Officer Norway’s Corner – The light side of a dark season

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

In Båtsfjord, my hometown, the sun went down behind the mountains to the south for the final time a few days ago, and it won’t return until Feb. 2nd next year. The dark season, especially in Northern Norway is unique. Yes it’s dark, but not the same darkness you see in the fall. This time of year, there’s usually a few inches of snow on the ground, and it actually helps to “lighten” up the day a little.

Norwegians also love to decorate inside and out with lights during this time. The shops will string up lights across the street, storefront windows will be decorated for the season and on the first Sunday of Advent, all homes will have a shining star hanging in one window, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.

During my years growing up in Båtsfjord, going to school, we never had a snow day. One reason for this was that we did not have school buses. Students would either walk, ski or use a kicksled to get themselves to school. So even during bad weather, cold and drifting snow, we would just dress up and head out the door.

There was one time we had a hurricane force blizzard that came in during a school day, and it was decided for safety reasons to keep all students, elementary, middle and junior high at school overnight. It was like a gigantic sleepover; we had fun, but some teachers might still go to mental counseling after that experience.

Like here in Erwin, Båtsfjord had one movie theatre. One day a week, they had a movie for kids showing and it was always exciting to go to one of the three stores that had the movie posters up to see what film would be shown. Back then, Flash Gordon and Tarzan movies were the big draws. We would line up outside the theatre often a whole hour before they even opened the doors so one could have a chance to get first pick at the best seats. Usually, after the movie, we would walk back to our neighborhoods and play-act what we had seen in the film. My Dad, who had his own carpentry business, was our local weapon merchant. He would cut out wooden pistols and rifles that we would use in our re-enactments.

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving, the one and only genuine American holiday. When I moved to the United States back in 1996, this was a brand new thing for me and a little strange at first; “Turkey, Football and Shopping.” But as years have passed it has turned into being my favorite holiday.

We live in a very divisive time, and sometimes it can be easy to lose track of what truly matters, what we should be thankful for. To embrace our families and close friends, things that we are blessed with, that are bestowed upon us from our creator, the essence of freedom and liberty. God Bless these United States, my adopted homeland, who has given me so much. Until next time, be safe, be happy and be thankful.

A Refreshing Knapp – Let’s turn back time

By Ray Knapp

Having finished off the last of the Thanksgiving Turkey today, I finally took note that merchants had paid it little notice and jumped right into Christmas ads the day after Halloween. Except for something which used to be called Black Friday, little attention was paid to the day of Thanksgiving. Turkeys did go on sale a day or two before then, but that was about it. Now, with the mother of all sales (Christmas—the real reason for Black Friday) looming before us; what is a person to do? Suddenly that 55 inch TV is too small, as a 75 inch becomes a real necessity when the price tag falls below a thousand bucks … that’s a lot less than some smartphones.

Speaking of smartphones, now it isn’t necessary for Dad to take a shave and shower, as his clever wife has already ordered groceries; paid with a tap to the phone, and as her befuddled husband is still babbling something about changing clothes, she drives away from the store with the groceries already placed neatly in the back of the car in reusable grocery bags by a friendly clerk. Men! What do you need them for; the smug look on her face belies what’s on her mind as she waves a good-bye thank you to the clerk.

Once home, and after lugging in the groceries and putting them away, as his wife texts away, with witty shares, snap-chats, posts, and tweets to friends and strangers alike on that expensive smartphone, he turns to a little round device sitting on an end table in a separate room. “Alexa,” he says, “How do you murder a wife and get away with it?” Men are not actually as dumb and unobservant as TV commercials would have you believe.

That question to Alexa, was of course, just a pun. However, the commercials portraying men as intellectually inferior to women is not. The reason being, women spend more money than men on everyday items such as food, clothing and such. No wonder advertisers cater to them. Research shows that shopping is empowering, fulfilling and therapeutic for women.

Men, on the other hand, prefer to stick to the basics and shop for what is necessary. They know what they want and rarely change their minds at the point of purchase. They are not willing to spend much time and effort on shopping. No wonder advertisers put them down; they apparently want to change the shopping habits of men to be more like a woman, where they will spend more.

It hasn’t always been that way; in fact a lot of things have changed during my lifetime. For instance the doors to churches, most any church, were never locked, so parishioners could come to church and pray anytime. … I received an invitation today from Church Mutual Insurance Company inviting me to a live seminar in Knoxville titled, “Preparing for an Armed Intruder,” which shows the warning sign before a violent event occurs and how to keep your people safe if faced with an armed intruder. Mass shootings at any “soft-target” seem to be the order of the day. We hear about it on a near weekly basis, at schools, churches, nightclubs; cars or trucks being purposely driven onto crowded sidewalks for the express purpose of killing people.

Sometimes I think most of us ponder about the uncivility, and apparent lack of care for human life that don’t just happen way over yonder, but threatens our very neighborhoods, schools, churches and shopping malls.

Maybe it’s because greed has pushed the meaning of Thanksgiving Day into nothing less than a shopping frenzy. Maybe it’s because Jesus is no longer the reason for the season; Christmas is just a holiday where kids get presents; are out of school for 2 weeks; parents, at least some of them, have an extra day or two off work.

Maybe it is time we turned back the clock where a man and his wife were portrayed as having equal intelligence and loved one another; where Thanksgiving and Christmas were still days close to our heart and family, and God still mattered.

From the Publisher’s Desk – I am thankful for many things

By Lisa Whaley

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and I have already been building my “blessings” list. In some ways, this has not been an easy year, having lost my mom in early September.

But the lessons she taught me well were all about the grace of God and the beauty of the people around us.

She taught me about blessings. And this year, I’m taking stock.

In my home life, I am so thankful for my family, both near and far. We may occasionally drive each other a little crazy, but we also know family is always there when you need them, tied together with a bond that can’t quite be explained.

I am thankful for a loving, patient husband, and two daughters, now adults, who continually remind me what strong, yet compassionate women they have become. And I admit it; I’m also grateful they still need me every once in a while.

I am thankful for good health, for a roof over our heads and food in our cupboards.

I’m even thankful for our two goofy dogs – Molly and Tanner – who greet us each and every day like we are the best things they could ever imagine.

But I, as the publisher of The Erwin Record, am doubly blessed – for when I leave home, I get to come here to a newspaper that has been an important part of its community since 1928.

That’s when I start my new list.

• I am thankful for small towns with heart.

• I am thankful for the warmth, welcome and understanding that has been shown to me by • everyone here as I learn what it means to be a part of the Valley Beautiful.

• I am thankful for old-fashioned values mixed with new ideas.

• I am thankful for a community that continues to value its newspaper, not merely by reading it,  but by contributing to it and challenging it as well.

• I am thankful for the hardworking staff at the Record – Kathy, Damaris, Keeli and Richard – without whom this paper would never be published.

• I am thankful for the new hospital.

• I am thankful for Erwin’s three Bs – barbecue, brown salt and Blue Ridge pottery.

• I am thankful for one of the prettiest downtowns I have ever seen.

And I’m thankful for mountain views of which I never tire.

The list could go on an on. Life is sometimes hard. But the blessings are all around us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adam’s Apples – Old dogs and new tricks

By James Mack Adams

There’s a familiar saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We will see. I have recently re-embarked on a project that will test the truth of that saying. After several half-hearted and minimally-successful starts, I have resolved to learn to play the guitar. That goal has risen to near the top of my bucket list, just above learning to speak some Spanish.

I hesitate to refer to myself as an old dog. Let’s just say I am a gentleman of advanced years. I know I will never be a rock star or a country artist. Nor do I wish to be. That train left the station long ago. It is just something I want to do for my own pleasure.

I am a fan of most all music genres, from Bebop to Beethoven, from Bluegrass to Bach. I can even listen to Rap, but not for long. My music listening pleasure began with the big dance bands of the 1930s and 1940s and has continued to the present. My music listening media has progressed from scratchy 33 1/3 LPs to the cell phone I carry in my pocket.

Though I have at times been closely associated with bands and musicians, I have never quite demonstrated the dedication and discipline required to master the music art.  It always seemed there was no time.  That was likely due to poor time management on my part.

I can truthfully say that I participated and earned letters in bands in both high school and college, without learning one note of music. “How did you do that?”, you may ask. Well, here’s the rest of the story.

I have always been fascinated with parades and marching bands. As a kid, I would follow the marching band from the staging area to the parade’s end, marching along on the sidewalk to the beat of the drums. I have often said I think my first steps must have been to a march cadence.

When I entered Dobyns-Bennet High School as a sophomore, I set my goal at participating in the marching band in some capacity. I tried out for the color guard and won a position. That was a proud time. I looked forward to forming up with the band after school on game days and marching down Broad Street to our rapid marching cadence. I think we were the only area band at that time to use the rapid cadence. I was awarded a band letter my senior year.

I entered my Freshman year at ETSU with the goal of joining the college band in some position.  I was lucky once more and was accepted as a color guard member. Marching behind me was a young lady from Erwin leading the majorette corps. Jo Mountford and I became close friends and constant companions. We parted at graduation. Fifty years later, we met up again at our ETSU class reunion and decided to spend our remaining years together. It has now been 10 years, and counting.

After a couple years of color guard duty, I decided to become more involved with the ETSU Band and music department. I gave up my color guard position and became the band’s manager and music librarian. I received a college band letter my junior year.

I was given the opportunity to perform with the college concert band at times. The band’s director, Marvin Lindley, knew I was a huge fan of Latin music and rhythms. When a Latin number was part of a concert program, Lindley would allow me to join the percussion section and do my stuff with a cowbell and drumstick. I still could not read music, but I must say I could play a mean cowbell. As a side note, Jo played first-chair clarinet in the concert band.

Back to the guitar. They say it is one of the easiest instruments on which to learn the basics. Learn a few chords and strum patterns, they say, and you can play accompaniment for hundreds of songs. We will see.

Jimmy Dean, of country music and sausage fame, was once asked if the guitar pickers in Nashville could actually read music. Jimmy’s reply was: “Yes, a little, but not enough to hurt their playin’ any.”

At times I have questioned whether I should even attempt such a thing at my age. Then I recently read a quote from a known and gifted guitar player, Nuno Bettencourt.

“If you play music for no other reason than actually just because you love it, the skills kinda creep up on you.”

We will see.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Reflecting on military’s selfless sacrifices

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

Growing up in Norway, especially in the northern part during the 1970s and 1980s was special for many reasons. Norway is one of only two NATO countries that have a border with Russia.

During the Cold War, we often saw military planes buzzing overhead and navy ships from both Norway and other NATO countries visiting our town.

This previous Sunday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, also marked the 100th anniversary for the end of World War I. It was said that it would be the war to end all wars, but sadly and as history has told us too many times, it did not hold true.

On April 9, 1940, Norway was invaded by Nazi-Germany where they stayed as occupiers for five years. When the war ended, Germany still had more than 300,000 troops in Norway. Even in Båtsfjord, the fishing village I was born in, the Germans built fortresses and bunkers to guard the harbor; mostly using Soviet captured soldiers for the job.

Growing up as kids we used to play in those bunkers and we would, still years after the war ended, find ammunition, weapon parts, helmets and what not laying around. As curious, and yes sometimes stupid kids, we would set fire to the ammo and sit and watch as it burned and rounds cooking off. It was a wonder none of us got hurt or killed.

When the German forces withdrew from Northern Norway in early 1945, they used what became known as the Scorched Earth policy. This meant that they set fire to all houses, killed livestock and forced the occupants to come with them on their way south. They did this so nothing would be left behind to the Soviet army who at that time had crossed the border into Norway in their pursuit after the Germans.

Both my grandparents with their eight kids were forced to leave after their home was burned down, and in a journal that my grandfather wrote, one can day-by-day follow them on their struggling and at times dangerous journey south.

As I am writing this, I am reflecting over the selfless sacrifices and the willingness for young men and women to seek a higher calling, a valiant purpose with their lives to voluntarily serve in the Armed Forces defending freedom and liberty.

Although I never served in the U.S. Military, I did nine tours overseas with the Norwegian Army and had on several occasions the privilege to work closely with U.S. service members on missions ranging from Africa, the Middle East and The Balkans.

Some of them I am still staying in touch with. When you serve in a war zone one tends to make lifelong friends.

Until next time, be safe and pray for our nation and those who serve and have served.

Hood’s Winks – Life in review

By Ralph Hood

My mother collected history in the making. She saved important issues of Life magazine over the years, and I stole the collection. She saved big stories like Kennedy’s assassination and moon shots, of course, and she also saved issues that were of particular interest to her. Hemingway’s death is there, as is that of William Faulkner.

In some issues she inserted a newspaper story of the day. The Kennedy assassination issue has the front page of the Washington Post, screaming that Kennedy was “SHOT DEAD.”

The stories are fascinating, particularly those I remember reading when they happened—Sputnik, for example—and Truman firing MacArthur. But evidently it wasn’t until the sixties that I began reading the news in any depth.

The ads tell more about how we lived in the sixties than the stories do. Cigarettes were advertised with pride and no warning of death. One could imagine that we did not yet know about the cancer-smoking link. That’s odd, because I clearly remember cancer/cigarette jokes being told in high school during the fifties.

Cars were huge and described as such with words like “widetrack’. This was before OPEC and before we had ever heard of a fuel shortage. Gas was cheap and you got a free set of glasses if you bought enough. Honda was a motorcycle, not a car.

Some of the advertised products are still around (like Contac) and others I haven’t heard from in years (whatever happened to Benrus watches?).

This was before feminism, and you can sure tell it from reading the ads. A tire company shows an obviously helpless damsel with gloves, heels, puffy hairdo, and flat tire. The headline reads “When there’s no man around, our tire should be.” No company would dare run that ad today.

I was dating in the sixties, I got married in the sixties, and I certainly thought the women of the sixties were gorgeous. Reading the ads today, however, tells me how much I’ve been changed by the feminist movement. Frankly, the girls in those ads look like airheads. I guess that’s the way we wanted them to look, but it sure looks silly now.

Back to tires for a second. There were no steel-belted radials (or any other kind of radials) advertised. Back then they bragged about how many plies the tire had.

Somehow, I feel superior to the people of that era, which is ridiculous, since I was one of ’em. They didn’t yet know about Watergate, the ozone layer, microwaves, cable TV or pocket calculators, much less VCRs and personal computers.

They knew so little, how in the world did “they” ever become “us?”

From the Publisher’s Desk – Role models for upcoming generations

By Lisa Whaley

This past weekend, a friend invited me to attend a matinee show of the “The Wild Women of Winedale,” Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s latest production.

For two hours, we laughed until we cried as Fanny, Willa and Johnny Faye – two sisters and a sister-in-law – navigated their paths through life’s oft-harried second half.

As I walked away from the theatre later that afternoon, a smile still on my face, I thought of the women I had just seen portrayed — lively, kind, funny and strong.

And I thought about the many women I knew who fit that description to a T – nearly all, by the way, women from the South.

I’ve told stories about my Grandma Rosa Morgan, mostly known for her sweetness, but also for being as wily as a fox.

My grandfather was a perfectionist, and she would share tales – when sweetness failed to work in getting him motivated on a particular task — of jumping in to “do it herself.”

Wallpaper would go up upside down. Blacking for the stove would be slapped on first this way and then that. Nails to secure a particular step would be “thwacked” in sideways, “but still secure,” my grandma would claim. Brownlow (grandpa) would finally snort in disgust and take over the task, banishing “Rosie” to another room or duty. She would depart with a smile, knowing she had accomplished all she had set out to do.

My Aunt Judy and my mother were two more strong women from my childhood – sisters who were as different as they were alike. Mom took after Grandma, sweet as pie unless she really felt a need to set you straight. Aunt Judy always told it like she saw it. She never believed in sugar-coating anything, yet she was the one that every one of her siblings turned to when they were in trouble.

When they both got riled up, often with each other, it was a sight to behold. But they were also devoted to each other and to all of us. If you were ever in a fight, you wanted both women in your corner.

When I first came to Erwin to work a little more than a year ago, I felt, in some ways, like I had come home. Strong Southern women, I soon learned, were as much a part of this mountain community as apples and train whistles. Over and over again, I ran into women who I would be proud to call my family.

Women who were unafraid to fight for what they believe in.

Women who did not hesitate to be exactly who they believed God created them to be.

Women with more than a little bit of sass.

Women with a whole lot of love.

Strong. Outspoken. Compassionate. Graceful. Funny. Imperfect and fine with that imperfection. You couldn’t find better role models for upcoming generations.

In recent months and even years, there has been a lot of discussion on the rights of women and what we as women need to focus on, almost as if it’s a new idea as we look to the future. Yet, when I look at the women in my family and the women here in Unicoi County, I really think that we should perhaps begin by looking at our past and present for our inspiration. Strong women are already a part of these mountains. And I’m grateful to share in that legacy.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Car 2 was rich in memories

By Connie Denney

Editor’s note: The essence of this column was first published Dec. 2, 2008.

Picture this: It is 1923 (or there about). It’s summer. You’re six years old and riding in the general manager’s car on a steam-powered Clinchfield Railroad train.

Now, that’s a powerful memory.

As the memory goes, the return trip from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Erwin could mean fresh peaches onboard. “Everybody who was old enough” was expected to help peel those peaches later for her grandmother to can, the late Hilda Rucker remembered, as she allowed me to listen in on her reflections, during a visit at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital’s Long-Term Care Unit.

I had asked her about “ ‘Bob,’ Chef on Car 2” referred to in the 1920s era cookbook (the subject of an earlier column) I had found at an estate sale. You see, Mrs. Rucker’s grandfather, Louis Henry Phetteplace, was general manager of the railroad at the time. She, indeed, did remember Bob Harrington, saying, “Everything he cooked was good.”

Harrington, a black man who lived here at the time, did the cooking for Car 2, the one in which Phetteplace traveled. In addition to a kitchen, it had bedrooms, a living room and “porch” with a railing she remembers “Granddaddy” looking over to see how the tracks were being kept.

As she tended to get motion sickness, her Grandfather would have her lie down and sleep.  White cherries stand out in her mind as especially good when she woke.

Harrington made “good hot rolls. I remember those,” she said, adding, “Whenever I could eat, the food was always good.”

One of Harrington’s recipes printed in the Erwin Cook Book was for “Eggs a la Trip,” which included hard boiled eggs, pimentos, green peppers and onions. The other called for extra select oysters wrapped in bacon and served on toast with a butter and lemon sauce.

The cookbook also included Mrs. Rucker’s Grandmother Phetteplace’s recipe for “Roast Turkey With Celery Dressing.” She remembers her Grandmother cooked the whole turkey. “I always liked the dark meat,” she added, noting that is something you don’t get when using only the turkey breast.

Her Aunt Mary Phetteplace’s recipe for “Ward Belmont Spice Cake” was also printed. She thinks it was named for Ward-Belmont College, the Nashville school her Aunt Mary attended.

Memories seem to topple out one over the other. After her father, Richard Campbell Parsons, died at age 32, when she was six years old, her mother made the kids sleep in one room so others could be rented to school teachers from out-of-town. Her sister, the late Sue Beard, was nine and her brother, the late Dick Parsons, was one.

All of this has me thinking of the importance of memories and how we do not have control of all the circumstances. By the time you read this, thoughts will have turned to upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Snapshots of gratefulness and good times past are important to the present and future.

We like to think we are capable of giving gifts that are not only beautiful as they are opened but thoughtful enough to merit reflection for a long, long time. Among the most meaningful gifts we can give each other, perhaps, is keeping in mind that we all suffer from the weaknesses of the human condition and doing what we can to ensure the making of good memories.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Preventing school violence in any form

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

A couple of weeks ago I had an extraordinary evening at the high school. For a few weeks, our excellent drama class had worked on an original play created by themselves about an important issue that for many would be hard to tackle let alone perform on a high school stage. The name of the play was,  “More Than a Number,” featuring monologues and short scenes honoring victims and survivors of school shootings from the last twenty years.

Last year during the annual Tennessee SRO conference in Pigeon Forge I met Kristina Anderson, who was shot four times and was the only survivor in her classroom during the Virginia Tech massacre a few years ago. We have kept in touch, and I told her about this play, and she was interested to know more about it. One day I hope to have her at our school to talk about her incredible story of survival, hope, and forgiveness.

Preventing school violence in any form is something that’s on my mind every single day and is, when it comes down to it, my only purpose as an SRO. All the other things I do are useful add-ons to benefit the total picture of school safety, ranging from preventing or stopping a violent act, traffic safety, counseling, working with our SADD club, and other school-related activities. 

I feel incredibly fortunate to work with students, teachers, and administrators who truly have a passion for the security and well-being of our school. As I have written before, school safety is a team effort, and I am one part of a chain of individuals who work together to make our school a safe place to be.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and be happy.

Hood’s Winks – Will it really happen?

By Ralph Hood

Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!

BBC—which used to be British Broadcasting Company—has published a truly fascinating article predicting the end of personally owned automobiles. In fact, it says you might be driving the last car you’ll ever buy!

I’m serious!

Now don’t laugh and jeer yet. You can read it yourself by going to, and it just might change your mind a bit.

The article suggests that instead of driving our own cars, we will call Uber, Lyft, and other competitors. They will pick us up in minutes and transport us to our desired destinations. Such a change might save the average family thousands of dollars per year. Engines will be electric, rather than gasoline fueled. (Did you realize that the typical electric motor has only 19 parts rather than the 100s of parts required by gasoline engines? Gotta admit that I didn’t either.)

If these predictions come true, traffic will be reduced drastically, again saving money by the ton. Can you imagine shopping centers and airports having smaller parking lots? What will happen to our interstate highways?

And—now hear this—pollution will be reduced dramatically.

You already know that scientists are currently pushing like mad for a reduction of temperature increases caused—they say—by climate change. That will be a hard sell, as those same scientists agree that reducing future world climates by only one degree would cost untold fortunes, all to be provided by taxpayers.

Car replacement, on the other hand, would be paid for by investors eagerly hoping to profit greatly by the change. No doubt some of them will succeed and others will fail, but it won’t be any loss to taxpayers. Such a deal!

BTW, the new transporters won’t be cars as we know them today. They will drive themselves (the illustrated drawings don’t even have windshields) and will be much safer than people-driven vehicles. Some believe that the public will eventually be forbidden to drive cars themselves because of the increased risk, but I’d bet that won’t happen anytime soon. There will be great and embittered fighting over the very idea. Older folks will fight to the end, but you younger people will adapt quickly.

Do I think all of this will truly happen? I dunno, but do believe there will be a great trend in that direction. Some think it will happen in big cities, but not in small towns such as Erwin—at least not at first.

And don’t forget that Uber et al are already developing airborne transporters. Will they land in streets or yards? Will we have landing spots on roofs? The transporters will be smallish, I reckon, but will still have to land somewhere!

You younger folks will see that trend happening. Wish I could, but doubt I’ll live that long. Perhaps I can look down—uh, or up—and see how it all works out.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Change of seasons brings memories

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

I love the arrival of more seasonal temperatures, albeit a few weeks late, but better late than never. Fall in Northern Norway during my childhood years was always special. I remember in early fall, which that far north usually arrives in mid to late August, the whole family would go up into the northern marshlands and pick Cloudberries that we would either make into jam or freeze to be used throughout the winter months for Sunday dessert mixed in with whipped cream.

Fall was also the hunting season for many. People would make up teams of around five people, be given a specific area to hunt in, and walk into the woods Moose hunting, usually accompanied by a Norwegian Elkhound, which also is the national dog breed of Norway.

I would join my Dad in the fall during the reindeer slaughter season, and we would drive up into the mountains and purchase reindeer meat directly from the Sami people, who are the native people of northern Scandinavia and western Russia. We would also buy pigs blood, and I remember my Mom would use it to make blood pancakes with pieces of raisins and pigs fat in them.

Touching on food, most days in a fishing village we had some form of seafood for dinner. One day we could have steamed cod, the next day, fried fish cakes or baked fish pudding. Needless to say, we had plenty of fresh seafood, and with fresh I mean right from the fishing boats and to the table.

Often when we had leftovers, one would mix fish, potatoes, and carrots and make it into a fish stew of sort. We usually had a dessert after dinner. Often we had a sweet macaroni soup, which was regular elbow macaroni cooked with milk and sugar. Saturdays was almost always a pancake or rice porridge day, and Sundays was always a meat day.

I remember I was in my early teens when I had my first banana and one Christmas my Dad brought home a coconut; I think most of the kids on our street showed up to have a taste of that. So far north, back then exotic fruits like that were hard to come by. Apples and oranges were usually what the stores had and around Christmas time we could get grapes and mandarins.

I guess some of you by now have started to see a pattern in my column. I figured that I could not just write about issues touching on school safety and the SADD club. It would rather quickly, I thought, be somewhat bland for many. So, alternating between my years in Norway, sharing a little of my upbringing and Norwegian culture and customs, is what I ended up doing.

Until next time, be safe, be warm and be happy.

Adam’s Apples – ‘Lost in the 50s’

By James Mack Adams

While I was navigating through my high school and college years a long time ago, more than one person told me those would be the best years of my life. That is somewhat true. However, I would like to amend that statement a little by saying those were some of the best years. I have been lucky enough to have had many good years during my life.

I do feel fortunate that I was born at a time when I was able to live my high school and college years during the decade of the 1950s. The decade has been referred to by some as “The Fabulous Fifties.” The economy was good after World War II ended. Crime was relatively low.  Children felt safe roaming the neighborhoods and playing outdoors until dark. The only drugs we knew anything about came from the local pharmacy.

It was the era of the poodle skirt, saddle shoes, ducktail haircuts, sideburns, Elvis (Thankyouverymuch), Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe (gulp!), athletic letter sweaters, sock hops, hot cars, drive-ins, soda fountains, the hula hoop, and classic (meaning real) rock and roll.

Automobiles did not have seatbelts. They had powerful motors, manual shift transmissions, tail fins, and lots of chrome. Helmets were not required for bicycle or motorcycle riders. Football helmets did not have face masks. We got our drinking water from the faucet, garden hose, or a well. There were far fewer health and safety regulations as compared to the present. It’s a wonder any of us survived.

Speaking of automobiles. In the 1950s, one could buy a new car for an average price of $2,000.  For those who were more financially successful and wanted a little more luxury and show in the family buggy, the price of a Cadillac convertible was around $5,400. Regardless of the cost of the car you drove in those days, the price for a gallon of gas was 18-25 cents.

A fairly nice house could be had for around $10,000. Sounds like a good deal, but you have to keep in mind that the average yearly family income was $4,000 to $5,000.

It was the early days of television and everyone had their favorite programs. Being a longtime fan of old cowboy movies, my favorites included the TV westerns that became popular in the late 1950s and continued into the 1960s. I seldom missed episodes of “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Rawhide.” If you are old enough, you may recall that one of the characters in “Rawhide” was Rowdy Yates, played by a young Clint Eastwood.

I had a close friend at the time who was also an avid fan of the TV westerns. I knew never to phone him while an episode of “Bonanza” was being aired on television. That made him very angry.

For me and a lot of my fellow 1950s teenagers, one of the crowning technical achievements of the era was the transistor radio. Prior to that, radios were large, bulky and powered by vacuum tubes. When the radio was turned on, the tubes had to warm up before any sound was produced. The development of the transistor made radios smaller and more portable. Also, there was no warm up time.

Those were good years to be young, but all was not rosy with the country or the world. The civil rights movement was heating up with marches and demonstrations. The Cold War between the U.S., our Allies, and the Soviet Union raised the possibility of nuclear confrontation and mutual destruction. The more powerful hydrogen bomb was developed during this time. There was a hot war going on in Korea. The space race between the U.S. and Russia was much in the news and on the minds of the citizens of both countries.

A few years ago, my wife and I attended a musical stage production at the Savannah Theater.  The show was titled “Lost in the 50s.” For a couple of hours that evening, I was able to relive my teenage years. My wife was amazed that I remembered the lyrics of most every song they performed, and that I could still dance “The Twist.” Like I said, it was several years ago.

Hood’s Winks – Clear on top

By Ralph Hood

(Adapted from Ralph’s book, The Tuth & Other Lies)

For a pilot, one of life’s greatest thrills occurs on days when the weather looks terrible, but the weather bureau reports that “It’s Clear On Top.”

On such days, the pilot taxis through puddles, mist, and rain. After takeoff, the airplane immediately rises into dark, bumpy clouds, and the world seems spooky, uncomfortable, and downright frightening. It is a truly terrible day.

Then a miracle occurs. The airplane rises above the weather—above the clouds—On Top. Instantly, it is a beautiful, gorgeous day. The sun is shining, the sky blue, the air clear, and the ride smooth. A good pilot can rise above most of the weather most of the time. There are people who live that way—people who seem to cruise through life On Top of problems. To those people, this poem is dedicated:


When you’re down on the world, and it’s down on you,

When you’re down in the dumps, and life looks blue,

Just remember, it’s probably


Do you work on a tightrope without any net?

Do your bills exceed the national debt?

Hang on, chances are it’s


When money is tight, and the price is steep,

And you can’t get out, ’cause you’re in too deep,

Don’t quit, the odds are it’s


When you’ve run out of luck and nobody cares,

You’re fresh out of friends, and fresh out of prayers,

Pray harder, and pray that it’s


When your troubles are big, and you’ve run out of hope,

And you’re hanging alone at the end of your rope,

Climb higher, to up where it’s


When the going is tough, and you’d like to quit

Just keep on climbing, a little bit.

‘Cause God made it


Officer Norway’s Corner – SADD Club to address bullying

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

The month of October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, and of the many things I work with at Unicoi County High School, bullying is one issue that I am passionate about.

It’s also one of the harder problems to tackle, first and foremost because of social media. Often when school administrators and I are made aware of instances where bullying has or is taking place, we find out that this has been going on for a while, and what often brings it to the surface is falling grades, skipping school altogether or causing “behavioral issues” in school or at home.

Because of the seriousness around bullying, especially cyberbullying, the SADD Club has partnered with the National Stomp Out Bullying campaign, and during the week of Oct. 8 many of our SADD Club members will be wearing their blue Student Strong-Stump Out Bullying Now T-shirts and will have handout materials to raise awareness around this issue.

I am a firm believer that the most active partners I have on this and many other matters relating to high school students and the problems and challenges they often face are the students themselves.

All these issues and campaigns the SADD Club is working and engaged with are not all free. We get some free stuff from the organizations and causes we are promoting, but as every teacher knows, and certainly likewise for my SRO colleagues and others in law enforcement, sometimes one has to pay out of pocket for many things that otherwise are not available from your employer.

To raise money for our club, I decided to create a Facebook page called, “Officer Norway’s Corner.” With the great help of a local business, Reds Vinyl Decals, we designed a logo, got it printed on some T-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs, and through the Facebook page and on our upcoming stand at the Apple Festival we hope to raise some much-needed money for our club. Check out our SADD Club stand at the Apple Festival this coming weekend (Oct. 5-6) and help support a great cause.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and be positive.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Things really were cookin’ when …

By Connie Denney

Editor’s note:  The essence of this column was first published June 3, 2008.

When I found the orange folder with the words “Erwin Presbyterian Cookbook” handwritten on the front and 8.5-by-11 sheets inside, I knew I wanted to look further. It was among offerings at the late Edythe Manfull estate sale.

Looking through the pages, I was taken particularly by the advertising, which featured local businesses I had not heard of, regional businesses and products by brand. I did recognize names including Erwin’s, A. R. Brown’s, Ewald’s from conversations in which folks, who have lived here longer than I, said things such as, “We could buy anything we needed in Erwin. We had really good stores.”

It seems things were really cookin’ in Erwin.   

I knew the cookbook had come out some time ago but I found no date. There was no copy of the book’s cover but the foreword says, “We, the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Erwin Presbyterian Church, wish to thank the ladies of Erwin and others who have so kindly contributed to our book, as well as those who have so generously advertised with us.” Finding a time frame became a quest.

Now, I feel I’m not going too far out on a limb to say it was done in the 1920s. That took some detective work.

Here’s what I learned: There is an ad in the cookbook for Allred Furniture Co., B. M. Allred, proprietor. It proclaims “everything for the home—stoves, ranges, Edison phonographs, records, floor coverings, kitchen cabinets, etc.” It adds the words “embalmers and undertakers.” Nancy Gentry, Fishery Loop, tells me that her father, Jack DeArmond, and her mother’s brother, Ferrell Boyd, bought that Union Street business around 1930. Therefore, the cookbook came out before that time. She noted that the purchase automatically put them in the undertaking business also, not uncommon at that time. The Boyd-DeArmond Funeral Home was located on Tennessee Road.

That stately building is once again a private home. The late Fannie May Parsley, who lived there, gave further indication of the cookbook’s age. Her father, E. B. Clark, worked during the 1920s at Ewald’s, which was at the Main Street location currently housing Market Square (location of Choo Choo Café). A cookbook ad for Ewald & Co., Inc. says they were “dealers in gents’ furnishings, ladies’ ready-to-wear, children’s clothing, shoes, millinery, furniture and house furnishing, musical instruments, groceries and fresh meats.” Mrs. Parsley remembered that Unaka Stores was in that location later.   

Another affirmation: The Erwin Magnet had an ad, also. It noted the newspaper was established in 1891 and was the “only daily newspaper in Unicoi County.” This, too, would have been in the 1920s, according to Mark Stevens, publisher in 2008.

The cookbook included recipes from Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, wife of the President of the United States and Mrs. Austin Peay, wife of the governor of Tennessee.  They were for coffee soufflé and charlotte russe (had to look that one up—it’s a cold molded dessert), respectively. Coolidge served 1923-1929, Peay, 1923 until his death in 1927.

A contributor that conjures up intriguing images for me is identified as “’Bob,’ Chef on Car 2.’” In this railroad town that must have had something to do with a dining car on a Clinichfield train. I feel another column coming on—there is so much material here!

Officer Norway’s Corner – Michelsen recounts life in Norway

By Kjell Michelsen

For this my fourth column, I wanted again to write a little about my upbringing and life in my birth country, Norway. I have students and adults alike who from time to time ask me about Norway and Norwegian culture in general, and I am happy to answer.

I was born in 1965, so yeah I am by now the definition of middle age. Båtsfjord my hometown has for many years been regarded as “the fishing capital of Norway.” Although it was a small fishing town in 1965 with about 1,600 people living there, still today there’s only 2,300 living there, and I still have many childhood friends who still live there, working and raising families.

The main industry is fishing, there’s a handful of processing factories that service the fishing fleet and, in later years, the crab boats when they come back into the harbor with their catch. Many of these boats are rather small, often operated by one or two fishermen, while others are bigger ships with a crew of 10, sometimes even more than 20, so pretty much the whole town revolves around the fishing industry and its supporting businesses.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, especially during the winter months, the only contact we had with the outside world was with the coastal express, which is a combination of a passenger and cargo ship that comes twice a day or, if the weather was terrible, not at all. The road over the mountain was closed during the winter months, and it was not until 1973 when we got our own airport, which at first was just a dirt strip with a small building next to it, so this coastal express ship was pretty much your only ticket out of town. Luckily now they have, in addition to these ships, also a bigger more modern airport and a road that for the most part is kept open year round.

My dad was a master carpenter and had his own business, often servicing the fishing fleet for any repair needs they might have that required a hammer a saw and some carpentry skills. He would also make a specific wooden tool that the line fishermen would use as part of their fishing gear.

A big perk for me as a kid was every summer when the circus came to town. A week or so before they arrived, my dad would get an order to supply them with bags of sawdust which they used as a bedding for their animals and, in return, he got free tickets to the show which he handed out to my friends and me.

We had one church in town, which had and still has heated, cushioned pews, a nice touch on cold winter days. The church, like so many churches, also doubled as an activity center with various groups using it, from the boy scouts to Ten-Sing and other choirs and clubs.

In some ways, like I think many people do when one gets a little older, I sometimes miss those carefree and social media free days of years past. Granted life in many ways is more comfortable now, but it had a certain charm being able to play out in the streets, mothers coming outside calling their kids in for dinner and laying on the floor in front of the radio, intensely listening to a play or watching Gunsmoke on the one TV channel we had.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and if you can, be carefree.

Adam’s Apples – The accidental journalist

By James Mack Adams

I don’t remember the first time someone called me a journalist. I do remember I was pleased because I considered the title a compliment. I still do. After doing a little research on the subject, however, I am not certain whether my current contributions to this newspaper justify that label.

Miriam-Webster defines ‘journalist’ as one who collects, writes and edits news stories for newspapers, magazines, television and radio. That’s not exactly what I presently do. My writings in this space are more observation and commentary than what is commonly referred to as ‘hard news.’ That’s why this column is printed in the ‘Viewpoint’ section. So, I guess the correct title for what I do is ‘columnist.’ I’ll take that.

‘Journalist’ seems to now be popular as a general term to describe anyone involved in any way in news reporting or commentary. Before they were called journalists, newspaper people were called reporters. Before that, they were called newspaper ‘men.’ At the time, women were still a minority in newsrooms. 

I can still see a mental picture of the newspaper man as often portrayed in old black and white Hollywood movies I watched years ago. I see a man at his desk in the city newsroom using two fingers to pound out a hot news story on an old Remington or Royal typewriter. (Younger readers might want to ask an older person what a typewriter is.) The sleeves of his white dress shirt are rolled to the elbow. His tie is loosened and askew. His hat, with his press pass stuck in the band, is pushed back on his head. A lighted cigarette is dangling from his lips. My, how times have changed.    

Please allow me to do a little side-track editorializing. The news media has been taking quite a hit lately. Reporters are being maligned and threatened, and news organizations are being called enemies of the people. They say all is fair in love, war, and politics, but that doesn’t make it less scary. I was around during the 1930s when the same thing was happening in Germany. A free press is one of the pillars of a democracy. Lose either one and you lose the other. 

We are hearing the term ‘fake news’ being used a lot these days. To me, that term is an oxymoron. If it is fake, it is not news. End of editorializing.

You might say I entered newspaper work through the back door. I seem to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to publishing opportunities.

My first newspaper experience was editing the Tybee News, a community monthly for residents of Tybee Island, Georgia. I was also the reporter, staff writer, copy editor, layout person, and circulation manager. It was a one-man operation.

Then, my first big break happened. One of the editors at the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News liked my idea for a weekly column dealing with Savannah and coastal Georgia history. He decided to take a chance on a relatively unknown writer with little experience and no journalism degree. I must say I was thrilled when I was issued press credentials and given the opportunity to write for several thousand readers. 

I enjoyed my almost eight years of writing the “Historically Speaking” column for the Morning News. Meeting the weekly deadlines was stressful at times. I spent many hours exploring Savannah’s historic district and doing research at the Georgia Historical Society. It was a labor of love. The experience was very gratifying. Also, it lead to four books.

When I left Savannah and moved to Erwin, I assumed my newspaper writing days were over.  That was not the case. One day I had a sit down with former Erwin Record publisher, Keith Whitson. He was soon going to be short a columnist and offered me the chance to come aboard. Without any hesitation, I accepted. Once again, I was in the right place at the right time.  Thanks Lisa and Keeli for your continuing support.

It is now going on two years since that sit down with Keith. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. At that first meeting, I asked Keith what I should write about in the column. “Just have fun with it,” he replied. That is exactly what I am doing.

Officer Norway’s Corner – SADD Club off to solid start this year

By Kjell Michelsen

The school year is well underway. Football season has a had a good start, same with our Unicoi County High School volleyball and soccer teams. The students have settled into a routine, the freshman class students don’t get lost anymore and the buses are running on time.

The same goes for my job as an SRO. The job as an SRO could be a fairly easy one to “fade into the background with.” What I mean with that, is besides taking care of the law enforcement and security side of the job, the rest of the time, at least on paper, could be spent “watching YouTube videos.”

Now, that would not make for a very good and proactive employee in any profession, let alone in the role of a School Resource Officer, or as Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Leisure is the time for doing something useful. This leisure the diligent person will obtain the lazy one never.”

Most of the students at our high school have a fairly busy schedule, both academic, in sports and work outside of school, not to mention their lives on social media, which in some cases can make the three first ones small apples in comparison. Two years ago when I started with the SADD Club here at the high school, that first year was pretty much filled with trials and errors. As a new club, we are competing with all these other well-established clubs and sport teams, so attracting new members to a club with the acronym “SADD,” was a challenge at first, and although providing existing and prospective members with pizza and donuts during club meetings certainly got students to show up, there was little activity on the club level from most members when food and free T-shirts were not on the agenda.

That said, we had a core of members with a true desire to make a difference, and after a few planning and brainstorming sessions with these students, the second year got off to a much better start. This current school year is off to even a better start than the previous one, so we as a new club are certainly moving in the right direction.

As mentioned in my previous “Officer Norway” columns, we have several club activities planned for this school year. We were invited by David Crockett High School to partner with them for this year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, and we are hoping that Tennessee High and Daniel Boone High School also will join us in this.

Teen driver safety is an issue that is close to my heart and high on my priority list, not only because I have a daughter that in a little over a year will be eligible to obtain her driver license, but also for the fact that the biggest cause of teen fatalities are accidents involving a motor vehicle, representing over one-third of all deaths of teenagers.

The last couple of years I have been working with Lieutenant Rick Garrison from the Fall Branch office of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and last school year I also got our local State Farm agent, Brian Poston. to help out in pushing out information to our young drivers about safe driving. It is indeed a team effort, and if we can just prevent one fatality it would be worth it.

Until next time, be safe, especially while driving.

Movie Night – ‘Chappaquiddick’ recounts Kennedy’s crash

By Bradley Griffith

Now available for home rental is “Chappaquiddick,” the true story of one fateful night and the consequences for a member of one of America’s most notable and powerful families. Whether you know the story or not, “Chappaquiddick” is an interesting film.

In the summer of 1969 United States Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) is living in the shadow of his deceased brothers, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Ted wants to break free of their shadow and, more important to him than anything else in the world, make his father, Joe (Bruce Dern), proud.

Ted knows that many people want him to run for president. Ted is not sure what he wants. Despite the fact that he is 37 years old and that he comes from one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the United States (or maybe because of it), Ted is still searching to find out who he really is and find his path in the world.

In July of 1969, Ted travels to Chappaquiddick Island off of Martha’s Vineyard to meet his cousin, Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), for a sailboat race. Joe also arranges for some women from Robert Kennedy’s campaign to meet them for a party after the race.

At the party Ted and Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) hit it off. Everyone at the party is drinking, including Ted. After all, it is a party. Ted and Mary Jo leave the party with Ted in the driver’s seat of his car. After making a brief stop to look at the stars they pass a police car. Knowing that he has had a few drinks, Ted wants to avoid the policeman as quickly as possible and speeds away.

As Ted takes a curve in the darkness of night he sees a bridge too late. The car flips on its top in a pond below the bridge. The next scene shows Ted, soaking wet and in shock, on the bridge.  Mary Jo never made it out of the car. Soon, the cover-up will begin.

It’s a daunting task to take on such a controversial moment in U.S. history for a movie. There are many questions the filmmaker must answer before making the movie. How will they portray Ted? Will they use only known and verifiable facts, or include speculation and innuendo? Will the movie be political, or just tell the story as it actually happened?

In this instance, the filmmakers made all the right choices. Without giving away everything about the movie, there was no special deference paid to Ted or the Kennedy family in general. The only decent person in the Kennedy family, and maybe in the entire movie, was cousin Joe. Neither the Kennedy family nor their advisors care about Mary Jo Kopechne. They only care about Ted and the Kennedy name.

Seeing a story that you have only read or heard about brought to life on the TV screen was surprisingly satisfying. The fact that the story is told as a movie rather than a documentary made the movie more enjoyable and easier to watch. At several points it feels like you get a sense of what Ted was made of, who he really was inside. But he never had the courage to stand up to his stroke-disabled father.

There are several questions that “Chappaquiddick” clearly poses to the viewer, and not all of them are answered by the movie. You can see how far Ted and his cadre of advisors are willing to go to protect him and his last name.

The movie doesn’t answer whether Ted was actually impaired by alcohol or how did Ted get out of the car and did he try to rescue Mary Jo.

Despite the fact that there are a few unanswered questions, “Chappaquiddick” sheds some light on this long-ago scandal and made this small bit of history entertaining.

• • •

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking (not kidding).

A Denney for Your Thoughts – The art is not lost!

By Connie Denney

Yes, the art of letter-writing is alive and well! Sarah’s letter is evidence.

Sarah Wolfe is a twenty-something friend who lived most of her life in Erwin. After moving (not far away, thankfully), she asked if we could exchange letters – handwritten letters.

She has a master’s degree in English, loves to write and is right up with the rest of the modern world using electronic devices. How refreshing to see electronic communications viewed as additional means, rather than replacements for keeping in touch through face-to-face conversations, letters, etc.

This attention to letters brought to mind two very different books. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a historical novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This story of the German occupation of the English Channel Islands is told entirely through letters.

“A Salty Piece of Land” (Parrotheads, as Jimmy Buffett fans are known, may recognize this as a song title also), is a fun read. Letters from a friend of the main character help fill in the details in this novel by the beach-loving author-songwriter-musician.

When I asked Sarah if she had encountered letters in books that were memorable, she mentioned the Guernsey book, which “is all about letters back and forth between the characters.” But, mostly, she thinks of “The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney.” She now has started her own – well, literally, it’s a box.

Discussions with her friend Amber, with whom she corresponds, and reading Jane Austen’s Letters influenced Sarah to write letters. She enjoyed Austen’s detail about life in Regency England and loves how letters, especially from the 18th and 19th centuries, are the voice of people long gone. “It’s like peeking in on them.”

As to how inventions and technology have influenced communication, in general; letter-writing, in particular, she thinks people in their late 20s-30s are “reacting against technology and going back to letter-writing and other things as well, such as needlepoint or macramé.

I think that people now want something that is more personal and fulfilling than just a simple or quick text or email to each other. Letter-writing truly does make you slow down and think, you savor the other person’s writing and it’s exciting to write back and forth with them, as well as look forward to receiving their letter.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me of the importance of letter-writing in our history and, certainly, in our present. As for the near future, I’m thinking of a box of letters from family members. I know where it’s stored, but have not opened in a long time. They bear re-reading, perhaps sharing with others who would find them meaningful.

Here’s hoping that you may have a handwritten letter from a friend on the way. Or, perhaps, you could write one!