By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
When we were kids, who didn’t like a visit to grandma? I certainly did. I had two wonderful grandmothers and it was always an exciting time when my family visited them. One grandmother lived in what is now Swift Hollow just across the headwaters of Doe Creek, while the other lived off Highway 67 in the Dewey Community of Johnson County. Granny Swift, nee Sara Fine Grindstaff, was a widow, whose husband (my grandfather) passed away in 1907). That was 31 years before I came into this world. Of course I was too young to visit grandma Harper every day. But as I mentioned in a previous column, I visited Granny Swift almost every day as I enjoyed reading the comic section of the Knoxville Journal that my uncle subscribed to regularly. There were about two pages of comic strips if I remember correctly and I really enjoyed following the adventures of Batman, Superman, the Phantom, Mark Trails, Terry and the Pirates and others.
My other grandmother — I called her Grandma — lived along with her husband, my maternal grandfather Noah Webster Harper several yards off Highway 67 West, about three miles from Mountain City. Her full name was Mary Ellen Victoria Gentry Harper. I ate many scrumptious meals at both grandmas’ table. They were good cooks.
In her golden years Granny Swift kept up with news of the neighborhood by frequent visitors to her home and the fact that she sat by the window and kept watch of what was going on in the area.
On the contrary, grandma Harper was quite active in her senior years. She helped plant a big garden with a variety of vegetables including corn, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, potatoes, and several others. Grandma Harper kept geese and chickens. Bear in mine this was in the ‘30s and much of what was used on the farm was grown or produced on the farm. Consequently pillows and mattresses were often filled with feathers.
Coffee, sugar and a few other items were about all that was needed to buy. A trip to Mountain City was made about once a week, sometimes two. Both grandmothers took pride in their flowers. There was in spring and summer many flowers brightened their lawns. Bleeding Hearts and Miniature Roses were always nice to see and enjoy. My grandmothers did a lot of canning when harvest came around.
I’ll close this column by honoring those two grandmothers for what they meant to me over the years, especially when I was a youngster in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. I was fortunate indeed.