Back of Oak Ridge – Part IV
The passing of John brought more loneliness to this young couple. It seemed they had been through so much for their young lives. Yet they went ahead making plans to build a home on the property left them by this unique and lovable old gentleman.
A small frame house, standing on a farm nearby, was found to be for sale, but would have to be moved. This would mean tearing it down and rebuilding it. Anyway the couple decided to buy it, but the price was $20.00 and they did not have this amount.
Money was scarce in those days and the couple had just passed through many hardships, with many doctor bills and other expenses. This seemed like a large amount of money to them, this $20.00. Of course this could be no mansion, but just a humble little shack in the Flatwoods the couple could call home. In the meantime they were still living in the rented house where they lived when John passed away. They were sharecroppers on this farm.
In Memory of Paralee
Going back to the leading lady of this story, Paralee, whose life had been so saddened by the passing of her two sisters and now her step-father, I want to tell you more of her.
The days were long and dreary but this sadness was of a short duration, for in exactly two months and one week a “ray of sunshine” came to brighten this home in the form of a little four and one-half pound baby girl, whose mother had just passed away.
I have the letter from the father requesting them to keep the baby. The father felt it would be impossible for him to care for such a small and delicate child and asked them to take this baby and rear it as their very own.
Paralee has said many times that this was another reason she lived through the great siege of Typhoid Fever, when she had no desire to live. She had been permitted to take care of her step-father until his death and now a tiny baby had come to share and bless their lives.
From that day on Paralee and Perry lived for this child. The baby was so small and undernourished it took a lot of tender loving care to keep her alive. Paralee carried her on a pillow until she was three months old. She watched anxiously for every ounce gained, hoping she would soon grow into a normal sized baby. As months passed, the baby began to thrive and grow on the home pasteurized milk and mashed vegetables from the table.
Pretty soon she was a little girl and not a baby anymore, yet she was very thin and delicate all through childhood. This caused Paralee many anxious hours an to be almost too protective of her daughter.
Hers was not a house of luxury but one of contentment and the love it takes to make a real home. Paralee was not only a devoted wife and mother, but one who “loved her neighbor as herself”. She would go into the homes of her neighbors where there was sickness and care for them, regardless of the type of illness or the weather. Yet she nor the child ever contracted any of the contagious diseases, (she always kept the little girl with her wherever she went). There was no harder working lady anywhere than she.
When the little girl, Grace, was six years old, Paralee, had a son of her own, who died at birth. This seemed to cause her to love Grace even more. She said many times that if the boy had lived there would have been no difference in the two.
Since Grace had no brothers or sister to go to school with her, when she was old enough, Paralee was pleased to have her half-brother, Curtis Hendrix who was a few years older than Grace, to watch after her at school. He was like a big brother to Grace.
Curtis dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade but Grace continued on through high school, fulfilling the goal Paralee had set for her. Paralee spent many hard days of work along with her husband in order that Grace could have the necessities of school.
As their home was in the Flatwoods and some distance from the main road with a small forest to pass through, Paralee always walked with Grace to and from the school wagon, and later a bus, until she was through high school in 1934.
All the memories of my childhood and young adulthood are precious and centered around this dear lady. No one could have had a better mother than I had in Paralee. This chapter is dedicated to her and the precious memories I have of her as one of the Greatest.
The “Secret Project”
The routine of life was very much the same from year to year in this quiet settlement among the hills of Tennessee.
On day in 1941 a change did take place, when World War II was declared. Now this wasn’t the first time the young men had been called away from this little community in the hills to serve their country. It had only been a little over twenty years since World War I when many loved ones were taken to fight, some returned but some did not. However no sacrifice was too great for these people who loved their country so much.
But World War II seemed to be different, they were taking so many boys and they seemed to be so young, yet the people of these valleys and hills never complained. They were still willing to make the sacrifice for their country. This was the Volunteer State and a Volunteer community.
Then in 1942 came the rumor that the Government was going to take a large amount of land in this secluded valley, our beloved homes. This was supposed to be a “Secret Project” concerning the war and would help America to win. “What could it be?” everyone was asking. “What could they do here?”
Everyone was apprehensive, thinking they would have to move off and leave what they had worked for all their lives, into strange places, where there would be all new faces.
Then on November 11, 1942 it became definite that we would have to move.
To be separated from life time friends and loved ones was more than many could stand. Many of the older people really grieved themselves to death. They lived only a few months, or at the most a few years after they were forced to leave their homes here on such short notice.
The younger people scattered to various places in this county and other counties in Tennessee and bought homes and settled down to a new way of life, so very different form the life they had grown up in. Very few moved farther than a fifty mile radius of this place.
Paralee and Perry too, as the others, found a new abode in another small community called Hillvale. This is near the town of Norris, Tennessee.
As in Robertsville, they quickly made new friends and were soon about their usual way of helping others.
But the family circle back of Oak Ridge had been broken and could never be the same again.
Many letters were exchanged from place to place for awhile, but as time passed they became less frequent and people lost touch with their neighbors and friends of yesteryear.
Yet, we who left our homes here hold no resentment. We are proud of the great part it had in the winning of World War II and feel like that we who sacrificed our homes and moved elsehwere, did this not in vain.
If you would ask each family that left this little Spot of Earth, they now call the Great Atomic City of Oak Ridge, they would tell you that:
Back of Oak Ridge was not just a little “Spot of Earth”, but a “Little Spot of Heaven”.