Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 10, 2012

Alvin York's Son shares famous fathers's story

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — At age 83, Andrew York, son of World War I hero Alvin C. York is starting to at least talk about retirement.

Andrew York has worked as a ranger at the Alvin York Historic Park for many years giving tours of the home he was born and grew up in. That home was built for Andrew's father in 1922 by Nashville Rotary clubs after Alvin York returned from WWI where he was recognized as that war's most decorated soldier.

York proudly pointed out that the house includes all original furnishings and displays of family items and memorabilia of his father.

"Most historic houses can't begin to say that," said York. In addition to the crib he and his brothers and sisters slept in there is the dining room table that Andrew said was always seemed to be filled.

Andrew explained that he really didn't think much about his father's fame growing up, just that he had a lot of company and was often traveling during Andrew's youth. He said his mother always had plenty of food for visitors who happened to be by when it was time to eat and even strangers were invited in to share a meal.

According to Andrew, his father always farmed and, in 1943, Alvin York began to operate the grist mill and a general store too.

"He could have been a millionaire," said Andrew, "but dad always said Uncle Sam's uniform wasn't for sale."

All the money he earned from the movie Sergeant York went to build a Bible school and the York Institute for the young people of Fentress County. Alvin knew the value of a good education and wanted the best for the communities' children.

Andrew said that he often gets asked about the move starring Gary Cooper about his dad and he stressed that his dad had control over what was in the movie, something unheard of today. Based on information that Andrew has and compared to the movie, he said 90 to 95 percent of the movie is absolutely true.

He recounted tips with his dad during WWII when Sergeant York would travel to help sell Liberty Bonds and Alvin would always visit with soldiers. Alvin tried to enlist for WWII but was turned down due to his age. Andrew said, during bond promotion appearances, they would auction a stuffed white rabbit with a red ribbon that Andrew said would sometimes go for as much as $5,000 in bonds.

Andrew recalled he and his dad would often appear in parades on these trips and Andrew even got to ride in a tank during one appearance. He said he'd aways wanted to ride in a tank.

Andrew said he has some of his dad's items, including the dog tag he wore and other memorabilia his dad brought back from the war. He hopes these items will eventually end up on display in the museum.

Andrew explained that the first postmaster for Pall Mall was Mark Twain's father and the story is that the famous author was conceived there in Fentress County. Another often overlooked fact is that for a short period of time, the name of Pall Mall was changed to Alvin York, Tennessee. Again, Alvin eventually overruled the change and after about 9 months the name was changed back to Pall Mall.

Andrew added proudly that the original school building's exterior has been stabilized and restored. He added that now money was being raised to do the interior as classrooms again for the school. Andrew attended the York Institute as a student.

When Andrew York does retire, it will be a big loss to tourists who stop in to visit the house, grist mill and general store operated by Alvin York in Pall Mall a few miles north of Jamestown. Those close by who don't want to miss out on the unique insight of Alvin York's son giving tours of the house need to make plans to visit while Andrew continues to work and share his invaluable insight into a bit of Upper Cumberland history. Andrew said his days off are Wednesday and Thursday.

Andrew was visiting Crossville relatives, including cousin and local attorney Roger York who owns Peavine Wine and Spirits, where Andrew was signing autographs and chatting with visitors.