Monday, July 17, 2017

Lenoir's part in the 1943 Buy-A-Bomber Program

Researching into a project last year, I stumbled upon an article in the May 1943 local newspaper about a homefront war support campaign the students here in Lenoir had begun. They were going to buy a bomber! Ordinarily I would have filed it in my brain in the gray matter I labeled interesting, but not what I was looking for, except that my friend and fellow critique partner, Sandra Warren, had just published a book about her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the South High campaign to buy a bomber for the war effort.

Of course I had to share my discovery with her. And then I had to investigate more, because that's what writers do, investigate. And then I discovered a whole story just waiting to be revealed.

So Tuesday, July 18th, we are doing just that. I say we, because Sandra and I are presenting the Buy-A-Bomber details we both uncovered to the Caldwell County Historical Society. It's a together presentation and it's open to the public. She'll tell about her discoveries (and wow are those details beyond interesting) and I'll share what I found about the 1942-43 school campaigns here in this western North Carolina county. We'll be at the Caldwell Heritage Museum  (112 Vaiden Street, Lenoir, NC 28645) starting at seven.

One important essential critical (you pick the adjective) key to the success of the United States victory in World War II was the support, both economical and morale boosting, of the citizens. Our local newspaper was full of reminders of those who were on the front fighting for our country, and why using ten percent of weekly pay checks to purchase bonds would help the war effort.

There were posters.


So with that as a backdrop, the local schools, with the strong suggestion (make that requirement) from the powers that be in Raleigh at the Department of Schools became washed up in the Schools At War program, of which the Buy-A-Bomber program was just one element. Also on the list was the Triple Threat Jeep Campaign to buy a jeep for $900. And more!

I can't wait to share the rest of the story with everyone. Did Lenoir actually buy a bomber??? Come and find out! 7:00, Tuesday, July 18, Caldwell Heritage Museum, Lenoir. See you then.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, July 6, 2017

When I am ninety-one, I shall wear rhinestones on my jeans

Happy Birthday to my mother's cousin, Jean Lorraine Frese. She is ninety-one years old today, very much alive and kicking, still driving at breakneck speed around mountain curves...and wearing rhinestones on her jeans. She has a cane now, but even that comes thrown in with a grain of salt. She gave it a name. George. "Don't forget George," she's reminded me often as we are going out the door on our latest adventure.

This is the relative of mine I featured in Called to the Mountains: The Story of Jean L. Frese. That's her picture on the cover.

There's so much more to her life story beyond the Salvation Army bonnet on the cover picture and the rhinestones on her jeans pockets picture taken a few weeks ago.

There was the fishing expedition.

The horseback mission.

The hours and years of study and preparing sermons, no easy task for her.

Her goal is to have many, many more birthdays, at least to one hundred and five, God willing. In fact, those two words have driven her life all these years. God willing. She depends on God to send her the right person at the right time, and that has never failed. She firmly believes God brought her to this spot, called her to these Smokey Mountains for a purpose. Her life is a testimony to what God can do. And. She's not finished yet. 

Ninety-one years and counting.

Catch of the day,

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day 2017

Just in time for Father's Day, my husband's brother gave us a flash drive of hundreds of photographs they had scanned from the albums and stuffed shoeboxes we found when we cleaned out my in-law's house. So yesterday my husband and I sat down in front of the screen and watched a remarkable life unfold, that of Wesley Newton Griffith.
That's him, on the right, 1930, with his brother and sisters

1939 in front of his school
From his early years to his teens to his war service, I became acquainted with a man I thought I knew, but didn't. He was more, much more, and the pictures introduced me to that part of him I never considered.

His life before I married his son.


That's him with my mother-in-law before he went off to war

He spent his service time in Hawaii, radar, watching for enemy bombers. After Pearl Harbor. In a tunnel on a hill.

This Father's Day I honor not only the memory of my own wonderful father, but also that of my father-in-law. After all, he's the one who taught by example what it means to be a father. 

The baby that grew up to be my husband
My husband learned well.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Racing On and Off the Road in Caldwell County and Surrounding Areas

With much pleasure and anticipation, I'm here today to reveal to you the latest book I've helped become a reality. This one I was co-author to Johnny Mack Turner, the same man with whom I wrote Wheels and Moonshine. That book was about his Uncle Claude. This book is about him. Well, him and hundreds of others in our end of the state.

The cover was designed by Books That Matter, and they did an excellent, eye-catching job! The pictures featured on the cover have been toned down a bit in a later revision, but you get the idea. There Johnny is, front and center, with a racer by the name of Curtis Turner. The other four on the front are men from our county who went on to great accomplishments on the track, Don Carlton, Larry Smith, Sam Snyder and Max Prestwood. Same story about the five on the back, all from Caldwell County, Mac Martin, Johnny Price, Dick Greene, Hubert Ennis, and Raymond Wilson.

Note the words in the title, "On and Off the Road." They are important to the story because much of the early racing here in our county was on-the-road street racing, back-country road racing to be more exact. Johnny is a master story teller with plenty of action in his past to build a book around. Here's the introduction from the book's Amazon page

From its shady beginnings in the moonshine industry to the shiny glimmer under track lights, motor racing has been an unavoidable element of reality for several generations in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Local lore is overflowing with the adventures of racing both on the road and off, where if a person wasn’t involved in racing, then his neighbor was. He might have been the one spending hours in the garage perfecting his car for the next trophy chase, or he might have been the one who heard the deep rumble of the engines in the distance and hurried to the roadside to watch two drivers prove their worth. This passion to control the power of the engine unfolds in a most remarkable story captured by Johnny Mack Turner with the help of Gretchen Griffith. He opens his scrapbook to the world, revealing a personal account of motor racing in western North Carolina. From his roots in the history of the region through tales of on and off road drag races, circle tracks and motocross events, Johnny gives the reader a glimpse into a vibrant culture seldom revealed.

Special thanks to Bill Tate who restored several of the original pictures. The differences are striking.
The book is chocked full of photographs from Johnny's personal collection and from many others throughout the area who shared with us. It is also filled with life stories of the men from Caldwell County who answered the roar of the engines in their own unique ways.

I can't wait for you to read it.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

People often ask how long it takes me to write a book. That answer varies according to the book. The shortest was six months. The longest...well, let me tell you that story.

When my granddaughter was born nearly twelve years ago, my friends wanted to know what my son and his wife named her. I repeated the name so often, it soon became a habit to introduce myself as Gracie Griffith's grandma Gretchen Griffith. After even more repetitions I added grouchy and then grumpy, and I grinned. This is fun, I thought. It's a tongue twister, I thought.

It's a book, I thought.

I made a list of "gr" words and started thinking about how I could meld them together into a story. Thing is, most of the words on that list were along the negative, aligning with grumpy and grouchy. I don't write negative books, but I could write negative turned into positive books. I wrote, rewrote, revised, and let it sit for a few years as Gracie grew...ooh, a phrase I didn't use!

This picture book manuscript sat unused for years because I am not an artist. My canvas is on the computer screen, not on an easel. I paint pictures with words in a "word is worth a thousand pictures" kind of way.

Then the right artist came along, a student named Frankie Song. He brought my characters to life, Gracie, the grumpy grandma, the gray goat, the gray grasshopper, and the gray grouse. He made the green grass gray, just like I wanted.

He made the gray grass green, just like the story said.

And then he returned to China and left behind a set of individual pictures that needed to be put into picture book format. That's when artist number two came along, Tina Bryant. She took the pictures and wove them into the story, added her own background pictures, and TA-DA!!!

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

Nearly twelve years later and it's a done deal, in my hands. It's on Amazon, I usually don't put the link straight on the page, but take a look at how it's written, I couldn't resist. That's the whole idea of the book!!! Amazon gets it, even if they don't know it.

The back cover fades out a bit to make way for the bar code, but you get the picture. Granny with her girls, Gracie and Reagan. And I'm not so grumpy after all.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Back in the Time

Back in the time, a couple of weeks ago to be specific, I launched my newest book,
  Back in the Time

A launch is a celebration of the birth of a book. This one, we did right. There was food. There were friends. The venue couldn't have been more welcoming...Caldwell County Senior Center. 

The book was hidden undercover until the big reveal
Co-author, Jasper Reese entertained us with his comments and stories about growing up in Spring Creek, the theme of the book. That's him on the cover, twelve years old after building his cart using gears from a textile plant's machine. This is him now, standing with me at the launch.

Needless to say, we had a great time kicking off this book. The star of the show, despite all the hoopla, was definitely the book. It's the story of Jasper's life, but more than that, it's the story of a community in the far back isolation of the mountains in western North Carolina. The subtitle tells it all: 
Medicine, Education and Life 
in the Isolation of Western North Carolina’s Spring Creek

Just in case you need more, as if, here's what we said on the back flap:

Spring Creek, North Carolina was more than a location. It was a real and natural, down-to-earth way of life that should never be forgotten. Jasper B. Reese, the son of a country doctor, reveals true stories of extreme hardships and joyful successes from back in the time when nothing was more important to the isolated Madison County mountain family than individuality, a self-sustaining life style and pride in the ability to go it alone.

One more thing, on the back flap is the portrait of a school, not just any school, Spring Creek School, the hub of the community. It was built in 1929 using rocks from local fields on the exterior. After decades serving the community children, it now has been converted into a community building.

I've given you a glimpse of the front and the back of this precious book. For the interior, see me today at the North Carolina Butterfly Festival here in Hudson, or find it on Amazon, just a click away.

Catch of the day,


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Happy Easter Sunday Morning!

Good morning to all.

I'm heading to the sunrise service at our church in a few minutes, then breakfast cooked by the men of the church featuring plenty of salty country ham and biscuits and sawmill gravy. Then to worship on this highest of holy days in the Christian calendar.

Yesterday I took the grands to an Easter Egg Hunt. They hunted with the dozens massed there at the church park. Easy finds for the very youngest with the eggs laying in plain sight on the grass. A little harder for the next to the youngest. And for my two grands, the true hunt and search for the oldest group in a completely different section, the trail through the woods. 

As we were eating the hot dog lunch, the exchange student from Japan living with our pastor asked the simple but necessary question. Why do the children hunt Easter eggs, followed by the next obvious question, Why is there an Easter bunny?

They looked at me. Shrugging was not an option.

How do you explain death on the cross and resurrection after three days?

We had taken the grands to the Seder meal Thursday evening where they were reminded about why Passover is celebrated even today. God instructed the people of Israel to teach their children about the hardships and sadnesses of being enslaved and escaping and wandering in the wilderness. There was no glossing over those facts.

So why, then, is the death of the Messiah glossed over with shiny eggs?

It's because the death was not the end. Sunday brought happiness and a new life. On that horrible Friday which we call Good Friday, his body had been taken to be buried in a cave, yet three days later it could not be found. He had risen. The Lord has risen indeed! 

New life. Today Christians celebrate new life. Maybe using a rabbit with plenty of life is the only way to explain this to children. Maybe hunting the eggs implants a searching mentality within them to always be on the lookout for the joy and the newness offered to them. 

When I watched the children yesterday, I was reassured of this hope. They will search for far greater things in their unfolding lives, things like love and truth and faith. I pray they find their answers in the cross.

Catch of the day,