Tyler Engle, director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County, welcomed the crowd with a with a few comments on the pottery's contributions to the heritage of the community and introduced three special honorees chosen to do the unveiling.
Frankie Lewis, who will turn 92 years old on Aug. 16, and Mildred Silvers 91, both spent more than decade hand painting the pottery pieces that are now coveted by collectors around the world.
And there to help Lewis and Silvers tdo the honors was Frankies’ kid sister, Glenda Lewis, the 85-year old proprietor of the Valley Beautiful Antique Mall in downtown Erwin where some 5,000 pieces of the pottery is still available for purchase.
Silvers said at one time the pottery employed more than 500 girl painters and she was proud to be one of them. “We loved it. It was a great place to work. It was and a fun place to work. I started working there right out of high school and was there until it closed.
Glenda said, Frankie worked at the pottery from 1945 to 1957, and went on to become a nurse after its closing, spending her next 35 years caring for patients at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.
Club member Richard Riggs said the markers placement was more than a year in the making and began with a the club’s desire to do something special to denote the 100th anniversary of the pottery’s opening.
“Some big mouth came up with the idea of a historic marker. That was me. So I go appointed to look into,” he said.
Riggs began the paperwork with the Tennessee Historical Society, which required considerable documentation of the pottery’s history. And he also went before the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen for a contribution to the $1,450 cost of the marker.
The town contributed half. The Unicoi County Historical Society also made a contribution and between the three entities the deed was done.
“I thought it would be appropriate to have a marker,” Riggs said. And based on the applause that came as the Lewis sisters, Silvers and Engle pulled away the veil, many in Erwin agreed.