Catherine Louise Turner is 82 years old, and full of vim and vigor. She was raised by her grandparents, and graduated from Trinity High School. “Miss Cat” was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of telling me her exact age, but I think it’s safe to say that she graduated from Trinity just about the same time Ike was inaugurated as President of the United States. Her grandfather ran a store at the intersection of Browns-Ferry and Highway 72. “It was owned by Ed Shelton, but my grandfather ran it for him, ‘cuz Mr. Ed, he liked to fish a lot,” Miss Cat told me.
By her own admission, Catherine was “teacher’s pet,” and she also had teachers that were her favorites. She went to Miller Public School, which was near Trinity, and she called Miss Watkins her pet. “We used to carry things for our teachers, and that’s how we became the pets,” she said. She also told me that one of her teachers by the name of Miss King tried to teach her how to dance, but Cat said that she was just “too stiff.” Not too stiff, though, to enjoy the music of Little Richard, and it was recorded on 78s.
There were times when she and her schoolmates were, by their own admission, rascals. They would poke each other with pencils, and deny it. In return, her teacher, Miss Harris, affectionately called them “barbarians.”
Her half sisters were present for the interview, and said that one of their favorite memories was having 4th of July picnics at Miss Cat’s. “We had them under a big oak tree.” Catherine didn’t want to tell me much about her husband, “Because he was one of the good ones.” Interesting reply, as most of the time it’s the bad spouses that get all the press in these interviews. All she told me was that his name was Frank Turner, and they had three children. She now has a grandchild, and two great grandchildren. One of her “greats” calls Cat her “gwait-gwait.”
Mrs. Turner has no shortage of stories, one of which was the fact that “back in the day” she used to cook for legendary rocket scientist Werner Von Braun. She was also very active in her church, Oak Grove C.M.E., and became well known in her district and attended the national conference held by the denomination. She taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, was president of the church’s Stewardesses Board, and served as an usher.
Catherine also collects bibles. “I have 34 of them,” she said, “and I reads them all.” She gives them away to people to whom she is ministering, particularly people who are going to the hospital. There is just about every translation you can think of, and they are all lined up in a row.
We moved on to the topic of favorites:
Favorite color? “White.”
Favorite food? “Sweet potato custard pie.”
Favorite actor/actress? “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.”
Favorite singer? “James Brown.” We broke into our own version of “I Feel Good, I Knew That I Would.”
Favorite movie? “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Favorite song? “Tutti Fruitti.”
Favorite scripture? “Psalm 23, but really, I loves all of ‘em.”
Favorite President of the United States?” “Barack Obama, the first African American president.”
I wish I could effectively describe the way Miss Cat says the word “superb.” That was the word she used to illustrate the quality of the care she has received at Athens Health and Rehab. “And the food, oh Lord it is good.” In addition, this is not the first time that Keisha in Activities has been described as someone’s favorite. Keisha and Cat tease each other mercilessly.
Her favorite activity at the facility is Bingo, and apparently she has been quite the winner. She also really enjoys the bible study.
I asked her for some words of wisdom for young people, and here’s what she said: “Get out of the street and into the church, and find out what’s going on.” Sage advice from the indomitable Miss Catherine Louise Turner.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner