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A VIEW from LICK SKILLET: Aytes should learn from his baptism by fire

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By Gerald Largen

Some few days ago we repeated an experience that seems to come with increasing frequency, that is, the loss of old friends.
In both cases these gentlemen, and also in both cases that term — gentle men — is particularly appropriate, were kind, knowledgeable, friendly, public-spirited, good humoured, and just down-right likable.
The first, and oldest, Walt Goolsby, we had known the shortest time, but even the shortest time was measured in decades, rather than years.
The exact time we met Walt we do not recall, but we grew to know him best when he had retired from public employment and went into the real estate business with his son. Bill, under the name West Town Realty, with offices in Kingston and Knoxville.
Walt’s office in recent years was on Court Street, across from the old Court House, and thus convenient for “dropping in” any time we were in the neighborhood, and, until our retirement, that was a very frequent thing.
We never saw Walt but that he was in good humour, and frequently had an amusing anecdote, or funny story to relate. But we also discussed public affairs, from international events down to local current happenings.
We are sure that everyone who had any prolonged contact with Walt treasures the time spent with him, and will, like us, miss him very much.
Our second old friend whom we lost a few days ago, was Harry Fritts.
We first met Harry when he came to South Harriman High School to teach.
As we recall this was his first teaching position, and he seemed like another member of the student body as much, if not more, than a member of the faculty.
Harry was, of course, already a member of the South Harriman community. He was the youngest son of pharmacist John Fritts, known as “Doc,” who, at the time, had a drug store a few steps down from the High School.
(We must digress a moment, a digression of which Harry would have deeply approved, to relate a few words about “Doc.” He was a member of an old line Roane County family, the family farm being off Buttermilk Road, near the Interstate 40 interchange. He lived in Kingston for many years, and was Kingston’s mayor, but he decided to move himself, his family, and his business to South Harriman, where he lived and worked for several years, before retiring to Morgan County.
This retirement was short-lived and his popularity and respect soon forced him to open a druggist’s emporium in his home.
(Doc’s brother R. P. Fritts, was a U. S. Mailman, who also lived in South Harriman, on Pansy Hill. R. P. had three daughters, two of whom, Sara Belle Hamby, mother of our former Road Supervisor, Tom Hamby, and Pauline Cooper taught at South Harriman Elementary.)
Harry had many interests, but his greatest interest was music. We had no organized music programme at SHHS  when Harry came there, a deficiency he soon resolved to remedy, which he did by organizing a glee club. He had us to perform not only at the school, but also to visit other venues, country churches, etc. We sometimes told Harry that he was to blame for our musicality, or lack thereof, which always provoked a laughing response.
After his removal with his father to Morgan County, we did not see him as frequently as before, but whenever, or where ever we encountered each other, he was still the same Harry as we first met some 60 years ago.
We have no doubt that Harry has already joined up as a member of the heavenly choir, and suspect he is currently rehearsing for a leadership role.
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We had intended to attend the Friday afternoon reception given at the Court House to mark the retirement of Sheila Lemons, but were not able to do so.
Sheila deserved any honours she may have received, for she has served as secretary to the County Executive/County Mayor for over thirty years, beginning with Ken Yager, then Mike Farmer, winding up with our current executive, Ron Woody. She was a model for the position, and frankly we feel sympathy for the person who attempts to fill her shoes.
Sheila is one of a long line of capable ladies who have held the position of secretary to our county’s executive leader, beginning with Betty Till, who came to the Court House with County Judge Sterling Roberts, who she served, as well as Frank Quails, and interim judges. Bill Newcomb and Bill Ferguson. Next was Pat Buntrock who served County Judge Wallace Brewer, and then Wanda Plemons filled the position during our tenure as first County Executive.
Prior to these ladies, the secretary for County Judge Elmer L. Eblen was of the male persuasion, Mr. Howard, if we recall aright.
We hope that Sheila has a long, fulfilling, rewarding, and enjoyable retirement, which she so fully deserves.
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At the time of his appointment, we lauded the selection of Mr. Gary Aytes as the head of our school system.
We hope that we will not need to apologize to our readers for that endorsement, but if he doesn’t understand, and profit from his current baptism by fire over the “Italian leather-goods caper”, we may well have to.
Not only was the initiation of such a thing as buying these briefcases a fool move, but trying to excuse or cover up the move is even worse. Remember the lesson we all learned from Watergate — it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up that causes the most trouble.
We can only be glad that he and his cohorts hadn’t yet heard of Louis Vuiton— or we would have to come up with even more money.
And finally, if they must have luxury cases, next time remember that the Hartmann plant out in Middle Tennessee, makes some mighty fine luggage, briefcases, et cetera, and it’s Made in America.