Life in Athens down through the years has certainly never been routine – in fact sometimes it’s downright quirky as to events and people. Here are a few examples to explore – including one man who was sure that a visiting psychic had been right!
The headline in the July 11, 1929 Athens Weekly review read: “Prophecy Made by Mel Roy Here is Fulfilled “and Mr. C.W. Corley of the Shady Grove community was sure that it had happened.
A while back we covered Mel-Roy, called by the reporter a “crystal gazer and Seer,” who had appeared in Athens some months earlier at the Dixie Theater.
One of his major tricks, according to the December 6, 1928 Athens Weekly Review, was to drive a car down city streets while blindfolded. Though he did not completely understand how this was possible, he did say that he accomplished it because of “thought transformation.” Apparently in some way the thoughts of those by the roadside would help him avoid an accident.
Another aspect of his performance in the theater program was to answer questions. Attendees were asked to write down questions on a slip of paper, and put it in their pocket before they arrived. Then when Mel-Roy called on them he would answer the question without reading it on the paper.
Mr. C.W. Corley was one of these questioners and the article in the July 11, 1929 Weekly Review told the story. Mr. Corley asked Mel-Roy if he would lease some land he possessed and there was an answer. The reporter related: “The noted Seer replied that within less than seven months he would lease it. The seven months would have been up on July 25 and this past week Mr. Corley leased his land at $1 an acre.”
The psychic also predicted that Mr. Corley should be prepared to assume a county office at the next election. At that the reporter wryly added: “So we presume the Bard of Shady Grove will be at the line when the gun sounds for the candidate to take off.”
We might be tolerantly amused at the next quirky example –reminiscence by Athens historian/judge/state senator J.J. Faulk – but it may help if we understood how many people felt at the time about the subject of drinking alcohol. In the latter 1800s the temperance movement was very popular and many of its advocates believed that consumption of liquor was not only evil but had been the downfall of many decent people.
This view is reflected in Judge Faulk’s account in the June 13, 1929 Athens Weekly Review Faulk where he wrote about his memories of the town of Goshen and particularly of a man named J.P. Gossett.
“In 1866 he and his brother in law Frank Manuel put on an exhibition a little show in the old house at Fincastle,” Faulk wrote, then went on to describe how they did it. “They darkened the room and put on the screen a number of kaleidoscopic views and when the picture appeared they began to sing and it would move in unison to the rhythm of the singing.” In the days before electricity this may have been a devise that showed photographic slides lit up by candlelight or some other non-electric type of illumination..
But anyway, what did the audience see? It was a picture of a many-colored quilt and as (presumably) the presenters sang (“with zest”) the quilt turned in and out, revealing the colors. And as the quilt did that they sang an old song:
“The meanest crime that ever was done
Is selling whiskey is the very worst one,
So get out of out of the way, you whiskey seller,
You’ve ruined many a cleaver fellow,
You’ve robbed that rich man of all his store,
And caused him to beg from door to door.”
Temperance advocates of the time were - to say the least – dramatic!
We encounter some more quirkiness when we hear about some unusual names given to local men, and this came up particularly during World War II when draftees were inducted into the military. The April 29, 1943 Athens Weekly Review told the story under the headline “One of Odd Names at Induction Station.” This was actually a reprint from a Tyler paper, and it described how one inductee was named “Three in One Green.” So why? The man stated that before he was born his father had a vision to name him that.
That same article also listed another example: “Local recruiting personnel also recalled a man who was inducted here last summer who bore the name ‘Fourth of July.’” It seems this man had a Henderson County connection since he was employed at Trinidad at the time of his induction.