Remembering how it was in winters long ago

By Jack Swift

As fall turns to winter and colder weather, I start thinking about how I’m going to stay warm when the thermometer registers below zero and the wind is howling around the corners of the house. I’m stocked up on Propane, and as far as I know, the heat pump is humming along quite well. As I grow older, I dread winter more each year. It doesn’t take much for my old bones to feel the pain. And there is the added danger of falling on ice for us older folks. Having fallen a few times two or three years ago, I’m as careful as I can be. One of the falls resulted in a broken back, and another resulted in a broken left arm. Moreover, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong with our heating system. It could be that deliveries of propane or heating oil could be late due to bad roads or an ice storm could affect the electrical system.
In this column, I decided to go back in time and write about how my family dealt with cold weather in my early days. Some of my memories of the winter months (perhaps yours too) were vastly different then than now. Today, turning a knob or pushing a lever turns on and regulates the heat in many homes. When I was a youngster, it took much more work. We heated with wood or coal: sometimes both. In the early days, our heat came from a fireplace in the living room of our simple abode. If you have ever tried to get warm by a fireplace, you know it only heats one side of you at a time.
Of course, there are many fireplaces in homes nowadays, but they are much more efficient than they used to be. I think coal was sold by the ton but you could buy by a sack full. Of course, as my mother cooked on the kitchen stove, some of that heat would be felt in the living room as well. People cut wood in the summer, and many do now to prepare for the cold weather ahead. It was a good feeling to know that a good supply of wood was on hand when cold weather set in.
My room was a long way from the heat, and consequently, to combat the cold, it took at least a couple of quilts and a blanket or two to get warm. Anyway, I’m glad dealing with cold weather is better now than it was in my younger days. I think it’s good to travel back in time and remember how it was several years ago. Perhaps it will cause us to appreciate the blessings we have today.

Schools and economic development

Dear Editor,
My name is Richard Price, a teacher with the Johnson County School system since 2006 and Principal/Teacher of Shady Valley Elementary School for ten years.
With this as a reference I’d like to make some comments concerning the impending decision coming up at the next school board meeting.
During my time at Shady Valley Elementary each year it became more and more obvious that something needed to be done to maintain the viability of the school; maturing of the families and fewer young families moving in was a real problem.
School population numbers steadily decreased. It should have been obvious to the citizens of the valley and the county.
A member of the school board indicated to the citizens of the valley recently that if they could come up with a plan to increase the school population he would change his vote to keep it open; whose responsibility is this? Who should be working to keep jobs and families in Johnson County?
The Economic Development element of the county has a responsibility to consider the need, even if the “powers that be” do not see this as a need.
In 2015 I was working with SkyLine and two call centers to move an operation to the Valley. This could have provided 200 plus jobs and kept the housing in the Valley up, not like it is today with over two dozen homes vacant. In order for the school to be viable it must have more students.
Again, who should be doing this?
I urge the school board to table item 6 on the agenda for this coming Thursday. I further ask that the Mayor, along with other county resources, begin working with the citizens of the Valley to assist them in the development of a plan. This plan would be looking at avenues to make the Valley more viable economically and to encourage families to want to live in a truly beautiful part of the world.
The county owes this to the Valley. If you Google “howNOT close a community school” you would get the situation we find ourselves in today. Then Google “how to properly close a community school” and there are numerous options on how to carry this out.

E. Richard Price

Kudos TDOT

Dear Editor,
In response to last week’s article “Chopped, lopped and dropped” I just want to say thank you to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for maintaining the road right of ways.
By cutting back brush and trees from the road it allows me to see that deer a little bit sooner before it jumps out in front of me. It opens up the line of sight for people turning onto the roadway.
It makes room to push snow off the road in the winter. I have not been through the Backbone Rock area since they did the work there but I thought they did a great job around Watauga Lake.
As far as TDOT creating an aesthetic monstrosity goes, come next spring with the new growth you won’t even be able to tell with the exception of you will be able to see around that next corner or observe the wildlife getting ready to dart in front of you.
Thank you TDOT for making my commute that much safer.

Jen Skarsaune

Editor’s note:
Thank you, Jen, for your letter. I couldn’t agree with you more. We all appreciate the hard work TDOT is doing and, of course, the safety of our roadways should be on the top of the list. There is no doubt we all benefit from the project mentioned in the article. However, on a side note, I wanted to emphasize that Katie Lamb’s story was not about the necessity of clearing vegetation along our roadways but the unsightly debris, left behind giving the impression of a job incomplete. We are proud of our beautiful trees that line our roads and cover the surrounding hills and mountains. It is what draws so many visitors to the region. We hope that our story will contribute to and draws further attention to our desire to maintain the natural beauty that we all have the privilege of freely enjoy.
Thank you again for your excellent letter

Thank you to our Fire Department

Dear Editor,
When our 90-year-old neighbor fell in her yard a couple weeks ago, breaking her hip, we had a chance to witness the Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department in action.
What a fabulous group of folks. We are so blessed to live in Shady Valley, TN. They were here to help us within minutes with all the necessary equipment and knowledge. They were calm and so helpful as we waited for the paramedics to arrive from Mountain City.
Once she was moved into the ambulance and on her way to the hospital, the team said goodbye and went back to whatever they were doing before our call. I was so impressed.
If you already support our fire department ‘thank YOU,’ (we’re going to increase our donation). If you haven’t done so yet please consider even a small donation…you might need them one day!
Thank you Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department you are the best!

Nancy Lucas,
Shady Valley, TN

Relativity and the Quantum Theory By Jack Swift

Almost everyone has a hobby. Reading is mine. I read about many things, but science, biography and history are the subjects I prefer. Over the last several years, I have accumulated a great many books. Of course I haven’t read them all but I have read a lot of them. Occasionally I find one that is difficult for me to put down because the more I read it, the more interesting it becomes.
I found just such a book as I was browsing through my books the other day. The book’s title was Men Who Made A New Physics. The author, Barbara Lovett Cline, did an outstanding job of pointing out the great discoveries in science through the years and the scientists who made them. She wrote that the renouned physicist Albert Einstein and his contemporary Niels Bohr were a number of years at odds about the basic structure of matter but both contributed greatly to the field of science.
Einstein of course discovered both the special and general Theories of Relativity while Bohr delved into the subatomic structure of the atom. Much of their work took place during the first 30 years of the 1900s.
Einstein’s general theory says that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Light travels at 186,000 per second. Bohr, on the other hand, delved into the structure of the atom and came up with the Quantum Theory.
At one time the atom was thought to be the smallest particle but Bohr’s work indicates that there are particles much smaller. Large cyclotrons are now being used to find various particles.
There was some controversy about whether matter consisted as a wave or in a particle state. Now it is thought to depend on the circumstances as to which one more accurately describes it. Of course, there were many other great men who contributed to the advance of science.
The new physics contrasts somewhat with Isaac Newton’s work, especially on large-scale applications.
The book, Men Who Made A New Physics, was truly and interesting read.

You’ve got this! Licensed counselor Tracy Becker answers your questions

Jay asks: I live with an addict. I am scared to take any action for fear of things getting worse. What do you suggest I do?

I’m so sorry to hear this, Jay. Living with someone who has a substance abuse addiction or any other untreated mental health illness is extraordinarily difficult. The impacts are long lasting for you and any other family/ friends that are impacted by the addict and their behavior.
I’m not sure what it is that is making you scared, but this is one of the first issues I would recommend you get help with. Once you have a solid program through using community resources for counseling and group support, like Al-anon, you will be able to see more clearly what is holding you back. If you are feeling powerless (depressed) and unclear (confused, scared and anxious) there is help.
The unfortunate thing is that living with an addict is very common. The fortunate thing about this is that there are lots of counselors, programs, books and on-line support and education. Start today by going to Al-anon website and find a meeting nearest to you. You will find on-line meetings and educational materials on this website to get you started.
Secondly, call your insurance company and talk to one of their specialists. They will find a counselor in your area to help you with your personal struggle. Thirdly, go to your local library and pick out a few books on addictions, living with addicts, co-dependency, treatment options, etc.
Make time for yourself to get well, get help and gain understanding. During you own healing journey you will be receiving valuable information on the best course of action for people living in situations like you.In your one on one counseling you will be able to address your own thoughts, behaviors and feelings that have gotten you “suck” in an unhealthy situation. Once you get a stronger personal foundation you can begin to make choices that are best for you. Choices that make you happy and lift you up. Choices that are healthy, fulfilling and joyful.

Jack Switf, This ‘n’ That: My time as Sports Editor at the Tomahawk

Football has already begun. It seems to have just slipped up on me. After all Baseball is still in full swing. So now, there are two major sports to be entertained by and others as well. As baseball winds up to the ultimate destiny of the World Series, football will be on its way to the Super Bowl in professional football and conference championships in college and high school play.
As a youngster, I followed the exploits of The Tennessee Volunteers on our Philco table model radio. Television would be far in the future. Before I owned a football, the neighborhood kids and I played with a cylinder-shaped oatmeal can. I don’t remember when I got my first real football, but I know I was a happy Kid. The era of Volunteer Football I enjoyed most was when such stars as Hank Lauricella, Johnny Majors, George Cafego and others were going strong at UT.
After serving in the Army, I worked at a number of jobs. But, in 1973 I found myself working at The Tomahawk newspaper, a weekly paper with a long and interesting history. The paper was owned and operated by Derl McCloud and his late wife Gladys. Over the years, the paper was sold a couple of times. I covered sports as well as a few other tasks around the newspaper. Before long I was named sports editor and began a 30-year career in that field at the Tomahawk.
I guess the fans got used to seeing me run up and down the sidelines taking notes and snapping pictures of the action in football. I also covered basketball, golf, tennis and baseball. Those were the days of film cameras. I used a Monolta film camera for several years, but while I was a bit dubious about digital cameras, after I started using one, I was sold on them.
My time at the Tomahawk was a valuable experience for me. I worked over time with some of the nicest people you could find anywhere. I am extremely grateful to those who I have worked for over the years. I have written over 700 columns, since I started writing them in 2003. I hope to continue awhile longer as my health permits.

You got this!

Charlene asks: How can I help a friend make and follow through with life changing decisions without interjecting my feelings and thoughts?

What a wonderful question, Charlene. I want to start by saying you can not make anyone do anything, you can only support and love them where they are in their own process. Having said this, I would ask you to let yourself off the hook for their choices, and not choosing is a choice.
Secondly, it is rare that anyone truly wants someone else’s opinion. Most people are very attached to their own opinions and the stories they tell themselves regarding these opinions. This is true for you and this person you are referring to. Your power lies in recognizing your own thoughts and feelings as your own, and be willing to understand they may or may not be relevant or accurate to the other person. I would encourage you to start by saying: I recognize I am feeling (insert a feeling word such as sad, scared, irritated, disappointed, etc.) when it comes to my friend and his/her situation. I keep telling myself that if only he/she would (insert your opinion here) things would go better for them.
Yet, I now realize that he/she has their own way of looking at this and their own feelings. I will never know the depth of their pain. Knowing this, I will now send them love and wish for a happy outcome. If I am ever asked my opinion, I will give an honest answer, and allow for my friend to do as he/she wishes.
In this exercise you are taking full responsibility for your feelings, opinions and recognizing that their issue is not your own. In this you allow the other to make the choices that they deem necessary even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Be loving and supportive no matter their choices, and take care of yourself by not getting overly involved in the situation. If you need to keep your distance until it is settled, that is okay too.You’ve got this, Charlene!

Licensedcounselor Tracy Becker answers your questions.

Please submit questions to

Tennessee deserves medical marijuana access, which most Americans already enjoy

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited Mountain City last Tuesday, together with State Representative Timothy Hill. They came in part to show gratitude for Johnson County’s support during the election.
I was honored to attend this event. I hoped to ask Governor Lee one question. I support access to medical marijuana in Tennessee and wanted clarification on his views regarding this timely topic.
I grew up in Johnson Country and returned this past spring after practicing law for 25 years in Washington, DC. I now focus on legal issues related to cannabis. I have learned much about the history and uses of this incredible plant, including both marijuana and hemp.
Governor Lee responded to my question by opposing legalized medical marijuana in Tennessee. Claiming that scientific support is still lacking, he suggested instead that Tennessee continue exploring “nonaddictive” cannabidiol (CBD) products. The above is Lee’s standard response to this question. Notably, marijuana is also nonaddictive.
In my view, Governor Lee’s stated opposition unfairly denies Tennessee access to medical marijuana’s proven benefits. This conclusion receives overwhelming bipartisan support in multiple polls of Tennessee voters and is supported increasingly by science.
Cannabis contains over 100 natural “cannabinoids,” including CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component found mainly in marijuana. CBD
is typically derived from
hemp and contains little if any THC.
Both products have been shown to provide multiple medical benefits. Controlled studies and other accumulating evidence support their use for treating pain; epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis; PTSD and anxiety; debilitating symptoms of cancer and HIV/AIDS; and other medical conditions, including opioid dependence.
Marijuana does remain illegal under federal law since being categorized in 1970 as a Schedule 1 drug – together with heroin and LSD. The law banned not only marijuana use but virtually all research into its medicinal and other qualities.
But public attitudes today reflect an unprecedented paradigm shift. One nationwide poll in April 2018 reported 93 percent of Americans favoring adult medical marijuana use. To date, 33 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam have all legalized medical marijuana. Eleven states have legalized recreational marijuana. More will soon follow.
The federal government legalized hemp and hemp products, including CBD, in the 2018 Farm Bill, which defined hemp as containing 0.3 percent or less THC. Federal agencies are working to regulate hemp production and prevent fraud in the burgeoning CBD market.
Governor Lee’s administration has properly encouraged hemp production in Tennessee, including smokable hemp, which brings jobs and much-needed prosperity to our state, including Johnson County.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration isn’t challenging states over legalized marijuana, either for medical nor recreational purposes. Bipartisan bills are also pending in Congress to preclude federal intervention and ensure secure banking access. President Trump reportedly pledged his support, too, including “a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
Bipartisan bills have repeatedly been proposed in Tennessee’s General Assembly to end our medical marijuana prohibition. Sadly, another legislative session ended in May without action.
But as the federal and state trend demonstrates, the pressure is building for a change in Tennessee. Governor Lee is an astute politician. More legislators are lining up to support medical marijuana. The word in Nashville is that Lee senses the tide turning.
Representative Hill also seems receptive. Johnson County residents should call and write to him. Urge
Hill to actively support
medical marijuana legislation next session. Conduct your own research. Contact me with questions. It is not a political issue. It is about our health and rightful access to the same standard of care that most Americans already enjoy.

Jeffery C. Lowe,
an attorney, and native Tennessean lives and works in Mountain City.
He can be contacted at 202-486-5121; or

Greg asks: How can I help my elderly parents realize the limits they have as they age?

Hello Greg, and Thank you. This is no easy question to answer, yet a very important one for you and many others of your generation. In general, I would like to address some of the areas of concern that many adult-children care-givers are faced with.
Activities of Daily Living – Are they able to do their daily hygiene, make food, take out the garbage, clean, etc.?
Safety issues – Can they cook, walk, drive or bath safely?
Medical issues – Are they making and getting to appointments, reading labels of medicines, taking appropriate doses? Are their needs being met in the case of chronic illness or recovery from one?
Financial & Legal issues – Are their affairs in order, is their will up to date, do they have advanced directives, are the bills being paid, are they being targeted through identity theft or fear tactics to pay an unknown entity?
Environment – Is their home safe, does it need repairs or enhancements for safety and proper use?
Relationship issues – Are they able to communicate their needs and desires clearly, are family members being tolerant and understanding, are they able to find peace in their day? Are the important conversations happening to best ensure best outcomes?
These are just some of the issues that you are being faced with. In addition, the emotional push-back and out-right refusal of some elderly parents makes your role very difficult. How do you lovingly respect their desires, while insisting on modifying their lives? How do you deal with your own stress and guilt while doing this?
Without knowing the specifics, it is difficult to specifically guide you, but I would suggest that you look into these categories and start with making modifications to one at a time. If possible, get another adult that they respect to help support you, as this is a very emotional journey for the adult-children too, i.e., take care of yourself too!
I would suggest a best-selling book: How to Care for Aging Parents: A One-Stop Resource for All Your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues by Virginia Morris as I resource for your dilemma.
All the best, Greg. This is a tough one, indeed.

You’ve got this!

By Tracy Becker Licensed counselor tracy becker answers your questions.

Susan asked: What is a good parenting program?

I am so delighted to tell you all that she and I have been working to get Positive Parenting with a Plan by Dr Mathew Johnson together for her family. She couldn’t be happier.

Here are the positives she reported to me: 1) that the stress in the home is drastically decreased, because now everyone knows what is expected to them at all times. There is never any questions about behavior or consequences.

2) The children, ages 4 and 6, both boys, are thriving. The school year ended great. There are a lot fewer incidents of bickering, fighting and tattling. 3) She and her husband are now on the same page about parenting where this had been a struggle in the past.
4) She realized that both she and her husband were parenting from their own personal emotional state of mind, thus their reactions to the children were based on this and not on family values.

5) They feel completely empowered as a family and confident about the success and happiness of everyone through using this program. 6) The boys were very excited and enthusiastic about the program, and even at such young ages, understood all the family rules (based on family values) and participated in designing the program.

7) Both children love that the program is fair, and that parents have to abide by the rules too. 8) By using the Good Habit cards (the consequences) the children learn valuable life lessons and learn how to make positive contributions to their family and community.

Susan stated that the only downside was taking the time to train her and her husband to use the program all the time and not fall back into emotional parenting. She said it took about 2 weeks to adjust and now things run more smoothly than they ever thought they would.

I would like to thank Susan for trusting me to help guide her and her family on this journey. I am very happy for them. Please know I am available to teach you one on one, or you can always organize a group of parents that want to learn together.

You’ve got this! Rebecca asks: How do you deal with demanding friends?

Good day, Rebecca. Thank you for this question. I could answer this one in very few words, yet I know you and others are requesting more
Sometimes friendships grow apart. I want you to know, this is okay. I would highly recommend that you have no demanding people in your life at all.
Some may feel shocked by this statement, others who have cleaned up their relationships will be rooting me on.

Healthy boundaries! Healthy boundaries! Healthy Boundaries!

Healthy boundaries are what I am talking about. People that choose to allow or invite in people that only lift them up, support them, put the effort into understanding them, and in-kind ways challenge them are the happiest, most fulfilled and satisfied people.

People that challenge you through fear, guilt or shame are teaching you that you have some personal areas of your life that need tending to. I would have you imagine a healthy thriving garden, and anyone who wants to bring fear, guilt or shame (emotional words for demanding) into your life are the weeds.

You must first deal with your own proclivity to be willing to have people like this in your life. Next, be willing to shift your life perspective and the people that you have allowed in, or have allowed to stay as you have grown and evolved as a human.

My recommendation to you Rebecca is to tell your demanding friend that the way they speak to you, or the things that they ask of you are not reasonable. They don’t feel kind or loving, and they don’t take into account your personal priorities.

If you value this person, you can attempt to redirect their approach with you and watch if they are willing to make necessary changes to be in relationship with you. If after a certain time they show themselves to be selfish and continue to be demanding, you need to move on and let go. They are ultimately telling you they want it their way and are not interested in you as you are.

I know its difficult. I have done it many times, but if you continue to practice self-love you will know what’s right for you to do.

All the best,

Helping a friend in need

Sheriff Eddie Tester assists workers with a recent transport at Rescue D.O.G. and End of Life Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.

BLUEBERRIES: Attractive Bushes, Nutritious Berries

By Max Phelps

Blueberries vary in size with a few berries the size of quarters, but many bearing fruits the size of large garden peas, and wild ones out in the mountains often being no bigger than a Q-tip. The berries vary in color, from sky blue to a deep navy or marine blue. And the taste from sweet and very mild, to a bit sour and more flavorful.
The bushes vary from short to around 12 feet tall. There is lowbush, northern and southern highbush, and rabbiteye blueberries. The rabbiteye do wonderful where temperatures stay above zero in winter, but not south of where it gets into the lower 20’s in winter. Southern highbush varieties are being continually experimented with, so let’s just say, some can be grown into most parts of Florida except the Keys. Northern highbush are preferred for zones 5 and 6 in the Eastern U.S. There are more than 50 commercially available cultivars of northern highbush blueberries. Then, for the more northern reaches of the country, there are the lowbush blueberries and also huckleberries. These can often tolerate 30 or 40 below zero. Quite a few hybrids have been developed in Minnesota and Michigan and Maine where the highbush and lowbush are crossed for a hardy plant with good size and nice berries. Those make suitable plants for containers and small spaces even in Kentucky and nearby states.
What is needed for successful growing of blueberries at your place? 1) Sunshine—plants grow fine in part shade but for largest crops plant in full sun. 2) Water—blueberries need good drainage, but not drought conditions. This often means some watering to get plants established, and in future years for best crops. 3) Acidic soil—blueberries prefer 4.5 to 5.5 pH, which is very acidic soils (the opposite of limestone soils or high sodium soils of dessert areas). Improving the soil with peat moss and sulfur or aluminum sulphate and bloodmeal are suggestions…along with deep tillage before planting. (No lime or wood ashes.)
Also; 4) Pruning—light pruning early, but all limbs over 6 years old removed. Blueberries make clumps with many limbs; some thinning of old limbs is very useful to large crops and long bush life. And, 5) Mulch and Fertilizer—About three inches of wood chips or straw or other mulch, and some very light applications of fertilizer will be needed for best results. (Do keep mulch from being piled up against the trunks of the bushes, but the cooling of the soil and moisture retention of mulch out in the drip zone will be very helpful.
Some blueberries are self fruitful, but most varieties need cross pollination from another variety that blooms at a similar time. So figure on planting two or more different varieties. When landscaping, keep in mind shorter plants in front, larger plants in back, or use repetition such as 5 plants that turn yellow in the fall, one that turns red, five more that turn yellow, or whatever scheme you decide on. You’ll need to research the characteristics of the various cultivars to come up with the best of all worlds when it comes to selecting and properly planting your blueberry bushes for the nicest look.
Late blooming means higher odds of escaping spring frosts. The southern highbush varieties will do OK farther north, but with the caveat that they may bloom out too early and get frostbitten.. I have found the Sunshine Blue to work in Kentucky same as in North Florida—a dependable variety, tolerant of multiple conditions, but with below average quantity of berries.
Mature blueberry bushes can produce from around 6 pints of fruit to upwards of 20 per year. Reka, Briggita and Elliott are among the heaviest bearers…but sometimes the heavy set of fruit means smaller berries even though the total harvest will be large. Chandler bears the largest berries, some over the size of quarters. Spartan, Dixie, Blueray and Darrow are additional varieties with exceptional sized berries.
Blueberry plantings should bear the second or third year and begin to have a full crop by year six.
Recent study of the blueberry suggests additional benefits of reducing cholesterol, reducing urinary tract infections, and even slowing aging. While I can’t vouch for all the studies and claims, I do know blueberry plants can look nice in the landscape and are a real sweet treat fresh off the bush in your own yard. I suggest you plant a couple of these at the first opportunity, and if you are a big blueberry fan, then I recommend starting with a dozen or so. Plant anytime, but especially in fall, from containers. Plant in late winter or in the springtime if the plants are shipped bare-root to you. Don’t be afraid to try growing blueberries, they aren’t as difficult as some people will tell you they are. If you can grow azaleas, you probably can grow blueberries. Try some soon.

Tennessee State Parks named finalist for national award

Staff Report

NASHVILLE – The American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), is pleased to announce Tennessee State Parks as a finalist for the 2019 National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Musco Lighting, LLC has been a proud sponsor of the Gold Medal Awards program for over 10 years.
“We are honored to be among the best state park systems in the nation,” said David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Our parks provide the ultimate visitor experience and are an asset to Tennessee. We strive to provide rich interpretive programs and outdoor adventures while protecting ecologically significant areas, all with the backdrop of unparalleled natural beauty. This recognition is for every Tennessean who appreciates and benefits from our parks system.”
Tennessee State Parks is one of only two state park systems in the nation to receive accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). In recent years, the state has also acquired significant acres for protection. All park rangers are certified interpretive guides, and every park has expanded sustainability practices – including adding more recycling bins and composting food waste. Tennessee State Parks continues to celebrate record visitation, and is one of only seven state parks systems that do not charge an admission fee.
Tennessee State Parks joins three other finalists in the state parks category: Florida State Parks, Maryland Park Service and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition.
Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials. A panel of five park and recreation professionals reviews and judges all application materials
This year’s finalists will compete for Grand Plaque Award honors this summer, and the seven Grand Plaque recipients will be announced live during the NRPA General Session at the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Sept. 24–26, 2019.
For more information on the Gold Medal Awards, visit or

Whatever Happened to an Affordable College Education?

As U.S. college students and their families know all too well, the cost of higher education in the United States has skyrocketed in recent decades.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2008 and 2017, the average cost of attending a four-year public college, adjusted for inflation, increased in every state in the nation.
In Arizona, tuition soared by 90 percent. Over the past 40 years, the average cost of attending a four-year college increased by over 150 percent for both public and private institutions.
By the 2017-2018 school year, the average annual cost at public colleges stood at $25,290 for in-state students and $40,940 for out-of-state students, while the average annual cost for students at private colleges reached $50,900.
In the past, many public colleges had been tuition-free or charged minimal fees for attendance, thanks in part to the federal Land Grant College Act of 1862. But now that’s “just history.” The University of California, founded in 1868, was tuition-free until the 1980s. Today, that university estimates that an in-state student’s annual cost for tuition, room, board, books, and related items is $35,300; for an out-of-state student, it’s $64,300.
Not surprisingly, far fewer students now attend college. Between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2018, college and university enrollment in the United States plummeted by two million students.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks 13th in its percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have some kind of college or university credentials, lagging behind South Korea, Russia, Lithuania, and other nations.
Furthermore, among those American students who do manage to attend college, the soaring cost of higher education is channeling them away from their studies and into jobs that will help cover their expenses. As a Georgetown University report has revealed, more than 70 percent of American college students hold jobs while attending school. Indeed, 40 percent of U.S. undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week at these jobs, and 25 percent of employed students work full-time.
Such employment, of course, covers no more than a fraction of the enormous cost of a college education; therefore, students are forced to take out loans and incur very substantial debt to banks and other lending institutions.
In 2017, roughly 70 percent of students reportedly graduated from college with significant debt. According to published reports, in 2018, over 44 million Americans collectively held nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. The average student loan borrower had $37,172 in student loans a $20,000 increase from 13 years before.
Why are students facing these barriers to a college education? Are the expenses for maintaining a modern college or university that much greater now than in the past?
Certainly not when it comes to faculty. After all, tenured faculty and faculty in positions that can lead to tenure have increasingly been replaced by miserably-paid adjunct and contingent instructors migrant laborers who now constitute about three-quarters of the instructional faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. Adjunct faculty paid a few thousand dollars per course, often fall below the official federal poverty line. As a result, about a quarter of them receives public assistance, including food stamps.
By contrast, higher education’s administrative costs are substantially greater than in the past, both because of the vast multiplication of administrators and their soaring incomes. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in 2016 (the last year for which figures are available), there were 73 private and public college administrators with annual compensation packages that ran from $1 million to nearly $5 million each.
Even so, the major factor behind the disastrous financial squeeze upon students and their families is the cutback in government funding for higher education.
According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2008 and 2017 states cut their annual funding for public colleges by nearly $9 billion (after adjusting for inflation).
Of the 49 states studied, 44 spent less per student in the 2017 school year than in 2008. Given the fact that states and to lesser extent localities covered most of the costs of teaching and instruction at these public colleges, the schools made up the difference with tuition increases, cuts to educational or other services, or both.
For example, SUNY, New York State’s large public university system, remained tuition-free until 1963, but thereafter, students and their parents were forced to shoulder an increasing percentage of the costs. This process accelerated from 2007-2008 to 2018-2019, when annual state funding plummeted from $1.36 billion to $700 million. As a result, student tuition now covers nearly 75 percent of the operating costs of the state’s four-year public colleges and university centers. This is not atypical.
This government disinvestment in public higher education reflects the usual pressure from the wealthy and their conservative allies to slash taxes for the rich and reduce public services.
“We used to tax the rich and invest in public goods like affordable higher education,” one observer remarked. “Today, we cut taxes on the rich and then borrow from them.”
Of course, it’s quite possible to make college affordable once again. The United States is far wealthier now than in the past, with a bumper crop of excessively rich people who could be taxed for this purpose.
Beginning with his 2016 presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders has called for the elimination of undergraduate tuition and fees at public colleges, plus student loan reforms, funded by a tax on Wall Street speculation. More recently, Elizabeth Warren has championed a plan to eliminate the cost of tuition and fees at public colleges, as well as to reduce student debt, by establishing a small annual federal wealth tax on households with fortunes of over $50 million.
Certainly, something should be done to restore Americans’ right to an affordable college education.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press).

Thank you from Kathy Motsinger for 50s show support

Dear Editor,

“Since I have been a director at the Senior Center, Mr. Brookshire would occasionally come into the senior center to bring treats and visit with all the seniors.
He would always ask if I needed anything. He gave donations several times for different things, and he sponsored our 1st Billiards Tournament and has continued to be an ongoing sponsor since. He would also bring out apples and oranges at Christmas time, and other gifts for special occasions and I would always ask him when he was going to join the senior center. He always said he would join “when he was old enough.”
He died this past year at the age of 85. We all loved “Mr. B” at the Senior Center and considered him family. I talked with the Johnson County Shrine Club and Order of The Eastern Star to collaborate with them on doing an outside project together and expand some square footage for our activities. Space would be a shared space for all involved. They were excited and quickly came on board. We raised the money to begin the Veranda project, which is now complete and the grassy area is now landscaped beautifully thanks to Adams Lawn Service and Humphrey Masonry.
That brings me to this note as Matt Adams, owner of Adams Lawn Service, and his crew did an amazing job in just two days to get ready for our 50’s day event held last week.
The idea for this project really did turn out wonderful. I was so happy to purchase two benches that are sitting in the new landscaped space in memory of “Mr. B.” The benches have a plate that states, “In memory of Bill Brookshire, age 85 – who wasn’t old enough to join the senior center.”
Johnson County Bank also showed their support on Friday for the 50’s day event by dressing in poodle skirts and leather jackets and came with their Cash Minion to give away changes for free money. It was so exciting to see how happy the people were when they pulled out money. Some got $20.00 bills, while one lady, Betty Davis, grabbed $41. She was very happy.
Mountain Electrics, Steven Bishop, was busy non-stop making snow cones for everyone. We had face painters, Kim Kleine, and Sandra Moody, that stayed busy as well.
The food booths went well thanks to Vanessa Nelson and the Shrine Club and Eastern Star members. Many people said the barbeque was the best in town.
Brian Eller worked hard during the week smoking the pork for the event.
We are looking forward to having another Heritage Square event and appreciate the Town of Mountain City for allowing us to use the parking area. Plans for a Fall Festival are being planned now.
There was approximately 300 plus that attended the 50’s Day Event. We appreciate Farmers State Bank for always letting us use their parking for overflow. Unfortunately, parking is always an issue at the Senior Center.
We are also looking for more volunteers at the senior center to help out with some of our programs such as our Meals on Wheels through FTHRA and MyRide Johnson County.”

Kathy Motsinger

Bonny Kate, Revolutionary War Heroine

This ‘n’ That

By Jack Swift

In Elizabethton, Tennessee fronting on Sycamore Street is a somewhat large building known as the Bonnie Kate Theatre building. Opening in 1926, the Bonnie Kate was a leading place of entertainment for miles around.
As a young person traveling through Elizabethton, I often wondered about that name. But I never asked.
The theatre showed popular movies of that era of course. From time to time bluegrass bands would play there. A Saturday morning radio program called “The Barrel of Fun Time” took place on the Bonnie Kate stage. Now, before I had the opportunity to study much history I often wondered just who this woman Bonnie Kate was and why she had a theatre named after her. Her name was Bonnie Kate Sherrill. (some references spell her name Sherril).
It was only after finding her name listed in a number of history books and reading her story that I got to know a little more about this heroic woman. She was the second wife of John Sevier. Sevier was a frontiersman, military leader, and first Governor of Tennessee. Sevier County is named in his honor.
History books give varying accounts of her fame. But a common thread that runs through them is that she proved to be a brave lady. The story is told that during the long siege
of Fort Watauga, she ventured outside the fort and found herself chased by Indians. She ran
toward the fort but the gate was closed and she only had a short time to escape capture or harm. She ran to another part of the stockade and jumped over the top and fell into the arms of Sevier.
After Sevier’s wife died Bonnie Kate became his second wife and when Sevier became the first governor of Tennessee,
She became the first
“First Lady of Tennessee.” Bonnie Kate was originally buried in Russellville, Alabama but was later reburied in 1822 next to her husband on the lawn of the old Knox County Courthouse in Knoxville.
I understand that the Bonnie Kate Theatre is being restored and programs are already being held there.


Dear Editor,

It seems that every time I read an article in the Tomahawk I am amazed at the lack of common sense “our” politicians possess.
The latest lack of common sense is directly related to the Tennessee school vouch program that passed in the House (narrowly) and Senate. It has been demonstrated, according to Mary Mancini, that voucher programs have not been successful in any other state. How can you take X number of children from a poor producing education school and place them in a very successful school system? You are mixing poor achieving students with high achieving students which will bring down the high achievers because the teacher must spend more time with the poor achievers. Teachers, our most valuable educational resource, will attempt to bring the poor achievers up to par with the high achievers. This, in my view, will bring down the higher achievers to lower achievement standards. What about the all students left behind in the poor achieving schools who will not benefit from this legislation? Does this mean that once you get some of the low achievers transferred mean that those still in the low achievement school will improve?
Perhaps what is needed is a common sense approach to the problem without getting politicians directly involved. One commission should be developed to determine why the poor achieving school system children are failing and one commission set up to determine why the achieving schools are succeeding. Then have the two commissions meet to discuss and really learn what problem(s) exist. These commissions should include educators, teachers and school leaders, principals and school board members with legal advisers, assisting to handle legal matters only in guiding the commissions along the legalities involved in the political process. Governor Bill Lee never discusses why the failing schools are failing only that the children should go to a high achieving school.
I think that the parents of poor achieving students are not learning what their children are learning in school and need to be more proactive in their children’s education.
This means supporting the school systems through an active partnership. Government should not be in the business of raising children but ensuring that they are all getting the best public education possible. Parents should learn that schools are nota baby sitting service.
To spend 125 million over five years, not counting the additional monies parents would be required to spend out of their own pockets, is ludicrous to say the least. Mr. Lee should realize that it is NOT an important day for the children of Tennessee. This money should be spent to retain and better support the teachers in the public school systems. Teachers and school administrators need to be better supported to enable them to improve the education of Tennessee children. This voucher system exemplifies another failure of the politicians to improve the standards of higher education in Tennessee. It is merely throwing money in the wrong direction.
Politicians seem to not vote for their constituents view points but rather their own personal view(s).

George A. Spreyne

Thank you

Dear Editor,

On behalf of Delta Kappa Gamma International and its Johnson County chapter, Gamma Mu, I wish to thank those who generously donated to the contents of the “Goodie Bags” that were presented to the recipients of The Good Neighbor Award at a reception in their honor May 1, 2018.
Elizabethton Federal, Farmer’s State Bank, Johnson County Bank and Mountain Electric contributed generously, much to the students’ delight. THANK YOU for helping us recognize and affirm the five Middle School students who were named Good Neighbors for consistently demonstrating the qualities we want in our neighbors: compassion, kindness, and generosity.
In addition to local support, the students were especially honored by Rep. Timothy Hill, who sent each one a Proclamation which had been read on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives in their honor, and Sen. Jon Lundberg, who personally presented to each student a flag that had been flown on the Capitol Building in Nashville in their honor. Their support of our students means a great deal!

Sheila Cruse
Chair, Educational Excellence Committee
DKG/Gamma Mu