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 cymppm@comcast.net )

 

 

Chester Martin
Chester Martin

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