- [S106] The Mountain Press, 18 Jan 2009.
Herb Clabo deserves plaque
for Wilderness contributions
At 97 there is not much that has escaped Herb Clabo. The native of the Smoky Mountains is a reservoir of information about the history of the park, the area and the people. Each year his class at Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge is among the most popular.
This year Clabo was in for a surprise. Pigeon Forge Mayor Keith Whaley was on hand to give Clabo a plaque recognizing him for his contributions to the event and for providing such interesting and historical data about our community.
He was born in 1911 in Roaring Fork. He lived in a log cabin and attended the old settlement school. His stories of growing up poor are inspiring as well as fascinating. He is a true Sevier County treasure.
Thanks, Herb Clabo, for being such a great representative of our community and for sharing your knowledge and life experienced with so many people. The plaque you received was well earned.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 7 Jun 2009.
The park was their home
By DEREK HODGES
GATLINBURG - Though he was only a boy at the time, Roy Oliver remembers well the day the men from the government came and told his family they'd have to move out of their home in the Little Greenbrier community.
"I remember it about like it was yesterday," Oliver says. "We didn't like it at the time. The men who came didn't exactly run us out, but they did suggest we find somewhere else to live."
Though there may have been some hard feelings at the time, Oliver, who now lives in Townsend with his wife Emma, has come to understand the importance of establishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
"There's just something special about this place and I'm glad they're preserving it," Oliver says. "It's in me. It's in my blood and it still feels like home."
From his birthplace near Metcalf Bottoms, Oliver's family moved to Tremont when he was just 2. Then, when he was 10, those government officials came to the door of his house and told his parents it's time they consider their real estate options.
It's been many decades ago now, but Oliver says he can still pick out the family's old home site in Tremont.
"He's taken me up there many times to show me that," Emma Oliver says.
Stories like Oliver's are rare and becoming more so everyday as those who were born and raised in what would become Great Smoky Mountains National Park "cross the river to the glory land," as the old timers say it. That's why, as the nation's most popular park celebrates its 75th birthday, Gatlinburg officials organized The Park Was My Home.
The Saturday event brought together no fewer than 21 people, including Roy Oliver, whose families made their homes on land that was commandeered to create the current reserve of more than 500,000 acres. With the help of Bill Landry, host of WBIR-TV's popular and soon-ending Heartland Series, Oliver and the others had a chance to share their stories of life before and after the park with a crowd that filled the John Sevier Room at the Gatlinburg Inn.
"Stories like these could be lost forever in just a few years, so as part of celebrating the park's 75th anniversary, we wanted to be a part of documenting and preserving them," Gatlinburg Special Events Coordinator George Hawkins says. "We have a lot of people on the agenda and most of them are from this area. The farthest any of them came from is Maryville, so these really are local stories."
In his introduction of the event, Hawkins acknowledged the sacrifice it took to create the park and called the result a "lasting tribute" to people like those who spoke.
"From endings came new beginnings," Hawkins said. "I applaud you and your families."
Though many see what was given up, Pittman Center Mayor Glen Cardwell, a native of the Greenbrier community (not to be confused with Oliver's Little Greenbrier, which was actually a good day's drive from Greenbrier in the days before modern highways), saw only advantage to the park's creation.
"I just felt like we got a big backyard to camp and play in," Cardwell said as he offered his own recollections of life at the creation of the park. "There is joy now in seeing what it has become."
What it has become, park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson says, is not only a playground for the about 10 million people who come here each year, but also a monument to families like the Cardwells, the Olivers, the Clabos, the Maples' and countless others who gave up more than 6,000 tracts that became the park.
"The park really is a collection of stories, from Cades Cove to Little Cataloochee," Ditmanson says. "It's very important that we remember those stories and remember to say, "Thank you,' for the sacrifices that were made. I don't think that's something we've really made a concerted effort of doing before this 75th anniversary celebration."
Indeed, the year-long party has become largely centered around recognizing the history of the park and the families whose land made it possible. With that in mind, park officials have just within the last few weeks made final plans for preserving several of the homes in the Elkmont area.
Though they were built some time later than the homes Oliver and Cardwell grew up in and by wealthy vacationers, Ditmanson says even these 1950s-era cabins are worth preserving to help tell the story of the Smokies.
"There are important stories to every part of the park, and these maintenance programs we have undertaken are the ways we're helping preserve those stories and pass them down to the next generations," Ditmanson says. "There are some really wonderful stories in the park and about the places that became the park."
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 26 Dec 2011.
Upland Chronicles: Herbert Clabo recalls Christmases of his childhood
by BRANDON BARNES
Herbert Clabo, now 100 years old, recalls many historical facts and figures about Sevier County.
Keith Whaley, then mayor of Pigeon Forge, honors Clabo for his years of participation in the city s annual Wilderness Wildlife Week.
As today is Christmas Day, there is no better time than now to look back on how the holiday was traditionally celebrated by the families who lived in the Smoky Mountains.
The Christian faith teaches the birth of Jesus was celebrated by the celestial angels as well as the magi who found him with Mary and Joseph at the manger. The magi, often referred to as wise men, provided the newborn and his earthly parents with great gifts and treasures. To them, the birth of Jesus signified the old Jewish prophecies of a messiah had come to fruition and that Christ’s life, death and resurrection would provide eternal life for everyone who believes in Him.
People have seemingly forgotten the meaning of Christmas. While Christmas has been celebrated in many different places in one facet or another for over 2,000 years, in Sevier County families have had their own ways of celebrating.
With over 100 years and eight months worth of experiences, Herbert Clabo has many memories and stories to share about Christmas. Born on April 2, 1911, Herbert Clabo has partaken in a hundred Christmases in the Smoky Mountains.
Herbert grew up off of Roaring Fork close to where the Grotto parking area is today. From his family’s homestead, the young boy would come to work cornfields to help feed his family throughout the cold, winter months.
The Clabo family homestead sat 3,000 feet above sea level and, if a bad winter was in store, it was always in the family’s best interest to have plenty of food canned and stockpiled to last them through the winter months. During Herbert’s childhood, the Clabo family did not have a vehicle to drive nor was there the convenience of 24 hour shopping centers like there are these days.
Though his family lived in what many people consider hard conditions, Herbert recalls how both he and his family walked everywhere they went as automobiles were widely unavailable and unaffordable for families living in the backcountry of Sevier County.
With the Clabo family’s residence located off of Roaring Fork, Herbert and his siblings had a four-mile round trip trek from home to school and back. When the winter weather was in its fullest fury, he and other children would still try to make their way out so long as the snowfall was only ankle deep; however, if the snowfall was knee deep, then they would not venture out as their parents were afraid they could get seriously hurt trekking the country for miles in such conditions.
“The snow gave us some good entertainment as we could go easily hunt and track rabbits,” recalls Clabo, adding, “We didn’t have much for entertainment except hunting, fishing and corn shucking. Back then there weren’t any shows to go to.”
During the Christmas season, Mr. Clabo states, “We usually had a special sermon at church about the meaning of Christmas. Sometimes, there would be a little singing, but since there weren’t many children in the church and the older folks didn’t really like singing, there was very little music during those services.”
Christmas, while viewed by the Clabo family and many others as a special day, was in some ways a day like any other. If the family was behind in having things prepared and stored for the cold weather, then they had to work doubly hard to catch up to be prepared as the weather did not wait for the holidays.
“All winter we would gather and cut wood to keep our home warm. We didn’t have electricity, but we did have a fireplace and a wood burning kitchen stove. Having wood ready was important for us to keep warm and for cooking,” he said, adding, “There wasn’t any major industry here and tourism hadn’t taken off yet, so most people worked their land for food and timber to store up for the winter.”
While on the topic of cooking and food, Mr. Clabo recalls the gifts he and his siblings received for Christmas.
“At Christmas, we would hang our stockings at the chimney and wait for Santa Claus to come. We considered it to be something to get a banana or an apple or an orange. It was especially something if we got a piece of cake or a couple pieces of stick candy.”
Nowadays, it is unusual to think of people not having plenty of sweets to eat during the Christmas holidays. While there are plenty of soft drinks, candies and sweets readily available to us now, during Clabo’s youth one would be lucky to get anything with sugar as sugar was incredibly expensive.
Matter of fact, Mr. Clabo never had snow cream. For those unfamiliar with snow cream, it is a drink that consists of fresh snow (always the second snow of the season), sugar, vanilla flavoring and milk.
While presents for children and families were homemade goodies, one tradition that has stood the test of time is the setting up of a Christmas tree. During Herbert’s youth, his family would cut a pine tree of about four to five feet in height. Since the Clabo family did not have electricity, the only things they could decorate with were items they could easily find, such as crepe paper and popcorn strung on thread.
Today, many people use artificial trees as they can be set up for Christmas and broken down easily year after year.
Another way Herbert and his family celebrated Christmas was by scraping together 25 cents to purchase a pack of fireworks to ring in Christmas. He recalls, “About a month before Christmas, many people throughout the mountains and surrounding areas would shoot a gun to signal that Christmas was coming. My brothers and I always enjoyed gathering up some change to purchase fireworks to shoot off to celebrate the day.”
As times have changed, no one shoots off fireworks or guns to signal the start of Christmas any more. Instead, Christmas cards make their way through the postal service wishing recipients, “Merry Christmas.”
While these are just a few of Mr. Clabo’s many Christmastime recollections, there are countless other stories he has to share, including hunting wild game, picking on musical instruments and stating the entire alphabet backwards.
As of this writing, Mr. Clabo intends to keep his tradition of attending and giving a discussion on the many developments and changes he has seen at the 22nd Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge. His program, “Meet Mr. Herbert Clabo,” is scheduled from 10-11 a.m. Jan. 10 at Music Road.
Including Mr. Clabo, there will be more than 150 other experts on hand presenting over 240 programs as well as 48 hikes and field trips from Jan. 7-14. Topics up for discussion range from the heritage of the Smokies to proper outdoor and hiking etiquette to hands-on instructional classes on how to make baskets as well as countless other subjects about local interests.
For complete information, visit www.mypigeonforge.com or call the Pigeon Forge Office of Special Events at 429-7350.
Clabo’s recollections serve as a reminder that Christmas is not about the things we give and receive. Instead, it is like most any other day; except it is special as it marks the date we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which is something people have been celebrating the world over for over 2,000 years.
— Brandon Barnes is a Sevier County native and an aspiring writer who currently serves as a special events coordinator for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism and Office of Special Events. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments; contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or e-mail to email@example.com; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 8 Apr 2012.
An Active Example: Clabo credits exercise with long life as he turns 101
by GAIL CRUTCHFIELD
Herbert Clabo tells the audience helping him celebrate his 101st birthday that he prefers to be called Herbert, not Herb. "I don t like Herb. Herb is a pokestalk," he said.
Herbert Clabo shares stories of his life and advice on living longer as Veta King interviews him during the celebration of his 101st birthday. His older brother lived to 102, so Clabo said his goal is to beat his brother s accomplishment.
The audience reacts to comments made by Herbert Clabo during his birthday celebration.
GATLINBURG — A living legend marked his 101st birthday recently, with a party hosted by the Retired Citizens of the Smoky Mountains. Dozens of people filled the meeting room of the Community Center to wish Herbert Clabo a happy birthday — and many more.
While being interviewed by historian Veta King, Clabo provided a few tips on how people can try to live a long life. The biggest thing, he said, is to be active and keep moving.
"What I do, and my advice to most of the people, and all of you, is, it's your body, take care of it," Clabo said. "I've been really poor and slim most of my life, except when I got married I got up near 200. I was carrying the mail at that time and riding horseback. I told ’em my old mare turned around and looked at me and said, look here buddy, you're going to have to do something, I can't carry you and the mail."
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 8 Apr 2014.
With friends, Herbert Clabo celebrates 103 years
Herbert Clabo prepares to blow out birthday candles Monday. The Retired Citizens of the Smokies held a celebration for Clabo on Monday afternoon to commemorate his 103rd birthday, which was April 2.
Retired Citizens of the Smokies held a celebration for Herbert Clabo, a member who turned 103 on April 2, at the Gatlinburg Community Center Monday afternoon. Clabo grew up in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Sevier County has been his home, period, for 103 years,” said Mary Porter of the Retired Citizens of the Smokies.
Members of the group, as well as other guests, gathered for a meeting prior to the celebration. After the meeting was a 30 minute question-and-answer session with Clabo, in which he talked about his age, his past and how things have changed over the years.
“How does it feel to be 103 years old?” Clabo said, repeating the first question asked. “I can’t walk as fast as I used to.”
He was asked about how school was different when he was a boy, and what forms of punishment were used then. He replied, “I was always a good boy when I was in school,” but that he did experience one punishment: he had to put is nose in a ring on the chalkboard.
Clabo said that when he was young, he and other young boys would play baseball with a “yarn sock ball” and that they never had a large, flat area to use as a field because “you didn’t have to have flat ground to play baseball; we would just take that ball and bat it around and throw and catch it, but we never had a real team.”
Usually each family would have a musical instrument, Clabo said, and he picked up the guitar at a young age, and eventually the banjo. “When you pick the guitar, you have to sing with it too,” he said.
When asked what food one should eat to live to be 103, Clabo responded, “Eat the food that your body likes, not the food that tastes good.”
After the question-and-answer session was complete, everyone in the room sang “Happy Birthday” to Clabo, and he blew out the candles on his cake.
He was presented with a plaque from Marty Nicely, director of the Gatlinburg Department of Parks and Recreation, on behalf of the City of Gatlinburg.
“I want to tell you what an honor it is for me to be able to present this plaque,” Nicely said. “What a treasure this community has had all these years with Herb Clabo being part of it.”
Nicely shared a story of when he and some friends were hiking about 25 years ago during a heavy snowfall and he saw Clabo hiking by himself. “And let me tell you what, for the next two or three hours I got an education, a fascinating education,” Nicely said.
Hiking that day, Nicely discovered that Clabo grew up in the same area as Nicely’s grandmother, and knew her growing up. He said that this particular memory of Clabo stands out to him.
“Everybody in this room has probably got a story about Herb,” Nicely said.
- [S23] Atchley Funeral Home, (http://www.atchleyfuneralhome.com/), 28 Dec 2014.
April 2, 1911 - December 28, 2014
Resided in Sevierville, TN
Herbert Raymond Clabo, passed away December 28, 2014, three months short of his 104th birthday. He was born in what is now known as the Grotto Falls area of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, on April 2, 1911, the son of W.S. (Sherman) and Beda (Ogle) Clabo. He was a charter member and deacon of Roaring Fork Baptist Church where he once attended 35 years without missing Sunday School, and a longtime member of the Retired Citizens of the Smokies Hiking Club. He was a local historian and took pride in his knowledge of the genealogy of the mountain people. He was a long time participant of the Christmases Past held at the National Park Headquarters, and Wilderness Wildlife Week held in Pigeon Forge, where he always captivated his audience by reciting the alphabet backward.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 69 years, Della; daughters: Mildred (Clabo) Parker, and husband Jim, Lois (Clabo) Burks; brothers: Lewis, Charlie, Richard and Horace, sister: Jetta (Clabo) Stovall; grandchildren: Jennifer (Parker) Moss, Jennifer Burks, and Mark Parker; several nieces and nephews.
He is survived by: Sons: Paul Clabo and wife Judy, Fred Clabo and wife Grace, and Jim Clabo. Son-in-law: Charles Burks. Grandchildren: Teresa (Clabo) Wiley, Janet (Clabo) Whaley, Brian Clabo and Karen (Clabo) Desmond, Barbara (Parker) Phillips, Peggy (Parker) Barnett, Jimmy Parker, Lisa Clabo, Jason Clabo, Jon Mylan Clabo and Paula Burks; 17 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends on Tuesday, December 30th from 4:00-6:45 at Atchley's West Chapel with service following at 7 PM, officiated by Rev. Kim McCroskey and Rev. Preston Joslin. Interment will be Wednesday 10:00 AM at Valley View Baptist Church Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Roaring Fork Baptist Church building fund.
He will be missed by fellow hikers, all those who love the Smokies, and many friends who used his great knowledge of mountain history to discover their own families.
Arrangements by Atchley Funeral Home, Sevierville. (www.atchleyfuneralhome.com)