A View from Lick Skillet by Gerald Largen: Reminiscences of the old Emory Gap Post Office

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Gentle reader, as the onset of Autumn approaches, several annual events begin to show up on our calendars.

One that many folks especially look forward to is the Roane County Heritage Commission’s social event at the old Court House. If you are not one of those who attend regularly, you really should consider doing so.

Therefore, mark your calendar for the Eighth Annual Heritage Gala Evening on the first day of October, at 6:30 p.m., in the old Court House, on the Square at Kingston. The cost for regular tickets is Fifty Dollars ($50) each, half of which is tax deductible.

The committee arranging this event would no doubt appreciate knowing who all is going to be there beforehand, and, if you have not received an invitation, just drop your check in the mail addressed to “8th Annual Heritage Gala Evening, Roane County Heritage Commission, P. O. Box 738, Kingston, Tennessee 37763.”

Or, drop by the Old Court House and give your check to one of the fine custodians of the records, etc., either Darleen Trent, or Robert Bailey, and they will take care of getting you on the list. If you do not determine that you can attend until late, we are sure that you can be squeezed in and admitted at the door.

According to the invitation, “Wine, heavy hors d’oeuvres, & Silent Auction” begin at 6:30 p.m., and the program begins at 8 p.m.

Incidentally, the evening’s honoured guest will be Jamey McLoughlin from Rockwood, who has been a mainstay for the Commission from the very beginning, being the man of all talents, including producing the News Letter.

Finally we must mention the program which the invitation states is to be reminiscences of the old Court Room, which has been newly restored as a part of the restoration project which has been underway for some time.

Those recalling events from the time when the old Court Room was the center of justice, and judicial proceedings in the county are the old graybeards of the Bar — Sandy McPherson, Polk Cooley, Bill Newcomb, and your humble servant.

There is no telling what the fertile minds of this quartet will decide is fit to recount, but no doubt one or more of us will recall such events as the time when Judge Jimmy Witt appointed the entire Bar to appear for the defence in a murder trial, which killing originated from a drunken dispute over scriptural interpretation. Beyond that we will not speculate.
Bye the bye, did you see where one of our editor’s correspondents a few days ago chose to display for all to see his ignorance of the usage of the word “we,” not only as the first person plural pronoun, but also its ancient and honourable traditional usage as the so-called “Royal We”, as when Queen Victoria so famously uttered the words “We do not choose to know that,” when someone told her an item which she did not think appropriate.

Likewise over the years, hundreds and hundreds of editorial writers have used the “Editorial We” in referring to themselves in their opinion pieces.
It just goes to show once again that ignorance is rampant, and some folks seem to delight in showing off their ignorance, as this correspondent did. (As Marcus Tullius Cicero observed, “O tempora! O mores! meaning “Oh the times! The customs!”)
Once again the U.S. Postal Service has made the news with stories of its financial problems. This has been a recurring problem ever since the Republicans insisted that the Service should be made a quasi-independent self-supporting entity, but which still remains under the thumb of the Congress.

Some readers will recall the days when Marvin Runyon, widely known as “Carvin’ Marvin” took his cost-cutting scalpel from being chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority over to become Post Master General.
Things have gotten no better since.

Like those running so many enterprises, those in charge at the post office have fallen for the theory of increased mechanization, with generally unsatisfactory results. Somehow, back in the days when there were mail cars on trains, with mail clerks manning these rail cars, the mail seemed to get through faster and more reliably than it does now with all the high-priced machines, sorters, scanners, baggers, etc.

But this news served to bring back to our mind memories of our experiences with the Post Office. In the days of our boyhood, our first experiences were with the Emory Gap Post Office. Being on the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railway north/south main line, and being the easternmost terminus of the Tennessee Central Railroad, Emory Gap may have been a step ahead of those offices not so favourably sited, but in any event the mail came in and went out promptly and regularly.

At the time of our first recollection, the Emory Gap office was still a contract P.O. That is, the Postal Service would advertise from time to time that bids would be taken for a contract to be awarded to the best bidder to operate a post office for a set period of time. The successful bidder was responsible for providing not only the service of handling the mail, but also providing the location for the office. The first such we knew of was located in Miss Belle Peterman’s front room in her house.The next time, she did not bid, or lost the bid, and it went across the street into a corner of Mr. John Walt’s Store, where it was run for years by his son Fred’s wife Nell.

Nell Walt would probably have won the contest for most beautiful postmistress, had there been such a contest. Not only was she a beautiful lady, a feature shared by her daughters, including Barbara who was a Miss Roane County in her day, but Nell was also highly intelligent and highly personable.

She and Fred, as we understand it, were college sweethearts, as were her sister and famed musician Roy Acuff, whom the sister married.

At a later date Miss Belle Peterman was once again the postmistress for a year or so, and then, as we recall, the postal service made the Emory Gap Post Office a regular civil service office and the postmistress appointed was Marie (Mrs. Benny) Smith.

Some time thereafter Ina (Mrs. George) Isham became deputy postmistress, and subsequently was moved up to postmistress. Miss Ina and George were the parents of a quartet of sons — Edwin, Roy, Bruce, and Curtis.

For a time after Ina’s retirement various P.O. employees were assigned to run the office, until such time as it was decided to close the Emory Gap Post Office.

Ironically, it wasn’t too long thereafter that the old Harriman Post Office, located on Roane Street in the stately building that now houses Joe Walker’s Public Defender Office, was closed and operations moved to Emory Gap, just a short distance northeast of the site of the old Emory Gap Post Office. As the French say: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, or, The more things change, the more they remain the same.
It has just occurred to us that the Kingston City Manager is the supreme authority over the police department. Wonder why he hasn’t done anything to have the P.D. stop the petty thievery?