Monday, December 27, 2010

Breakfast History

The breakfast one day after Christmas consisted of Maureen’s apple pancakes, bacon, and other goodies. At the conclusion, an unrecorded history lesson occurred.

We have recorded several of these "breakfast history" conversations with Mother and Daddy, but sometimes aren't in a position to record. I attempt to recreate the conversations from memory when this occurs. This morning was one such incident.

In the midst of the conversation, Maureen fetched the coffee pot and refreshed her cup. Now Maureen is one of those folks who likes her multiple condiments and adds a bit of coffee for her breakfast drink. As usual, she poured in some hazelnut creamer, a bit of heavy whipped cream, a bit of honey (I think), and for the coup de gras, she returned from the spice rack and sprinkled cinnamon into the mix, topping it off with a splash of coffee.

My father (Grandpa to all the family; no other grandfather in our family claims that title), who continues to drink his coffee black as does his oldest son, watched incredulously. When she had finished sprinkling the cinnamon, he offered, “We have some black pepper in the shelf if you would like to add that too.”

This was good. It induced one of those fantastic laughs of Maureen, causing everyone else to laugh as well.

Then, we talked about the weather. Daddy observed the weather patterns had changed since his youth. He recalled three or four snows each season dropping at least four to six inches each time. One year during his elementary school years, it snowed 21 inches.

Culley Jewell, my grandfather and in charge of school maintenance, walked to McClain Elementary School on West Main Street to fire the coal heaters to warm the school before the students arrived. My father performed the same job for Highland Heights School on the corner of North Cumberland and East High Street.

After firing the coal heaters in the early morning, they returned from their respective schools to learn that the snow storm had brought about school being cancelled for the day.

This led to the tale of Grandma getting in trouble by helping me, a common occurrence my father pointed out. “She took you on your paper route quite a bit when it was bad weather,” he recalled. I don’t remember it that way, but a) I am sure she did once or twice, and b) I’m sure his memory is better than mine.

This particular incident was recalled when I described the beauty of the drive from the Castle Heights gate up to Main was after a snow fall. The concrete arch of a gate, barely wide enough to allow two cars to pass, was lined with hickory trees (I think) and they hung over the drive, a canopy of snow covered limbs.

But this winter day, it was very cold after a long night of rain. I had guard duty and had to report for duty before 6:00 a.m. My mother decided I should not walk in the weather and took me to the main building.

My father had parked his car (a used car for sale at the Hankins, Byars, and Jewell Pontiac dealership) behind my mother’s in the driveway. So Mother took me in Daddy’s car.

It was just before 6:00 a.m. when she dropped me off. As she started driving back down the entrance hill, the car ran out of gas. Dressed in her nightgown and robe, she walked back to the guard house and asked me to call Daddy. No offices were open yet and the only phone was a pay phone. Neither either of us or the other guard on duty had a dime. So Mother decided to walk home.

When she got to West Main, she hid behind the arched entry until there were no cars on West Main. Then she dashed across. When she saw a car coming north on Castle Heights, she stepped into a roadside ditch attempting to look like she had been outside and was going back into a neighbor’s house. The ditch was full of water from the rains and then she had one soaked foot.

When she got home, as Daddy described it, she was “plenty mad.”

Shortly afterwards, Granny, Mother's mother who was a house mother for Castle Heights Junior School (elementary school boarding students), called as usual. She complained to Mother about some nut leaving their car in the middle of the road, making it difficult to get to the school cafeteria behind Main.

Mother informed Granny that she was the nut.

I always did get her into more trouble than I was worth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Liver and onions at Sunset

The Sunset Diner is an institution in my hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee. It began in 1967 on what was then the end of the city proper to the south, the last business before the recently completed I-40, which is now chock-a-block fast food franchises, Wal-Mart, used car dealerships, and sundry businesses.

Every trip back home requires at least one, if not multiple meals at Sunset. Their Southern family cooking is award winning. On our first night back for Christmas this year, we went there. The following story is a result of that outing.

On Thursday night (December 16, 2010), Grandpa, Maureen, and I went to Sunset for dinner with Grandma’s order to bring back a hamburger.

She said, “Get the little one.”

Grandpa and I said, almost simultaneously, “They only have one size.”

As usual, Grandma and Grandpa argued. I remained smugly silent, and I thought wisely, sided with Grandpa.

When we were seated, we looked over the menu. On the right hand bottom half of the inside under sandwiches, the hamburger, at one-quarter pound, was listed. Directly underneath, the “Nokes Burger” was described as a seven-ounce hamburger with all of the trimmings. Grandma was right again.

Maureen, my California-born, haute cuisine, healthy-eating San Diego mama, had not been a fan of Sunset until our last stay in Lebanon when she had the cheeseburger (in my parents home and back in the Southwest corner, hamburger is synonymous with cheeseburger). This evening, she ordered the special of pork tenderloin and three sides: fresh tomatoes, lima beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. Grandpa ordered half of a roast beef sandwich with gravy.

As usual, I ordered based on what I was not likely to get often anywhere else, especially back in San Diego. I make a mean okra dish, but it is along the Cajun way with tomatoes and spices. I like to add Tennessee sausage but usually capitulate by replacing it with bacon for Maureen. About once a year, I buy turnip greens at the Navy commissary and cook up a batch. Several times a year, I make cornbread, much like but not as good as my mother’s version.

This night my order was liver and onions, pinto beans, turnip greens, and fried okra with cornbread and sweet tea.

In the course of the meal, I asked Maureen if she would like a taste of my liver and onions. Demurely declining, she finally relented when I, thinking she would be won over again, insisted. After the small taste, mostly onions, she scrunched up her nose, and said, “It tastes like liver.”

My father then started a tale, “When I was a young boy, six or younger, Daddy worked in the hoop mill.”

Note: At the time around 1920, Lebanon had a hoop mill that made the hoops for wood barrels somewhere around where the current high school football field and the baseball and softball fields are located. Close by was a stave factory, where the wooden barrel staves were manufactured.

Daddy continued, “I don’t remember why, but he took me there one day. In a barn area, there were two men dressing a cow they had just slaughtered. One came out, with the fresh liver in his hands. I have never liked to eat liver ever since then.”

I could feel Maureen sort of shudder. I continued to eat my liver and onions.
Shortly after the story, the party of four sitting at the next table collected their tab and departed, but the man in the party returned and leaned over and shook my father’s hand.

“I really liked your story about liver,” he said. “My wife won’t eat liver either."
I wish I had asked for his name.

I will continue to go to Sunset as many times as possible when I come back home, but now I will think about that story and have a hard time ordering liver and onions.

But I will occasionally.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Curious Quest

My part is done, kaput, complete, almost over.

This morning, I pushed the magic button which was labeled “Submit for review.”

I am now in waiting. It is a curious kind of wait.

I have waxed and waned in my attitude about my chances. Realistically, they are poor. I have told my wife rejection will not be depressing. The odds are too long, and the application effort has re-focused me on my passion. That should be enough.

But all of the above isn’t enough.

I got the initial idea a couple of years ago, but it was impractical. I wanted to go back to Vanderbilt from where I ingloriously departed in a slough of D’s previously unknown to human academia – 14 D’s in four semesters, surely a record. I wanted to expiate my expulsion from the school of engineering, civil that is, and gain a degree in literature, which should have been my pursuit originally.

My brother wisely pointed out the illogic in my vanity quest. Acceptance for a second undergraduate degree made no sense.

Within the year, I had modified my quest. I would apply for an MA in literature. My initial probes received obtuse responses or none at all. Then, a year later, the email said something like, “You idiot, we don’t have a masters in literature at Vanderbilt. If you are accepted in English and literature at Vanderbilt, it must be for a doctorate.”

I considered this option for about a nano-second. That’s how long my acutely honed mathematical brain concluded I would be as old as Methuselah when I received my doctorate. But in this process of unachieved quest, I stumbled across the answer: a strange, beautiful culmination of my life, something that made more sense than anything I have ever done before.

I decided to apply for a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Vanderbilt. I was worried (still am) my age might be a negative factor in the selection process. I was also deathly afraid of taking the GRE. My last one was in 1968 aboard my first ship. I was especially concerned about the quantitative, i.e. math, section.But after being assured the writing submission would be considered first and primarily and all other inputs would be to validate I could handle the coursework.

So in August, I started my quest. Maureen, Blythe, Sarah, Joe, Carla, Kate, Al and Marin Hicks, Dave Young and many others provided guidance and support. Bob Koenigs, Dave Carey, Carla Neggers, Pete Toennies, and Amelia Hipp have kindly supplied letters of recommendations, which made me blush. Many others too numerous to mention have provided encouragement.I filled out the plethora of forms, ordered practice GRE exams, wrote and rewrote my statement of purpose, and reworked the 15 pages of poetry for hours and hours. For over four months, the application was my primary focus.

So relief washed over me when I hit the magic button.

As my brother and I said many times when discussing this over the four months, what will be will be.

Vanderbilt’s Creative Writing MFA is the most selective in the country with over 600 applicants for six positions, three in fiction, three in poetry. I have applied for the poetry. I am hoping the overwhelming majority of applicants are chasing the fiction option. If so, then I have somewhere between a 1/50 to a 1/200 chance of acceptance.

The first practice test I took I was encouraged, finishing in the top 90% in analytical (grammar) and mid 80% in the quantitative (math). I was not worried about the writing section. After all, that is what I’ve been doing, on and off for more than 50 years.

However, I scored worse on each succeeding practice test and plummeted in the actual GRE. My worse score was in the writing portion, which surprised and depressed me. I cannot understand why except my writing is not academic enough, 45 years since my last one created a brain void in test taking, or I am really not as smart as I thought I was.

Regardless, what will be will be.

Whether the reviewers select me or not, my focus is not on my writing. I am working with an incredible company, Pacific Tugboat Service, on training services and products for the military and other agencies. That may lead to more work next year, but it will share my attention with my writing.

If I am accepted, obviously a big change will occur in our lives. We are waiting until we hear the results before leaping to any decisions, but initially, it is likely I will go to Nashville by myself, and Maureen and I will work out a heavy two-way commute system until we decide what is best for the two years.

So I am at peace. I feel good. My quest continues but with a calmness I've not had for a long time. I am even excited about the future, especially with writing and working with Pacific Tug as long as I can.

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or other holiday you celebrate in the season, a successful 2011, and peace on earth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Thank you for visiting my web site.

The site has been rejuvenated with even more emphasis on my writing than before with some vague idea that when people read my posts and my writing in the different sections, they will recommend it to others, creating a ground swell of popularity, and I will land a major book deal, a syndicated column gig, or both…and laugh all the way to the bank, as Liberace famously said.

More importantly, I believe my writing can help you (and me) through our days. I am not, nor ever have been good at self-promotion (a flaw when it comes to selling writing). But there is something in my blood which has always driven me to write. Accompanying that drive is the desire for people to read what I write. I can’t explain it. It just is what it is.

So rather than chasing agents, editors, and publishers by creating some false image of myself, I decided to let you and others you might refer to this site to read my works.

I am serious about this. I learned to be serious about my passion from my youngest daughter, Sarah. She is an aspiring actress and has been working to be successful in theater and drama with no reservation since the fourth grade. I have applied for Vanderbilt’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. I will find out if I am selected to this prestigious and extremely selective program in February or March. My chances of selection are slim, really slim, but I consider the effort as a means to refocus my life.

I don’t intend to ever really retire, but I am at the stage where I can redirect my priorities. My top priority now until the end of my days will be writing. I also view this as way to give back, to share my experiences of many varied pursuits over a half-century (damn, I’m old) for others to use in their decisions in their lives.

I don’t claim I can help anyone by telling them what they should do, but I do believe the lessons I learned through my experience, can help people decide what is best for them.

I have narrowed down other work outside of writing, ceasing active work in my leadership coaching, teambuilding, and other organization development pursuits. I am working with Pacific Tug Services and my close friend, Pete Toennies on several projects, which I believe will be beneficial to the Navy, the Coast Guard, and other government agencies in keeping our country safe. There is a section of this site, “Business Office,” which has information on this business enterprise. All else is about writing, writing, writing.

The site will be going through further revision after the turn of the year with the folks who have provide invaluable help for me.

Walker Hicks has been incredible and mostly responsible for this site’s appearance and navigation. He is a splendid talent in multi-media. Dave Zurell has contributed by keeping my computer and associated electronics up to snuff for this electronically-challenged author. Dave also has helped immeasurably by taking care of my wife and daughter’s computer needs.

My oldest daughter, Blythe Jewell Gander has provided astute and on-target advice and counsel on what a blog and website needs to be effective. Blythe is internet whiz who has her own very, very funny and somewhat off-color (a warning for the pristine) blog,

I am rededicated to frequent (read more than once a week) posts and continuing to populate each of the sections with more of my writings. We are also slowly going through each section, cleaning them up, correcting errors, and hopefully making them more attractive for you to visit.
I hope you return many times. I welcome feedback about the site and my writings. I am a tough old seadog and can take negative criticism. Please send me an email, and I will try reply in short order.

Thank you.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whining is Good for What Ails Me

SAN DIEGO – This is a time-out column.

I have vowed to keep this column light and fun without political commentary or social critique.

I have maintained that vow except for one exception as I recall.

I also promised myself to avoid an annoying right of old timers. I have noticed folks my age or older view the good ole days through rose-colored glasses: life was harder but better, our ethics and values were above reproach, we were all wholesome, healthy, strong, and happy: all things were good back when.

Accompanying this selective memory is a demonization of today’s culture: people today don’t value hard work; everything is more complicated; paperwork is rampant; you can’t talk to a real person; politics is sordid (especially on the other side); everything costs too much; etc. It’s the “I used to walk ten miles to school barefoot in a snow storm” syndrome.

Two recent events in the Southwest corner drove me to declare this column time out. It’s my time to whine.

About two weeks ago, I retrieved the “San Diego Union-Tribune” from my lawn and found a completely new format.

Then last Wednesday, I watched television coverage of the hostage situation at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland.

These two independent events sparked my ire.

* * *

Last year, the “Union-Tribune,” San Diego’s daily newspaper was sold to Platinum Equity, a business acquisition group with only one newspaper under its aegis. Platinum appears to believe less news can make more money.

I am an old school newspaper guy. J.B. Leftwich taught me and many others the fundamentals of good newspaper journalism.

Many of those fundamentals have disappeared. Costs and profit are now the drivers in owning a newspaper, not providing the best news. Fortunately, the “Democrat” and its cross-town rival, “The Wilson Post” have thus far fared well in providing the news.

This paper recently changed its format, but I haven’t discerned a decrease in news coverage. From the Southwest corner, news appears to have actually expanded a bit.

But the “Union-Tribune” has cut newsprint, decreased the width of the paper, subsequently reducing the font (type size) to unreadable without Superman vision.

For twenty years, the “Union Tribune” had one of the best sports sections in the country. Being on the left end of time zones, all scores were in the morning paper with summaries, and commentary on every major sporting event.

The new version has a brief summary of all sports in a quarter-page summary, coverage of the local teams, an attempt at humor, and a gossipy item on “sports and courts,” updates on criminal and judicial events relating to sports figures. This “UT” should receive a fifteen yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I am amazed bean counters figure they can make more money by providing less product. The new “Union-Tribune” is an excellent example of this bizarre approach to journalism as a business.

* * *

But last week’s television saga of James Jae Lee pushed me beyond the pale.

On Wednesday, I turned on the television during lunch, and as usual channel surfed while I ate. I paused at CNN reporting on the Maryland hostage situation. My interest intensified as I learned Lee had lived in San Diego.

I wanted to learn more.

But CNN seemed intent on not providing facts, but assessing innuendo from bystanders,
boasting of their own opinions, and calling for opinions from so-called experts who didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. Mostly, they crowed about the superiority of their coverage, their reporters, and their commentators. It was a gossip-fest.

I tried to find more news on the situation. Fox, that silly disguise of strident conservatism, actually had some good information for a while, but then Neil Cavuto decided talking to Lee’s brother-in-law for a half hour was more important than what was actually happening in Maryland.

I searched for more news on the situation. There was none. For that matter, on more than 900 channels, there was no straight news.

After 90 minutes, I disgustedly turned off the television.

* * *

In the Southwest corner, real news in the media is declining toward extinction. It’s an endangered species.

Where are Ben Bradlee, Walter Cronkite, David Hall, and John Cameron Swazy when you need them?

My time out is over. See you next week.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good weather, good times and memories of Hazelwood

SAN DIEGO – In spite of again missing the Wilson County Fair and Del Mar horse racing out here, I finally achieved my summer feel good.

For a week, the Pacific’s marine layer left after an unusually long stay, only to march back in with a vengeance this past weekend. We actually had some highs in the mid-80s.

Perhaps it was the brief summer spurring my good mood and producing recollections of Hazelwood.

For those of you who don’t remember, the Hazelwood swimming pool was off of Rome Pike on a fork to the northeast of East High. My siblings and I spent many summer days at Hazelwood.

In my teens, I was more attracted to Horn Springs where more pretty girls were swimming and tanning. I went to one or two parties at the Lebanon Country Club, but membership was beyond our economic means.

Hazelwood & Suck Creek

Hazelwood was our “swimming hole,” just as Suck Creek behind the Lebanon Woolen Mills was my father’s (girls weren’t to be found at the Suck Creek for swim suits were not the fashionable wear for the boys who swam there).

My sister Martha and I took swimming lessons at Hazelwood. I learned poorly, but my merely adequate skills came from those lessons. Our mother also took our younger brother to lessons there. Joe refused, jumped into the pool and began to swim.

Hazelwood was owned by Dr. H.H. Fly and his wife, who managed the facility. It was named in honor of their handicapped daughter named Hazel. At one time, they also had a boarding house where, according to my father, James Cagney once stayed.

I remember summer days diving off the deep end boards acting…well, like a boy, rarely stopping long enough to lie to the side of the pool while wishing I could play ping pong in the screened-in structure beyond the shallow end.

I clearly recall one hot day when I returned to our gathering area and first heard Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk,” a song which mesmerizes me to this day. In my recollections, Horn Springs is aligned with Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” while Hazelwood and “Honky Tonk” are indelibly linked.

My summer mind wandering leads to more connections.

Sprinting with a Dog

The Fly’s moved up the hill across the street from our home on Castle Heights Avenue.

It was a different time and pet leash laws did not exist. One August day, I crossed the Fly’s yard on my way back home. The Fly’s big black dog took exception to my intrusion. He and I did a 30-yard dash worthy of world class sprinters. His final lunge and nip at this fleet-when-scared lad produced a slight contusion on the back of my left knee.

Oh yes, nobody sued; nobody called the police; and I learned to be careful around dogs.

As mentioned here before, pets were treated differently back in those summers. J. Bill and Bessie Lee Frame, immediately across the street from our house, had a dog named Tubby. Once, my mother pulled her car into the Frame’s driveway to deliver a package. Tubby considered this an affront and chased her back into her car.

Up at the top of the hill on Castle Heights, Ed Baird and his family had a boxer. I do not recall its name, but I had learned to keep my distance. The boxer became a neighborhood legend for its Easter antics.

My family attended the sunrise service sponsored by the Kiwanis Club (this credit to the Kiwanis is included to ensure George Harding does not reprimand me for omitting their contribution).

Ed Baird’s Boxer

While the service reverberated with singing and celebration, Ed Baird’s boxer wandered away from home. Ed found the sated dog as it finished off the Easter eggs. The boxer had dug up the eggs hidden in our yard for our egg hunt after the service.

I also remember Bill Simpson’s dog Daisy. Bill lived with his Grandparent’s, the Jacksons, and brought home the puppy in the basket of his bicycle. Daisy was as much a part of my summers as the other youngsters on Castle Heights Avenue.

The few days of real summer in the Southwest corner are gone. Soon our weather will be of the super dry autumn variety with threats of wildfires. But those precious few summer days engendered good thoughts of Hazelwood and summer in Lebanon when the dogs ran free.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sea story: a submarine tale

SAN DIEGO – With August madcap doings in the Southwest corner, I postponed my trip back home and missed a unique reunion in Newport, R.I.

Several sailors from my first ship, the U.S.S. Hawkins (DD 873) held an ad hoc reunion in Newport, RI. I was honored they asked me to join as they had been enlisted and I had been a junior officer. Allen Ernst, my leading sonar technician when I was Anti-Submarine (ASW) Officer, had found me in the intergalactic space of the internet about a year ago. I suspect he instigated including me.

Regardless, Allen, Robin Lewis, and Norm O’Neal took the lead, and R.J. Beihl, Bill Durbrow, Bill Carey, Bruce Coulture, and Rik Tuinstra completed the group.

They sent pictures and reports. Then last week, Allen forwarded me an email train from a discussion they had had at the reunion. The email detailed an incident I will never forget, including a seven page breakdown of the Navy investigation.

After completing a major overhaul in February, 1969, the “Hawkins” sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for “refresher training,” two-months of intense exercises to get the ship’s company back up to speed before operations.

Submarine Exercises

ASW exercises with a real submarine were included. The U.S.S. Chopper (SS-342) was assigned to Guantanamo for these exercises.

The ASW exercises were actually a respite for me. Other duties required grueling 18-hour days. The ASW part was exciting and fun, and my first with a real sub.

Hawkins stood out of the channel February 11 and conducted engineering drills in the morning. General Quarters 1A (for ASW operations) was set immediately after the morning drills. I moved from the bridge to the small ASW/Sonar space in the after section of Combat Information Center (CIC). There was no time for lunch.

Quicker than expected, we gained sonar contact and began to track the Chopper.

Just finding a submarine with sonar remains magic to me. The sonar transmits sound beams, and if the beams hit the submarine, the returning echo alerts the sonar crew to the contact.

By maintaining contact, a good sonar team can track the sub, deducing course and speed and producing a solution to fire an anti-submarine weapon, such as a torpedo with some probability of actually hitting the submarine.

This did not occur often. We spent more time talking to the whales on “Gertrude,” our underwater telephone designed to communicate with other Navy ships and submarines, than actually locating submarines.

A Disappearing Contact

But this particular afternoon, we had good luck, establishing solid contact. We could actually see the submarine blip turning in circles on our fire control system.

Then the blip became progressively weaker and disappeared. We were stumped as to the cause, wondering what kind of maneuver the Chopper could have employed.

Within two minutes, the bridge reported the Chopper had shot almost completely out of the water, 100 yards off of our starboard beam, crashing back into the sea. It disappeared again briefly before bobbing to the surface.

The Chopper had lost its generator and electrical DC power. The sub’s down angle had increased to 15 degrees, then to 45 degrees and beyond. She had plummeted to over 1,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, dangerously close to her “crush depth.”

The emergency actions of the sub’s personnel finally took effect. The Chopper ceased its descent and began to rise. The crew couldn’t control the reverse ascent, and the sub was almost vertical in the water when it cleared the surface. She re-submerged to about 250 feet before finally bobbing to the surface.

No Injuries, But a Great Sea Story

Amazingly, she returned to port under her own power. The ensuing investigation determined she had suffered structural damage, and the “Chopper” was decommissioned a year later.

More amazing, no one received any critical injuries. This is even more startling in that the report reveals steel deck plates were not secured and were crashing about during the violent descent and ascent along with anything not tied down. The officers and crew carried out emergency procedures 90 degrees off the normal plane. It would be like doing house work in an emergency mode standing on the wall instead of the floor with furniture flying around.

The Chopper was just one of many impactful incidents during my Hawkins tour with those sailors. It was quite an introduction to anti-submarine warfare for this young officer.

I am still amazed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Squared away memories

SAN DIEGO - Recently, J.B. Leftwich began a feature in his column I like called "Person of the Past."

Reading about Bill Baird, Waldo Seat, and others has brought fond memories.

Additionally, two "Democrat" news items told of the "Capitol Theater" renovation and a new shop locating in the square. The thrust of these additions is unclear to me from the Southwest comer. But the Lebanon square of the past is a living entity in my mind, with a vibrancy and identity of its own. It's my "Place of the Past."

Considering my fuzzy memory, I called my expert back home to fill blanks. Estelle Jewell, my mother, gave me a detailed account of the square's buildings and their occupants from the 1930s through the early 1960s.

So this is not a one-column feature. It will be continued.

In my mind, the square was the center of the universe. Nashville was a maze of monoliths a day's journey to the west, not of my world. Everything happened on or adjacent to the square. If you banked, needed hardware, had to have a prescription filled, needed new clothes, were getting a photograph made, had to replace shoes, required some general merchandise, or wanted to dine, the Lebanon square was the starting and end point. There were some outliers, but even they were nearly all adjacent to the square.

Two banks occupied east and south exit comers of the square. There were no drive-through teller windows and, until savings and loan places cropped up, everyone did their banking on the square.

The Lebanon Bank was located at the exit to South Cumberland across from the courthouse. The Commerce Union Bank, where my mother had her first full-time job after high school in 1935, occupied the north comer at the exit onto East Main.

The seat of government, the county courthouse oversaw the square affairs with its dominating presence, occupying the entire the southwest side of the square in its regal impartiality, a yellow-brick road to justice with worn out concrete steps into and center-worn wooden steps up to the courtrooms.

I associate smells as much as sight or sound with the court house. There was a dusty lingering of cigar smoke in those high ceilinged halls and offices overwhelmed with oak file cabinets. Julius Williams, the chancery court clerk, occupied a first floor office with tall, single pane windows. Mrs. Lucy Cummings, his secretary, tutored my mother in shorthand during part-time work in high school. She taught Estelle Jewell shorthand and let her use the office typewriter to learn to type (around 80 words a minute, as I recall) from a typing book.

I remember visiting that room and feeling like one should not talk in such an official, cavernous place of justice and records.

Later, my mother worked for Curry Dotson, the long-time county court clerk.
Court house recollection is not complete without mention of the older men sitting outside chewing, whittling and philosophizing.

Two drug stores, Bradshaw's and Shannon's stood almost opposite of each other across the square before grocery chains had their own pharmacies and drug stores were not the chain department-store giants with drive-by windows. Bradshaw's had aisles of stuff but mostly un-interesting to a young boy. However, I distinctly remember my mouth watering at the thought of a cream filled chocolate when buying a box of assorted candy.

Shannon's was an old-style drug store, located on the southeast side. When my mother was working on the square (she worked at four different jobs on the square), she would lunch on a ham sandwich for a dime and drink a coke for a nickel at Shannon's counter. Later, it was the first place I have ever had a cherry coke. For someone my age, it was the nectar of the gods.

Until the late 1950's, the Lebanon square was Lebanon itself. Everything emanated from the square. "Going to town" meant going to the square.

Recently, we visited members of my wife's family in Prescott, AZ. The square there is much larger than Lebanon's square. The vast and imposing gray courthouse sits in the middle: Yet Prescott's square induced me to recall Lebanon's square. In Prescott, the square remains the heart, the core of the city.

Ah, but they cannot look upon General Hatton in their square.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gremlins: My Old Friends

SAN DIEGO – Recently, a toilet in our home in the Southwest corner needed to have the handle mechanism replaced.

Unlike my father, who is good at just about any task, plumbing has never been one of my fortes. But I vowed to fix the problem.

When I was about four, I stayed with my aunt and uncle while my parents took my sister to see the doctor. Jessie and Alice Jewell lived on Fairview off of what is now the Baddour Parkway near the old LHS football stadium. Uncle Jessie was one of the better plumbers in Lebanon for years.

Somehow, I managed to lock myself in their bathroom. After a lengthy stay, my cousin, Shirley Jewell, now Mrs. Jay Smith, coaxed me into climbing out the window.Having that much problem with a bathroom then may have been the origination of my gremlins.


I believe in gremlins. Gremlins originated in RAF folklore during World War II as mischievous and mechanically oriented creatures. Some British folks believe the term came from the Old English “gremian,” meaning “to vex.”

Although I did not know it at the time, my gremlins began plaguing me when I was around nine. I had started mowing the lawns of J. Bill and Bessie Lee Frame and Fred and Ruby Cowan across the street as well as our yard.

On numerous occasions, the old rotary mower would balk when I yanked the power cord. I would fool with the choke, pull, and pull again to no avail. Finally, I would give up and call my father. He would come home from work, take one pull, and the mower would start.

It had to be gremlins.

In 1973 when I was the chief engineer on the “U.S.S. Hollister,” a World War II vintage destroyer with an engineering plant of mystifying and complex symbiosis, I became convinced gremlins really did exist.

I think my father had something to do with bringing gremlins into my world. Uncle Jessie of the great bathroom escape was his older brother. Then there were the old mower incidents.

Evap Gremlins

And when Jimmy Jewell came to visit us in Long Beach, I proudly took him for a tour of the “Hollister” engineering spaces, the underworld over which I ruled.

This quintessential automobile mechanic who once made a car out of two totaled ones, who had more knowledge of motors and mechanical systems than I would ever possess, climbed the ladders out of my realm, and commented, “I can’t believe you are in charge of something like this.”

He was right, of course. Now, I suspect his rightness again let loose the gremlins.

They first invaded my main distilling plant, or as we Navy engineers used to call them, the “evaps.”

The forward evaps were designed to turn seawater into fresh and boiler feed water at 720 gallons per hour. The after evaps were designed to generate 120 gallons per hour.

Shortly after my father’s visit, “Hollister” went to Hawaii. On the return to Long Beach, the temperamental forward evaps shut down. The little evaps huffed and puffed and miraculously started generating 200 gallons each hour.

This was enough to provide a small amount of boiler feed water, but the crew had to go on “water hours,” meaning no fresh water except for cooking and limited drinking for almost five days.

I was not very popular.

There was no rhyme or reason for the two evaporators not performing or performing far above their capacity.

“Gremlins,” I explained to my officers and chiefs.

Computer Gremlins

After I left the “Hollister,” the gremlins laid low until computers entered my world. The gremlins came back with a rush and have remained.

Accepting my computer expertise is just enough to get in trouble, I have a friend who puts things in order on a regular basis. Often, he shakes his head in wonder at how I have generated such bizarre conditions on my computer.

“Gremlins,” I tell him.

Now, the gremlins have possessed my toilet bowl. Resolved to triumph, I read instructions on toilet repair, went to Home Depot, and bought a repair kit.

Arriving at home, I flushed once before starting the repair. The toilet worked and has been working ever since. The repair kit is in our garage.


Watch out. They are proliferating.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two Views of the Old Navy

Right after i wrote a column about the change in the Navy from my career until now, i found a poem i had written a couple of years ago but had not finished.
i was struck by the similarity in my thought as well as a bit different approach.

i hope you enjoy them.

i was a sailor

i was a sailor
back when being a sailor
was tantamount to
being a man;
there weren't no great number
of automatic controls back then,
not one hell of a lot of video games
or graphics to read:
you turned the valves and the steam hissed;
you cleaned the boiler plates on the lower level
with the blowers blasting air in your face
for relief from the hot wet heat;
inserting the plates
and firing it up
hoping it wouldn't burn white
blow your ass
off the naval station
to kingdom come;
and the boilers would rumble
and groan and croak
and spew their smoke out the stack
and build up steam
until there weren't no smoke
and the boiler tenders
down in the bowels
knew they would be
getting underway

I was a sailor
back when we didn't know
what the hell politically correct meant:
we lined up the feed pumps
and kicked off the auxiliaries
and went on ship's power,
dropping our umbilical cords from the pier
like the doctor cuts the cord
on the newborn:
separating us from mother earth
and sending us to the bounding main;
when we turned the nozzles of steam
onto the turbines of the main engine
and watched the tree trunk sized shaft
turning slowly;
the engine room wheezed and coughed
and made you feel like you
were in a jungle of pumps
and the distilling plants gurgled with
Rube Goldberg smugness,
making you wonder if
they would really make
good water

I was a sailor
back when they meant
what they said when they said,
"if the navy wanted you to have a wife,
they would have issued you one."
Navy was a way of life,
living on board, locker in a club
just outside the main gate
with civvies,
you could go down to sailor town
drink beer and cheap whiskey
enough to make the woman look
pretty enough to pay
for the night
you could get back in time
for quarters at 0700
unless there was a fight.

I was a sailor
when the boatswainmates
swept down and triced up
and the decks were spotless
and first division stood
at the ready on the forecastle to
cast away all lines
like third division,
the anti-submarine pukes back aft
and the sleek greyhound visaged lady
got underway,
no tugs,
and no bow thrusters
like they the pansies are required to use
no sir:
we ruled the seas
stood proud in quarters standing out,
no manning the rails for show,
we did it like it was supposed to be
and the bow cut through the channel like
it owned the sea
and the trough slid up the side
only feet under the gunnel
and the stern wash was white with foam
and we were underway
rocking and rolling.
Our big guns were housed in
a metal death trap where
we stood alongside the breech
when the firing shook our brains, our guts, our souls
and we loved the thrill of it all
(as B.B. used to lament),
and the brass kicked out the aft end
and the hot case man with his asbestos gloves
smacked them out onto the rolling deck:
no automatic, manless machine of death
back then.

I was a sailor back then
when men were men
sailors were sailors
then was then.

- Bonita, California
- July 19, 2010

Old Navy; Then and Now; But Not a Clothing Store

SAN DIEGO – For the past decade, I have worked on Navy related projects in the Southwest corner.

Sometimes it is lucrative. More often, I am, as a good friend states, the hardest working man he knows who doesn’t make any money.

Occasionally, this avocation, my previous vocation, allows me to mingle with the Navy’s operators, an attractive aspect. I freely admit I loved operating in the Navy while on active duty.

I do not mean the incessant planning or the major staff level influence games. Nor do I mean contractors, the infinite generation of spreadsheets, or the voluminous quasi-legal bureaucratic documentation.

I mean, as we old Navy folk like to say, being on the deck plates.

In these too infrequent brushes with the real Navy, I find the Navy is not the one I knew. Certain aspects remain. Some traditions are still extant. But by and large, my Navy no longer exists.

A major difference is women. I am a strong proponent of women at sea. My experience in my last operating tour in the dark ages of the early 1980s has been documented as positive and successful. Those women were pioneers for what is now a gender neutral profession, at least as far as numbers go.

Recently, women became part of the crews in the submarine fleet.

My Navy was all male until that penultimate tour. It was rough and tumble, and definitely not politically correct. We cussed, we smoked, we worked hard, and we went on liberty with abandon.

When the women came aboard, a way of life vanished. This is not a bad thing, but it was definitely different.

Another difference is steam. There are still a few of the steam-powered mastodons around, but gas turbines and computer controlled propulsion systems are the norm. My Navy consisted of wheezing, huffing boilers in firerooms with heat and humidity that would make the recent Tennessee weather feel like Alaska. The unrelenting blast of noise from blowers futilely attempting to ameliorate such conditions was constant except when the ship went, as we called it, “cold iron.”

Now, navigators pinpoint their positions with global positioning systems (GPS). When I steamed, celestial navigation and piloting were as much art as science, and knowledge of currents, prevailing seas, and chart interpretation was how we got around. The bridge team was ten or so watchstanders with integrated tasks to maneuver safely.

Now one or two folks operate with push button controls. They may even be stationed in the dark technical center of the ship, more “Star Wars” than my bridges.

As an ensign, I was the “check-sight observer” in a five-inch twin gun mount, tasked to ensure we shot at the right thing. Being inside the mount while firing was a trip to Hades with 13 men crammed into a space about the size of my home office. The effort required to manually load the powder case and shell into the breeches bordered on superhuman, especially during extended firing. The report of firing a round could move the ship and turn nearby spaces into shambles. Inside, the percussion would shake you to the core, the acrid smell of the powder burned your nostrils, and the noise from the explosion felt like someone slamming their palms on your ears.

Today, gun mounts, if used at all, are unmanned.

A large number of old salts bemoan the passing of what was their way of life. There are just as many who take great pride in the new Navy’s technological advances and the once impossible accomplishments the Navy has had.

I, as usual, have mixed feelings.

The new Navy has more equality, more effective weapons delivery, and smarter sailors. The communication within the Navy, with other military units and back home is efficient, effective, and immediate. Every aspect of operation is safer. The technology is astounding.

The old Navy had more characters, greater labor intensity, more risk, and more personal decisions in any ship operation or task. Communication was accomplished by radio messages, signal flags and semaphore. The connection to home was long awaited letters and a few international phone calls in the dark of early mornings.

I am glad we have the new Navy. I also am glad I was in the old one. I should add that pretty much applies to life in general.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot and Cold Weather Comparisons

SAN DIEGO – Out here in the Southwest corner, it is a bit different than home.
While most of the United States is being seared by record heat, we out here are waiting for real summer to arrive.

It is, in fact, too cool.

Last weekend while folks back home were sweltering, I wore a wind jacket to play midday golf.

For those mired in the heat, these highs in the 60s might seem lovely. But folks in the Southwest corner are wondering why “June Gloom” still looms in July.
San Diego is a beach goer’s haven. Coronado Beach was recently ranked the country’s third best beach by Professor Dr Stephen Leatherman, director of the Florida International University International Hurricane Center (no, I don’t know why a hurricane center rates beaches).

Three golf holes at Naval Air Station, North Island where I often play abut Coronado’s beach. It is a lovely beach with the Victorian Hotel del Coronado to the south and the Gibralteresque Point Loma to the north.

In recent weeks, beachgoers have been sparser than usual. A July 4th photo in the “Union-Tribune” depicted beach goers wrapped in towels and blankets, rather than lying on them.

So we continue to wait for our version of summer in the low 80’s to show. Waiting for the warmth, I remember times I was really cold.

San Francisco in July

Only a few times have I been as cold as in San Francisco in July. In 1976, “U.S.S. Anchorage” made a port call at moored at pier 36, south of city center. A shipmate and I took liberty to play golf at Harding Park, the site of the 2009 President’s Cup competition. In 1976, it was an inexpensive public course, certainly not ready for a PGA tournament.

It was July so we wore shorts and polo shirts. By the second hole, we wished we had worn parkas. Winds whipping off the Pacific and Lake Merced cut us to the quick. Being golfers, i.e. not having a great deal of sense, we played the entire 18 teeth chattering holes.

Pusan, Korea in February

Another bone chilling experience was standing in to harbor in Pusan, Korea in February 1970. I had just become executive officer of the Navy unit aboard the “U.S.N.S. Geiger (TAP 197). The troop transport took replacement Korean troops to Vietnam and brought home the troops they relieved. With a Korean liaison officer, I was in charge of controlling the troops, anxious to get home and consequently too daring, sometimes unsafe or dangerous.

Unlike San Francisco later, I had on heavy weather gear. It did no good. The winds off of the Korea Strait cut through me like a knife. My face felt like it had frozen to a red, chafed ice block. The cold did not deter the returning troops. It was my first and last time to enter Pusan (now Busan) harbor in February. I am warmed by the thought.

Even though Watertown, NY, where I was sports editor of the “Watertown Daily Times” in 1971-72, was much colder than any other place I’ve lived, I did not consider it cold. Perhaps it was because I became used to it, or we dressed appropriately, or I don’t remember very well. But I do remember wanting spring to come in late March and it occurred for two days in mid-June.

J.J.. Arnold’s Watering Trough

But the coldest I have ever been was off Franklin Road in the late 1950’s. J.J. Arnold drove his grandson, Henry Harding, and I to the Arnold farm and dropped us off in the February cold to hunt.

When we tired of our sport, we waited outside the barn for Mr. Arnold to pick us up. Next to the barn was a watering bin for the cows. It was a round metal bin about six feet in diameter and about four feet high. It was iced over.

The story varies here depending on whether it is Henry or I recollecting, but my version has Henry convincing me I should test the ice. I climbed up and gingerly put one foot on the ice, then shifted my weight to stand on the ice. The ice broke and my leg plunged about two feet into the ice water below.

Mr. Arnold did not arrive for another hour. That hour is the coldest I’ve ever been.

So remember: hot summers aren’t all that bad.

Monday, July 12, 2010

ride to work

Changes to this web site and my pursuits continue.
Please let me know what you think of the site with an email to Today after catching up on posting my column, "Notes from the Southwest Corner" in The Lebanon Democrat, i have again begun posting other writings such as the poem below. Thanks for dropping in.

i rode into work this morning reluctantly.

The rain was intermittent.

Strings of thought tugged me back toward home
but fruitlessly.

When i emerged from the truck in the parking lot,
there was a break in the rain, and
the wind was warm.

i thought of running in the rain alone,

i thought of daughter and i walking in the rain, then
i thought of walking in the zoo in the rain:
people sparse,
animals staring back with no more care for the rain
than we,

i thought of the two daughters walking with me
in the rain at the zoo with no one around
but us and
the chimpanzees, elephants, bats and
tigers and bears.

They were good thought to have
as i trudged
once again
up the four flights of stairs
to my office
full of things to do.

San Diego, California
February 22, 2004

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

Recently, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about six weeks ago.

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

SAN DIEGO –Independence Day weekend was a whirlwind of activities in the Southwest corner, yet allowing time for reflection on the reason behind the holiday.
Before the July 4th weekend celebrations, the “Democrat” ran Hilda Trenda’s story about last Friday’s “Cruise-In” at the Snow White Drive-In. In my head, it all fit together.

Cruise-In generated donations to Gerald’s Fund, which in turn supports Operation Stand Down, a program to assist homeless veterans in Middle Tennessee. Stand Down has it roots in the Southwest corner.

The original Stand Down began in 1988 in San Diego under the auspices of the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (VVSD). The founders, Richard Talbot, Van Keuren, and Dr. Jon Nachison wanted to provide coordinated, comprehensive services to homeless veterans over a three-day period.

Stand Down Connections

Stand Down’s 22nd edition will occur here, July 16-18. My youngest daughter Sarah is attempting to arrange her schedule to allow her to volunteer as she has done before. Two of the primary coordinators of this year’s event are Rod Stark and Darcy Pavich.
Rod is one of my constant golfing partners and came within an eyelash of reading my retirement speech at my Navy ceremony the day my daughter was born in November 1989 (I barely made it to the ceremony before Sarah was born later that evening).

Darcy is the wife of another golfing buddy, Al Pavich, who shared a stateroom with me on a Western Pacific deployment in 1981. We have been close friends ever since.

When Al retired from the Navy in the mid-1990s, he became the CEO of VVSD and was the figurehead and major driver of the Stand Down program until his second retirement in 2008. Al molded VVSD into a model for the rest of the country and brought the physical site to a modern, state-of-the-art facility (in 2005, the name was changed to Veterans Village of San Diego to signify it’s purpose was not limited to Vietnam era vets).

Currently, VVSD provides services for more than 2000 veterans every year. VVSD’s program to assist homeless veterans obtain a job and a place to live a normal life has been declared the most successful program of its sort in the country.

Stand Down is the most visible program in VVSD’s success story. This year’s Stand Down will provide much needed help for more than 900 homeless veterans and their family members.

Birdy Connections

There are more connections. To me, the Snow White Drive-In is a Lebanon landmark. I frequented the burgers-and-ice-cream version throughout my sojourn at Castle Heights, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee. After it became one of the best Middle Tennessee barbeque sources, I ate its fare on every return to my hometown.

Then, there is the connection of Sandra Edmonds and her mother, Ann Birdwell, the current owner of the Snow White.

I do not know either but I did know Everett Birdwell, Ann’s husband and Sandra’s stepfather. I knew him as Birdy. His previous wife who has since passed away was known as Cat, and they operated Winfree’s Restaurant on West Main. Winfree’s started as a family restaurant, where my family would occasionally go to Sunday dinner after church.

When I was working at WCOR, I would frequently go to Winfree’s to mix with Cat and Birdy while playing shuffle board until closing time. Birdy was a delight with a booming voice and great smile.

So after the “Cruise-In” at the Snow White back home and during my frenzy of activities in the Southwest corner through the holidays, I paused on Sunday and connected it all to the meaning of Independence Day.

While there were parties, parades, picnics, and concerts to enjoy, they all contained a more serious connection to our country’s forefathers stepping up to the plate and forming the greatest country in the history of the planet. The festivities also honored activity duty and veterans of the military who have put it all on the line, many with the ultimate sacrifice.

It is good Sandra Edmunds, Ann Birdwell, others in Lebanon, as well as my friends in the Southwest corner are contributing more than just nice thoughts about the meaning of Independence Day by helping veterans in need.

Those are some very good connections, indeed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

That’s me: a member of the “The Peculiar Generation”

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.

That’s me: a member of the “The Peculiar Generation”

SAN DIEGO – Last week, my niece emailed me an editorial which labeled me as peculiar, something I did not know.

Kate Jewell Hansen is unlike her uncle in many ways. To start, she is a scholar. She graduated from Vanderbilt cum laude with a double major in history and anthropology, and she just received her doctorate in American History, specifically 20th century economic history from Boston University.

Kate was born and raised in the Northeast corner, where my brother lives to prove we Jewell brothers could be brothers, close friends, and as far away from each other as possible.

But Kate has roots in Lebanon, and thrived at Vanderbilt, Her doctoral research explores the impact of southern industrialization on political formation in its embodiment of the Southern Industrial Leadership Council, headed by John Edgerton of the Lebanon Woolen Mills. Her dissertation is titled “As Dead as Dixie: The Southern States Industrial Council and the End of the New South.”

I Am Peculiar

Knowing I am significantly older than her father, she forwarded me the editorial, “The Peculiar Generation,” written by Richard Pells in the on-line edition of “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

I have wondered why folks from my birth year had not been labeled. My parents are in The Great Generation. My sister and brother are in the mass of humanity known as Baby Boomers. But Lebanon friends of my age and I were born too late to be in the Great Generation. And being born during the war, not after, we are not Baby Boomers either.

This has not particularly bothered me.

Pells decided he and I were peculiar. I didn’t even know he knew me, but he pretty well hit the nail on the head. I agree I am peculiar. Most of the folks I know back home who were born between 1939 and the end of the war in 1945 are definitely not peculiar. With just a few exceptions, they are good folks, solid citizens, and very loyal to each other. In that regard, I hope I fit with them.

Transitionally Awkward

Pells describes us as being in a “transitionally awkward generation who were too young to have personally experienced the Depression or the war, but too old to have been embroiled in the turmoil on college campuses in the late 1960s.” He suggests the image of us peculiars is that we were “presumably too blasé or sedate to have participated in the battles against the Vietnam War or for the equality of women, much less in the revels at Woodstock.”

Then he asks, “What contributions, if any, has this generation made to American political and cultural life?”

Pells bemoans most of us men had “respectable but hardly remarkable occupations.” And he describes the women of the Peculiar Generation as “A few of the women pursued careers in primary- or secondary-school education, but the majority said they had concentrated on their families and volunteer work.” He disparages that “Almost everyone, male and female, seemed to love playing bridge.”

He does not approve.

The rest of Pells’ article attempts to debunk his own description.
He claims we didn’t like rock and roll but were hooked on jazz, and we didn’t watch “Ozzie and Harriet” or Walt Disney.

That’s where he lost me. This is not a column promoting liberalism or conservatism, but Pell’s column begins to sound like a liberal defense.

He praises a few of our generation, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and John Kerry, for rising above being just good folks. He then notes President Barack Obama acts much like Henry Fonda in his movie roles, “with his aura of ironic detachment from the political furies surrounding him.”

Peculiar Indeed

And Pells pats himself on the back for participating in the Vietnam protests when he was a Harvard instructor. He further states his heroes from the peculiar generation and President Obama’s emulation of Henry Fonda is what our peculiar generation has provided to improve our country in the long run.

Peculiar indeed.

The Peculiar Generation is hard to capture because we were and are so diverse. We span and therefore have characteristics of both the Great Generation and the Baby Boomers.

But to paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen in a 1988 vice-president campaign debate with Senator Dan Quayle: Believe me, Barack Obama is no Henry Fonda.

And I like being peculiar if it means I am solid, responsible, caring, and a family man.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Belated Father’s Day and Other Thoughts

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.

Please read the explanation in the Saturday, June 26, 2010 post, "Hacked and revisions." One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

Belated Father’s Day and Other Thoughts

SAN DIEGO – Yesterday was Father’s Day in Tennessee and in the Southwest corner.

I was far from my father and had one daughter in Texas and the other visiting friends in Berkeley.

I am not overly concerned as I feel much like those folks who resisted Father’s Day becoming a national holiday around 1910 because they “saw it as the first step in filling the calendar with mindless promotions.” ( Still I would have liked to have been with my father, even considering the heat index difference between here and there.

On this Father’s Day, Maureen and I spent a quiet time at home, doing chores long put off and watching a bit of soccer’s World Cup, a Padre baseball game, and the the U.S. Open, at Pebble Beach.

No Pebble Beach

Although declared by many to be the best golf course in the world, I won’t play Pebble Beach unless they give me a free round. Green fees are $495 without a cart. Regardless of my being able to afford it or not, that amount of money to play one round of golf is obscene.

While you are reading this, I will likely be on one of the better courses in San Diego, Steele Canyon, paying significantly less than $495 and the amount will be for both me and my wife. It is my belated Father’s Day present.

On Saturday of this Father’s Day weekend, Maureen and I went to the wedding of a neighbor’s daughter at the Island Club, the former Navy Officer’s Club on North Island. The facility is now used for catering and hosting special events.

The wedding started at five in the afternoon. An arbor, replete with flowers and peacock feathers, was set up outside. The wedding party was framed by the backdrop of the beach, Point Loma, and the Pacific horizon.

The bride and her middle sister baby sat for Sarah. The bride’s youngest sister was one of Sarah’s best friends growing up. Neighbors and former neighbors shared a table for the reception and dinner festivities.

Enjoying Weddings

I have always enjoyed attending weddings. They are such happy events with just the right amount of ritual and commitment thrown in. Outside of my last one, my favorite wedding and reception was my daughter’s in Austin, fittingly about halfway between Lebanon and the Southwest corner.

That wedding happened 14 years ago come November in the historic, beautiful, and stately Central Christian Church. My entire family was there and my brother was the minister just as he had been for my sister and me.

I was recalling that evening 14 years ago as Saturday’s father of the bride was imploring the “neighbor” table occupants to help him with his toast. I could not help him, but his toast was just right: heartfelt, sincere, with a touch of humor, and not too long.

I remembered how easy it was for me to toast my daughter and brand new son-in-law. Even though my marriage had become an unbreakable bond of love and trust, I did not wish that wedding couple what we had. Instead, my toast to them was actually a toast to them and Blythe’s grandparents. In a way, it was a toast to my home town.

I toasted to Blythe and Jason having a marriage which would emulate the marriage of Jimmy and Estelle Jewell. It appears Blythe and Jason have a good chance of doing just that. Maureen and I also emulate my parents’ marriage, but getting to the 72nd anniversary will be bit tough considering I will be 111.

72nd Anniversary

In two weeks, my parents will celebrate their 72 years together. Such a solid, unwavering marriage was not unique for my parents’ generation. Those folks married and stayed married. And staying together was not out of convenience or fear of embarrassment. Staying together was a product of their love and trust of each other.

There are other couples still around, like J.B. and Jo Doris Leftwich, who have such strong and loving relationships. Sadly, there are not enough because many have left us. Their dedication to each other is hallmark of Lebanon marriages. We honored those on the distaff side last month.

This is a belated thanks and best wishes for this year’s Father’s Day celebrants of that generation, especially my father.

You have shown us what fathering is all about.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stormy weather? It seems so calm to me

Last week, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about a month ago.
Please read the explanation in the Saturday, June 26, 2010 post, "Hacked and revisions." One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

Stormy weather? It seems so calm to me

SAN DIEGO – Late last week, a friend called early in the morning to tell me it was raining downtown.

“Rain,” I said, “What rain?” There was no hint of rain only several miles away. “Yep,” Steve responded, “It’s raining real rain here.”

Rain in June is rare here, spot rain even rarer. So there is yet another Southwest weather corner mystery.

The call regenerated thoughts of storms. Even though I was in the eye of a fledgling hurricane as I recently related, it was not the worst storm I experienced.

That storm came unannounced and unwelcomed.

In December 1972, the “U.S.S. Stephen B. Luce (DLG-7)” returned from a Mediterranean deployment with Destroyer Squadron 24. Being the holiday season, the squadron was allowed to exceed the normal limit of 15 knots.

After crossing the Atlantic on a great circle route to Charleston, SC, the “U.S.S. Stanley (CG 32)” detached and headed toward its homeport. The other five ships turned north toward Newport, RI, expecting to cover the 1000 miles in about three days, arriving two days ahead of schedule.

There were no warnings about what was ahead. Even without satellites, Navy weather stations normally did a decent job on weather reports, but not this time.

When the storm hit us, wind speeds approached 100 miles per hour, perhaps even more.
The bridge of the “Luce” was 75 feet above the water line, and green water, i.e. real waves, crashed against the bridge windows often.

We tied bridge watchstanders into their posts. Only the officer of the deck (OOD) and his assistant remained unfettered to frequently shift from side to side for better vision. Mostly, this OOD stood behind the center line gyroscope repeater with one arm around a handrail, making small course changes to find a better course.

The bow would climb up a wave and about one-quarter of the 500 foot ship hung in the air before crashing down, the bow plunging under water before settling out briefly and starting up the next wave.

Foam covered all the sea except when the wind gave a glimpse of the dark blue ocean. The other ships were often within a 1000 yards but seldom seen except for their masts, the rest of the ship hidden by the waves.

Our watertight doors proved less than that, leaking from the pounding seas. Over a foot of water rolled about the main deck passageways. The galleys could not keep food on grills or steady in the ovens. We ate what was available, cold. We did manage to make coffee for almost five days.

The “Luce” took innumerable 45 degree rolls. Hanging tightly on a bridge wing, it seemed as if I was parallel to the sea.

When two other officers and I ate in the wardroom, the chairs were tied to the tables, unavailable. We propped ourselves on the floor against the port bulkhead. After a bite or two, the ship rolled fiercely; we lost our seating and tumbled across to the starboard side, sandwiches and coffee flying everywhere.

One enlisted man with the top rack in a three-tiered section was sleeping peacefully when another jolt tossed him out, and down across to the adjacent tier where he landed in the lowest rack with another startled sailor.

The “Luce” lost two days and arrived in Newport on its original schedule. Two older destroyers arrived about a half-day later. One newer class frigate arrived a day later. The final ship, another frigate arrived a day after that.

On one frigate, a freak wave crashed off a forward bulkhead and ripped a three-foot hole in the back of the forward gun mount. The ship experienced flooding forward but successfully secured the breach with damage control.

When we pulled in, none of the usual weather deck projections remained: life lines, fire stations, and damage control equipment were gone. Ladders (stairs to the landlubber) between decks had disappeared. Plenum chambers for air vents had been ripped back from the exterior bulkheads, eerily resembling giant wings.

Remarkably, we only had one major injury. At the storm’s onslaught, our assistant navigator took a dive into the brass around the chart table and cut a gash in his forehead.

Strangest of all, the sun shone daily through the entire ordeal.

Never before and never after have I been so glad to be home for Christmas.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pets: Who Owns Who?

Earlier this week, i entered a long explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Briefly, we are undergoing some life changes and the site was hacked, sponsoring my rededication to make the site different and hopefully better - with the help of Walker Hicks.
Please read the explanation in the Saturday, June 26, 2010 post, "Hacked and revisions." One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

Pets: Who Owns Who?

SAN DIEGO – One difference I’ve found between my Southwest corner and growing up in Lebanon is the attitude people have toward pets.

Several years ago, I swore we would have no more pets. As I write, there is a mutt about 11 years old at my feet, an orange tabby staring wistfully out the window at doves tending to their nest in our eave, and this crazed black and white kitten attentively watches my fingers, ready to pounce, and knock something else off of my desk.

None of this would have happened in my youth. Things were different then and there and before. Our parents had pets when growing up, but those were farm pets. They didn’t have rhinestone collars and did not enter the house.

Things changed.


At the 1954 McClain School Halloween Party, my sister won a cocker spaniel puppy in a drawing held by Mrs. Vasti Prichard’s fourth grade class.

I did not think this was fair. Martha wasn’t in the fourth grade. She was in the second grade. Mrs. Vasti’s classroom was across the hall from mine with Mrs. Major. I was older. I wanted the puppy to be mine.

We named him Lucky.

The three children were excited. Our parents were skeptical. Immediately rules were set: no puppy in the living room or dining room; he had to sleep in cloth-padded cardboard box.

The box started out in the basement. The box and puppy eventually made it to the landing just outside the basement door to the kitchen.

We took care of Lucky through the winter. We worried the cold was too harsh even though the furnace was in the basement. I worried the old bedside clock would run down and not provide its comforting ticking.

Spring came as we waited to take Lucky outside to play. But Lucky wasn’t so Lucky after all. He got out on his own and was wiped out by a car when he tried to cross Castle Heights Avenue. My grandmother saw it happened and called my father to take Lucky away before we got home.

It could be the worst time ever. I didn’t stop crying for two days. All three of us were disconsolate, inconsolable.

Shortly afterwards, our father brought home Trixie, a toy terrier to provide us solace. I don’t remember what happened, but Trixie wasn’t there too long.

Later, Martha brought home a kitten. The kitten did not like us and left of its own accord shortly after arriving.


Our household remained pet-less until 1962 when my sister paid $15 for an Eskimo Spitz puppy. They got it from Ethel and Thelma Bass, maternal kin, who lived on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The puppy had long white fur, and Martha named him Cotton. Cotton was very independent. He roamed over the neighborhood – we really didn’t know the scope of his realm – but he came home at night. For a long time, we tethered him to his backyard dog house at night. But he became so reliable he would come home to eat, stay inside (den and kitchen only) for the evening, and sleep on the stoop of the back porch under the carport. In the coldest weather, my father would let Cotton in the back door to sleep inside.

Cotton stayed with the family for 11 years before he died. The three children had grown up and left. In addition to grousing about all of the white fur floating in the den, my parents hid well how much they cared for him.

Indoor/Outdoor Choice

When I married, I became a pet owner. Our pets have had royal treatment compared to Cotton. They have received the greatest care. In fact, I have paid more in veterinarian bills than what I paid for my first three cars.

They all stayed inside at night except the cats, who, up until our last two, roamed where they pleased when they pleased.

In the Southwest corner, we have lost four cats learning they are easy prey for the coyotes, rattlesnakes, hawks, and owls. Now our cats are indoor cats.

My previous lab, an independent cuss like Cotton would escape and roam, but I had to chase him down. Leash laws are prevalent in the Southwest corner. Roaming is not tolerated any more. Dogs don’t do as many dog things. Cats don’t do as many cat things.

It is different.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A toothless pony: thoughts on baseball and Memorial Day

Two days ago, i entered a long explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Briefly, we are undergoing some life changes and the site was hacked, sponsoring my rededication to make the site different and hopefully better - with the help of Walker Hicks.
Please read the explanation in the Saturday, June 26, 2010 post, "Hacked and revisions." One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

A toothless pony: thoughts on baseball and Memorial Day

SAN DIEGO – In spite of recent weather aberrations, June rolled into the Southwest corner in classic form.

The standard “May Gray” arrived late and now “June Gloom” is fully established. While the rest of the country feels summer, this seaport town sits at the end of the Japanese current waiting until July for real summer weather.

For now, the cool marine layer overcast greets us for breakfast and rolls back in for the evening. A light jacket is required for raising and lowering my ensign (U.S. Flag) at the top of the hill. Early morning golf requires warm clothes at tee off and shorts and sunscreen by mid-morning, a logistics problem. My daughter and I went to a Padre baseball game last Wednesday evening, and Sarah was cold enough at the end of the 10th for us to leave before the game was over, a rarity for us.

* * *

There are few things I enjoy more than going to the ball park with my daughter. These outings elicit memories of Sulphur Dell and the Nashville Vols.

The Wednesday game was rife with connections for me as the visitors were the St. Louis Cardinals. For those of you who do not remember the Braves moving from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta, the Cardinals had a lot of Southeastern fans prior to 1966.

St. Louis was the closest team and a perennial competitor for the National League pennant. There were New York Yankee fans and Brooklyn Dodger fans, but the preponderance of the Old South rooted for the Cards.

Wednesday, four young men sitting next to us discussed baseball as if they were aficionados. Then the one next to me spotted a St. Louis fan wearing a team jersey.

“Who is S. Musial?” he asked.

Fortunately, one of his companions responded, “Stan Musial. Stan the Man was a hall of famer who had over 3500 hits.”

* * *

It was hard for me to accept there are current baseball fans who don’t know Stan Musial.

In 1953, Stan Musial was one of my heroes. I was nine and playing my first organized baseball, the Pony League, on the McClain School playground diamond. The manager put me at catcher and thus I became the wearer of the “tools of ignorance” forever, even as the backup when playing other positions.

The Pony League provided me another example of Lebanon’s community spirit.

Headed to McClain in the mid-afternoon, I pedaled my bike furiously down West Main. Somewhere between Castle Heights and Pennsylvania avenues, I spied the limb of a maple hanging high over the sidewalk.

Having a brain the size of a small pea, I decided to grab a leaf, some pitiful reenactment of snaring the merry-go-round golden ring. I held on when the leaf did not separate from the limb, skewing my bike into the rut created by proficient sidewalk trimmers.

Of course I crashed, not onto the grass but kissing the concrete with my face. One of my front teeth broke off. Blood was on the sidewalk. Being a brilliant nine-year old boy, I simultaneously wondered how to get to the game and cried for my parents.

Then the angel appeared. Mrs. Thompson, a gracious, gray haired lady driving down West Main, spotted the fallen pony leaguer, stopped, put me in her car, and drove me home. My mother answered the door and beheld this wonderful lady and a crying, bloodied, half-toothed gremlin screaming his head off because he was going to miss his ballgame.

Four years later, Mrs. Thompson was my home room teacher at Lebanon Junior High seventh grade.

To me, Mrs. Thompson was the epitome of Lebanon civility. She was intelligent, knowledgeable, and handled discipline problems firmly, but with kindness. She always did the right thing at the right time.

This old toothless pony leaguer will not forget Mrs. Thompson.

* * *

Nor will I forget the many men and women who have lost their lives in the service of their country, including friends. The list is too long to include here.

Our Memorial Day yesterday did not include attending any of the many ceremonies in this military town. But raising and lowering my ensign, I took the extra time to gaze across the Southwest corner and remember those heroes who died to enable me to enjoy such a view and live the good life I lead.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Storms from the Past

Yesterday, i entered a long explanation of why this site and my current status is bring about changes along with what is a radical poem for me (at least of those i've shown to someone else). Briefly, we are undergoing some life changes and the site was hacked, sponsoring my rededication to make the site different and hopefully better - with the help of Walker Hicks.
Please read the explanation in yesterday's post. One change is more frequent entries, aka posts. Today's is below:

Storms from the Past

SAN DIEGO – By now, the waters should have subsided in Middle Tennessee, and the 1000 year flood is a memory wreathed in the losses among those hardest hit.

Although storms are few and far between in the Southwest corner, I have experienced the force of storms at sea. As I pored through the staggering photographs of Lebanon, Nashville, and other Tennessee towns in the the flood’s wake, I reflected on storms from my past.

Hurricanes, typhoons, and just plain storms fill a small but significant part of my past on the bounding main. The most interesting one happened on my last ship, the “U.S.S. Yosemite.”

In August 1984 with East Coast ships scarce due to deployments, “YoYo” was tasked to play the role of an “orange” adversary in a Caribbean fleet exercise. “JATO” rockets were installed amidships, and we went off to fire them, simulating a missile attack on the carrier battle group.

With the conclusion of our part of the exercise, the fleet scurried over the horizon and “YoYo” turned her bow toward Mayport, Jacksonville’s Naval base, and started home at a waddling 10 knots, pretty close to the top speed for a pre-World War II, 400-pound steam plant. The weather turned strange. It was one of those times at sea when there is no horizon. Our entire vista was gray, different shades, but all gray.

Strange Seas

In 1984, satellites were not available for weather reports, and we had not received any radio notice of bad weather. We wondered about the quiet, still grayness and the muddled sea around us.

On destroyer tenders, the executive officer also served as navigator. Lieutenant Noreen Leahy served as my assistant while filling the billet of operations officer. Noreen was one of the first women graduates of the Naval Academy and well-schooled in celestial navigation and piloting. Captain Frank Boyle and the two of us had not experienced seas like this before. Although it was calm, it was almost creepy. We were perplexed.

From the depths of my memory, an excerpt from and old version of “Knight’s Modern Seamanship” emerged while I stood on the starboard bridge wing one morning. The theory was if you faced into the wind and threw your right arm back as far as you could (about 115 degrees) your arm would point toward the center of a tropical depression.

I tried out the theory by attempting to face the wind. I moved to the port bridge wing and then top side to the flying bridge. There was no discernible direction to determine a depression center.

Eye of the Storm

I consulted the captain with Noreen listening in, “Captain, I think we are in the center of a tropical depression,” explaining my reasoning.

He agreed, and we altered course to the northeast, moving through the least dangerous quadrant of a depression. The winds picked up and back where we had been was indeed the center. After we had cleared sufficiently, the depression quickly became a tropical storm and then Hurricane Diana.

Back in Jacksonville, my wife Maureen heard the warnings and called Jan, a Navy doctor married to the “Yosemite” doctor, Frank Kerrigan (we four had become close friends). They both were from the Southwest corner and had no idea as to what they should do. On the ship, Frank and I wondered how our wives were faring as we stood out of harm’s way, about 500 miles northeast of Diana.

As the hurricane moved north, the warnings moved with it and were lifted for the north Florida area. The “Yosemite” once again turned homeward, finally entering the Mayport harbor three days after our scheduled return.

My Wife’s Hurricane

Frank and I had been greatly relieved when Diana only threatened to come ashore in Jacksonville and moved northward. We were glad our wives did not have to board up windows.

Diana rolled on up the coast, building up to 135 mph winds. A frontal system precipitated what the weather guessers call a cyclonic loop, decreasing her winds to around 90 mph. She came ashore at Wilmington, N.C. Although she never became the storm of massive destruction like Katrina, she did claim three lives and caused $65.5 Million dollars in damage before exiting to the Northeast.

It was Maureen’s only hurricane experience first hand. For myself, I will never forget being in the eye of a hurricane as it was forming in the Caribbean.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hacked and revisions

Over a month ago, some buffoon hacked into this site.

i am not sure what he or she thought they accomplished unless it was just some bizarre and wimpy lost soul bent on being destructive. These sort of folks doing these sort of things have always struck me as lazy and below normal humans in reason and motivation. i almost feel sorry for them.

i am past my anger. Walker Hicks, the inventive and very professional multi-media whiz who designed this site (with precious little help from me), has successfully put the site back in operation except for the poetry section, which we are continuing to recover.

The hacking corresponded with some life changes, providing me the opportunity to refocus on the site and what i am doing and should be doing.

My wonderful wife, Maureen, is in the process of stepping away from a career which has spanned almost 30 years and all of our marriage.

Many of you know we met when i was one of her first customers at Parron Hall Office Interiors in March 1982 - i have written about that initial meeting previously (see "Our Twenty-Third Anniversary" under "Commentary" in the "Articles" section of this website).

Maureen's replacement arrives at Parron Hall in August. Maureen then will begin to pass over her work except for a few special projects she plans to complete herself. We anticipate she will be completely out of the business by the end of the year or earlier.

What is next remains unclear except that i must start making some real money soon or we will have to dramatically change our lifestyle. What that fallback position might be remains a work in progress. Regardless of what the changes eventually turn into, it is an exciting time but also somewhat frightening. i may actually have to grow up for real. Even though i declared my adulthood at 46 and other various times, this time it looks like no joke.

i have pared several of my hair-brain schemes for making money from my repertoire in an attempt to focus on those more realistically likely to actually bring in some real income. Consequently, Walker and i are in the process of revising the "Business Office" section of the site, and i am updating my bio.

The most impactful part of this reorientation to the site is i will resume my "posts," including catching up and posting my weekly "Notes from the Southwest Corner, which appear the Monday editions of The Lebanon (TN) Democrat.

As readers of that newspaper know, i am also writing a weekly business column entitled "Minding Your Own Business." I have not made these columns available to the general public on this site while i determine the most effective marketing strategy to syndicate the column. They may eventually be available to everyone in the articles section.

It occurred to me i am almost six months away from turning 67. i do not feel old, except for a few extra squeaks, occasional aches, and more hacking than i used to exhibit on a daily basis.

And by hacking i don't mean what happened to this website.

As it has always been, i have reflected upon all of this, and actually found a poem i wrote in 1997 that parallels some thoughts i have about all of this. The poem is included below. i must warn you there is some profanity and sexual content involved.

After all, i was in the Navy, and my vocabulary is a bit more raunchy than that of many of my friends. I happen to agree with D.H. Lawrence who felt we needed to exhibit this part of our language and bring these words into open common useage. It is not the words that are hateful, bad, or profane. It's the thought and actions behind them. I do not shy away from them except to spare someone's sensibilities who does find them offensive.

So please read the rest of this long post if you are not offended by such language.

And thanks for visiting my site.


thoughts about an old age male and others like me while walking a very old dog on an Indian summer evening

old men,
thick and sad with memories
they cannot replicate,
hock up phlegm from their guts,
spitting out the screen door onto the dirt
spackled by the rain shower gray day.

lived hard,
mostly forgotten along with the departed hair,
strength, suppleness of youth;
they don't pee on the garden flowers
after several beers like they once did;
the in betweens were shots of cheap bourbon back then:
eyes sparkled with piss and vinegar,
now are flat with blurred vision cataracts;

burping, peeing, farting, shitting-in-their-pants
liabilities they have become
after ruling the world.
some feign youth with not-their hair,
wonder drugs, makeup,
screwing everything that can get them hard
until hardness disappears forever:
sad old fuckers.
occasionally, some will defy the odds,
not deny but accept the inevitability:
growing old, dying.

looking close, their eyes have depth,
crinkles in their ruddy skin are defiant,
not old age silky paleness.

looking close, their eyes have depth,
crinkles in their ruddy skin are defiant,
not old age silky paleness.

memories are for the others,
fences are to mend,
fields are to plow,
life is to live,
death is to die

- Bonita, California
- September 30, 1997

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brief Thoughts On New Year's Eve

Frozen rain splatters against the black asphalt.
Laughing boys sneer delightfully
As their firecrackers burst;
The night is dark and cold;
Everyone's out celebrating the new year.

How can time pass so fast
With so little effect on the mind?
Coke does taste better out of the little bottle.

Lebanon, Tennessee
December 31, 1969

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Time off: contemplation and an opinion of sorts

It has been over three weeks since i have made an entry here. One reason was procrastination. As Amelia Hipps, the editor of the Lebanon Democrat can tell you, i am a champion of that particular practice.

But there has been more behind this layoff than mere procrastination.

Business took me to Hawaii, and i focused there. Keeping company with associates -- including the joy of playing golf -- was a full time job for a week. It was fun, but it was work too. i am not complaining but my focus was there, and trying to write around 11:00 p.m. with a three-hour time lag and a full day behind me just did not work. After all i am a bit older than i used to be.

But the real reason was i have been working on three long writing projects. The long read below is one of them. They are a four-part series of columns i wroted for The Lebanon Democrat's weekly "Notes from the Southwest Corner." The project remains incomplete, but the four columns are some initial thoughts on race relations since i started thinking about such things in my early high school years.

These are not meant to draw my line in the sand. I hope it is the beginning of a dialogue couched in reason and not rhetoric. i am sure folks on both sides of the issue of race relations between caucasians and negroes in the United States will take issue, but my objective is not to make policy, protest the current state, or add to the vile, sound bite, propaganda which fuels anger and bias. i simply want to make people re-think where they stand on the issue and what they might do, in some small way, to make it better.

But this is a long introduction to a long post, so i will stop and let you read, and, i hope, think a little bit.

The Other Folks in My Growing Up, part one

SAN DIEGO – Growing up in Lebanon, we had many visitors, friends and family, coming in and out of our home on a constant basis.

Guests, whether just stopping by or coming in from out of town and staying overnight or longer, were more frequent than now in the Southwest corner.

There also were regular visitors to the Jewell household. Two of those visitors came to work, and they are an unforgettable part of my memories.

Jake Hughes

One was Jake Hughes. Jake came every Tuesday (as I recall) to pick up the garbage.
In a world before garbage disposals and garbage truck compactors, Jake would arrive, park his wagon as much off of Castle Heights Avenue as he could without sliding into the drainage ditch, running between the yard and the road.

His wagon was an impressive sight, similar to the ones I saw in the westerns I loved to watch, but with automobile tires, rather than the, iron-rimmed, wooden spoke versions in the oaters. I wanted to ride Jake’s wagon but never did.

Jake would dismount, haul the garbage can out to the front, heave the contents into the back of his wagon, and return the large can to its normal resting place out back.

My overriding memory of Jake was not him, but the smell of garbage. Trash in those days was mostly foodstuffs. What we now simply dump into the sink disposal was deposited out back where it baked in the sun for a week or so.

When Jake completed his rounds, he and his mule would plod back home on a bend in Hickory Ridge Road and add the load to the existing pile. When we would drive out to Wynn Prichard’s farm further west at the intersection with Blair Lane, we got a re-smell.

Excluding the smell, I admired Jake. For me, he was a lesson in work ethic. With me, he was a kind, quiet gentleman but focused on his task at hand.

The City of Lebanon got into the trash collection business sometime in the mid to late 1950s, just before my bunch of buddies started working for the public works department under Jessie Coe. I remember being secretly relieved when Jim Harding was assigned to ride the new garbage trucks rather than me.

I assume these new compactors on wheels put Jake’s mule out to pasture. Sometime later, Jake sold his property as the area west of the city became populous in housing developments. An impressive home now sits on the bend which was Jake’s property.

I hope Jake made a lot of money off of his business before it closed. And I hope he profited greatly from selling his land.

He earned it, the hard way.

Vicey Shavers

Vicey Shavers was another influence on my young life. Vicey cleaned some but her principal reason for visits was to keep the Jewell children when Mother or our grandmother could not be there.

Vicey was smaller than my grandmother, no small feat as my grandmother topped out at four foot eight and eighty pounds.

I remember Vicey being kind but strict.

My fondest memory is when, around five years of age, I would stand next to her in the narrow kitchen while she washed dishes with the sun streaming through the kitchen window. Just for me, Vicey would tune the small kitchen radio to WSM and the half-hour “Sons of the Pioneers” program featuring Roy Rogers. Together we sang along to “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water”.

When my mother returned from her work or errands, she would load us all in the 1948 dark green Pontiac and take Vicey home, a small house south of East High Street. I believe it was at the intersection of Sycamore and Lake Streets.

I recall being excited about the short trip to Vicey’s home.

I loved Vicey.

Roy Bailey African-American Museum

The article generating this column announced the April long celebration of the Roy Bailey African-American Museum and History Center’s fifth anniversary in Lebanon. Special afternoon events at the museum have been held every Saturday this month.
I wish I could come back for at least one of the Saturday afternoons, but business precludes my return for the near future.
Still I will think of Jake and Vicey often. They are special people to me.

The Other Folks in My Growing Up, part two

SAN DIEGO – Last Monday, I wrote of people who were important to my growing up well in Lebanon.

There were others.

Sam Hearn

My brother Joe had a closer relationship to Sam Hearn than I did because Joe wisely spent more time than I did working part time and generally hanging out at Hankins, Byars and Jewell, the Pontiac dealership sandwiched between the old First Methodist Church and the First Baptist Church on East Main.

Still, I remember Sam Hearn well. He was an amiable guy and I remember him seeming to take me under his wing, a sentiment expressed well by brother. Recently my father, the maintenance supervisor and the “Jewell” in the ownership name (originally Hankins and Smith) told me Sam “helped me out a lot.

I also know my father was one of the few people who visited Sam on a regular basis in the hospital several years ago when Sam was on the final leg of his life’s journey.

Sam was a good man.


I must sadly admit I do not know the real name of the other man important to me and my coming of age. “Dub” was one of the two permanent city employees at Cedar Grove Cemetery. I worked with him for three summers.

Dub was a big man who had hands seemingly the size of hams. He came to work, regardless of the heat or cold in bib jeans (coveralls, some call them), a long sleeve shirt, a sports coat, and a worn brown fedora. He was the power part of the team, wielding a shovel or a pick like it was an extension, almost effortlessly, as we blocked off the grave site and created a smooth square hole in the ground, a little more than four feet deep.

He worked tirelessly regardless of how hot and humid the Tennessee summer had thrown at us. When there were three of us digging a grave, “Mr. Bill” – my mother and I believe his last name was Allison but memory, in this case, may be mistaken -- would take a few turns but he mostly was the supervisor as I took on more and more of the digging tasks.

Digging Graves

Still Dub would eventually do the bulk of the digging. His turn with the pick, loosening the clay; or the shovel, either clearing the broken earth or squaring the sides; was always longer and more frequent than Mr. Bill or my time in the grave.

In the maintenance tasks, Dub never seemed to slow down. He was a working machine, and I had a hard time keeping up with him.

But the thing I recall more than any other aspect of Dub was recognizing what an incredible man he was. Physically he was imposing. But even though he was illiterate, I eventually realized he knew everything that was occurring and knew how to handle it appropriately.

He was a kind man with a deep chuckle when something struck him as humorous. I recall the glint in his eyes when he nodded understandingly after I had done something a rookie grave digger might do or pull a mischievous prank.

My fondest memory came from Wednesday’s. He and Mr. Bill knew I played baseball on the Lebanon American Legion team. Home games were no problem, but leaving work and catching the old school bus for away games made it tight.

Invariably on Wednesday’s with an away game scheduled, Dub would look at his watch around three and comment, “Mr. Bill, I can’t handle the work we have for the rest of the day,” adding, “Why don’t we let Jimmy go now so he can catch that bus for his baseball game.”

Mr. Bill would always agree and I could get home, change into my uniform and get to the bus with time to spare.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

On my last day of work at the cemetery as I prepared to go to college, I decided to pull a prank. When the mowers ran out of gas as they did in the late morning on that final day, I would take the two large gas cans and fill them up from the tanks out back of Mr. Babb’s house on the north end of Cedar Grove. There were two tanks and rather than drawing from the gasoline tank, I drew from the kerosene tank.

After I returned and filled the mowers, I took to trimming around monuments as Mr. Bill and Dub started the mowers. In less than a minute, the cemetery was filled with white acrid smoke. The mowers coughed and sputtered to a very smoky stop.

Upon the mower gas tanks and smelling the liquid, Mr. Bill looked up at me and said, “Jimmy, I believe you don’t know the difference between kerosene and gasoline.”

I said, “I’m really sorry, Mr. Bill.”

“Well, it’s going to take us a little while to clean out these mowers before we can get back to it,” he continued, “You might as well take the rest of the day off.”

I looked at Dub. I knew he knew what I had done and why. I could tell by the gentle smile and the glint in his eyes.

We said our last good-byes.

Connections in a Far Away Land

SAN DIEGO – I was in Hawaii last week where the fusion of culture, ethnicity, climate, and vistas sparked many ideas for columns.

As usual, I did not record most. Several great columns lay on the cutting floor of my selective memory editor. I figure I need to go back to the islands to jog those memories.

On the last day of my trip, Mrs. Mary Harris, the director of the Lebanon African-American Historical Museum, called me to tell me about Pickett-Rucker Chapel’s upcoming 144th anniversary. The May 16 celebration will include a church service in the morning and a concert in the afternoon.

I wish I could be there.


Much of the following is incomplete and requires my apology for poor memory of names. This personal fault is odd considering my heritage. I often call my parents in Lebanon to fill in the blanks in my column. My father, Jimmy Jewell, working on 96, is often my source for the history and geography of Lebanon.

My mother, Estelle Jewell has a bear trap memory, and at 92 still can recall facts and names from the beginning of my 66 years and beyond. When I was seeking information for my past few columns, my mother spoke to Mrs. Harris. The two worked together when Mrs. Harris was a teacher at Highland Heights and my mother was the secretary for Roy Dowdy, the superintendant of Lebanon City Schools.

As I wished I could be home for the Pickett-Rucker celebration, I made more connections.

A Great Sing

While commuting to Middle Tennessee in the mid-1960s, I worked at WCOR as an AM and FM disc jockey. Infrequently on Sundays, I would rush home for lunch while Coleman Walker, the station manager, held down the fort for both stations.

Somewhere around Trousdale Ferry Pike, U.S. Highway 70, and Bluebird Road, there was a concrete block church. If the timing was right, singing would be booming out of that church when I passed. Occasionally, I would pull over to the side of the road and listen. The music was magic.

I always wished to go in, but never had the time. I needed to get home, hurriedly eat, and get back for my afternoon “Top 40” radio program.

A Connection, Far Away

In the early 1990s, I went to pick up some cleaning and met a large, gregarious man.

As we exchanged jokes, he finally asked, “Where are you from?”

“Tennessee,” I replied.

“I thought so,” he said recognizing my accent, “What part?”

“Lebanon,” I said, “About thirty miles east of Nashville.”

“I know,” he said, “I spent my summers and a lot of time in Lebanon with my kin. I grew up in Nashville.”

Incredulous that two humans chatting in a store in the Southwest corner both had connections to Lebanon, I shared memories of home with him. His stories captivated.

Of course, I do not remember his or his family’s names. I do recall they owned or worked a lumber yard.

As I drove away, I wish I had gotten his phone number to invite him and his wife to dinner. But I did not and have often wondered how I might find him to extend that invitation.

That Ain’t Right

Several years later, I was playing golf at the Miramar Naval Air Station (Miramar is now a Marine air station). On the first tee, my friend, J.D. Waits, talked to the group in front of us.

After they teed off, J.D. told us three of the foursome had worked for him in an F-14 squadron. After the round, we joined them at their table for a beer.

I sat next to John, who had been a senior chief aviation technician (ATCS) and retired in the Southwest corner. When I queried him last week, J.D. could not remember John’s last name either..

John noticed my accent and I told him I was from Lebanon.

“I graduated from Wilson County Training School in 1956.” he noted.

“Wow! Where did you live?” I asked.

“Dixon Springs,” he said

“Huh?” I wisely queried.

“We didn’t have a high school in Dixon Springs where I could go. So my parents put me on a Trailways bus every morning. I rode the bus from Dixon Springs and back for four years,” he explained.

“That ain’t right,” I concluded.

Floods, a Long Jump, and a Long Way to Go

SAN DIEGO – In the Southwest corner, we followed the floods of Middle Tennessee closely with phone calls back home, media reports, “The Democrat’s” web cam of the square, and a surprising source, “Facebook,” the social networking internet tool.

I know there are hard times yet ahead. In that regard, the floods are similar to the fires in the Southwest corner of 2004 and 2008. The shock of such disasters wears down to a discouraging reality when facing the long road to recovery. After the media blitz reporting of the initial disaster and the follow-up national on-scene commentary, those left with the aftermath must grapple with the clean up and recovery pretty much alone.

My heart goes out to all of those who have suffered from the disaster and face the long, hard road ahead.

Pickett-Rucker Chapel

The floods interrupted my other thoughts about back home and wishing I could be there for the Pickett-Rucker 144th anniversary.

A church service and concert are suitable means to address the flood and celebrate a long history of goodness.

My recent columns have addressed other folks connected to my Lebanon who have shaped my attitude about people and relationships. A 1963 spring experience also impacted me.

Kent Russ & Ralph Boston

Kent Russ precipitated that moment. Kent was a post-graduate at Castle Heights my 1958-59 freshman year and a wingback in Stroud Gwynn’s single wing. He also was declared the Heights “outstanding track man of the past decade.”

Kent matriculated to Vanderbilt where three years later, I joined him, Jimmy Smith, and Hughey King as Lebanon members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. In addition to running track at Vanderbilt, Kent also ran on an AAU 440-relay team.

Another team sprinter was Ralph Boston, a Tennessee State alumnus who broke Jesse Owens’ world record long jump, won the event’s gold medal in the 1960 Olympics and was the world’s Track and Field Athlete that same year. He continued as a track star until shortly after finishing second to Bob Beamon’s world record long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Kent asked me to join him at a Tennessee State and Florida A&M track meet. I jumped at the chance.

Arriving, we bypassed the grandstands and went trackside where Kent introduced me to Boston, who was a timer for the meet. After a short discussion, we moved down the track and watched Bob Hayes, later of Dallas Cowboy fame, break the world record in the 100-yard dash in 9.1 seconds.

Who Sits in the Back?

Afterwards, we thanked Boston and he asked for a ride to pick up his car at his mechanic’s shop. Approaching the car, I opened the back door.

“I’ll sit in the back,” Boston commanded.

Thinking an Olympic champion shouldn’t sit in the back, I started to protest.

“No, there is just too much hatred round here, and we could get into trouble,” he explained.

I thought, “This ain’t right.”

Sit-ins had become a common protest in Nashville, and Clarksville’s Wilma Rudolph, who had won three 1960 Olympics gold medals had been involved in protests there. Ralph commented Wilma got taken in by the more strident protesters.

After thanking us, he went to pick up his car.

Returning to campus, Kent told me the NAACP had ordered Boston to not compete in a Houston AAU track meet because of the segregated audience. Boston paid to fly to New York and confront the president, Dr. Robert Weaver. Boston told Weaver he would compete wherever he chose because he believed his performance would have more impact towards equality than not competing.

Children’s Hymn

I have refrained from political comment in this column for numerous reasons. I believe this issue transcends politics, rules, quotas, or protests.

I grew up with limited access to a wonderful bunch of folks like Mrs. Harris, James Cason, and many others: good folks with good intentions. I am amazed we still live in a mostly separate world.

One of my favorite children hymns when I was still going to Vacation Bible School was “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Three lines I particularly remember are “Red and yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his site; Jesus loves all the little children of the world.”

My feelings are similar to what I felt in the 1975 evacuation of Vietnam. I don’t know what we could have done or should have done, but we should have done something better.

It is time for us to get together in the truest sense of the term, both back home and in the Southwest corner.

There’s still a long way to go.