Nashville legend touched by Baker’s Miss Emmie story
I don’t know if my name means anything to you or not, but I am a longtime member of the country music community here, working both as a singer and as a songwriter for over 50 years. I have been a performing member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1961, and was a 2001 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
And I’m sure by now you are wondering what any of this has to do with you. I will try and explain.
A friend of mine sent me a copy of the article you wrote in The Columbia Star on November 1 about Ms. Emily Douglas and her great-great granddaughter. I was virtually moved to tears.
You see, I was one of the original Miss Emmie’s kids at Shandon Park back in the 1940s. I was born in Columbia and lived there for the first eight years of my life. Not only was Miss Emmie my “beloved teacher,” she was like a second mother and a grandmother to me. My family shared a duplex apartment with her at 2333 Terrace Way. She lived upstairs, and we lived downstairs.
You quoted one of her grandchildren as saying, “Miss Emmie had the special ability to manage all those children (over 40) every day throughout the year completely by herself and provide fun and new activities to keep the children active and learning.”
That is 100 percent right. The foundation for so much of what I have accomplished in life was laid right there in that little wooden building.
But for me, Miss Emmie was so much more than a school teacher. I followed her on her walk to the park every morning. She taught me love and faith and values and even gave me a lap to sit on when I broke my arm shortly before my fifth birthday. She gave me hugs and told me about her son who was fighting in the War over in Germany. She took in a boarder from Michigan whose husband was over there as well...and we became like one big family.
When her son, Billy, eventually returned to Columbia, he brought me a helmet that he had taken off a dead German soldier.
I was so thrilled later in life when I was told that Shandon Park had been renamed Emily Douglas Park, but I must admit to being extremely disappointed on one of my last trips to Columbia to find that the park had not one sign with her name on it. I asked a lady who was swinging a small child if she knew the name of the park, and she said, “I think it’s Emily Douglas Park.” I breathed easier knowing it had not been changed.
If you ever want to start a campaign to erect a sign on the property, I’ll be your first contributor!
I don’t know all the kids and grandkids and greatgrandkids pictured in your article, but I’m so pleased to know that there is now a three-year-old Miss Emmie growing up in the area and carrying on the name. It’s a wonderful name, and I’m sure she will wear it proudly.
I’m sure that your writing this article was just another day at the office for you...but I want you to know it was much more than that to at least one person who read it...several hundred miles away.
With my thanks and all best wishes,
-Bill Anderson Nashville, Tenn.