Monday, October 11, 2010

"Miss Beulah Comes Home:" The Beginning of a New Riverview

"I see Riverview getting back to the way it used to be. It'll just take us people to get together and make it that way."

"I'm just so glad to be home... didn't know I'd be the first."

Beulah Banner is back. One of the moms of the Riverview Neighborhood has come back home, as one of the first residents of the new HOPE VI homes in the community.

""I always thought one day I would come back," she said this past Saturday, a warm day, just before the noon hour. She'd only moved in this past Wednesday. "If the Lord would let me, I figured I'd come back one day. I always thought about it, wondered."

"The Lord worked it out."

In her 82 years, the elegant lady everybody calls "Miss Beulah" has seen plenty happen in Riverview and in Kingsport. She first came to upper East Tennessee from Alabama, and first lived with her sister in number 13 of the Riverview Apartments. When she got a job and got on her feet, she moved to Apartment 85.

She spent the next 40 years there.

"Life back then was all right, it didn't worry me," she recalls. "I was working, paid my rent, sent my son James to school over here at Douglass. There was a lot of family around and neighbors that you met that become family. It wasn't hard to get to know people... you just meet 'em, tell 'em who you are. I just got to lovin' everybody that was living in the apartments.. we all were just neighbors and we just knew each other. It was really fun."

Mrs. Banner says, the family atmosphere kept parents from worrying about their children playing outside.

"Everybody watched every else's child," she remembers. "I'd put my child James out there on the playground... I'd didn't have to be there. If somebody, some person saw him doing something wrong, they'd spank him. They'd come in around later and tell me 'I spanked him.' Well, if he needed it, give it to him. It wasn't a problem."

"That Linda Cox.. she's steady on my son," Mrs. Banner laughs. "She'd say, 'Aunt Beulah, he bad.' I'd say, 'well, straighten him out. I remember she would always tell me, and someone would say, 'did you hit that boy?' She'd say, 'yeah, 'cause he did something bad.' I'd say 'what did he do?' She said, 'he was throwing rocks in the street.' Maybe if he'd kept throwing 'em, she said he probably would have hit some child. I said, 'well, you stopped him and that's all right."

"Miss Beulah" remembers the bad times for Riverview, and says, she understood why the city had to take the steps they did to turn the neighborhood around.

"When they first told me I had to move out of my apartment, it hurt for a little while," she says. "It really did. They said that was tne rule, that's what they had to do. The lady said 'well Beulah, you could move anywhere you want.' I said 'No, I can't move anywhere if I move out. I can only come back."

She says, she always wanted to come back home to Riverview.

"I always felt like I didn't belong over on Dale Street (in the Lee Apartments)," says Mrs. Banner. "It wasn't as close-knit as it was over in Riverview. I felt out of place. Of course, people were nice to you.. neighbors would come and go, 'cause the police stayed down there. They wouldn't bother me, but they'd always be after somebody else."

"I couldn't go up the stairs at Lee," she says. "They told me not to. When I first came out of the hospital and then to the nursing home, when I came back to the apartment, they told me not to try and go up and down the stairs. When people would come by, I just said 'come on in' and I'd be there on the first floor."

As Mrs. Banner starts talking about settling down in her new home, 12 noon strikes. Of course, everybody knows what noon on a Saturday means in Kingsport.

Blow the whistle.

"I could still hear the Eastman whistle while I was at Lee," she remembers. "I'd be sitting in the yard and it'd go off Saturday mornings. It wasn't as loud and I didn't really feel a part of it. We so close to Eastman that we feel like they our neighbors. I don't know them, but they're neighbors to us."

"Just being here back home in Riverview, hearing it so close.. it's comfortable," Mrs. Banner says. "Just like everything else in the neighborhood, you get used to it and if you don't hear it, something's wrong. It's like everything else over here.. it means I'm home."

"Thank you Jesus.. I'm glad He watched over me while I was away, because he did," she says. "He never left me. I left home, but He never left me. Every hour and every second I was gone, my God was with me."

"Miss Beulah" is so proud showing off her new home. She now lives in one of the larger duplexes on Douglass Street at the corner with Carver.

"Oh, it's so beautiful," she says. "When I first walked in, I couldn't believe it. Me and the lady that brought me over, came in the back door, and I couldn't believe my eyes. It is so nice. I did have trouble with the microwave, 'cause I couldn't see the numbers on the front, so they got me another one with a dial on the front that I can turn."

The bedroom space she says, is much larger than she's ever had. Plenty of space for wheeling her wheelchair or walker around, without trying to maneuver in tight spaces.

"I got two bedrooms, I got plenty of room," she says, as she proudly showed it off. I'm just glad I don't have any steps like I used to."

Mrs. Banner says, it makes her feel good that everybody seems to be coming back to Riverview.

"It may not be just like it was before, because my son was living," she says, "but I'll make the best of it and thank God for it."

"I'm extra glad since I go to Central (Baptist Church), I can just walk right over there," says Mrs. Banner. "When I was gone, I rode the bus over here, and then (close friend) Mary would pick all of us up, and bring us over on Sunday. We'd get there early and have to wait for the Sunday school teacher to come it, Reverend Snapp. I'm glad I'm so close.. I wanted to be close, so I could just walk over. It's great to be able to look out the window and see it right there. I joined the church under Reverend Stokely.. he baptized me, and always said, 'come on in to the House of the Lord."

And drug dealers, be warned. The Riverview community just got another set of eyes and ears.

"I don't want to see them drug dealers come back," she says. "I'll just tell 'em to go somewhere else, and then I'll call the police and tell them. People gotta speak up."