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Remembering stonemasons

Remember When 

By Garland O. Goodwin

A recent column by my TDB colleague Max Phelps prompted me to write about the stonemasons I knew/know in Polk County, starting with the Capps Brothers. Rupee Capps lived near us and I went to school with his children.

His wife Pearl brought their daughter Sarah with her to visit my grandmother Rippy. I thought Sarah was quite pretty then (we were both about four or five years old). I still thought so when she attended the Lynn Reunions until we stopped having them.  

Then there was J. C. Williams, whom I learned from friend Ken Williams that his father was a stonemason. I remember J.C. for driving a Ford tractor around the county. When he died on that tractor, I wrote his wife, the former Lois Fisher, a typed three page letter! I was only 19 years old and in the Air Force at that time.

I had Terry Hudson build the drinking fountain in Stearns Park that I designed for Lion Dave Butts in memory of his wife Doris. Terry had built the fireplace and put down the stone floor in the foyer of the house I built in Holly Hill.

Like Max Phelps, I admire the work of stone masons. When I visited the Tom Costa house (later called Stonehedge and now the residence of the Scott Lanes) with Aunt Mildred when I was in my early teens, I was greatly impressed by the walls made of very large stones laid with no mortar showing. I was also intrigued by the oranges and lemons growing in the sunroom!

I understand that the rock wall all the way around Stearns Park was built by the WPA, so I don’t know who the masons were. Likewise, I have no idea who the stone mason was who built the river rock monument under the doughboy statue near the Courthouse.  

I like the looks of the stone work sign at College Drive to Hendersonville’s Blue Ridge Community College off South Allen Road. I saw it being built by the Hillbilly Stone Works masons and got their business card (I had found Terry Hudson by the time I needed him). I was happy to see the shrubbery removed that had grown to hide the stone work. We see it when we go to the Air Museum.

 Stone masonry moves at a deliberate pace because no two rocks are alike, and where and how to place the next one requires thought and choices. Bricks, on the other hand, are bought and laid by the hundreds and prized for their uniformity. This is not meant to take anything away from the brick masons; the masonry trades just use different skill sets!

White Oak will be out of lockdown by the time you read this. The gym and the dining rooms have reopened, but the scheduling is mystifying because of staffing shortages. 

The whole world is grinding to a halt because workers at all skill levels are desperately needed, especially semi drivers. Hiring bonuses are now commonplace, but jobs still go begging. No one will consider working for the minimum wage any more. The owner of the local McDonald’s has paid a lot more than the minimum for years in order to get workers. 

I am a retired person whose pension was fixed at an attractive level more than thirty years ago, but which now seems meager (so meager that we pay no Federal or State income tax!) Social Security COLAs are based on the CPI, but young people spend very little on medical care whereas it is about a third of many seniors’ spending.

There is little chance that our independently wealthy Congressmen will do anything to help us, however. Our COLAs are gobbled up by the increased Medicare premium, leaving a net gain far less than inflation. Not to mention that our Social Security Trust Fund contains mostly IOUs from our Government!  

Garland would like to hear from you, either at 828-859-7041 or email garlandgoodwin7@gmail.com.