Today we are happy to feature as our Interesting Person, Dennie Helms, longtime employee of the Coca Cola Plant, sports enthusiast and well-known citizen of this area. He has always been active and continues to be so. No one would ever guess he is in his 80's. His daughter-in-law, Carol Helms, says his good health and vitality are probably due to a combination of working every day, dancing every weekend and a constant diet of sports and chewing cigars!
Dennie and his wife, the late Eva Louise Pafford Helms, were the parents of two children: Dian and Rob. There are four grandchildren - two girls and two boys, all of whom he adores.
It was my privilege and joy to teach both Dian and Rob. Dian was my second grade pupil at the old City School, while Rob was in my fourth grade class at the Caywood School, the "round building" as our principal, the late Paul G. Caywood called it. Their mother, Eva, was room mother for both grades and I found her to be supportive of anything we tried to do from contributing money for a drive we were involved in, ttv getting Charles Thomason to drive a school bus for an Easter egg hunt at her, home on Broad Street.
After the children married and were gone, Eva and Dennie bought and restored the lovely old Thompsie Edwards home on Main Street, living there until her death. It is now called "Mama Eva's" a bed and breakfast, a beautiful ancestral home with Dian as the owner.
Rob is the owner and president of Pafford Funeral Home which is now a 4th generation business. It was begun by Eva's grandfather, continued by her father, the late Royal R. Pafford, and then operated by Eva until her death a few years ago. Now Rob carries on in the same helpful, supportive way it had begun.
Rob's children, Christen and Weston, affectionately call Dennie "Dandy." His love of sports is a big part of his life and carries over from his own days, to Rob's baseball years, to now watching the grandchildren play T-ball. Dennie can often be found at his usual spot, sitting in his lawn chair behind home plate, watching Christen or Weston's games. Sports are so important to him that Carol schedules holiday gatherings around game times just as Eva always did.
In an article a few years ago, L. H. Pratt told something of Dennie's love of sports, especially baseball. In a day when television did not dominate our lives as it does today, Dennie was instrumental in promoting our national pastime, baseball. In 1946, he led the Lexington Lions' Club in sponsoring the Lexington Chicks Independent Baseball team. He gave many hours of his time to help build a new baseball field which was built where Lexington High is now located. He was also instrumental in helping to get our first baseball field lighted for night games. He served as manager of the Powerhouse Lexington Chicks. Pratt said that Dennie always gave 100% of himself whether it was in winning or losing and was honored by membership in the Henderson County Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a TSSAA basketball and football official for 28 years. He laughs about a time when he and Paul Caywood officiated at a game in Paris, Tn. They were paid $25 between them for officiating; put $2 worth of gas in the car and got fined $22.50 for speeding! He fnally quit officiating in 1955 and began a new hobby. He was one of the first to introduce Tennessee Walking Horses to Henderson County. For several years, he pursued this hobby but has since sold his stock and is now busy "making Cokes" - a work which he says "Coke adds life". His doctor said a few years ago his health is as good as a man of 25.
He is now working in his 61st year at the Coke Plant. Except for a stint in World War II with the Navy, spending 18 months in the Philippines, he has been here. It all began on July 7, 1934 when the late W. W. Hay asked Dennie about working at the Coke Plant. It was on Sunday after church when everyone gathered at the late Jack Hennessee's, the popular place to go. Dennie had been raised on a farm at Shady Hill and had attended U. T. Junior College at Martin and was happy to accept the job, reporting for work Mil- next, morning. In the word.s of the Progress, "He's been there ever since."
Dennie began working for $1 a day the first week; was raised to $1.50 the second week and raised to the unbelievable sum of $2 a day his third week. He was the Coke Company's only route man. The firm then owned a truck and a pickup. Now, it has many units.
He recalls that his first sale was to Jess Tully on Highway 20 East where the store of Roy Lee Maness now is located. The order was for one case of Cokes for 800. The route then consisted of stores at Parsons, Decaturville, Perryville, Scotts Hill, Sardis and Reagan. Another route took in Huntingdon and Bruceton. The route he took the first day now requires 7 trucks to service. Dennie talked sports in three counties - and sold Cokes. He recalls that on his first whole route, he sold only 125 cases. Now they sell thousands of cases on that same route.
Retirement? That's a question he does not contemplate. He's happy, busy and well. We join the Progress and many other friends in wishing him continued good health and happiness!