On a beautiful Fall afternoon of Sunday, October 4, 2015, I had a wonderful opportunity to be present for the dedication ceremony of a stone bench dedication at Two Rivers Mansion by the Two Rivers High School Class of 1965 on their 50th Anniversary. I was also beginning to put together my questions for my next Hearts of the People blog featuring Mrs. Annie Martin. “Ms. Annie” as most folks call her, is 92 and has seen more in Donelson than most. It struck me that Ms. Annie probably had great memories and stories of Two Rivers Mansion and this event would be a great time to do my interview before the event and invite her to come with me as it probably would trigger more memories. I arrived at Ms. Annie’s house about an hour before the bench dedication to interview her. As it turns out, Ms. Annie told me her son graduated in 1965 from Two Rivers High School rival Donelson High School. It did indeed trigger some great memories. She remembers Mrs. McGavock twice a year inviting kids in the neighborhood to come to her front porch and she would serve them fresh baked cookies.
Annie’s parents married in 1898. She recalled her days growing up in Gallatin in the 1920’s and 30’s. Her dad worked for the Corps of Engineers and was also a lock master at Lock Two at the end of Pennington Bend. (Just recently, Lock Two was one of the properties that received a historic overlay as proposed by Mayor Dean’s administration). Her mom was a teacher and Annie remembered stories of her Mom recalling riding their horse and buggy every day to the school where she taught, going through the Toll Gate, which was near one of the Donelson Gateway Project sites at the intersection of Stewart’s Ferry Pike and Lebanon Pike. Today that site has a small toll gate acknowledging that site’s history. Annie also remembered stories of her Mom recalling riding by McGavock Pike while it was still an unpaved road. Mrs. McGavock would refer to it as “her road”.
Annie married Robert Martin, an Air Force Veteran and graduate from Boston University. They lived in Boston about five years and recalled stories of living near Harvard University and walking through Harvard Square every morning. They returned to Nashville and Robert began working for Clements Paper Company, where he retired after 32 years. Annie worked for (what’s become) BellSouth and was there 30 years. She chuckled when she mentioned that she’s been retired for longer than she worked there, now 39 years.
The Martin’s lived in East Nashville for two years and moved out to Donelson in 1952. Ms. Annie remembers the first three digits to her first phone number – 28R. The “R” was because Donelson was considered rural back then. She also remembers getting involved with her neighbors to secure a petition to help bring Third National Bank to Donelson. She helped secure over 300 signatures and the Donelson branch was then built. That effort actually led to Willie McDonald moving from downtown Nashville to the new Donelson branch.
That morning before I went to see Ms. Annie, I had just dropped off Joey on a Fall trip to the Smoky Mountains with Scout Troop 777. I had a good chuckle when she recalled vivid memories of her and Robert being very involved in their son’s Scout Troop 260 that met at Donelson Heights United Methodist on Fairway Drive. Both her husband and son both earned their Eagle Scout rank. She remembered going with them on a Smoky Mountain trip and helping to motivate the boys hiking all the way up to Mount Le Conte. Once she helped get the Troop up the mountain, she then turned around and hiked back by herself, scaring bears out of her way while travelling down the mountain.
Ms. Annie continues to volunteer at FiftyForward Donelson Station and Telephone Pioneers of America, which gives back in many community service hours and charitable efforts. When I arrived at her house, she showed me two big bags of toys that they were starting to collect to help provide a good Christmas for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have one.
Anyone who knows Ms Annie knows the feisty tenacity and energy that greets you when you see her that always puts a smile on your face. She’ll quip that she’s “older than sin”. When Annie got in my car to head over to the Two Rivers Mansion for the bench dedication, she was as independent as ever and didn’t want me opening the door for her. Once we got to the mansion, she immediately recognized folks and they knew her son (even though they went to rival high schools). We enjoyed a beautiful early Fall afternoon together and it was wonderful to hear the personal recollections of Donelson’s history and how the community has changed over the years. Ms. Annie is a blessing and a treasure to the community and she shows no sign of slowing down.