June 1973: Local FOP funds 14-year-old's vision surgery


Vickie Kimbrell arrived in Miami in June 1973 with the hope that vision in her left eye could be restored.

Kimbrell, 14, suffered an eye infection when she was 3 that impaired vision in both eyes and left her virtually blind on her left side.

By 1973, Kimbrell learned of a new surgery that could help her, but it would take a community of supporters to put her in the right place at the right time.

It started when Detective Captain George Guthrie approached the Walker County Fraternal Order of Police about Kimbrell's need. The FOP voted unanimously to raise the money to get Kimbrell to a Miami surgeon. 

The FOP raised $5,000 for the surgery, and the Miami FOP assured their counterparts that accommodations would be made for the family at a local inn.

Drummond Coal Company provided a plane to take Kimbrell, her mother, Iona Kimbrell, Jasper Police Chief J.H. Gant, Jasper Public Safety Commissioner Nelson Clark and Larry Drummond to Miami.

The group was greeted at the airport by members of the Miami FOP and several members of the press.

Kimbrell underwent surgery on Friday, June 15, 1973, and her bandages were removed on Sunday, June 17. The operation was a success.

The Daily Mountain Eagle reported on Monday, June 18 that Kimbrell could once again see out of her left eye and should be able to read from a blackboard in four to six weeks.

She had two doctor visits scheduled in Miami that week, and the Drummond plane was expected to return to Miami that Sunday to pick her up.

"The time when the FOP sees Vickie off, she can see them do it," the Eagle reported.

Eagle staff writer went out to Cordova to interview John Lee about his garden for the June 19 issue.

At the time of the interview, Lee's garden included tomatoes, corn, butterbeans, butter peas, cabbage, Irish potatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, grapes and white McKesson pole beans.

"We fill the deep freeze every summer and live out of our garden all year-round," he said. "I don't know how we'd get by without it with food as high as it is today. It cuts my grocery bill immensely."

It's possible that the Eagle was running a series on summer gardens because a similar story ran in the Thursday, June 21 issue.

It was an article reprinted from the Ann Arbor News about a couple with Jasper ties who started a garden after moving up North so they could get their Southern food fix.

"No lady peas were to be had, water-ground white corn meal was hard to find, properly cured country hams difficult to come by and where were grits and sassafras tea on restaurant menus?" the reporter stated.

Margo and Jim Stringfield responded by joining Project Grow. The article is unclear what that entailed, but they and other Ann Arbor residents seemed to be creating a community garden. 

Anything they couldn't grow, Margo requested from her family in the South, parents Lynette and Joe Stephenson of Jasper. The list of essential ingredients missing from Michigan grocery stores included specialty brands of hardtack, country hams, homemade molasses and sorghum and water-ground white corn meal.

The reporter was quick to point out that the Stringfields were no country rubes. They also enjoyed Greek and Chinese cuisine.

The article included several recipes that were favorites of the couple. Here are two.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons shortening

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 to 3/4 cups milk

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening and add sweet potatoes. Add enough milk (slowly until dough is moist) to make a dough stiff enough to roll.

Cut into biscuits and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Makes 12.


6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cucumbers, peeled and chopped

3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped

6 hardtack biscuits

1 quart mayonnaise

Soak hardtack in water until soggy. Squeeze out water, drain thoroughly and crumble in small pieces.

In a large bowl, layer hardtack, mayo, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and mayo again. Repeat until all ingredients are used.

Cover and let sit in refrigerator at least 24 hours. Mix well before serving.