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30 Years later, their hearts remain in Rutherford

Arland and Frances Emersonemerson1

EMERSON FUN – Arland and Frances Emerson may have moved from their beloved Rutherford proper but their love for their hometown and north Gibson County continues with them daily. In earlier days they took a bull ride at Billy Bob’s Ft. Worth, Texas, Stockyards. (submitted photo)

by J.D. Pinkerton

Arland and Mary Frances Gilliland Emerson have been living near Trenton the past 30 years, yet their collective heart is clearly with the city of Rutherford, Tennessee.

Frances is the daughter of Jimmy J. Gilliland and Mary Louise Dotson Gilliland. She was born April 17, 1932, on Easter Sunday in Trenton. They lived out in the Pea Ridge neighborhood back then. Today that area is the Old Jackson Road out of Trenton.

Whilst in the first grade, she lived with her grandparents, Dee and Mary Jane Crocker Gilliland, in Rutherford. Her mother’s parents were O.B. and Bessie Cavender Dotson. Her parents raised nine children, six girls and three boys.

“Seven of us were in school at the same time. My daddy made a long table with two benches, this was our breakfast table. We were not allowed to laugh or act up at the table while eating. Mother made all of our clothes, both the boys and the girls. There was no such thing as a yard sale, clothes were never thrown away.”

Frances continues, “My sister Lavern and I got our first bra from the Swink family’s hand-me-downs. Lavern and I didn’t really need them but we sure thought we did!”

I hated picking cotton in the hot sun and I was deathly afraid of bugs and still am! I was two years older than Lavern. Lavern was a tomboy and I was a scaredy cat! Lavern could make that horse drive a straight line in the field when we were plowing but if I took charge of the reins, that horse would go every which-away!

Frances continued school out near the Salem community. She recalls going to school with and walking to school with the Tosh family from out at Salem. They attended Salem Methodist Church. She joined the church at age 13. She was baptized in the Greenfield River.

She remembers attending school at China Grove; she recalled Carlene Stephenson was a classmate. Afterwards they built a school at Goodluck and she went there during her seventh and eighth grade years. There was only one bus that came out near their home at Goodluck and it was the Bradford bus. She then went to high school at Bradford and graduated in 1951.

After school the seniors took a trip to Florida and to New Orleans. She said her class was the second class ever to take a senior trip and Bradford seniors have been doing it ever since.

Her father had gone to the Bank of Bradford and borrowed the money for her senior trip. After the trip she went to work at Kellwood in Rutherford and worked there 17 years. Working for Kellwood she paid off the loan. She remembers her first days at Kellwood sewing and how she wanted to quit. She started in 1951 and left there in 1968 when they moved to Gary, Indiana where they would remain for four years as Arland worked for the Ford Motor Company.

Arland grew up in Rutherford, attended school and graduated there. He also worked at Kellwood for a short time. Arland and Frances were married in Corinth, Mississippi in 1955. They have been married 60 years. They lived around Rutherford except for a four-year stint when they lived in Indiana. They moved to their 320-acre farm near Trenton, Tennessee in 1986. Arland has always raised cattle on their farm – never row crops.

Frances recalls with fondness the way things used to be, remembering the theater in Rutherford. Arland said Hudson Grey used to own the theater. She recalled dropping the kids off there and going visiting with neighbors and friends. There was also a skating rink in the school gym for a short time, but after they found out what it was doing to the flooring, that stopped! There was a depot and trains would come by every day with cargo and passengers.

Downtown, every building on each side of the street was occupied. Dr. Bell had his office above Kemp’s Shoe Shop.There was a hotel where the bank building is now. There was one policeman in town and he walked everywhere. The jail was down the alley between the grocery and Green Things.

There was a grocery store on the North side of the street and behind it were frozen food lockers that that could be rented to store vegetables and meats. There was a  cotton gin, Kellwood and a carhop at the local gathering place.

“Yes, things have changed but Rutherford is still a good place to live,” said Frances. “Later on the Jaycees and the Jaycettes were organized. I was elected the first Jaycette president. Nathan Smith was the first Jaycee president. We did a lot of good work. The Jaycettes sponsored a boy at Youth Town near Jackson. We also had projects for St. Jude in Memphis. We got electric streetlights for Rutherford. We sponsored the Davy Crockett parade since, I think, 1953. To make money for these projects, we helped with Leon Hopkins’ Rodeo in Trenton many times by sponsoring the concession stand.”

After the Jaycees, the Emersons joined the Elks Lodge in Trenton. She was a member of the Elk Ladies. At some point they allowed the ladies to join the Elks and that effectively did away with the Lady Elks. “I joined the Elks, stayed a member for two years but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I was the president of the Elk ladies two different times,” Frances said.

The Emersons still go to First Baptist Church in Rutherford, the Woodman meetings and the Masonic Lodge. They have a daughter Judy, a son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Robbie Emerson, grandchildren, Dusty and his wife, Beverly, and great-grands Cooper, and Annalia Emerson.

Frances remembers Kate Edmundson being one of her favorite teachers. She lived right next door to her grandmother and she knew her well. One year Frances didn’t get anything for Christmas at school. The next day Ms. Edmundson bought her a really pretty little bowl; she treasured it for many many years.

When they were living at Goodluck, her father got a job at the Milan Arsenal. He worked there a long time. One night he came in from work and went outside to check on the little chickens they had in a brooder. He came back inside and had a massive heart attack and died.

Frances’ father had never owned a house but he had really good insurance. Her mother never remarried and bought a house with some of that money. She was left to raise nine children alone.

Frances said the hardest choice she ever had to make was moving from Rutherford in 1986 to the farm east of Trenton.

The couple] enjoys time spent at a little house up on the lake at Springville.It’s practically on the water. They enjoy boating on their pontoon and love to watch the boats and the people.

Writer’s note: I am thankful to Frances’ sister Faye Sharp of Kenton for arranging our meeting.


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