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April showers bring forth many interesting stories

(c)2013 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL

I learned more about Chacha and her keepers, Chris "Ewok" Carswell and
Raven Carswell. They had two others dogs with them outside the Coffee
Shop in Newport: Mr. Fixx, an English Bulldog and Milkshake an old Boston
Bulldog. They were snoozing in the backseat.
Published: 7:38 PM, 04/05/2013
 

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

People who follow the signs for planting will know that early April is a time to plant root crops and strawberries in our hometown that got a few more showers as the apple orchards are on the verge of blooming.

Early April ushered in many old friends and familiar faces that I will be telling you about. These include John Payne, who celebrated his 90th birthday on April 2. Mike Proffitt and I have been discussing steam trains and so this led me to a couple of interesting new citizens you will soon know better. One highlight during the downpour Thursday was the Cosby Volunteer Fire Department monthly dinner at the fire hall next to Cosby School. The women, including Debra (Giles) Parks, were wonderful hosts selling plenty of hot, delicious food for a good cause. I will tell you more about the fire department's first Thursday of each month dinner. But mark down May 2 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. for a real treat of home cooking. If you need guns and ammo, Keith Keller has them both and told me what's happening with sales and his son at Carson-Newman College. Brenda Fancher retired after more than 20 years at our local public gas utility and have some photos and stories to share soon on this, too.

 

 

Master mason now retired

 

It was the last day of grace to pay 2012 property taxes before having to pay a penalty but there were few people at Trustee Rob Mathis' office windows, as I stood with check in hand in early March. Looking toward the sunny courthouse door a fellow was moving slowly like a shadow towards me and using a cane. He recognized me with a greeting but it took me a few minutes and his prompt to know it was Jerry Hall. I used to bump in to him most mornings getting coffee at the now-gone Amoco on the Shuler property where the Verizon store is. Jerry turned 68 on February 26 making his birthday just days from mine. I am going back 20 years but even then Jerry was complaining about his bad back and spine, which kept getting worse. He has lived off English Mountain Road, above the Christopher Place turn off, all his life, as this is where his father, J.M. Hall and mother, Almadia (Lewis) Hall lived and raised 11 children. Not only has Jerry dealt with back problems but he had a severe neck ailment. His declining health forced him into retirement in year 2000. By August 2011 he was paralyzed from the waist down and his condition baffled doctors as it worsened. He finally located a doctor who recognized that all the vertebrae in his neck had lost the support of the disks and were cutting into his spinal cord causing paralysis. After surgery in Jan. 2012 and two steel rods, the pain went away and he got his movement back. "If they hadn't done surgery in three months my doctor said I would have been dead." Unfortunately he fell after surgery, injured his foot and hence the cane.

For those who don't know him, Jerry was a top mason and set block or brick as fine as anyone, even Larry Shults, who may have learned a thing or two from Jerry. I hope Chief Maurice Shults doesn't arrest me for saying this, as Larry is his uncle. At one time, Jerry had a crew of about 30 men under his supervision. I wondered how he got into masonry? Apparently, working on the farm as a young teenager he injured his back lifting a farm implement, but it healed and did not prevent him from learning building trades from his late brother Hubert Hall. Jerry took a Chicago correspondence course to learn the details and he learned well. By the 1980s he and his crew did many large projects such as the Blueridge apartments, city housing projects, and custom work for Drew Ogle, who at that time owned Christopher Place. I asked Jerry if he had worked with others and he had many times been on projects with Roland Dykes Jr. and also knew Roland Dykes Sr., who was not the amiable beloved man as the former city mayor. Jerry worked with a host of others such as "old man" Daugherty, Pete Dockery and a fellow only remembered as "Bird." Over the years, Jerry trained a lot of masons some of whom he has outlived, others who may outlive him. After retirement, Jerry has spent time and money restoring the homeplace. It was good to see him again and hear some funny stories he related as told to him by Jerry's best friend, E.C. Baxter, who, incidentally, is still doing well after brain cancer. Too bad I can't repeat the stories. Jerry and his wife, Patsy, have two sons: Jerry W. Hall and Dennis "Scotty" Hall.

 

How Chacha arrived

 

Sunny and cool, that afternoon in late March seemed like a good time for hot tea and a snack so I went to the Coffee Shop, which has expanded its size into the former Men's Den and is offering more variety of food. On my way in the back door I noticed a Chihuahua because she was standing on the dashboard inside a vehicle and didn't bark at me. There was a story here that I soon learned.

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