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A Few Students of Castle Heights Military Academy

9 Jun

From 1902 to 1986, our city was home to Castle Heights Military Academy, a school that attracted students from all over the world. Those of us who have been around for a while have heard a bunch of stories about the school. The rivalry between the cadets and the local guys. The great athletic teams. The people who received a great education within its halls. One day, I will write about those stories. However, this is story is about a few students who made an impact.

Many of the Castle Heights cadets went on the great success, and a few of them went on to a level of fame.

Pete Rademacher won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1956 Olympics. He made his professional debut by fighting Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title. As far as I know, it is the only time that someone had a shot at the belt in their first fight.

General Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004, also attended the school.

Danny Evins, the founder of Cracker Barrel, went to Castle Heights and was one of its major benefactors for many years.

Heck, Benito Mussolini even sent some young men to Castle Heights before the outbreak of World War II. I have seen a photograph of the Rotary dinner that was held in their honor.

However, two brothers who attended Castle Heights rose to greater fame than any of those. They altered the course of music history and, as a result, became iconic figures. One of them passed away in 1971 at the height of his fame. The other passed away just a few days ago.

It is difficult to imagine them wearing the uniforms of Castle Heights cadets, but Duane and Gregg Allman did just that. Up above is a picture of Gregg as proof.

The Rocket Scientist Next Door

8 May

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Charlie Bradshaw, a man who lives down the street. This is what I wrote about him.

Charlie Bradshaw walked into his professor’s office without knowing what to expect. He had enlisted in the Navy and entered the V-12 program for training, which was why he was taking Calculus at Sewanee and was facing the uncertainty of this meeting.

The professor began by going over the details of Charlie’s C average but quickly put his grade book aside. This was not a meeting of condemnation. Rather, it was a meeting of encouragement. He saw Charlie’s talent and encouraged him to think about Mathematics as a career. About this meeting, Charlie said, “I didn’t know how important it was to concentrate on what you’re good at.” With that, a lifelong love of Mathematics began.

Charlie finished the V-12 program and was shipped to the Pacific Theater of World War II to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He saw action at Okinawa but, like thousands of America’s enlisted men, was spared the dangers of invasion when President Harry Truman ordered the use of two atomic bombs. Six weeks later, Charlie found himself walking through Hiroshima, the first city hit with an atomic bomb. When asked what he thought as he took pictures of the carnage, Charlie stated that “we can’t have another war with these weapons.”

After the war, Charlie completed school; joined the faculty at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; and settled his family in Cookeville. In 1951, a new opportunity arose when he heard about recruiters at a local hotel interviewing people for positions at a new government facility in Huntsville, Alabama. Charlie got a new job but had to delay his departure for two weeks. His wife was about to have a baby. Charlie said, “I always knew I didn’t want to spend a career in teaching, in the classroom, but I loved Cookeville. It had good fishing, and I sort of didn’t want to leave, but it was such a big opportunity.”

That opportunity took Charlie into the world of Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who surrendered to American forces at the end of World War II. While von Braun and his German colleagues built rockets, Charlie’s team calculated their flight times and trajectories with a “slide rule and desk calculator.” Each second of the flight had to be computed, which took two weeks and numerous chalkboards. To complete this job, women were hired. Charlie said:

We eventually hired math aides who were women. They were better at it than men. They were more patient. But, Washington didn’t have a civil service classification for them. We had to get Washington to figure out what to call the job, and they decided on Computers.

In 1953, they launched Redstone, America’s first guided missile, and it followed the path that Charlie’s team had calculated. However, the days of the “slide rule and desk calculator” were coming to an end. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory received the first computer in the South, and Charlie transferred to east Tennessee to oversee its installation. This meant that he was the resident expert on computers – the nonhuman kind.

In 1955, Charlie returned to Huntsville as the Deputy Director of Computation and installed the first computer at that location. By this time, there was an international competition to put something into orbit. Charlie remembered:

We had the capability to put the Redstone in orbit, but Eisenhower didn’t want to use a military missile. That’s when they started Vanguard, and it was a tremendous failure. Vanguard never made it. The Russians beat us. Then 85 days later, we were in orbit. Redstone was ready, and the calculations were all done. We could have beaten them, but we weren’t allowed to.

With a string of successful launches, the Mercury program was established to take people into space. Now, Charlie’s calculations did more than determine the trajectory of a rocket. They determined where to have ships waiting to pick up returning astronauts.

In 1962, the stakes were raised when John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a person on the moon. According to Charlie, this had always been von Braun’s goal, but concerns remained. Charlie explained, “We always knew sending people to space would happen, but we still had questions about whether man could survive on the moon.”

At one point, President Kennedy toured the Huntsville facility and met the administrative staff. He was introduced to von Braun and other German scientists. After meeting a line of people with German names, he was introduced to someone named Charlie Bradshaw. The president immediately responded, “How did you get in here?” Charlie remembered, “I thought since he was president I better not laugh, but everyone else did.”

Charlie got in there by being one of the best mathematicians in the nation and stayed through the Apollo 11 mission that put the first men on the moon. Looking back at that event, Charlie could not help but think about the president who set the goal and the tragedy that befell him. In Charlie’s mind, the assassination of President Kennedy inspired the space community to make his dream a reality. Charlie reflected, “John F. Kennedy’s death made it happen.”

In 1970, Charlie left the space program to direct the installation of the first computer at Vanderbilt University and oversee its operation. He immediately had trouble with the faculty. Charlie stated:

Physics got into the nuclear business, and they thought they owned the computers. That was one of the big battles we had. They didn’t think computers ought to be used for other things. But then the divinity school started using it and eventually they let students use them to do their theses. But at one point, the Faculty Senate prohibited computers on the campus from being used for word processing.

Charlie remained at Vanderbilt until his retirement, then he taught classes at Cumberland University. Looking back on his career, Charlie said that sending rockets into space made him more interested in the universe, and that interest led him to become a stronger believer in God. In fact, he stated, “I become more of a believer the more I learn.” Without a doubt, Charlie has learned a great deal.

 

 

 

 

 

The Outskirts of Town

13 Nov

We have a community magazine called Wilson Living, and the folks over there asked me to write an article about anything I wanted. A lot of topics went through my mind, and I settled on writing about growing up on the outskirts of town. If you would be interested in reading it, then you can get to it by clinking this link.

Let me know what you think.

Saulsbury Baptist Church

5 Apr

My dad’s birthday is this week, and his wish was for the family to attend his childhood church. This past Sunday, we fulfilled that wish and went to services at Saulsbury Baptist Church.image-12

I have heard my dad tell stories about growing up in that congregation. He has talked about playing checkers with the pastor, Brother Albert Jewel. He has talked about joining the church when he was a small child and how his mom was worried that he was too young to make that decision. He has talked about the sanctuary being filled and people sitting in the alcoves on the side.

Thinking back on those stories, I realize that Saulsbury Baptist Church was more than a church. It was an important part of an isolated rural community. Every Sunday, people took winding roads from the surrounding hills and hollows to see each other and worship. Brother Jewel was more than a preacher. He was a central pillar of the community.

That community was Saulsbury, a place that cannot be found on a map. Sometimes, I think it was more of a state of mind. Watertown is the nearest town and has never been populated by more than a few hundred people. Some of the folks in Saulsbury had electricity. None of them had indoor plumbing. If there was a telephone, then it was on a party line. There were a few stores, but, mostly, there was the church.

I have my own memories of Saulsbury Baptist Church. When I was a kid, my parents would visit and drag my brother and I along. When I say drag, I mean it. Going to Saulsbury was not my favorite thing. Looking back, I should not have had that attitude.

We went on special occasions which usually meant going to a “dinner on the ground.” The members brought food for a huge picnic after the service. The women tried to outshine each other with their dishes. Desserts were the big competition, but it also happened with other foods. I have always loved deviled eggs, and there would always be several platters full. However, there is a thing about deviled eggs. They are either good or bad. There is not much in between. I learned at Saulsbury Baptist Church to scout out deviled eggs carefully.

I also have memories of the services. Like good Baptists, we sat in the back pews. People whose names I could never remember came by to talk to us. My grandmother sang in the choir. Somebody played the piano. Somebody played the organ. Brother Jewel always preached. He was there for fifty years.

I remember thinking that everyone was old. I am sure that they were not as old as I thought, but I always felt uncomfortable around old people. That is why going to Saulsbury was not my favorite thing.

On Sunday, the experience was different. We sat in our usual pews, but the other ones were empty. Only twenty people were in attendance, and we made up almost half of that number. The alcoves were closed. There were seats for a choir but no choir. There was a piano but no one to play it. There was an organ but no one to play it. There was a baptismal pool but no one to be baptized. There was a preacher, but it was not Brother Jewel. It was a man who does it part-time.

Saulsbury Baptist Church, which was an important part of an isolated rural community, is dying. It is sad, but it is true. Over the past few days, I have been thinking about the reasons.

My dad would never want to read this, but I think it started with his generation. Many of them left the hills and hollows to do something other than work on the farm. As his generation and the following generations moved on, Saulsbury Baptist Church never had a chance. The older generations were still there, but they would not be there forever.

Those were the generations that were making the desserts and deviled eggs of my memories. I thought everyone was old because they were the age of my grandparents and older. There were not that many people younger people around. There were few people the age of my parents and fewer people the age of me.

On top of that, the federal government built an interstate through the middle of Saulsbury. This meant that the community was splintered and no longer isolated. A splintered community with citizens who can get somewhere else quickly does not need a church at its center.

As we left Saulsbury Baptist Church, we passed a lot of houses. There may be more people living in that area now than there were when my dad was growing up. However, these people live in a different world. They are not isolated. They can get on the interstate and be at their jobs in a matter of minutes. They do not have to work on a farm in a hallow. They can breathe the country air and have access to anything they want.

They want to go to a church with activities for their kids. They want to go to a church with people who are an extended family. They want to go to a church that is a central part of the larger community.

Saulsbury Baptist Church used to be all of those things to the people who lived in the surrounding hills and hollows. Now, it is that little church around the bend that people pass on their way to somewhere else.

 

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats

4 Mar

A few week ago, my wife and I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, which we like to do when they have an interesting exhibit. This time, they had a couple of exhibits that I wanted to see. The first was about Sam Phillips and Sun Records. The second was about the friendship between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and the effect it had on the Nashville music scene.image-7

Nashville has always been known for Country music, but I have been more fascinated with the story of Nashville’s other music. For example, it has a deep Rhythm and Blues history and is where Jimi Hendrix got his start.

I have read about Dylan’s time in Nashville and was interested to see how the Country Music Hall of Fame would present it. They did better than I could have imagined and introduced me to facts that I did not know.

Obviously, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash were the focus, but that was only the beginning. It covered the artists who were inspired by Dylan’s work in the city and followed him here. It was awesome to see the display on Paul McCartney and his time living in my hometown of Lebanon.image-9

The story of Paul McCartney’s time in town has gone down in local lore, but there were a ton of artists that I never knew recorded here. On the way out, I bought an album of songs that were highlighted in the exhibit, and it provides an example of some of those artists.

Gordon Lightfoot

The Byrds

The Monkees

Leonard Cohen

Country Joe McDonald

Simon and Garfunkel

George Harrison

Ringo Starr

Joan Baez

Neil Young

Derek and the Dominos

Those people are well-known in the history of music. However, this exhibit also highlighted the session musicians who played the music to which those people sang. These are the unsung heroes of Nashville and have become known as the Nashville Cats.

Several people had their own displays, but Jerry Reed was my favorite. Those who only know him as Snowman in Smokey and the Bandit or the football coach in The Waterboy may not realize that he was one of the greatest guitarists to ever play in Nashville. He was the heir apparent to Chet Atkins and had a distinctive style that other players have tried to duplicate.image-8

As always, the Country Music Hall of Fame did a fantastic job with the exhibit. Each time I go to the museum, I learn something new. If you ever make it to Nashville, then you will need to visit the place. Just remember that Country music is not the only music that has come out of this city.

Lessons From Snowmageddon

22 Jan

We are currently experiencing our worst snowstorm in 13 years. I realize that it pales in comparison to the experiences of our northern neighbors, but it is a big deal for a place that is not prepared for the worst snowstorm in 13 years.image-5

During this time of being cooped up in the house, I have learned a few things. Here is a list.

Some people actually like this stuff.

Everything is closed. Schools. Businesses. Government offices. The list goes on and on. However, our local Chamber of Commerce decided to continue with their scheduled meeting. This freaked out my wife because she is on the Chamber board and was afraid she was going to miss something. They ended up getting her on a conference call because they were one short of a quorum. What did I learn from that? Half of the folks at our Chamber of Commerce are willing to put their lives on the line to support local businesses.

By the way, whenever I hear the words Chamber of Commerce, I think of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, a movie that stars Don Knotts. There is a guard at the Chamber of Commerce picnic. If you are not C. of C., then you do not get in. Atta boy, Luther.

If Leonardo DiCaprio wins an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything in The Revenant, then I should win an Oscar for trouncing through the snow and not saying anything while taking out the trash.

It pays to have a gas fireplace, but it does not pay to stub your toe on said fireplace. I think I am going to have to stick my foot in the snow to numb it.

Friends stole the body of Gram Parsons from the airport and tried to cremate it in Joshua Tree National Park. I learned this from my wife, who is working on an article about Nudie. If you do not know about Nudie, then you need to look him up.

Hanging around the house all day leads one to eat a lot. I need to get on the treadmill, but I have to wait until my foot stops hurting.

There are different Rummy rules for different people.

If you think you have Man of Steel, then you had better make sure before the worst snowstorm in 13 years. That will be the time that you want to watch and discover that you do not have it.

Anyway, that is what I have learned during our worst snowstorm in 13 years. In a few hours, I will not be able to learn anything because I will have lost my mind from cabin fever.

 

 

 

Cumberland Nomenclature

6 Jan

I work at Cumberland University. A few blocks away sits a Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Around town, there are numerous businesses named Cumberland, including Cumberland Animal Hospital. Just north of town flows the Cumberland River. A geological formation called the Cumberland Plateau is east of here. Cumberland County is on top of the Cumberland Plateau. In Knoxville, the students at the University of Tennessee hang out on Cumberland Avenue. Lake Cumberland is a recreational area in Kentucky. Pioneers, including Daniel Boone, made their way through the Appalachian Mountains at the Cumberland Gap.

In other words, there is a lot of stuff in this area named Cumberland. It is a word that people in these parts use on a daily basis. However, I have a question that I have never heard anyone ask.

What is Cumberland?

It turns out that there used to be a county in northwest England known as Cumberland. It came into existence in the 12th Century and was abolished in 1974. Interestingly, Graham and Bell were the most common surnames of the area. The Bell name is of particular importance to me. Also, I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell had relations in Cumberland County.

Despite the great names, I would be surprised if all of the stuff in this area was named after a defunct county in England. There must be something else. Lo and behold, more search engining proves that to be the case.

In 1644, the title Duke of Cumberland was created and named after the county from the prior paragraph. Several men held this title, and things in America tended to be named in honor of titled folks. Therefore, it stands to reason that things began to be called Cumberland for that reason. However, that leads to another question. Which Duke of Cumberland has his name all over this area?

More search engining led me to Prince William Augustus, grandson of King George I; son of King George II; and uncle of King George III. He fought in the War of Austrian Succession and in the Seven Years’ War. The Cumberland River and the Cumberland Gap were named in his honor, and, one would assume, the rest of the Cumberland named places and things followed from those.

Prince William, Duke of Cumberland received many honors in his lifetime. However, one posthumous recognition stands out. In 2005, BBC History Magazine named him the worst Briton of the 18th Century. Presumably, this was for his role in the Battle of Culloden. It was after this battle that many of his contemporaries began calling him The Butcher.

Yep, the common use of Cumberland in these parts is derived from this guy.Duke

My thirst for knowledge has been quenched.