By Kevin Slimp
With all the craziness surrounding Raymond Cooper’s candidacy for mayor and the appointment of Sarah Hyden-Smith at the Methodist Church, it would be easy to get the idea that life was never normal in my hometown. Let me make something clear: I’m sure there were normal days during my teen years. It’s just that I don’t remember any of them.
Thinking back, 1998 was clearly a different time. There were no cell phones, iPads or texting. While our parents were watching “Saving Private Ryan” at the theaters, we were home playing Mario Brothers and Legends of Zelda on PlayStation.
In 1998, we liked to think that men were still men and women were still women. Men, when not annihilating paper plates at the annual First Baptist Church turkey shoot, spent much of their time discussing sports or playing dominoes.
Women, however, found a much more addictive pastime by 1998. When it first appeared on the TV screen ten or so years earlier, QVC shopping network took the women of Lennox Valley by storm. Indeed, women in small towns throughout America seemed enchanted by the glow of the screen, and more than one battle erupted following the arrival of a CD by Italian pop artist Giovanni, which sold more than 100,000 copies during a two-hour sales pitch on QVC in the midst of a cold stretch of weather in February.
You name it and you could buy it on QVC. Jewelry, music, wedding dresses and makeup were all available with a quick call to an 800 number. Payment was no problem because viewers were reminded they could pay for their purchase in “two easy payments.”
Lisa Robertson, a former beauty queen from Tennessee, was the favorite QVC host among Lennox Valley viewers. Watching Lisa each day was like spending time with your beautiful, 33-year-old, best friend. Women from small towns like Lennox Valley would call in and talk with Lisa, who would give them personal advice on air, much like any best friend.
Discussing a recent purchase of a “Hugs and Kisses” bracelet by Cheryl, from Hanover, Pennsylvania, Lisa was quick to point out, “Your mom is so lucky. I don’t think you could do any better,” Cheryl, said with a loving smile.
It’s hard to know for sure, but rumor has it the FedEx box containing the Sandglass alarm clock was the final straw for TJ Bordewyck. It wasn’t so much that his wife, Sherilyn, had purchased her third alarm clock that year as it was seeing the red and blue overnight label and knowing that meant she had authorized a $12.95 surcharge to keep from waiting three to five restless days for her latest purchase to arrive.
TJ was livid as he burst out the door and made his way to the town square, where only the Hoffbrau and Pratt’s Country Store were open. Figuring that coming back home with the smell of Miller Lite on his breath might not be the best idea, TJ opted for a “cool down period at the store.
The good folks of the valley could always count on Perry Pratt for a smile and a listening ear, and so it was at 7:10 p.m. on June 11, 1998, when TJ made his way into Pratt’s.
“You’re open late tonight, Perry,” TJ bellowed as he walked to the counter.
“Yes,” responded Perry, “I’m gathering some things together to take to Marvin Walsh.”
“Is something wrong?” asked TJ. “You don’t usually make deliveries.”
Perry was surprised that TJ hadn’t heard. “Deloris passed away this afternoon,” he said with obvious sadness. “They’ve been married 64 years. It’s hard to believe.”
He asked TJ if there was something he could do for him. After a few moments of deep contemplation, TJ murmured, “I was hoping you might have some flowers.”
Entering his home with a bouquet of yellow daffodils for Sherilyn, TJ asked, “Where’s that new clock? I’m thinking it would look nice on our mantle.”
(Kevin Slimp is a writer and speaker who currently makes his home in Knoxville, Tenn. To learn more about The Good Folks of Lennox Valley, visit LennoxValley.com.)