the historical puzzle pieces to our past.

I am not sure how long the Tri-Weekly was in existence or how many copies are tucked away out there. However, there is at least one copy remaining with some interesting tidbits.

The front page notes that the newly organized chamber of commerce had elected officers. With the majority of its 46 members present, the chamber chose  R.E. Stack, A.R. Brown, Frank T. Gentry, P.M. Britt, T.R. Keys, H.L. Montroe, W.H. Wright, R.W. Lawson and W.J. Helm.

In sports, D.E. Bullington was leading all contenders in the tennis ladder being conducted by the YMCA. The three leaders for the boys were Ernest English, Bill Moore and Johnny Lawson.

I am always amused by the society news in the older publications. “Miss Elaine Riley, of East Liverpool, Ohio, is enjoying an extended visit with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. C.R. McKinght on Ohio Avenue.”

Another one read “The younger social set of Erwin and Johnson City, consisting partly of present and former members of Teachers College, had a delightful swim and picnic at the Willow Park Swimming Pool Tuesday afternoon. Among those present were: Misses Virginia Boyd, Elsie Price, Beatrice Yelton, Pauline Dugger, Armeta Morely, Ruth Westall, Maude Shull, Helen Smith, Evelyn Stack, Irene Stultz, Lucille Stack, Ruby Stultz, Beatrice Rice, Elizabeth Lundy, Thelma Bergendahl, Margaret Tucker and…” The list went on to name the young men who attended as well.

“Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Gaby, Bill Gaby and Motelle Gaby will leave Monday for Virginia Beach, where they will spend one week.” Obviously crime was not a worry by announcing you would not be home to any tempted burglar. Possibly they owned a big dog that wasn’t going on the trip.

“Miss Louise Updike is entertaining with a house party at Unaka Springs this weekend.” The article went on to list the “invited” guests. I assume after that all of her friends knew where they stood as to whether they made the list or not.

One article of interest to me was about Erwin getting a new theater. “The Parrott & Hendren Amusement Co., Inc. has signed a lease for a period of five years on the Ten Cent store building now occupied by the J.B. Dick Co. This building will be remodeled into a first class theatre house as soon as the J.B. Dick Co. can vacate. This will be a first class modern theatre in every respect, seating between 500 and 800 people and will be the last word in comfort and convenience. Arrangements call for a small store located on each side of the theatre lobby. Contracts call for completion of this theatre by September 1, 1935.”

It is always entertaining to look back at some of the advertising and prices available years ago.

Ladies could get one of the advertised “Bargains in Beauty” from Elite Beauty Shop, owned by Miss Maude Tucker, by calling 274. Evidently there were lots of “waves” available. Frederic Waves were $5; Super Oil Wave, $3; Combination Spiral and Croquingole Wave, $3.50; Shampoo and Finger Wave, 50 cents; Finger Wave and Dry, 35 cents; and Wet Wave, 25 cents.

Willow Park offered Summer Dance for Fun. Music was going to be provided by Buddy Dean and his orchestra. “Here’s sweet rhythmic music, a good floor, refreshments and a regular crowed to take your mind off hot weather and your troubles.”

You could swim for 10 cents, get a private locker for a nickel and a towel for a nickel.

The years have seen businesses and entertainment venues come and go. Memories have been made and are still being documented in The Erwin Record for current readers and future generations to remember.

An editorial in the newspaper read “We are proud of our work. We are proud of our advertisers; business men in this town who thought enough of us and our ideas to give us a chance. We are far from satisfied,  however, and hope to do better in the future.”

That holds true for The Erwin Record as well.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Downtown Erwin is RISEing

By Connie Denney

You may have enjoyed seeing the vintage station wagon with a Christmas tree tied on top in Erwin’s Christmas Parade.  Or, you may have noticed it parked afterward in front of The Bramble, the event space located at 206 Gay Street, referred to locally as the A.R. Brown building.

As I met a week later with Jamie Rice, co-owner along with Kristin Anders, of The Bramble, she laughed easily as she reached back a year to remember how the vehicle with woodgrain panels entered their life. (It reminded me of a Christmas Past, when all ended well—but only after a breakdown in a station wagon loaded with wrapped gifts!)

Excited about their first Christmas in the building, Kristin and Jamie had wanted the tallest tree that would fit.  It was 16 feet tall, which reminded Jamie of the Griswolds’ adventures (think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).  A friend had the old station wagon.  The rest is history.

As we talked, this year’s tree stood in the corner of the large room, which would welcome a party in a few hours.  It may serve as a venue for someone else’s event or The Bramble may host its own. The business directs efforts toward drawing attention to the importance of “shop local” to the local economy.  An extension of that goal is giving artists and craftsmen “a place to create a name for themselves,” then hopefully, over time these people will fill empty storefronts with “unique boutique shops.”

Such vendors had filled the space a week earlier as The Bramble hosted its second Shop Small Market following the Christmas Parade the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Keyword:  Variety.  One vendor with ornaments made from an antique quilt gave background.  Her grandmother lived in The Laurels community in the early 1900s, raised sheep, sheared sheep and spun wool to make batting for quilts she made.

Others offered truffles, baked goods, pickles, home décor items, jewelry, essential oils and other lavender-based products, metal art and more. Local students representing FFA sold Christmas trees and made wreaths on-site.

The involvement of students was no coincidence.  Agriculture and culinary arts students, along with those from the drama department and others who promote through video production and social media have supported efforts of RISE (Rejuvenate, Invest, Support and Energize), an organization made up of folks, including Kristin and Jamie, interested in Downtown Erwin. The relationship with educators and students has evolved as they have taken part in RISE projects.

Christmas events coming up include A Handmade Holiday Market, “a collection of local makers, artists and small businesses,” scheduled for Saturday, December 17, at The Bramble. Jewelry artist Angelica Markland, a vendor at the Shop Small event, is organizing this one.

Then, on Wednesday, December 21, the public is encouraged to join a Candlelight Nativity Parade that will make its way on Main Street from the Post Office to First Baptist Church. Dressing as shepherds or angels is fine but it is optional. Just meet at the Post Office at 6:30 p.m. for the procession to the church steps.  A live nativity, singing carols and hot chocolate will warm body and soul.  Churches are encouraged to participate.  For more information call Jamie, 220-7624.

Library Happenings – Book title helps lure readers to story within

By Angie Georgeff

It is always exciting to take delivery of new books. I love getting that first glimpse of a new novel by one of my favorite authors, but I also take pleasure each month in reading the titles of the books in our standing order shipment of large-print cozy mysteries. The most recent trio were Sofie Ryan’s “A Whisker of Trouble” (a Second Chance Cat Mystery), Kate Carlisle’s “Deck the Hallways” (a Fixer-Upper Mystery) and Lucy Burdette’s “Killer Takeout” (a Key West Food Critic Mystery).

I suspect that the hardest part of writing a cozy mystery is coming up with the perfect title. It has to suit the premise, of course, and authors seem to earn extra credit if their title can make you laugh, groan or—better yet–do both. Puns and double entendres seem to be their stock in trade, which makes me think my brother-in-law, with his predilection for puns, seriously missed his calling.

Jacklyn Brady’s “Piece of Cake” mysteries boast my all-time favorite set of titles:  “A Sheetcake Named Desire,” “Cake on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Arsenic and Old Cake,” “The Cakes of Wrath,” “Rebel without a Cake” and “The Cakes of Monte Cristo.” Rita Lucero, a pastry chef with a bent for sleuthing, pursues her passions from Zydeco Cakes, an upscale bakery in New Orleans. Given the delectable setting, it’s no surprise that the novels promise the lagniappe of “delicious recipes.”

From reviews that I have read, I gather that reading Brady’s novels can be hazardous to your waistline. I certainly can sympathize, since I have enjoyed Cajun cooking since my days living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. And I have loved cakes since I first tasted one!

It probably was my grandmother’s yellow cake with smidgen icing. That was the cake which my grandfather always requested for his birthday. I wish I could replicate my grandmother’s scrumptious caramel icing, but with a name like “smidgen” you know there is no recipe. Sadly, my smidgens are just not the same as hers.

Winter Weather

Even though the winter solstice is still two weeks away, meteorological winter arrived with the month of December. We all know what that means! Every year at about this time I want to mention that in case of snow or ice, the library may open late, close early or even be closed all day, so if the flakes are flying, please call us at 743-6533 to make sure we are open before you venture out.

Also remember that even when Unicoi County schools are closed, we may very well be open. As long as our staff can safely get to and from work, we will be here, ready to serve you. In any case, we won’t penalize you if your books or DVDs are a day late because of the weather, so enjoy the snow, but don’t take chances.

Movie Night – ‘Allied’ appeals to many in multiple genres

By Bradley Griffith

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of Brad Pitt, “Allied” is a movie that should be seen by fans of many genres. It doesn’t appeal to fans of only one type of movie, but is broad enough to combine several genres into one compelling tale.

The year is 1942 and World War II is raging across the globe.  A Canadian intelligence operative (spy) working with the British government named Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into the desert in North Africa.  He makes his way to Casablanca, changes into a suit and tie delivered to him by a local contact, and goes in search of a woman he has never met, his wife.  At least, for the purpose of his mission, Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), will play the role of his wife.

Marianne is a French intelligence operative.  She’s been in Casablanca for months building their cover as a husband and wife from Paris.  Marianne has managed to secure a job at the German consulate.  Their mission is to assassinate the German ambassador to Morocco at a party held in his honor.  They spend ten days in Casablanca planning and preparing, and falling in love.

When the job is finished and they both make it out alive Max asks Marianne to come back to England with him and become his wife.  After undergoing a thorough background check by British intelligence, Marianne arrives in London.  The couple get married and have a baby.  Max continues with his work in British intelligence while German planes continually bombard London on seemingly every night.  A year later Max, Marianne, and their baby are settled into their home in London as a family.  They are as happy as anyone can be during the war, until Max receives a call one weekend from his superior officer.

Max is summoned to his office where he is informed that British intelligence believe that Marianne is a German spy.  They believe her to be a double agent who is sending information she gleans from Max about his intelligence work to other German spies.  Max is told that they will have confirmation of whether she is a spy in seventy-two hours.  Max takes that proclamation as a mission to prove that the love of his life in not a double agent in only seventy-two hours.

“Allied” crosses so many genres that it’s impossible to pigeonhole it into only one.  It’s part war story, love story, spy story, and mystery combined into one interesting and tension packed movie.  Max will stop at nothing to prove that Marianne is not a spy.  How could she be when together they assassinated a German ambassador?

While the movie does begin somewhat slowly with Max and Marianne getting to know each other in Casablanca while pretending that they are already husband and wife, the pace picks up considerably during the assassination of the German ambassador.  From that point forward the drama builds until the end.  Still, it’s important to know that “Allied” is not an action movie.  There are a few of scenes of action, but don’t expect a lot of gun fights or battles because it is set during the war.

There’s something about World War II that lends itself to great stories.  Maybe it’s because of the sacrifices an entire generation across the world had to make to rid the world of such evil, or maybe it’s because of the many heroic actions of soldiers and civilians alike during the war.  Whatever the reason, “Allied” capitalizes on the tension of World War II London and the suspicions of everyone that gripped the city.  The seventy-two hours that Max uses to prove Marianne is innocent is steeped in suspense and mystery that doesn’t let up until the story’s climax.

While the acting in the movie is good, it’s not a movie that lives or dies on the acting performances.  Pitt and Cotillard perform well.  But “Allied” is all about the story.  A tale of intrigue during the war to end all wars.  Thankfully for the viewer, this story is excellent.

Grade: A-

Rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language, and brief drug use.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Shopping for right reason helps

By Keith Whitson

Black Friday is now “old” news. This year we discovered “Tarnished Thursday.” It seems stores gave us just enough time to rush through our Thanksgiving meals, say a brief prayer and run out the door for the sales. Those who prayed long enough to name a few items for which they are thankful, missed out on the Doorbuster Deals. A second helping or time with family meant you were cutting your chances slim of finding a parking space.

I am finding it hard to get into the seasonal demands this year. The thought of dragging out the decorations seems like a daunting chore. Facing the stores and the shoppers is another challenge.

However, each Christmas has held its own special moment, gift, family time and memory. But, the anticipation as a child is something that is hard to duplicate as an adult.

It seemed that Christmas would never get here when I was younger. The clock seemed to drag as I eagerly paced around the festively wrapped boxes. Now, for some reason, the older I get, the faster December 25th rolls around.

But the fact is clear, Christmas holds a special excitement for children. Many of us are blessed with more than we need but others, right here in our county, struggle with the daily expenses of life. The burden of not disappointing a child weighs heavily on many parents.

For this reason, many rely on the Erwin Kiwanis Club’s Annual Christmas  Shopping Tour. I think this is one of the most amazing acts of giving in our area.

For approximately 200 local children, the Erwin Kiwanis Club makes dreams come true. The tradition started back in the mid 1960s with the Erwin Jaycees. When they surrendered their charter as a club, the Kiwanians took over the Christmas event to keep it alive.

Depending on the resources available, the club takes around 200 children to the local Walmart. That number has gone up each year and is 30 more than last Christmas. The need continues to rise.

With approximately $100 per child, volunteers help them buy Christmas presents. Not only do they help find the perfect toy, but they also make sure the children are suited up with clothes, shoes and coats.

But they don’t stop there. The club also comes up with $30 each for approximately 50 Headstart children.

How do they do it? Well it takes a little more than Santa to pull off an event this big. Often there are even more volunteers to help than there are children. However, this year volunteers are needed. Volunteers don’t go unrewarded. Getting to seeing how much joy can be experienced from fulfilling the dreams of a child, is a gift in itself for anyone volunteering.

Through generous financial support from local businesses, industries and individuals, the event has continued to be a success. However, this year, due to  the difficult economic times we are in, it will be a challenge to raise the necessary funds.  I would like to ask that you do what you can, and encourage others, including your friends and/or employees to donate to this project with both time and money.

For many of these children, it is not only a chance to experience Christmas with a toy, like the other kids around them, but is a chance to get much needed clothing. It is the chance to get a winter coat before it gets colder as well as new shoes. Please help support this project with an amount, whether great or small. It all counts to make a difference in the life of a needy child.

I am proud to be a member of the Erwin Kiwanis Club and help support the efforts and needs of Unicoi County. I have grown up with fond memories of Christmas and gifts that far exceeded my needs.

For me, this year, Christmas will be seeing the sparkle in the eyes of a child that might otherwise go without.

Donations can be mailed to Kiwanis Club of Erwin, P.O. Box 207, Erwin, TN 37650. Your support will be very much appreciated. The Foundation is a 501-C-3 corporation, so your contribution is tax deductible.

This year’s Shopping Tour will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3. The club is also seeking individuals to assist the children as they shop. Anyone wishing to volunteer to shop, please arrive at the Unicoi Walmart at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 3 to register. For more information, contact event chairman Bill Gaines at 341-3022.

Hood’s Winks – Grand Old Man of the Circus

By Ralph Hood

Wife Gail and I are fascinated with circuses, and that’s how I met Cal Townsend, then over 80 years old and known as The Grand Old Man of the Circus.

Over the years Cal did just about every job on the circus. He was a noted craftsman. If you wanted the very best—and were in no hurry—Cal built it. I once owned a pickup truck with a Cal-built cover. It was a work of art, built of wood, covered with canvas, then painted and repainted. It was years old when I got it, and still seemed brand new years later.

Cal “opened” the side show with a funny routine. He pointed to the huge signs advertising the sideshow acts, then told the people to “Ignore the signs. These are just the signs we happened to have in winter quarters and they have no connection to what’s inside this tent. However, if I—personally—tell you a certain act is inside, you will absolutely see that person inside—unless he got drunk and can’t perform or got picked up last night by the local police.” People laughed and bought tickets just to see what really was inside.

Cal was a performer himself He really got the crowd laughing when he sat in the audience, loudly mocked one of the acrobatic acts, then came out of the audience and into the ring to prove that he could do that act himself. He made a fool of himself, and there’s no fool like a professional fool! The audience loved it and laughed uproariously! Everybody loved Cal.

He seemed agile and spry for a man over 80. Once I stopped by a huge arena where the circus was playing and found Cal ice skating, for crying out loud, and doing it very well.

You could ask Cal anything about the circus and he would answer with some fascinating story. He once described to me exactly how the old “medicine” shows came to town and sold miracle elixirs. Medicine shows were way before my time, but I was fascinated by Cal’s explanation.

Most of all Cal was delightful. He wrote a song once, and sang it to everyone who would listen, but it was never published. While researching for this column I called one of Cal’s best friends, Floyd Bradbury. Between us, all we could remember of the song were the few words, “I’m a traveling man, you’re a stay-at-home girl.” After he sang it to someone, he always said, “Of course, I have to get a real singer to sing it.”

Among all of his other skills, Cal was a professional sign painter. He took his brushes and paint on the road, and during his “spare time” he might go downtown and repaint store signs for extra money—and him over 80!

I wish I could visit Cal today, just to hear him tell stories, but he died years ago, and even his death told a funny story.

Here’s that final Cal story. It turned out that he wasn’t over 80 at all, but was only 67 years old at the time of death! Evidently, he had just enjoyed being the Grand Old Man of the Circus! As his friends said, “Cal fooled us one more time!”

Senior Center News – Christmas Bazaar returns Dec. 1-2

By Kamela Easlic

What would the holiday season be without the Annual Clinchfield Senior Adult Center Christmas Bazaar, Bake Sale and Soup Lunch? We don’t want to find out and that’s the reason the volunteers and staff are hard at work to make this year is the best yet!

You are invited to eat, shop, and catch up with friends during this festive fundraiser happening Thursday and Friday, Dec. 1 and 2. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, you will find lots of homemade seasonal crafts and accessories such as wooden toys, ornaments, lotions, teacher gifts, gag gifts, hats, gloves and scarves as well as delicious baked goods including cakes, candies, pies, breads, apple relish, and more. We just received a fresh shipment of pecan halves, pecan pieces, English walnuts and black walnuts so those will be available for purchase as well.

Lunch is sure to please with your choice of soups – Creamy Vegetable Soup, Broccoli Cheddar, Cowboy Beans, Soup Beans and Chicken Taco Soup with corn muffins or tortilla chips. Lunch is available by eat in or carry out from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Delivery is available to local businesses and schools. The price will range from $4 to $9, depending on the serving size.   

Please call the senior center at 743-5111 or visit us at 220 Union St. between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.  We look forward to seeing you at your Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.

Library Happenings – Library turns page toward thoughts of Christmas

By Angie Georgeff

It seems as though we just got the library decked with pumpkins and turkeys and now we have to put up our Christmas trees and wreaths. Fortunately, most of us who work here at the library enjoy decorating. And Story is still young enough to enjoy, shall we say, redecorating. I know from years of experience that cats prefer low-hanging Christmas ornaments to be on the floor–and if they break on the way down, well, so be it.

Decking the halls, walls, doors and floors is one way to get in the spirit of the season, but reading can get you to that destination as well, and not just with the Christmas stories of Debbie Macomber, Richard Paul Evans, Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss. I still enjoy watching the 1966 version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with my three grandchildren each year, but the Christmas passages from “Little Women” are just as dear to me.

The novel starts with Jo lying on the rug grumbling that “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” Her father is a chaplain with the Union Army during the Civil War, and money for the little luxuries that she and her sisters had anticipated as gifts is in short supply.

They each have one dollar of their own that they may spend as they see fit. At first, the girls consider buying Christmas presents for themselves, but they soon decide to spend the money on Marmee, their mother. They still have a celebratory breakfast to look forward to, but they give that up as well—and cheerfully–when an immigrant family has greater need of it than they.

In spite of all they have sacrificed, the four March girls have a very merry Christmas, with accident-plagued amateur theatricals and an unexpectedly elegant supper. It is a small portion of the novel, but these are my favorite chapters. I tend to think of them any Christmas when I need a little nudge in the right direction.

Christmas Adoptions

As we have done for several years, the library staff has “adopted” a family for Christmas. There are four children between the ages of nine and three and we are collecting toys, clothing and food to help make their Christmas a bit merrier. Miss Cindy has prepared a list of clothing sizes with specific needs and favorite kinds of toys for each of the kids. If you would like to help, you may pick up a copy of the list at our circulation desk or call the library at 743-6533 for information.

In addition, our Teen Advisory Group has adopted two residents at a local nursing facility and they are collecting clothing, toiletries and comfort items for one man and one woman. Please see our Unicoi County Public Library Kids and Teens Facebook page for more information about this project.