Nashville Local

 

Memories From the Old Guy #21

Significant Family

When my family moved to Pillow St. in the 40s my older brother and sister found in their new yard a large quantity of a strange substance. Being children they tried to play with the stuff until they realized it was making them both feel sick so they sought then to bury it. But when they tried to bury it, it began to heat up. The substance was carbide it had come from the man who owned the lot just north of ours and whose family is the subject of this post. Mr. John Theophilous Marshall and his wife Hattie lived on Pillow St. before anyone else. He and his brothers built most of the houses on Pillow from Humphreys St. almost to the top of the hill with their own hands. At one point back then, the area was known as Marshall Hollow. His descendants still own and occupy many houses there. Mr. Marshall was a small businessman, he and his sons dug wells. My brother described seeing his well digging machines (he at one time had about three) great wooden assemblies built onto old 30’s model trucks. My brother says he remembered Mr. Marshall starting one up. It had a big gasoline engine on it (maybe a Waukesha) Mr. Marshall would turn a large wheel on the side of the engine and it would chug to life. By operating some levers on the side of the device the machine would erect itself into a derrick from which a long heavy solid iron bar about 3 or 4 inches in diameter and about 3 1/2 feet long would be dropped repeatedly actually pounding the hole for the well into the ground. When he and his sons were digging a well they would go and live at the site until the well was done. For payment then he took money, swine, goats, cows, horses, and such. The animals then would live in his back yard until he sold them or ate them or whatever. He had a farm somewhere he would move them to so we never saw them actually butchered. The aforementioned carbide was used we suppose in his well digging business. When carbide is dampened it produces acetylene, the gas used in welding and Mr. Marshall had an old acetylene welding rig in his shop. He would from time to time drive his old truck to Colonial Bakery on Franklin Road and they would sell him a truck load of day-old bread and cakes to feed to his hogs on his farm. When he would pull that truck into his drive loaded with baked goodies every kid in the neighborhood would converge to pull out as many Honey Buns and Cinnamon Rolls as we could before he left to feed his hogs. Mr. Marshall and his family were people well-known and respected in the community and I am honored now to speak of them.

Marshall

Mr. John Theophilous Marshall

In front of his old pick-up truck

                                                                                                                            

Memories From the Old Guy #20

Ancient Employment

             In the 40s, 50s, and early 60s there were three major employers in our community, Mays Hosiery Mill on Chestnut St. was a major employer in the area drawing employees from all around the region, primarily female. The hosiery mill was of course textile work and low paying (hey, no one wants to pay $20 a pair for socks) women looking to supplement the family income took jobs there and many from the entire region and even other states moved into our community. The second major employer was Murray Chair Company, it was located across Nolensville Rd. where Finer Things art gallery is now located. Murray Chair Company over the years made furniture of every quality level but when I worked for them in the early 70s their stuff was more the lower priced upholstered stuff. At one point in the early 60s almost every man who lived in this community worked or had worked at the “Chair Factory” The third employer was Vetti Chilli, at that time they were located on Craighead St. in the small building east of the O’Reily auto parts warehouse, a smaller but still significant employer. The building now occupied by Vanderbilt Printing on Chestnut St. and the building on Craighead St. across from O’Reily Auto Parts were the warehouses for “Cain Sloan” a local clothing and dry goods merchant but I knew no one that actually worked at those buildings. There were other employers locally the syrup plant on Houston St. that later became a jam and jelly plant, the tobacco warehouse upstairs over the syrup plant, the little markets scattered about and a couple of other small businesses, but none had the reach and impact as it seemed as the three previously mentioned. As the 60s wore on people became more mobile they no longer needed to live near their work and they left for the newer homes and neighborhoods.

                                                                                                                            

Memories From the Old Guy #19

Fiery Losses

             The community has changed a lot from the time of my childhood, new people, new homes, and new businesses. Change is actually the only unchanging thing I know. I suppose one of the more dramatic agents of change is fire. As I move through our community I see all the spots where fires have changed the landscape. The first I think of was the old Women’s Building and Grandstands at the fairgrounds, lost one night during the fair. Sometime afterward the old Fairgrounds Coliseum , at one point with the War Memorial auditorium one of the large concert and entertainment venues in town, at the low ground at the corner of Bransford Ave. and Craighead St. burned. I rode over on my bicycle that evening and watched it burn. There were the tobacco barns on Martin St. at Merritt Ave.. There was the old Block Bros. warehouse down on Bass St. by the Cumberland Museum beside the railroad track. It burned in the night and driving by the site later one could see the remains of wooden beams 12 inches square, 20 feet long left behind. Then the old Gerst Brewery building at the corner of 6th Ave. and Mulberry St. burned. After that night I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I expected that after all those local historical buildings had burned the next would likely be the old Union Depot at the corner of 4th Ave. and Chestnut St. He suggested that I probably shouldn’t speak of that because if it burned they might come looking for me. About two years later the owner of the building was welding there and a spark from his welder burned the place to the ground, and I had nothing to do with it. But as I move through this community I see the shadows, the outlines and the facades of these missing buildings and I wish you could have seen them.

                                                                                                                             

Memories From the Old Guy #18

Days of Fear

             In the 40s and 50s Cuba was known as a playground for the American elite. Supported by the US government the Batista regime was very much for friendly relations with the US and Cuba was known for its beaches, hotels, night clubs and such. Revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro grew angry with the mistreatment of the Cuban people and overthrew the Batista regime in 1959 and made the island a communist regime. If not a puppet government of the Soviet Union (at the time our nation’s arch-enemy) they were at least a very close ally to the Soviets. In 1962 Fidel Castro let the Soviet Union station nuclear missiles in Cuba and the entire United States of America went on high alert. In 1962 I was 10 years old and I think many who read this post would not remember or believe how we lived then. Regularly, every day, even during the after school TV programming we were treated to announcements about how we should behave during a nuclear attack to have the best chance of survival. There were public service announcements that told us how to handle foods that had been exposed to nuclear fallout. http://www.archive.org/details/radioactive_fallout_and_shelter There was a little cartoon public service announcement that starred a turtle and taught kids, in the event of a nuclear attack to “duck and cover” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixy5FBLnh7o ,there were live action commercials that advised “when you see the flash, duck and cover”. Several times each month the Civil Defense had practice drills where the people who were in charge of our local defense were called to meet at given locations. “The Emergency Broadcast System” was tested each week so the government would be ready to give us instructions of what to do and where to get more information. Air Raid sirens were tested each week so we could be alerted to danger. And I remember a couple of times in my elementary school when we would have drills where on cue we would crawl under our desks or go to the basement and once we even were evacuated to cars and driven around the block and back to school for a Civil Defense drill. So, how does this level of national terror effect a 10-year-old? In those times children were shielded. Our parents might have been scared spit less but for us kids it was just the way things were. We didn’t know any better and so although we could sense the fear around us our lives went on. We do a great disservice to the children around us when dump our fears and problems too heavily on their fragile hearts.

                                                                                                                              

Memories From the Old Guy #17

Memories of the Tennessee State Fair

            The closing of the state fair for what is said to be the final time has prompted many memories and I thought I might share them here. When I was a boy the State Fair was an amazing thing. First, every child in Nashville public schools were given a day off to attend the fair. One day for the kids on the west of the Cumberland River the next for the kids from the east of the Cumberland. The big thing when we were young was to “sneak in” to the fair. This was done by many people and was seen by fair management as at least tolerable. When I was a boy the midway was filled with “Freak Shows” literally shows where people exhibited their physical deformities. This has been largely stopped today by political correctness, but when I was a child it was heady and frightening stuff. I went to bed in fear many nights while the fair was in town because of those people and the carnival barker’s spiels about them which rang quite audibly through the air even at my house. I remember the old Woman’s Building, that beautiful old structure that dominated fairgrounds hill until it burned one night during the fair. I remember the cotton candy which at the time I never saw anywhere else. I remember the bright lights at night, the sounds of the Calliope punctuated with the sounds of the barkers and the shots from the rifle ranges. I remember walking in the sunlight toward the Woman’s Building with my sisters as a boy, amidst more people than I’d ever seen in one place and being directed to look up because an airplane was flying over with acrobats doing trapeze work underneath the wings as it flew. And I remember the long walk to the fair in anticipation and from it in nervous exhaustion. Every night of the fair there were fireworks and our neighborhood trees were small enough that we could see them quite clearly from the alley behind our house in the middle of Pillow hill. As time passed they cracked down on the “sneak-ins”, they stopped giving the school kids a fair day, they raised ticket prices, they lowered the level of the amusements, and they began selling beer (a move that was seen widely as not family friendly). Meanwhile the world moved on offering more amusements more cheaply and conveniently and the fair was doomed. I rarely attended the last few years as it seemed to have lost what it had when I was a boy. I know I myself have also lost what I had when I was a boy.

                                                                                                                           

Memories From the Old Guy #16

On the 1st and 2nd of May 2010 Nashville experienced what is referred to as a 1000 year flood. This post was written shortly thereafter.

Floods of memories

            Ok, it’s like this, we old guys are supposed to say things like “Huh, you call this a flood? Well back in the day….” and so on.

             (It’s true I read it in the old guy manual somewhere.)

         Well what we have just been through was unprecedented. Never, since records have been kept, has this much rain fallen in this short a time. Still, when you look at the flooding on 2nd ave. at the Skirmerhorn Symphony Center try to keep in mind that before the Old Hickory Dam was completed floods like that were regular occurrences. The spring rains when they came in hard would bring the Cumberland River out of its banks. And when we had hurricanes the big rains would also torment the Cumberland and all the properties along its banks.

North Nashville in the 1948 Nashville Flood

This is an aerial view of north Nashville during the Cumberland River flood of 1948.

The Cumberland Airport during the 1948 Nashville Flood

This is an aerial view of the Cumberland Airport at Nashville during the 1948 flood

           As much as we might like or dislike the Corps of Engineers, the work they did all those years ago has spared Nashville and its environs many events such as this.

                                                                                                                           

Memories From the Old Guy #15

Tobacco Barns

            On the west side of Martin St., just where Merrit St. crosses it were the tobacco barns. In the 50s and 60s they stood on either side of Merrit St. there, four facing Martin St. three more on Merrit St.(two on the south side of Merrit St. one on the north). These were massive wooden structures, 3000 to 5000 square feet each, used to store or dry tobacco. Black on the outsides with gable roofs and as tall as a two-story house. I have never used tobacco and am well aware of the health dangers associated with it but there was just something scrumptious about the smell of that tobacco as you rode your bicycle past those barns.

            In the late 60s or early 70s they began tearing them down. The ones facing Martin St. were the last to go. The most northerly two burned down one night, the most southerly one was torn down and they kept the last one and held auctions in it for a while. I attended one of those auctions with my dad one early summer evening. I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful structure of the barn. The barn was unsealed and unlofted and one could see all the beams and structural members that made the building. Not so many days after that the last barn burned down and that bit of history was lost forever.

                                                                                                                           

Memories From the Old Guy #14

             World War II made a huge impact on our nation and our community. Before the war and immediately after the population was largely on foot. We were coming out of the Great Depression and people weren’t used to having money. So people rarely went anywhere they couldn’t walk. That’s why there were so many local markets. I grew up in our community post WWII. The houses in our community at that time could be divided into two groups. Pre war and post war. The main difference there was outhouses, privies, or as we called ours toilets. Almost all of the houses built pre war had outhouses. Ours was a WPA toilet. The Works Progress Administration during the Roosevelt administration had hired unemployed men to do community service and one of the things they did was built outhouses. Ours had a concrete pit with a concrete slab cover. Two rectangular holes were cut into the slab one large one small over which were positioned two rectangular boxes, large and small with appropriately shaped holes cut in the top. One adult sized, one child sized, all covered by a sturdily built shed (no quarter moon) Many houses in the community had them. The flies were terrible. The men coming back from the war then, having seen so much, and with the G.I. bill to buy new houses and to educate themselves for better jobs were not satisfied with the old houses and built or bought newer ones with indoor plumbing. After Nashville accepted Metropolitan government in the 60s, sewers were run all through our community and all over the county the outhouse was declared unfit. But ahh, you have not lived unless you’ve spent at least one good cold winter having to trip in desperation (because you waited until you were desperate) out to the little shack out back to answer nature’s call.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #13

      A market I failed to mention a while back was Park’s market at the corner of Southgate Ave. and Allison Pl..  The building can still be seen at that location but it hasn’t been a store since about 1971. It was a great place to skip to from school to pick up snacks and the like. Mrs. Parks was a mother to everyone in the area and if you were there for any length of time she would tell you about the young lady who rented an apartment down Allison Pl. who had come to Nashville to try to get her start in the music business. The young lady couldn’t afford a telephone of her own and would use the phone at Mrs. Parks store to make her calls to music people.

    This city of Nashville is filled with music wannabes. One can stand any day at the Greyhound Bus Station and watch them walking out onto the street, suitcase in hand, guitar on their back ready to set Nashville afire with their music. So personally when she told me, I didn’t hold out much hope for this girl from the east with the unlikely name of …Dolly Parton.

I Will Always Love You

I Will Always Love You (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #12

One Hundred Oaks

        Right up to the late 60s Berry Hill was a very quiet place. It was all homes built-in the late 40s and early 50s to accommodate the soldiers returning from WWII. That changed in the late 60s. The Interstate Highway system was coming through and changed it all. Up to that time, Bransford Ave. stopped at Thompson lane. Just in front of you then, about where the Logan’s Roadhouse is today was a large, ranch style log house with black painted logs and white chinking. The house sat rather close to the road as I recall, Thompson Lane having been widened and moved closer to it. The house sat in front of a great wood that stretched from the Pepsi Bottling Plant to Powell Ave. the other side of Wendy’s (Powell Ave. didn’t connect to Bransford Ave. as it does today) the Wendy’s tract was all of a piece with the rest of the tract. The wood extended from Thompson Lane all the way back to the National Guard outpost containing many beautiful trees and many Oaks, maybe even a hundred. Thompson lane then extended straight on to Franklin Pike not bearing to the left over that bridge as it does today. It went straight to Franklin Pike and at the end was the war memorial statue that now stands in Sevier Park. Then came the Interstate Highway. Developers seeing that an exit was to be built onto Thompson Lane began to woo the owner of the big log house. The lady who owned it was getting older and facing the prospect of caring for that huge chunk of property and was eventually convinced to sell under the agreement that the developer would not cut down her trees. He bulldozed them. The land was cleared and the log house remained as a construction office. The site along Powell Ave. was fenced with 4’x8’ plywood panels and artists from all around the area were invited to come and paint original artworks on them, materials supplied by Dury’s one of the big art supply businesses in Nashville.

    100 Oaks Shopping Mall opened in late 1968 and was a huge hit. The senior superlatives of the 1969 class of Central High School had their casually posed pictures made there. Then, I don’t know why, they closed the Thompson Lane ramp to the Interstate. 100 Oaks was doomed after that. When it was revived as an outlet mall a few years ago the developers finally got a ramp to the National Guard outpost but it was too late. The era of the shopping mall had passed. Of late the structure is having some success as a location for Vanderbilt Hospital’s clinics. Still, in all its rises and falls I often wonder what it would be like if that great wood was still there.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #11

Carnival Grounds

       Before my time (in the 30s and early 40s) the lot down on Second Ave. where it splits of from Fourth Ave. coming into town, across from the Fairgrounds, the one bordered on the one end by the washed out mobile home park, fronting Second Ave. towards town all the way to the railroad viaduct then following the railroad right-of-way to Browns Creek, then Browns Creek to Moore Ave. at the former mobile home park, then out Moore Ave. to Nolensville road was the city carnival grounds. The carnival mentioned was as I understand it a particular carnival run by a group of “gypsies”. Whether or not they were truly “gypsies” I do not know, but they traveled the country putting on their carnivals and would land here in Nashville once a year or so where they would set up there in that lot put on their shows and while they were in town would bury their dead in a local cemetery. I think they somehow carried them with them until they arrived here to bury them. The “gypsies” whoever they were, were considered by many to be quite disreputable.

          Some of the research I’ve done seems to indicate that the “Irish Travelers” used to camp there when they passed through and they may be adding to the info about the site. Whatever, the only remaining vestiges of the old carnival grounds are the memories of the old ones, and the name of the street that runs from the railroad overpass at 2nd Ave. S. over to Nolensville Rd., …Carney St.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #10

Nashville Metro

       When I was a boy in the fifties Nashville was a very different place as far as the city government. There was a mayor and council for Nashville city, and Davidson County was governed by the Quarterly County Court which consisted of magistrates elected from districts. Fifty-five magistrates made up the court which served as the legislative body for the county. The city limit ran down the alley south of  Humphreys St., north down the center of Rains Ave. to Mallory St. and east down the north side of Mallory St. to 4th Ave. Most of our community at that time was in the county. It was felt by the county folk that the people in the city couldn’t know or understand the county folk’s needs and that by being lumped in with the city their taxes would go up. The city folks didn’t want to have to spend the money to give the county folks services like sewers and trash pick-up so that’s how it stayed for a long time. Studies were done showing there would be great advantages and cost savings by consolidating. The charter was amended and in 1963 Beverly Briley was elected first mayor of Metropolitan Nashville. I well remember before trash pick-up having a trash pile in our side yard and Jim Coursey (a local restaurateur) came by with a large truck and some of his employees and scooped it all up and hauled it off free of charge. I’ll be writing more about Jim Coursey later. Shortly after Nashville became metro the services to which we are now so accustomed started to appear one by one the first was garbage pick-up and a new day began for our fair community.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #9

A local legend

    Since my boyhood I have heard a legend about a mysterious tunnel. The tunnel supposedly goes between Fort Negley and the State Fairgrounds. It was assumedly dug for an escape tunnel for the fort inhabitants. My every attempt at finding information about this tunnel have failed. I spoke to an older friend of mine who told me for truth that he had been in this tunnel and that it really does or did exist but he could not remember the exact location. That would have been in the fifties. Since that time a lot of construction has taken place including blasting to install sewers. The tunnel would have had to survive over 148 years of construction above or around it. No one in my memory has ever reported cutting into the tunnel or having it collapse beneath their construction, but still the question remains, could there really be an ancient tunnel the location lost to memory? That would be one of the great historical finds of this century.

P.S.

     During the “Living History Tour” at the old city cemetery two years ago they related a legend of a tunnel dug by escaping prisoners from Fort Negley that led them to a mausoleum in the cemetery. It makes you think doesn’t it.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #8

Local Hero

         In the mid to late 60s my brother was in college. He would come home each summer and work and return to college in the fall. My brother was very interested in music and on this particular summer renewed acquaintance with a guy whose name I had heard all my life but I had not remembered meeting, his name was Woody. Woody was a college student like my brother although a few years younger because of my brother’s military service. My brother and Woody became good friends that summer. Woody lived on Little Hamilton Ave., was attending M.I.T. and studying theories plasma (nuclear physics) and was a down to earth really nice guy, but he was an amazing musician. He could play anything, and he and my brother would sit and play and sing by the hour. But summers are short, my brother and Woody went back to school and I only saw either of them occasionally. I heard later that Woody had indeed graduated and was working somewhere as a nuclear physicist, but he heart wasn’t in it. He left that job to pursue a career in music. A couple of years later I heard a radio spot advertising a “Starving Musicians” concert that was featuring among others Diane Davidson’s harmonica player “Woody…” Diane Davidson after that moved her base of operations to New York but Woody stayed in Nashville. He eventually took up with a couple of other musicians and formed a band that has had some measure of public success, multiple recordings, T.V. and Radio shows, yet the last time I spoke to him after a concert he was the same ol’ Woody, just as nice as ever. My brothers old friend from that summer long ago Woody Paul, fiddle player and tenor for the group “Riders in the Sky”, a local boy made good.

RITS

“Woody” is the fiddle player.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #7

Central High School Retrospective

       I graduated from Central High School in Nashville Tennessee; it was closed after the next year. The Central I remember was a study in high contrast, the end of the building that was nearest the “Fall – Hamilton School” building was relatively new as was the section one saw as one looked at the building through the still standing gate posts, having been built, in my recollection, in 1957. The rest of the structure was the original school building. The class rooms the library the auditorium all built in the early 1900s and strongly showing its age. Most of the classroom doors were of the “French door“ type, made up of individual panes of glass about 8”x10” (when I was in about the eighth grade we arrived a couple of times at our first class only to find the door locked and I was the only one small enough that would crawl through the frame and unlock the door from inside the classroom). The glass panes were partly broken out and replaced with plywood. The hallways in the old section were narrow for a school hallway and quite dark. All the pipe work and conduits were exposed on the ceiling in the hallways. The ceiling heights in the classrooms were about 10 to 12 feet high and none of the structure was air-conditioned. The building was heated by radiators that would bang and clang all day long. One thing I vividly remember was on leaving the main floor behind the auditorium and descending the stairs going toward the lunchroom in the winter, whether from the wooden stair rails or some other source, one was met with the most wonderful fragrance of maple.

                                                                                                                           

Memories From the Old Guy #6

Ancient Eats

     As I’ve stated before, when I was a child people didn’t move around much or have much money to spend. However there were local restaurants, four by my count.

       The first was Malone’s. Located on Wedgewood Ave. just as the road goes up the hill into the fairgrounds, Malone’s was a combination of a soda fountain and mom and pop diner. I’m told they made a great cheeseburger.

        The second was Hap Townes, on Chestnut St. across from Greer Stadium in the building now occupied by “Gabby’s”. The owner “Hap Townes” started in a “pie wagon” on Second Ave. by  Howard School in partnership with a man whose last name was Russell, before building on Chestnut St. in the mid-fifties. Hap Townes was known all over the U.S. and in spots around the world. One was almost certain on any given day to find some music or entertainment luminary there enjoying Mr. Hap’s famous meat and three.

      The third restaurant was Jim Coursey’s B.B.Q., one of the big three B.B.Q. restaurants in Nashville, located on Fourth Ave. just as Rains Ave. splits off from it, and occupying from the split all the way down to the building now used by the plating company.  Jim Coursey was very civic-minded doing things for the community and even made an unsuccessful bid for public office. By all accounts his B.B.Q. was some of the best, however he did something that at the time was unforgivable, he sold beer. My daddy was a reformed gambler and alcoholic and taught us children faithfully that alcohol was the bane of human existence. There were many like him here at that time. So, I was grown before I ever tasted Jim Coursey B.B.Q.

      In the mid sixties two houses were torn down on the corner of Rains Ave. and Zimmerlee St. and a new restaurant was built, Bobby’s B.B.Q., right in Jim Coursey’s back door (in fact there is likely a story there but I don’t know it). Bobby’s B.B.Q. had billboards on Fourth Ave. advertising “You are 500 ft. away from Bobby’s B.B.Q.” “You are 200 ft….”etc. Both restaurants existed together through the late sixties but were both closed by the early seventies.

                                                                                                                         

Memories From the Old Guy #5

Water, Water Everywhere

      As I’ve mentioned previously, before WWII our neighborhood was quite different with few houses. I well remember, even in the 50s people keeping various livestock on properties where we now have our homes and display our flowers and pink flamingos. One of the things that has happened because of all the construction and urbanization is we have lost our springs. As an agricultural community this area was dotted with springs, refreshing little fountains that sprang unbidden from the ground and made this place desirable farm land. The historical marker on Rains Ave. speaks of “John Rains’ fort that was on that spot and built to encompass a spring 75 yards east of that location (by my reckoning, about in the middle of 4th Ave). When I was a child there was a lovely little spring by the east side of the road on Pillow St. just north of Humphrey’s St.. And there was, and is yet sometimes, a spring on the east side of Martin St. at the corner of Martin St. and Merritt St.. In the 40s a veterinarian had a clinic there and used the spring as a water supply for the animals.

    Alas, when major construction began in the area the water tables were disturbed and some of the springs stopped flowing. I remember in the 60s a construction crew cut into a local hillside piercing both earth and the limestone bedrock to make a building site at the level of the road. The crew pierced an underground stream and I saw water, from the water table, gush from that wall in a stream the diameter of a golf ball for a month or more until it drained that part of the water table. It made me sad to see that then and still today when I tell you about it. I fear we will one day regret our destroying our natural springs.

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #4

      When I was a boy we used to walk to school. The kids on Humphrey St. and below went to either Fall Elementary or Howard High School. We county kids on Pillow hill went to either Hamilton Elementary or Central High school. Sweet, long-suffering people would let us hordes of youngsters trudge through their yards to cut off some of the long walk. In the early fall of 1962, around the first of October, we had rain – buckets and buckets of rain. When we went to school on Monday morning we passed through the shortcut from Pillow St. to Moore Ave. to discover that the back yards of the people on the south side of Moore Ave. were flooded. The water filled the back yards of the houses in some cases to within a foot of the houses themselves. It extended almost to the houses on the north side of Southgate Ave. and all the way over to the middle of Rains Ave. – a sizable pond. I happened to arrive there that morning with my older brother and looked across this lake with dismay. The boys who lived along our shortcut had a johnboat and were charging a quarter apiece to ferry kids across the pond. My brother, who was a big man on campus, was given a free ride across but since I had no quarter I had to find my own way. I could see that half of Rains Ave. was flooded so I turned and hurried up Moore Ave. to Martin St. then down to Southgate Ave. and to school, heartsick that I didn’t get to ride the boat and fearing I would be late.

            After the water subsided, the family that owned the house, the second on the north side of Southgate Ave. west from Rains Ave. at the corner to the alley, had tons of dirt brought in and their lot filled so that they would never experience that again. Within the next two years the city came in and installed storm drains and the family moved away. I can’t remember in which order.

                                                                                                                            

Memories From the Old Guy #3

    Weather is chaotic and based on so many variables that the best of our computers and human minds cannot predict weather with certainty one week in advance. 50 or 60 years ago the winters had greater impact than they do today because the houses were less well made. The winter of 1951 (the winter before I was born) Nashville experienced the greatest ice storm of its recorded history. There was ½” to 1” of freezing rain that fell in a few hours breaking down trees, bringing down power lines and bringing the city to a halt. The house my family lived in had a flat roof that creaked and groaned so under the ice load that my dad propped up the roof with posts as one would prop up a tent. History says that when James Robertson and his party reached the eastern bank of the Cumberland River as the first settlers to Nashville at Christmastime, they walked across the frozen Cumberland River and wintered in one of the caves on the downtown Nashville side. Even in the early 40s the Cumberland froze solid once. There are pictures of the river around the area where Riverfront Park now is of an auto sitting in the middle of the river.

    But in the winter of 1959-60 we had the most snow ever recorded in Nashville, 38.5 inches according to the weather bureau. I remember weeks of unplanned winter vacations, the school system’s very public pondering of how we would make up those snow days, and my mother’s fervent prayers that she would not kill any of her seven rambunctious children. We would wake early in the morning without being prompted to listen to the radio to hear if school had been canceled. Humphrey St. was the dividing line between the Nashville city, and the Davidson County school systems. It was considered a great victory when the kids down there had to go to school and we didn’t

                                                                                                                          

Memories From the Old Guy #2

            It seems to me the old neighborhood had a lot of stores when I was a boy. There was Swain’s, at the corner of Humphrey’s St. and 4th Av. (the lot is now vacant). There was Mire’s, it was on Humphrey’s St. near Pillow St. and switched sides of the street from time to time; one spot is a vacant lot, the other a newer house. There was Brown’s market on Brown St., just past the alley on the west side of the street as you go down the hill to Houston St.. There was McCullough’s on Martin St. next door to the SNAP center and south of it. There was Davis’ market on Wedgewood where the “Burlap Café” sign is. There was the Edge Hill Market on Bransford Av., where the “White Trash Café” once was. There was a market on Hamilton Av., on the north side of the street and about three doors west of Rains Av.. There was Hooper’s just as one turns off of 4th Av. to enter our neighborhood at the corner of Rains Av. and Zimerlee St.. Hooper’s was really a big market the rest were rather small. Hooper’s had everything from clothing to stovepipes, nails to onion sets to cereal. But the one that interests me, I never saw opened. On the east side of  4th Av., where there is a lot where trucks are parked once stood Jackson’s store. It was an old Victorian red brick structure with a house adjoining where the Jackson’s used to live. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson apparently operated the market until the late 40’s or early 50’s when Mr. Jackson died. Mrs. Jackson then closed the store and never reopened it.  There were two small brick houses north of Mrs. Jackson’s that were rental property. I had cousins that lived in the one closest to Mrs. Jackson and helped her get by. One of my cousins would stay in her house at night in case she needed anything. One night one of my cousins was asked to go into the store and get Mrs. Jackson a box of soap powders. He said when he stepped from the door that divided her house from the store it was like stepping into the “Twilight Zone”. When Mr. Jackson had died she had closed the store and left everything just as it was. Soap, canned goods, antique advertising, an old hand cranked coffee mill, everything. He nabbed the box and rushed back to her home. When she died her relatives cleaned everything out, but I would have loved to see.

                                                                                                                          

Memories from the Old Guy #1

            The first year I actually remember was 1959, that was the year I turned 7. Although I was born in the late fall so I spent most of the year being 6. My family lived in a house on the east side of Pillow St. at about the middle of the hill between Merritt St. and Humphrey St.. The little house sat at the back of the lot right against the alley and has been gone now for about 45 years.

    One of the wonderful features of the neighborhood then was the “Lucy Holt Moore Center”. Because I turned 5 just in time I was enrolled in kindergarten classes there at the center. I knew where it was because my big brother and sisters used to attend kid’s clubs there and in the summer they would sometimes open it for kids to come and play and I was allowed to go as well. The center was in the building that is now the “Lucy Holt Moore Apartments” Behind that building and fronting Pillow St. Is a large brown brick structure with a Quonset roof that used to house a gym. Both the gym and the “Lucy Holt Moore” were run in connection with the “Wesley House Ministry” and was an incredible asset to the community. There were the Kindergartens, the age and gender appropriate clubs. In the summer there were camps. Day camps that took younger kids away to parks like Montgomery Bell and gave them outdoor fun and adventures. And night camp, where the campers would stay from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, seeping overnight in cabins learning camping and life skills. These were offered at amazingly cheap rates and were wonderful experiences. The “Lucy Holt Moore Center” would have nurses come into give vaccinations. And there were programs to help parents. By the time I started kindergarten the Gym had become too expensive to keep and was closed. The Center itself closed in the mid 60s and the current community residents can’t even imagine what a loss that was.

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