East Tennessee State University

Retirees Association (ETSURA)

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Three football players and one basketball player help Mrs. Culp plant her legendary daylilies. From left-right: linebacker Doug Linebarger is now a top executive with Philips-Magnavox in Atlanta and is an SEC football official; basketball player Mike Kretzer is CEO of a trucking company in New Jersey; center John Walton lives in Elizabethton and is a judge; and guard Ed Harris is a businessman and successful entrepreneur.

Besides his innumerable contributions to the success of ETSU, President D.P. Culp is remembered fondly for his enthusiastic support of its athletic teams. The following memories were shared recently by his widow, Martha, who was renowned for her green thumb. Look for more of Mrs. Culp’s recollections in February!

When we prepared to move from Montevallo, Ala., to the campus of ETSU, I had a few thousand daylily seedlings, and I
couldn’t bear to abandon them. My yard man and I dug them up hastily and tossed them into five tubs. 

We moved into the old president’s home on campus in early February, and the tubs were shoved under the back porch. In about mid-April, I had caught up enough to think about planting those dried-up little bits of grass. So I asked Mr. (Solon) Gentry (the business manager) for a bit of land out of the way and he gave me a garden spot near what is now the baseball field on campus.
He also directed the grounds man to give me some men to plant them. Those men were plainly disgusted at being required to plant what appeared to be dead grass, but those little lumps on the roots were food tubers, and it is very hard to kill a daylily. 

Those little plants took off just great with my T.L.C. and a little Vigaro. They were technically in their second year. Lo and behold, most of them put up a single bud or two and began to bloom. 

I asked Mr. Gentry for the space between walks behind our new (Burgin E.) Dossett Hall, which was almost completed, and the old Gilbreath Hall up the hill. “That’s not soil,” he said. “It’s just dirt, and I don’t think anything will grow in it.”

I assured him that daylilies would grow in just about anything and would soon make good soil from dirt.  Our coaches had some really fine football and basketball players who were technically on work scholarships during the off season. An agreement was worked out so that they would help plant my daylilies on campus. 

The space was divided into three areas, and we dug them all before moving any plants. A vehicle similar to an early jeep was used to transport the blooming plants. Every morning, we drove over to see what color blooms we had that day, dug them, then planted them widely separated in the three spaces so early-, mid- and late-bloomers were mixed in all beds. 

At first my boys were a bit self-conscious, driving through the campus with flowers in the vehicle. But, as time passed and blooms appeared, they drove proudly through the campus while classes changed. I worked along with my boys. We started at 7 a.m., planted until 10, then took a break.  Margaret Bridges, our pleasant and efficient cook/housekeeper, was very cooperative. She was prepared to feed six or eight hungry athletes in our kitchen every day we worked. To this day, I have never met anyone who could put away as much food as Mike Kretzer could. He was a tall basketball star, hollow to his toes. 

We soon had all of our space filled, and the project got a lot of attention. Even Mr. Gentry was impressed. I had us included in a national list of daylily gardens to visit, and we often had visitors with cameras on campus. 

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"Tales of the University" is a regular column provided by the ETSU Retirees Association about the university and the people associated with it through the decades.  Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to share their memories of ETSU with the Retirees Association for consideration for future columns.  Stories, comments and suggestions may be sent to Dr. Willene Paxton, chair of the Tales of the University committee, 1203 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City, TN 37601, or willenepj@charter.net.

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Mailing Address:  Office of Human Resources
ETSU Box 70564
Johnson City, TN  37614-1707
Telephone:  423-439-4457
Fax:  423-439-8354
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Office Hours:  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.S.T. Monday - Friday
Office Location:  Rooms 307 and 311, Dossett Hall

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Updated on 09/07/10