I grew up at the foot of a hill upon which was a winding, maple-lined driveway that ended at a beautiful stone house. The people who lived there were “Doc” Corns and his wife. They were in fairly declining health at the time, and in a few years Doc died and Mrs. Corns moved away and sold the house and land. But we were enthralled with their house. We were a family with five people, Mom & Dad, me, and my two sisters. We all shared one bathroom. The Doc Corns home had FIVE bathrooms. We were envious, and I suppose I began to question fairness and justice during those years.
The Doc Corns home was built in the 1930s. According to Pappaw Smith, the original plan was to make this home a hospital. Doc Corns was hoping he could build a health care practice in this land between the River and the state line, where there were no crowded city streets, just bucolic countryside. But, Mrs. Corns wouldn’t hear of it, and wanted a mansion worthy of her sense of self-worth. So, no hospital, just a large home that overlooked the Holston River’s North Fork, and, of course, our humble home at the foot of the hill.
We children were led up that hill one Halloween to “Trick or Treat” the Corns home. I must have been four or five. I remember the long walk up that dark hill, with the moon shining through falling maple leaves. The wind was blowing gently, and every sound was a ghost or witch. My sisters had practiced their greeting for the door. “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something sweet to eat!” At “Smell my feet” they would lift their legs up at the same time, like Rockettes. They were so excited.
I, on the other hand, was dressed in a white pillowcase, with holes for my eyes, and was going to stand there and say “Boo!” Boys get to be different, you see.
So, when we got to the door, finally, after the long journey, we rang the door bell and stood there nervously. It seems Mrs. Corns had forgotten that she had invited us up the hill. It took forever to come to the door. Possibly, they had already gone to bed. But, finally, she opens the door to hear my sisters loudly proclaim their theme, and my little “boo!” All I remember after that was Doc Corns came to the kitchen on his walker, looking like a skeleton himself, but grinning at our costumes. My mother talked with them, then we return down the hill, with a few small goodies in our bags.
They sold the Corns home and land to Woody Duncan and Clyde Hilton. They sheared the hill down to large flat lot, upon which they hoped to build a shopping center that never materialized. The maple lined driveway was cut in half, with the remainder of the drive going beside a steep drop-off. Our trick-or-treating came to an end.