Published 12:00 am Monday, February 6, 2012

Cooleemee — A Valentines Bake Sale will be held starting at 10 a.m. in front of the Dollar General Store in Cooleemee on Saturday, Feb. 11. Its proceeds will go to the Cooleemee Historical Association’s unique kids history programs that have now given “roots” to an entire generation of local children.
Several dozen local bakers will be contributing “sweets for your sweets” to keep the “Discovering Our Heritage” Kids Programs operating. “Homemade cakes, cookies, cup cakes and other items will be sold until they’re all gone” says Jennifer Godbey, coordinator of the project.
When Cooleemee turned one hundred in 1998, Courtney Gibson was a member of the first Cooleemee Kids History Club. Members came to the historic Zachary House every Tuesday afternoon to do a few chores, eat a snack and learn history. Their initials were carved in the wet cement that formed the base of the Fire Fighters Museum they helped create.
Courtney Gibson Plott is now grown, with two children. Last year she moved back to her hometown. While decorating for her sister Tiffany’s baby shower at the Zachary House, she noticed a photo stuck up with push pins on the kitchen bulletin board. There she was, a fifth grader in 1998, dressed just as her great grandmother, Lula Creed Gibson, would have been in 1910 when she was a girl spinner at the cotton mill. Courtney called her four year-old daughter, Elizabeth, to take a look. “Mama, you’re beautiful,” said Elizabeth.
Cooleemee’s strong hometown pride was passed down to Courtney by her dad, Bill, who served for many years as the CVFD’s fire chief here, and her Grandma Ann who has now passed away. This pride was also fed by Cooleemee’s strong emphasis on history and heritage. Another Kids History Club alum, Christie Taylor Jones, now teaches 3rd grade at Cooleemee Elementary. Last fall she smiled as her students passed by her old house on Main Street during their “Great Walking Tour of Old Cooleemee.”
Eventually, CHA’s youth work evolved into its “Discovering Our Heritage” project. It has so far provided seven summer heritage camps for local children. Its primary effort goes to producing seven unique heritage lessons each year, the first one beginning with the “More at Four” children. Each lesson builds on the last, with a focus on imagining how their ancestors lived in a mill town and before that in the Carolina Piedmont’s backcountry.
Courtney told her daughter that someday, she could wear that dress. Last December, her son, Christopher, attended his first heritage lesson at the Zachary House along with his kindergarten classmates. They saw toys without batteries. And, from history, they learned that Christmas could be great even without much money, so long as you had your family and knew the meaning of the holiday. Courtney recalls that he was especially excited about the “poke” he brought home.
If you would like to contribute a baked item to the sale, please bring it to the Zachary House on Friday, February 10th between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Contributions to this youth work are always welcome. For more information call 704-284-6040.