By Kevin Slimp
It didn’t take a Nielson rating to uncover the favorite local entertainment in Lennox Valley in 1998. Without our own TV station, the newspaper and radio were our outlets for local news.
Our paper, The Lennox Valley Hometown News, came out every Wednesday morning like clockwork. A group of retired townspeople could be seen sipping coffee at the Dairy Queen on State Highway 111, beginning around 6:30 a.m. each week, while they waited for the paper to arrive.
Everyone’s most anticipated column was “Rumor Has It,” by Maxine Miller. This is where we would get the news that wouldn’t quite make it in one of Iris Long’s more, shall we say, journalistic columns.
As you might guess, Maxine’s favorite phrase was “rumor has it,” and each of her columns began with those words. “Rumor has it,” she would begin, “that T.J. Bordewyck was seen arriving home late in the evening on June 11, carrying a bouquet of flowers from Pratt’s Country Store.”
From that point, Maxine would elaborate on the reasons a man might bring flowers to his wife so late in the evening and why, with all the flowers in the world, he would choose to bring daffodils.
“As I remember,” Maxine wrote, “Sherilyn and T.J. were married in the fall, so those weren’t anniversary flowers.” “If it was her birthday,” Maxine penned, “perhaps he should have thought ahead and ordered something nice from QVC.”
Maxine loved to stir up the dust, and Lennox Valley was one dusty place. Maxine used to write, “The nice thing about living in a small town is when you don’t know what you are doing, somebody else does.”
It seemed like most gossip in Lennox Valley was born in one of three places: Maxine’s weekly column, Raymond Cooper’s radio show, or Caroline’s Beauty Salon. To be sure, however, Caroline had enough problems of her own after marrying her high school sweetheart, Salter Tittle, in 1989.
Salter, it seems, was quite the physical specimen in high school and one of Lennox Valley’s most decorated athletes. In 1988, Salter reached the state track & field finals for the third straight year. His specialty was the pole vault, which won him a gold medal at the state meet his senior year.
One can just imagine the teasing Caroline endured during high school while dating “Salter the Vaulter.” Kids can be cruel, and Caroline was no stranger to cruelty.
That’s probably why Caroline tried to keep mean, spiteful gossip to a minimum, as best she could. Plus, she had her own personal issues.
No one had noticed, yet, that Salter had left three weeks earlier with a garbage bag full of clothes, along with most of the money from the family bank account, and hadn’t returned. This was no time for Caroline to be spreading rumors about anyone else.
That wasn’t the case, though, with Maxine. Iris Long, editor of Hometown News, wasn’t thrilled with many of the rumors she would spread but Maxine was a big reason many of the good folks of the valley read The Hometown News each week.
So it was on the week of Sarah Hyden-Smith’s arrival to the Valley. Just four days before her first sermon at the Methodist church, Sarah opened the paper to read, “Rumor has it that the new minister at Lennox Valley Methodist Church is single.” Sarah was afraid to read further, but had no choice.
“Fortunately,” Maxine continued, “she won’t be the only single pastor in Lennox Valley,” referring to Brother Jacob at the Lutheran Church. “I’m guessing,” concluded Maxine, “that the Ministerial Alliance meetings are about to get much more interesting.”
Indeed, there was no shortage of entertainment in my hometown.
(Kevin Slimp now makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.)