Jama Acuff entered this world July 13, 1949. Mom's story is that Dad was at work so she took a taxi to Blount Memorial Hospital. The taxi driver asked if she was in a hurry and she replied in the affirmative. He broke speed limits and was followed into the emergency room by a police officer wanting to give him a ticket. I was born seven minutes later.........My life has kind of continued like that! Sometimes it is like I am on a bicycle running downhill with no brakes, others I am overwhelmed by the joy of life, others, I am just bored stiff. Regardless, the pace was set at approximately 7:00 a.m. on July 13, 1949.
I already had a big sister.....her name was Charlene but for reasons I have never figured out, we called her Chinky. In later years I realized that was a derogatory name for oriental people!! I now call her Nonnie...the same as her grandchildren. It is just easier than her having some many names and she is just not a Charlene to me!
Our father took a job with TVA when I was almost four. We had to move OFTEN because of his training program. We always lived by the Tennessee river since he was a hydro plant operator so there are many good stories of picnics at the lake and such.
In 1955 we had just moved to Nashville, Tennessee. When we had been there merely days, on February 24, our brother Scott decided it was time to meet the world. It was late in the day and there was no place for me (five years old) and Chinky (eight years old) to stay, so off to the hospital went the entire family of four, soon to be five. It was a Catholic hospital and since we were good Baptists, we knew nothing of nuns and their traditional "habits." Mom and Dad told us not to be afraid of the nuns, they were nice and would be good to us. Dad had to split his time between Mom in labor and delivery and his two blonde angels in the waiting room (in those days children were not even allowed to visit paitents much less be present for deliveries!).
We were not the least concerned about these ladies in long black dresses and things covering their heads. They even brought us snacks! On the other hand, we were terrified watching for those big GUNS to come around the corner! Well, the guns never came and a few days later we returned to the hospital to collect our Mom and new brother Scott. There was no such thing as car seats then. He laid on a pilow on the front seat between Mom and Dad. Chinky and I hung over the seat checking out his little toes and fingers. What a joy it was to have a brother! My only problem was that Mom spent a lot of time taking care of him.....I was no longer the baby!! Scott was all boy. He was wirey and bigger than life!
TVA continued to move our family up and down the Tennessee River. I started first grade in Guntersville, Alabama. Before that year was over we moved to Spring City, Tennessee. I finished first grade there and started second. I loved Spring City! We lived in a house with two stories and Chinky and I had our bedroom upstairs. We lived there less than a year but I loved that house and still fantasize about it. Second grade was a little hard. We moved to Bristol, Tenessee and then before long were off to Clarkesville, Tennessee. That summer, we moved to Benton, Kentucky which was to hold my most significant childhood memories. We stayed there four years. I finished grades three through six.
The really special thing in Benton happened on December 3, 1959. I came home from school and the house smelled great from spaghetti cooking. Mom, nine months pregnant, was on her knees in the bathroom giving Scott a bath. He turned out to be the Marley Dog of brothers. He was always up to some mischief. On that day, he had been playing in the woods behind our house where the underbrush had been burned off. He looked like he had just come down a sutt filled chimney! Mom scrubbed him head to foot after she finished making a big pot of spaghetti sauce for us to eat on while she went to the Murray Hospital to give us our second brother, Mark.
Jane Fisher came and stayed at the house with me, Chinky and Scott while Dad drove the 20 miles to the closest hospital with Mom. He called late that night to say we had a new brother. Mark proved to be total joy to all of us. He was soft and cuddly with a gentleness that continued from birth to the present.
In 1961 we left our beloved Benton and moved to Johnson City, Tennessee. I never felt like I belonged there and longed for my friends and the joys of Benton, Kentucky. All that changed in 1963. Our family drove to New Orleans, Lousiana, got on the S.S. Cristobal and sailed to the Panama Canal Zone where Dad went to work for the Panama Canal Company as a hydro plant operator at the Gatun Dam!