“Meet your neighbor”
Anna Goforth can be described with one word – amazing. It was a joy to meet with her over the holidays as she shared wonderful memories of her exciting life. Anna and her daughter, Katie Goforth, both contributed to this week’s column.
Anna was born in Hartford, Arkansas in 1917 to David Murphy and Anna Belle (Dykes) Griswold. Her family had moved to Hartford from Coalmont. In addition to Anna, the Griswold’s had four other children – David (Monk), Johnny, Bernice, and Ellene.
However, Anna has deep roots in Grundy County. Her family was one of the founding families of the county and her grandmother operated The Onion boarding house in Coalmont.
“We moved to Hartford because there was a strike at the coalmines in Coalmont,” says Anna. “Several families from here went to Hartford to work in the mines. While we were there, my sister Ellene died of Typhoid fever. We brought her back and buried her in Altamont. It wasn’t long after that when we packed up and moved back to Coalmont.
“I was around seven or eight years old when we moved back. I went to school here, I attended Coalmont and Shook and Grundy County High School.
“When I was in high school a crop duster came to Tracy City, at the ball park, and gave rides. My uncle had given me the money to ride the plane and my friend Libby Flannigan and I went to the ball field.
“The first person I saw when we got there was my daddy and he was not happy. He told me I was not going up in that plane. Well, I put my hands on my hips and said ‘little pet will.’ I went up for my ride. The next day the plane crashed into a house.”
“I left high school before I graduated and got married to Carl Sweeton, a coalminer. We had two children, Carl David and Mona.”
Leaving high school early did not curtail Anna’s love of learning and reading. She has always been an avid reader and she completed her GED and studied Library Science at MTSU while working and raising her family.
Anna worked at the Annex while in high school and at Kennedy’s restaurant in Monteagle. She was an operator for Dixie Telephone. During this time, the phone system used shared party lines and Anna was the first to hear all of the gossip.
However, when asked if there was any good gossip she would share, Anna said “No, absolutely not!”
Anna left the phone company and went to work at Genesco, the shoe factory in Cowan. Her job involved sewing buckles on straps. The women worked on a point system and were required to make 800 points every day.
“When I first started, it took me three hours to finish one case. Other women were having to give me their points. But, in six weeks I was making my 800 points and giving points to other women.
“I made great friends there. Ruth Webb and I would go all over the factory singing for the workers. One of our favorites was “The Little Red Rooster.
“We had a play at the factory and somebody pulled me around in a little red wagon while I sang “Would You Ride with Me in My Little Red Wagon.”
Anna met her second husband, Douglas Goforth, while he was taking the census. Doug was the principal at Shook, and was working as a census taker during the summer. In the course of his job, he came to Anna’s house.
“He talked to my sister, Bernice, more than he talked to me that first day. But, not too long after that visit he asked me on a date.”
Katie says there is a funny story about Anna and Douglas. When Anna was married to Carl, she was drying diapers over the stove and the house caught on fire. The Goforth family came to help put out the fire.
“Daddy says that while he was serving in World War II he dreamed about my mom and when he came back he met her,” says Katie.
Anna and Douglas were very different. Anna, says her daughter Katie, has always been the life of the party. Douglas, on the other hand, was from a conservative family.
“He was very conservative,” says Anna. “He always wore black shoes and black socks. Always. One day I gave him a pair of bright yellow socks and told him not to come see me if he wasn’t wearing those yellow socks. Well, the next time he came to visit, he had on his yellow socks. But, he told me later that he had left his house with his black socks on, changed before coming to my house, and put the black ones back on before going home.”
Anna and Douglas had two children, Nancy Jane and Anna Kathrene (Katie). Douglas ran for Superintendent of Schools, and when he did not win, he went to work at AEDC. Just after Katie was born, Douglas transferred to Martin Marietta in Colorado.
Anna worked while the family was in Colorado. First, as a switchboard operator at a local college before going to work at Fort Logan Mental Health Center. As a communication supervisor, she was at Fort Logan for 18 years.
“During the 1960s, women were doing the same job as men, but not getting paid as much. Most of the time, we were doing more. I was passed over for promotions and when I did get promoted to supervisor, I got the job but not the same pay as the man who had left the position. An affirmative action committee came in and I was upgraded, though.”
In 1980, the Goforth’s moved back to the mountain – a home on North Bluff Drive in Monteagle.
“I named this house ‘It’ll Do” because we didn’t get the first house we wanted, but this one would do.”
Anna has always loved flowers and gardening. While living at “It’ll Do” she planted flowers along the road.
“I looked out one day and there was a man on a mower,” says Anna. I ran out and told him he better not mow down my flowers. It turned out that the man on the mower was Dean Lay and he owned the land. Those flowers are still there and Dean says he won’t cut them down while I’m living.”
Not only is Anna an expert gardener, she has a passion for bright colors, dancing, and singing. Among her favorite songs to sing are “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Hotel California,” and “In the Garden.” She loves genealogy and is founding charter member of the Grundy County Historical Society.
Anna has a big heart, and cares about the welfare of others. Once, when she was a child, she did not have shoes to go the circus. This led to a lasting mission of providing shoes to others.
“We were so poor that when the circus came, I did not have a pair of shoes to go,” says Anna. “My uncle, Hendrix Brown, bought me a pair. Later, when Doug was principal at Shook, there was a girl who did not have shoes to play basketball. I bought her a pair.”
Anna’s desire to help others grew into “Anna’s Angels,” and she helps provide shoes for children throughout Grundy County. This month they passed out 80 pairs of shoes in Grundy County schools.
Anna will celebrate her 98th birthday on New Year’s Day, January 1, with a party at Katie’s house. Katie says that her mom gets to be “Queen for the day” as friends and family members gather to honor this wonderful woman.
One of her grandchildren wrote a special message to “Granny Annie” several years ago on her birthday:
“I’ve learned so much from my grandmother. She taught me two of the most important lessons in life – adults can be funny when they curse and kids can get away with cursing around adults as long as they are funny when they do it. Together, she and I learned there is such a thing as drinking too much Southern Comfort. Neither of us has touched the stuff since we learned that lesson the hard way. She taught me that love, flowers, and dogs are the beginnings of making a house a home, but family (blood relatives and good friends who have been adopted) complete it. But, most importantly, she taught me that love and laughter are the best ways to smooth speed bumps along life’s way. I’ve never laughed so much with one person, nor felt more love than I’ve received from my Granny Annie.”
Anna has touched numerous lives and seems to have a saying for every circumstance. Among her favorites are “get your ducks in a row,” “people just love to help you,” and “it’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”
Happy Birthday Anna!