(c)2012 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL This photo was made more than 22 years ago and situations for the Smith family have changed. I am guessing that Von and Carolyn Smith, front, were in their late 50s. Their son, Michael Von Smith, is shown with wife, Sherry (Hemminger), and their sons: Trevor, left, and Kreg. Both of the grandchildren are doing well today. Unfortunately, Michael died in 2003 of a brain tumor.
Friday, August 10, 2012
(Last modified: 2012-08-10 21:14:53)
Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The full moon ushered in August, the last full month of summer, and more rain around our hometown, which will also witness a second full moon on the 31st, Is this what they call the "blue moon?"

Before we return to singing Blue Moon Over Bybee, I heard and saw a few interesting things the past week or so. Two of the items were sort of safety related the newly-forming Newport Neighborhood Watch being the most important for safety and security. But Carolyn Helms at the Kiwanis Club told me the funniest story prompted by John Abe Teague's visit on behalf of Congressman Phil Roe. I got to talk with the congressman Monday on the announcement of the $4 million building grant for Rural Medical Health Services. Our old friend Larry Stanifer and staff has been doing an immense and good work in building up this clinic system over the past 30 years.

Carolyn is a long-time friend of the Teague family and related the story that must have happened more than 50 years ago in Newport. John Abe Teague Sr. was a partner with J. Lacy Myers operating the Chevrolet dealership. One year, John Abe won a 10-day trip to Hawaii for selling the most Chevrolets of any area dealership. Before he and Doris left, they made arrangements with Carolyn to babysit to keep the three boys safe: Johnny, Marshall, and Tyler. "Johnny was as good as gold," she said but there was a small mishap involving mischievous Marshall, who went on, as you know, to become a Hollywood movie star. During his exploration of the home he climbed into a clothes dryer and couldn't get out. Fortunately, Carolyn missed him and found his hiding place.

An unfamiliar resident visited me at the office last Monday. Perhaps you know Claude Gatlin as a good neighbor on Sixth Street or from his days working with Bell South and AT&T in the area. The Mississippi native moved to East Tenn. many years ago, lived in Knoxville and then jumped here because of his interest in water sports. He is an avid kayaker and folks like him take to the French Broad and Pigeon rivers for this sport. He and others with the support of ConAgra, Newport Medical Center, the churches in the area: from East Broadway to the hospital to Mineral and over to the river. Most important to the residents in this city area is a Neighborhood Watch meeting on Monday, Aug. 13, at Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church at 7 p.m. Claude was reading the Plain Talk and seeing many reports of thefts and crimes in his neighborhood. He "connected the dots" and figured out folks needed to work together to report suspicious activity. These neighbors would not be gun totters about town patrolling in their cars and so have no intention of causing any problem for law enforcers here.


Have you wondered about limp?


It seems that folks who read Just Plain Talk are talking about our current visit to the Bybee Market and also our chats with Von and Carolyn Smith, who lived above the market and have for more than 40 years. We left off talking about Von's childhood years and a severe handicap he has overcome time and time again.

I won't keep you in suspense about the limp. Perhaps you noticed he wears approximately a three-inch lift on the bottom of his left shoe. When he was about two years old, he suffered a bad fall down the stairs into a bedpost and crushed his pelvis. During this time he also had contracted TB that further damaged the hip. The Greeneville South Carolina Shrine Hospital was his home for one year. That must have been from 1934-35, according to my calculations. Surgeons removed his left pelvic bone and therefore he has no hip joint. This also made Von rely on crutches and a brace to be able to walk. And so his life as a child suddenly became very different than most for a couple of years. He recalls that sometime between ages four and five the family received a call that there was a woman holding tent prayer services and she was healing people. Von's mother took him to the place in Ohio where the woman prayed for him, told them to take Von home, hang up the crutches, and take off the brace. At their Cleveland home they did this and Von miraculously soon began walking and has done so ever since. Naturally, he has slowed down a bit because he approaches age 80 this January.


Family could not stay together


Those of his age or older may recall his father, Eldy Smith, who was born at Grassy Fork. Eldy and his son, George Beech Smith, went to New Jersey to work at an orchard as there were no open jobs in Cocke County during the Great Depression. Eldy was married to Lola Neas Smith and for a time they lived about a mile south of the current Bybee Market off Highway 160. Sadly, Lola contracted TB, died in 1942, and all her children were placed in Christian homes. Von went to live with Lola's brother, Truman Neas. At one time he worked at a Newport hardware store before moving to Ohio. Truman and wife, Nan, raised Von until he ran away at age 16. This was just the kind of determined fellow he was: to get ahead and do something with his life rather than lament his handicap. He did attend some school at Northport and Newport Grammar. Loved sports and played sports. He fondly recalls his Knoxville Journal paper route along North Street and Clifton Heights area when he as about nine, riding a bicycle. One of his best friends growing up was O.B. Hayes, who later was killed in New Jersey. O.B. got into the tree trimming business but fell from a tree and died.

Von also has four sisters to help him, one being the late Carol Ann Ottinger. His sisters are Willie Jean Holt, of Ohio; Mervine Fabris, of Cleveland, Ohio; and Idella Johnson, of Tazewell. When Von got tired of Newport, he headed to New Jersey and worked in the asparagus fields for a year. This must not have been fun because he returned home then. Like many young men during the late 1940s and 1950s, he worked for Doodle Weems at the Super Dollar store, got tired of this and went to the bus station in town. He had relatives in Cleveland. Ohio, so that's where he traveled. Now, as chance would have it Carolyn Wise, formerly of Cocke County was already living in Cleveland along with hundreds of others who worked in the nation's steel mills and manufacturing plants, before they all moved to China.

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