From the Publisher’s Desk – March on to the madness of spring

By Keith Whitson

I changed the date at the top of this page to correspond with the Roman calendar marking this the halfway point of the month. The Ides of March is a phrase derived from the Latin idus.

It was Shakespeare who brought us the phrase “Beware the Ides of March.” “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” immortalized this dark moment, written by William Shakespeare around 1599.

Supposedly, in 44 BC, a seer told Julius Caesar that his downfall would come no later than the Ides of March. Caesar ignored him, and when the fated day rolled around he joked with the seer, “The Ides of March have come.” The seer replied, “aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

Caesar continued on to a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, and was murdered by as many as 60 conspirators. Ironically, the spot where Caesar was assassinated is protected in today’s Rome as a no-kill cat sanctuary.

March also brings us a wide array of interesting quirkiness. For one, there is the saying “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” If it is opposite coming in the saying then goes “In like a lamb, out like a lion. I hate to say, but I have found this saying typically true. However, I think the lion and lamb aren’t sure which one is in charge this year with all of the unusual weather.

March also brings us St. Patrick, who was actually born in Roman Britain at the end of the 4th century AD and taken to Ireland by slavers when he was a teenager.

The exact place of his birth is debatable as some say Scotland and some say Wales but, either way, he’s Irish now.

Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland but in fact, Ireland never had any snakes as the weather was too miserable for the cold-blooded reptiles.

Saint Patrick’s Crozier was honored with devotion for centuries in Dublin’s Christ Church only to be publicly burned in 1538 under the orders of the archbishop, George Browne.

Maybe that sadness is why the day is known for the large consumption of beer. The global corporate-relations director of Guinness says 5.5 million pints of Guinness are sold on any given day, but this figure rises to 13 million on St. Patrick’s Day.

As a side note, if you are looking for some good local St. Patrick’s Day fun, check out the Choo Choo Cafe. The historic landmark will be open this Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. with special appetizers, Irish food and beer sampling.

The second floor of the business will feature tables and lounge areas. You can also take to the large dance space as you tap your feet to the music of the Spivey Mountain Boys. The Choo Choo Cafe is located at 111 South Main.

Another date associated with March is Daylight Saving Time. I am not a fan of this totally life confusing method. President Trump, “Make America great again” and end this time tampering measure.

Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I, and became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we would presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving on electricity.

It’s like the whole country has been given one hour of jet lag. One hour of lost sleep sounds like a small change, but we humans are fragile, sensitive creatures. Small disruptions in our sleep have been shown to alter basic indicators of our health and dull our mental edge. Being an hour off schedule means our bodies are not prepared for the actions we partake in at any time of the day.

On March 20th, spring begins or possibly summer, winter or fall here in East Tennessee. Apparently it is easier to lose our seasons than it is to lose daylight saving time. I spent last summer watering everything in my yard to keep it alive. I am now grabbing up every cardboard box I can find to cover things and protect them. School snow days have now turned into heavy frost days.

For some, the month brings March Madness. The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament features teams from the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to determine the national championship. The tournament was created in 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the idea of Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen.

March 21st will also mark the 11th anniversary of Twitter and the preferred method of communication for our newest President Donald Trump. .

Not only is March Women’s History Month, but it’s also American Red Cross Month and Fire Prevention Month. Another popular holiday is Read Across America on March 2, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

In the words of Dr. Seuss “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

I will end with another Seuss saying. “Time marches on and so does this month. It will be summer soon and that is enough.”

Adam’s Apples – Country’s not just country anymore

By James Mack Adams

It is time to confess.  I plead no contest and throw myself on the mercy of the court of public opinion.  I am a life-long fan of country music but I must admit I no longer watch the televised annual Academy of Country Music Awards show.  Four years ago, I watched about an hour of the production before switching channels.  I haven’t made it through an entire show since.

Country music?  Really?  I challenge whether some of what is called country music today deserves the label.  That opinion comes from an octogenarian (me) who grew up a few miles from the “Birthplace of Country Music” (Bristol) and who once lived within a short drive of “Music City” (Nashville).

Before I get into more trouble with some readers let me say there are some modern country entertainers whose music I enjoy.  Others not so much.  Not everyone who puts on a cowboy hat, straps on a guitar and screams some unintelligible lyrics into a microphone qualifies for the title of “country artist.”  Again, that’s one person’s opinion…mine.

When it comes to music and art I suppose some could accuse me of being a purist.  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  Sometimes the original, using art and music as examples, is better than any attempt to improve on it.      

I accept that personal tastes in music are often generational.  Has any parent ever understood the music to which his or her child listens?  Probably not.  My parents lived through the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s.  They had trouble understanding my fascination with 1950s “classic” rock and roll.  It was their opinions that Elvis and The Beatles were just passing fads and would not make it far in the music business.

Mountain, country, hillbilly, roots music, whatever you choose to call it, is an integral part of the fabric and history of Appalachia.  Early settlers came to these mountains with instruments that were often homemade. They also brought with them music traditions that have evolved over the years but have in large part remained true to their origins.  Traditional Appalachian music is said to be based on Anglo-Celtic folk ballads and dance tunes.

I was glad to read in this newspaper that the First Annual Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention is scheduled for April 29 at the old Flag Pond School.  The event will celebrate Unicoi County’s and Northeast Tennessee’s rich musical heritage.  It is written that East Tennessee’s own David Crockett was known for his fiddle playing.  Let’s hope the event is a huge success.

It was not unusual for those early mountain musicians not to read music.  The same was often true for later performers.  Appearing on a late-night television talk show many years ago, country singer Jimmy Dean was asked if any of the musicians in Nashville could read music.  “A little but not enough to hurt their playing any” was his reply.     

I might insert a footnote here.  Some may know Jimmy Dean more for his sausage than his singing.

In 1927, Ralph Peer, a record executive with the Victor Talking Machine Co. came to Bristol, set up a temporary recording studio in a building on State Street, and invited local musicians to come and  record for him.  He recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts.  Among performers who accepted the invitation were The Carter

Family and Jimmie Rodgers.  The commercial success of the recordings would many years later lead to Bristol being named the “Birthplace of Country Music.”

One of my favorite country singers was a Bristol native.  His name was Ernest Jennings Ford, better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Some of my uncles were Southwest Virginia coal miners.  Ernie’s song, “Sixteen Tons,” was special to me.  As a child, I witnessed how my uncles toiled underground with pick and shovel to earn meager livings for their families.  Yes, I do remember the company store to which many a coal miner owed his soul.

Someone once described country music as three guitar chords and the truth.  The songs tell stories of everyday struggles and sometimes of overcoming personal demons.  Over the years, favorite lyric subjects have been such things as home, family, faith, trains, trucks, drinking, honkytonks, divorce, prison, etc.

I grew up in Appalachia bombarded from all sides by country (hillbilly) music.  I have always liked country, but at times during my life I hesitated to admit it for fear of being called a hillbilly hick.  As country entertainer Barbara Mandrel sings in one of her signature songs, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.”

Library Happenings – Surname brings search into Irish heritage

By Angie Georgeff

When I was little, I thought that because my surname was O’Dell my family was Irish. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green, but we never ate corned beef and cabbage or recounted any Irish folk tales. I now know why:  the Odells are English. There certainly were clues.

My grandfather George Alfred bore the names of the patron saint of England and the only English king called “Great.” He wrote his surname as his ancestors had, with no apostrophe or capital “D.” That is, until he joined the U.S. Army during the Philippine-American War. That was when his commanding officer, Captain O’Dell, informed George that he was Irish and that he wasn’t writing his name correctly. I doubt that George had ever thought much about it, so he accepted his commander’s pronouncement, tweaked his name and claimed to be “Irish.”

As it turned out, quite a few of my forbears had made their home on the Emerald Isle—just not the Odells. During my genealogical research, I learned that the greatest percentage of my ancestors were Scots-Irish, Protestants who were represented by the orange band on the tricolor Irish flag rather than the green of the native Catholic population. They had left the Scottish Lowlands during a time of English oppression, and settled in the Irish province of Ulster. They eventually acquired the color and name of Orangemen for their support of the British King William III of Orange. While William was popular with my Presbyterian forefathers, his successors were not.

When English persecution of religious dissenters followed them to Ireland, many of them left for America. Most of my Scots-Irish ancestors entered the colonies at Philadelphia, settling for a while in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. They then followed the Great Appalachian Valley south into Augusta County, Virginia and eventually came on into Tennessee. According to the “Washington Post,” Irish heritage is claimed by more Americans than any other ancestry except German. Even so, the 88.9 percent of us who are not Irish can still wear green and claim to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. It worked for my grandfather George.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 16. The public is welcome to attend. If you should need any special accommodations, please call the library at 743-6533.

Easter Forecast

The April forecast calls for fun. Planning is underway for our upcoming Easter celebration for kids. If you would like to help, donations of plastic eggs and wrapped candy would be very much appreciated. Thank you!

Movie Night – ‘Arrival’ latest movie about aliens on Earth

By Bradley Griffith

The latest movie about aliens arriving on Earth is now available for rental in your home.  But, don’t expect an alien invasion movie.  Starring Amy Adams, “Arrival” is more a mystery and a study of the relationships between humans than any threat of aliens.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist and a professor at an unnamed university.  In what appear to be flashbacks throughout the movie Louise relives her life with her daughter until her daughter’s diagnosis and resulting death from cancer.  Louise is haunted by these visions.

In the midst of her despair a global emergency arises when twelve extra-terrestrial spaceships appear across the planet.  The spaceships seemingly do nothing other than hover a short distance above the ground.  Louise maintains her everyday routine, even though students stop attending classes because of the alien spacecraft.

A few days later Louise is approached by U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker).  Weber wants Louise to use her extensive knowledge of languages to help communicate with the aliens inside the ships.  Louise is quickly whisked away to a waiting helicopter where she meets Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner).  Ian is a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Louise and Ian are a team and must work together to communicate with the aliens.

The team arrives in Montana to work with the UFO hovering above the isolated landscape.  Louise and Ian are dressed in hazmat suits and raised up into the spaceship.  Louise is amazed to see extremely unusual aliens on the other side of a glass barrier attempting to communicate with them in a very complex language.

Though teams are working at all twelve of the sites across the world, it’s Louise and Ian who make the most progress.  The issue is whether they will be able to decipher the language before the powers that be decide to respond to the alien crafts with hostility.

The plot of “Arrival” incorrectly sounds like an alien invasion movie.  Instead, the film is a mystery.  The mystery is why the aliens came, what they want from us, and what are they trying to tell us in their intricate written language.  Louise and Ian spend countless hours poring over these questions to avoid a military response to the vessels.

The movie is filmed with an overabundance of ominous tones and sounds that are intended to heighten the dark mood of the movie and accompany the revelations as the movie unfolds.  They help create a sense of foreboding at first, but then quickly start to irritate as the overpowering sounds are played on an almost constant basis during nearly every scene, which causes them to lose any effect they may have once held.

“Arrival” also illuminates how quickly people can turn against members of their own team in the face of adversity.  When people across the globe decide that they can’t understand the intentions of the aliens they turn against not only the aliens, but their own people.  In its own way, the movie reveals more about humans than any fictitious aliens.

“Arrival” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and has been widely lauded as one of the best movies of 2016.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the hype.  In many places during the movie the story drags and becomes almost boring.  It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s a strange one and the final revelation is somewhat anti-climactic.  It certainly doesn’t qualify as the “best” anything.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Norman Rockwell has left town

By Keith Whitson

On Wednesday mornings we hold our breath at The Erwin Record. It doesn’t take long before we know if it is going to be a good day or a bad one. It is all determined by telephone calls. If it is quiet, things went smoothly. If the three incoming lines are ringing off the hook, we know one or more have failed.

I am talking about newspaper carriers and the delivery of The Erwin Record. Since we are part of a larger newspaper group, with the Johnson City Press being one, our newspaper is delivered by the same carriers. They pick up the newspapers around midnight on Tuesday and hopefully have the paper in your box by the time you wake up.

Sometimes there are new carriers that aren’t so familiar with their route, some carriers are very dependable and do their best, and then there are those who seemingly don’t care. Do we complain? Yes. Does it do any good? No.

We take getting your newspaper to you seriously. We put a lot of effort into it and we appreciate every newspaper subscription and every newspaper purchased.

We continually update subscriptions in the system. We print out lists of names and addresses for the carriers. We have bundles for every route already counted and sorted. Still, new subscriptions often get missed because they just don’t read the list.

Please, if you don’t get your newspaper in your box, let us know as soon as you can. We put notes in the system for the carriers. We can’t try to correct the problem if we don’t know there is one. A replacement newspaper will be brought out to you the next day. I wish it could be the same day, but costs will not allow it. However, if you happen to be in town, you can stop by the office and pick up a copy of your missed paper.

Kathy Carmichael is over circulation for us at the newspaper. Many of you have been greeted by her when you walk in the office here at 218 Gay St. Others have talked with Kathy on the phone. Kathy takes selling newspaper subscriptions serious.

In her free moments here, she makes call after call telling of our special rates. Yet, week after week we have subscribers call in and say they have had enough. They have been missed again and far too many times, so they will just pick one up at the rack.

Last week I had one subscriber bring in his copy of the newspaper to show me what condition it was in. He has requested that the newspaper be put in his box underneath his post office box, which makes sense.

His carrier continues to throw it in the yard, sometimes with a rubber band around it and other times just lose for the wind to carry it wherever. His newspaper also takes all the elements of weather because the carrier doesn’t put it in a plastic bag which is provided. Last week’s rain completely soaked his newspaper into one heavy, stuck together mess, which has happened before. He is giving us one more chance.

We have handicapped customers who request the newspaper be put on their porch. We try to arrange that but not always with luck.

We also have carriers tell us they ran out of newspapers and didn’t have enough. We know how many newspapers are needed for their route and we know how many we left, along with some extras. Why does this happen? They don’t read the list, but rather go by habit. If your subscription ran out you may still get a newspaper, leaving them short somewhere along the way.

We had one lady call in to say she didn’t get her newspaper. When we looked in the system, here subscription ran out almost a year ago but she had been getting the newspaper uninterrupted due to habit out of the carrier.

Some of you get both The Erwin Record and the Johnson City Press. We have customers call that they got one but not the other when it was the same carrier who should have left both.

Last week we had one customer say they dropped the Johnson City Press but were still subscribed to the Record. However, since they dropped the Press they haven’t gotten the Record. The carrier said it was five miles out of his way and he wasn’t going to take it. Google maps claims it to be less than one half mile.

To all those who have occasional trouble, I deeply apologize.

This isn’t how Norman Rockwell depicted a hometown. Maybe I need some kids on bicycles.

To all the carriers who are reading this and take pride in your work, thank you.

It’s an interesting life working in the newspaper field. Every week we could use the expression “That’s news to me.”

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Mad as it may be, time marches on

By Connie Denney

What do a planet, a sacred season for Christians, historic words of warning, an indicator of the current political atmosphere, a well-known Irish saint, a special kind of madness, seasonal changes and time, itself, have in common?

The month of March!  Named, as is the planet Mars, for the Roman god of war, the month is chock-full of observances.

Today, Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 46 days before Easter, which falls on Sunday, April 16, this year.  A time of spiritual preparation for Easter, Lent ends Thursday, April 13. (From year-to-year, Ash Wednesday may come as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.)

Easter carries with it thoughts of renewal, as we anticipate spring.  With the unusual temperatures recently, we dare not count on certain weather on a given date.  But, the calendar recognizes Monday, March 20, as the beginning of spring.  The Spring Equinox is to occur at 6:29 a.m. EDT, to be exact.

Speaking of time, Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 12.  In Tennessee that is to start at 2:00 a.m., to be exact.  It ends Sunday, November 5.

These “timely” announcements remind me of the analogy of the blanket, cutting off one end and sewing it to the other.  The point—I think—is that it makes no difference to the length of the blanket.  Well, maybe, it’s just one more thing to confuse and confound us!

One holiday folks may attach importance to for a variety of reasons is Saint Patrick’s Day.  Whether it calls up thoughts of the foremost patron saint of Ireland, reminds you of your Irish heritage or, mainly, of green beer—the holiday falls on March 17.

Wearing green on the 17th is important, according to my reading, to avoid having a leprechaun sneak up and pinch you.  Wearing green, you see, makes you invisible to the little guys.

Ides of March does not show up as a holiday on the square for the 15th on my calendar.  But, as the soothsayer warned Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play named for the Roman dictator, “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, March 15, to be exact, at a senate meeting.

As I looked on the Internet to refresh my Ides-of-March memory, “Ides of Trump” popped up.  Seriously!  I had to read on.  It seems there are protesters encouraging folks to use “Ides of Trump” on postcards they send on March 15 to the White House, expressing what they think on issues that matter to them. They were careful to point out they were not encouraging violence, however.

Although it may not be in bold letters on your calendar, March Madness needs no explanation for basketball fans.  Even for everyone else, no doubt, the term will come up as media attention turns to NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament play.  It should be an interesting diversion from the Senate.

Religion, politics, sports, history, seasonal changes, madness, Mars and Roman gods–oh, my! Time marches on, daylight or not.

Movie Night – ‘John Wick 2’ brings action

By Bradley Griffith

He once killed three men in a bar.  With a pencil.  Keanu Reeves returns as the deadly assassin John Wick, who wants nothing more than to return to his peaceful life of retirement in the countryside.  “John Wick 2” is now in theaters.

“John Wick 2” picks up where the first movie ended.  All John (Keanu Reeves) wants to do is get his car back from those who stole it and go home.  Shortly after the events of the first movie John returns to the seedy underworld of organized crime in New York to take back what is his. The attempt at stealing his 1969 Mustang from Russian mobsters makes for a memorable opening sequence.

John finally makes it home.  After only a brief respite the doorbell rings.  Reluctantly, John opens the door to find Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) on his doorstep.  Santino is an Italian crime lord from the city.  His father recently passed away and his sister, Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), has inherited the throne to the ill-gotten empire.  John doesn’t even want to invite Santino into his home, but he has no choice.

Santino asks John for a favor.  John refuses the request without even asking the nature of the favor.   John’s retired, he claims.  Santino produces a marker.  A marker is a medallion with John’s fingerprint in blood inside.  His fingerprint represents a blood oath he made to Santino.  Essentially, the marker means John pledged to perform any task requested by Santino.  It was the only way John could get out of a life of crime.  Still, John refuses the marker.

Not surprisingly, Santino does not take this denial of the marker well.  He destroys John’s home.  After seeking advice from an old friend, Winston (Ian McShane), John decides to play along and perform Santino’s request.  Before he turns his considerable talents on Santino.

“John Wick 2” is the mother of all action movies.  It’s the unquestioned king of shoot-em-up movies.  John is an unstoppable force of nature, a pure killing machine.  They call him the Boogeyman with good reason.  He leaves a veritable river of dead bodies in his wake.  The body count seems endless.  The entire movie feels like one long gun battle, with a few scenes of hand-to-hand combat.

The gunfights and fist fights are incredible.  The choreography of the fights scenes required the actors to perform with almost perfect timing and incredible physical abilities.  The running, jumping, flipping, falling, shooting, and fighting was almost non-stop and was simply amazing.  It’s obvious that Keanu Reeves had significant training with weapons and hand-to-hand combat to perform the physical requirements of the role.

Rapper Common makes a memorable return as Cassian, a steely-eyed assassin who is nearly as adept at his trade as John Wick.  Of all of the considerable amount of men and women who are dispatched to dispatch John, Cassian stands alone as the one person who might be up to the task.  John and Cassian engage in more than one memorable round of combat.

Action, action, action.  That’s what you expect with “John Wick 2.” You want guns blazing, fists flying, and cars roaring, and that is exactly what you get.  It’s refreshing, and unusual, to get from a movie exactly what you were wanting and expecting. Fans of the series will be happy to know that the movie’s ending sets up a third installment of the series.

Grade: A-

Rated R for strong violence throughout, some language, and brief nudity.

Library Happenings – Census, court records, newspapers available

By Angie Georgeff

If you love genealogy and local history as much as I do–and I know I’m not alone—you know how thrilling it is to find the census record, deed, will or obituary that has the information you’ve been seeking. You can’t wait to copy it and add it to your collection. If you’re not able to copy or print the document, it can be a major disappointment.  Or a major pain, if you have to transcribe it! If you’re a genuine optimist, you may consider it experiencing life as your ancestors lived it.

Our library is blessed with a large collection of court records and local newspapers on microfilm.Local history buffs and a significant number of visitors from other states come here to view our microfilm. They scan the film for minutes or hours or even for days following a trail of crumbs they hope will lead to the information that lured them here. They are thrilled when they stumble across it, but unfortunately, they cannot print out or email the precious documents they have found. Sometimes they are able to photograph the article with their smartphones, but that seldom results in a good quality image. The best I can offer is the email address of athe Tennessee State Library and Archives. They can make a copy from their microfilm and email it to the patron, but that involves time and expense.

If microfilm reader/printers were inexpensive, we’d already have one. They aren’t, but a generous gift has given us a substantial start on a fund toward the purchase of one.  Those who use them are well aware of their value, but even those who don’t have to admit they are necessary equipment for any library in an area that welcomes genealogy tourism.  People are more than willing to travel in search of their roots.  And when they travel, they stay at hotels, eat at restaurants, buy gasoline, visit local attractions and patronize local stores. For the benefit of our patrons and the good of our community, we intend to do all we can to raise the remainder of the cost and get a reader/printer for the library.  If you would like to help, we would welcome a donation in any amount.  Thank you!

New Books

Happy news!  State funds for library materials have been released, and we already have placed the first order. This purchase includes many of the books you have requested, so we will notify you when those books have been received, cataloged and processed. Now is the time to let us know which books you want to read! These funds have to be spent on in-stock titles by the middle of April, or they will disappear like Cinderella’s coach. Of course, we would never let that happen, but if you wait too long, your opportunity to suggest books for this round of funding will expire. The clock is ticking, so let us know what is on your wish list.

Record joins in support of Local Media Consortium

The Erwin Record

The Erwin Record, legitimate news organizations and fair-minded, informed Americans are all sickened by the proliferation of “fake news” spreading across the desktops and mobile devices of millions of Americans.

While we believe Americans need to be discerning about where they get their news, there are other forces at play. The ad-tech community has rewarded fake news by paying its creators for each click to these deceitful sites. Some advertisers have been careless about where their ads run. Consumers have been vulnerable to misinformation from fake news sites.. And publishers need to be more careful about accepting ads from dubious sites.

That is why the Local Media Consortium – which includes this newspaper – and its partners are issuing a call to its members and readers to help prevent the dissemination of fake news.

The LMC is a strategic partnership of local media companies representing more than 1,600 news sites across the U.S. that has banded together to use the latest technologies and partnerships with digital companies to not only help local journalism thrive, but to quell the spread of fake news.

Together, the LMC and its partners encourage its members and readers to refuse to reward fake news. The ad-tech and publishing industries together have the power – and we would strongly argue, the responsibility – to affect the financial incentive outlets receive for spreading falsehoods. The LMC urges its members, partners and the ad-tech industry to more fully vet the companies and organizations with which it does business.

Google has committed to developing policies to keep ads off fake news sites, and others must follow suit. The LMC, whose footprint currently spans 155 million unique monthly visitors, pledges to work with its members and partners to help ensure reputable companies producing genuine news coverage and best-in-industry ad rates are rewarded, while banning those pushing propaganda.

The national media do not have the local connections and context to cover what is going on outside top media markets. Consumers and corporate America must recognize the value of reputable, local news organizations.

Get to know your local journalists and broadcasters. Follow them on social media. When you read a “news” story, become familiar with its source and confirm that it is associated with a reputable parent news organization by reading its Privacy Policy and About Us descriptions. Confirm that articles by that news outlet have real comments from real followers dating back many months. If a story doesn’t meet these tests, consumers should think long and hard about its legitimacy and the legitimacy of its origin.

It is almost impossible for an individual, or even a group of individuals to kill a piece of fake news. But simply clicking off the site and refusing to share it with a larger audience demonstrates your disdain for this scourge and your commitment to help stop its roots from taking an even firmer hold.

As journalists and news organizations we must look within our own newsrooms, websites and social media outlets to determine how we can best protect our readers from fake news. This includes educating readers and viewers about examples of this propaganda through editorial content, and encouraging social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to focus on local-level news.

We thank you for joining us in our commitment to protect against the ills of fake news and the sustainability of honest journalism.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Sometimes we have to laugh at life

From Staff Reports

The campus at East Tennessee State University was majestic in the beauty of a winter’s snow. Students could easily get caught up in the setting and not pay attention to the slippery walks which were struggling to thaw.

As I walked to class on that day, several years ago, I saw her approaching me. She had her arms full of books, a purse and items in a bag. And, then it happened. Her feet flew high into the air as her body plummeted to the ground with a hard landing. Books  were lost mid flight, with many coming back down on top of her.

Uncontrollably, I began to laugh out loud. I couldn’t stop. I had watched the entire episode and it was stuck on “repeat” in my brain. Each time the memory got to the slipping segment, I broke out in laughter as if seeing it for the very first time.

Instinct should have been to run over and see if she needed help but I was too afraid I had deeply offended her or that I might  be in danger of her wrath. But, quickly she rolled over to her knees to proceed and get up.

It is that strange impulse we all have of trying to recover and then look around quickly to see if anyone saw us. She knew at least one person had seen her.

I would like to say that is the only time I have laughed at someone’s expense, but that’s not so. There is just something in me that doesn’t send a message to my brain before it does my mouth.

I also have trouble with serious situations and am not a good comforter or caretaker. It is not that I don’t care. In fact, I have deep love for friends, family and mankind.

I can tolerate taking care of someone for the first day, maybe two. After that my mind starts wondering how much longer, because this is getting old.

I really have trouble at funerals. I begin to panic over how I am going to be able to show my condolences and seem sincere. From that, I get a big grin on my face – a nervous grin.

I take a deep breathe before entering the funeral home and start thinking of those animal abuse commercials they show on TV. Those commercials are so horrible that I often shut my eyes, turn away or change the station. However, I have seen enough glimpses that I can use the images for my “grin erasing” needs.

Most of the time I am near tears from my depressing images before I even get close to the family. There is always someone holding up the line by spending 10 to 15 minutes telling those at the casket some lengthy tale.

To the side I hear an elderly lady telling someone about how she has “lost” three family members in a year. I want to ask her where she last saw them and if I can help her find them since they are “lost.” Now I’ve got the grins again.

For some reason, it is just how my brain functions. I am always looking for the witty comeback or punchline.

It’s not always at the expense of someone else, I have had my embarrassing moments, too. I was in great need of a haircut so I dropped by a hair salon in the mall. I put my coat on the coat rack, asked if anyone was available for a walk-in client and was directed back to a cutting station.

The salon was completely visible to passerbys by the wall of glass and door which covered the entire front of the store. After my cut, I payed and proceeded to walk out. I had forgotten about the clear glass wall and went full force into it. The impact made a loud thud which vibrated the entire area. Luckily it didn’t break but I got out of there as fast as I could, without looking back.

After walking a bit and gaining my composure, I realized I forgot to get my coat. I really liked that coat and, besides, it was cold out. I turned, went back, collected my coat and never went back to that salon again.

Employee Keeli Parkey and I are like identical twins when it comes to personalities and in understanding each other. That is very rare, considering our true, inner personalities. It is comforting to have someone reassure you that your anxiety over something or stupidity is “normal.”

The only problem is that Keeli and I both have our bodies set on “High Stress” mode and we keep contributing to each other’s anxiety. It is common for us to send each other on a panic roller coaster ride when we enter the other’s office.

Keeli quickly enters my office calling my name and I jump high and the same goes for her. Several times she has been startled by coming out of her office as I was ready to pass by. The last time she screamed, jumped, slammed into the wall and ended up in the floor. Of course I laughed.

A Refreshing Knapp – Facebook provides multiple tidbits

By Ray Knapp

Facebook would be a time consuming waste of time if it wasn’t for the humor and tidbits of wisdom that you occasionally find. Once you post something it becomes part of public domain – so be careful what you post, or it may be shared with the world, which I have done without giving credit to the author of those words of wit, except for a few exceptions. If you recognize something you’ve posted, you can tell your friends, “Hey, I posted that!” – And I thank you for it. Your posts gave me a smile or something to ruminate over and glean some new knowledge and insight.

The following are some examples of what I’m talking about:

“A man trying to get out of jury duty approached the bench. “Your Honor,” he said,” I must be excused from this trial because I am prejudiced against the defendant. I took one look at the man in the blue suit with those beady eyes and that dishonest face and I said ‘He’s a crook! He’s guilty, guilty, guilty’ so your Honor, I could not possibly stay on this jury!” With a tired annoyance the judge replied, “Get back in the jury box. That man is his lawyer!”

To prove that people will argue over anything, my daughter-in-law, Michelle, posted a picture of a stick. About 40 replies proved her point. Some of the answers: “No, it’s a branch; it’s a liberal. True? ; Well, it’s certainly leaning to the left;  Be sensitive that is a foliage challenged tree; That’s a club. It’s a weapon! You should be ashamed of posting pictures of weapons of mass clubbing; Whatever it is, it’s naked and that offends me.”

Then, there are always definitions for words we use every day that may confuse foreigners from Atlanta, New York and other sophisticated places: “HILLBILLY WORD FOR TODAY: ‘’ALL’’ Reckon I need to git muh car to the shop for an “ALL” change.

People are always trying to sneak in their own personal advertisements, or sell something on Facebook.  A case in point: “For Sale one pair of slightly burnt hiking boots…set too close to campfire the heels are optional cause they’re burnt off will take that into consideration. …Thank You.”

Also, some people like to let others know what people from this region are like. This post from Jackie Cooper– and I think it came from her heart, tells it like it is: “My door is always open, the kettle is always on, my sofa is always warm and a place of peace and non judgmental, any of my friends who need to chat are welcome anytime. It’s no good suffering in silence. I have chocolate in the cupboard, tea & coffee in the jars and I will always be here. …You are never – not welcome!”

My daughter, Cindy Lou, searching for the meaning of life came up with this statement/question: “Life is a miracle and a total disaster all at the same time; right?”

Maybe she answered her own question by posting: “Bitterness can be all around you, bitterness can be coming at you, but bitterness does not have to be within you. Don’t let other people’s bitterness affect your attitude or dim your light for Christ. Keep a positive attitude in all things.”

And here’s something Garland James posted that I like because I’m always saying it to my wife: “Before you give an answer, listen to the question.”

Back to Michelle’s point that people will argue over anything, I posed the following statement/question on one of my posts: “Had and interesting discussion about Scrooge at Bible Study tonight. In Dickens book, Scrooge
goes to church and has a change of heart – in none of the movies dating back to 1932, this scene was not shown. What’s your take on this?”

There were enough comments about that to have used it for one of my columns. I wonder how many replies I would receive if I were to post: “Our new president is a typical Republican; what’s your take on this?”

Movie Night – ‘War Dogs’ illustrates failure in operating method

By Bradley Griffith

The name “War Dogs” conjures visions of “Apocalypse Now” or maybe “Saving Private Ryan.”  Despite its name, “War Dogs” isn’t about war at all.  It’s a story about two twenty-something boys whose abilities didn’t rise as high as their aspirations, and it’s now available for home rental.

In 2005 David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a young man trying to find his way in life.  He’s a massage therapist in Miami, but he’s always on the lookout for the next big money-making scheme.  David wants to own one of the mansions he visits rather than being the masseuse visiting for only an hour to collect his $75 fee.

David tries different “businesses,” most notably selling high-end bed sheets to the thousands of retirement homes in South Florida.  Nobody wants his sheets, nobody wants anything he has to sell.  He spent all of his meager savings on cartons of bed sheets that sit stacked in the apartment that he shares with his girlfriend, Iz (Ana De Armas).

David is at a funeral for a friend when his life begins to change.  He runs into Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), David’s best friend until he moved to California after tenth grade.  The two quickly become reacquainted and Efraim tells David about his business.  Efraim sells guns and other necessities of war to the government.  With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the Department of Defense is spending billions of dollars buying equipment from hundreds of contractors, and Efraim is getting rich on small defense contracts.

David sees Efraim making money while he is struggling to get by as a massage therapist.  To top things off for David, Iz tells him she’s pregnant.  David is broke, has no way to provide for Iz and his baby, and has no prospects for a better job or a better life.  That’s when Efraim offers him a job.

Efraim and David are happy for a while winning small government contracts and making good money.  Their problems arise when they start trying to mix it up with the big boys.  Despite the odds, Efraim and David actually believe that two young punks in Miami can compete with enormous defense contractors.

“War Dogs” is based on the true story of David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, but it’s still hard to believe that these guys could become arms dealers to the United States government.  It’s a great illustration of the problems with the government procurement procedures.  David and Efraim were faking it until they could make it.  Lying became a way of life for them.

The movie is filmed in strange sort of way that involves Miles Teller narrating the action as David Packouz and many scenes are actually named with text on the screen in much the same way silent movies were made a hundred years ago.  It gives the movie an odd tongue-in-cheek feeing while showing how two boys became arms dealers.

David and Efraim are under such incredible pressure that it was only a matter of time before their friendship would be tested.  The way the movie portrayed their sudden rise in the industry it was obvious that their downfall was inevitable.  They are incompetent arms dealers in the same way that Walter White was the world’s most inept drug dealer.

If the purpose of the movie was to make Efraim look like the bad guy in the story and David an unwilling patsy, then the filmmakers achieved their goal.  I don’t know the real story behind the movie, but Jonah Hill does a great job of making you detest Efraim and his whole persona.

“Wars Dogs” is a cautionary tale about two stupid kids that will never grow up who try every shortcut imaginable to get what they want.  Above all, it’s a get rich quick scheme that could have used more humor to soften its rough edges.

Grade: B

Rated R for language throughout, drug use, and some sexual references.

Library Happenings – New biography sheds light on Queen Victoria

By Angie Georgeff

We may not have any new episodes of “Downton Abbey” in which to revel this January, but fans will not be deprived of our indispensable yearly dose of British grandeur. “Victoria,” a new offering from PBS’s Masterpiece, has taken care of that. In spite of the numerous growing pains that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, the age that bears her name managed to balance wicked uncles, civil unrest, sewer rats and poverty with social mobility, scientific advances, philanthropic initiatives and glorious excess in architecture and interior design.

Since “British Monarchs” is one of my favorite Jeopardy! categories, I am fairly familiar with the queen’s story. If you are not, we have a timely new biography that will get you up to speed in no time. “Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire” by Julia Baird was released in November.

Alexandrina Victoria was born in 1819 to the fourth son of George III, the king who famously lost thirteen American colonies and his reason. The deaths of her father, three uncles and a cousin brought her to the throne at the age of eighteen. She wore the crown until her death in 1901, and was only surpassed as the longest–reigning British monarch by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II on Sept. 9, 2015. Victoria and her consort Albert had nine children who married into the royal and noble families of Europe to the extent that she became known as the grandmother of Europe. Ms. Baird did not suffer from a shortage of material!

Outreach Program

As many of you already know, we offer deliveries of library materials to homebound senior citizens and nursing home residents. Most of these patrons receive items from our permanent collection, but others need materials that they can keep. Some require lightweight items like magazines, while others are nervous about having books that will need to be returned to the library. We do not charge these patrons for lost books or late fees, but some still worry, especially those who live in a congregate setting. If you have books, magazines or devotional materials in a large print format that you would like to donate for this program, we would be grateful.

New Materials

Good news! We recently have acquired a number of new large print books, audiobooks and books for children and teens. We currently are engaged in cataloging and processing these items. Because of space restrictions, the audiobooks are being integrated into that collection.  However, a list of the new titles has been posted on the side of the first bookcase for your convenience. Our other acquisitions can be found in the “new books” section of each department. Be sure to look for them!

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.


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!