Snapshot: John, Rob, And Judy, Methodist Parsonage, Kona, North Carolina
I think my sister may have already posted this photo over at Antique Dog Photos. If she has, it won't hurt to post it again---my mother made lots of copies---I think this little snapshot pleased her. This is a moment in time, dialed back far enough, that everybody was happy, everything was right with the world, Eisenhower was president---sex, drugs, and rock & roll were mostly in the future. You wouldn't want to know what my mother thought about Elvis.
Judy is now Judith, but she was Judy then, so here she is as Judy. She can tell you why she changed her name if she wants to. It was kind of like a shibboleth for her---if you couldn't get her name right, you couldn't be her friend.
Anyway, we were happy. This was a good place, All was right with the world. In fact, the Methodist parsonage at Kona was a kind of magical spot on the landscape, at a magical moment in time.
All of my mother's brothers and sisters were married (except for Uncle Gordon, and he soon joined the crowd). They all had families, they all were enjoying a modicum of success. Kona was near Spruce Pine, and my Uncle David practiced medicine in the little town of Spruce Pine, so he was near enough to his parents that if they needed some support he could give it.
In the summer, and at Christmas, the whole family would come together. I'm not quite sure where everybody slept---there were Uncle Horace and Aunt Beryl and Rob, my mother and me and my sister (the one time we came for Christmas my father stayed in Ohio, and he didn't ever come down in the summer, that I can remember), Uncle Frank and Aunt Emily and maybe Eric---Lou was yet to come, I think. And of course Uncle David and Aunt Johnsie and Sam. Bill came later. But they had a house in town, so they didn't need to stay at the parsonage. And Uncle Gordon, of course. But Uncle Gordon was the kind of person who could just sleep in his car (sometimes he would park behind a church and crash), so I suppose I shouldn't worry too much about where he slept. And in the summer, I guess, everybody wouldn't be there at the same time.
The house was nothing much that I can remember (except for the back porch, which I'll get to in a minute, and the smell, which I can't describe, except for its mustiness, and its unmistakeableness---I guess it was mustiness, and kind of like apples, and typewriter ribbon (in every house my grandparents had that I visited, my grandfather had a little office, with his desk and his typewriter and his books and his Bibles, where he wrote his sermons, and his voluminous correspondence---he wrote wonderful letters, and he wrote them to everybody.)
The house itself, I learned recently (there was a picture of it in Our State magazine---it's still there, and it's kind of famous), had been a train station. Now, why there was a train station out in the middle of nowhere I don't know. I mean, it really was an isolated spot. From the paved state highway, you took this gravel road (and it was seriously a one-lane road, with a few spots where two cars could pass) about a half-a-mile down to the point where you met the railroad track and the river, and there it ended. The parsonage was on one side, between the tracks and the river, and there were two houses on the other side, up the hill a bit. I don't know if those houses had running water or not. I suppose they did have electricity. The people who lived in those houses were mountain people, but my English grandmother, who was indeliably charming, had charmed them, and they did things like bring her a quart of wild strawberries.
So the parsonage was a converted train station, and it was built on a rock. I don't mean kind of rock, I mean a huge boulder rock, that you could rap your knuckles on. I suppose it was about fifty or sixty feet in diameter, something like that. And it had washed up, or tumbled down, right at the edge of the river. I mentioned the porch of the house---I mean the back porch. There was a narrow back porch that ran the length of the house, like four or five feet wide, covered, and you could, literally, stand on that back porch, when the water in the river was up, and drop a pebble (and I'd imagine I did it a hundred times) straight down, and have it land in the river.
Oh, and the river was white. I don't mean the river was a little white---it wasn't quite white white, not like you'd paint a house, but if someone had been asked to say what color the river was, they would have said "white." There was a feldspar mine upstream, and the white color was produced by the tailings from the mine. When there was a big rain, and the river filled up, then it turned more of a muddy reddish-brown color, but still with some white mixed in.
And then everywhere you walked, you would see mica, which is kind of like glass but won't shatter like glass---it flakes in sheets. And they used mica for things and mined it too. And not all that far away was an emerald mine, that was abandoned, I think. My Uncle David drove us up there one time (did we go in a jeep?) but of course we didn't find any emeralds.