By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Carlos Shannon was born at home in a two-room log cabin near Holland’s Gin in Elkmont on October 30, 1943. The “midwife” was Dr. Clifford Vernon Mayhall, whose practice was at the time located in the charming, renovated teal-colored building with the deep porch located across the street from Belle Chevre Creamery on Upper Fort Hampton Road. The Shannons were sharecroppers, and Carlos worked mules and cotton all the years he was growing up. He attended a one-room school located on Beulah Road in Elkmont, and it literally was called Hillbilly School!
He told his daddy, “There’s got to be a better way to make money than sharecropping,” and went to work for Community Gas in Huntsville, getting under houses and wrapping duct work with insulation. He worked several different jobs for various businesses, large and small. They included selling Dr. Pepper, selling cakes for Dolly Madison, and working at L&S on North Jefferson.
When Carlos was 16, he met his sweetheart, Anne, at a swimming hole at Vernon Ford. Anne was 15 at the time, and they were married four years later on Valentine’s Day, 1963. They have two children, Paula and Carlos II, three grandkids, and a great granddaughter who calls Carlos “Grandy.”
Carlos and Anne lived out their own version of the American Dream by opening a convenience store in Piney Chapel in 1975, and they sold it in 1986. Interestingly, Carlos loves all things Western, and on the same property built a cowboy town, which boasted a lovely log cabin in which they lived for several years after their home burned down in 1994. During his “cowboy era,” he used to go to Old York to participate in the cowboy shootouts for the tourists. “I got shot off a mule more times than I can remember,” Carlos said with a grin. Carlos fashioned his Old York character after Festus on Gunsmoke, who was played by veteran actor Ken Curtis. Festus named his mule Ruth, and Carlos named his mule Gertrude.
After Carlos and Anne sold the convenience store, they travelled the country for several years, and became an early version of “American Pickers,” finding all kinds of small antiques, knives and artwork that would be a treasure to just the right person. “We would go places, find stuff, bring it back and sell it. We would go out again, and bring our finds back again,” Carlos said. Because they had limited space, they sold smaller things like antique corn huskers, and other items that could loosely be called American Primitive. For a while, Carlos sold pocket knives, and he told me, “Used to you could bite down on the handle of a horn-handled knife and tell if it was real. Then they got so good at making plastic handles that you couldn’t tell any more, and I wasn’t going to sell anything that wasn’t authentic.”
With regard to the care he has received at Limestone Health as a rehab patient, he and Anne had many positive things to say. “When I first got here after breaking my hip, I couldn’t hardly move,” said Carlos. Anne added, “He’s made a lot of progress. Now he can get into a truck.” Carlos has played Bingo and won, and he loves the food prepared by the kitchen. His favorites at the facility are biscuits and gravy, and cornbread. He also said, “If I need help, they come quick.” Through misty eyes he added, “I love all my nurses, and I think they love me.” He is hoping to be released from rehab at the end of September.
We moved on to the topic of favorites.
Favorite color? “Red.”
Favorite food? “Shrimp, all kinds. Boiled shrimp, grilled shrimp, you name it,” said Carlos.
Favorite food to cook? “I love to grill, and make stews. I would make a pot of stew in a big wash tub,” he said.
Favorite scripture? “Psalms 23.” He and Anne have attended Hobbs Street Church of Christ for many years.
Favorite President of the United States? “Ronald Reagan.”
Favorite actress? “Debbie Reynolds in Tammy And The Bachelor.” I sang him the chorus from Tammy’s In Love, one of the first songs I learned as a kid. He also loves Loretta Lynn.
Favorite actor? Ken Curtis, who played Festus in Gunsmoke.
Biggest change in his lifetime? Most of the time, residents will say things like “the Internet,” or “landing on the moon.” For Carlos, it was this: “Having all the Sun Drop I wanted because I owned my own business, vs. getting a 12 oz. RC Cola when I walked with my granddaddy to get a GI haircut.”
Advice to young people? “Honor thy Father and Mother, and get a job!”
‘Nuff said; that is some wise counsel from a man who has lived a full life with his sweetheart by his side.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner