By Heather Mullinix
What an absolutely wonderful weekend! After months of dark, dreary weather, and bitter cold that has kept many people inside, huddled under blankets chasing away the chill, we were blessed with highs near 70 degrees and sunshine — lots and lots of sunshine.
It was enough to help chase away some of those winter blues that had started to plague me, along with a bad case of cabin fever.
It also had the effect of making me want to clean house. I've never been a fan of spring cleaning, but this past weekend, I couldn't help it. I was washing windows, organizing closets, scrubbing floors and tossing out some accumulated "junk." I'd like to pause of a moment and thank my mother for the genetic predisposition to be a pack rat. I thought I had that impulse under control, but after going through a few closets and the craft/disaster room, I realized I did not. It took several trips to the recycling center to rid my home of the stuff I decided was no longer needed.
Of course, I came across several things I just could not bear to get rid of. I probably shouldn't have even opened the box. When I did, I was flooded with memories.
There I had a collection of several years worth of newspapers, all with my byline. These are not recent writings. They're from my early years writing for the Crossville Chronicle and the Glade Sun. At one time, it was common practice for newspaper writers to collect their newspaper clippings as examples of their work. I kept the papers, but never got around to actually clipping the stories. But as I sifted through those old papers, the memories came flooding back and it was as though the interviews for those stories took place only yesterday.
There was my feature on Ed Smiley, who was an engineer for NASA during the Apollo missions. He became a character in the movie Apollo 13 because his team came up with the fix for the air filters. He retired to Fairfield Glade and I was privileged to talk with him about the experience in the fall of 2001.
There were lots of stories from my early days covering the Cumberland County Board of Education, including the meeting where it was decided Homestead Elementary, which had been suffering from issues with mold, would not be razed and rebuilt, but instead remodeled. The old gym would have to go, but a new gym that reflected the unique architecture and style would be built in its place, with additional classroom space, as well.
Looking back, I was a wide-eyed kid hoping I could make a go of this career I had chosen.
I recall my very first assignment for the Glade Sun, though I can't find my copy of it anywhere. In my first week at the newspaper, in August 2000, in my first job right out of college, I was trying to find a way to be useful. The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation had sent information about a campaign under way to purchase Black Mountain to become part of the Cumberland Trail, which was brand new at the time.
The information from the foundation talked of the historical significance of the site and how it would play an integral role in the new linear state park. Brock Hill, then Cumberland County Mayor, was the local contact for the campaign, and he agreed to show me around the site and explain why it was so important that it be preserved for generations to come.
That's all recorded in the archived copies of the Glade Sun. Now, here's the rest of the story.
Back then, we used film to capture pictures, instead of the nice digital cameras we use today. After taking the photos, we'd run the film to a local one-hour processing place and then scan the negatives. It produced a better reproduction than scanning a print. On Thursday, I dropped off my film to be processed, planning to scan my photos and get a jump on the following week's issue. It was a holiday week that next week. With Labor Day on Monday, the office would be closed, but my deadline on Tuesday remained. I hoped to finish most of the issue up on Friday and enjoy Labor Day as a new member of the full-time work force.
Except that didn't happen. I had a snafu with the film. When I returned to pick up the developed negatives, they were blank, and a strange purple color.
It seems I had picked up a roll of black and white film instead of color film. Black and white film could not be developed by the one-hour processing business, and the mistake hadn't been noticed by myself or the photo technician until it was too late.
A great photo helps people want to read a story, and I was now without a picture. Thankfully, I was full of energy. I grabbed more film, checking it first to ensure it was color, and a friend and returned to the trail to get more photos. The first time, I had been lucky enough to come across a group of young people, probably about my age, sitting and looking out over the valley below. This time, there was no one else on the trail. I've always regretted not getting a record of that shot.
Over the years, there have been more missed shots, for various reasons, and each one teach a lesson. That first lesson though, was important. Always check your film before you head out, and take lots and lots of pictures. You won't be able to use them all, but it increases the odds you'll get something memorable.
And that's what we're in the business of here at the Chronicle, recording memories. As I looked back over some of my own from those early years, I'm glad I was a bit of a pack rat.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.