Chester Martin Remembers The Fancher Boys

Thursday, January 21, 2016 - by Chester Martin

Paul, Harry, and Don Fancher all grew up on my old street - several years apart in age. Paul and Harry went to the same Anna B. Lacey Grammar School as me, but Don came along later, starting at Lacey, but ending at Sunnyside, that fortress-like building on North Germantown Road where I also graduated many years before.

Their father, Roy Fancher, came from one of those strong and fiercely independent families of upper East Tennessee where "work" was seen not only as an entitlement, but a duty.

His family supported and defended the "Union" cause in the Civil War, and it is therefore not surprising that all three of the boys turned out well, as "chips off the old block". Roy Fancher was a Railway Mail Clerk, and my dad a Letter Carrier.

Audrey Brown Fancher, their mother, was from equally down-to-earth, independent, Sequatchie Valley stock. Her father was a prosperous farmer in the Shellmound area of Marion County, and owned an imposing two-story house. Mrs. Fancher was the ideal mother and kept an immaculate house. She always blew a police whistle to call her kids home for supper or bedtime, and played games with us in the front yard. (Wood tag, May I, etc.)

Harry and Paul shared a bedroom in the Fanchers' spacious home, built out of mountain sandstone, at the top of the hill on South Terrace Avenue. By sharing a room, a free bedroom would always be available for their frequent family guests.

But Paul and Harry were young, and brothers, and brothers who share the same room do not always see eye-to-eye. This means they do not always agree on matters, and that maybe - just maybe - a small war could break out. It did - and there were more than just one! The one I remember best, however, is how Paul (the elder brother) had made a taboret that stood vertically about bed height. It contained all his most personal items, including his money. It was sealed by a password - in the form of a very large brass padlock. Harry broke the code, however, and hacked right in! A paper sign on the opened door had the words, "HARRY, KEEP OUT!", printed in red. But Harry, allowing me the pleasure of being in on the secret, let me see all that he found. A slight bulge in the sign betrayed the fact that something might be behind it - and it was Paul's life savings! Grim-faced, and with tight lips - as if swearing me to secrecy, Harry shut the door and re-locked the padlock. Paul's secrets were all out, and I was the first to be privy to Harry's discovery - a kind of "co-conspirator". (I was fortunately not around when Paul found out, so I missed the fireworks!)

Paul grew up with an intense interest in baseball and knew all about Joe Engel's "Knothole Gang." He had a lot of great baseball stories which I will not attempt to tell. Paul also had other hobbies very common to the time, such as model airplane building, and making kites. Winds were strong at the top of the hill where he lived, and Paul, with some friends, built a reel which easily held a mile or more of kite-string. It was always a scramble to get the right combination of weight and  tail-length, but when everything was "perfect" their kite would be wafted aloft until "clean out of sight," soaring beyond far distant Belvoir Avenue! The model airplane building was much more cerebral, and took a greater degree of skill than kite-flying. It was slow and tedious work, following printed "plans" to a "T." Long strips of balsa wood came in the box. You laid the plans flat on a card table and began cutting and gluing the balsa wood until you had constructed the entire airplane framework. Next you cut tissue paper to conform to every part of the framework, gluing it into place. The only glue suitable for the job was called officially, "Model Airplane Cement," but more commonly called "dope" because of the mild "high"it could induce in some people! (I liked the smell of it, myself, but it never made me high). It was subsequently either taken off the market, or the formula made less pungent. Once the tissue paper was all in place you could paint and decorate your small aircraft as desired.  Feel yourself lucky if you ever go prowling through your grandfather's old attic and find one of these model airplanes hanging from the ceiling as  it would be a real trophy to find!

All three of the Fancher boys, though, went to Brainerd Junior HS on Tuxedo Avenue. Paul, when a Mr. Pruitt was principal there, and Harry and Don when Mr. Virgil L. Bible was principal, as did I. They all three probably had some of the same teachers as well.

Paul was first to get regular part-time employment with the well-known Brainerd Grocery, where the Comedy Catch has been located until very recently. That store was owned and operated by Mr. David McLain, Sr. Fancher's and McLain's lots were almost adjacent to one another at the top of the hill, and I remember very plainly how frequently Mr. McLain would either be picking Paul up, or delivering him home, sheathed in his long, white grocer's apron. After Paul left for college, Harry inherited Paul's job at the grocery, and I am not sure if Don ever worked for McLain, as my own life got complicated with university and Air Force. I never knew Don as well as Harry and Paul. Anyway, McLain would never have kept either boy for such a long time had they not been good workers.

All three of those boys, now grown, respectable gentlemen, have had long and successful lives. All three served at least one hitch as Army officers during the Cold War. We have had reunions and shared our stories. Paul became an Atlanta accountant, using a digital system for data processing (which I do not understand!). Harry became a full-time Army officer, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Harry early took a sabbatical from Army duties to study law at Vanderbilt University Law School, then re-entered the Army in the Judge-Advocate division for the remainder of his time. In this role he was ultimately sent all over the world, and has stories to tell from each assignment. He enjoyed Germany and Panama - even having duties at the Pentagon, but not all of those assignments were exactly a vacation, as he had at least one hitch in Vietnam when that war was going very badly.

Harry has for years owned a beautiful home on a cul-de-sac near Paul, in Chamblee, North Atlanta. Don Fancher signed with the bedrock American, (but also multi-national) Procter & Gamble Corporation while still a student at UT Knoxville. He has served as an executive in that corporation in many capacities. Don lives near Lake Lanier, north of Atlanta, and the three brothers are able to easily keep in touch. Don has recently traveled to Northern France to view first-hand where the famous Normandy Invasion of WW II took place. Be assured that all the brothers' old grievances are long-since forgiven!

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at )



Chester Martin
Chester Martin

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Nov. 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on  Tuesday, Nov. 6 , at the Signal Mountain Public Library.  The speaker for the day will be Linda Mines, a well-known historian within the Chattanooga area and the official historian for Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  She is the First Vice-Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter of the Daughters ... (click for more)

What Was That Stone Arch Halfway Up Lookout Mountain?

As a child in the early- to mid-70s the majority of our summer vacations were to Tennessee - a stop in Chattanooga then on to Gatlinburg.  We always visited the Incline, Ruby Falls and Rock City.    On the way up Lookout Mountain, I’m not sure of the road, there was a stone/cement type monument along the roadway with what looked to be a tongue sticking out ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC To Build Soccer-Specific Stadium For 2020 Season

Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club is building a state-of-the-art, soccer-specific facility, where the team will host home games beginning in 2020. For its inaugural season, the club will play at Chattanooga Christian School’s David Stanton Field in 2019.   David Stanton Field seats 3,500, and the club plans to install additional temporary seating allowing up to approximately ... (click for more)

Case Against Soddy Daisy High ROTC Instructor Dismissed After Judge Sends Case To Grand Jury

The road rage case against a Soddy Daisy ROTC instructor was dismissed on Wednesday after a judge on Monday had sent the case to the Grand Jury. An order was issued on Wednesday signed by District Attorney Neal Pinkston and attorney Lee Davis that "no billed" the aggravated assault charge against 47-year-old Timothy Lee Hodges. Attorney Davis said, " Following a hearing in ... (click for more)

Drink Up, Chattanooga

I attended the meeting to discuss the placement of the sewage treatment plant at the Cambridge Center in Ooltewah today. My problem with the meeting (aka) dog and pony show, is that the meeting started out with the agenda of the Ooltewah Community Council.  After living in this area for 45+ years I have never heard of this group.  I would like for someone to answer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Dear Faux Pelini

It has been my experience that of all the tribes and herds of different people on earth, sports writers are among the funniest people of all. Oh, there isn’t anything real sexy about Villanova beating Georgetown or a baseball player hitting for the cycle. Now, if a player hits a single, double, triple and homer in that order, that’s “a natural cycle,” and that is kind of fun to ... (click for more)