Remembering ‘Sweet 16’

Christina Dunavant Cobb celebrates another birthday in Townsend

Photo with no caption
By Sherri Gardner Howell
Blount Today

The last time Joyce Dunavant went to a birthday party at the River Aire cabin in Townsend, she slept in a chair in the stairwell -- making sure the 16-year-old boys couldn’t come downstairs where the 16-year-old girls were sleeping.

This year, on the day of the celebration of her daughter, Christina Dunavant Cobb’s surprise birthday party, she was holding grandchildren instead of cracking the whip.

Steve "Tex" Cobb surprised his wife on Jan. 27 with a birthday gathering in Townsend. The cabin where friends and relatives gathered had special meaning for Christina, and for her friends, many of them Maryville High School graduates who cheered and went to school with her. The cabin was also where she had her Sweet 16 birthday party
Joyce’s memories of the cabin go back even farther than that party, however. She and then husband Bill Dunavant were in town in 1976 for Bill to interview for a job with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce.

"I was pregnant with Christina," Joyce remembers. "This house was owned by Fred Lawson, and we stayed here while we were in town."

Bill, who got the job and was president and chief executive officer for the Chamber until his appointment by Gov. Don Sundquist to be commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the house held a lot of memories for his daughter, and now he was watching his grandchildren play in the yard.

Christina’s husband, Steve, who is from Nashville, wasn’t in the picture when Christina had her Sweet 16 birthday party at the cabin. But many of her friends who attended this 30th surprise birthday party were.

"It was quite a big deal," remembers Julie Cunningham Barton of the party. "We had a co-ed slumber party -- boys and girls spending the night -- and lots of chaperones, too, but it still was a big deal for us."

Joyce remembers her daughter’s "cookie cake."

"It was made to look like a driver’s license," she said.

Steve made this 30th birthday party quite an event as well, as Christina had done for him last year.

"We are celebrating her birthday in phases," he said. "First was a night in Townsend last night. Second was a romantic dinner. Third was breakfast this morning, and then I made her put on a blindfold and brought her here to the cabin where all her friends and family were waiting."

Steve led Christina through the door and all was quiet until one of the Cobb daughters yelled out, "Daddy!" Still, when the blindfold was removed, Christina was adequately surprised, appreciative and ready to visit with family and friends.

Steve’s parents, Terry and Patsy Cobb, came from Nashville for the celebration, as did his grandmother, Peggy. Bill and his wife, Eleanor Yoakum, came from Knoxville. Friends from her high school days -- many of them now mothers and fathers of little ones, as are the Cobbs -- came to help celebrate as the children played and ate pizza.

As the groups posed for pictures, Christina and her friends showed a little of that Rebel spirit, agreeing to pose in a cheerleader stance for one of the photographs.

"I’m 30 now and the mother of three," Christina reminded her friends. "I may not be able to get down from here."

But she did, to the cheers of all her well-wishers.

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