Prepared by Hugh Keedy and Jessie Bennett
Co-directors: Bethesda Museum
Annie Lou McCord
Childhood in Bethesda
I was born in the old Spright (???) home down where Dwight (Clyde??) Lynch lives now. My mother and father went there to live when they first married. It was what was called the old Blythe Spright home and we lived there. I've heard my mother say I was just three months old when we moved from there to Bethesda. We lived in Bethesda in a house very much like the one I'm living in now. It was across the road from here the Watson's lived. The old home place was up on the hill where Charley and Carol live now, in back of the store. The home place is gone now.
At our home we had a water system where you run the water through a filter and then under the ground. It was rain water. It was good soft water. It was really good to wash with. Then we had a spring, too. We had a bathroom, but we didn't have water in the bathroom. My mother wouldn't let us use the system water because she was afraid. She'd make us go to the spring and bring her water in the bucket and use it in the bath tub to take a bath. We didn't do that but once or twice a week. It was too much trouble.
My grandfather, T. B. Scales, my mother's father, ran the country store in Bethesda. In fact he ran that store for fifty years The reason for us moving there--my father stopped farming and went in business with my grandfather. He worked in the store and he also was the assistant mail carrier from Bethesda. We had a post office at Bethesda then. He helped with carrying the mail and he also helped in the store.
When I was still living at home, we had three teachers that were boarding with us. They all came from town where they had grown up with bath rooms. It was quite different when they had to go outside. In the out house you had to use the Sears Roebuck catalog. They had a lot of fun doing that. The last time I talked to one of them, Evins Seed (??), a minister's daughter, she said that was happiest time in her life, those three years she taught at Bethesda. I don't know how my mother stood up under those boarders They'd come in every night with a date; every one of them had dates. One of the girls loved to eat sardines. They'd go to the kitchen and open sardines and eat them, even way up in the night. I don't know why my mother didn't run them off. I couldn't stand that. My mother kept boarders for several years; we enjoyed them. My mother died when she was 78 and my father was 81.
My brother, Charles, is the one that I took care of when he was just small. He always laughed and said I carried him around on my hip. I was holding him one day and I had him up on the foot of the bed. My mother was putting down the carpet on the floor and he kept jumping and carrying on. I dropped him on the floor and he stuck a tack in his heel. He said that was the reason he was so foolish.
We had a good orchard down in the bottom. We had lots of apples. My mother would dry apples and can apples and make apple preserves. We had peaches also. We canned peaches and made peach preserves. My mother made the best watermelon rind pickles. When I married and went to live with my husband they had peaches galore. I've never seen so many peach trees. We had to can every one of those peaches! I had a friend that would come and help me can I don't know how many hundreds of cans of peaches for Christmas presents. We'd can that many. I remember giving them to my brother Charles and his wife.
We had good gravel roads, but we didn't have too many bridges. For a long time we had a foot log to go across the creek so you could go up to my house. I've heard my mother talk about her going across the foot log. One of the girls who was with her fell off into the creek and my mother jumped in and got her out. That was back when my mother was young.
We had a garage at Bethesda. Lester Mosley's father ran the garage. We had a broom factory. Mr. Henry Christman(??) ran the broom factory, down on the creek close to where the storekeeper [John Buida] lives now. He had a little factory where he made brooms. It was actually a shop. Mr. Henry Christman's brother made the brooms in Memphis and he was just working kinda under him, I believe.
Churches during my childhood
Now, the Presbyterian church was on one side of our home, and the Methodist parsonage was over across the road on the other side of us. We went to church two Sundays at the Presbyterian church and two at the Methodist. I wish we still did that. In the church, the men and the women didn't sit together. The men sat on one side and the women sat on the other. They were in the same room in the sanctuary, but there was a rod down across the seats. The women sat on the left hand side and men were on the right hand side. The men and women had Sunday school classes in different places too.
The choir was up in the corner. I remember my aunt, Miss Marion Scales, my mother's sister, played the organ. We sang so many of those old songs, "I Need Thee Every Hour," "Bless Be the Tie that Bind our Hearts," and "Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?" and all those old songs.
We had the catechism, and I think that would be a good thing if the catechism were taught now. They would learn more about the Bible. I know that later I taught catechism when we built a new church, and several of the girls I taught the catechism to said they were so glad I had made them learn it and said that had helped them more than anything. I remember getting the Bible story book at church and memorizing the catechism, and I think it's really good. We had a minister not too long ago who was going to write another catechism. He borrowed two or three from me. I know the Presbyterians taught the catechism as much as Methodists, if not more. They taught what was called the shorted catechism.
Childhood memories of Christmas
We see a lot of deer here in our part of the country now, but the first deer that I remember ever seeing in Bethesda was on a Christmas eve. You know where I live now--there was a man that was living there, Will Sprott. There was a deer that came by on Christmas eve and he shot it in the leg. They put it in their barn over there across from where the Cunninghams live [where Peter and Marilyn Hawkins lived before] all during Christmas. I remember us spending the day at our grandfather's and grandmother's; we always went there on the second day of Christmas and spent the day. We all went down to see the deer and all the children around went to see the deer. We had the best time going to see that deer. And, of course, the children thought that was one of Santa Claus's deer. It must have been because nobody knew where that deer came from. But, it died.
At home at Christmas we always hung our stockings up and had them filled. We had more fun just looking in the stockings on Christmas morning. We usually got a roll of candy and a roll of nuts. My daddy always got a box of oranges at Christmas time. Of course, we always had fruit and candy. We usually got a doll. I remember I got a little safe one Christmas. You know, my grandfather ran the store so we got a good many toys.
One Christmas we went to my grandfather's house to spend Christmas eve. They had a Christmas tree in the parlor. We decorated the tree with popcorn and little candles with little clips on them. You had to be awful careful because the candles might set things to fire. My aunt--she had taught school in Louisiana--used to bring lots of that Spanish moss, and she'd put some of that Spanish moss on the Christmas tree. The next morning we all got up early. They had a fire in the fire place and had candles on the Christmas tree. What hurt me so was the man and his wife that cooked for them, Linnie and Joe. Instead of letting them come in there in the living room where we were they looked through the window and watched us take our presents off the tree. That was a nice Christmas but they didn't get to take part in it.
School days at Bethesda
I went to school there at the school building at Bethesda. I never went to school at a one-teacher school. Bethesda was a three-teacher school. We had the upper grades downstairs and the smaller children went upstairs. There was a high school teacher who taught high school. Then there was a room on that side that was the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The seventh and eighth were taught together. Then upstairs there was the first, second, third, and fourth.
I never could understand why they let the little children go up the stairs. Some of them would hang out of the window, almost. But, I remember so well that my husband's father, Mr. Jim Bond, when we first started to school came and put planks across the windows. They were great big high windows and he put planks across so we wouldn't fall out the windows., which helped an awful lot.
My aunt, my mother's sister, was my first school teacher. She taught first, second, and third grade. She was one of the best teachers I ever went to. She was the mother of Cheryl Ervin (Irvin??), who lives in Franklin right now. I used some of her ideas in teaching all through my teaching years. She was very modern in her teaching. Often times I would go home with her and spend the night. She lived up on the hill in the old home where Charlie and Carol live [???where is this???]. I mean it wasn't the home they live in, but the old home that was up there. That's where she lived.
My aunt, my first grade teacher upstairs, also taught some of the high school subjects downstairs. She taught English. I know there were so many of the older ones that said, "I did appreciate what she taught me in English, because she was a good English teacher."
I'll have to tell you a story about Jessie's daddy. He was in the class and one day my aunt was teaching them adjectives. Maybe I shouldn't say all this, but she asked him what an adjective was and to give an illustration. He looked out the window and said, "Here comes a nigger with a red dress on." At least he know what an adjective was.
One teacher I went to, my seventh and eighth grade teacher, would have spelling so that you stood up and spelled every day. If you stood up for a week without missing the words, why, she'd give you a nickel pencil. That was Miss Alice Paulette; she was a really good teacher. I'd put her up against any English teacher that I had when I was in college. She was just real good.
One of the nicest things I remember when I was going to school at Bethesda--we had a long porch on one of the rooms. Mr. Mack Clendenon (??)--I imagine some of you may remember him over at College Grove where he was a teacher. We'd get in a line and run down the porch and jump into his arms. He'd jump us off the porch.
The teachers would get out and play with us. We had a good time like that. They'd play ball. They played softball and we had a goal and we'd play pitching the goal, basketball, and things of that kind. We played a lot of different games. We played drop the handkerchief and "King, king can I go?" That's when two would run around and hit somebody's hand and then you'd go all the way around.
I remember when I was riding horseback and going to school and the creeks would freeze over. One day my daddy had to go down to the creek and break the ice on the creek before the horse could go across. I was wet up to my knees. I had to stop and get dry before I got to school.
I went through twelve years of school at Bethesda. Then I went to the normal school in Murfreesboro. Now it's MTSU [Middle Tennessee State University]. I went there, and my first year I had to take three subjects because Bethesda wasn't an accredited high school. I had to make at least a B on those in order to get my high school work accredited. Well, English and history were alright but when it came to that math, I had to take geometry three different times. If it hadn't been for a student teacher, I never would have made it. I finally passed geometry.
I had to take the state exam to get a teacher's certificate. You talk about something, when you take the state exam it covers every subject in grammar school. It took two days and you had to go to Nashville. Then, of course, I went back two years later and got a lifetime teaching certificate.
From then on I was kind of stubborn, I guess. I decided I was going to take what classes I wanted to, rather than taking things that I didn't think would do me any special good. So, I've been to five or six different colleges. I probably have enough hours to get a B.S. but I just took what I wanted to.
I went to Peabody where I registered, and for six weeks I took three subjects. That cost me around a hundred dollars. I wish I had brought the papers [with me today that] I have from when I went there. Then I went to Trevecca college several different summers and took things that I really wanted to take. I took extension courses from the University of Tennessee. I took one under Nell Williams, who was our supervisor.
All together our family taught 206 years. Then the second generation has taught 103 years the last counting I had. I taught 37 and the three years I was at Tennessee Tech made 40 years.
When I first started teaching I was nineteen. I started teaching at Simmons Hill, five miles from Bethesda across Pulltight Hill. I rode horseback every day. It was a pretty good road across Pulltight. When I went over Pulltight I'd have to wear a veil around my nose just to keep from freezing. We didn't have any holidays, but I'd spend the night over there at Simmons Hill with some of the families. We didn't have snow days. We went every day. We didn't miss a day. I finally started going to Simmons Hill in the buggy, and this Crafton girl that comes here to church now, Elbert (??), rode with me. I'd always pick up somebody and let them ride with me over there.
That was one of the best places I ever taught. They were the nicest people to me at Simmon's Hill. That's where my grandfather came from. His mother was a Wilson and the old Wilson home is still over there. His mother was a relative of [President] Woodrow Wilson. Their grandparents were some kind of parents to Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister and I've heard my father and mother tell about one of my ancestors going to Presbytery with Woodrow Wilson's father. He became intoxicated and they put him out of the Presbytery before they were done. But, I think they made him go back into the Presbytery.
I taught over at Simmons Hill for five years. Of course the people knew my background over there because I was related to the Wilsons. I always enjoyed teaching over there. I taught all the grades--it was a one room school. I had thirteen pupils. We would have devotional in the morning. We'd always sing and have the Bible reading and have a prayer. Then we'd start out with the beginners and the older children. I'd assign an older child maybe to help some of the beginners. We'd just help each other. That was the way we did things. If we were studying about peninsulas or islands, well, we'd go down to the creek and we'd make us an island and we'd make us a peninsula. We studied like that. We'd go outside when it was warm weather and have some of our lessons. They always enjoyed that.
We had a recitation bench. For the beginners I'd put words on the board and let them pronounce the words that went with their book. Of course, they always had their book and tablets and pencils. They'd sit down in their seats and do the writing. A recitation bench was just a long bench that they all sat on. I'd stand up in front of them and maybe use the board in front and let them pronounce the words on the board. I'd talk to them and then let them come up and stand by me and read. Sometimes they stayed in their desks and I let them read there.
Sometimes we'd have spelling bees. We'd divide up in the room and have two captains and then give out words. When you'd miss a word you'd have to sit down. The side that could stand up the longest won.
The old ones, they'd be ready to be married when they were 19 or 20. I had two or three that ran off and got married while I was teaching there.
The school at Simmons Hill had a pot bellied stove that sat in the middle of the room. The students or I fed it . They had plenty of wood. We had a great big pot and sometimes we cooked white beans on top of the stove or we'd make soup.
When I went from teaching at Simmons Hill to Flat Creek, Flat Creek used coal a lot. That was how I punished one of the boys that was in school to me. One day when I had a new buggy and was going to school at Flat Creek, I picked up this boy. He had a great long old knife and he thought he'd use it. He cut all the toppers [what are toppers????]on that buggy. He was too big and strong for me to use a whip on him. That's what I should have done. But I kept him in after school and talked to him. While I was keeping him in he was using that knife to whittle off a piece of wood. I told him, "I'm gonna take my buggy whip and I'm gonna make you pick up every bit of that coal and put it in the coal bin." The next morning he was there. And I stood out there over him with that buggy whip and I made him take every piece of that coal and throw it in the bin. From then on he was a pretty good kind of fella. I taught his daughter here at Bethesda and she was unusually nice.
I'll tell you who else I taught that I enjoyed so much--the children from the Baptist Children's Home. That's who I loved to teach. The Baptist Children's home was out on the Nashville Highway and I taught them when I was at Thompson Station. I had sixteen of them in my room at one time. And you talk about pitiful, those children had sad backgrounds. They could tell you the most pitiful stories. I just loved every one of them. If they'd see my husband coming to pick me up from school, they had to jump up and run out there and get in the car with him. I couldn't hold them. They were something else, now I tell you.
When the parents would come to see them, they'd tell me to be sure and not let them go off with any of the parents. They sometimes wouldn't pay any attention to them; they just didn't care. One of the funniest things two of them did was once when I went back to get somebody's coat and didn't see that all of them didn't get on the bus. That night when I got home, why, a lady down on the highway called me and said that she found two of my children in her house. Instead of getting on the bus, they slipped out and had run across and gone to this lady's house, slipped in, and got on the floor. She worked in the store at Thompsons Station and she knew who they were. We had to call them at the Children's Home to come get those children. They'd try anything. Just to keep from coming to school, a whole bunch of them jumped off the bus one day when they got to school. The principal and some men ran those children until after dinner time until they caught them all.
My husband and I started to school the same day. He and his brother sat together. Herbert McCall and his friend, Howard Hargrove, sat behind us [you and who????]. My aunt believed in mixing them up. She didn't put all the girls on one side. We sat two in a seat and so my husband and his brother sat in front of us. His brother was my boyfriend then. I think my first Valentine came from Herbert McCall, who was my other boyfriend. I still have the box of candy he gave out. Just a little green box of candy that he gave me for Valentines.
After that we were to have Epworth league on Sunday night and I started going with my husband then. I remember the first date I ever had. It was at the Presbyterian church, and he came out and asked me for a date. I said, "Well, I'll have to go ask my Daddy." So I went over and asked my Daddy if I could have a date. He said, "well, I guess so." We went together for thirteen years until we married. We started out pretty young. We had to have a chaperone at first. On our first date, I think we went riding and went through Lover's Lane, which is Byrd Lane. That's where we went every Sunday night. He had a T-model Ford. The chaperone was a cousin of ours. I remember so well that she had never driven a car. But, we put her off in the front and she drove the car; we sat on the back seat.
I'll tell you another place we went for entertainment. We had moonlight picnics and we'd go up on the hill where my son Charley(??) lives. There's a cave up there, and back then people went in the cave. We'd go in the cave at night. I know my Daddy said, "Going in a cave in the night?" I said, " Well, good gracious, it's just as light in there.'' We'd take lanterns and all and go down in that cave. It's a wonder we hadn't gotten killed. Some people could go in that cave and come out down here at the Price (Trice???) place. It went all the way under. Some of them had been through all the way clear down on the Duplex road. That's what I've been told. I have some pictures made down in the cave. I should have brought them today. They don't go in the cave anymore. I think dead animals have been thrown in it.
We had good gravel roads, but we didn't have too many bridges. The cars would just ford the creeks; we got stuck in the creek several times. One time my husband was taking me home and we went in a creek when it was too high. It just washed us on. We got out of the car and waded out. It washed his car on down the creek. We had to fasten the car on the foot log that night and come back the next morning. It ruined the motor and he had to do a lot of work on the car.
We didn't have a honeymoon. James had a dairy and he couldn't get off very much. We went over to Nolensville and got married at the parsonage over there. Brother Parker had been our preacher and he and Mrs. Parker, and Betty Ruth her daughter were our only attendants. I still hear from Betty Ruth. We married there at the parsonage and then we went on to--I can't ever remember the name of that place. We just spent one night and then came home the next day, and started out cooking and working.
Before I got married I was living at home. When we married, we went to the Bond's. We lived with my husband's father up there. We lived there with him for seventeen years. His wife died when his children were just real small and he had lived there all by himself. So I lived there for seventeen years. That wasn't pleasant. I kept on teaching, I tell you don't ever live in a house with in laws. He was sick and that was another main thing. We couldn't get him to stay in the hospital or a nursing home. He just cut up so until finally he got on dope; that was just worse and more of it.
After he died, we lived there until my husband died. My husband promised me if we ever had the house to ourselves he'd have it reworked. And he did. He had it reworked from one end to the other. The house was in very good condition because Mr. Bond had kept it up. It was in good condition. Part of it was log; one of the rooms was log, and it had been added to. It was in real good condition and is now.
We didn't have electricity up there until '42, because the people that lived next to us wouldn't have poles come up on their place. So we couldn't get electricity until '42. We had a terrible time. We used Aladdin lamps. We had a refrigerator; I guess it was the only one that you run by kerosene. You'd have to light it at night. We had a kerosene stove and we had a kerosene refrigerator. We gave it to Mr. Roy. I think it's still down there in the garage if I'm not mistaken. It really ought to be in the museum. The refrigerator made ice at night. My mother had a kerosene stove and so did we. Like I said, it was 1942 before we got electricity.
We also had a shower. My husband put up a great big tank at the back of the house and fastened [piped] it down to a sink that we had in our kitchen. He fastened it on some way so that he could have a shower out on the back. The water was pumped up in there some way. I don't know how it got in, maybe he caught it off the top of the house. My husband would get up behind the house and take a shower. One day Mrs. Alamen(???) came around the house. I don't know which ran the fastest. One went one way and one went the other. She laughed about that as long as she lived. I kept telling them they needed to put a curtain around that shower, but they didn't think anybody would come up in that hollow.
We didn't have a bathroom until after we got electricity. We put in a bathroom; that's one of the first things we did, put us in a bathroom. One downstairs and one upstairs. There are two in that house now. I believe the outhouse was a two holer. I kinda think it was, it was out there toward the barn. In the outhouse you had to use the Sears Roebuck catalog. I don't know whether there's still one out there at the back or not. It seems to me I remember seeing one back behind the hen house. There was a hen house back there and my middle son raised chickens. He had charge of the chickens. I never did do any milking or anything at the barn. I didn't even raise chickens. My son did that.
I continued to teach and I taught practically all that year. Then I stayed out a year or two before I went back. I had my three sons over five years, so I'd go back and teach. I taught in between. My mother kept our sons while I was teaching. They all married. They said, "we saw enough teaching with you." They didn't want to teach. My oldest one finished at the University of Tennessee. I never did get any of them to teach, but one year when I got one of them [to teach]. He taught one year, but he's the county agent now in Morristown. The other two finished at Austin Peay in Clarksville, both of them. They went in the dairy business.
My husband died while the youngest one was still in college; that's the reason he came back home. I think he wanted to be a veterinarian. That's really what we wanted him to do. He felt like he ought to come back home and help with the farm.
After my husband passed away, I left home and went to Tennessee Tech as a housemother there. That counted on my teacher retirement. I already had thirty seven years teacher retirement. The three years I stayed at Tennessee Tech made me forty years of teacher retirement.
At Tennessee Tech I had to help the students. We had students that came in from I think eleven different countries. I would have to call them in and help them on their subjects. One of the Chinese girls got there the same time I did. I had to help her on English practically every night. They had to be in then by ten o'clock. We had some restrictions when I was there! They still need restriction, I tell you that.
When I was at the colleges I took classes every day with the students. At Tennessee Tech I took public speaking and I took Bible and different things. And then I went to Tusculum College, which was a Presbyterian college. I stayed five years there and went to school every day. If you didn't have too many students they asked that you attend school. So I went to school every day and enjoyed it. I took public speaking and Bible. We had a Bible teacher that lived there on the campus. She taught Bible and different classes, and I took Bible under her. It was interesting.
In all I was in teaching 45 years, but I didn't get any teacher retirement off Tusculum. It was a Presbyterian school, but they had a Catholic president a good part of the time. He was the best one that they had. We had Catholic services every Saturday night there for several years. We'd go to the Catholic services and I always enjoyed it. Most of the girls from Tusculum college were Catholics. They came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. They came from all those states. The mothers would call me and say, "take my daughter to confession on Saturday night." I'd have to go take them to confession and stay at work while they went to confession. I've taken them many nights to confession, but I didn't mind doing it.
At Tusculum my assistant was Catholic and she had to go to confession. She grew up in Germany and lived there during the war. She could tell you more stories about the trouble they had. She believed in her drink. One time when I went back up for Christmas, she had gotten drunk and they had fired her. They'd let her go. I had to take charge of both of the dormitories until they could get somebody to take her place. She came back to my dormitory after they fired her and said she had given the president a beautiful plant for Christmas. She told me, "I'm going up there to get my plant back. I'm not about to give them a plant and then they fire me." She didn't do a thing but go back up there and get that plant. She died in a nursing home about two or three years ago. The plant was in her room the last time I went out to see her. She still had that plant. She was the best hearted person. She and my maid just made the dormitory for me.
[Hugh: what is the greatest invention you have seen and what would you ask about things 100 years from now?]
I'd say electricity has been the most important invention in my lifetime and then the plane has been quite important. We had the first television. My husband's older brother, who lived in New York, sent us the first television that they had in this community. But it would not work because we were down low in the hills and we got very little use out of it. I wish we had kept it. I imagine my boys when they cleaned up after my mother and father passed away threw it away. I just hate it so much, because I know that television that he sent us was the first one here in Bethesda. But you could not get any reception from it, nothing to amount to anything, because we were so low down. Then we had one of the first radios that was run by batteries too. My mother used to enjoy that.
The question I would ask of people a hundred years from now is have they started building homes on other planets? Are the planets well populated now?
[Jessie: what words of wisdom would you pass on?]
I go and tell stories to the children in schools, and one thing I tell them is to always do your homework. For your homework, the first thing is get up in the morning and do things at home. Do what your mother had planned for you to do. Be sure you clean up your room and make up your bed and get things ready for the day. And then the second thing in homework is tell somebody something nice. Have something nice to say about somebody. The third thing in homework is something that you can do for somebody. Think of somebody that you can do something nice for: tell them they have on a pretty coat, tell your teacher she looks pretty today, and be good at school. So, remember always to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Remember the Golden Rule; that's one of the most important things.
I've had a very interesting and enjoyable life. I haven't stayed at home. So many said when my husband passed away, "Now, she's just running from trouble." I wasn't; that was the best thing that happened to me. I still hear from a good many of the girls now. I've been back to so many of their weddings. The preacher in Franklin now is the one that was at Wesley Foundation at Cookeville when I was at Tennessee Tech. He and I get together and talk. We put on several weddings and so on at the Wesley Foundation. I enjoyed working with them.