Back in the early seventies we were transferred from Lexington, Kentucky to Maryville, Tennessee. Since I grew up in Ohio and had never heard of the Smokies or Gatlinburg I was anxious to explore these mountains. Gatlinburg, the name alone has such a romantic sound to it and the city being nestled down between the mountains makes the whole city perfect for lovers. To our delight Maryville was only thirty minutes from there when you took the back roads through Townsend also known as the quiet side of the Smokies. We enjoyed hiking the trails, walking across the big rocks through the mountain streams and driving under the covered bridges. Having picnics in Cades Cove and watching wild life all around us was spectacular. Buffalo aren’t just on the range I found out! One of my favorite things to do was walk the streets of Gatlinburg where people were holding hands and eating bright red candy apples flavored with cinnamon. You could hear children laughing and dulcimers being played in the back ground. They have restaurants over looking the creeks and in the winter time you smell the fireplaces burning. Candy shops are on every corner and through the windows you can see them making it. You’ve never tasted such fresh fudge when it’s still warm. But my favorite of all are the corn dogs! Fanny Farkle’s have foot long corn dogs dipped in their own homemade batter and fried in front of you. The best ever! And not just back then but now as well! Fannie Farkles is still in the same place right on the main drag. You must try it!
They call her generation the “greatest generation” and with good reason. People who were born around the 1920’s to 1930’s have such pride in their country. They salute the flag and stand and sing when they hear The National Anthem. They’ve seen war and depression. They stood in lines for essentials like bread and ladies hose, which were very important to the women of that day. They had to work hard for everything they had. So therefore, they appreciated everything they earned. When the fifties came along and everyone could take a deep breath and enjoy life, they did.
TV shows from then were The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best which showed mothers staying home and raising children and running the household. Mrs. Eleanor Spicer did this with ease. Even with keeping up with her children Stephen Craig and Anne Claire’s needs and washing and ironing before the iron free fabrics came out. She cooked every day and baked wonderful pies and cakes and cookies and breads. Depending on which day of the week you were there, you would see her counter fill up with the variety of her sugar creations. Friday was the day I often got to come over so I was lucky to get to sample many of her different baked things, that is if there were still some crumbs left!! One of my favorites is the zucchini nut bread. Here is her recipe written, of course, in her own handwriting.
Although Mrs. Spicer was very good at running her household, she was very involved in many other projects as well. She was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church in Circleville, Ohio and prepared some of her finest foods for functions there. She also managed to play bridge and we all know that’s not the easiest of card games. Eleanor enjoyed writing for the Historical Society and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution ( DAR ). She worked at the polls during elections and belonged to The Republican Party. But I have a favorite memory of a position she held and that was of my Girl Scout leader. She took this unpaid job, as I’m sure she did all of her other unpaid positions, very seriously! For us girls to earn any of our badges we had to do exactly as the book stated. I can remember hiking in the parks around Circleville, like Old Mans Cave and Deer Creek. If the book said three miles we didn’t walk even a few steps short of that either. We learned the importance of following rules and felt the pride when we completed the task. There were no badges for trying, only in completion. And I feel sorry for the kids today that get unearned trophies. They will never feel the pride I do, even today, when I look at my badges with such a sense of earned accomplishment. Thank you Eleanor Spicer for taking the time!
Here is another one of her family favorites, Apple Crisp.
Now this wasn’t always the truth. Bless her heart. Her heart was so good but her mind was an understandable mess. When she and her siblings were removed from their mother, someone in the state agency decided that it would be best for the others if she not to live with them. Now, can you imagine that? She was stubborn and outspoken. Those are good qualities for anyone in politics and other occupations like that. But for her not to be submissive with all these changes in her life was perceived to be a bad thing. The first time my husband went to pick her up from the school she was attending, she ran from him and he had to chase her around the school yard till she got tired and slowed down because of the heavy load she was carrying in her back pack. Now picture this! Kids are taught everyday in school and on TV to NEVER get into a car with strangers and now my husband has to persuade her to get into his car and go home with him for the week-end. We were asked to keep her for respite to give her current foster parents a week-end break. She had been told this, of course, but had never met any of us. The week-end went very well. My own children who were older were always so sweet and understanding of all these children that came through our home and that made the children feel more welcome. In time she was able to move in with us and become a real part of our family. Her heart was so enormous and she wanted to help others all the time. One time she was worried about another family not having enough food so she started carrying out our food to help them. Finally, I had to sit down with her, pen and paper in hand, and explain how this works. I showed her the amount of food we had left for the week and told her to figure out enough meals for us for the remaining week and whatever was left she could take to her friends. After figuring it all out she decided she had taken enough food and would help in another way.
On another day she decided to fix supper for us and was so excited to do so. Her meal of baked spaghetti with corn turned out great. This was a recipe she had learned from another foster home she had lived in. One really good thing about this recipe is you can make it ahead and bake it when you want it. You see recipes like this now but back then it was a new idea. And for some reason she likes corn with her spaghetti instead of a salad. That is probably because that’s how she first ate it or she didn’t know how to make a salad. Either way it was delicious and we still make it today.
As time went along, she still struggled with missing her sisters, and with the help of her case worker, we were able to set up visitations, and that helped. She always had trouble in school, too, till finally she was diagnosed as being dyslexic and got the proper training. Because she had such a caring personality she had many mentors along the way that helped her. Her youth minister, the secretary of her high school, and “Poppy” as we all called him. He was my daughter’s grandfather, and since his wife had just died and Linda’s birthday was the same day as “Mimi’s,” it was a perfect match. He would take her to dinner on occasions and he taught her to play Uno and Skip Bo and they would play for hours. In reality, she probably helped him as much as he helped her.
Here is Heather Atkinson with her Ella, 11 and Callie, 9 making the meatball stew from the blog dated January 22, 2015.
I’m so excited to see young mothers teaching their children to cook and especially excited to see they are using this blog as a cookbook!! Thank you so much!! Linda McKinney Blake and her three little ones, Annalee, 6, Aidan 4 and Lillian 2, all helped to make the Blackbean soup from the blog dated October 25, 2014. And incidentally Annalee made this for her school and won $100 to use in her school library!! Congratulations Annalee!!
After I had lost my job and had moved to a big house on the ridge, I needed more to do. My son was in high school and my daughter in nursing school and as I looked around at all the extra room we had, I thought why not share it! I had met a woman who was a foster parent and she gave me a phone number. One call lead to another and another and soon it got out in the fostering community that I was interested in being a foster parent and the phone calls started coming in to me. I had no idea there were so many agencies and even more sadly so many children needing a home.
This was nothing for me to just say “yes” and move anyone in. My upbringing was so different from my husbands. I knew never to go to the kitchen in the mornings without my bathrobe. You never knew who might have come for a visit in the night for a day or two or even a month! Both my parents were from different states and had gone to college in even other states and they kept up with all their families and friends so everyone knew they had an open invitation to visit any time. And people did. It was fun for me and my three other siblings. We got to know our aunts and uncles and cousins better that way and would not have otherwise since they all lived in other places. My husband on the other hand grew up in a loving home with just one brother and his parents. Their lives were more organized and quiet. Nothing is wrong with either upbringing. But for my husband to move in strangers was a much harder decision.
The day finally arrived and the knock came to our door. We thought a young girl would be nice since our children were older. Someone young enough we could all spoil and who would think we were so special to have taken them in. When we opened the door there stood a boy, not a girl and a teenager not the young child we were expecting! The agency man explained that they were in desperate need of a home right now for this child because his earlier foster home had been disrupted. There he stood looking at us with as much disbelief as we were at him. He was made to look even shorter than he was by standing next to the tall social worker. He had chains hanging from his sagging worn out jeans and he walked like they were going to fall down at any minute. There in his hand he held a big black garbage bag holding the only possessions he owned. He wasn’t expected but how could we say no.
His name is Anthony. He came from an abruised home and now had to live with strangers. As the days turned into weeks and then months, he taught us as much as we taught him. He was kind and missed his siblings, a brother and younger twin sisters. I learned quickly that I needed to pick my battles as we’re taught in the foster care classes. Keeping your bed made and room picked up meant nothing to a child that had lost everything they knew and the people who should have loved and cared for him didn’t do their job and now he had to live this way. So we talked a lot and compromised on many things. When your bed is made the whole room looks better I’d tell him as my mother had told me, so we just settled for that. And even though I preferred him wearing his pants up around his waist, I bought him new jeans and a belt and let him keep the chains and sagging style. At least the belt would help his pants stay up and if wearing them this way made him feel he had some control of his life, it was something I could live with.
The foster parents he had lived with before coming to us were vegetarians. We were not. He was able to get us recipes to try. So this is where these burger recipes came from. Eventually we enjoyed them too and with time he started enjoying our beef burgers as well.
There was a single man who lived in a tiny house next door to us. He was very particular about his big yard, but with a house that small I can see why he stayed outside so much. One day he got on to me because the wind had blown some branches and leaves from our tree into his yard and he was very unhappy about that. He wanted me to cut it down. Well, he was very rude and made me cry. As I sat on the side porch I heard a loud knocking on his front door. I looked over and there stood Anthony. When the man opened his door I heard Anthony say to him “Don’t you ever make my mom cry again! She is the nicest person I know and does so much for others and doesn’t deserve to be talked to that way. ” Well, I must admit that at this time I was glad he was wearing those chains and looked like a thug! He really wasn’t that way on the inside. And I knew I had made some difference in his life and now I knew he also had made a difference in mine.
Anthony is grown now and he is not passing on bad parenting. He and his wife are lovingly raising their little son with all the joys parents should feel.
When I was in elementary school I met a young girl that looked a lot like me! We both had dark brown hair, brown eyes, olive skin, and about the same height and size. We became friends and soon our mothers allowed us to spend the night with each other . Her mother was a nurse and mine a teacher. The thing I remember most about going to her house was the sweet smell of butter cookies!! Your mouth started watering the moment you entered the door. Her mother must have timed it just perfect to have all those wonderful cookies laying on the kitchen counter tops cooling as we walked in. Yummy!! As the years passed, Mrs. Jean West became famous in our little town for these sugar creations! They were sweet enough for her hospital patients to eat and soft enough for the people in the nursing homes to enjoy. Everyone who ever tasted them never forgot them. Now Jeannelle West Schlegler , my childhood friend, has offered to share these special cookies with us. Thank you, Jeannelle!!
Jeannelle and granddaughter Macie Spiller continue the tradition.
Since my paternal grandfather, whom I called Pap, owned his own candy store in Pittsburg, Pa. and made his own chocolate candy, I guess it was inevitable for me to find the Ratliff Candy Company in Bristol, Tennessee. All you had to do was follow your nose down the back streets of their town. And when you entered, oh my goodness what a refreshing smell!! The York Peppermint Patty commercials have nothing on The Ratliff Candy Company! They had big copper kettles with sugar and peppermint extract bubbling away! It had to be cooked to the perfect stage to be transferred to the marble table to cool and then at just the right time to the taffy pull! This was a family business, now three generations old. They turned their candy into works of art like little toy drums and Christmas wreaths. The candlestick holders and coffee mugs were cute too but the favorite creation of all were their candy baskets. Sometimes they would make wintergreen and add some dark green color to the batch.
They were beautiful to look at and decorate with but best of all was the way they tasted! Not at all like the hard candy canes that are too hot and too hard. They were sweet and soft enough to bite. I was so lucky to get the chance to play “candy maker” and eat the warm candy right from the batch.
Some of my fondest memories are when I took these baskets to craft fairs all over the south from Ohio to Florida including our nations Capitol. I figured if I could drive a van full of these baskets and make it there in one day, I would go that far. And so I did!!
Many times my parents and brother, Jonathan, would meet me and we would have such fun together. Always going after a show to a new restaurant we would find. Sometimes my daughter Heather would be able to make it. She has an interest in new places and this was right up her alley. There was a show in Charleston, WVa where my sister, LaDonna, and her family lived so each year that was like a family reunion. My husband, Roy and our son, Adam would even make it to this one. Even though it was hard work to set up and set down and drive the distances, it was way worth it. I shared many of these experiences with friends and family.
On many of these trips my friend, Bea Chadburn went with me. We had many adventures as we drove the roads to and from these many crafts fairs.
On one of these occasions when a craft fair ended, we had to take down our booth, pack up what was left and head to the next city. As we drove thur the night, singing Christmas carols, the van started rocking slightly back and forth. You see we had to put the wood panels from the display on top because they were too big to fit inside. A trucker started flashing his lights and with a rest area ahead we pulled over. He and his partner said our wood had come loose and we needed ropes to tie it down better. Well, we didn’t have any rope but as luck would have it we were both wearing hose. I know!! Those things women don’t wear anymore. So we both took ours off and they made very strong ties for our gear on top. The men were very impressed. The truckers had come from the east coast and had seafood already cooked of all kinds to share with us. Even though we probably shouldn’t have eaten it, we did. It was delicious! We just prayed a little harder before we ate it. Then off we headed to our next craft fair with the legs of our hose flapping in the wind.