In the 1930s and 1940s, Catherine Whitener Salmons traveled, playing for Chatham Manufacturing’s basketball team, the Blanketeers. On March 25 of this year, she celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends.
Born Rachel Marie Catherine Whitener in 1918 in Greenville, South Carolina, she moved with her family to Walnut Cove where she played basketball and tennis on the boys team at Walnut Cove High School, because there was no girls team, explained her youngest daughter, Margaret Salmons.
“Eventually, she moved to Elkin, where she taught and held girls and boys gym classes at the YMCA on the Chatham campus,” said Margaret Salmons.
It was there that Catherine Whitener played for the Blanketeers, traveling with the team by train to other towns to play their teams, such as Hanes Manufacturing, and going as far as Chicago , St. Louis and New York City.
She helped teach children basketball skills and served as a summer counselor at times as well, Salmons said of her mother.
In April of 1943, Whitener married Hugh Glenn Salmons. He died in 2012 at the age of 96.
For 20 years, Salmons was a Girl Scout leader, and she spent time volunteering in numerous activities for the community, schools and church. “One could only fathom how many home-made cakes and covered dishes she contributed,” said Margaret Salmons.
She served as a substitute teacher for Elkin schools as well as C.B. Eller, and as a librarian for Elkin Elementary and North Elkin School.
She helped with the city park program for about 12 years, leading activities such as arts, softball, tennis, horseshoes, archery, kickball, badminton and more.
Salmons said her mother worked for years at the workshop for mentally and physically challenged persons on Main Street in Elkin where she taught skills and crafts.
She is a former president of the North Carolina Women’s Club, a member of the Surry County Retarded Citizens Board, taught pottery classes through Surry Community College from the early 1970s until she was in her early 90s, initiated the building of group homes for challenged adults.
“One of my mother’s favorite things to say at the holidays and birthdays was, ‘Oh no. Don’t give me anything at all. Just go buy a child a pair of shoes,’” Salmons said.
The Salmons have three daughter, Carol Lee Salmons, Cathy Ann Salmons and Margaret Lynn Salmons.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.