Spotlight On: Romola Drost

Romola Drost

On June 12th, the last night of the Great TV Auction, Romola Drost was kidnapped from her traditional spot behind the Art Board and escorted to the stage. Under the hot lights and in front of the TV cameras, she smiled as the WCTE staff and Auction volunteers sang Happy Birthday to her in honor of her 90th birthday.

“No, not 90,” Romola said. “I prefer to think of myself as 30… times 3.”

In truth, that’s probably more accurate. Romola is a going concern and has been for, well, 30 times 3 years.

Born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1921, Romola’s family moved to Tennessee in the late 20’s when her Dad found a good job in Knoxville. She studied drafting at UT and when WWII came along and the call went out to women to replace men while they went off to war, Romola was hired by what is now the Tennessee Division of Forestry to head up their Drafting department.

“Computers weren’t around then,” said Romola, “ and you had to know how to letter, how to make charts and graphs, and they had to be perfect.”

She met her future husband Ray in 1946. Ray “The Rock” Drost had played football at UT before he was sent to war and he resumed playing when he returned. They were married in 1948.

In the early 50’s Ray coached football and that led them to St. Augustine Florida for 3 years where they lived in a house on the beach (for $80/month). Romola was hired to reproduce historical documents and Spanish maps from the 1400s. Their landlord was a football fan and he gave Ray a $5 discount on their rent. He was also the curator that hired Romola to reproduce the documents and he paid her $75/month for her work.

“So that, “said Romola, “took care of the rent.”

After 3 years Ray “got tired of the sand in his shoes” and they moved back to Tennessee where they had 2 children – Alan and Sally. Ray was hired by Tennessee Tech to be a Defensive Coach and they raised their family in Cookeville.

Romola started subbing at Tech for her friend Reba Bacon who was having health problems. She continued to teach part time at TTU for the next 37 years in courses ranging from art appreciation and pen and ink, painting, pencil drawing and pastels, to teaching future teachers how to teach art to their students. She also became involved with the Cumberland Art Society and can be found there every Thursday, teaching seniors in a studio named after her.
When WCTE started selling an art board at the Great TV Auction over 25 years ago, Romola volunteered to help out. She’s been helping ever since.

And she doesn’t come alone. She has a posse. Her son Alan is a faithful WCTE Auction volunteer, as is her friend of many years, Lois Frounfelker. Lois volunteers not only because she believes in the cause but because “she and Romola are like sisters.”

“Oh, I love WCTE!” exclaimed Romola. I like the art programs every Saturday and I enjoy Lawrence Welk. And I enjoy that new interview show, One-On-One with Becky Magura. Alan does too. He was naming off a list of people he would like to see Becky interview.”

“I think it is fantastic that we have our own TV station – how many towns this size can support their own PBS station?”

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