Fountain City flashback: New painting by old friend

Betty BeanFountain City

The two-year saga of the sad demise of the Fountain City Diner generated a ton of comments from KnoxTNToday readers, one of the most pleasant of which came from a childhood friend whom I hadn’t seen in six decades.


“Hi, Betty, it’s Louise Stewart from school. Who owns Baxter Properties? I own a house near that area in question. This is the first I’ve heard about the rezoning mess. Would like to know more. Thanks.”

Louise Stewart Farley at work

I responded: “Louise Stewart from FCES? Are you kidding me? Great to hear from you!”

Louise: “Let’s stay in touch. I’m a painter now. Glad to hear you’re still writing!”

Betty: “You were always the best artist in the class.”

I would not have remembered many of my long-ago classmates – I lost touch with them after we moved out to the country when I was in the sixth grade. But Louise was unforgettable; she had curly hair. She was smart and nice and could draw rings around the rest of us in art class.  I always liked her, except for one small, bitter memory:

She got to play Old Grumbler, which I, for reasons I cannot remember, considered the role of a lifetime.

And this, also for reasons I cannot explain, was a crushing disappointment to 10-year-old me. Come Parents’ Night, she lay on the stage playing dead while everybody pranced around her singing the Old Grumbler song. I was consumed by envy because I was some kind of stupid fruit – an apple or a strawberry, maybe – and I was clearly scarred for life.

Anyhow, Louise Stewart Farley and I have stayed in touch over the past year via Facebook, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the samples of her work. She’s still the best artist in the class. She lives in Charlotte now, has a BFA and is a full-time artist and teacher.

Photo of Albert Bean shaving

Louise Stewart Farley’s painting

A few weeks ago, I shared a World War II-era photo of my father sitting naked on the bank of a tropical stream, attempting to shave. Louise asked if I’d mind if she painted it. Of course, I said yes, and when she sent me a photo of the completed painting a few weeks later, I asked if I could buy it. We met at Rami’s for breakfast Monday and she delivered the finished product. I love it even more, and getting it during Father’s Day week is just icing on the cake.

We talked for the next couple of hours, filling each other in on our lives, and found that we have a lot in common: we’re both UT graduates, we both have children, we’ve both been widowed and divorced (although Weeze has married a third time and is extremely happy), and we’re both doing something we’ve loved since childhood.

But I’ve never shook the suspicion that things might have been different if I’d snagged that life-changing Old Grumbler role.

So just before we got up to leave Rami’s, I decided to ask her:

“Do you remember Old Grumbler?”

She didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, not even when I elaborated. Not even when I confessed that I’d nearly died of envy when she got the part. Not even when I sang a bar of the Old Grumbler song. She laughed and said she’d been jealous of me because the teacher said she liked to ask me to read aloud because I was “expressive.”

Funny, the stuff we can conjure up to be bothered about.

Anyhow, I’ve got a new old friend and a new piece of art, just in time for Father’s Day.

Check out Weeze’s resume here.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.

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