Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Woody Frankum Ceilings

My life in appalachia - Woody Frankfum Ceilings

One of our favorite tv shows is House Hunters on HGTV. We enjoy seeing how people live in different parts of the country-and the international version of the show almost always makes me realize how good we have it in the US.

The girls and I laugh at the folks who are picky. The 2 most common complaints counter tops that aren’t granite and popcorn ceilings.

A few months ago we watched a show where the couple was so adamant about not having popcorn ceilings, you would’ve thought they were refusing to live near a meth lab.

After the show I started thinking about how sheetrock ceilings have changed over the years with popcorn ones falling out of fashion years ago.

I was only 5 or 6 when we moved into Pap and Granny’s house. But I still remember the excitement. Pap built it with his own hands for less than $10,000.00. Granny was so happy to move into a new house. She felt rich beyond words because she’d never lived in a new house-I don’t guess Pap had either.

Different folks helped Pap with the house-family, neighbors, and friends. Woody Frankum finished the ceilings. Pap’s known Woody his whole life. Woody used a brush to leave the design you see above in the picture. I wonder how many times he swarped that brush through the house, too many times to count, although I used to lay in my bed and try to count the ones in my room.

By the time The Deer Hunter and Pap built our house Spanish Lace was the ceiling style of choice in our area. One of Pap’s friends, Jerry Ledford, finished our ceilings. He told Pap he’d do our ceilings only because Pap asked. In those days house building was booming here and Jerry’s expertise was in great demand. Pap still says our ceilings are the prettiest he’s ever seen. They are nice, but I think Pap’s opinion of them has more to do with an old friend doing a favor for his family.

In the book, Appalachian Values, Loyal Jones, says: “Sense of place is one of the unifying values of mountain people, and it makes it hard for us to leave the mountains, and when we do, we long to return.”

I think the reason I enjoy House Hunter’s so much is because I’m fascinated by people who pick up and move across the country or even across the world. It’s something I could never do. I’m not saying my unwillingness to move is a healthy thing-it just is what it is.

I couldn’t move into a house and not want to know who laid the floors, who finished the ceilings or who used a stub of a pencil to figure materials needed on the studs inside the walls.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    May 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Such an interesting post, Tipper. I don’t know the names of different ceilings, but you have made me curious.
    Also, talking about place,I remember when I was very small, my father had a new frame house built right in front of the old farm house. For years our family referred to that house as “the new house.” Our family had three different houses on the same plot of land, the last one being a nice brick house built onto the three rooms and a bath that had been built onto “the new house.” This brick house was referred to as the “big house” by my brothers and their kids.
    Yes, I certainly understand that sense of place and how important it is in our lives.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    May 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    The first two years of our marriage we lived in an upstairs apartment. Then we bought an acre of land in the country, had a house built and have lived here ever since. I don’t like moving. Our ceilings look like they were done with a sponge and around all the ceiling lights are swirls.

  • Reply
    May 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Well I pulled up stakes and moved 300 miles from my home. And now I’ve been here so long that it’s my home. I do like to go back and visit my first home from time to time though. I’ve been yearning to visit there for a couple of years now. Maybe I’ll get to go this summer.

  • Reply
    May 19, 2012 at 2:27 am

    As long as it keeps the rain out I’ll be satisfied.

  • Reply
    Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits
    May 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I don’t watch House Hunters very often but I do recall the “popcorn ceiling meth lab” freaks! Tsk, tsk. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they could have had such a bad popcorn ceiling experience to tarnish them for life. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Our Grandmother’s one house had a fancified ceiling of a sunflower patted into the white plaster. It was pretty, but I daresay some folks nowadays would find fault with it.
    I know what is meant about the persnickety ones; they drive me crazy with going into a room and complaining about the color the walls are painted, as if paint is expensive or painting is difficult which neither are. I find myself wanting to take them by the ears, shake them and say…”If you want a house that is just your way, you have to be able to afford to build it!” LOL
    And how about the ones that want all stainless steel appliances and then admit they never cook. Huh???
    God bless.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    and Ed…Oh, I don’t remember Bing Crosy!..I just read about him in the history books..LOL ];<)

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    May 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Moving into and out of a house, especially one that is a home, is a real chore. I have moved three times in my life, two I was anxious to leave, but one of them was extra special. It was hard to do. However, I love our place in the foothills with the quietness and the greenery all around us. We don’t have popcorn ceilings, but I did have the swirl ceiling in one of the houses. I really liked them.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I am also a fan of house hunters. I love old houses…ours is over 100 years old. I really get a kick out of those folks on that show that will walk into a room and say “this will have to go”. Most of the time they are referring to something about the home that I really like. LOL, I guess there is no accounting for taste.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    B Ruth-How many people are still around that remember Bing Crosby?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    The use of swarped seems so natural to me that I didn’t even notice. If it ain’t in the dictionary it shore oughta be.
    My dad used a sponge to pull the compound away from the ceiling. He called it stippling. Uncle Wayne did the swirls with a round brush and overlapped each row. He could make straight rows or offset them like shingles.I don’t remember how he finished it because he would have had a full swirl at the end and that wouldn’t look right. Maybe he swarped the last row with a flat brush. The Deer Hunter might know the answer to that.
    I can’t watch HGTV because my TV only gets American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Storage Wars and hour and a half long movies (glorified soaps) on Lifetime. So, you could say I pretty much don’t watch TV.

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Right after buying this place where my shop is, I had some
    landscaping and burning to do,
    scorching my neighbor’s goat in
    the process. But after the building had a finished roof, the
    Contractor outsourced my office to
    a couple of sheetrock guys he knew. When they did the ceiling,
    they were on Johnny-Walkers and
    spackled the ceiling real rough.
    After 25 years it still looks

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

    And one more thing…those into the future home or house hunters…will be looking for the ceiling artists…Woody Frankum and or Jerry Ledford…or maybe the rare artist that was married to B. Ruth…yep, it was homemade…LOL
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    May 18, 2012 at 11:08 am

    There seems to be a common thread here! People who love Tipper and her Blog also love House Hunters! Include me in!
    When we had to move from home up here to Michigan, we musta looked at 80 houses! (I’m not kiddin!) Granite countertops, stainless steel fixtures, popcorn ceilings, or hardwood floors weren’t even on my list of “must haves” (although we DID get the hardwoods – yeah!) My only must haves were a yard we could fence for my dogs, trees, and someplace quiet away from major roads. Took a long time, but we found the perfect house for us. Now, if I could just pick it and the yard up and put it back down in NC…

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 18, 2012 at 10:55 am

    When I was a kid, we moved into a house that had similar fan brushed ceilings and they looked nice. I also owned a house that had popcorn ceilings and I would be a person who walks away from a potential purchase of a house that has popcorn, not because it is no longer the rage, but because I have actually tried to paint walls that are next to popcorn. I couldn’t so much as look at that stuff without it shedding popcorn! It was a big pain. If I bought a house with popcorn, which is not likely, before I moved in, I would scrape, sand, refinish and primarily get rid of it.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I can just hear the future home buyer…”One thing we are looking for is Popcorn Ceilings….and do you know where we might purchase a shag carpet if we purchase this house.” LOL What goes around comes around!
    Thanks for a great post Tipper…I’m not sure what my ceilings are..They sure don’t look like popcorn…but tiny little icicles..duh..I’m not goin’ anywhere. I love this old place, we’ve been here since 1972..but would like to visit some of those..
    Faraway Places with strange soundin’ names
    Far away over the sea.
    Those far away places with strange soundin’ names
    Are callin’, callin’ me…
    Does anyone remember that song once sung by Bing Crosby?

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    May 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I’m with you that the hardest thing is to pick up and move away from all that is familiar. I have done it twice in my life and hope that I am planted now for life: )
    By the way my ceilings are orange peel pattern which seems to be the pattern of choice in the area…

  • Reply
    Ripley Bradshaw
    May 18, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Tipper, my wife (The Boss) watches HGTV all the time, as well. I’ve watched “House Hunters” with her, and am amazed at the things people demand in a house they are shopping for. It is almost like they aren’t able to do for themselves, and will pay a premium to get something that they could do themselves for a few dollars. Are these people really that lazy?
    Thanks for your blog, and the things you write about that make me realise how much I miss the mountains of WNC!

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 8:43 am

    i love your ceilings and ours are of course POPCORN. i watch House Hunters also and laugh out loud sometimes at the things people get upset about. the one that i have so much trouble with is they walk into a bathroom that is as big as my front bedroom and say this is really tight, to small, we are used to a big bathroom and the one they are looking at i could put both of our bathrooms inside and have room left over. i am wondering what they do in their bathrooms that they need so much space. i bathe and fix my hair and do the have to and that is is. i once had a bathroom that the commode was so tight agains the shower i could rest my feet in the shower, and my knees touched the wall. it had the 3 needed things. i love house hunters because i get to travel the world from my chair.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Tipper (and Ed Ammons)–Several comments. First, I loved Tipper’s use of the word “swarped”–I’m not sure you’ll find it in a dictionary, but it is certainly in my vocaulary. Second, I have a cousin named Jerry Ledford (not the same one) but given the fact that the roots come from Clay County I bet there is a connection. For Ed, Loyal Jones is a noted Appalacian scholar who has written a bunch of books. His collections of mountain humor are delightful.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    May 18, 2012 at 8:36 am

    House Hunters is one of my most favorite shows, too. I have moved in my life and I must say living in a home that has such meaning as those in you life would make it so much more difficult!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    May 18, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I have to admit that House Hunters is one of my favorite shows too, and I am also amazed at how folks turn up their noses at lack of this/that, yet their price range falls far below a house that would have all those things.
    Regardless, my in-laws built a beautiful house years ago where they planned it all out and did all the work, some of it with the help of friends. What a beautiful house they created! Other friends built their basement and lived in it until they could build “on top”, as they said, and within a couple of years they did that, and, again, an amazing home.
    My house isn’t big and it isn’t fancy by any means, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    May 18, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I guess I have strong feelings about ceilings (hey- I’m a poet!). I am a fan of plain and simple.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 18, 2012 at 7:57 am

    A sense of place. Tipper that’s a very strong attachment among our Appalachian folks, probably a defining trait. Don’t mess with us and ours and ‘ours’ includes our place.
    Yes, Pap is right, your ceilings are very pretty. I was looking at you ceilings and thinking that very thought the last time I came to visit. You remember, the time I got the speeding

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    May 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

    One of my earliest childhood memories was of my mother applying the suction cup (or whatever the device was)to wet plaster on the ceiling to create patterns in an otherwise drab post-World War II government issued apartment in still secret Oak Ridge, TN.
    She was from a family of 10 that lived in a house meant for four, but this one was hers alone (not counting the two kids she had and the two yet to come; this was her first home. Pride of place resides not only in the mountains, but in the heart of our secret souls.
    But, please, let it not have popcorn ceilings.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 18, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Who this? Loyal Jones? Where have I seen that name before? Ain’t there a Loyal Jones in the family tree? Yep, there he is. Uncle of wife of 1st cousin 1x removed. Could he be the same?
    Thanks Tipper, you have given me this weekends quest!
    I used to be a ceiling swirl counter and pattern seeker. Now I have those out of fashion ceilings.

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