The first thing I heard this morning was the announcer on my clock-radio saying that the building housing the museum and gift shop at Tweetsie Railroad had been destroyed in a fire over the weekend. This awful news gives me a pang of sad nostalgia, as I grew up within earshot of the Tweetsie whistle—close enough that we could stand on our deck and watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. We went to Tweetsie pretty often (I specifically remember performing an excellent Ghostbusters-themed routine at the Palace Saloon with my tap dance class). The smell of railroad tar always reminds me of those childhood visits.
The good news is that only one building was lost; the bad news is that it was one of the original depot buildings, and contained pieces of irreplaceable memorabilia including railroad timetables and lanterns, photographs, and the boots, saddle, Stetson, holster, and shirt worn by singing cowboy Fred Kirby during his 30-year career portraying Tweetsie’s marshal. The Morton images below show Kirby in 1959, his first year in the role.
In the image below, the boy at center (in the tube socks) is Jim Morton, Hugh Morton’s son.
This last image, a cropped version of the original, shows Hugh Morton posing with Kirby (in his trademark red shirt with white fringe) at Grandfather Mountain in about 1963. The photographer is unknown.