The Shartrands of Petalbrook Lane

Gail and Bob Shartrand

During the years I was growing up, the Livingston Shirt Factory was the major supplier of jobs for this area. That plant helped to put bread and butter on many tables. Lots of the women who worked there were able to buy appliances for the very first time, things such as a washing machine or an electric stove, items that were considered a real luxury back in those days. Many students worked during the summer months to save for a college education. And for a time, things really looked bleak with the closing of that plant. But somehow folks figured out how to get by, and life went on. Sewing factories in the United States are just about obsolete now. It seems those type jobs for the most part have moved south of the border. But the Town of Livingston continues to grow and prosper despite the fact that manufacturing jobs might not be as plentiful here as they once were. One of the ways Livingston is growing is with the addition of retired people moving here from other places. John Roberts with the Overton County Chamber of Commerce recently invited everyone who had moved into this area in the last two years to a Newcomers Party, and had over 200 people in attendance. And just exactly what is it about this area that is so attractive to new comers? One of the big attractions is Dale Hollow Lake of course, but I think one of the biggest drawing cards, along with the cost of living being less here than many other places, is the natural beauty of this area. The beauty of our surroundings is something we who have lived here all our lives often take for granted, and don't even notice most of the time . Overton County is very blessed with some beautiful scenery. I recently had an opportunity to visit in the home of Bob and Gail Shartrand, some newcomers to the Livingston area. As I pulled into their driveway on Petalbrook Lane and got out of the car, I can honestly say that the view from the deck just off the end of their driveway took my breath away. It is a sight to behold. But when they bought their home and the land surrounding it, they had no idea that such a view was there. The home was almost entirely surrounded by a dense growth of trees. After settling in, they decided to eliminate some of the trees to open up the view, and when it was complete, the gorgeous view that could only be partially seen during the winter months made a spectacular appearance. Just about the entire area that makes up Livingston's city limits is visible from their deck. It definitely has to be seen to be appreciated.

Bob and Gail are both native to the state of Massachusetts. Gail grew up in a small town called Chester, Massachusetts, and attended a school that had a total of 83 students. That number included the eighth through the twelfth grades, the teaching staff, and the school janitor. The home of her grandparents was a place all the town folk stopped by to visit. Her grandmother had a total of 14 rocking chairs on the big wrap-around front porch of the home. Those chairs were filled to capacity lots of days while the aroma of fresh, home made doughnuts from her grandmother's kitchen filled the air. Gail is a very talented musician, and plays the piano, organ and the Australian didjeridoo. She not only has a degree in nursing, but is a licensed funeral director.

Bobís hometown is Pittsfield, Massachusetts. At an early age, Bob developed an interest in photography, and after working in that field for a few years, which included some years of service in the Air Force, he rapidly became a well known and sought after photographer. In the early days of his career, he perfected a lot of his skill from working along side another photographer employed by none other than Norman Rockwell. Bob was often called upon to accompany one of Mr. Rockwellís pictures being flown by commercial airlines for a showing in another city. Mr. Rockwell often wrote instructions for Bob on a piece of his letterhead, or on one of his envelopes. These written instructions have been carefully saved and preserved. Eventually, Bob opened his own photography studio, specializing in weddings. Among his many clients was one of the young ladies who one year held the title Miss Massachusetts. Other types of his photographs have been published in several well known magazines during his career.

Bob and Gail moved to Livingston from Sedona, Arizona, a city that had very strict codes for building homes and businesses. Sedona is the only place in the whole world that the arches of the McDonald's building is done in the color of teal green. No golden arches allowed in Sedona. All homes are required to be built in earth tones in order to blend in with the environment. No street lights are allowed, and no two story homes can be built so that the view of the natural beauty of the landscape surrounding the city will not be obscured.

After living in Sedona for a while, Bob and Gail decided they might like to relocate, and with no particular destination in mind, they headed out to see if they could find another place to call home. After arriving in Tennessee, they looked around in the Fayetteville area, and then went on to Crossville. The final place they looked was in Livingston, and when they drove down the drive on Petalbrook Lane, Gail's words were "This is it!" And the rest is history as they say.

Both Bob and Gail told me how much they enjoy living here, and one of the things they stress about this area is the fact that the people are all so nice and friendly and have made them feel very welcome here. Gail said that the attitude they have encountered other places they've lived was "Hi, how are you, what can you do for me?" But here, it's just the opposite, folks say to them "Hi, how are you, what I can I do for you?" The Shartrands believe that's one of the things that makes this area so attractive to people looking for a place to relocate.

Since moving to this area, Bob has had to deal with a serious life-threatening illness in the form of lymphoma, a very deadly type of cancer. When he was diagnosed with this dreaded disease, his doctors gave him only six weeks to live, but following treatment at Centennial Medical Hospital and the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville, he is now cancer free. He says quite proudly, "I am a cancer survivor."

Bob continues his interest in photography, and does amazing work in the restoration of old photographs. That's another thing that has to be seen to be appreciated. The before and after pictures he showed with me were much better than the original photograph itself. One of the places some of his restoration work can be seen is in the courtroom on the second floor of the Overton County courthouse.

Another interest he has had for many years is astronomy. He has what I would consider some very unusual photographs he has taken with use of a special camera and the telescope that are unbelievable. One was recently published in the Overton County News showing a sun spot on the sun.

Times have definitely changed since the days when the Livingston Shirt Factory, with a working force at one time of well over 1,000 employees, was a business that the local economy depended greatly upon. During the early days of itís operation, the area phone book looked like a small recipe book compared to the one printed today. And everyone listed in the phone book knew everyone else. This is definitely not the case today. There were lots of what we consider pretty common last names then such as Brown, Smith, and Jones. The name Shartrand would have stood out like a sore thumb back then. Itís my opinion that we can count ourselves lucky to have Bob and Gail, two very gifted and talented people, choose our little town as the place to and settle in among us and live out their lives. They are among the growing number moving from different parts of the country to be a part of our community, a place that Bob and Gail are quick to say the first thing new people will hear is "Hi, how are you, now what can I do for you?"