John Shearer: Saying Goodbye To Recently Razed Childhood Home In Mountain Creek

  • Friday, February 16, 2024
  • John Shearer
Google Maps photo of now-razed home at 1017 Mountain Creek Road
Google Maps photo of now-razed home at 1017 Mountain Creek Road

Losing family members, close friends, and even also-loved pets to death are parts of everyone’s life and are never easy. But I also experienced another sad and different kind of parting in recent days.

My wife, Laura, a retired United Methodist Church pastor, was invited to guest preach at Signal Mountain United Methodist on Sunday, and I was driving back home via Mountain Creek Road afterward when I was hit with shock.

There on the left at 1017 Mountain Creek Road just before I reached the roundabout by Red Bank Elementary heading north, I saw a site that was in the process of being cleared. It did not take more than a milli-second for me to realize that was the old homesite where I spent the first five-plus years of my life with my parents, Dr. Wayne and Velma Shearer, and my older sister, Cathy.

After being a constant on that street amid all the changes, the beautiful stone and brick home from about the 1920s or ‘30s era was suddenly gone. And the visual realization hit me like, well, a ton of bricks.

I am not sure what is going on, whether it is some future construction or what, but the pleasantness of that site can now never be replaced in my mind.

I have not lived in the mid-sized home for almost 60 years, but I still felt a special sense of warm nostalgia when I would pass it. It always looked beautiful, despite the fact it did not really look like any of the other houses on that street.

It actually looked more like some of the homes built a decade or two before World War II in the then-growing Brainerd area just east of Missionary Ridge.

Although we moved away when I was 5 years old, I believe, I still have plenty of memories of living there from my birth in 1959 until about 1965. I can remember playing some in the yard before Mountain Creek Road became such a busy thoroughfare and the nearby farms were turned into apartments and such subdivisions as Spring Valley.

I also distinctly remember my mother’s twin sister and her husband coming to visit and deciding to head back to Memphis one morning amid some snow. I remember we also one time found perhaps a homeless person asleep in the front yard.

Another time, my father had to park the car outside the garage to take care of a snake that had gotten inside the parking area.

One of our cars at that time was a white Ford Edsel, and I was reportedly brought home to Mountain Creek Road in the new vehicle after I was born.

We also had a dachshund named Fritz and a grayish cat named Blue Boy while living there, I remember.

With the encouragement of nearby neighbor Crawford Bean, the father of retired City Court Judge Russell Bean, my parents also bought a farm about a half mile up North Runyan Drive when expansive property there was somewhat affordable. I remember we walked up to visit it one time, with me likely trying to hitch a ride in the arms or on the shoulders of one of my parents due to the long distance for me at such a young age.

My father had his optometric office in Red Bank, and I think he would come home to eat lunch every day. On one occasion -- Nov. 22, 1963 -- he was driving home on Mountain Creek Road for lunch when he heard the shocking news on the radio that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

Despite such events and the somewhat normal trials and tribulations that my parents went through at that point in their lives and with raising two small children in this era when black and white TV sets were a luxury, life was mostly good there.

Besides the Beans, a nice Ms. Moses lived between us and the Beans on the north side, and the Sivleys lived on the south side. The pioneering Sivley family – which has their own cemetery near the base of the W Road – had originally owned our house, I understand, and we might have been just the second owners.

Despite this bucolic and still-rural setting, with farmland across the street, change was coming for us – and for Mountain Creek. I am not sure of all the factors at work, but post-war families were always looking for a better life, and with my father’s optometric practice growing, we decided to move.

We were headed to the new and unique golf course and housing development called Valleybrook in Hixson, arriving in the spring of 1965 just before we took a trip via train to the New York World’s Fair. Like many Baby Boomer children, I would become a full-fledged suburban kid, enjoying playing golf and spending time in the club swimming pool in the summers.

Needless to say, it was probably a little different from the life I might have enjoyed had we stayed on Mountain Creek Road a few more years. It would have also been interesting to see how we would have dealt with it becoming a much busier street amid the growing apartment complexes that began proliferating the area in the 1970s.

I continued to pass the pretty home over the years and think back to that time in my life, and about 15 years ago I had an opportunity to go in it again with my parents. Stan Phillips, whom I had remembered as a good quarterback a couple of years behind me at Baylor before he went to Tyner, owned it by that time, perhaps more for commercial reasons.

I got in contact with him, and he kindly let us walk through the home. Since I was so young when we lived there, I cannot honestly say it all looked totally familiar. It did have nice hardwood floors and I believe a knotty-pine-paneled den in the back that had probably been added in the mid-century along with a side porch.

The front porch that was originally part of the home had a nice arched stone entrance typical of all those Brainerd homes of that era.

That visit of recent years was a nice reconnection with an old friend, and I continued to mentally wave and make sure to look at the old home every time I would pass it after that. It was always a great view.

So, needless to say, I was saddened when I went by Sunday and my old brick buddy from my childhood was gone and not there to greet me.

I know they call that progress, but to me it feels like a funeral. Many of you might have seen your old residences and places of work disappear as well and not been totally happy about the changes.

That property is somebody else’s dream now, and my tangible connection to a part of my past is gone other than a few old photographs.

But my memories of that very young period of my life remain rich, and for that I am grateful.

Goodbye old friend along Mountain Creek Road, and thanks for being such a pleasant sight all these years and greeting me both up close and from a few yards away over more than six decades!

* * *

Black-and-white scene of home at 1017 Mountain Creek Road in 2001
Black-and-white scene of home at 1017 Mountain Creek Road in 2001
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