I have learned that many people are interested in looking back to the old days when Fifth, Sixth, Seventh Avenues, Church Street, and the surrounding area used to be our shopping center. Also, downtown there were many restaurants and movie theatres. This period of time was before neighborhood shopping malls. Fifth Avenue was the five-and-ten-cent store area. The Arcade was our first covered mall. Many Nashvillians worked in the many offices and buildings in what we called “Downtown.” Let’s take a walk down Church Street and remember some of the things we grew up with Downtown. Starting at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Church, let’s walk toward the west remembering some of the sights. Visualize the old Presbyterian Church on the corner which still stands today. It was there during the Civil War. It was used as a hospital for the Union troops. It was the First Presbyterian Church before the congregation moved out to its present location on Franklin Pike. Today the building is occupied by the congregation of the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Now, cross the street heading west, and in the old days, we would be standing in front of the Jackson Building at that corner of Fifth and Church. The several floors of the building were occupied with offices of many types. But, I especially remember the street level which was Shacklett’s Cafeteria. Walking on, we would see Candy’s Inc. where we drooled over the various confectionaries. Then, we were at the entrance of the old Princess Theatre showing its movies as well as the old vaudeville stage shows. Then, do you remember the Nashville Trunk and Bag Company between Fifth and Sixth Avenues? How about Kay Jewelry Company? Also, there was the Florsheim Shoe Store. Now, we are in front of the McKendree Methodist Church which is still there. Finally, we come to the corner of Sixth and Church where we remember the twelve-story Warner Building. This was, of course, before the Tennessee Theatre was built. That old building later carried the names of the Sudekum Building, and the Tennessee Building. Today, that corner is taken up by the fashionable Cumberland Apartments. Let’s turn around, go back to Fifth and Church, and look at the other side of Church Street. On the corner of Fifth Avenue (old Summer Street) and Church Street back during the Civil War period, a hotel called the St. Cloud House occupied that location. In fact, that corner is still called St. Cloud’s Corner. Most of us remember that corner as being the Cain-Sloan Company. It was later that they moved across the street occupying another corner of Fifth and Church. Walking west on Church from Cain-Sloan you may remember the Peiser Millinery Company. Also, there were the Linen & Baby Shop, and Jean’s Hosiery Shop. Do you remember that a Warner Drugstore was in that block? Lebeck Brothers department store was in the middle of the block. Also, there was Chandler Boot Shop and a couple of apparel shops. Later, Harvey’s great department store moved in which soon became a giant store expanding to include the entire block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues with its escalators, third floor children’s Monkey Bar with real live monkeys, the wild colored carousel horse figures around, and the real carousel for children to ride. Do you remember the Downstairs Dinette which served the fantastic apple pie which had moved to Harvey’s after the closing of Kleeman’s Restaurant? It was “fun to shop at Harvey’s.” Today, our “downtown shopping” doesn’t have that charm of sidewalks covered with shoppers, friends yelling at each other as they met, and looking in each other’s sacks to see what they had bought. Today, Nashvillians have other good things to experience, but for us old guys, we have memories that can last forever.
Do You Remember Old Nashville Times - People - Places - Things
TIMES: Do you remember the times when Jefferson Springs on the Stones River was a nice vacation spot for local families? When I was a child, we simply referred to the spot as “Old Jefferson.” During the Great Depression, families had to think up inexpensive things to do for entertainment. My family enjoyed going to Old Jefferson for swimming and picnics. My mother always packed a good picnic lunch of sandwiches, deviled eggs, pickles, fruit, iced tea, and watermelon. The water of the Stones River was wonderful. I remember that the big kids had a rope hanging out over the river with which they could take a running jump and drop into the water. I was about five-years-old and my sister was about twelve. We had some fun too. As soon as we got to Old Jefferson, our daddy would jack up the old car and take the inner tubes out of the tires so my sister and I could sit in them out on the river. Later, as the memorable day grew dimmer, we began to finish our swimming, delightful picnic, and family outing. Daddy would put the inner tubes back in the tires and back on the old car. We headed home after a wonderful and memorable family outing at Old Jefferson. PEOPLE: Do you remember the great old columnists who wrote for “The Nashville Tennessean” and the “Nashville Banner” newspapers? We had Bob Battle, Francis “Red” O’Donnell who wrote “Top of the Morning,” Louise Davis, Athens Clay Pullias, Clara Hieronymus who reported on art and drama, and Jean Bruce whose column appeared in the “Sunday Tennessean.” In sports, we had Grantland Rice, Fred Russell, and John Bibb. Do you remember Elmer Hinton who wrote “Down to Earth” for the Tennessean? And, we couldn’t omit Louis Nicholas who was the music critic for The Tennessean for many years, and Henry Arnold who was the music critic for the Banner. The founder of Bellevue’s Westview Publishing was Doug Underwood who was an award-winning photographer at the Nashville Banner. PLACES: The old Hippodrome used to sit in its regal spot overlooking Centennial Park on West End Avenue. This is now the location of Holiday Inn Select Vanderbilt. Do you remember the restaurant across the street right at the edge of Centennial Park? When I was a student at Peabody College, the spot was glorified by a great Italian restaurant called Punaro’s. It was owned by James Punaro who was a violinist in the Nashville Symphony when I played with the orchestra. Many times the restaurant would be full of guests, and Jimmy would take out his violin, sit right in the middle of the tables, and begin to play. What a treat that was. After changing hands, the restaurant became the Natchez Trace Restaurant. It too was owned by an old musician of the glory days. I just remember him as “Johnny, an old trumpet player.” The restaurant served one of the finest and most inexpensive steaks in town. That location today is occupied by a McDonald’s restaurant and its parking lot THINGS: Do you ever long for one of those great frosty malts at Cato’s fountain in the Arcade? I am sure you remember those silver bowls which Candyland used to serve up those great chocolate, caramel pecan, and English toffee delights, and those chocolate marshmallow nut ice cream sundaes. How many of you remember the big Coca-Cola sign, which told the time of day, and sat way up high at the intersection of West End Avenue and Broadway? We can’t take Nashville back to the old, old days; but, we certainly can retain and revel in those wonderful nostalgic past memories forever.
It's State Fair Time in Tennessee
When I was a student at old Clemons School on Twelfth Avenue, South in the 1930’s, one of the biggest events of the year was that September day when school let out for the Tennessee State Fair. I longed for Student Fair Day. My whole family went to the fair. We parked our car in somebody’s yard around Wedgewood Avenue for a very modest fee. We walked up the hill to the exhibition buildings. Of course, my sister and I were anxious to get on over to Johnny J. Jones Midway which was set up inside the area of the old dirt race track. But, it was a tradition in my family first to walk through all of the State Fair exhibits to observe the work of our citizens who won ribbons and awards for excellence. I remember the bull pen which was a circular covered track that housed the cattle, sheep, and hog exhibits. We saw the poultry building, and other agricultural exhibits. You couldn’t help but see exhibits of new farm machinery all around. We spent time in the Woman’s Building where we saw blue ribbons for everything from flowers to preserves to quilts. I still wanted to get on over to the Midway, but actually I had some fun collecting various give-a-way items. We always left with a free yard stick, ruler, paint stirrer, a card of sewing needles, some pencils, and many other things I really didn’t need! The one-mile oval dirt race track within the fairgrounds had harness racing every day. When we finally got to go to the Midway, we either crossed the race track when it was clear, or walked through the tunnel which was built under the track. When we finally arrived at the Midway, we rode the Whip, the Ferris Wheel, the Carousel, and other rides. In the Midway we heard all of the sideshow barkers telling us what strange and magnificent things we would see if we bought a ticket and came inside the tent. There were skill games where you would try to win a kewpie doll. Your money could disappear fast when you couldn’t throw something, hook something, ring some dishes, or execute some other feat of skill. Of course, adults could lose money trying to see if the carnival man could guess their age or weight. Today, it would not be politically correct to have a man tell a lady that she weighed 185 pounds! The smell of the hamburgers with onions cooking could get to you, too. Various civic and church organizations had tents where they served food to make money for their organizations. We always ate at one of the Methodist Church tents. Then, it was time to get some seats in the Grandstand to watch the free acts. They had great circus acts, clowns, animals, and other professional acts. Following the free acts, there was a loud explosion, and the fireworks display had begun. Since my young days, the stately old Grandstand as well as the Administration Building and some of the exhibition buildings burned in 1965. The buildings were replaced, but with structures which didn’t have that same old character and charm as the originals. In later years, as a musician, I had the opportunity to play some of the Grandstand acts. Over in what we called the Fairgrounds Coliseum, I had the opportunity to play the horse show which went on each night of the Fair. In 1970, that old Coliseum burned, and it was never rebuilt. Our Fair is truly a state fair. It is a wonderful place for the FFA, 4-H Clubs, and other student organizations to show off their year-long work. We need a lot more healthy organizations like those to occupy the minds and bodies of our youth. And, even the adults today remember and cherish when it was State Fair Time in Tennessee.
Do You Remember?
Do You Remember? Here is another variety of Nashville memories, another smorgasbord of Nashville’s nostalgic tastes I am fixin’ to dish up for you. Do you remember the name of Charles Burton Ragland who founded the C. B. Ragland wholesale grocery company back in 1919? They were the days when groceries were shipped by riverboats to towns along the Cumberland River. This was a time when vinegar was bought in wooden barrels, sugar and dried beans in 100-pound bags, and the only cheese available was packaged in round wooden boxes. Do you remember when we tuned in to the Jack Benny Show on the radio on Sunday evenings in Nashville? Do you remember the six delicious flavors of Jell-O which sponsored his show? We used to imitate announcer Don Wilson with “Jell-O comes in six delicious flavors--strawberry, raspberry, cherry, orange, lemon, and lime.” Do you remember when both Mills Bookstore and Zibart’s Bookstore were on Church Street between Seventh and Eighth? Do you remember the railroad ticket office downtown at Fourth and Church where the L & C Tower is today? Do you remember how the car washers would be waiting in the depot to clean the coach windows of the Dixie Flyer, Pan American, and the Hummingbird when they pulled into Union Station to take on passengers? Do you remember the old Cooper and Martin grocery stores on Hillsboro Road, Belmont Boulevard, and Charlotte Pike? Do you remember the rocking chairs and the elk statue at the front porch of the old Elks Club on Sixth Avenue North next to our old Andrew Jackson Hotel? “Hey, Kids, what time is it?” Are you one who raced home every afternoon and turned on the television to see and hear, “It’s Howdy Doody Time?” Do you remember the great, refreshing treats at Candyland at the corner of Seventh and Church downtown, the Frozen Castle in East Nashville, and the Sweet Shoppe at Twenty-first and Capers near Peabody College? You surely remember the commercial by Family Booterie’s shoe store which would swing, “Two for the price of one plus a dollar.” Do you remember the old McConnell Air Field? It was operated by the Gasser Brothers, Louie, Albert, and Monk. They offered airplane rides over Nashville for two dollars. It was located around 46th Avenue off of Murphy Road where the McCabe Golf Course is now located. Do you remember when many sororities, clubs, and business organizations had their teas and receptions at Mrs. Brown’s Tearoom on Highway 100? It was located just past loveless Café on the same side of the highway. A Shell gas station and Bar-B-Cutie restaurant sit at that location today just a short distance before the entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway. An English teacher at Hillsboro High School assigned her class a portion of “The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer. As you know, some of this Middle English narrative poetry is rather risqué. A student’s father read it, went to the principal, and demanded that it not be assigned to his daughter’s class. In the old days, we didn’t make a federal case out of everything. If possible, we just solved problems. So, Mr. John Koen, the school principal, felt that if it were offensive, then he would just have the book sent to the office. He felt that there certainly was enough other literature which could be assigned to the students. On that fatal Halloween day in October of 1952, it was such a horror to realize that the old Hillsboro High School building burned down. Even the wonderful library with all of the thousands and thousands of books were burned up. That is, all but one! The copy of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” had been placed in the metal vault in the office. It did not burn!
Montgomery Bell in Nashville's Past
Do you remember the old Montgomery Bell State Park Inn out highway 70 South toward Dickson? Our family had gone to the old Inn many times for a delicious buffet made in the real Southern style. Do you remember that the old Inn had a steep, picturesque staircase down from the lobby to the dining room? It was a beautiful sight looking out over the lake and the woods through the Inn’s large picture windows. In the winter, it was nice to sit beside the roaring wood fire in the lobby. Finally, the old Inn was torn down. A new Montgomery Bell Inn sits at that location now. The new Inn has many improvements. There is a beautiful dining room, additional space for meetings, and many attractive rooms for staying over-night. After a delicious buffet dinner at the new Inn one day, our family headed back home when someone suggested that we drive down to The Narrows on the Harpeth River, a site which held many memories of our past. My mother was born near there in the Dog Creek Narrows of Harpeth community. Also, this was the location of the old Boy Scout Camp Boxwell. I spent many camping times and canoe riding there on the Harpeth River. My sister first met her husband there while visiting old Camp Boxwell. That day, my son and I walked down to The Narrows tunnel which is a very historic site. Montgomery Bell came to Middle Tennessee in 1802 and went to work for James Robertson at the Cumberland Iron Works. Two years later, Bell bought out Robertson and proceeded to build iron forges all over Middle Tennessee. Bell wanted to develop a water-powered mill on the Harpeth River and cut a tunnel through the limestone bluff to divert a surge of water through the hill to power his mill. Literature tells us that The Narrows tunnel was constructed around 1819. The tunnel is approximately 8 feet high, 16 feet wide, and 209 feet long. The tunnel cuts off a five-mile bend in the river. In 1855, the Western Military Institute was attached to the University of Nashville with the object of establishing a preparatory department for the university. A large, flourishing prep school soon developed. It almost closed in 1862 when the university buildings were occupied as a military hospital. In 1867, the trustees of the University of Nashville set about reorganizing this preparatory school. Under the terms of a will dated in 1852 the trustees had received from Mr. Montgomery Bell, a bequest for the permanent endowment of the school was established. This prep school was reorganized in keeping with Mr. Bell’s will. This new Montgomery Bell Academy enrolled students in September of 1867. Until 1881, the school was conducted in the buildings of the University of Nashville near Rutledge Hill. During that year, the school transferred to quarters bounded by Lindsley Avenue, University Street, and Academy Place, where an excellent brick building was erected. During the year 1911, the trustees of the University decided to discontinue their medical school, and devote all of the income from their endowment, as well as from their entire remaining property, to the further endowment of Montgomery Bell Academy. In 1913, the trustees sold to the City Park Commission the building and grounds of the Academy situated there in South Nashville. So, the school secured temporary quarters in a building on Seventh Avenue, North. In the spring of 1914 occurred the purchase of the present site of Montgomery Bell Academy, a 32-acre tract on Harding Road. The Harpeth Narrows is now under the control of our state park system. Montgomery Bell Academy stands and has upheld the original purpose of academic development of Mr. Montgomery Bell.
The Show Must Go On
July 21, 2012
How I loved to go to the movies downtown when I was growing up in Nashville. And, I go way back to the ten-cent movies which later became the twenty-five-cent movies. At least that was the price of admission if we went in before five o'clock in the afternoon. After five and for the night showings, the cost went to a staggering forty cents! I loved the old Paramount, Loews, Knickerbocker, Rex, Fifth Avenue, and especially the old Princess Theatre on Church Street which had movies and stage shows. Being a young student musician, I loved to watch and listen to the musicians in the pit orchestra play the overture and play for the various acts on stage. Little did I know at the time, that just a few years later, I found myself working as a professional musician with some of those old, great Nashville musicians. I can remember the thrill of seeing the lights come on, the curtain rise, and then the great music and acts on stage. I miss going to a beautiful, spacious, and ornate movie theatre. I miss the excitement of entering the theatre under a large canopy and a well-lighted marquee displaying frantically busy, colorful chaser light bulbs aglow, and entering the plush and decorated atmosphere of a "show place." Contrast that with our experience today of entering one of maybe twelve or fifteen theatres within one building which seems like a small, rectangular, unclothed room to sit and watch the movie. And, today at the movies we get to see only the feature film after several previews of coming pictures. Today, there are no cartoons, news reels, travelogues, cliff-hanging serials, and no Robert Benchley or Pete Smith short subject specials before settling down to the feature movie presentation. Maybe we miss the excitement of many Hollywood musical productions on the screen which included no un-redeeming violence, no inferior sexual instruction for our youth, and no language which would embarrass every member while on our family outing. Thankfully, there are a few theatres around the country preserved in a modified form of their original physical splendor. The Fox Theatres in Atlanta and St. Louis come to mind. We are thankful for New York City's Radio City Music Hall. Nashville used to have the Tennessee Theatre. Today, of course, we can enjoy the splendor of TPAC and the great splendor of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. We give thanks to Williamson County for the renovated Franklin Theatre. Of course, we loved going to the neighborhood theatres also. I and my friends had the Melrose, Belmont, Green Hills, and Belle Meade. Back when the old Belle Meade Theatre was transformed into a bookstore, thankfully, we had some creative visionaries who chose to keep some of the theatre's outside structure, a portion of the lobby, and the great wall possessing dozens of photos that Nashville's beloved Mr. E. J. Jordan took of the many stars who visited the Belle Meade Theatre over the years. I would often stroll into the bookstore and reminisce. Where the great silver screen used to stand showing life-size figures of Loretta Young, Rita Hayworth, Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Andy Devine (I especially remember his photo in the lobby), and a legion of others, had become the periodical section of the bookstore. The Belle Meade Theatre's opening took place on May 1, 1940. Mr. E. J. Jordan was the theatre manager from 1940 until 1967. At the opening of the theatre in 1940, Irene Dunn affixed the first signature and photo for the "Wall of Fame." After that, some 175 other stars signed their photos in person for Mr. Jordan's "Wall of Fame." Thankfully, we can still see some of those great stars and movies on our television sets, if you know which channels to tune in on your set. Good entertainment will never die. The show must go on.