Cooleemee Masters: Ann Spry a Cooleemee girl through and through
Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 18, 2021
By KC Smith
Frances Ann Miller Spry, born in Rowan County Hospital on Oct. 28, 1946 was delivered by Dr. Cavanaugh. Parents were Lawrence and Frances Ann Spry. Her mother named her Ann after the renowned dancer, singer and actress in the 1940s and 50s, Ann Miller.
Ann’s parents had been married 13years when she was born. They didn’t think they would ever have a child. Every night her mother would get up to feed and change her diaper and her father would be breathing down her mother’s neck. Finally, she told him he apparently didn’t trust her to feed or change her diaper so he can do it from now on and she’ll sleep.
That’s exactly what he did.
Even though she was the only child she made her siblings out of her friends and cousins. They were close.
She and her family first lived on Center Street. Having a sand box invited neighbor friends over until one boy, Phillip Ellenburg, threw sand all over her he wasn’t allowed to come back.
While living there, Santa brought her a metal plug-in iron that actually got warm. For sure, that would not pass regulations today.
When Ann was 3, they moved to Watt Street beside her great-grandmother, Dorcas Carter. Her great Uncle Sid Carter and great Aunt Geneva were her babysitters.
People sat on their front porches all the time and it was easy to carry on conversations with neighbors across the street. Ann liked sitting on her Gran Maw Carter’s lap while she rocked in her big rocking chair. When Ann was 5, her grandmother had been talking to her neighbor Ms. Hampton. Ann noticed her grandmother looked different. She wasn’t talking and she was slumped down. It scared Ann so she ran and hid. Ms. Hampton noticed something didn’t look right and walked over to check on her.
Eaton’s Funeral Home came to pick her up and take her to the hospital since ambulances weren’t used then. As Ann was watching from afar she felt sad she wasn’t there for her grandmother when she needed her.
Bobbi Howard Black was a close childhood friend and since her grandmother, Lilly Blalock, lived below Ann they got to visit each other a lot. Ann remembers climbing a cherry tree in her backyard.
Bobbi and Ann’s mothers were pregnant at the same time and at age 75 they still travel and spend time together. They like to say they were friends before they were born.
Bobbi Black and Ann’s dad would take the two of them to the Bowman Gray Race Track in Winston Salem. Neither had boys so the girls went along. Ann remembers most the fries that were in a cone-shaped cup with vinegar poured over them.
Karliss Walker Virtue, a schoolmate, was visiting her Aunt Lillian Chandler that lived above Ann and the two girls found old bread that had been thrown out in the yard so they pretended to cook things out of it by adding water from the spigot in the back.
The recreation center was the hub in Cooleemee for kids to spend time and have fun. Story hour, swimming at the pool and going to the park we special times there.
There were lots of activities and once they had a Hula Hoop contest. Ann was proud to win and her prize was a bag of Baby Ruth candy bars.
Sarah Walker Scott was also close with Ann and Bobbi. They would meet each other everyday on Cross Street and walk to school together.
To be able to walk freely no matter where you wanted to go was the life of Cooleemee. Walking to downtown for Ann meant she and a friend would go through her backyard, cross over Duke Street, go across the holler, walk over a short bridge then climb the hill to Main Street.
Swadie Miller, Ann’s Gran Paw, was a shoe cobbler underneath the drug store. He later left and opened a store on US 601. The drug store shut down the medicine part and Joann Stroud ran the soda shop.
Kids would go there after school and get cherry cokes, they danced and they sat on the metal café chairs with a round metal table.
Ann met her husband Mike Spry at church and her first date with him was at the drug store. He was her first date and only boyfriend.
Ann admits her daddy worshipped her. “He was our taxi,” she said. He would pick up kids that lived out of Cooleemee so they could play basketball. Once four girls spent the night at Ann’s and her dad was to take them to a basketball game the next morning. When they woke up there was a big surprise snow. The other girls didn’t have boots, so her dad got plastic bags and put rubber bands around their ankles.
They piled in the car with deep snow and headed to the square downtown. They got out of the car – including daddy – and had a snowball fight.
May Day was held at the old ball field and each class had a theme and Ann was Mary had a little lamb, and her cousin who was small was a lamb. All the seniors got to do the May Pole dance.
Ann drove a 1955 tan and white Chevrolet. The color was Navaho tan and her dad nicknamed the car Navaho. She learned to drive on Cherry Hill Road, which was dirt and not traveled on very much.
When Ann’s Grand Paw Miller got sick and needed help they locked up the house for 6 months to go and help. That’s just what people did in those days.
A big farmhouse on Becktown Road was where Aunt Ruth and Uncle Wade lived. Ann hoed cotton, cleaned chicken houses, and worked in the tobacco fields. Several members were in the field one day and she stood up straight and shouted,” I have an announcement to make. I will never smoke a cigarette and I will never marry a farmer.”
And she has never done either one.
One other day while working in the field Ann smart mouthed her Uncle and her daddy took her to the side, pulled his belt off and left stripes on her legs. She never badmouthed again.
“Stinky” Oliver walked across the street, took the cap off Ann’s dad’s car and started smelling the gas. He talked Ann to come and try. Later, James Oliver came over and spoke to Ann’s mother. He said Stinky had been throwing up from smelling gasoline fumes and they better keep an eye on her. Ann had to go to the back yard to pick a skinny branch off a tree and her mother switched her legs.
Those were the only spankings she ever received.
Ms. Louise Faulk was Ann’s 4th grade teacher at Cooleemee School. Every morning her students would write down names of people they wanted to pray for and always at the top of the list Ms. Faulk would write the name, Joe Corpenning. He was her nephew and was in medical school.
Years latter when Ann took her young son Stacy to a pediatrician, his name was Dr. Joe Corpenning.
She asked him if he had an Aunt by the name of Louise Faulk and he said yes. Ann told him they would pray for him everyday when she was in the fourth grade and now was standing in front of him while he talks care of her son. Amazing.
Ms. Faulk took Ann and Nora Alice Beanie Osborne home to spend the night. Ann and Nora giggled and talked so that Ms. Faulk gave them each an aspirin to help them go to sleep.
For the past 31 years, Ann has been a hairdresser at the nursing home, Genesis in Salisbury. The beginning of COVID-19 was traumatic. On March 31 she was told to leave the facility for health safety; 21 of the men and women she serviced died.
“I loved it and never dreaded going to work. It was where I was supposed to be, but I knew it was time to retire.”
Through Ann’s mother’s persistence, she took piano lessons. She hated it, didn’t like to play or practice. She admits she wasn’t good and still isn’t but her church has no one that can play so she fills in and does what she can. At one point early on, she told her mother she wasn’t going to practice any more or take lessons and her mother told her to pack up her basketball uniform and turn it in the next day because if she isn’t gong to play the piano she wasn’t going to play basketball.
She still plays for the congregation at the Presbyterian Church in Cooleemee.
Ann is married to Mike Spry and they have two sons, Stacy Spry and Ross Spry, and a daughter Laura Spry. Their grandchildren are Hunter Boger, Zach Spry and Landen Spry.