Donna Hayes

Interviewed by: Kasey Buchanan
Date: April 8, 2007

Kasey Buchanan reports:

"Donna Hayes is the daughter of Charles and Lynette Olinger. Donna was born August 20, 1947 in the Smyth County area. She is now employed at Pro Industrial Welding, Inc. as an Office Manager. Thomas A. Henegar and Ethel Frye Henegar were her grandparents, they were the hotel managers when it was a hotel. They took care of the upkeep, along with room and board. The house has been handed down for three generations. Donna is my aunt, my mother's sister, therefore anyone she refers to in the interview as granddaddy and grandma are my great grandparents. My grandfather, Thomas Andrew Henegar, and my grandmother, Ethel Frye Henegar, first went to work for the U.S. Gypsum Company running the Gypco Inn in March of 1918."

Interviewer: What is the earliest year you remember having room tenants?

Hayes: Uh, my grandfather and grandmother, uh, had tenants when they first started working for the U.S. Gypsum Corporation that was in 1918.

Interviewer: Since there was not a kitchen in every room, how did the tenants eat?

Hayes: Uh, The Gypco Inn was three floors and the bottom floor was a large dinning room uh, with swinging doors going into a large kitchen where food was prepared on a wood cook stove.

Interviewer: Did you have to help clean the rooms after the tenants had gone?

Hayes: My grandfather and grandmother took care of all the cleaning and the upkeep of the inn.

Interviewer: Did the hotel have dances or anything for the community to come to downstairs?

Hayes: According to my grandfather and grandmother they always told me that there was dances and they had get togethers in the basement which we call the dining room back then.

Interviewer: How did having tenants affect your family's living quarters?

Hayes: Uh, the house itself had the three floors, uh the second floor was half of it was for rooms the back part of it uh, was for my grandmother and grandfather to live in, uh there was two rooms a bath it had a separate door going out onto the side porch and they was separated from the tenants themselves.

Interviewer: Were there many other places around North Holston that were like the Gypco Inn?

Hayes: No, the Gypco Inn was the only place to stay uh, North Holston had its own school uh, it it had its own power plant uh, which supplied all the power to uh, all the houses in North Holston plus street lights uh, it had a company store, a post office, uh Doctor Hatfield was the doctor he had an office there in the company store and also in the bottom basement is where they would sample all of the plaster coming out of the mines.

Interviewer: Was the upkeep of the house hard, considering it was so big and had so many rooms?

Hayes: Uh, my grandfather and grandmother uh, had two girls and one son uh, they themselves took care of all of the upkeep to the house and the yard.

Interviewer: Was there a television that everyone sat down to watch anywhere in the hotel?

Hayes: No, back then uh, the only thing they had like a front room which was a lobby and they would set and listen to the radio and uh, maybe on the front porch when it was warm they had wicker furniture on the front porch and the side porch.

Interviewer: Did Great Momaw have to wash their clothes for them, or did you have washers and dryers for them?

Hayes: No, my grandmother and grandfather always told me that uh, my grandmother used worshboards and the worshers with ringers did not come till after that so all the clothes back then were worshed on worshboards.

Interviewer: Since the hotel was for Matheison were there more men tenants?

Hayes: Yes, because most of the women stayed home and raised their families and kept all the house work done.

Interviewer: Did Great Granddaddy have any problems with the upkeep of the yard?

Hayes: Well back then uh, it had big hedges across the front uh, down the path to the front door uh, there was hedges across from the side uh, leading out of the kitchen uh, hedges were trimmed by hand back then and the yards were mowed with uh, mowers which had blades uh, it was hard work back then.

Interviewer: Did you have church in the hotel on Sundays, or did you all just go?

Hayes: No, uh there was a what they called a community building beside of the company store and all meetings and church was held in the community center.

Interviewer: Around what year did Matheison shut down?

Hayes: In 1944 uh, the mines all fell in.

Interviewer: Did this affect the number of tenants or did they loose money?

Hayes: After the mines uh, fell in uh, there wasn't that many people that stayed uh, there at the inn and then my grandmother and grandfather bought the inn in June of 1953.

Interviewer: Did Great Momaw do most everything with the hotel since Great Granddaddy worked a lot?

Hayes: Well Momaw and Granddaddy both uh, took care of the inn uh, Granddaddy and Momaw both worked uh, in the laboratory that was out in the basement at the company store and worked there until the mines shut down.

Interviewer: Since there is only one bathroom where the rooms are, were there many fights over the bathroom?

Hayes: On the third floor, there was four single rooms, one double room and two single rooms leading out onto a screened porch with one bath uh, each one of the rooms had their own sinks, so it was not a problem uh, with them taking turns using the bathroom. On second floor, there was three single rooms, a large front room with a lobby, and a check-in desk uh, with one bathroom. Then on the backside of the house was where my grandmother and my grandfather stayed.

Interviewer: Did Great Momaw ever think it was too hard to be in the business, seeing that she had at least three children at the time?

Hayes: My grandfather and grandmother uh, that was during the time of the Great Depression uh, they were glad that they had a job and a place to live to raise their two girls and one son.

Interviewer: Is there any additional information you'd like to add?

Hayes: Uh, my grandmother and grandfather always told me that North Holston was its own community uh, it had its own power plant which supplied all electricity to North Holston uh, it had its own school uh, it had a company store which supplied all the supplies and things they needed for their homes uh, had a doctor's office which was Doctor Hatfield back then uh, had a post office uh, had a laboratory there uh, also had a community building where they had all their meetings and held their church uh, it was its own unique little community.