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Memories of Monteagle Mountain

In 1971 Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a song about Monteagle Mountain.  It started like this:

"There’s a stretch of Highway on Interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga
That’s claimed many trucker’s life
And your life is in your hands when you start down that long steep grade
On Monteagle Mountain.”

If he thought it was scary in 1971, that was nothing compared to the treacherous highway it was before I-24 was built.  I remember it well, but I recently found some old black and white postcards in an antique shop that caused a vivid resurgence of memories in my brain of the way it was when it was still U.S. Highway 41, a narrow, steep, curvy two-lane highway with scarcely any guard rails.

When I was a teenager, living in Chattanooga in the mid-1950’s, we made a few road trips to Nashville to visit relatives.  On the trip over, when we were traveling “up” the mountain, we would inevitably get stuck behind a line of tractor-trailers, going at a turtle’s pace for several curvy miles.  If a passing lane had ever been conceived at that point, it had never been implemented.  So, the driver had no choice but to relax (although, most of them fumed and fussed the whole time) and enjoy the ride.

Conversely, our return trip to Chattanooga was scary because we didn’t want to be in front of the big rigs as they would ride our bumpers and we were in danger of being run over if their brakes failed - which many of them did.

As a result, we never wanted to be on this stretch of highway after dark and our departure and return times were set so that we would always be “over Monteagle” before nightfall.

I have traveled the road a few times since I-24 was built, and although I can see why people still think of it as a scary ride, to me it seems like a piece of cake.

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While I was getting a few hours of sleep on Friday night before I was to be married on Saturday, across town at 3000 Campbell Street, Dee was not sleeping.  A few days earlier, he had started building a concrete fish pond for his mother and had planned to finish it on Saturday in time for it to be her Mother’s Day present.  Since he was not going to be there on Saturday, he decided to finish it early that morning and as soon as he got home from seeing me that evening, he went to work on it.  I think he finished it around daylight and then managed to get a little nap in before he came after me at 1:00.

I was up early.  Mother cut my hair and I got dressed and caught a bus to town so I would be there when Miller Brothers Department store opened at 10:00 a.m.  I had recently opened a charge account there and had not used it yet.  It didn’t take me long to find a dress I liked.  It was a pink dotted swiss, sleeveless with a square low neckline.  It had a gathered skirt with a narrow belt and had rows of white lace on the bodice with a row of covered buttons down the middle of the bodice.  It was a size five - at the age of 18, I had attained my full height of 5 feet and I barely weighed 100 lbs.  Then I bought some undies and a pair of blue baby doll shortie pajamas.  That was what I usually slept in during the summer. I really wanted a new pair of heels but I was afraid to overdo my charge account, so I just wore a pair of black patent pumps that I had.

Picture of us taken a few days after we married - wearing the same clothes that we wore on our wedding day.

I was getting more excited by the minute.  As soon as I got back home, I started getting ready.  When Dee arrived at 1:00, mother and I were both ready.  Daddy must not have been home that day because we had to take my sisters to Hazel’s house to stay while we were gone.

In Georgia we followed pretty much the same procedure that we had when we had taken Tommy and Patsy to get married in February.  There was not a minister at the courthouse to marry us after we got our license.  The courthouse clerk gave us directions to a Baptist minister’s home. His name was Alfred Pullen.  He and his wife were probably in their 60’s and were very nice.  It was easy to tell that they were “old pros” at this marrying business.  It probably took about fifteen minutes and I think his charge was $10.00.  We had the traditional ceremony with those time honored vows to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse.  To love, honor and cherish, forsaking all others, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, until death do you part.  I looked upon those vows as a sacred oath vowed to Dee before God and that I was honor bound to keep them as best I could.   It was adherence to those vows that kept us together for 43 years until “death did us part” in December, 1999.

After we took mother home, we went to Dee’s house.  He had not told his family that we were getting married that day.  He laid our marriage certificate on the dining table to see if anyone would notice it.  But before anyone did, his sister, Norma Jean, noticed that I was wearing both of my rings and then she yelled out “You all got married!”.  Then his mother understood why he had stayed up all night finishing her fish pond. We ate supper there and then headed out to find a motel for the night.

We wound up at the Cleveland Motel on Highway 11 on the south end of Cleveland, Tenn.  When I went to bed I was wearing my new shortie p’j’s that I bought that morning.  I also had my panties on under the shortie bottoms.  That was the way I always wore them.  That blew Dee’s mind and he kidded me for years about wearing two pairs of panties to bed on our wedding night.

The next morning, after a stop at a nearby truck stop for breakfast (which I was still too hyper to eat), we went back to his house.  His parents graciously told us we could live with them until we could get a place of our own.  Dee’s bedroom was a small one at the front of the house.  He slept on a twin bed.  So that is what we slept on for the first few months we were married.  It became known as the “honeymoon” bed and we kept it for years.  That Sunday night, when some of his relatives came by after church to congratulate the bride and groom, we were so “tired” that we had already retired to the honeymoon bed.  We could hear them snickering about that.

And, they lived happily ever after………………………………………..

******************************THE END****************************

This concludes my series of blogs about my growing up years that I started one year ago today.  I have posted 114 blogs and it has been a labor of love.  I have so often wished someone would invent a workable time machine so that we could actually travel back in time and relive some of those precious moments.  It doesn’t appear that is going to happen in my lifetime, so I’m grateful for the diary, and the pictures I kept, that helped to take me back.  It has been a fun, but emotional trip.  I was sometimes left laughing, and oftentimes crying, by the time I finished a blog.  I have been so blessed.

While I never kept a continuous diary again, I have kept a few journals through the years and I may, at some point, start blogging again.  Thanks to all of you who have read my blogs and made this journey with me.  If you missed, or would like to reread, any of them, you can find them all at: tenntimetravels.tumblr.com/archive

My email address is:  mtngenie@gmail.com

Facebook:  Jean Newman Miller

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My Awakening

Well, I had done it now.  I knew I would have to hurt Dee at some point, by telling him about answering Allen’s letter and the thought of it was making me sick.

March 2, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to the drive-in and saw “Gone with the Wind”.  He noticed that I acted differently, but I wasn’t ready yet to tell him why.

I was still procrastinating and eventually he found out via the grapevine.  I had told my friend, Shelby, about the letter and she in turn told her friend, Rachel (the girl who had been my neighbor in East Chattanooga and we were always dating the same guys) about it.  Well, as my rotten luck, and the fickle finger of fate, would have it, Dee and Rachel ran into each other.

Dee and I usually did not go out on Thursday nights.  So he went to the Nibble Nook that Thursday night and ran into Rachel.  She started talking to him about me and told him about the letter I had written, and then he asked her to go to the movie with him.  So we both had something to be very upset about when me met the next night.

March 9, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Well Dee knows about the letter I wrote Allen.  We really had it out tonight.  He went out with Rachel last night, of all people, and she told him about the letter.  Oh, I’m so mixed up!

March 10, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Dee came back over tonight even though he didn’t want to.  He said he was ashamed to face me after going out with Rachel.  We had a long talk and pretty much straightened everything out.  I can’t help but love him.

March 11, 1956 (Sunday) Dear Diary, This afternoon Dee and I went to the Sherman Reservation and then to his house.  Then we went back to mine and picked up Anna and Mary (my younger sisters) and took them to the drive-in with us tonight.  We saw “I am a Camera”.

March 13, 1956 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, Johnny has gone back into the Air Force.  Mary Glenn and Stanley came over tonight and we went riding.  Stanley sure can tell some jokes!

 Dee started giving me driving lessons.  He was a good teacher, but I was not a good student.  I drove the car into a ditch twice.  Luckily, the car wasn’t damaged and he was a good sport about it all, but after the second time, I suspended the lessons for awhile. We started going to the Stock Car races in Cleveland and also at Boyd’s Speedway on Saturday nights and sometimes on Sunday afternoons. The stock car races were a lot of fun then.  We saw some rookies who were just starting, but who later made a name for themselves in the racing world.  Some of them I remember were Junior Johnson, Richard Petty,  Brothers Donnie and Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.

March 31, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, I took the kids (my three younger sisters) to town this morning.  We went to the Rogers theater and saw  “Rock Around the Clock”.  It was really good.  Tonight Dee and I went to the Sherman Reservation.  Oh, golly, I love him.  I’ll be glad when we get married.

And, around this time,  I finally woke up to the fact that I was falling more and more in love with Dee and thinking about Allen less and less.  It was like one day I just “knew” that Dee was the one I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  I don’t know if this was a divine revelation or not, but I later came to think of it as an “epiphany” in my life. I also saw what a mistake I had made by answering Allen’s letter and continuing to write him.  I didn’t have the heart to send him another Dear John, so I just gradually quit writing him.

But, wouldn’t you know it, just as I was finally getting my act together, Dee started having seconds thoughts about our relationship.  I guess this was understandable, considering my actions in the past.  At first, I didn’t know what was wrong with him and he wouldn’t talk to me about it.

April 9, 1956 (Monday) Dear Diary, Well, I finally got Dee to talk to me tonight about what’s bothering him.  He doesn’t believe that I truly love him.  I thought that he knew it, but I don’t guess he does.

That was what he told me the problem was.  Maybe that was part of it, but I think he was also getting cold feet about the whole prospect of marriage, plus the fact that he was discouraged because he didn’t have any money to start our marriage with.

There was nothing I could do to “prove” to him that I truly loved him except by telling him and that wasn’t good enough for him.

April 11, 1956 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Dee was ready to call it quits tonight but we didn’t.  Oh, I’ll just die if I  don’t find someway to prove to him that I love him.  I wish I were dead!

That is the only time in my life that I can remember being so distraught that “I wished I were dead”.

This uncertainty in our relationship went on for weeks.  Some days everything would be fine, but then the next time we went out, he would lapse into one of his moods and I would always wind up trying unsuccessfully to convince him that I really did love him.  Finally, I was so stressed out that I couldn’t handle it any more and on Friday, May 11, after we had spent the evening arguing, when he took me home, I took off my engagement ring and handed it to him at my door.  I told him I wanted this to be over and thought it was best if we broke up.  Well, this must have jolted some sense into him, because he wouldn’t accept the ring and the next words that came out of his mouth were “Well, hell, let’s just go to Georgia and get married tonight.”  I couldn’t believe he was serious, but he was.  I told him that my mother would have to go with us.  She was already in bed asleep, but he told me to wake her and see if she would go. Of course, she wouldn’t go at that time of night but said we could go the next day.  I told Dee to come over about l:00 on Saturday as I wanted to go to town that morning to buy a dress for the wedding.

When I went back in Mother was up and had put some coffee on.  I was too hyper to go straight to bed so we drank some coffee and had a good long mother and daughter talk.  Not “the” talk about what I should expect on my wedding night; I guess she thought that would take care of itself, but just talking about the fact that Dee and I were finally going to get married.  I remember remarking to her that “I was probably marrying a man just like my Daddy”.  She laughed at this and said I was probably right.  What I meant was that they had some traits and characteristics that were similar.  Both were kind, good men who weren’t very ambitious or aggressive.   I’ve heard it said that girls often marry men who have some of their father’s traits.

For some reason, when we finally did decide to go to bed, we pulled out the sofa bed and went to sleep on that.  So, I spent my last night under my parent’s roof sleeping next to my mother, with her loving arms around me.  I have never forgotten that.


A picture of Dee taken in April, 1956 about 3 weeks before we married.

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Dear John

O.k., I finally made a decision on Friday, February 10, 1956 and told Dee I would marry him.  Now what?  He wanted to go ahead and get my rings and give me the engagement ring on Valentine’s Day.  The second order of business was for me to write Allen the dreaded “Dear John” letter.

We made a date to go downtown on Sunday afternoon to look at rings.  While I was waiting for Dee to come get me, who shows up to visit but Allen’s parents.  Uh oh, this was an awkward situation.   Not long after they arrived, Dee came to the door.  I just got up and left without any explanation.  It was left to my poor mother to explain what was going on.  They were very shocked, hurt and angry.  Needless to say, that ended the friendship between them and my family.  I was sorry that it had to be that way but some things just can’t be helped.

We picked out a set of rings at Kay Jewelers.  We didn’t actually buy them.  Dee went back on Monday and bought them.  $250.00 - time payments, of course.  That would be about $2,100.00 in today’s money.  I haven’t priced any diamonds lately, but I don’t think a comparable set would cost that much today.

A funny thing happened that night at the supper table at Dee’s house.  He had been having mechanical problems with his car for several days and he and his Dad had frequent discussions about what the problem might be.  So, when he announced at the table that night that “he bought a set of rings today”, his Dad’s reply was “Son, I don’t believe I would have done that”.  When Dee asked, “Why not, Dad?”, Mr. Miller said, “Well, you’re liable to open that thing up and find the walls all scarred and worn out”.  Dee almost choked laughing and could barely explain what he meant by a set of rings.  That was a family story that got told many times thereafter.

But there was no humor in my life that evening.  I wrote Allen and told him all about Dee.  Sometimes in books, movies and TV, the “Dear John” letter is a source of humor, but I can tell you there is nothing humorous about it.  Not for the one writing it, and certainly not for the one receiving it.  Allen had done nothing to deserve what I had done to him and writing that letter tore me apart.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I do know that it was one of the hardest things I had done up to that point in my life.  I imagine his mother was also writing him that night.

February 14, 1956 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, Dee came over tonight and gave me my engagement ring and a box of candy.  I sure do like my ring.  Mary Glenn and Stanley came over for awhile and then Dee and I went up to Sherman Reservation.  I love him.

Nothing much really changed for awhile after we got engaged.  If Dee had been willing, I probably would have gotten married right away.  He was more practical than I and said we needed to wait until he could save some money and he worried that he would not be able to support me on his meager salary.  We tentatively set a date for around the first of August and hoped to have enough money by then to get a place to live and maybe go to Florida for our honeymoon.

I got two letters from Allen that he had written before I sent him “the” letter and after that, nothing.  I tried to put him out of my mind, but the picture of him getting that letter kept popping up in my head. 

February 25, 1956 (Saturday)  Dear Diary, This morning Tommy Johnson called and said he and his girlfriend, Patsy were coming over today and could someone pick them up at the bus station.  Mary Glenn and I went to a dance this afternoon at the Warner Park Field House then we went to the bus station to get them.  This evening Dee and I took them to Rossville and Ringgold to get married.

Tommy (my cousin who lived in Nashville with Aunt Susie) and Patsy were eloping.  Actually, I think everyone knew about it except Patsy’s dad who wouldn’t give his approval for them to get married.  Rossville and Ringgold were, I guess, what you would call a “marriage mill” and a lot of people went there for a “quickie” marriage. (Even Dolly Parton got married in Ringgold)  You had to get your blood tests in Rossville and then go a few miles to the courthouse in Ringgold to get the marriage license.  Of course, there was always conveniently a minister or justice of the peace at the courthouse ready to perform the ceremony once you obtained the license.

The lab in Rossville was upstairs over a store on the main street. It was dark by the time everything was completed and just as we came down the stairs and exited the building, we were shocked to see police cars and policemen everywhere.  This scared Patsy as her first thought was that her dad had discovered she was eloping and had sent the police to get her.  But then we looked down the street and saw this big blur of white coming toward us.  The Ku Klux Klan, waving their red flags of hate, were marching.  That was the first and only time I ever saw that terrible sight.

They spent the night at my house and then Dee and I took them to the bus station on Sunday and they went home to Nashville.  Their marriage lasted fifty-five years - until December, 2011 when Tommy passed away.

March 1, 1956 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Today after work, Mary Glenn and I went to the Tivoli and saw “Picnic”.  When I got home I had a letter from Allen. 

That letter from Allen sent me in a tailspin and almost brought me back to square one as far as he and Dee were concerned.  I think I could have handled it if he had been angry and hateful about everything, but he was just the opposite.  It was a sweet, loving letter in which he pleaded with me to wait until he came home to make a final decision about everything.  Then I did a foolish, impulsive thing.  I answered it and told him that if he could forgive me for writing that letter, that I would wait until he came home.

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Making a Decision

It’s January 1, 1956.  I’m still unofficially “engaged” to Allen and dating Dee, who takes me by surprise when he proposes to me.

January 2, 1956 (Monday) Dear Diary, I was off work today.  Tonight Dee and I went to the skating rink and then to the Sherman Reservation.  He asked me to marry him.  I told him I didn’t want to make a decision until Allen comes home in August. 

This proposal really turned my world upside down.  I think I was living in a dream world where I thought I could be in love with one guy and date another without any consequences.  Also, it forced me to start coming to terms with what my feelings toward Dee really were.   

January 4, 1956 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to the drive-in.  I got two letters from Allen.  I’m so mixed up about the way I feel, but I guess things will work out. 

Things did “work out”, but not without a lot of anguish on my part and eventually for Dee as well.  It is difficult for me to write about this time in my life, because once it was over, I put it all behind me and haven’t thought much about it since, but revisiting it now, all the angst that I went through resurfaces.

January 6, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to the drive-in.  He’s really a number one guy.

January 9, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to the drive-in.  He wants me to make a decision, but I’m so mixed up I don’t know what to do.  I never thought it was possible to be in love with two boys, but I think I am.

Dee and I continued dating four or five nights a week and I continued writing Allen as I always had.  But Dee wasn’t content to wait until Allen came home, and started pressuring me to make a decision.  I wasn’t ready to do that.  I had fallen “in”  love with Dee, but hadn’t fallen “out” of love with Allen.

January 13, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to a gospel singing at Memorial Auditorium.  I got four letters from Allen.

January 14, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Mother and Daddy rented a house today in Signal Hills.  We will be moving soon.  Tonight Dee and I double dated with Mary Glenn and Stanley.  We went to the Red Bank drive-in.

The house we were moving into was all the way across town at the foot of Signal Mountain.

January 18, 1956 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Johnny has taken off somewhere.  Probably up North - he didn’t say.  Tonight Dee and I went to a movie.

January 19, 1956 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I stayed home tonight.  I’m getting more mixed up everyday about Allen and Dee.

And, I was.  I was becoming a nervous wreck.  All the indecision was taking a toll on me.  I couldn’t eat or sleep much and I was driving everyone around me crazy as well.  Of course no one would, or could, advise me. This had to be my decision.  But one day my supervisor at work had a talk with me.  She was a middle aged lady named Maude Morgan.  She had an easy going manner and I admired and respected her.  She expressed her sympathy for what I was going through and then she asked me if I had ever thought that if I was meant to marry Allen, why did God let me meet Dee?   Now, I had been praying for weeks for the Lord’s help in making this decision, and when she asked me that it put things in a new perspective for me and tilted the balance in Dee’s favor.  Another positive for Dee was the fact that he was so sweet to me and easy to be with.  We didn’t bicker or argue the way Allen and I had.  And, of course, the very fact that Dee was present,  and Allen was absent,  was in his favor as well.

January 20, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight I met Mary Glenn, Shelby and Mary Garner at Kibbles for supper and then we went to Kirkman to an alumni meeting.  Dee picked me up afterwards.

"Kibbles" had been our hangout restaurant close to school.  We would often meet there in the mornings before school for coffee and doughnuts and playing the juke box.  It was good to get together with my pals again.

January 21, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, We moved to 131 Signal Hills Drive today, but we’re spending the night with Hazel.  Tonight Dee and I went to the circus.

January 24, 1956 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, Since we’ve moved, Dee can’t take me to work and I’m having to ride the bus.  I miss seeing him in the mornings.  In fact, I miss him anytime that I don’t see him for a day or two.  He’s really a number one guy.

January 27, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to the March of Dimes auction.  I haven’t been writing Allen like I should.

I think the reason I hadn’t been writing Allen as much was because I was becoming more certain of how this situation was going to turn out and what my ultimate decision was going to be.

January 30, 1956 (Monday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to Memorial Auditorium to a Negro Rock and Roll dance and concert. The Platters were there.  I got two letters from Allen.

February 5, 1956 ( Sunday) Dear Diary, Today is my 18th birthday.  Dee bought me a chenille bathrobe.  Tonight we went to a movie.  I really like Dee.

February 9, 1956 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Dee picked me up after work and brought me home.  He came back tonight and we went to the Sherman Reservation.  He said I’m going to have to make up my mind soon.  I think I’ll marry him.

February 10, 1956 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to a movie.  I told him that I will marry him.  I don’t think I’ll ever be sorry.

February 11, 1956 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Dee and I went to a movie tonight.  I love Dee.  We’re going to look at rings tomorrow.

Finally, a decision but definitely not the end of my problems.  Next blog:  “Dear John”.

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November 23, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Mother and the kids went to Hazel’s to spend the night.  I got a letter from Allen.  Went to the drive-in with Dee tonight.  We saw “Stalag 17”.  Dee is real sweet.

November 24, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Today was Thanksgiving.  We spent the day at Hazel’s.  I slept all afternoon.  It’s been a year today since I’ve seen Allen.

November 25, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight when Dee came to get me, his sister, Norma Jean, was with him.  She just wanted to see who he was dating, so she made him bring her.  We took her home and then went to see “The Kentuckian”.  I’m beginning to like Dee an awful lot.

Dee still lived at home with his parents.  He only had one sibling, a sister four years younger than he.  She and his parents had figured out that he was dating someone quite often, but since he wouldn’t disclose any information, Norma Jean couldn’t stand not knowing who he was dating, so she planted herself firmly in his car that evening and wouldn’t budge until he brought her to meet me.  As it turned out, I had seen her around the neighborhood and often rode the same bus as she, but didn’t know who she was.   They had lived in Avondale all their lives until their parents bought a house in East Chattanooga, just a few months before Dee and I met.

November 27, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, Dee came down this afternoon.  We went out in the country and shot the rifle.  Tonight we went to the movie and saw “Phoenix City Story”.

November 29, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I got three letters from Allen.  Even though I go out with Dee, I still love Allen and I guess I always will.  I stayed home tonight and watched TV.

November 30, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Tonight Johnny and I went to visit Shelby’s mom, Mrs. Ault.  I hadn’t been out there in a long time.

Johnny had gotten to know Mrs. Ault from hanging around the drugstore where she worked with Lisa and me.  She was an outgoing, fun person and we both liked her.  I think that was the last time I saw her alive, as she died tragically in the summer of 1957 when her estranged husband shot and killed her and her oldest daughter.  Then he killed himself.  He shot Shelby, too, but she survived. 

December 1, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Tonight Dee and I went to a Bingo party at the American Legion Hall.  We didn’t win anything.

December 2, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Johnny wrecked Daddy’s car tonight.  He wasn’t hurt.  Dee and I went to a movie.

December 3, 1955 (Saturday)  Dear Diary, I mailed Allen a billfold and some cookies today.  Mary Glenn and Stanley came over.  They went with Dee and me to see “Seven Year Itch”.

December 5, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, I got a letter from Carl.  He still writes me every once in a while.  Dee came down.  He took me to his house to meet his parents then we went riding around.  He said he wants me for Christmas. I like his parents.

December 9, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Dee and I went to the drive-in, saw “Left Hand of God”.  Sometimes I’m almost sure I’m in love with Dee.  I wonder if he loves me.

December 12, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, I got a Christmas present from Carl.  It is a musical jewelry box.  Dee went skating tonight but I wouldn’t go with him.

December 13, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, We got our Christmas bonus today.  Mine was $40.00.  I went downtown Christmas shopping tonight.  I bought a new outfit to wear to the Provident Christmas luncheon.

December 15, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Mary Glenn and I went shopping tonight.  We had our Christmas luncheon at work today.

That Christmas luncheon was the largest (I guess you would say semi-formal) affair I had been to at that time in my life and was somewhat of a letdown to me.  There had been a lot of talk and hype about it in our department for a few weeks.  The “veterans” said that they always served delicious food, including a shrimp cocktail which they all raved about.  I had never had shrimp before and had no idea what a shrimp cocktail could be, but I was looking forward to finding out.  As it turned out, it was the first course and was already on the table when we took our seats.  I thought it looked weird, but I gamely took a bite.  I was sorry that I had.  It felt like cold rubber in my mouth and I thought I would never get it chewed and swallowed.  I just couldn’t make myself eat anymore of it and gladly gave mine to one of my friends after she had devoured hers.  I still don’t like shrimp.

December 21, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Dee and I took Mary Ruth to the movie with us tonight.  We saw “Drums in the Deep South.”

December 23, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, We had our Christmas party at work.  I got a diary and some earrings.  Dee and I went to a movie tonight.

December 24, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, I went to town today.  I love going to town on Christmas Eve.  I saw Dee.  He brought me home.  We exchanged presents tonight and then went to see “Hell and Back”.  He gave me a Kodak Pony Slide Camera.  I gave him a green pullover sweater.

I was glad to get that camera.  My camera must have torn up because I hadn’t taken any pictures in ages.  The only problem was the new camera took color slides.  I had to go through a learning process with it and I loved it after awhile and used if for many years.  But, I wound up with a lot of slides and no photos to keep for albums, etc.  I did have a few prints made off some of the slides, but they haven’t held up well over the years.  As a result, I don’t have any pictures of Dee and me during this time to use along with these posts.

December 25, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, Dee came down after Christmas dinner and took me to meet some of his relatives. We went to visit his Uncle Frank in East Ridge.  His wife, Irene, had made pecan pie, which Dee loved.  Then we went to see two more of his uncles who live in Avondale.  His mother has a lot of brothers and sisters.  After all that, we went to his house and stayed until time to go get his Dad at the water company.  He had to work tonight and his car isn’t running.  I enjoyed the day.

December 29, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I stayed home tonight.  Wrote letters and listened to the radio.  (I still preferred the radio to T.V.)  It’s only about eight months until Allen will be home.

December 31, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Mary Glenn and I went shopping today.  Tonight Dee and I went to a movie and then went parking at the Sherman Reservation.

The Sherman Reservation was an ideal parking place for us.  It was located on the Northern end of Missionary Ridge only about a mile from where Dee lived.  It was a small commemorative Civil War Park with a couple of cannons and some memorial plaques.  It was quiet and not many people came in there.

So, 1955 ended quietly for me with no hint of the turmoil that was waiting for me in 1956.  Well, maybe there were some warning signs there but I hadn’t acknowledged them yet.  But it would be impossible to ignore them very much longer.

That diary entry on December 31, 1955 marked the end of the entries in my five year diary that I started in 1951.  However, I had received another five year diary for Christmas from one of my coworkers, and I continued it for a few more months.  So, my story isn’t finished yet.  Please stay tuned.

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It took about a month for me to come back to reality after the Labor Day weekend trip to Nashville in 1955.  I went through my days in a fog daydreaming about Bill, the guy I met. 

September 6, 1955 (Tuesday)  Dear Diary, I’ve really felt rough today.  I doubt if I’ll ever see Bill again, but I love him and I mean it.

September 7, 1955 (Wednesday)  Dear Diary, I transferred from the Accounting Department to the Life Department at work today.  It is a much bigger department and I will make a little more money.  I hope I like it.

September 9, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Peggy and I went up to the Nibble Nook tonight.  Saw Dee.  I wish I could hear from Bill.

September 10, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, What a day.  I fainted this morning.  Mary Glenn and Peggy went with Dee and me to the movie tonight.  We  saw “Man without a Star”.

September 13, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, Mary Garner and Bill came over tonight.  We went up to the Nibble Nook.  Dee was there.  We all went up to the lake. 

September 14, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, I wish I could hear from Bill, but he doesn’t have my address, nor do I have his.

September 15, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I had a terrible dream last night.  I dreamed I found Bill but he was dead.  I went to the Tivoli and saw “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”.  I loved it.

And, that dream was probably my subconscious telling me what I already knew in my heart; that Bill was essentially “dead” to me.

September 16, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, I wish Allen were here.  I know I really love him.  I guess Bill was just infatuation.

September 17, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, My family and I went to the Smokies today with Allen’s parents.  Mary Glenn went, too.  We camped out.  We’re going home tomorrow.

September 19, 1955 (Monday)  Dear Diary, Peggy and I went to the County Fair at Warner Park tonight.  Met Dee and a guy named Jimmy there.  They took us to see the girlie show, “French Quarters”.  It was kinda silly.  I wish Allen were here.

September 20, 1955 (Tuesday)  Dear Diary, Dee comes by the bus stop every morning and takes Peggy and me to work.  Tonight Peggy and I ate supper with Shelby and Jimmy.

Dee worked in South Chattanooga.  He had three uncles who managed the Chattanooga Sausage Company and he worked for them as a manager of a packing company apart from the main building where the animals were slaughtered.  They were wholesale dealers for beef and pork.  Peggy and I both worked in downtown Chattanooga, so it wasn’t out of his way to take us to work.  He picked us up at the bus stop because I still hadn’t told my family about him.  After I did introduce them, and started dating him more, he kept my mother supplied with fresh meat, which she loved.

September 22, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I am sick with a bad cold and didn’t work today.  You know I really miss Allen after all this time.  I still love him so much.

September 23, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Felt better today and went to work.  I went to the fair tonight.  Saw Allen’s parents.  Saw the “Dancing Waters” show.  It was pretty.

September 24, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Peggy and Paul got married today.  I hope she hasn’t made a big mistake.  I stayed home tonight.  I told mother about Dee.  She seems o.k. with it.

At this point, I had known Dee almost a month and we had dated a few times.  During October, we stepped up the pace and started going out three or four times a week, mostly to the drive-in movie.  I was still keeping everything “casual” and thinking about Allen.

September 29, 1955 Thursday, Dear Diary, I still hear from Allen almost everyday and I still write him everyday.  I wish it were this time next year.  We will probably be married.  I hope so.  I really love him.

I did manage to eke out a little social life apart from dating Dee and writing Allen.  Mary Glenn and I joined “Career Girls”.  A club for working girls sponsored by the YWCA.  They met every Thursday at the Y for dinner, dancing and swimming if you wanted.  We went to most of the Thursday night meetings that fall and it was a lot of fun.

October 9, 1955 (Sunday) I went to church this morning.  This afternoon, Dee, Johnny, Mary Glenn and I went riding up on Lookout Mountain.


A picture of Johnny I made that afternoon beside Dee’s 1950 (light green) Ford.

October 21, 1955 (Friday)  Dear Diary, Dee and I went to the 23rd Street Drive-In, saw “Strange Lady in Town”.  He’s right sweet.

Well, there it is.  The first indication that I might be falling for this guy.

October 22, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, I cleaned house.  Got a letter from Allen.  He’s getting mighty smart.

I don’t remember what Allen wrote that ticked me off, but in my typical fashion with him, I didn’t let it go unnoticed.

October 25, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I wrote Allen two smart letters.  I’ll probably wish I hadn’t.  I love him but he makes me angry. 

November 4, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, I bought Allen an I.D. bracelet to send him for Christmas.  I went to the movie with Dee tonight.  I told him about Allen.

Although Dee was 23 years old, he had never been in a serious relationship.  He said he had never thought about getting married, or had no desire to do so until he met me.  Of course, that was about ALL I thought about.  Since we had not gotten serious, I hadn’t seen the need to tell him about Allen, but I could sense that he was beginning to care for me, so I thought I’d better tell him.  He seemed o.k. with it, but I think the thought that he had some competition only made him more interested.

November 8, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, Dee and I went to drive-in and saw “House of Bamboo”.  Mother and I had a fuss and I was still crying and upset when he picked me up.  He petted me and calmed me down.  He is so sweet to me.

November 12, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, I got a real sweet letter from Allen.  He wants to know if I still want to get married.

I’m sure that I wrote Allen back saying that, of course, I still wanted to get married.  Which only made matters worse, considering what would happen later.

November 18, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Dee wanted me to go skating, but I wouldn’t.  We went to the movie and saw “The Long Gray Line”.

Dee loved roller skating, but I had never mastered it.  I had been to the skating rink with him a couple of times, but didn’t enjoy it.  On the other hand, I loved dancing, but he didn’t.  We really didn’t have a lot in common.

November 19, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Dee came down today and tonight we double dated with some of his friends.  I believe Dee loves me, but I hope he doesn’t.

November 21, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, I went with Dee to the Brainerd skating rink tonight, but I didn’t skate.  I’m not sure about my feelings for him.

November 22, 1955 (Tuesday)  Dear Diary, I stayed home tonight and watched T.V.  I wish Allen were here and that I’d never gone with Dee.

I was beginning to suspect that this man might be my destiny, but I was denying it and wishing it wasn’t so.

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At the end of my last blog, I had just met my future husband, Deforest “Dee” Miller.  This was not an earth shaking event for me as I had no idea that this man was someone who would change my life or how the drama would play out in the coming months.  I wish I could say that I had just met my handsome prince and that he whisked me away on his white horse to his castle, and that we lived happily ever after.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t anything close to the way it actually happened.  But, I’m getting ahead of my story, so for now, back to August, 1955.

When I met Dee that Saturday night, he wanted to see me again.  For some reason, I didn’t want him to come to my house to pick me up for a date.  I think I was afraid of what my mother’s reaction would be to me dating someone I had just met at the Nibble Nook and didn’t know very well.  So we arranged that Peggy and I would go home with Mary Glenn on Sunday and he and Herbert would come out there and we would go to the Red Bank Drive In Sunday night.  Mary Glenn went with her boyfriend, Harrison.

There was definitely something about this man that I liked well enough to agree to dating him “casually”.  He had a thick mane of light blonde hair and the prettiest blue eyes ever.  He was 5’9” and weighed 140 lbs.  I loved his profile.  He was neat and clean cut.  He had a quiet temperament and as I got to know him better, I learned that since he rarely expressed his feelings, it was hard to know what he was thinking.  He was 23 years old, had spent almost three years in the Air Force and one of those had been in Korea.

He and Allen were as far apart in looks and disposition as light is from dark.

August 29, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, Mary Garner and Bill came over tonight.  They took Peggy and me to the Nibble Nook.  Dee and Herbert were there.  I got a letter from Carl.

August 31, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, I got two letters from Allen.  His parents came over to visit.  Peggy and I saw Dee and Herbert.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Peggy, Mary Glenn and I had a trip planned for Labor Day weekend.  We were going to visit Aunt Susie in Nashville.   We were all excited about it.  Mother made me a pretty dress to wear.  It was a sheath with a cowl collar in a rayon blend with tiny green and white checks.  I went to S. H. Kresge’s store in Chattanooga and bought a pretty faux opal and pearl pin (I still have it) to wear on the collar.  So after we all got off from work on Friday, we boarded a Greyhound bus and were on our way.

September 2, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Peggy, Mary Glenn and I went to Nashville on the bus this evening.  We really had a good time on the bus.  We sang and everything.

And here is where the “brown eyed handsome man”, who made this one of the most special weekends in my life, comes in.

September 3, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Oh, gosh, we had the best time today and tonight!  This afternoon we went to downtown Nashville and tonight we went to the Grand Ole Opry.  After the Opry, we went to a restaurant.  We met three paratroopers in there from Fort Campbell, Ky.  They are all really nice.  Their names are Paul, Ralph and (the one I like) is named Bill Wallace.  He is the best looking man I have ever seen.  Bill has a souped up 1951 Ford.  They brought us home and are coming back out here tomorrow.

Talk about walking on air.  I had just met this guy, but I was already “head over heels”.  I didn’t  sleep much that night and was so excited the next morning knowing that they were coming to take us out for the day.  But, unfortunately, my excitement was short lived.  That morning, while eating breakfast, my new partial (of which I was so proud) with my four upper front teeth, snapped clean into.  I was horrified and mortified.  There was no way I was going to face those guys without my teeth.  I told Peggy and Mary Glenn that they could go on without me, and hid myself in the bedroom.  When the boys got there, they told them what had happened and that I wouldn’t come out of the bedroom.  Bill asked to see my teeth and Peggy got them for him.  And, being the enterprising Army guy that he was, he said he thought he could fix them.  They drove to the nearest drug store and bought some airplane glue.  Bill glued them together and in about thirty minutes they were dry.  He sent them in for me to try, and when I was satisfied that they would hold, I agreed to go on with our day.  Actually, they held really well and I didn’t have any more problems until I could get to the dentist and have them repaired.

I don’t remember everything that we did that day.  I think we mostly drove around Nashville and did some sight seeing.  When late evening came, we got some take out food and drove out into the country.  They (conveniently) had some blankets in the car, so we spread them out, ate our meal and sat there watching the stars come out.  It was the most romantic evening I had ever had.  I’m sure Bill (like Allen) had a girl back home (which, if he told me where that was, I can’t remember) and that he and his buddies made frequent weekend trips to Nashville to find some girls to spend time with.  But, for that one wonderful night, he was mine and I was captivated by him.  They took us home about midnight and promised to come back on Monday to drive us home to Chattanooga.

September 4, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, I love Bill!  I know I do!  I guess you can’t love two, but I love him.  I broke my partial this morning and he fixed it.  We went riding around this afternoon and tonight we drove out into the country and had a really fun evening.

September 5, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, Bill and those boys were supposed to come and take us home, but they didn’t show.  We came home on the bus.  We really had a good time.

September 6, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I’ve really felt rough today.  I doubt if I’ll ever see Bill again, but I love him and I mean it.  He was a dream.

And so, that is the story of the brown eyed handsome man who temporarily stole my heart that Labor Day weekend in 1955.  I know I was just a silly, ”in love with love” teenager and that “the stars got in my eyes” that night, but I’m glad for that weekend, as it was the last truly “fun” weekend of my teenage years, and I have always carried the memory of it in my heart.

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It’s mid-summer 1955.  I’m out of school, settling into a job at Provident Insurance Company, writing two guys and biding my time until the next August when Allen would be home.

July 29, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight I went with Johnny, Lisa and Rusty.  We went to a couple of taverns.  I love Rusty’s car.

"Rusty" was Johnny’s friend and had been our neighbor in Rockwood.  He worked briefly in Chattanooga and boarded with us at one time.  I can’t remember what kind of car he had, but whatever it was I liked it.  Going to taverns was a new and strange experience for me.  I didn’t have any trouble getting in even though I was only 17.  The others all drank beer, but I stuck with Cokes.  I did enjoy the music and the dancing, but I knew it was not something I wanted to do again.

Shelby was married and Mary Garner was going steady with a guy named Bill Erickson, who she would later marry.    Bill had a new red Ford convertible, which my little sisters, especially Mary Ruth, loved.  He and Mary would frequently come by to visit me and he would take them riding in his new car. 

Mary Glenn and I spent a lot of time together that summer.  She was dating a guy named Harrison, but they weren’t going steady, so we still had time to do other things.

August 4, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, Tonight Mary Glenn and I went to the Tivoli and saw  “Mister Roberts”.  It was a good movie.

August 5, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, We all (the family) went over to visit Allen’s parents tonight.  They have company up from Florida.

Allen’s parents and my family had become good friends and there was quite a lot of visiting between them.

August 7, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, I spent the day with Mary Glenn.  We rode the motor scooter all morning and then rode around in “Little Hitler” this afternoon.

Mary Glenn’s dad had a motor scooter and an old Volkswagen (that was before they became popular in the U.S.) which he let her drive whenever she wanted. We nicknamed the VW “Little Hitler” and had a lot of fun tooling around in it.

Me on the “scooter”…………………………………………………………

"Little Hitler"

August 12, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Aunt Bessie and Wayne came down from Oakdale today.  Tonight the kids and I took Wayne up to East Chattanooga.  I got a letter from Carl today.  He says he loves me, but of course, I love Allen.

August 14, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, I spent the day at Mary Glenn’s.  Her grandmother is sick.  We wrote letters and went swimming.  I wrote Carl and told him all about Allen and me.  I might not hear from him again, but that’s the way it has to be.

At the lake…………………………………………………

August 23, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I got a reply from Carl.  He isn’t upset with me since I told him about Allen and wants to keep writing me.  Mother and Daddy are wanting to find a house to rent.  We went to look at one this afternoon.  I sure hope we do move.

Now that I had a full time job, I would be paying my parents $40.00/month for “room and board”.  They felt that they could use that extra money toward rent on a house and we could move out of the subsidized apartments.  It took a while to find something, but we did move in a few months.

August 26, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Aunt Susie came to visit today.  Peggy, Mary Glenn and I are going over there (Nashville) Labor Day weekend.  She is going to get us tickets for the Grand Ole Opry.

August 27,1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Mary Glenn spent the night.  She, Peggy and I walked to the Nibble Nook.    We met three boys there - Deforest (Dee) Miller, Herbert Lewis and one named W.R.  We talked with them a while and then went over to Warner Park and watched the monkeys.  Dee drove.  He has a 1950 light green Ford.  He’s really cute and seems to like me.

And, just like that, my life was forever changed, and all my best laid plans gone awry, because I had just met my future husband.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps".  Proverbs 16:9

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It’s the start of summer, 1955.  I’ve just graduated high school, been to Florida for a week and now I’ve got to get serious about finding a job.

June 13, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, I got a package from Allen today with my graduation presents.  He sent me a beautiful white gold Bulova watch and a pair of Korean pj’s.  I just love the watch.  I’ll be glad when this time next year comes.  Allen will be almost home!

I was thrilled to get that watch.  It was the first one I ever owned.  I still have it.

A picture of me wearing the Korean pajamas…………………………………………

June 15, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, I’m going job hunting tomorrow.  Peggy got a job at Volunteer Insurance Company. 

June 15, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I applied for a job at Volunteer Insurance and Provident Insurance today. 

One good thing that I remember about the summer of ‘55 was that my brother, Johnny, was out of the Air Force and living at home, for the most part.  It gave us a chance to spend time together, and today I cherish those memories.  He was dating Lisa, my friend from the drugstore.

June 17, 1955  (Friday) Dear Diary, Johnny came home today.  He has a ‘46 Pontiac.

June 18, 1955 (Saturday) Dear Diary, Paul Hicks came and took Peggy and me to the stock car races tonight.

Paul was my cousin Peggy’s boyfriend.  After she came from Oakdale to live with us, he came to Chattanooga and got a job to be close to her.

June 19, 1955 (Sunday)  Dear Diary, Mary Glenn came over this afternoon.  I went home with her to spend the night.

June 23, 1955 (Thursday) Dear Diary, I went job hunting today.  No luck.  Tonight Johnny, Peggy and I went over to Hazels.  I got five letters from Allen today.

June 24, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, Tonight Mary Glenn, Peggy and I went to a square dance at the Volunteer Insurance Club.

July 8, 1955 (Friday) Dear Diary, I finally got a job today.  I start Monday at Robinson’s clothing store downtown.  The pay is $1.00/hr.  Mary Glenn and I went to the Tivoli tonight.  Saw “Love me or Leave me”.

July 12, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I went out to Mary Glenn’s after work.  She said Carl wrote his mother that he is going to marry me!

Carl was the friend of Mary Glenn’s that I had met the summer before.  He was in the Navy and we had been writing to each other since that time

July 13, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, I don’t like working at Robinson’s.   Shelby, Mary Garner, Mary Glenn and I met for lunch today.  It’s the first time I’ve seen Shelby since school was out.  She likes being married.

Robinson’s was a national clothing chain.  My job was clerical and consisted mainly of tallying the daily sales and doing sales reports.  My “office” was a tiny enclosed space on the mezzanine, barely big enough for a desk and chair.

July 18, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, I heard from Provident Insurance Co.  I have a job there starting next Monday.  Goody, goody!

July 20, 1955 (Wednesday) Dear Diary, Daddy bought him a 1948 Chevrolet.  Lisa is going to Chicago on her vacation and she doesn’t know anyone there.  A salesman came by tonight selling Vita-Craft cookware and I bought a set.

That 1948 Chevrolet was the first car Daddy had since I had been born.  It really wasn’t much of a car and he had a lot of problems with it.  Mother was scared to ride with him because of an accident they had when they were dating that had almost killed her. 

I thought it was strange that Lisa would go to Chicago by herself, but she said she just wanted to see the city.

The “waterless” Vita-Craft cookware that I bought was way overpriced for what I got.  I think the total was about $120.00 and my payments were $10.00 per month.  It was my first “on time” purchase.

July 24, 1955 (Sunday) Dear Diary, I spent the day at Mary Glenn’s.  It rained all day.  Her mother helped me make a new pink dress.

Mary Glenn’s mother was an expert seamstress.  She had four daughters (three of them still at home) and made a lot of their clothes.

July 25, 1955 (Monday) Dear Diary, My first day at Provident.  I am in the Accounting Department.  My salary is $180.00 per month. 

July 26, 1955 (Tuesday) Dear Diary, I think I am going to like working at Provident.  I keep busy, but the work isn’t hard.  I mostly type financial statements.