Wednesday, November 21, 2007

230. The Day Before Thanksgiving Trip - and then a Meal

Riding the TARC into town this morning, I noticed two high-school aged guys with their skateboards. They exitted the big white limousine at Clay and Jefferson, no doubt to make their way over to the skatepark at Clay and Washington, the one the Two Bridges folks want to run a ramp over the top of in their quest to expand Spahetti Junction in more than just an intersection.

The presence of their skateboards and not their usual backpacks reminded me school is out today in anticipation of lots of people being absent anyway as they make their way to "somewhere" to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow. When I was in school, today was not a holiday, but it was a day which my grandparents typically came and got us right after lunch. Many, if not most, of my Thanksgivings as a child were spent at the home of my Aunt Franie in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her grandson Scott still lives in the home perched at the crest of the hill on Mount Vernon Avenue in North Chattanooga. Aunt Franie, formally Frances Graham Collins Marlowe (and later Arledge) was actually my grandmother's aunt, the younger half-sister of my great grandmother Rachel Scott Lewis, mentioned in one of the very early entries of this blog.

We went to Chattanooga twice a year, but the trip for Thanksgiving was always a big thing. We would load up into either my grandfather's truck (yes, two kids and two adults in a pickup cab), or if my mother or others were going, we'd take my grandmother's car, for many years a Chevrolet Impala station wagon. And off we'd head down I-65, which in the early years ended at the Tennessee line, where we transferred over to US 31W on which we continued to Nashville. Often, we'd stop and purchase fireworks, which were (and are) illegal in Kentucky, but were readily available upon entering Robertson and Sumner County in Tennessee. I list both counties because as you are driving south on 31W, Robertson lays to the west while Sumner is to the east.

We'd make a pit stop in Nashville at the home of my grandfather's younger sister, Katherine Lorraine McKnight, known in Nashville as "Kay" but to her kinfolk back in Kentucky as Lorraine. She and her husband, my uncle Morton, had three children, my cousins David, Karl, and Carolyn, the last of whom has the distinction of being born on Leap Year Day. She and I were born in the same year, but I am much older than her based on the number of birthdays she has celebrated.

But our stops in Nashville were only brief, and we'd head southwest on US 41 toward Murfreesboro and Monteagle. By the time I was old enough to drive, Tennessee had finished I-65 into the state, as well as I-24 which crossed the state diagonally from northwest to southeast, and was the route we took to Chattanooga. Crossing the hill at Monteagle in fog was an exciting and dangerous feat. The interstate splits to go around the mountain with lanes in opposing directions on each side. The ascent down the hill and across the Duck River eventually takes you into the Upper Tennessee River Valley which eventually takes one to Chattanooga. Arrival in Chattanooga is imminent when one passes the Nickajack Dam on the river, just to the west of Chattanooga, where I-24 makes it way around the northern base of a hill called Lookout Mountain, made famous in the Civil War for a Battle Above the Clouds. I always remember as you approached the hill the crude makings of a water supply system, which caught free-flowing water from a spring, funnelled into simple guttering, which was then extended for nearly a 1/4 mile around to a homestead on the western face of the hill. I haven't driven that course of the road since 1985 so I do not know if the makeshift water system is still there. It did, however, serve as a microcosm of the Tennessee River which winds below, which is dammed at nine different places along its route from the northeastern corner of the state, southwest into Alabama, then north back through the state and crossing over into Kentucky where it empties out into the Ohio River at Paducah. But, I digress.

Once into Chattanooga proper, we exitted onto a highway which was once called I-124, but is now numbered as US 27. We crossed over the Tennessee River and ramped onto Manufacturer's Road, which took us to North Market Street, also called Dallas Road. Dallas Road to the west and Hixson Pike to the north and east wrapped around the North Chattanooga Hill, at the top of which was Aunt Franie's little 1000 square foot (plus a basement) Tudor house, surrounded by many, many more little frame homes of a similar nature. By this time, nightfall had arrived. The trip of just over 300 miles from Louisville to Chattanooga at the time took all afternoon and into the evening, about 6 hours. We made our beds and prepared for tomorrow's big meal. And it was.

Thankgiving Dinner at Aunt Franie's, served about 3:00 pm, offered two main courses - the traditional Turkey or the much less traditional Chop Suey, which was a tradition at her house, although I never knew why. She also always had Oyster Dressing, granting me a love for oysters which remains to this day. All the trimmings and fixings were always there as well, topped off with home made frozen and boiled custard, both of which I endulged in to great excess. I remain a fan of boiled custard, and a quart carton of it can be found as we speak in my refrigerator.

After an evening of gouging on food, we children were put to bed and the adults often left to go to the Thanksgiving Night Dance at the local VFW Hall. VFW Halls around the country provided my grandfather and his war buddies with food, friends, and often dancing no matter where one found themselves. Aunt Franie's husband, Meredith J. Marlowe, liek my grandfather, was a WW2 veteran.

It's been 25 years or more since we made the last of those excursions for Thanksgiving. Aunt Franie and Uncle Marlowe are no longer among the living, each buried (as is her second husband Tom Arledge) in the Chattanooga National Cemetery located right in town. My grandparents too are long since gone. And as I said, we haven't made the trip since the late 1970s or early 1980s. Aunt Franie's daughter, Diane, still lives in town, as well as one her children, son Scott, who to my knowledge resides in Aunt Franie's old house on the hill on Mount Vernon Avenue in North Chattanooga, the one place I always think of on Thanksgiving Day.


There will be light posting for the next few days. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Be Thankful - it is pretty easy, even if living is sometimes difficult. Thankful for the day and the opportunities of all the tomorrows to come. And thankful for the past and all the memories of life.

1 comment:

MaDonna White said...

I am a true believer in: We do not need more to be thankful for, we need to be more thankful. One of my thanks for this year is meeting Jeff Noble and the Ohio River, Left Ban, MP 606 blog. God bless to all who read messages here and to the wonderful friend who writes it!

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.