When Katherine Dellinger Helton and Anne Sherrill Eudy began attending school at the old Rock Springs campus on N.C. 16 in Denver (now a Catholic Church), they couldn’t possibly imagine that they were beginning a lifelong friendship.
More than 80 years later, they are still the best of friends, sharing lunch several days a week while reminiscing about those good old days and the mischief they got into at school.
Helton, born in 1924, was one of twin girls delivered prematurely by a midwife at the family’s 300-acre cotton and wheat farm on Old Plank Road in Lowesville. Her twin died within 24 hours, leaving Katherine as the youngest of six boys and five girls.
Eudy, the oldest of six children, was born in a two-room house in 1925 on the 100-acre farm on Unity Church Road owned by her grandmother, Mae Graham Sherrill. She still lives on the farm in the home she and her husband, Al Eudy, built 64 years ago.
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“Starting school together, we had the same teacher and the same boyfriend,” recalled Anne Eudy. “His name was Caldwell Duckworth, and because his brother owned a grocery store, he brought us chewing gum every morning. It was always Dentyne and Juicy Fruit.
“I left Caldwell to Katherine in the second grade,” Eudy said, “and I took up with Kenneth Lawing. He and I got into singing and dancing, and we were involved in school plays attended by the whole community. We sang ‘The Good Ship Lollipop.’ Katherine was on stage with Caldwell but they only had a speaking role.”
It soon became apparent that they were destined to remain together. “We were always in the same class, all the way through elementary and high school, which only went to the 11th grade,” said Eudy. “I had to quit school in the 10th grade, however, to help with the younger kids and to help daddy in the cotton fields.”
“In the fifth grade, Anne rode the school bus home with me because we had a player piano in our house. We stayed indoors and played with it because we didn’t want to be out in the fields picking cotton,” Helton said. “Anne would often stay for dinner, so there were 14 of us sitting around a long wooden table with benches in the kitchen.”
“We still talk about the mischief we got into back in our school days,” said Eudy. “We were tomboys, daredevils. If asked to do something, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it. I was probably the ringleader and Katherine followed suit. We didn’t do bad things. We were just mischievous.”
“We’d go down to the creek with friends after recess, and the teacher would have to send somebody to look for us. The principal would call home and tell our folks what we’d done, and our parents told us if we got a paddling at school, we’d get a switching when we got home,” Helton recalled.
“We weren’t always getting into mischief, though,” Eudy said. “We played jack stones and hopscotch every day at lunch. We entertained ourselves with no help from anybody else.”
“Mr. Parker was our 8th grade teacher at Rock Springs,” said Helton. “When he turned around, we’d throw erasers or spitballs at him. He finally quit. He said, ‘I can’t do a thing with these girls any more.’ ”
Eudy continued: “I had a bad habit of talking out of turn in class and I’d get paddled or made to stand in the corner. I think they passed us from the seventh grade to the eighth grade just to get rid of us.”
“It’s a wonder we weren’t expelled from school. Now they’d have us throwed out afore the sun went down,” said Eudy, lapsing in the vernacular she used as a young girl. “We realize what we put our parents and teachers through, but we had a good time. We’re more mature now so we don’t do things like that anymore,” she was quick to add, “but my friends look at me and think, ‘You haven’t changed a bit.’ ”
Marriage was in the not-too-distant future for both girls. Katherine met her future husband, Stewart Helton, at the Methodist League. They married in 1943 while he was on furlough from the Army. He returned to combat, was wounded and received a Purple Heart. They had four daughters, one of whom has passed away.
Anne left school in 1943 when her family moved to Cornelius to work in the cotton mills. She worked there as well, and then took a job at Woolworth’s in Charlotte, “working behind the lunch counter.” She met her future husband. Alfred Eudy, in 1943 before he joined the Air Force, flying 44 missions in the Pacific. They married in 1950, in York, S.C., after dating for seven years.
Alfred worked for NAPA for 39 years; Anne worked for 10 years at Belk department store in Charlotte, a job that entailed a commute she never particularly enjoyed.
Anne’s grandmother offered them an acre of land if they’d build a house on it and move back to the farm, which they did. Alfred passed away in 2003.
Katherine’s husband, Stewart, worked at McClure Lumber Co. in Charlotte for 42 years, and Katherine worked for a while at a hosiery mill in Belmont, folding hose, before settling in to her life as a stay-at-home mom. When their girls got older, she worked evenings as a waitress at Jones Fish Camp for 10 years.
Helton’s daughter Rhonda Pease and her husband now live in the old house on the family farm; Katherine lives at The Terraces, near Denver United Methodist Church.
Although Katherine and Anne drifted apart for a while, they never severed “the ties that bind,” and as each of them experienced widowhood, they revived the relationship that began in early childhood.
They enjoy lunch together a few times a week at the Sports Page at Waterside Crossing, in Denver, reminiscing about those childhood hi-jinx and the years since.
Katherine and her husband had belonged to the United Methodist Church, but she currently attends services at Living Word Ministries in Denver. Anne was a member of Unity Presbyterian Church, but is now a charter member of the Lakeshore Presbyterian Church in America.
Helton pointed out, “We’ve grown now to trust God and behave in ways that would be pleasing to Him.”
Eudy added, “We have always regarded each other as best friends, and there has never been a sour note between the two of us. It’s always been ‘me and Katherine’ and that’s the the way it will stay.”