A Visit with Claytie Cook
By Sara Hope
She was born on Sept. 11, 1929, to Joe & Kathleen Rosborough, in Deason, Tennessee. She had two older sisters, Eleanor & Jean. The family lost their dairy farm in the Depression and moved to Pleasant Grove. Her first teacher was Ruth Waggoner, who taught at a one-room schoolhouse in Charity. She said, “Miss Ruth would come by each morning and take her to school.” She completed 1 &2nd grade at Pleasant Grove. “Moore County had a school bus that would come by our house. Actually, it was an old truck, that had wooden planks fastened to the insides and down the middle, and I remember being scooted off my seat, almost every morning, by some of the bigger boys. I was able to ride that bus and attend school in Moore County.” She said, “Miss Mary Sue Tipps was my 3rd-grade teacher, also Miss Addie Bobo, and Guy Ervin was my 7th-grade teacher.” The family moved back to Flat Creek and Claytie finished High School in Shelbyville.
I asked her to share some early childhood memories. She said, “My sisters were older and didn’t have a lot to do with me. I did have some imaginary friends.” I laughed and said, “You had more than one imaginary friend?” She smiled and said, “Yes, I had Irene, she was a little stick, that I had painted a face on, and I had several dolls, who played with me.” She shared that she played in the cab of an old truck, at the side of the house.” She smiled as some of her memories came back to her. “I had a set of tiny dishes and a cast iron pot that I actually cooked bean hulls in.” At this point in our interview, she held up her finger and said, “I’ll be right back.” She got up from the table a walked to the other room. She returned in a few moments with a small, kid-sized, cast iron cooking pot. I could tell, from the smile on Claytie’s face, that it was full to the brim, with precious memories for her. “I also had a small stove that I could actually cook on.”
“We had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and we had barn clothes, school clothes, and Church clothes, and you didn’t get your school clothes and Church clothes dirty.”
“When I was 7 years old, Daddy & Mother gave us each our own calf. I named mine Baby. Even after she was grown, I called her Baby. She was so small, when she was born, that I kept her in a cardboard box, behind the stove, until she was strong enough, to take to the barn.” The 3 girls helped with the milking and Claytie said, “Mother and Daddy kept a record of the milk, and gave us our share when it sold.” “We had to save our money to buy school clothes and books.” She also shared that they did have some money left to buy other things too. “It was a good lesson in managing money.”
Claytie shared, “My mother was so kind. When my sisters didn’t want to play with me, Mother and I would play Chinese checkers. We would play for hours. I still have my checkerboard and all the marbles that go with it.” Then she laughed and said, “I’ve got all those marbles, but I lost the rest of my marbles years ago.” Her smile and our laughter filled that little kitchen, as she shared that memory with me.
After Claytie graduated from High School, she attended Athens College in Alabama. She had a working scholarship, sponsored by the Methodist Church. In return for her schooling, she worked in a factory that made women’s underwear. After 6 months, “I was so homesick and I knew it was not right for me, so I wrote to Daddy to Please come get me.” She smiled and said, “He came to get me and we returned to Flat Creek.” She wanted to pursue work in the nursing field, so she applied at the Bedford County hospital, for a nurse’s aide position. She was paid $15.00 a week and received on-the-job training. “I liked helping people and knew I wanted to be a nurse.” At 19 years old, Claytie was given an opportunity to attend the University of Chattanooga, Nursing School at Erlanger on a working scholarship. “We had on-the-job training at the hospital and classroom studies at the College. I lived in a dorm, and we walked everywhere we went, in rain and snow.” She graduated from the Baroness Erlanger School of Nursing in 1951. She went to work at the Sewanee Hospital and lived in the dorms for 18 years.
In 1966 she returned to Flat Creek to care for her aging parents. She bought her first home and after 18 years of living out of a footlocker and shared closets, she furnished her first home with hand-me-downs and bought a few things from the Railroad salvage and from John F Worley Furniture store in Shelbyville.
Claytie married Allison Cook in June 1967, she was working at Fayetteville hospital, and expecting her first baby (babies) when her husband passed away in 1968. She delivered twin girls on July 9, 1968.
She and the girls moved to Lynchburg in August 1972. She went to work at the Health Dept. and worked with Ophelia Brazier and Dr. Booher. She was the Home Health nurse and retired in 1994.
As I sat across from this lovely lady, I was in awe, as we talked about her life. She has every attribute a person needs to succeed in life. She has worked hard, her whole life. She knew what she wanted and she went for it. She has overcome numerous obstacles and moved on. She is kind and a friend to everyone who knows her.
I asked her for some words of wisdom for young people of today. She smiled and said, “Learn your manners and it wouldn’t hurt to learn some Bible stories too.”
I had one last question. “What kept you going and helped you succeed in life?” She smiled this beautiful smile and said, “Mother thought I would succeed and I didn’t want to let her down.”
As I came back to Hope Street, I was smiling and thinking how lucky Lynchburg is, that we all have a Claytie Cook in our life.