Friday, May 31, 2013

For a few months in 1936, students called her “Miss Patty”

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Bud, Catherine, and M. E.
Catherine Frazier Patty reported for her first teaching job at Alcoa Middle School around the first of October, 1936.  She arrived after classes had already begun for the year so there was no time to "ease into" her teaching career; she had to hit the ground running.  She acquired this "teaching place" from an agency associated with State Teachers College and was obligated to pay a fee from her meager $85 per month salary for the privilege. 

Like James Neville, there was very little time after she found the job to think about anything except getting to the school. A phone call was received with some details, a couple of bags were quickly packed, a sleepless night was endured, and then off Catherine ran to the station the next morning. At least train and bus connections between Memphis and Knoxville provided a reasonably speedy and uneventful journey.  Alcoa is 14 miles south of Knoxville and was formerly known as North Maryville.  It incorporated under its present name in 1919 to reflect the "company town" it had become due to the presence of the Aluminum Company of America

Catherine's brother, Bud, picked her up at the train station and took her to spend her first night in East Tennessee at his UT fraternity house.  The house mother, Mrs. Brown, put her up in the guest room in her apartment.  Catherine enjoyed a nice visit with Bud who escorted her the next day to 403 Ramsey Street in Alcoa*, the rooming house that had been arranged for her to spend the next 8 months.  As you'll see below she felt her expenses were "sky high."  Indeed... board (meals) was 85 cents a day and renting the room cost her $6 every four weeks!

In a short letter to her mother mailed on October 9th, Catherine describes one of those "boarding" days:    
"My board may be high - but it is certainly worth it.  Every meal is delicious - not only is the table full but everything tastes good.  For breakfast today we had grapefruit, flakes, bacon, toast and coffee - For lunch - liver hash, macaroni, spinach, pickle, and some other vegetable I forgot with cornbread, chocolate pudding, and tea - For supper, Irish potatoes in sauce, cauliflower in sauce, chicken, dressing, pickle, biscuit, sweet milk, and jello. - Not bad?"

Mail service being somewhat slow in those days and phones not even in every household, it took several days for James Neville to learn about this much anticipated "place." They were both quite happy that, with Catherine now earning a paycheck, their savings accounts would soon be bursting and their "Spring Wedding" would come off as planned.  Let us not forget that he was 21 and she was 20 and if one looked up "naive" in the dictionary, a picture of these two could be found.

Grandma and Grandpa Patty
Almost all of the letters that I have found written by mother during this period were written to her family in Memphis.  Still missing is that "famous letter-stash" you have heard me speak of; those 1936 love letters written to 'Duke.  The few letters that are available were sent to Mr. and Mrs. C. R. Patty and Miss Mary Elizabeth Patty beginning the first week of October
 until the week before she and James Neville tied the knot on December 23, 1936.

While most all her letters have been only one page, I did find a rare five page letter written at the end of her fourth week in Alcoa.  It touches on several interesting subjects and I thought I would share it with you in its entirety.  It tells a lot about a young Catherine Patty who is concentrating on her life as a new teacher.



                                                                                                                  403 Ramsey
                                                                                                                 Alcoa, Tenn.
                                                                                                                 Nov. 3, 1936
Dear Folks,

     Well, I suppose you think I have deserted the family fireside for good!  It does seem that way - and I do often wonder if perhaps I haven't just changed lives.  I certainly seem never to have any time of my own any more - I did at last take time off Sunday to read a book - the first I have so much as opened since I've been here.  I am in the delightful predicament of owing everyone a letter - that is, everyone but Juanita.  She never has written.  I got a card from Evelyn last week saying that her school had closed because attendance was too low - she hadn't made any other plans.
     I saw 'Duke last week-end.  I stayed with brother at the Frat House.  It certainly is nice there - Mrs. Brown is lovely, and the boys are very nice too.  We all went to church and had dinner together Sunday.  I talked to Bud a little while last week during E.T.E.A. (Teacher's meeting) but didn't have time to see him.  I suppose he's still all right, but says he has to work pretty hard.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day - A Day To Confront That "Wall"

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Sunday night I watched the Memorial Day Concert from Washington, DC; an event that has been held each year for 24 years and hosted by PBS.  I admit to being a regular watcher of this concert as well as other patriotic events like the one put on at the Fourth of July.  For the past several years this concert has been emceed by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan to all you Forest Gump fans). This year a major player was missing;  Actor Charles Durning passed away in December.

Charles Durning was a WWII vet who landed at Omaha Beach on D-day in 1944.  Each year he could be counted on to deliver an incredibly meaningful reading of some sort; it might be a poem, a true story of some soldier's heroic actions, or on a few rare occasions recount some of his own recollections about his experiences in the service.  Regular readers of this blog-site know that I have been living part-time in 1944 through James Neville and Catherine's letters.  I thank PBS for the lengthy tribute paid to Charles Durning last night.  It was an exceptional homage to a member of America's Greatest Generation.

James Neville ready for a
John Sousa March

Most of Daddy's letters written during his 26 months of Army life spoke about his frustrations with the whole experience.  He was well known, among his fellow soldiers, for his rants about the "insanity" of their daily existence.  His disdain for authority was a regular theme in his letters, especially during his early training days at Camp Barkley.  On one occasion, however, he let slip how much he actually enjoyed participating in the "end of training" parade held just before his unit finished basic training.  The entire Battalion passed in review in front of assorted Generals and other dignitaries with the Army Band playing the usual "Sousa" tunes.  Anyone who has been in the Military can relate to being swept up in the "Marching Moment."

James Neville would have enjoyed the Memorial Day Concert and would have proudly stood up on cue when the Army Theme Song, "The Caissons Go Rolling Along", was being played.  Actually, no one these days knows what a Caisson is, so someone changed the official title to: "The Army Goes Rolling Along."  Daddy would have pointed to this change and made some sort of point about how this was a perfect example of the inane-ness of the Army; everyone should know that a caisson is a small brown mushroom grown only in the pacific.  Maybe the Army's insanity was not really the problem.

I followed my father's lead and reluctantly allowed myself to be drafted in 1966; almost twenty years to the day when he was finally discharged.  I also shared his general dislike for Army life, his mild rebellion against military authority, and his pride on those rare occasions when called upon to march in dress uniforms on large  parade fields with caissons rolling all over the place.

Those who know me are aware that I have a bit of a hearing problem; one that almost kept me from being drafted.  The Army took me anyway and in their infinite wisdom assigned me to the Artillery.  This would be the same Army that my father railed about in each of the 600 plus letters he sent to my mother.

I also felt a bit of his confliction about my service record just as he often expressed his own disaccord about not ever being sent overseas during WWII.  I entered the Army during the time when the Vietnam War was almost at its peak.  Following basic training I was sent to Fort Sill Oklahoma for Advanced Infantry Training (AIT as it was called at the time).  I was in training there to learn to be a "forward observer"; a specialty which was very much in demand in Vietnam.  A forward observer is the guy who crawls way up to the front and picks a nice spot on a hill so that he can tell the fellows with the cannons where to point them.  At least I didn't have to stand next to the noisy things while they were going off.

I have to admit to doing one very dumb thing; I have a certificate somewhere that identifies me as having finished first in my class after 8 weeks of AIT training.  Not really a good thing to have on your record in time of War.  However, "Someone" was looking out for me, because while virtually everyone else in my class was sent directly to Vietnam, I ended up being sent to Germany.  That's right, I fought the Vietnam War in Germany.

Not only that, three months after I arrived in Giessen, my wife of less than a year arrived.  We spent the next 15 months on an extended honeymoon at the Army's expense.  We took two trips to Amsterdam, one to Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, one to Venice, and two to Paris.  As a note of interest, we just happened to be in Paris on the opening day of Peace Talks with the North Vietnamese in May of 1968; me in my GI haircut looking on while teargas was in the air from the Anti-War demonstrations that were going on around us.


(Believe it or not, this entire post is leading up to one point; the story of my first trip to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC in 1998.)

The "Wall" was opened in 1982 and although I had made a couple of trips to DC before 1998, I was never able to bring myself to visit it.  Not because I could not bear to look at some of my buddy's names on the Wall.  Not because I had any issue with the controversial design of the Memorial.  Not because I was concerned about having some sort of emotional breakdown in full view of strangers.  No, my reluctance was of a completely different nature.  My reluctance was of a sort that linked my Dad's inappropriate shame about his own time during WWII.

You see, I did not and still do not know even one of the 58,195 names on that Wall.

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Recent Trip To Tiptonville

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Always good to be back home

Well I made it back to Atlanta in one piece.  Eight hour drives should not be so difficult, but I guess the older we get the harder everything becomes.  I stopped in Nashville on the way last Saturday and had a really long lunch with Amanda who traveled down from Louisville just for the visit; book talk, blog talk, general how-you-doing-talk.  All is well.

Traveling duo a few years ago
Angel Sue
Sue and Virginia Hayes were off on Sunday morning for a short visit with Barbara Markham and others.  They usually drive all the way to North Carolina for this twice a year trip, but this time they all met at Montgomery Bell State Park for a change of pace.  All enjoyed the trip but I must convince Sue to take longer breaks from her "Mother Sitting" role.  My all-to-rare trips to take over that job have shown me what an intense activity that can be. You can visit an older post to see what "a day in the life of Catherine LeDuke" is like.  Nothing has changed much.  We are all just a little slower as we move from room to room.

I had intended to take Mother to church Sunday morning, but we just couldn't seem to get into "getting ready" mode; dressing, pill taking, breakfast eating, and assorted other tasks just kept taking too long to accomplish.  I was just too out of practice that first morning on duty so we skipped Church and Lakeview Dining.  But I soon found out that you can't get away with anything in that town.  (Or can you?)
One of the  Lindamood Clan may have "ratted" on me
One of the nice, concerned Church Ladies called Sue on her cell phone to ask if Miss Catherine was all right since she was not in her pew that morning.  Sue said she was fine when she left that morning, but she would check to be sure.  Soooooooooooo.  I got a phone call from the warden making sure that all was well.  "Yes", I said.  "I am just a little rusty but I promise I'll do better the rest of my time here."


114 LeDuke St..  Built in 1939 , it's the only house Mother
has lived in as an adult and it always seems to need attention.
I really only had three days with Mother this trip; Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Sue returned around noon on Wednesday and after giving her a rundown on things, I hit the road back to Atlanta.  Sue had given me a short list of chores to take care of and I managed to check everything off; I even managed to remember that Wednesday morning was the day to take the garbage can to the curb.

I suppose the most interesting part of my short visit was going out for a drive each afternoon and getting the required Dairy Queen ice cream cones; one small and one large.  Each day we headed a different direction for about an hour or so.  The river is still flowing south even though the water is too high to drive all the way across the levee, and the new spillway appears to be completed but is not as interesting as the old one.  The old one by the way, still has lake water flowing over it and the newest "lake activity" is to sit in your car and watch the "Asian Carp" trying to jump back up the flood gates to get back into the lake.  It is a real shame to see that this invasive fish is starting to take over our beautiful Reelfoot Lake.  Rain and high water had cut off our "rabbit hunting" airport camp ground road but the trip to the Upper Blue Basin still made for a nice drive.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Bridge to Nowhere

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Have you ever started one of those projects that seemed to not have an end; one that kept growing and growing until it began to take on a life of its own?  Well I am in the middle of just such a project. At least I hope I'm in the middle of it and not the beginning.

It all started innocently enough when Marty and I made our first visit to Gibbs Garden in Ball Ground, Georgia.  This is a 300-acre private estate that just last year opened to the public.  If you live anywhere near the north side of Atlanta and would like to stroll around an incredibly well-manicured, lush, colorful garden setting with streams and lakes and all manner of "nature stuff," well, this is a place you really want to go.
This Bridge/Pergola at Gibbs Gardens
started my never ending project

But.............beware!!!!!  Your spouse just may see something there that she really thinks would look good in your backyard and in a weak moment you might actually agree that you could build one of those "somethings." That's when the trouble begins.  That's when you might see your own "Bridge to Nowhere."

When Marty and I moved to the northside of Atlanta some nine years ago we bought a small house on a quiet road with few neighbors to contend with.  Our acre-and-a-half lot is actually only half that size because a small spring-fed stream cuts across our back yard and at least a third of our small estate is on the other side of the stream.  That whole area is steeply uphill, wooded, and useless; and in these last several years of drought conditions the stream has been waterless.  This overgrown buffer does, at least, provide us a good deal of privacy.

A waterless stream bed
 home to frogs, poison ivy, and weeds
There is nothing picturesque about our stream.  It rarely has any flowing water to speak of except during a thunderstorm.  Weeds, fallen trees, muddy creek bottom, and poison ivy have owned a third of our property until.......................... we wandered into GIBBS  GARDEN and one of us realized the possibilities that existed just across the river in our backyard.

The first mistake I made as we stood on the 30' Pergola that spanned the small pond was saying: "Yes, a slightly smaller version of this might look nice going across our stream.  I think I could build this without too much trouble."  She-who-must-be-obeyed took me seriously and placed her order for a 20' long by 8' wide by 10' tall bridge/gazebo.  This event took place a little over a year ago.  Since then..........I'll just let a few pictures do the talking.

Step one in Bridge to Nowhere
First came the two 6' by 2' deep foundation footings that required 75 bags of cement; one footing on each side.  On top of those is a 6x6 treated 8' beam that the bridge will rest on.  Note that the area in front of the beam in the picture needed 80 concrete blocks, each weighing 89 pounds, to erect a retaining wall.  At least I had sense enough to build the wall before I started the building process.  This was just the first of my project "growing pains" I encountered.

The bridge is supported by eleven, treated 2x10's each twenty-feet long.  Four of them are doubled up for extra strength.  One never knows when a road may be built carrying tractor trailers across. I wanted to be prepared.  The good thing is that I was able to get the delivery truck from the building supply company into the backyard so all the necessary lumber could be stacked near by.  Am I smart or what?

I'm not going to bore you with all the gory details of this building process, but I will brag about the fact that each and every board was carried, drug, pushed in place, lifted, leveled, and nailed by yours truly.  I came through this phase unscathed other than a few splinters.  I reached this point in the early summer when it occurred to Marty that it sure would be nice if there was some water under the bridge.  Soooo.... the project took on a growth spurt.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A First for the Great-Grandchild Crew

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A special weekend is coming up!!!

Proud????  Who, Me!!!

Not what you're thinking though.  Of course, it's Mother's Day on Sunday.  But with all this "blogging" I've been doing, I figure my Mother has already gotten her present.  However, tomorrow she's going to get one that's extra special to Marty and I.

Catherine LeDuke's first Great-Grandchild is about to graduate from college.  Graduation exercises are tomorrow in Statesboro, Georgia at Georgia Southern University. 

Bethany Nicole Chapman
Bethany Nicole Chapman will graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration.  She has worked very hard for four years and managed to stay on the Dean's List every quarter.  Maybe she takes after her Granddaddy.........NOT!!  Must be her "Bubba." 

We are so very proud of you Bethany.  Can't wait to see you walk across the stage tomorrow.

So in honor of you "Bug", the rest of this posting is dedicated to showing you off to all my followers.  All three of them will fall in love with you just as your Nana and I have throughout the years.

Good Luck.  Wish you the best.  Now Grad School starts when?

A Different Graduation Day That Was Just as Important as This One

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Drink of "Water" Was All She Offered

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Catherine taught Sunday School at the Tiptonville Presbyterian Church on a fairly regular basis as did many others of that small congregation.  Each year the teaching assignments were shuffled around so that both students and teachers would get a well-rounded and balanced learning experience.  
I can't truly say that I was an eager Sunday Morning Bible Student.  As I recall my attendance bordered on being mandatory, especially if it was Catherine LeDuke's turn to teach a class of any age level.  Daddy was somehow exempt; I suppose because he was the organist and said he had to practice.  I seem to remember seeing him with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in his hand as we left the house each Sunday.  Of course I'm sure he was heading immediately to the piano bench. 
Jimmy's first "blog"?
I would be hard pressed to remember who my various Sunday School teachers were from year to year, but thanks to my "snooping" talents I came across a gift that was given to me by my 1956 teacher, my Mother.  The gift was a Christmas present that she gave to each of her students; a diary of sorts that she personalized with the letter that follows.

The notebook/diary that she gave each of us, as you can see, is a small, skinny, loose-paged binder type book.  She used the first several pages to write her note and then she made title pages that said: "What I Think by ______ [each students name]."  She then wrote a Table of Contents with the different "suggested" categories of things to "think" about.  All the pages shown here are Mother's handwriting.

"What I Think about: God, Church, Bible, Family, Friends, Nature, Books, Movies, Places, Happy things, Unhappy things"

I had originally intended to retype her letter to save you some time in deciphering her handwriting, but after scanning the notes I have decided to allow you to have some of the fun I have enjoyed.  After all, who among us has not had many samples of her handwriting scribbled across the tops of our book reports and term papers; often in red ink.

Whether teaching Sunday School Bible Class or High School English, Catherine LeDuke was always teaching "LIFE."  Teaching not just "facts" found in the required text books we carried around, but more often what to do with those memorized facts; how to apply them to our daily lives.  Catherine LeDuke wanted her students to THINK, to ANALYZE, to PONDER, and yes, even to DISCUSS with others the various thoughts that sloshed around in our heads.
Her note that she wrote in the 1956 Christmas gift to each of her Sunday School Students is such a good example of the way she tried to lead her pupils to think for themselves.  English, History, Latin, Spanish, Bible, all equaled "Life - How To" to Catherine LeDuke.

[By the way. ... if you want to honor my mother in a way that would make her really happy:  Just use her letter as a guide, rewrite it into your own style, and make a few of your own "What do You Think" notebooks to give to one of your children or grandkids. Make sure you leave in the line that she used on the first page that says:  "Remember the saying of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great American Writer, who said that books are just the ideas of other men, fine to read, but less pleasurable and less profitable than one's own." This lady never ceases to amaze me!!!]

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Picture Posting for a Change of Pace

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I seem to be at a loss for words (a relief, no doubt, for many of you) so I decided to give folks a random selection of pictures to look at.  Perhaps one or more of them will spark some special memory worth sharing with others who check in here from time to time to pay tribute to James Neville and Catherine.           

James Neville 1937
A 1933 Catherine Patty
Our Soul Mates in 1944

The offspring and adopted daughter

Catherine with most of her Grandkids

1989 Car full on the way to visit Bubba
Amanda & Jenny at their cutest
Cathie and Jimmy chasing
Ben Neville and Miss Maude
Patty siblings
Catherine, Bud, & Mary E.

The McCrory Clan, a few years ago
"Bubba" with Diana, Steve, and Michael

Pokey - One of the family pets
Either a Latin Club Gathering or a College Toga Party
Circa 1970-ish

The LeDuke Street Gang
Cowboy Jimmy

Grandma and Grandpa
Jimmy, Cathie, Richard ( they clean up pretty good)

The apple of James Neville's Eye and the
Namesake of our Blog
1937 Spencer


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)