If you ever want to visit with a true blue Moore County girl, Bertha May Rainey Baker is the girl to talk to. She was born at home in 1936 to mother Maggie and father, Crawford Rainey. She was 2nd in line of five siblings, and their home was a little house that sat at the top of the hill behind Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
She said that growing up in Lynchburg was wonderful. “We did not have a t.v., but we had a radio. We played outside all day long,” Mrs. Baker said. Kick the can, Annie over and drop the handkerchief were her favorite games. “I remember the day we got electricity in our house. I remember looking around and everything seemed so bright. We had a party line telephone and you had to count the number of rings to determine who the call was for.”
Bertha started school at Lynchburg Elementary the year she turned 7 years old. She remembered her teachers, Miss Mary Sue Parkes, Miss Mary Sue Evans, Charlotte Motlow, Elizabeth Majors and Mr. Daniels.
Bertha shared a memory that one summer Don and Glendon Bobo, set up a open air movie theater on the vacant lot where her store, Baker’s Antiques now stands. “They lined up metal chairs and Don set up a big screen and a projector to watch cowboy and Indian movies. Ms. Glendon took up the money. I remember what a treat that was for us kids.” Bertha smiled and said, “That was before Lynchburg had a swimming pool”, then she laughed and said, “but we had a couple of pool rooms.”
Bertha shared how special Christmas time was for her and her family when she was little. “My Dad would always buy us presents, he really loved Christmas time. Santa was very good to us, I always got tea sets and dolls. Even after we were all grown, my Dad would always buy each of us something special for Christmas.” She had an Uncle named Earl Pitts who lived in Florida and would gift Bertha’s family a basket of fruit each year, which was a special treat. “One Christmas, the basket had kumquats scattered throughout the basket. That was something you didn't see everyday in Lynchburg!” Bertha shared that when she was little, she remembered there was a celebration on the Square at Christmas time, and the merchants would give toys away. “I remember one year my brother got a scooter and we wore that thing out!”
As a teenager, Bertha would gather with her friends and meet at each other’s houses for parties and weenie roasts. During that time, Bertha starting dating Clarence Edward Baker, who had a car and would go take her to the movies and on rides up to Sewanee Mountain on Sunday afternoons. The two married in 1954. He farmed, raising dairy cows and a tobacco crop every year. He also sold produce, tools, and other goods from his truck on the square during growing season. Bertha did factory work, crafting shoes, jackets, dresses, and gloves. Clarence and Bertha raised their two children, Joyce and Stanley, here in Lynchburg. Clarence and Bertha accumulated an inventory of tools, antiques, and collectibles, opening Baker’s Antiques in 1992 on the Lynchburg square. After 54 years of marriage, Clarence passed away in 2008. Their daughter Joyce has stepped up to assist her mother in the running of Baker’s Antiques. “I couldn't do it without Joyce,” Bertha said.
Mrs. Baker has seen the major changes to the Lynchburg square over the years firsthand. “The square used to be a working square, there was no need to leave Lynchburg. If we didn't have it in town, we didn't need it,” Bertha said. “We even had our own used car lot. Mr. James Dickey had a lot where the new health department is located.”
“We used to know everybody that walked by. We could hear Bull Waggoner laughing down in front of the Farmers Co-op. That is where all the town characters whittled and gossiped and teased folks.”
Joyce and Bertha always have a warm welcome for everyone who comes through their door at Baker's Antiques. While I was interviewing Bertha, people would come in the store and Bertha would welcome them in like they were family. She asked where they were from and you could tell each visitor felt special, speaking to a sweet Southern lady. Bertha shared that she loves her job, especially meeting the people who come in from all over the world. “Years ago, a man came in from Japan and purchased two long cross cut saws. Clarence helped him roll them up and tie them tight so the man could carry them in his suitcase back home.”
I asked Bertha my last question, “Do you have any words of wisdom for our young people?” She paused for a moment. then said, “Be faithful to yourself, follow your heart and remember that every day is a thankful day.”
Before I left I took a few minutes to walk around Baker's Antiques. I saw many toys and knick knacks that were part of my youth. There was a an old bottle of Jack Daniel Spring water that the distillery gave away back in the 70's. I remembered our barn had several of those bottles scattered around. My heart sank when I saw that they are now a collector’s item and worth a pretty penny.
My visit with Bertha was so special. Sharing memories about her life in Lynchburg made me even more thankful that I live just across the Mulberry Creek, over here on Hope Street.