Thomas Clingman Childers, Jr. 19 Nov 1871 - 25 Nov 1957
I remember Grandpa Childers only when he was already an old man and those visits were a long time back. I remember that he visited us at our place on Bee Tree Road, Swannanoa (east Buncombe County) in the late 1940’s when I was not yet six, perhaps by walking and hitch-hiking from his home near Candler (miles west of Asheville). Later, after we moved to Barnardsville Road in north Buncombe County, he also visited us.
I was fascinated that Grandpa drank his coffee by pouring it into the saucer and then lifting the saucer to his lips. In my childhood ignorance, I thought him primitive for that. It was many years later, when visiting an antique shop, that I discovered he was behaving quite properly for one who had learned his manners in the late 1800’s. The shop had a collection of tiny glass Victorian-era “cup plates” which I learned were used for resting the cup after pouring the liquid into the saucer for cooling. Grandpa must have thought that our household was poorly furnished for having no such place to rest his dripping coffee cup while he was sipping from the saucer.
According to my father, Grandpa made money for the family’s support by collecting tree bark for leather-tanning and hauling it to the tannery. Most of the family’s food and medicine was grown at home and hunted or collected from the abundant forest, but money was necessary for staples like coffee, salt, sugar, etc. And at Christmastime, there would be the rare and precious oranges, shipped from far away by railroad.
One of my father Roy’s favorite stories about Grandpa Childers was about World War II. When son Edmund and grandson Ted Robinson, who were about the same age, went away to fight WW II in Europe, Grandpa resolved that he would grow his beard until they came safely home from the war. Happily, despite very active duty and some time in enemy prison camps, they both returned safely; it was surely a joyous day on Wiggins Road when he shaved that beard.
Sometime after Grandmother Bertha Childers died in 1942, Grandpa Childers married a widow, Mrs. Ollie Blackwell Phoenix, who was a few years younger than he. My father told that when Grandpa decided that he might like to remarry, he approached Mrs. Phoenix's house on foot, stopped beside it on the public street, and saw that she was seated on her porch. Formally, without presuming to enter her yard, he addressed her from the street and asked, "Would you marry?" Apparently, her answer included some kind of encouragement as, indeed, they were married. Unfortunately, it seems that she missed the comfort of her own home because she did not reside with him on Wiggins Road very long. However, it was he who gave information for her death certificate in 1956, only one year before his own death in 1957, at the age of 86.
I remember visiting Grandpa at the small house on Wiggins Road with my father not long before Grandpa died. We entered, from the yard where we had parked, via the back door into the small plain kitchen. The room had probably never been fancy, but it looked to me if it had been little used since my grandmother had died more than a decade before. Beyond the kitchen was the one bedroom and to the right, running along the front of the house was the larger living room. It was sparsely and plainly furnished. Again, I had the impression that the room had been not much disturbed for many years.
Grandpa was a reserved, taciturn man. I don't remember much interaction with him on this occasion. I suppose, that after a perfunctory greeting, he left us to our own devices.
My father pointed out, hanging in a small plain frame on the far side wall, the written description of my Aunt Edna's recital of a vision she had as she neared death from the influenza pandemic of 1918. As I recall, he took the framed writing down and carried it out to the front porch where we sat to read it in the better light.
Grandpa Childers continued to live there alone until shortly before his death when his health declined quickly and he was hospitalized at Waynesville. Fortunately my Uncle Henry, who lived with his family nearby at the next house up the road, was able to provide much assistance. Also, Uncle Edmund moved back to live temporarily with Grandpa after his divorce.
-- Dwight Childers, 5 Oct 2005 Revised 16 Feb 2010