The Carpenter Who Made Cup Cakes


The dictionary says the definition of a carpenter is "a person who makes wooden objects and structures... to make something by shaping wood." This is a story about a young man who didn’t go to school past the sixth grade, and even then, never learned to read or write, but became what many considered a master of his trade. He was a carpenter. But prior to perfecting his skills as a carpenter, he also helped make cup cakes. Born November 4, 1904, Frank Gentry Linder was the fourth in a family of seven children whose parents were John Sherman Linder (known by everyone as Sherman) and wife Ollie Ledbetter Linder. Frank’s siblings were Wesley; Annie; Clurie; Eunice; Daisy, and Richard. In the very early years of Frank Linder’s life, his family owned and lived on a 750 acre farm appropriately named Linder Mountain. Sherman Linder, who paid .50 cents an acre for the farm on Linder Mountain, was described as a really big man with the strength to lift and carry a barrel of salt quite easily. In the later years of his life, he lost his eyesight. During the time the family lived on Linder Mountain, young Frank often walked from Monroe to Alpine to drive the cattle home. Eventually, the family moved to the Taylors Crossroads Community where Frank met and married Eva Clark when they were both quite young. Before too many years passed, Frank and Eva headed north where they hoped to find good jobs. For the next 21 years, they made a home in Detroit, Michigan. Frank found a job in the Hostess Cake Company working nights mixing cake batter. For a short time, Eva worked in a tool and die company. While working for the Hostess Cake Company, Frank and his co-workers were called on to design and bake a very special birthday cake for Rudy Vallee, a well-known celebrity during the 1930's and ‘40's, who will be remembered for songs such as "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries," and another one entitled, "As Time Goes By." When the final touches were completed, Mr. Vallee’s cake weighed a whopping 1,400 pounds.

After putting in his time during the night-time hours at the bakery, Frank didn’t come home and sleep the day away as he might have been expected to do. Instead, he put to use the carpentry skills he had already begun to develop very early in life. Houses he crafted while working in Michigan sold practically before the last nail had been driven or the paint had barely dried. Even though he couldn’t read or write, taking a blueprint and turning out whatever type building that plan called for was second nature to him. But after a total of 21 years of life in the north, Frank and Eva decided it was time to come home. Around 1944, they bought what was known then as the Jim Reynolds place on Rock Crusher Mountain. That farm consisted of approximately 145 acres. It was there Frank built his family a home, much of which was finished with woodwork called tongue and groove. Frank quickly became known in this area for his superior skill and ability when it came to the carpentry trade. Along with the help of his work crew, several buildings around Livingston including the Livingston Shirt Factory, the VFW building, and the old Farmer Co-op building were built by his skillful hands. Many homes in Livingston and the surrounding areas still stand today as a testament to his fine workmanship as a carpenter.

The Linder Family
The Linder family left to right:  Richard Linder, Eva Linder, Frank Linder, Ray Frank and Pauline.

The children of Frank and Eva Linder, son, Ray Frank, daughter, Pauline Alice, and the youngest son, Johnny Ray, were taught from the very earliest years of their lives the meaning of hard work. Johnny recalls how even as a very small boy, his dad got him up every morning long before daylight to help with the feeding. It was the usual thing for Frank to spend the daylight hours constructing homes and buildings, then come home, climb on the tractor to work long after the sun had gone down. Frank had plans to send Johnny to college when he got through high school, but at the time, Johnny thought he knew more than his dad did. After attending three years at Livingston Academy, Johnny dropped out and began his working career. Frank gave him a job which, to begin with, consisted of carrying 8 inch concrete blocks all day long for $1.00 an hour. It may have been that Frank tried to discourage Johnny in the hopes he would return to high school and get that much needed diploma. Instead, that began a life long career doing the same type work his dad had done all his life. Johnny lives today in a home he constructed that’s located on part of his parents’ farm on Rock Crusher Mountain. Even though he didn’t get that college education his father so badly wanted him to have, he did follow in his father’s footsteps and is well known in this area for his expert carpentry skills. Those same traits continue through Johnny’s son, Roger, who also takes after Grandpa Frank and his dad when it comes to the carpentry trade. Roger has worked along side his father on lots of building projects over the years.

Johnny recalls how his dad was known also for sayings he often repeated at times. Two Johnny especially remembers are: "You can count your true friends on one hand, and you’ll have two or three fingers left over." Another he was heard to say: "If a man’s word isn’t no good, he ain’t no account either."

I found on the internet information on how to become a Master Carpenter. According to what I read, all a person needs is something called a "construction calculator," an instrument that can tell someone how to do just about anything related to carpentry skills. I couldn’t help but wonder what someone like Frank Linder would have to say about that.