Sunday, September 28, 2014

1963 - Chapter Two - The Happy Time

                                                     
                     
Same view as above on 10-1-2017
                                                 

                                                                     
  I was born at Baptist Hospital in Nashville Tennessee at 11:35 AM, Tuesday, February 28, 1950, weighing eight pounds and six ounces. My parents were living at two twenty-five and a half Berry Street in East Nashville. With the exception of the three years and nine months that I spent on active duty in the Air Force, and seven unfortunate months living in Vero Beach Florida, I have been a lifelong resident of Nashville and Rutherford County Tennessee. At some point when I was a baby we moved to Brookvale Terrace near Knob Road, just off White Bridge Road, in West Nashville. I don't remember much about living there. All I can remember is playing with my toy cars under the back yard clothes line. Beyond that the only other memory I have is the day that my sister Donna let our dog out. It ran out and bit a black woman walking down our street. I can still see the blood running down her leg. Donna got a hard whipping for that. I don't remember the day I pulled a hot iron off into my play pen, severely burning my left hand and forearm. The third degree burns left scars that are still visible to this day. Another thing I don't remember is the blizzard of 1951. Whenever the subject of snow or bad winter weather came up for many years there was always an older person that would talk about the "Great Blizzard" of 1951. Every snow was measured against that experience. I was almost a year old during the blizzard. It started out as a huge ice storm and then it snowed on top of the ice. The ice was thick and the snow was eight inches deep. There have been many eight inch snow falls since then but none have shut the city down like the blizzard of 51. The weight of the ice snapped power lines. Sixteen thousand homes, and 80,000 residents were without electricity. Over 2,000 telephones were out of service. Roof's collapsed and thousand's of tree's had to be cleared from roads. No businesses opened for 3 day's. Airline's cancelled flights and trains were 2 days behind schedule. The storm began on January 29th, and ended on February 1st. Nashville went into a deep freeze until the thaw began on February 5th. Everyone decided to return to normal activity all on the same day, clogging every road leading into the city causing what is still ranked as the worst traffic jam in Nashville history. Lines of traffic averaged 5 miles in length. This was well before the interstates. The snow and ice didn't completely melt until February 12. I heard stories of neighbors helping neighbors through the worst days of the blizzard. The blizzard happened while we were living on Brookvale Terrace. Fortunately we were one of the few homes that didn't lose our power and many people stayed with us during the storm. My dad's business partner, Mr. Kelly, and his family stayed with us. My sister Carolyn told me that I was very sick and running a high fever. Many doctor's did house calls then but my mother couldn't get a doctor to venture out in the storm. She located a young pediatrician just setting up practice in Nashville named Dr. Koenig. He would be my pediatrician for many years but he was always known for his bluntness. When he arrived the first words out of his mouth was "Okay, where is the little bastard"?

Blizzard of 1951 from our front porch on Brookvale Terrace













This is me on Brookvale Terrace in 1950

Me on  Brookvale Terrace

   About 1954 we moved a block  or so over to Brookside Court Annex, Apartment 3. Over the years White Bridge Road has been widened and the duplex that was next the the road has been moved across the street from our old apartment. Now our old duplex is next to White Bridge Road. Brookside Court, then as now was, a dead end street. It sits in the shadow of today's WSM television tower on Knob Hill. The road goes up hill in front of a string of duplexes. A sidewalk runs the length of the duplexes in back. At that time a vacant field sat between the rear of our duplexes and the rear of the duplexes that fronted the next road to the south. I was about four when we moved there and nine when we left but this period was some of the happiest years of my life. We were secure in the love of our parents and we seemed to live in a "Leave It To Beaver" type world"  We had a ball growing up there. In warm weather we lived outside. We rode tricycles, wagons and bikes up and down the sidewalk and street. There were plenty of kids to play with. During the warm months at night, before air conditioning was the norm, the adults would stand around and talk to neighbors while their kids all played together. I still remember the night in October 1957 when we stood in our yard and watched the Soviet Sputnik fly through the night sky. If I got into trouble my mother or father usually knew about it before I got home because my parents knew most of the neighbors.  I was constantly getting into trouble and sometimes this caused friction between my parents and the neighbors. A man who lived next door to us whipped me because of something I had done and my mother was livid. She was the type of person that everybody loved and she had a sweet demeanor. Mother hated confrontation though. On the other hand my Aunt Didi, who was my mother's sister, was feisty and combative. On one occasion I thought her and another woman were going to fight at our back door over some mischief I had caused. My mischievousness almost got me killed or seriously hurt on a few occasions.

   White Bridge Road, then as now, was a very busy road. We lived close to it and one day I walked away from home. Somehow, without getting run over by a car, I walked across White Bridge Road to a market. There I walked inside the store to a ice cream freezer, helped myself to a Popsicle, and walked out. Then I walked to a nearby bus stop where a city bus had stopped to pick up passengers. I told the bus driver that I wanted to go to town. My mother was frantically searching for me with the help of the neighbors. By the time she found me I am sure the bus driver was not happy and well behind schedule. On another occasion I pulled a chair up to the linen closet in the hall and on the top shelf I found a loaded semi-automatic pistol that my father brought home from his service in World War II. Daddy walked toward  me and I pointed the gun at him saying, "I'm going to shoot you daddy". Luckily mother was in her bedroom behind me and she grabbed the gun out of my hands".    
  Daddy worked until late at night. When he would get home he liked to watch the late movie with my mom on the couch. We had a broken refrigerator sitting in my parents bedroom. While they were watching television one night I walked into their room and climbed into the refrigerator and let the door shut behind me. Many children have died of suffocation in these old refrigerators over the years because they couldn't be opened from the inside. Immediately I panicked when the door shut because it was pitch black inside and when I realized that I couldn't get out I started screaming and crying. I was kicking and beating on the inside and by the grace of God my parents were able to hear me since they were in the next room and they let me out. It is a wonder that my brother Mark an I weren't electrocuted because when he was about four and I was nine we peed into the electric wall heaters. What possessed us to do this I don't know. At that age I was old enough to know better but we did it and the smell was horrible. We were pretty wild kids. Relatives would hide their valuables whenever they saw us coming.

  Mother had a wringer washer and I was always fascinated with the rollers on top. One day I was showing off for a little girl in the neighborhood and I was placing wet clothes in the rollers. I held on to a wash cloth a little too long and my fingers were caught. Before I knew it I was in up past my elbow. Because I panicked I didn't think to simply reach up and turn the machine off. There was a lever that controlled the direction. I could have simply stopped the rollers and backed my arm out. In my panic I actually broke the machine trying to get it out. Another time I brought a friend of mine home from school to play. We were riding together in my wagon down the street from the top of the dead end. There was a dip in the road about halfway down and whether I was on my bike, tricycle, or wagon I loved to hit that dip. He was in front and I was in back when we hit the dip and he apparently wasn't holding on to the handle that good. The wheels turned sharply and both of us went face forward down hard on the asphalt. The only thing that saved me from getting hurt was that my friend's body cushioned my fall. I heard his head go thud and when I looked at him he was having convulsions. His eyes were rolling back in his head. My mother was walking to a neighbors house nearby and she began to scream. She had been a nurse  and knew what to do. Mother told me to run to the house and get a wet wash cloth. A neighbor called an ambulance. This happened on a Friday but on Monday when I returned to school he was okay.

   One night there was a prisoner escape at the Tennessee State Prison near Centennial Avenue. The prison is no longer active. The main building looks like a castle and it has been used to make movies in the last twenty years or so. It was built in 1898 and was closed down in 1992. The movies Nashville, Marie, Ernest Goes To Jail, Against the Wall, the Green Mile, and Last Castle have been filmed there along with music videos and popular television programs. One summer night when mother and daddy were sleeping with the windows open, mother was awakened by the sound of heavy breathing.  She looked out the window and saw two escaped convicts sitting on our back steps trying to catch their breath. Police cruisers were driving up and down White Bridge road. They were searching the neighborhood with spotlights looking for the prisoners. Soon she saw them jump up and take off running. Another time we were driving east on Charlotte Ave. toward home when I heard something hit the drivers side of the car near where I was sitting in the back seat. A little boy was trying to cross the road and didn't see us and ran right into the side of our car. Daddy slammed on the brakes and my mother jumped out on the passenger side and daddy jumped out on the drivers side. The collision had knocked the boy's shoes off. Frightened he jumped up and took off running back across the street to where he had come from. My parents were able to catch him and found out that he was not seriously hurt. It all happened so fast that it took me a minute or two to realize what was happening.

  Daddy was a great father and he regularly took us hunting, boating,swimming and fishing along with everything else we wanted to do. I couldn't swim and I was scared of the water. Mark on the other hand from a baby was able to swim like a fish and had no fear whatsoever of the water. On our old home movies at Chickasaw State Park you can see me wearing a life vest, even in the shallow water. One of daddy's favorite places to fish was Lake Louise near Marrowbone Lake. On one occasion I fell and rolled off into the lake. Another time daddy caught a big fish and in my excitement I accidentally fell into the water. Both times daddy had to jump in after me. Because of this he enrolled me in a Red Cross swimming class at Centennial Park's public pool. Somehow I survived these years. I have always heard that God takes care of kids and fools.

  My brother Mark came along on January 26, 1955. Aunt Vera came over to babysit us while mother was in the hospital. Having a baby was a bigger deal back then than today. A woman's stay in the hospital was at least three days. Aunt Vera was my paternal grandfather's sister. I can't remember what she looked like but I am told that she was dark skinned reflecting our Cherokee heritage. My sister Donna called her a witch because it was during this time that she told Donna that she wasn't my father's biological daughter. Donna was devastated because daddy was the only father that she had ever known. She was born in March 1946. Donna's real father was John Phillips and he was from Murfreesboro. Apparently he was a low-life because I was told that he physically abused my mother and was a bigamist on top of that because he was already married when he married my mother. She had the marriage annulled when she found out but not before she became pregnant with Donna. John Phillips spent two years in prison for bigamy. He was indigent when he died in the early 1980's and was buried in a paupers grave at Woodlawn Cemetery. The center of attention shifted from me to Mark, which is normal when a new baby comes along. I was always proud of Mark and he was a cute baby. I was the typical big brother. We played together a lot and I can't remember fighting all that much.
 
Centennial Park
















Brookside Court Annex Apt. 3

Me and my sister Donna during the Davy Crockett Hysteria


Mark and next door neighbor friend
Me shooting my BB gun on Old Hickory Lake

Uncle Jim and myself

Me, Mark, Alton, Jennie Brown, Donna on back row, Judy Brown, and Roy Anderson

   In the Fall of 1956 I started first grade at Martha Vaught Elementary school. I was definitely a mama's boy. If anybody needed kindergarten it was me. Kindergarten was optional then and there were no public kindergartens in Nashville. Kids started their public education in 1st grade. This was before Nashville became a metropolitan government and there were city schools and county schools. We were in the county. From the first time my mother left me alone in school I went berserk. I cried everyday and my teacher had no patience with me. She moved my desk into the cloak room and of course I failed 1st grade and had to go to summer school. The thought of going to school in the summer, while my fiends were playing, killed me but I loved summer school. Mother enrolled me at David Lipscomb. My teacher was a sweet older lady named Mrs. Glass and I don't think I cried one time. Martha Vaught spanned grades one through the eighth. I left after the fifth grade and Donna spent all eight years at Martha Vaught. I was in a portable in the fourth grade and we had two classes. Our fourth grade class and a fifth grade class. The teacher would teach us for awhile and walk over to the other side and teach the fifth grade.
 
  A big part of our life during this time was my father's drugstores. Daddy owned 3 drugstores at one time. In the early fifties he owned Segroves Pharmacy at 17th and Charlotte, Segroves-Kelly Pharmacy at 12th and Jefferson and Segroves-Kelly Pharmacy at 9th and Cheatham. The latter two were partnerships with daddy's friend Milton R. Kelly. Daddy and Kelly were friends in the army. The store at 12th and Jefferson eventually expanded into a grocery store and hardware store. Around 1954 or 55 daddy sold the store at 9th and Cheatham but he owned the other two stores until his death in 1963. Kelly would continue operating the 12th and Jefferson location until he was forced to sell it. The government bought it to build Interstate 40 in the late 1960's. The Kelly's would be a big part of our lives during those years. We would usually get together around the holidays. Especially Christmas and New Years Eve. I always felt like they were part of the family. There was Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, Milton and Betty and their children Betsy and Milton Jr. Betsy was tight with my sister Donna because they were closer in age. We spent quite a bit of time over the years visiting the Kelly's or they would come to our house.

  Daddy operated Segroves Pharmacy on Charlotte. That drugstore was almost our second home. When I was a baby there are many pictures of me and Donna in and around the store. There are pictures of me in a play pen that was set up in the store.  After I started school we would usually only be there on weekends but during the summer months we were at the store a lot. As early as I can remember I was working there.. I dusted merchandise with a feather duster. Cleaned the glass in merchandise cases with Windex. I swept the floors, stocked merchandise, and I operated the cash register when I was old enough to wait on customers. One of my funniest experiences was the day that a man came up to me and whispered in my ear, " I need a pack of Trojans". Then condoms were not out on the shelves like they are today. They were usually hidden in a drawer or special place behind the counter. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. So in a store full of customers I hollered out to my mother working in the prescription department, "mother, where do we keep the Trojans? For a minute you could hear a pin drop as all conversation stopped. Mother was easily embarrassed when it came to talk concerning sexual subjects. Her face was blood red as she walked out to wait on the equally embarrassed customer.

  I can still see in my minds eye daddy and mother working there in the store. If daddy wasn't waiting on customers he was leaning with his back against the counter in his dark dress pants, white shirt and tie. Sometimes he wore a suit coat or wore a bow tie. Daddy would either be smoking a cigar, sipping a six ounce Coca-Cola, or just standing there with arms folded waiting for his next customer. Or he would be in the prescription department busily filling prescriptions. Sometimes if he was swamped mother would be back there helping out or she would help him by working up front.  Daddy had an air of authority about him and his customers liked and respected him. He lived by the admonition that the customer was always right and he drummed this principle into my head. He was a loving and doting father but I walked the chalk line around him. We were crazy about mother but she let us get away with murder. Until I was about five or six mother's natural hair color was strawberry blond. Then because of my dad she bleached her hair. I was told that this was because of the popularity of Marilyn Monroe and daddy, like most men of the time,liked her.
 
  Daddy had a black assistant pharmacist named Dr. Nall. He was a  distinguished looking man and I was told that he had worked on the Manhattan Project. Dr. Nall worked on the uranium bomb at Oak Ridge that was dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. He was probably in his mid to late 40's then and he lived into his nineties. I will never forget the day that my grandparents had a large possum trapped in their dog house. Dr. Nall wanted to catch the possum and take him home to cook and eat him. Mother drove Dr. Nall and myself over to my grandparents house at 1300 McKennie in East Nashville. He caught it and we drove over to Dr. Nall's house just off of Lafayette Street where he and I killed the possum. Dr. Nall placed a rake handle over the back of the possum's neck while we stood on both ends of the rake, breaking the possums neck. This was one of the most unpleasant things that I have ever done. He then skinned and gutted the possum after removing the head, tail and feet. I asked if I could have them so he put them in a big glass pickle jar and filled it full of alcohol.The plan was to take them to school for show and tell. By this time I was in the fifth grade at Martha Vaught but we moved in the summer of 1959 to our house on Henry Ford Drive and I was riding a school bus back and forth to school. I managed to get the possum parts to school without a problem but that afternoon as I was boarding the bus the jar slipped out of my hands and smashed on the floor of the bus. Needless to say I put the bus driver behind schedule as I worked to clean up glass and possum parts off of the floor of the bus. It was no fun breathing the pungent alcohol fumes.

  Daddy had many teenage black boys working for him. They delivered prescriptions and did other jobs for daddy. The two that I remember the most were Calvin and Rogers. Calvin was a light skin teenager with curly hair and I remember him being very fun loving and funny. Rogers was a heavy set dark skinned and good natured guy that was like a member of our family. He would come to our house on occasion and do odd jobs. One day we rode all over the neighborhood on his motorcycle. The last time I saw him was about ten years ago. He had lost a leg to diabetes but he was still the same old Rogers. When we were real small and living on Brookvale Terrace and Brookside Ct. we had a black nanny named Carolyn. We were growing up in a period of time that was turbulent for the country as a whole, especially in the South. I was four when Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling declared the policy of separate but equal unconstitutional in regards to public education. Five during the Montgomery Bus boycott and the murder of Emmett Till. Seven during the rioting associated with the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Ten during the Nashville sit-ins. Eleven during the freedom Rides. Thirteen during the Birmingham Children's March in 1963 and death of Medgar Evers. Fourteen when the three civil rights workers were killed near Philadelphia Mississippi, and the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Fifteen during the march on Selma, the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the year that I first attended school with black children at East High School. Eighteen when Martin Luther King was assassinated.

  Locally I remember the day that my sister Donna was forced to leave the Shelby Park Public swimming pool because blacks were demanding the right to swim. All the city pools were closed that day and never reopened, which I thought was stupid. Then there was the night that the Klan tried to blow up Hattie Cotton School on Douglas Ave. which blew the doors of Eastland Baptist Church open and frightened my grandparents awake in the middle of the night. Until I was ten I never gave much thought to the issue of civil rights. I knew that something wasn't right when I saw them riding on the back of the bus when I rode downtown. When we visited the Memphis Zoo and blacks could only go there on Negro Day, which was Thursday. When my mother and I went shopping at Castner-Knott, Harvey's, Cain-Sloan, or Woolworth's downtown. Blacks were welcome to shop and spend their money but they couldn't sit down and eat with white people at the stores restaurants and diners. Or when I would look up and see blacks sitting in the segregated section of the balcony area of theaters like Loews, the Paramount, the Tennessee, and Knickerbocker I was probably just too young to take it all in. I am glad however that my parents raised me to be courteous, and respectful of everyone regardless of their race, or station in life. They lived what they preached.

  Why my parents were like this I really don't know because I never had a real conversation with them about their views on race or class. If they were open-minded because they considered it the right thing to do or if it was because they didn't want to offend their customer base. Never did I sense that it was for the latter reason. I want to believe that my parents did it because they were good and decent people. The store was in a poor and predominately black area of Nashville. There were shacks all around the store and most if not all of them had no indoor plumbing. Right next door to the east was a hardware store and next to that was a restaurant. We were close enough to town that the state capital could be easily seen off in the distance. My mother loved soul food and she would order such things as pig feet or pork brains at the restaurant. I was always thinking of ways to play practical jokes and I rigged the restroom door at the restaurant with booby traps. It was firecrackers on strings that you could tie in such a way as to make the firecrackers explode when someone opened the door. Across 17th to the west was an auto garage and a few businesses up from that was a restaurant called the Chicken Shack. It had some very good barbecue chicken. We called in to go orders on a regular basis and they would give you a loaf of white bread to help you endure the heat of the barbecue sauce. I have been told that because it was a black owned business during segregation black people ate in the main dining room and white people ate in a back room. There was an Esso station just across the street from the drugstore on the corner of 17th and Charlotte to the north.. On the hill above it was the projects. West of the Esso station across 17th was the Duck Head factory which made blue jeans. There were numerous small businesses up and down the street.

  My parents seemed to be genuinely liked and respected by everyone. I would be walking around the store or up and down the street and people would smile and call me "little Doc" because they called my dad "Doc" I loved everything about the store. It was like a second home to me. Crime was a problem then as now but it was nothing compared to now. Daddy was never robbed at gunpoint in the fourteen years that he owned a drugstore. However he was burglarized at least twice. Daddy would get a call by the police, usually in the pre-dawn hours, to be told that the store had been broken in to. Mother would wake us all up. Wearing our pajama's, the kind with feet on them,  we would all ride to the store to look at the damage. On one occasion safe crackers broke in through the back door and cracked the safe open. On another occasion burglars not only stole but they vandalised the store.. The burglars took a trash can and filled it up with cigarettes but they broke the glass in merchandise cases, threw everything they could into the floor and it looked like they just jumped up and down on the stuff. Breaking anything that was breakable. During business hours daddy could handle anybody that got out of line. I remember the day when he caught a shoplifter and he had the man penned against the wall next to the front door. 


Dr.Nall



















  On a Friday afternoon in November 1958 mother picked me up at school. As we rode to the store she told me that very early in the morning hours a lady in a convertible was driving drunk in a southerly direction down 17th Avenue coming from the direction of Pearl High School toward Charlotte. Coming off the hill she was speeding and lost control. Veering to the left she crossed Charlotte and smashed through the front door of our drugstore. The car smashed everything in it's path and came to a stop just short of the prescription department in the rear of the store. By the grace of God it happened after closing, otherwise it could have been a horrible disaster resulting in injury and death. I could not believe my eyes at the sight of the damage when we arrived. Workmen had removed what was left of the front of the store and were closing it in with plywood until a more permanent structure could be built. Incredibly the store was packed with customers, as it normally was on a Friday. The car had traveled straight up through the middle. The counters on both sides of the store were still intact making it possible to conduct business. Much of the crowd coming in and out of the store were curiosity seekers.

  Another thing I remember about this night was this was the first night that I ever saw the movie Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff. After we got home there was a new late night feature on what was then Channel 8, WSIX, and what is now Channel 2 WKRN, called "Shock Theater". Shock Theater introduced me to Frankenstein, the Mummy, played by both Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. Dracula, played by Bela Lugosi, and the Wolf Man played by Lon Chaney Jr. Seven months into the show the host became a Dracula like character wearing an eye patch and smoking a cigarette named Dr. Lucifur.  His spelling, not mine, who was simply the narrator. Then later he decided to liven up the show as Dr. Lucifur, He claimed to be the president of Transylvania and spoke with an accent. Dr. Lucifur spoke in a creepy voice and would introduce the movie and speak at various points in the show after commercial breaks. He would sign off by saying, "Good night, pleasant dreams" and the show would fade out as he laughed an evil laugh. The guy playing Dr. Lucifur was a man named Ken Bramming,who lived from 1926 until 1997. The show lasted from 1958 until 1967
Dr. Lucifur

Dr. Lucifur
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   In the mid to late 1950's we started going to Chickasaw State Park for a week long vacation every year. Daddy would rent a cabin and we would go there for a week of fishing, swimming, and just hanging out at the Lodge. There was a lake and a roped off area of the lake for swimming. There were paddle boats and a nice playground. My Aunt Didi, her boyfriend Allen Smith, aka "Frog" if you were an adult or "Gigs" if you were a kid, my cousins Roy and Alton would all come with us. Then there was daddy's first cousin and best friend Howard Wilkinson, his wife Ruby, and my cousin's Sandra and Sherry. Sometimes my half sister's Carolyn and Faye would also come with us. We would rent a couple of cabins if we had to in order to accommodate that many people. No matter what it was always fun. For us kids having that many people staying together for a week was an adventure. Daddy and Howard would rent a boat and fish from sunrise to sunset. They would come in all sunburned and carrying a huge string of fish between the two of them. We would eat fish all week. Daddy was the best fisherman that I have ever seen and always seemed to know where the best spot was. He was always taking me fishing and I loved to fish when I was catching something. When i wasn't catching them I would easily get bored and get on daddy's nerves because I would usually go to throwing rocks and scaring the fish. At Chickasaw I usually stayed with my mom back at the cabin and we would spend the day swimming, or on the paddle boats. At night we would go to the lodge and my sister Donna and all the teenagers would dance to the music of the jukebox while Mark and I would shoot a bear that had sensors on it's belly and side. When you hit the sensor with a beam of light from the rifle it would roar and raise up on it's hind legs changing direction every time you hit it. While at Chickasaw we went to see Graceland about 1957 when Elvis was at the height of his fame. It was a rural area compared to now and the commercialization that now exists was virtually nonexistent. The thing that stood out then as now were the thousands of names written by the fans on the wall. One year we also visited the Overton Park Zoo. 






Chickasaw
Chickasaw

Mark

Me in my life preserver

Typical size family group at Chickasaw 

  Another place that we spent a lot of time during the 1950's was at Fair Park, Cascade Plunge, and the Tennessee State Fair. Fair Park was an amusement park next to the State Fair grounds. It had the usual rides that you would find at an amusement park. A train, a spook house, bumper cars, a tilt-a-whirl, Ferris Wheel, kiddie rides and a variety of other rides. One thing that I liked was a theater that featured cartoons. In later years they added a huge wooden roller coaster and a batting cage.. My parents took us there often and I have many fond memories of Fair Park and I took my own children there. Daddy would talk to a nice man that worked at the Fair Park Diner. He is the only person there that I still remember today. After I married Debbie her cousin Gloria met and married Steve Travis. At a family gathering I met Steve's father and realized that he was the man that my father always talked to at Fair Park.  


Fair Park
Me and Donna at Fair Park

Roy and Donna can be seen getting into a ride in the back.
Fair Park

   My favorite place to go swimming was Cascade Plunge at the State Fairgrounds across from Fair Park. It was a 200 ft. by 80 ft. pool with two giant water slides. One was straight while the other had bumps. It had a 60 ft. tall diving platform. Two one ton Spanish anchors, fountains and a restaurant. Exhibitions included a fire diving water clown soaked in kerosene and lit. There were local music Combo's, which was the contemporary name for a band. A ten ton ice pyramid and a Miss Iceburg contest. A story constantly circulated was that someone put razor blades on one of the slides and a girl was badly cut. This was a Nashville urban legend. Daddy was an expert diver and he would show off by diving off of the tower performing dives such as the swan and jack-knife. He would literally draw crowds to watch him. One day he hit his head on the bottom of the pool nearly knocking himself out. It took a long time before he was able to get out of the water. This was one of the places that I would take Debbie after we started dating. Cascade was finally desegregated in 1968 but was closed for good in 1974. It was filled in and demolished in 1975.
    
Cascade in January 1975 just before it was demolished.
      
   One of the things that I looked forward to every Friday night in the late 1950's and early 1960's was rollerskating at the old Hippodrome every Friday night. The Hippodrome has since been razed but it was near Vanderbilt University and across the street from Centennial Park. This is where I learned to roller skate. It was a huge building used for a variety of uses. It had a 40,000 square foot roller rink. An organ sat up in a balcony on the east end and a lady played music while everyone skated. There were skating parties and baseball was played on skates. During the Depression there were walking marathons where boy and girl couples would walk until one or the other collapsed. The stronger of the two would hold the other up and the couple that finished on their feet would win a cash prize. There were also Big Band performers like Benny Goodman and many others that performed. From 1937 until 1941 Vanderbilt's basketball team played there. In the early days of streetcars you could skate all night for a quarter. During the 1950's and 60's there was professional wrestling promoted by Nick Gulas. Wrestler's such as Tex Riley was one of the good guys. Tojo Yamamoto and the Fargo Brothers were the bad guys that wrestled there. Like most everything else it was segregated and there were the white and colored restrooms. Everyone my age should have fond memories of the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was torn down in 1968.


Nick Gulas

Tex Riley

The Fargo Brothers

Tojo Yamamoto
   Growing up in 1950's and 1960's Nashville provided many memories for me and an important part of my life was going to the movies. Movie theaters were palaces compared to today. They only showed one movie at a time. Many times we would arrive late but you could always hang around and catch the part of the movie at the next showing that you missed. There were a few suburban theaters like the Melrose or the Belle Meade theater where my sister Donna took me to see my first indoor movie called Bombers B-52. Belle Meade was built in 1940 had a wall of fame where just about every Hollywood movie star had signed their autograph at one time or another. Along with their photographs taken at the theater. It had a saturday matinee for years and tragically a number of kids were killed and injured one Saturday when an elderly person became confused and accidentally stepped on the accelerator of their car thinking it was the brake and ran through a line of children waiting to get in the theater.  

  In the summertime we usually went to the drive-in's like Warner Park, Bel-Aire, the Skyway, Colonial, Crescent or Montague. You haven't really lived until you have had the experience of a drive-in theater. I loved Warner Park and Skyway because they had playgrounds. The theaters downtown had atmosphere. The Paramount opened on November 14, 1930. During World War ll it had an organ and a organist. If you started walking down Church st. starting at 8th Ave. and staying on the right side of the street heading east the Paramount would be the 1st theater that you came to. I remember seeing the Longest Day there which was about D-Day. It was released for the 20th anniversary of D-Day and a special section, down front, was roped off for D-Day veterans. The next theater was the fanciest to me because it was originally an opera house which opened on October 3, 1887. It was the Loews theater. It had 2 balconies and 16 boxes. Loew's took over the theater in the mid-1920's. There were Vaudeville acts and movies. When I was a kid all of the Walt Disney movies were shown there. The last movie shown there was the Dirty Dozen. The theater caught fire and was heavily damaged. The lobby was used as retail space until 1986. In front of the Loews if you looked straight up Capital Blvd. you could see the Knickerbocker on the left. This is where I spent many of my saturday's watching such B- rated classic horror movies such as the H-Man and Frankenstein's daughter. Continuing east down Church you came to the Tennessee theater. It was probably the more spacious and modern theater. It was at 533 Church near Harvey's and Cain-Sloan. It opened in 1952 and was demolished in the 1980's. Last but not least there was the old Princess theater that was later changed to the Crescent. I saw many epic movies there like How The West Was Won and John Wayne's the Alamo. This was where my brother Mark acted like he was looking for something on the floor because he didn't want me to know he cried when Davy Crockett died. Black's either had their own theaters or they were allowed to sit in segregated sections of the balconies at the various theaters. Modern day theaters are much more efficient and show more movies but when I was a kid going to the movie was an experience.
  






  For me Christmastime was magical as a child growing up in Nashville during the 1950's and early 1960's. There were no malls and the vast majority of Christmas shopping was done downtown. Nashville was a madhouse with thousands of shoppers walking the streets and through the stores combined with the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas. Church Street was the epicenter of activity as well as 4th and 5th Avenue. There were stores like Castner-Knott, Harvey's, W.T. Grant's, Cain-Sloan, Woolworth's, Kress 5&10. I loved the Christmas lights and everything was lit up. The movie "A Christmas Story" reminds me of what Christmas was like in Nashville. Like in the movie the Christmas parade was held at night. The route was from west to east down Church Street. My father's drugstore was at 17th and Charlotte and my mother and dad took us to watch the parade in front of what was then Taystee Bread Co. at 17th and Church. 

  My favorite store to go shopping with my mother was Harvey's. We looked forward to eating in the Monkey Bar Diner upstairs at lunch time. They had live monkeys in a cage and a carousel. This was maintained and operated by a Mr. Max Lowenstein who was a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp. They even had a monorail that ran around the top floor of Harvey's. Daddy would give us each five dollars to buy Christmas presents and I could go to Woolworth's and buy everyone in the family a gift. Uncle Bud would always get a pair of socks from me and granddaddy would get Half & Half pipe tobacco. We would get our picture taken with the Harvey's Santa. Of course I was scared to death of him. One year I refused to have my picture taken with Santa and I threw a fit. 

  Crime was a problem then as now. I will never forget the day that my mother had been shopping all day and her bags were loaded with gifts. She set them down for just a second turning her back and when she turned around the bags were gone. She found a pay phone and cried the whole time she was on the phone with daddy. Fred Harvey sponsored a beautiful nativity scene on the south side of the Parthenon. Most people in Nashville took a yearly pilgrimage to see it. We would stand in a long line as we slowly filed past as Christmas music was playing from loudspeakers and the scenes changed color periodically. As always change is inevitable. In the late sixties, and into the seventies and eighties mall's were built in the suburbs. One Hundred Oaks, Rivergate, Harding Mall, Green Hills, Hickory Hollow, and Cool Springs. This was to accommodate  the thousands of people moving into the suburbs expanding development and building of new homes in the greater Nashville area. The wonder of Christmas died in downtown Nashville as a result but I am glad that I was able to experience it. I will always cherish the memories.

   In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas I loved all the activity associated with this time of year. Daddy loved to decorate, especially after we had our own house and there is nothing that smells better than a live tree. One thing I particularly liked was the cardboard Santa behind our tree of him holding a bottle of coke. Daddy would get them from the Coca-Cola deliveryman every year and we would put them behind our tree. I wish we had saved them because they would be a collectors item today. On Christmas morning we would wake up early and run into the living room.  Everything was bright and shiny. Mother would not wrap our presents that came from Santa but only the gifts that were going to family or friends. Debbie's mother wrapped her gifts from Santa and Debbie has always maintained that tradition in our family. Personally I liked how my mother did it better because it is much simpler. I have seen Debbie stay up into the wee hours of the morning wrapping gifts along with everything else she has to do. With age Christmas is not what it used to be to me. I still like certain aspects of it but I have become somewhat of a Scrooge. I am usually glad when it is over because it is so tiring. 
   
  After we had a chance to play with our toys a little we would get dressed, pack up the car with food and whatever toys we wanted to show off and head over to our grandparents house. Until I was about five they lived at North Fifth Street and Cleveland St. I can barely remember that house but we have quite a few pictures from there. My grandparents bought it in 1940 because I have the bill of sale.   The house no longer exists because it was torn down when Cleveland Street was widened. This area is predominately black today and one of the most crime ridden inner city areas in Nashville. My grandparents moved to 1300 Mckennie Avenue off Gallatin Road in East Nashville about 1955. This house was built in the late 1800's and it had 12 foot ceilings. My mothers parents who I called granddaddy and mama lived there, along with my Aunt Didi, my cousins Roy and Alton, and my Aunt Arda who was granddaddy's sister. She was an invalid with rheumatoid arthritis. Didi was a single mother and had been divorced since about 1954. With the 12 foot ceilings they always had a huge cedar tree that reached to the ceiling and I loved Christmas at my grandparents. There was a large dining room table where all of the adults ate dinner and the kids ate at the kitchen table. As I got older I resented it when my cousin Roy, who was only two years older than me, got to sit with the adults and I didn't. 

  In addition to our family there was my Aunt Tincy, who I never really liked because I thought she was about halfway crazy. She always reminded me of Joan Crawford for some reason. Then there was her husband Jim Hall. He had a glass eye because his brother accidentally poked him in the eye with a butcher knife while cutting a watermelon when they were children. Uncle Jim was a studio musician and back-up singer for a lot of famous country music singers during what I call the golden age of country,in the 1950's and 60's. He would earn a gold record for arranging the music on Roy Orbison's big hit "Crying" and a platinum record for Sue Thompson's hit "Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry". Then there was my Uncle Alton "Bud" Brown who would always come in for Christmas from wherever he happened to be preaching. He was a United Methodist preacher that preached at various places in Kentucky and Louisiana over the years that I knew him and a part-time mortician. He would always come home a few days before Christmas and we would be so excited that we would stand at the door off and on for hours waiting to see his car drive up. It was almost like we were waiting for Santa himself. When he did get there we would hang on every word as he told us about life among the mountain people of Kentucky and his experiences while working at the funeral home. He would tell us all the gory details of the embalming process and although I was terrified I listened with morbid fascination.

  I have mostly good memories of our Christmas dinners at my grandparents but I remember one particular year that my Aunt Tincy and daddy were drunk. There was a big fight because Tincy slapped my dad for something he said or did. Aunt Tincy and Jim were both alcoholics and I can remember many nights when mother, Didi, and my grandmother would pack us into the back seat late at night and we would all drive out to their house in Donelson. The adults would leave us in the car while they went inside to pull them apart so they wouldn't kill each other in their drunken stupor. Once  everything was okay we left. Regardless of this one bad memory my memories of Christmas would not be complete without those happy times I spent at my grandparents house at Christmastime.
Didi & Gigs

Granddaddy and Mama

Christmas at my grandparents

Christmas at my grandparents
    On one particular Christmas night in 1961  we were crossing the Victory Memorial bridge over the Cumberland River after a long day at my grandparents house. Flames were leaping high into the sky and the whole city glowed from the huge fire that would destroy one of the most historic buildings in Nashville, the Maxwell House Hotel. It sat at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Church Street. Until that time this was the biggest fire that I ever saw. In the glow of the fire you could see the streams of water shooting from the fireman's hoses over the roof of the building. Firemen were hosing the fire from the Life & Casualty building across Church Street.  The L&C Tower as it was called was the only skyscraper in Nashville at that time and it dominated the skyline. Fortunately there was only one death. A mans body was later found in the rubble. Construction began on the  Maxwell House by slaves in 1859 but it was not totally finished when the Civil War began in 1861. The hotel was financed by John Overton Jr., the son of John Overton Senior who was Andrew Jackson's campaign manager and one of the founders of Memphis. The hotel was called "Overton's Folly" because people thought that it was too opulent for a town of 17,000 people. It was named after Overton's wife Harriet Maxwell.  It had been a barracks for Confederate soldiers and at that time it was called Zollicoffer Barracks. It was also used as a hospital

  After Nashville fell to the Union Army in February 1862 it was used as a prison for Confederate soldiers. Six hundred prisoners were being held on the 5th floor and each morning they would assemble for breakfast and in a group they would walk down under guard to the first floor for their breakfast. On September 29, 1863 the men excitedly ran to the stairs to muster for breakfast when the weight of over a hundred soldiers forming all at once caused the staircase to collapse. Men fell in a heap from the fifth to the second floor killing several men and severely injuring many more. Some for life. Nashville was the main medical center for the Union Army in the Western Theater but a tragedy of that magnitude would tax the hospitals of Nashville today, much less the hospitals in 1863. No matter if your sympathies were with the North or South all in the city worked together to provide care for the wounded. 

  A blemish on the hotels history was that in April 1867  the Ku Klux Klan was formally organized. in room # 10. The idea for the Klan was inspired in Pulaski but the hierarchy was structured at the Maxwell House and Nathan Bedford Forrest was appointed first Grand Wizard. He would formally disband it in 1869. It would not formally return until 1915 after the making of the movie "Birth of A Nation" The hotel was completed after the war and formally opened in 1869 becoming the pride of Nashville. It had five stories and 240 rooms. There was a bath in every room, heat and gas lighting. Ladies and men's parlors, billiard rooms, bathrooms, shaving parlors, a grand ballroom and grand staircase. Gilded mirrors, chandeliers and many other luxuries. 

  Eight presidents stayed there. Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Many famous people also stayed there. Among them Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, Buffalo Bill, Tom Thumb, Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Westinghouse, Jane Adams, William Jennings Bryan, Annie Oakley and William Sydney Porter (O Henry). Last but not least the Maxwell House had a special blend of coffee that supposedly Theodore Roosevelt raved over and said that the coffee was "Good to the last drop" This may or not be true. I have read recently that it was a myth. However it makes a good story. Joel Cheek marketed his coffee through the hotel and it became so famous it developed into what we know today as Maxwell House Coffee. 

Ball room of the Maxwell House
Firemen shooting fire on the smoldering ruina of the Maxwell House


Maxwell House kitchen staff

Maxwell House staff

Maxwell House staff

Maxwell House staff

Maxwell House staff

Maxwell House staff


A picture taken by Didi

      
        
Harvey's Nativity Scene At The Parthenon



Rare day time shot
Church St.

Church St.

Castner-Knott

Fifth Ave.

Add caption

This is not Christmastime but the streets were this crowded during the season.
Christmas shoppers in front of a Cain - Sloan window display


Church St.

  





  In September 1950 WSM, Channel 4, became the first television station in Nashville. In 1956 construction began on a new television tower just off of Charlotte Ave. at Dakota & 38th Ave. This was to replace the old 578 ft. tower at Compton & 14th Ave. South where Metro Police Communications center is today. The new tower upon completion would be 1379 ft. tall. Everyday I would look to the southeast and see the WSM tower slowly rising higher and higher toward the sky. Then on 4-Feb-1957, 24 days before my 7th birthday our 1st grade class went on a field trip to the Children's Theater near the old Children's Museum in downtown Nashville. We didn't return to our school until late in the afternoon. I immediately realized that I couldn't see the tower on the horizon. When I got home I knew something was wrong by the look on my mother's face. I told her that I couldn't see the tower anymore and she told me that it had fallen killing 4 construction workers. They were Donald Kinnan, 25 of Tucson Arizona. George Presler 33 of Union City Tn. Ray Maxwell 33 of Jacksonville Florida and Robert Kirshner 30, of California Mo. A fifth man Harold Kirshner 29, was treated for shock because he had just climbed down off the tower minutes before it collapsed. The men fell 700 ft. to their death. 

  The tower was made out of a new steel alloy that was supposedly 3 times stronger than regular steel. There was little wind that day and it was unknown why the tower fell. Donald Kinnan was interviewed by the Tennessean a few day's before the accident and he said "I would not drive a race car. Too dangerous. My jobs safe because I know what I'm doing. Besides more people get killed stepping off curbs than in my line of work". The tower fell at 600ft. in a residential neighborhood. and a 300ft section skidded down a hill stopping just short of a house. A piece crashed through a house on Lookout Dr. The only casualty in the neighborhood was a dog that was crushed. Television viewer's watching a soap opera called Modern Romances could hear workers screaming for help. Viewers heard an excited voice say "Oh my God, send help. The tower has just fallen down, help quick". A few days after the collapse I remember my mother taking us to see the collapsed tower. It was just a heap of twisted metal for hundreds of feet. Beginning later in the year WSM bought 100 acres on a a 680 foot hill behind our house called Knob Hill. At that time we were outside the city limits but WSM wanted enough area that if the tower fell again it would not endanger anyone. The original tower cost 100,000 dollars. The new tower on Knob Hill cost 600,000. The new tower went into service on 25-March-1959, just before we bought our house in Charlotte Park at 6222 Henry Ford Dr. WSM eventually settled a lawsuit valued at 1,000,000 dollars for the families of the four construction workers. In today's dollars that was a lot of money. The first picture is the test pattern that WSM viewers saw after the station signed off the air at night and before it came on in the morning.


Jud Collins


Harold Kirshner being transported to the hospital



   Mother and daddy met each other in the late 1940's after daddy was discharged from the army in 1947. Both were married and divorced before they met each other at Walgreen's at 5th and Arcade. Daddy learned to fill prescriptions while working at Walgreen's and mother was a LPN working for Dr. Martin, who was our family doctor when I was growing up and until I was married. Daddy married a pretty red head named Mamie in 1939, when he was 19 and working at Walgreen's. My oldest sister Carolyn was born in 1940 and Faye came along in 1943. Daddy was drafted into the army in 1944. He worked in supply and later became an M.P. During the war he worked in prisoner of war camps across the South maintaining Italian and German prisoners captured primarily in North Africa. He was always proud of the fact that he guarded many of Rommel's men. As far as I know he was inducted at Camp Forrest in Tullahoma, which was also a P.O.W. camp, and he went through basic training at Fort Benning Georgia. Daddy was typical of most men who served in World War II. Out of sixteen million men who served in the war only three million ever saw combat. Most, like my father, served on the home front or in rear areas overseas. As far as I can tell daddy served primarily in Florida and after the war he was stationed for awhile at Ft. Benjamin Harrison Indiana and I believe at Ft. Knox Kentucky. He was discharged in 1947.

  Daddy, was a womanizer, at least until he met my mother. There was an awkward situation when daddy had an affair as a teenager with an older woman named Bertha. It was my understanding that she was warned to stay away from him by family members. As to who was to blame for daddy's divorce from Mamie I don't know. I heard that daddy cheated on Mamie and that she cheated on him. My Aunt Didi told me that daddy once walked into his house as one of Mamie's boyfriends was climbing out of a back window. My sister Carolyn believes that Mamie only started cheating after she caught daddy cheating on her. I don't know what actually caused the divorce but a few years ago I ran across some love letters written by an Army-Air Force pilot that was flying what we in the Air Force called C-47 Goonie Birds over the "Hump" to supply American Forces fighting in the far Eastern Theater of China and Burma. The Himalayan Mountains were called the "Hump" by these pilots. I have several love letters written to Mamie from Lt. David Cramer. The following letter was written on August 7, 1945, the day after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

                                                                                           Yunnan Province, China
                                                                                           August 7, 1945

My Darling Mamie Lee,

  We had some mail in today darling, but I didn't have any from you. I was rather disappointed, but I guess I can't expect mail from you everyday, I imagine your much too busy to write everyday. I can't complain too much, because I have received three letters from you in the past five days. How have you been, sweetheart? I hope the children and you are just fine. I'm feeling very well myself, only I'm very lonesome for you. That was a very sweet letter I had from you yesterday. You were saying how you would like me to take you in my arms, and love you, I dream of such things like that all the time, honey. I hope and pray with all my heart, that someday your wish may come true, because you see, it is also my wish. I try not to think of how all this might turn out, I keep telling myself it will all turn out alright, and that someday you will be mine, we will at least hope for the best.

  Well honey, it doesn't look as though I'll be at this base too much longer. There were a couple of majors down here this afternoon from headquarters and they are going to cut the personnel of this base down to about fifty enlisted men and five officers. I had a talk with one of the majors and he said I have a very good chance of getting back to flying the hump. I hope so, that will cut my time over here down to one year. Just think honey I would only have about seven more months to go. It's just about time to go to supper, darling, so I'll close now with love and kisses to you. Take care of yourself, write and miss me.

                                                                                           All my love
                                                                                               Dave

   This is one of several letters that I have from the Lieutenant but I don't know what became of him because after she divorced my father she married a man named Mickey Flannigan. It was because of Mickey that Carolyn and Faye were raised Catholic. They attended St. Cecelia convent in North Nashville. He was from Nashville I believe and owned a liquor store on West End for many years. Carolyn and Faye spent many weekends at our house when I was growing up. I saw Mamie many times and she was more like an aunt than my dad's ex-wife. Mother got along with her well and Carolyn told me that she loved my mother more than her own mother.





Mamie Segroves

Cheatham Apartments
Me, Roy and Donna on North 5th St.


Donna, Me, and Faye
Mark

Mark

Family trip to Ft. Knox
Mark

Donna, Me and Mark



   As I said earlier mother met and married a man named John Phillips. After awhile it was discovered that John was already married and mother had the marriage annulled. Donna was born in March 1946 and she never knew her father. John had physically abused mother during their relationship. After daddy was discharged from the Army he went back to work at Walgreen's. He met mother because she would shop or eat lunch there I assume. I am guessing that they met sometime in 1947 or 48. At one time couples had to have a blood test before they could get a marriage license. Their blood test was dated December 16, 1948. So I am guessing that they were married in December 1948 or early in 1949. Daddy would open his stores sometime in 1949. Donna always considered daddy to be her real father until Aunt Vera revealed the truth to her at the age of nine. He was a real father to her and she always saw him that way and Mark and I always considered her our full sister. My sister Carolyn dated soldiers from a very young age from Ft. Campbell. They would show up at the house in their starched and pressed uniforms and spit shined jump boots. She would marry a twenty six year old veteran of the Korean war named John Kemper when she was fourteen. I have lost contact with Carolyn by her choice over the last few years. John and Carolyn moved to Hawaii in the late 1970's and the last I heard they were still married. My sister Faye has been a long time resident of Nashville who married into wealth and has been successful in her own right. Carolyn had several children and Faye also had several children.



Bill Segroves


This and the next two pictures might have been taken at the Church Street location of Walgreen's



Daddy working at Walgreens

Daddy standing near Walgreen's on 5th Ave.

  .
   In 1959 when I was nine years old we moved into our first real house at 6222 Henry Ford Drive. It was a two bedroom ranch style brick house with a one car garage that sat on a hill. When we moved to Henry Ford Drive I had every expectation of continuing the happy and idyllic life that I had enjoyed on Brookside Court. Charlotte Park was a fairly new subdivision and there was new home construction going on everywhere. Many people who lived there worked in the nearby Ford glass plant and many of the streets were named after Ford cars like Edsel and Fairlane. Of course our road was named after the Ford company founder Henry Ford. The main road through the subdivision was named American Road. Our prospects seemed even brighter because we had always lived in duplexes and limited space. Brookside Ct. was so much fun and I had so many friends that I really didn't mind that we were living in a duplex. Mother and daddy on the other hand must have been ecstatic to finally have their own home. Daddy made good money for the 1950's and living in the South but for whatever reason he was not able to buy his own home until he was thirty-nine years old. By comparison I bought my first home when I was twenty-two and I am sure that daddy made more money than I did, at least in 1959 currency.
6222 Henry Ford Drive
   Henry Ford Drive offered a growing boy of nine almost unlimited opportunities to have fun. I loved our house even though at first Mark and I did not have our own bedroom. We slept on a pull out couch in our wood paneled den. Donna had the front bedroom and mother and daddy had the back bedroom. Looking at the house from the front the bedrooms were on the far left of the house, The den was in the middle rear of the house. When you walked in the front door you were in the living room with an adjoining dining room to the right. The bathroom was to the left of the den and the kitchen was to the right of the den. We had a built-in oven which I thought was neat. The back door opened into a one car garage that was about two feet lower than the kitchen and a door opened to our back yard from the garage. My sister-in-law Judy Helms owns a house designed just like ours in East Nashville. At first we had a gravel driveway that sloped uphill from Henry Ford Drive and curved in behind our garage. Daddy eventually had a wall built about three feet high that lined the driveway and steps that led up into the back yard. After awhile daddy had the driveway paved with asphalt and extended our driveway all the way to the far end of the back of the house. I loved our back yard because it was fairly narrow but very long.
Henry Ford Drive and our driveway from our front porch 

  My dream was to have a yard with a lot of trees so I could build a tree house. But first we had a lot of work to do. That first summer daddy and I spent most days clearing the thick underbrush with axes and burning it in a big pile. At that time our property was surrounded by woods and I spent many hours playing in them. I was continually scrounging around new home construction sites looking for scrap wood to build my tree house. I had many new friends like Tony Matlock and others but my best friend was Frankie Marerro who was about my age but he was a lot smaller than me. He lived two doors down in a white split level house that was built after we moved in. He had a good looking older sister that I had a crush on. Frankie had a step-father whose name was Lester Moore. He would always quote the epitaph of a man of the same name buried on Boot Hill. Here lies Lester Moore, four shots from a .44. No Les, no Moore. Frankie would introduce me to my first Playboy magazines. He would break into his step-father's hidden stash and we would sneak off somewhere to look at them. Unlike most nine or ten year old's today I had no idea what sex was. Playboy was tame by today's standards. The models only exposed their breasts but that was more than enough for a couple of young and naive boys. We explored the woods and our neighborhood together on our bicycles.

  Interstate 40 West was under construction and we rode for miles along the road bed. Construction workers would use dynamite to break up rock and we enjoyed watching the explosions from a safe distance. After the workers moved on to a different site we would collect the dynamite wire and weave it through our bicycle spokes. Occasionally we would find a dynamite cap but I knew to leave them alone because of seeing in the news where a boy had been blinded when one blew up in his hands. Where the road bed was cut through hills we sometimes climbed the limestone bluffs until one day I came face to face with a snake and almost fell getting down off of that bluff. There were natural springs opened up by the construction and we would build dams. We found rocks everywhere with all sorts of fossilized sea life on them. The Cumberland River bordered our subdivision and we would explore the river bluffs.

  Frankie built a tree house in a huge tree in his back yard and he built it very high. One day we were up in his tree house and I decided to climb out on a limb. I was hanging with my legs over the limb when the limb broke and luckily I landed flat on my back and not on my head. I landed across a big root and was lucky that I didn't break my back. It knocked the wind out of me and this is another example of how blessed I have been in my life not to have been seriously injured or killed. One day daddy, Frankie and myself went possum hunting in the woods near our back yard. There were nests of them in the trees and Frankie would climb to the top and make noise and shake the limbs. The possums would run out and crawl down the tree trunk and daddy would be waiting at the bottom with a forked stick. He would trap them by holding their head to the ground with the stick and then put them in a cage. I built a pen where the entrance to our crawl space was on our house to keep them in. On this particular day Frankie climbed to the top of a tree as usual and the possums came running out of their nests but instead of climbing down the tree they climbed up toward Frankie. He panicked and started screaming and crying hysterically. I was scared of possums myself because they were ugly animals that looked like big rats the size of a small dog that would growl like a dog and bare their sharp teeth.  Daddy was able to calm Frankie and talk him down out of the tree.

  On another occasion Frankie and I were playing in the creek that ran behind the houses across the street from us. On this day the creek was nearly dry. After a lot of rain however the creek would be very dangerous. It would overflow it's banks and the current could easily sweep you away if you fell into it. I was chasing Frankie in the dry creek bed and there were large rocks and boulders everywhere. We were playing tag and I accidentally pushed Frankie too hard and he fell face forward on to a large rock smashing his mouth. He jumped up screaming in pain and when he turned around he was gushing blood from his mouth and spitting out his front teeth. I was terrified and he ran home screaming. When I got home I was crying because I felt that it was my fault and I thought that he had been badly hurt. Other than knocking his teeth out he was okay but the teeth he knocked out were permanent and he had to have two false teeth made to replace them.
 
  In the early 1960's the Cold War was in high gear. In school we would regularly have duck and cover drills where we would get under our desks and duck our heads between our legs or we would do it out in the hallway. If we were out on the playground we would lay flat on the ground. I was terrified at the thought of dying in a nuclear war and I would walk out of the room when the adults were talking about it, which was quite a lot. It seemed like the subject of nuclear war was on every one's mind. Tensions were high in the late 1950's between the Soviet Union and the United States. Suddenly everyone was building fallout shelters.  Frankie's parents built one in their basement. I used to wonder if they would turn us away in the event of a nuclear war. Daddy wanted to build one but he didn't want to pay a contractor. So we got some shovels and picks and started digging a big hole in the ground with the intent to build it ourselves. Over time we dug down about two or three feet but that was as far as we got. Daddy never followed through and that hole was there for the rest of the time that we lived there. I will never forget the Cuban Missile crisis in October 1962 when the world held it's breath during those tense days when we didn't know from one day until the next if we would live to see the next sunrise and the relief I felt when I saw those ships taking the missiles back to Russia.
 
 In 1960 daddy decided that he wanted to start a fireworks stand. One rainy Saturday we all jumped in the car and drove down highway 41 to South Pittsburgh Tennessee. This was before the interstates were built and it seemed like it took us forever. Daddy bought enough fireworks of every kind to start his stand. When we got home we piled everything in the den. There was barely room to walk. Storing them in our house was not the safest thing to do in retrospect. We had roman candles, rockets of every kind, whistlers, sparklers, and tons of firecrackers. Daddy procrastinated and never got a license for a fireworks stand. After a while he told us that they were ours and we could fire them off.. Over time he took some of the fireworks to work and would sell them under the counter but for the most part we used them up. We were still finding these fireworks years later. There were more fireworks than I had ever seen in my life and we had so many firecrackers that we fired them off a pack at a time. After a while we organized battles among the neighborhood kids. I would pass out fireworks and we would divide up into armies and shoot them at each other. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt. The woods would be saturated with smoke. One night I found a large skyrocket at the store that daddy couldn't sell because the stick was broken off. A black kid and myself laid it on the sidewalk next to the store. The rocket was bouncing as it flew up 17th and chased a lady carrying her groceries. She dropped them on the ground and took off running. We ran and hid but the lady came in the store and chewed out my mother.  The funniest situation was the night that we spent a New Years Eve at daddy's cousin Brooks Johnson's house over on Elkins Avenue in West Nashville. Most of my childhood the few times that I saw my daddy drunk was around Christmas or New Years. On this night daddy and Brooks were wasted as the midnight hour approached. As we watched from the porch they set stuck about ten or fifteen skyrockets in the ground with the intent of firing them all off at 12 A.M. The only problem was that they were so drunk they left a grocery bag full of fireworks too close to the rockets and the sparks set the bag on fire. It looked like a war zone as everyone ducked for cover on the front porch. Rockets, roman candles, whistlers, and chasers were bouncing off the side of the house.

   Daddy and mother were the best parents that a boy could have. I started playing Knothole baseball when I was about nine or ten. I played for Martha Vaught Men's Club, Bryant Cleaners, and  Brown and Duke Hauling Company. Daddy taught me the fundamentals of baseball and constantly practiced with me. As hard as I tried I was a mediocre player at best and could not overcome my clumsiness.. I was the guy who spent a lot of time on the bench. If I did get to play it was an inning or two in right field. It was not like today when everyone gets to play and everyone gets a trophy. If I got to play, even if it was only for an inning, I was okay but if I sat the bench the whole game I usually got my feelings hurt and would cry after the game. Daddy taught me how to pitch and I got more playing time as a relief pitcher. Mother and daddy never missed a game and at least one of them were at every practice. My coach of the Martha Vaught Men's Club was Larry Schmittou. He would be my football coach in 1964 at Bailey Jr. High. Larry would be very successful. He went on to be the Vanderbilt baseball coach in 1968, eventually winning four SEC Eastern division titles and two SEC championships from the years 1968 until 1978. He was also the head football recruiter at Vanderbilt. In 1978 he organized a group of investors made up of the Oak Ridge Boys and other country music stars to build Greer stadium and found the Nashville Sounds. He also went on to own other minor league franchises. Larry served as Vice President of Marketing for the Texas Rangers from 1983 until 1986 and now owns a chain of bowling alleys. In 2006 he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Martha Vaught's Men's Club  - Tony Matlock is the catcher

Bryant's Cleaners

 
Larry Schmittou
   About 1959 or 60 the country was hit by a go-kart craze. Go-kart tracks were built everywhere. They were usually asphalt tracks with hay bales and old tires that lined the tracks to act as guard rails. There was a track just out of our subdivision on Charlotte Pike. It seemed like go-karts were faster back then. On one week-end we were there I heard a loud noise and saw a man on his butt and his go-kart sliding upside down through the hay bales with sparks flying everywhere. On another week-end my brother Mark was riding while I was standing at the fence with daddy waiting my turn to ride. When the ride was over the attendants were motioning for everyone to stop in a line. Mark was one of the last riders making his final turn. The only problem was he wasn't slowing down. Mark couldn't have been more than six or seven at the time. There was an office to the side of the track and a teenage girl was standing in the doorway. I cringed as I prepared for him to crash into the backs of the other go-karts when at the last second he swerved sharply to the left right into the office door where the girl was standing. She went flying in the air as Mark disappeared into the office.I just knew that the girl was hurt bad.. Daddy ran over to check on them.  Mark was okay but the girl had been knocked out. Luckily she was not seriously hurt.
 
 
 
 
 
     

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