By 11 a.m. last Thursday the temperature had bounced up from about 39 degrees to near 50 degrees in our hometown with reports of light frost across the pumpkin patches, and it seemed like a good morning to visit a junkyard. But before I tell you about some of Drew Ramsey’s hidden vehicle treasures let me connect to a recent call.
It was early October when a caller to the Plain Talk said I could get a good story about a hornets’ nest high on a Newport Utilities line along Cave Church Road and not far from Splashaway. I called Wayne Sweeten and he pinpointed the location of the dormant nest and agreed to meet me near the I-40 overpass at Raines Road.
Driving while peering out the window, looking up, I saw the cantaloupe-sized hornets nest hanging in a round coil of the optic fiber cable. Then I drove on to find Wayne and his pale green and white 1978 Nova custom.
You might know Wayne and his family from the Trentham Hollow area where his dad Charles and mother the former Myrtle Large lived. She is 91 and a sister to the late Clifford Large, former building contractor and vinyl siding expert. He often came to the Plain Talk to advertise his business.
Wayne has a brother, David, and his late siblings were Joe Lynn and Diane Sweeten. If you go to the dead end of Trentham and see a very old barn you are near the former Sweeten farm where Wayne was raised since age four and continues to live there.
Wayne, 64, graduated from Cocke County High School and soon went to work for Newport Ace Products (Firestone plant) where they manufactured small tires for lawn equipment. It is there he met and became close friends with Wayne Gates, one of my 1972-73 Cosby students.
Wayne’s older brother Ed also was at the Firestone plant the era that Fred Mobley was one of the key managers. Earl Jack Shults was “my boss’” said Wayne Sweeten. He also recalled Jodie Evans and Clarence Duncan. Maybe you worked there too. Wayne retired after some 30 years.
He said something that resonates well about importance of teachers. When Wayne was at Edgemont so was Freddy James. “I learned more from him than anybody.” This motivated Wayne to stay in school and graduate.
While we talked, an SUV pulled up and the driver waved and said she thought that was Wayne’s Nova. It was Sammy Jo Denton. Later Wayne and I talked about the Scott and Linnie Denton family. He also told me to contact the Gates brothers for a story on their old cars.
Weeks later during the cool spell I remembered to visit Drew Ramsey at the Raceway Auto Parts & Towing to see some antique vehicles. Drew had found a 1929 Model A Ford in Del Rio sitting in a garage. He finally bought it after some haggling over price.
The metallic blue 1929 has been outfitted with modern four-cylinder Mustang engine and transmission and late-model running rear. Drew first got interested in early Fords when he ran a junkyard and raced cars at Detroit some 50 years ago. He is 73.
He found a 1916 T-Model in parts and pieces, bought it, and assembled the car. When he and Linda moved here in the late 1970s, the car came with them. In May 1980 Drew bought the racetrack from Emanuel Reed during an auction and has owned it ever since.
We walked a short distance from his home that morning to an old garage. The doors were closed but I could peer inside and saw the 1916, a 1918 Model T, and yellow 1933 Chevy couple collecting dust.
Nearby we drove past a group of 1960s and 1970s vehicles, and he sells these but not parts off of them. I liked the 1960 Plymouth Savoy with the gray shark fins and a 1940 Ford.
We finally made it to a large rusted out truck, perfect for a rat rod, where Drew motioned me to see the faded sign on the doors: Newport Electric System in red letters. He had recently towed it off English Mountain. Drew estimated it to be an early 1940s Chevy truck used to winch up electric cable on utility poles. Like some of us, it has seen its better days. I can envision Jughead Ramsey and the NU linemen using it long ago.