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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Thoughtful gratitude: Hmmmm (May 6, 2015 issue)

If it’s true that there is a story behind every door, the telling of the story is very much a part of life behind the door of one of Erwin’s lovely pottery houses. These homes are important in the town’s history. But, that is another story.
It is fitting that Lou Thornberry, Erwin native (Unicoi County High School class of 1959) and historian, lives in an example of the industry-related housing. His father worked at Southern Potteries, which operated here 1916-1957 and is known for its Blue Ridge Pottery. Calling himself a “pottery brat,” Lou has memories of growing up in a small mountain town with influences that last.
The thing is he has shared them. Remembering Old Erwin (2004), which he calls a “sneaky way to do an autobiography,” is in the process of being republished. So if you do not have your copy, there’s hope! In the preface, he refers to a history of the county and high school football 1922-62 as a cultural history. It deals with global events with local consequences and takes an up-close and personal look at growing up here.
Armed with a master’s degree in American History, Lou taught at the secondary level for 35 years. Having been an athlete himself, he coached four different sports. Now, however he says, he seldom watches a complete event “on the tube…but would rather see any sporting event in person.” Hey, he already has season tickets for the return of football to East Tennessee State University.
Along the way he and Kathy raised two sons and have two grandsons. He served in the military and is a cancer survivor, all providing food for thought and reasons to be grateful. Thoughtful gratitude comes through in written and spoken words, whether about “The Greatest Generation” veterans or community churches, which Lou called a “rock” when we talked recently.
You not only may have read Lou’s words, but heard them on WEMB Looks Back. The local radio station aired the series for 12 years.
For a story illustrating life in Old Erwin, Lou chose “Proud to Live in Erwin in 1927” from the radio series. With the 1920s being an exciting time of progress and prosperity, generally speaking, Erwin and Unicoi County knew its own industrial (think railroad, pottery, silk mill) and residential building boom. There was “an atmosphere of confidence in the continued growth of our energetic community.” He referenced newspaper editorials in the Erwin Magnet-Times. One contrasted problems of people in big cities with the spirit of neighborly helpfulness here. Another urged citizens to board the “’train of progress,’” the “’Erwin Special.’” “’Friendliness and helpfulness cost nothing, yet pay big returns.’”
Another editorial quote from that year: “’Surely, you have all the reason in the world to be thankful you live in Erwin.’” Lou added in his radio spot, “Most of us would agree wholeheartedly with that last statement and we probably are still, more often than we realize, bragging to others about our wonderful life in our mountain community. We should certainly give proper credit to those whose earlier dedication to Erwin and Unicoi County laid the foundation for our lives today.”