Thursday, November 28, 2013

One Joyous Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving Long Ago


We know the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621, but it didn't become an official federal holiday until in 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Both my great-grandparents, Grant and Hettie Frost, were born soon after the civil war; Grant in 1867 and Hettie in 1870, and they were married four days before Thanksgiving Day in 1890 at Windy, Kentucky.

In his proclamation of November 8th that year, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed Thursday, the 27th, as the date to be observed as a day of prayer and thanksgiving, inviting the people on that day to "cease from their labors, to meet in their accustomed houses of worship, and to join in rendering gratitude and praise to our beneficent Creator for the rich blessings He has granted to us as a nation and in invoking the continuance of His protection and grace for the future."

For Grant and Hettie Frost, and their families, Thanksgiving Day of 1890 was probably the most joyous of their time spent together. I can picture all of them gathered together to celebrate this union of marriage. As the president said in his proclamation, God did indeed provide them with protection and grace during their long life together. They were married 65 years and God blessed them with many children. Ulysses Simpson "Grant" Frost was the son of Corydon and Almira Owens Frost. During the civil war, Cord was a Private in Co. H, 13th Kentucky Calvary. Hettie Huffaker was the daughter of Henry and Margaret Shearer Huffaker. All are buried at Gap Creek Church Cemetery at Windy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Message From The Goat Man

The Goat Man, Charles McCartney, traveled the highways and bi-ways of America for more than 30 years. The stories told by those who saw him or met him are legendary.

For more about this legendary character, read "Long Live The Goat Man."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Remembering A President

Eight months before President John F. Kennedy was assinated he made a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. It is said that he passed beyond the soldiers' graves and walked to the top of a hill. The story goes that as he paused there reflecting on the beauty of the area, he was quoted as saying, "I could stay here forever."

On November 25, 1963, the President was buried on that hill after being shot dead three days earlier.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Hero Unaware

In 1942, the U.S. government began quietly acquiring more than 60,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee for the Manhattan Project --the secret World War II program that developed the atomic bomb. The government needed land to build massive facilities to refine and develop nuclear materials for these new weapons, without attracting the attention of enemy spies. So, it had to be top secret! Not even the 45,000 construction workers knew what the facility was for. Companies, such as Chrysler, Union Carbide and Dupont, who risked their own money and reputations to assist the military in ending the war, were not told anything about the building of a bomb. Yet, they still agreed to help. Secrecy was of the highest priority. The entire area was fenced in and armed guards were posted!

In early 1943, ground was broken for the first production building at the Y‑12 Electromagnetic Separation Plant. It's purpose was to make enriched uranium.

The Y-12 electromagnetic plant units were initially operated by scientists from Berkeley. They were then turned over to operators, some with college degrees, but many with only a high school education. But, in a test to see who was best, those young "hillbilly" girl operators outproduced those with PhDs. One of those "hillbilly" girl operators was my great aunt, Mada Boles. She went to work soon after the facility at Oak Ridge opened and continued to work there in department B12H in the Y-12 plant up until she married in 1948.

I was sitting beside my then-90 year old aunt Mada at her kitchen table one day and we were looking out the window at a whipper wheel that was perched upside down on a feeder. She would sit there, sometimes for hours, watching those birds and when I would visit her, she would ask me to sit there beside her and she would tell me stories about her friends and family. It was on this particular day that my aunt Mada told me the story of how she made the bomb.

This story begins with my grandfather, Elmer Boles who had been on board the U.S.S. Samuel D. Champlain during the Normandy Invasion. When the ship returned home, most of the crew was dropped off on the east coast for a brief leave, while the ship continued on through the Panama Canal to the west coast. Elmer boarded a troop train that went from New York to Oakland, California, where he boarded a ship and set sail for the south Pacific and the Phillipines.

Meanwhile, President Truman had encouraged the country to unite in the war effort, and asked each citizen to do their part. Since my grandmother was busy at home raising the children, aunt Mada decided she would do what she could to assist the troops, and her brother. She had heard of the new government plant opening in Tennessee and how it was to "help" in the war effort, and although she did not have a clue what she would be doing, soon she was heading Oak Ridge.

On August 8, 1945, two days after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, aunt Mada, and the rest of the world, found out what had really been going on at Oak Ridge. On that day, when it came time for her supper break, she did her usual thing, head for the cafeteria. As she sat down at a table, she couldn't help but notice the headline on the front page of the newspaper a co-worker was reading at the next table: "PARTS OF THE BOMB MADE AT OAK RIDGE!"

The news was out! Thirty months after Oak Ridge began its secret work, the success of Y‑12’s mission was announced to the world. Two atomic weapons - the uranium bomb, Little Boy and the plutonium bomb, Fat Man - were detonated, causing the Empire of Japan to surrender and bringing World War II to an end. Y-12, where aunt Mada had worked, had separated the uranium used in Little Boy.

Aunt Mada could not believe what she had read. When her shift ended, she went to her dormitory room, sat down at a table and addressed a post card to my grandfather in the south Pacific. She couldn't wait to tell him about the goings on at Oak Ridge.

The card reached my grandfather's ship a couple of weeks later. He described what happened this way: "It was normal for shipmates to read each others mail because they were so far from home and homesick and the letters served as a sort of newspaper for them. Of course pages that contained close personal matters were not passed around." As Aunt Mada's letter with the news about Oak Ridge began making its way around the ship, soon everyone onboard was saying that "BOLES' SISTER MADE THE BOMB!"

So there you have the story about how my aunt Mada helped bring WWII to an end. When she finished telling me this remarkable story a smile came across her face. We went back to watching that whipper wheel perched upside down on the feeder, but I was entranced by her words. Her story and its climax had taken my breath. My thoughts were racing to a time, a secret time, when the whole world was on edge. In school, I had learned about the Manhattan Project, but I had no idea that my beloved aunt Mada, so small and frail at age 90, was called a hero during WWII. Life sometimes does have it's little surprises.

The photo is from the Y-12 Bulletin, which was published weely at the Oak Ridge facility and shows my aunt Mada and uncle Lester just before they were married. The marriage was the end of aunt Mazda's career at Oak Ridge.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

He Leadeth Me

"As a young man who recently had been graduated from Brown University and Newton Theological Institution, I was supplying for a couple of Sundays the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. At the mid-week service, on the 26th of March, 1862, I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further than the words “He Leadeth Me.” Those words took hold of me as they had never done before, and I saw them in a significance and wondrous beauty of which I had never dreamed. It was the darkest hour of the Civil War. I did not refer to that fact—that is, I don’t think I did—but it may subconsciously have led me to realize that God’s leadership is the one significant fact in human experience, that it makes no difference how we are led, or whither we are led, so long as we are sure God is leading us. At the close of the meeting a few of us in the parlor of my host, good Deacon Watson, kept on talking about the thought which I had emphasized; and then and there, on a blank page of the brief from which I had intended to speak, I penciled the hymn, talking and writing at the same time, then handed it to my wife and thought no more about it. She sent it to The Watchman and Reflector, a paper published in Boston, where it was first printed. I did not know until 1865 that my hymn had been set to music by William B. Bradbury. I went to Rochester, New York to preach as a candidate before the Second Baptist Church. Going into their chapel on arrival in the city, I picked up a hymnal to see what they were singing, and opened it at my own hymn, He Leadeth Me." - Joseph Henry Gilmore
He leadeth me, O blessèd thought
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught
What ’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me

Refrain He leadeth me He leadeth me By His own hand He leadeth me His faithful follower I would be For by His hand He leadeth me

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom By waters still, over troubled sea Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine Nor ever murmur nor repine Content, whatever lot I see Since ’tis my God that leadeth me

And when my task on earth is done When by thy grace the vict’ry’s won E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee Since God through Jordan leadeth me

Joseph Henry Gilmore was the son of New Hampshire Governor Joseph A. Gilmore. He was born on April 29, 1834 in Boston, Massachusetts, and died on July 23, 1918 in Rochester, New York.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...