Gainsway’s journey a busy one
The map of Korea — almost completely covered in yellowing scotch tape, folded in a hundred different places obviously in haste, ragged around the edges —tells a story. It’s that of a young man, not quite 22, who had only left upstate New York a few times to visit family in Philadelphia, who got a letter from Uncle Sam and ended up on the other side of the world in a few short months. That map saw him safely through his time in Korea, deep in enemy territory where he became a reluctant hero.
Sgt. Raymond “Bud” Gainsway (then PFC) laid down suppressing fire while his unit was engaged in an assault on a hill, taking out several enemy positions and protecting many young American men. Because he was so successful in thwarting the enemy, they concentrated fire on his position. As a result he was severely wounded, his leg injured to the point that he draws disability from the VA to this day.
Gainsway married his late wife Betty in ’49 or ’50 before he was shipped to Korea. He was discharged because of the massive wounds he sustained in that firefight and when he got home Betty nursed him back to health.
“She was a wonderful girl — she put up with a lot from me. Especially when I got home,” he said. “I hated for her to do it, but she wanted to.”
He met Betty at home in upstate New York, shortly before he was drafted. They met at an art show. Betty was an artist of some renown and remains so to this day. Even after her passing in the 90’s. “I fell in love with the pictures and pretty soon I fell in love with her,” Gainsway said. “I lost a real friend when I lost her.”
Gainsway was born in 1928. He lived in a hotel until he was 8 years old. His grandfather had started the hotel when horses were used more than cars for transportation. At that time cars had just been invented and only the wealthy had them. His father, also named Raymond, sold farm machinery in the bottom level of the hotel. That level also housed the stables, as the farmers who came into town to do business mostly came from rural farms were so far away they had to stay the night unless they wanted to go home in the pitch black dark as there were no street lamps or headlights.
Their only illumination was an oil burning lantern that just allowed them to see a very few feet in front of them. The danger of such a trip was great so few were willing to make it. Thus his grandfather’s hotel was a great success.
The next level housed a ballroom where many town functions like dances, concerts and parties were held. “Many good nights were had there,” he said with a laugh. The hotel was on the next few levels. He also helped with the running of that, serving in different capacities when he was old enough to help.
Gainsway was an only child. “The doctor looked at me and said ‘please, no more,’” he said with the joviality that he is well known for. As such, he was a constant companion for his father.
He remembers well the stick that his father gave him to help measure how far he had to shovel the snow off the road and sidewalks. “That was how much snow we got. The fire trucks had to be able to get through and the stick measured how far he had to shovel,” Gainsway said. Being that wood and coal stoves were the primary means of heating, fire was common. The fire brigade was kept busy throughout winter.
Gainsway remembers the stove in the hotel. “The front was made of isinglass. They always knew when I had been up there. I always poked a hole in at least one of the panels,” he said with a laugh. Isinglass is made of large sheets of mica most of the time and it was a common insulator.
It was also used as windows and windshields instead of glass because glass was prohibitively expensive at the time. It was used for decorating items like lampshades and light fixtures. It was also extremely fragile and easy to break.
Hayesville used to have a couple of mica mines. Look up at the horizon. Do you see that white dip in the mountain on the way to Franklin? That was once a mica mine. Also, there was one off Cherry Road on the aptly named Mica Mine Road.
After Gainsway left the hotel when he was 8, they moved around a lot and his father held several different jobs in different towns and eventually ended up driving a Greyhound bus which would be his final job.
Gainsway’s father died from exposure to mustard gas in WWII, leaving him alone with his mother who took a job as a teacher to support him. She worked as a teacher until she passed away while he was in Korea.
When he got back, after he recovered from his wounds, following in the footsteps of his father he also took a job driving a Greyhound bus. He drove for years and eventually the company transferred him to Florida. At first he drove from Pompano Beach but when he got there he discovered marine mechanics and it turned out that he was pretty good at it. He worked on boat and other waterraft engines until he and Betty decided to move here in the 1980s.
They had come back and forth a couple of times and when he retired they decided to move here permanently. They became active in the community and became well known for volunteering at the Peacock Playhouse with the Licklog Players. He did lighting and sound and she painted backdrops and props and contributed to creating sometimes complex sets. She once wove a spiderweb out of hemp rope by hand that was large enough to hold 8-year-old Illana Seigleman who was playing Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web.” They were a big presence in the Playhouse community for a long time, up into the 90s, when Betty died. He quit volunteering shortly thereafter.
These days he still gets around pretty well. He is an active member with the Lions Club and volunteers in several other places. He also has a unique way to help pass the time.
He loves to watch the lace making machine at Just Stitchin’.
“I can go watch forever. An hour there is nothing for me,” he joked. Rosie and her ladies love having him around so much that they made him a beautiful bedspread with an eagle on it. It is one of his favorite things.
There is actually a plausible explanation for that little peccadillo of his. His maternal grandfather was a lace maker in Pennsylvania and when they would visit him he would take young Gainsway to his factory. They made mostly tablecloths and curtains. The method then doesn’t technically differ that much from the one then with the large exception of the fact that then the weaver had to figure out how to set the machine himself and now the computer does it.
“In September I’ll be 90. It seems hard to believe. I did something wrong because I’m still around,” he said with his sometimes charmingly perverse sense of humor. He lives a good, full life. He has a lot of friends and hardly spends any time at home.
“I tell everybody I’ve lived too long. I’ve outlived all my relatives. I think he [God] keeps me around because I was so bad as a boy.”
Perhaps God’s keeping him around because he means so much to so many people.