Appalachia History Pap

September 2, 1945

old red house with bushes grown up around it

Harshaw Road – Cherokee County NC

September 2, 1945 the Japanese delegation formally signed the instrument of surrender marking the official ending of World War II.

At that time, Pap’s family lived just over the hill from the old house that still stands on Harshaw Road.

He took me to the old homeplace one time. While there was nothing left of the house he lived in as boy, the structure, people, and memories still lived large in Pap’s mind.

His eyes sparkled as he shared one of his favorite memories from those days with me.

Pap and his mother were outside working in the almost gone garden, trying to harvest every thing they could for the coming winter.

In the stillness of the day they suddenly heard a strange sound. They quickly realized it was their nearest neighbor lady.

Pap said “She was too far away to hear or understand anything she was saying, but she was running around in the yard waving her hands and shouting about something.”

His mother said “Jerry you better go on over there and see what’s going on. See if she needs help.”

Pap remembered “I did as I was told, but dreaded what I was about to have to help with.”

Turns out Pap needn’t have worried about what he’d find.

The neighbor lady had a radio and she’d just heard that World War II had ended. She had great reason to celebrate by running around shouting and waving her arms. Two of her boys were serving in a foreign country, fighting for the good of us all.

As Pap ran back across the field to home he brought good tidings of great joy along with him. His mother had several brothers who were in service, not to mention the friends and neighbors up and down Brasstown creek who were participants in the war.

It’s probably been two years since I read “The Dollmaker” written by Harriet Simpson Arnow. If you’ve never read the book I highly recommend it. The book tells the story of a family from Appalachia who move to Detroit during World War II. The book made me cry more than once and I got so mad at the main character Gertie that I wanted to literally shake her, but that’s what good books do: make you feel strong emotion.

Harriet Simpson Arnow was a master at sharing a true look at the culture of Appalachia. Over the coming days I’ll be sharing excerpts from the book. I hope you’ll stick around for this week long look at “The Dollmaker.”


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  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    I started reading “The Dollmaker” and I agree that Harriet Simpson Arnow was a powerful writer, but I had to stop when they were getting ready to move to Detroit because it made me so darned sad I cried.

  • Reply
    Charles Perry
    September 3, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    You probably have seen the movie as well as having read the book. In case you haven’t, here are the details. You can probably check it out from your local library.

    The Dollmaker (1984)
    2h 22min | Drama | TV Movie 13 May 1984
    The Dollmaker Poster
    Jane Fonda gives an Emmy-winning performance as Gertie Nevels, a pioneer woman and the mother of five from the Kentucky hills who is forced to uproot her children to follow her husband … See full summary »
    Director: Daniel Petrie
    Writers: Susan Cooper (teleplay), Hume Cronyn (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
    Stars: Jane Fonda, Levon Helm, Amanda Plummer | See full cast & crew »

  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I did not know it was a book, but I remember the movie. It was so good. Now I want to read the book.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 3, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I can understand the joy felt on Sept. 2, 1945; my Paternal Grandmother was widowed in 1928 when my Grandfather was killed in a logging accident. She had lost one son to SIDS prior to being widowed. Grandma was left with three sons to raise through the depression which she accomplished with the help of her sons. On Sept. 2, 1945 my father her oldest son and his brother her next oldest were both serving in the US Army in the South Pacific. The signing of surrender meant that this rugged Appalachian Woman would not have to suffer any more loses to her family at this time.

  • Reply
    Susan C
    September 3, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve requested it from the Marianna Black Public Library in Bryson City.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 3, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    No wonder folks love you and your Family so much. …Ken

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    September 3, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    This post touched me in several ways. My grandfather and his 3 brothers fought in WWII. One did not come home.
    As far as Pap taking you to where he lived as a child, I understand that connection even when the home is gone. One of my favorite things to do is to locate the land where my ancestors once lived and stand on it (or as close as I can get to it) and breathe the air while thinking about them and the lives they must have lived. We are going to spend our 26th wedding anniversary in a cabin in Cocke County, TN that is such land. Hope to dip my feet in Cosby Creek which they lived alongside of. As always, thank you for your posts. They always get me thinking in ways I never expect.

  • Reply
    Jeanne FUGINA
    September 3, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you Tipper for the recommendation of the book, The Dollmaker. I was not aware of this book, but promptly went to Amazon and ordered it. My Grandmother also had four sons in the war. Her husband died in 1943 and Grandma was 47 with two unmarried daughters at home and four sons in the military. She moved with her family to Wisconsin in 1906 from Eastern Kentucky. They moved up North for jobs in the lumber industry. Grandma came from a family of Democrats, but she was a staunch Republican all of her life. I remember the huge remembrances of the war at Memorial Day time. Big parades, visits to the cemetery, flags waving everywhere and families and towns getting together to “remember” the sacrifice by all. War is terrible. If we could only remember just how bad and pass that horrible memory on to the next generation. Maybe, we would never have another war. Never happen. So sad.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    I had an uncle Burlie that was in the war. I commend the soldiers for those have fought and those that are fighting for us today. I pray God be with them and watch over them. It seem like i watch the movie, but im gonna have to ck again. Thanks Tipper for letting my mine go back for awhile.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 10:53 am

    The Dollmaker is one of my top 10 favorites. I have read it 3-4 times since high school in the 60’s, The movie was good, but the book was best.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 3, 2019 at 9:30 am

    We who were born after WWII have never known anything in national life that affected everything so directly. There probably was not a place nor a person in the while country not directly affected with relatives in the military, in the war industries or some kind of support services. And then there was rationing. I wonder if we are still capable of such unified action.

    Mrs. Arnow taught school in the next county north of where my wife and I grew up. Her book “The Dollmaker” was made into a movie starring Jane Fonda. In order to get the speech right, Fonda lived some weeks with a elderly couple in Mt.Sterling, Ky. I do not agree with her politics but she did a very good job in that film. As best I recall, it is among the very few that have captured Appalachian character. Were a re-make ever made, I nominate you to be an on-site consultant.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      September 3, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      Ron. I second the motion for Tipper.

  • Reply
    Sallie, the apple doll lady
    September 3, 2019 at 9:19 am

    I don’t read many books nor read very often. I prefer shorter articles. But I’ve read The Dollmaker and started it again twice. Each time I thought about skipping over the “attention getter” incident at the beginning but it grabs me and I can’t stop until she gets the child to the doctor. Every sentence paints a picture. I expect incidents like that might have been fairly common in the mountains. A man once told me that as a young man using a sickle or ax he cut his leg to the bone and had to find his mother’s sewing box and sew the skin himself since he was alone that day. I cannot imagine having to do some of those things as a result of emergency in those circumstances. I do remember my mother and sister and I watching one of my brothers board a plane on a rainy morning knowing Ft Dix meant Vietnam Nam but I cannot imagine my grandmothers lives, one with 5
    sons serving in WWII. Thanks for sharing The Dollmaker.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 9:16 am

    That was indeed a great day for many of the folks from Pinnacle Creek and Burke Mountain. My Dad served in Engand and France. He was on one of three ships, and one or maybe two of them were sunk. I thank God he survived. Ashamed that I am not more knowledgeable of the details, as it was a well documented occurrance. Anyway, family rallied and a country doctor was called when I was born. Many families had more than one member in that terrible war, as there were large patriotic families in those days. I love Pap’s memory, and I am certain that Mother’s joy was shared by folks in all parts of the world.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 3, 2019 at 9:04 am

    That Lady had plenty to shout about. What a tough generation that fought that war. I’ve wondered how my Grandparents felt with three of their sons in the war. I believe it is harder on loved ones who stay home.
    I’ve never read the book or seen the movie and looking forward to your excerpts. I may never watch the movie for the main star is not exactly one of my favorite people.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2019 at 9:01 am

    The Blind Pig post has introduced me to more than one good book in the past. I anxiously await the excerpts of another book I’m sure I will be reading soon.

  • Reply
    Brynne K Crowe
    September 3, 2019 at 7:46 am

    I read & loved the Dollmaker years and years ago, prompted by a TV movie starring Jane Fonda as Gertie. I don’t remember much about the movie except it was good enough to inspire me to read the book. Looking forward to your comments about it. Probably need to re-read now.

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