Betty Fraley

Betty Fraley was born in Coffee County on Bradley’s Creek about three miles from Gate 1 at Arnold Center in 1934, the youngest of seven.  The Arnold Center Area was barren land until World War II, at which time it became Camp Forest, then a prisoner of war camp, then Arnold Center (1951).  Her Dad was in the produce business in Decherd when the depression hit and they were forced to move to the farm.  Her grandmother was a Call, so they moved to the old Call property, which at one time was 1000 acres from the Coffee County line to Bradley’s Creek.  The house was a two story log house with weather boarding over the logs, built before the Civil War.  There was a generator and carbide lights at one time, but long before they lived there.  They did not have electricity until TVA and rural electrification in 1948 when Betty was in the eighth grade.

Every time there was land for sale, Betty’s dad would purchase it, and, also rented other land, so that they farmed around 400 acres.  Betty was a field hand and had never cooked a meal until she married.  She was not house broken.  One year, her family had 14 acres of Irish potatoes.  Betty and her brother cut all those potatoes to be planted.  The German Prisoners picked them up.  The prisoners also cut the molasses cane.  Betty’s family had to go to Camp Forest to pick the prisoners up, but they were free labor.  The problem there, tires and gas was rationed, so it was not easy to have the necessary supplies to perform that task.

During World War II, the soldiers from Camp Forest maneuvered on their farm.  Without warning, they cut the fences, moved in on the crops and set up tents and mess halls and an entire camp. The entire farm would be covered except for the yard.  The soldiers picked the blackberries and milked the cows to have berries and milk, some slept in the hay pen in the barn.

In 1948, Betty’s family was still getting out of school in the fall two weeks for cotton picking.  They did not raise cotton, but Betty persuaded her Dad to put out an acre of cotton for Betty, so she had her own cotton crop when she was in the 8th grade.  Betty sold the bale of cotton for $500, paid for the gas for the tractor, seed and fertilizer and had to pay some cotton pickers to help her harvest it, but still had more money than she had ever had.  Betty got her first beauty shop permanent.  That was when they put you under a machine and wired you up to look like something from outer space.

While Arnold Center was still barren land, Betty’s mother and sisters would go huckleberry picking in that area.  Betty was too little to go (Betty says thank goodness).  Betty would stay with her grandmother Newman and sit at her feet while she told Betty about the Civil War.  Betty’s grandmother was a little girl during the Civil War, her grandfather was a Baptist preacher and was her grandmother was very religious.  The only foul work she ever said was da__   Yankee and they say she thought was one word.  When she first saw her first airplane, she fell to her knees and said, “Lord, please don’t let anybody be up there in that contraption.”

Betty had one brother and 3 brother in laws in World War II, a first cousin who died from the Baton Death March after returning to the states (he weighed 65 pounds).  Only one brother in law, her husband, and brother were in the Korean War.  Betty’s brother was drafted in March 19, 1951.  He was Betty’s best friend.  Betty and her brother doubled dated and had lots of fun together.  When he left, Betty’s dad said he would give her the milk check just as he had her brother if she wanted to milk the cows, so all during the rest of her junior year and all of her senior year in high school, she milked 10 cows, caught a bus at 6:45 a.m. and played high school basketball.  When they played Lawrenceburg, she got home at 3:30 a.m., got up, milked, and caught the bus at 6:45 a.m.

When Betty graduated high school in 1952, Arnold Center had opened in 1951 (President Truman dedicated0).  Betty was tempted to go to work there, but decided to go to MTSU.  Betty cried the day she left home.  Her family worked hard, but had an extremely happy home life.  They played some too.  When Betty cried, her Dad said, “Now, Betty you don’t have to go if you don’t want to9, you can just stay here and I’ll get you some more cows to milk.”  The only other advice Betty’s father gave her was, “Now, if you ever anywhere and get too much to drink, go home, there is nothing any more disgusting than a drunk woman.”  Betty did not drink.

Betty’s first eight years of her education were spent at Prairie Plains were she played basketball and was the pitcher on the softball team.  Prairie Plains was a feeder was grades one through tenth and there were two feeder schools, Rutledge Hill and Calls Schools (one through eight) then those students came to Prairie Plans for 9th and 10th grade and then to Manchester Central High School in the fall of 1948 for 11th and 12th grade.  This was the case until 1948.  Betty went to Manchester Central High School in the fall of 1948 for 4 years and played basketball.  She was Senior Class Treasurer and received the DAR Good Citizenship Award.  Finished high school at 17 and college at 20, graduated on Friday and started teaching in Whitwell High School on Monday.  Betty’s take home pay was $195 a month.  She paid $45 room and board, $100 on her college debt, and lived on $50.  Betty received a Master’s degree later in Administration and Supervision.

When Betty was a junior in college, George Fraley came back to MTSU from the United States Air Force to finish his last two years of college.   Two of Betty’s friends and her were hitchhiking to town and George picked them up.  Very few students on campus had cars in that day. They were delighted to learn that George was from Winchester, so they started riding home with him when they came home on weekends.  Betty and her three friends rode home with George and paid him $2 each round trip.  This was enough to pay for his gas for a week in 1954.  George and Betty started dating between her junior and senior year in college.  George and Betty graduated in August 1955.  George taught in Tullahoma for 1 year, then went to work in Cookeville as an insurance adjuster.  Betty taught in Whitwell two years and they married in 1957.  George would not marry Betty until she got her college debt paid, got a permanent, and had her teeth fixed.  George did not want her to be a liability.

The Insurance Adjustment Bureau transferred George to Tullahoma.  Betty applied for a job in Franklin and Coffee Counties again, as she had done when she finished college.  Tullahoma City Schools hired Betty to teach at East Junior High.  Very soon George was hired at Arnold Center as a metallurgist where he worked for 32 years.  George was very unhappy in Tullahoma.  He came to Franklin County Football games on Friday nights.  He saw 32 acres on Cumberland Street in Decherd for sale at auction, came over and bought it without one word to Betty.  The house had been completely redone on the inside, but the front porch was falling in to the extent that Betty had to move furniture in on the back porch.  They had a new brick house on Fawn Street in Tullahoma.  The only reason Betty went to college, was so she would not marry a farmer. Betty cried all the way over to Franklin County.  When the Bible farm became for sale in 1966, George sold the 42 acres and bought 168 acres.  Of course, Betty loved Franklin County as did George.  The Fraley’s first child, Beri, was born in April 1961 after moving there in November of 1960.  Beth, their daughter, was born in August, 1966 after moving to the Bible Farm in May.  Betty stayed home for 8 years with her children.

Betty went back to teaching on February 12, 1969.  That fall, Betty taught at Franklin County High School (this is the same year George was elected to the County Commission).  Betty taught at Franklin County High School until January 19, 1998, at which time she had a stroke and was incapacitated for a year. (By this time George had served a term as County Executive and serve as State Representative for the 39th District from 1996-2010).

After recovering from the stroke, Betty went back to FCHS to help out while Red Roberts, the then Principal was in Afghanistan.  It was a thrill for Betty to be back at work.  Betty had said many times, “The thing worse than working, is not being able to.”

Betty wanted to stay but was not needed, so she tried substituting.  As much as she loved teaching, she did not like substituting.  Christine Hopkins needed help with her reentry program at the Sheriff’s Department, so Betty worked with that program for 7 years and taught Adult Education.  

Betty participates in Senior Saint activities at the Winchester Church of Christ, where they take food and communicate with those grieving and in need of help.  She is a member of the retired teachers, Wings of Hope, DAR and Delta Kappa Gamma.  She is very politically active and very interested in local, state, and national government.  Betty has only missed one national convention in the past 20 years.

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