McDowell Technical Community College

Mine Creek Baptist Church

Remember when…

By Preacher Chris Rathbone

Mitchell County

Located in the Northern part of Mitchell County is a community called Tipton Hill. I’m certainly not being disrespectful when I say this, but its one of those places that if you’re not a local you probably won’t even realize you have driven by it. Sort of like the Estatoe community where I grew up. The only reason most people would realize they were in Estatoe was that one green state sign that had the name written on it!

Though it’s closed now, at one time, there was a school in Tipton Hill. Across from this now empty school building is the Griffith family General Store. This general store has been a landmark in that community and in our county for many, many years. The business was owned by Frank Griffith and is now operated by his son Jerry. This has been a family business as far back as I can remember. The store carries some power equipment, fertilize, farm equipment, garden seeds, canning supplies, weed killer, and many items that you just will not find in a big chain store. Most importantly it carries a reputation for honest dealings and friendly service to all who patronize the business. Every time I have ever visited the store there is always a smile and “What can we help you with?” Frank seemed to me to be a softer-spoken man when one would come in the store. Jerry, however, is quite different. He will greet you “plum” across the store and has a laugh that can be heard in the parking lot. There is much to be said about a rural business where people greet you by name and go out of their way to help find what you need. You just don’t find that much anymore.

The other day Michelle and I visited the store to pick up some things we needed for the garden. We always enjoy browsing around to see what unusual items they carry that you don’t see much elsewhere. We were looking around and my eyes fell upon something that brought back a flood of memories. There on a shelf was what I call an ol’ timey butter churn. Now that’s not something you’ll find at the local chain store!

In my heart and mind I immediately went back to when I was a boy. In my grandma’s kitchen, next to the door sat her ol’ butter churn. There were many mornings before daylight had even broke, that I woke up to the sound of Mammie churning butter and humming or singing while she worked that stick up and down. There was a certain rhythm that she always had while she worked: Chunka, chunka,chunka, chunka…. I know that’s probably not a word, but that’s what it sounded like. Seeing those butter churns brought back memories of Mammie’s Kool-Aid, cornbread, pickled beans and corn, her tattered aprons that she kept patching up, the way she wore her hair in that little bun on top or her head, etc, etc. I can see her in my mind, leaning upon that crutch, walking out the path to the little Church of God where she worshipped her Savior. She would sit for the longest times in her living room and play her piano and sing the beautiful old hymns. My heart remembers all those prayers I heard her pray for her family and loved ones. Many nights I would wake up and see light shining under my bedroom door. Upon opening the door, Mammie would be sitting there at the kitchen table with her head down on her Bible where she had fallen asleep reading the Word of God. What a way to drift off to rest!

On the way home, we talked of the many memories we have of the past. Michelle has a cast iron pan and a dough roller of her grandma’s that makes her think of her every time she uses them. On the wall in our den hangs one of the crosscut saws that my Pa and Daddy used when he was a boy. There’s a wood cook stove in my basement that belonged to my Daddy and Momma which I will keep for the years to come to remind me of who cooked on that stove and what they mean to me.

Michelle and I recalled on that drive home of how, when we were younger, we thought bigger was better. We would travel every weekend to the bigger cities and thought that was the stuff. The older I get, I realize how much we have lost. The small town feel of people knowing your name means something to me. Being in a community where everybody comes together in their hearts to pray for someone is a blessing. Just the other week we ran into an old schoolmate who shared with us how they decided to move back “home”. Now I know that there will be many who read this and won’t agree with me, but for me, I’m happy that I live in a place where I can see an ol’ butter churn and it helps me to “remember when.”

In Christ,

Preacher Chris