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A View From Lick Skillet: On friends and neighbors past and present

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By Gerald Largen

Kind hearts, as those of you who have been reading us for some time know, we are not particularly enamoured of the huge chain mercantile establishments.

It is true that some such as the groceries sometimes offer a broader selection of food and drink than the so-called “mom and pop” stores.

But, even here the independents and smaller chains used to do a fairly good job of stocking an acceptable selection.

For instance the old White Store in upper East Tennessee, headquartered in Knoxville and owned by Mr. Dwight McDonald, as well as the stores headquartered in Chattanooga and owned by his brother Mr. Roy McDonald, originally named, if memory serves aright, the Red or Red Front stores, one of which was located in Rockwood for many years, offered a good selection, at reasonable prices, coupled with superior service.

But when it comes to such things as hardware, even the biggest chains cannot cope with the breadth of selection that was offered by the old-fashioned hardware stores, such as the Farnhams in Harriman, and
the original Howard’s, later Browder’s in Kingston.

Rockwood had its own hardware resource in Mr. Will Ed Lawrence’s store.

What brings all this to mind is our experience a few days ago when we needed to take care of a water shut-off valve.

Efforts to find a new one proved fruitless, but an employee of one outlet suggested the possibility of finding one at Patterson’s Appliance Center in Midtown.

Although most, if not all, of our appliances came from there, beginning when Don and “Babe” had not been in business very long, we had never thought of them as stocking plumbing parts.

But when we went there, we were astonished at how much in the way of plumbing and electrical parts they have managed to cram into such a small space.

However, even they did not have the particular part that we needed, but when their fine employee looked at the part, he immediately said, “I think we can fix that,” or words to that effect.

And being as good as his word, a few deft manoeuvres with screwdriver, vice-grips, etc., and the part was as good as new.

You just don’t find that kind of service at one of the big chain stores, do you?

Needless to say, next time we need a replacement part, our first stop will be at Patterson’s.

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We are old-fashioned enough to appreciate knowing the folks we deal with, if at all possible.

Although we are not in present need of his professional services at this time, we are immensely pleased to see an old and honoured name in the county gracing a new office in Kingston.

We speak of Dr. Robert Parker, known to us all as Robbie.

We old-timers fondly remember when his grandfather, Bob Parker, was County Court Clerk.

And Robbie’s father, known to us all as Bobby, was active for many years in the real estate business, both as agent and as developer. Lakeside Golf Course was one of his projects.

Dr. Parker has opened a family optometry office in Kingston on West Race Street just before the bridge over Clinch River, in the building last occupied by Michael Blanchard’s “Gibson Girls” bakery, catering business, and luncheon establishment before Michael moved his operations into the former Pennybacker’s location on Third Street.

Dr. Parker has many years of experience in caring for the eyes, having spent several years in the military service treating our servicemen.

It is a comforting thing to see representatives of multi-generational families continue to serve the community, as the Parker family has done for well over a century.

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While on the topic of family businesses and family members, we were delighted to see a picture in the News a few days ago in which Mary Lee Bradford figured prominently. It was such a pleasure to see her looking so well.

Mrs. Bradford figures in our topic in the following fashion. Her brother, Paul Walsh founded the restaurant that was for many years Kingston’s principal eating place, “The Hut.”

He started in a reconditioned Quonset hut selling hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, and ice cream principally.

That business thrived, and he then built the much larger structure at the corner of North Kentucky Street with Court Street, in which he established the Hut Cafeteria, consisting of a large dining room, and a smaller area with a service counter and booths.

We, with many others of a certain age, ate almost as many meals at The Hut as we ate at home, and one of the principal attractions had to be Mrs. Bradford’s skills at baking pies, cakes, etc.

She assisted her brother in this endeavour for many years.

Mrs. Bradford’s eldest son was Judge Robert L. Badger, attorney in Kingston from 1958 until his death.

Her younger son, Dr. Mickey Bradford practiced in West Tennessee for a time, and subsequently in South Carolina, where, if we recall correctly, he still resides.

Her daughter is Rose Mary Alexander, well-known figure in Kingston from school years onward.

The continuity factor about which we spoke earlier applies here also, since Judge Badger’s step-daughter, Sharon Reynolds, with whom he practiced law until his final illness, has just recently returned to Kingston to resume the practice of law; this time with the Cooley firm: Polk and Pat Cooley, John McFarland, and Jennifer Raby.

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We much conclude on a sad note — the death of Henry Wattenbarger.

Although Henry had attained many more than the scripturally alloted three score and ten years (he was 93 at the time of his death on Thursday, the 18th); there was something about Henry that made you think he was immortal.

We had not seen him for a few months, but when last we did, despite his physical infirmities, both in mind and spirit he seemed the same as the first time we met him at Lester Shivers’ old Whiteway Cafe in Harriman. Beginning with those Saturday luncheons there in 1960, and continuing through various other venues, Henry was always Henry.

There was an expression about one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster, that she was the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.

In Henry’s case, he could well have been called the “Unstoppable” Henry Wattenbarger.

We, and countless others, shall miss him.