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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.

Our Week With Eric Church, Carole King, the Bandit and the Nashville Predators

30 May

It has been an eventful week in the SBI World, and we have spent a lot of time in the city 30 miles to the west. For those not up on local geography, that city is Nashville.

On Monday night, we had tickets for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in the National Hockey League. The Nashville Predators have been on a magical run through the playoffs and have taken over the city. Long time Predator fans are not happy with the bandwagon people, but we felt that Game 6 was a must-see event. They clinched the championship, and I got to High Five the country music star who sat in front of us. I have no idea who he was, but my wife was not happy that I got to touch him and she did not.

On Tuesday night, I was back in Nashville for a fundraiser. Cumberland University, where I work, is the home of the Martin Van Buren Papers, and a Nashville attorney hosted an event to assist with that project. He has an amazing collection of historic artifacts and opened his office for tours. People paid to see documents signed by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Davy Crockett, King George III and various other people. It was interesting to see everything and to hear the stories of how the collection came together.

On Wednesday night, I went with my brother and my nephews to a truly cultural event. We went to the theater to see the 40th Anniversary screening of Smokey and the Bandit, a movie that I have seen a million times.

It was great to see the Bandit, Snowman and Buford T. Justice on the big screen, but it was also great to see people with their t-shirts. As bandit tells Snowman when they get to the warehouse full of Coors beer, it was “redneck heaven.” After it was over, I wanted to get a diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.

On Friday night, it was back to Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators. However, we were not there for a hockey game. We were there to see Eric Church in concert.

I do not know much about the singer, but we had already seen him at a Kris Kristofferson tribute concert. This one was more rocking and raucous. Eric Church is known for wearing sunglasses, and it was funny to see all of the guys in the crowd wearing sunglasses. I reckon that thought some female would mistake them for the performer.

On Sunday night, we went to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. It was a great show about the life of a prolific songwriter who also creating on of the great albums of all time. Through professional success and personal tribulation, she wrote songs that became part of the soundtrack for a generation. Now, we have to see the real person in concert.

At some point, I made the statement that I was not going to go into the city for a while. However, I will it will happen because there is too much cool stuff there to do. This week was just a small sample of that.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Should I…?

14 Apr

It is quiet. The only sounds are the hum of the air conditioner; the chimes on the porch; and the clicking of the keyboard. Nothing is moving. The dog is lying nearby on a blanket. Lots of questions are running through my mind.

Should I write about the controversy of moving the remains of President James K. Polk? Last week, I visited his ancestral home in Columbia, Tennessee and met the people who would like for him to be there. The worst part was someone in my group not knowing that he had been president.

Should I be outside? After all, it is a beautiful day.

Should I listen to Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Earlier, I listened to some of it. The album starts with “Grand Ole Opry Song.” Luckily, we were able to attend their 50th Anniversary concert at the Ryman Auditorium. It was a great show.

Should I clean out my emails? Yep, I have a couple of email accounts, and both of them have gotten out of hand. I need to go in and delete some stuff. It is terrible to let spam hang around.

Should I get a flip phone? I have noticed something. Everyone who has a smart phone is always on it. They are addicted to it. I should not say they. In reality, it is we. Anyway, I also noticed that those who still have flip phones are never looking at them. That could be the way to go.

Should I check the mail? Wait, it is a holiday. Have you ever gone to the mailbox before realizing that the mail did not run. It has become a holiday tradition for me.

Should I put up the computer and do something besides type? I believe that I should.

Rambling Ruminations While Watching a Movie

29 Jan

It was a dark and stormy night. No kidding, the movie we are watching is currently showing a dark and stormy night engulfing two people operating a lighthouse. It is a romantic movie with deep undertones that my wife wanted to watch.

Other than the light from the television and this computer screen, it is also dark in this room. Luckily, it is not stormy.

Until now, the movie has featured the happy vibes of two people falling in love. The storm has brought on the serious part of the story with depression, anger and other feelings that take place on an isolated island. On top of that, the storyline is about to get super complicated.

Speaking of storms, they say that it is going to snow tomorrow. However, the weather app on my phone says the temperature is not going to get below freezing, and I have yet to figure out how it is going to snow with temperatures above freezing. I suppose that is one of those great mysteries of life.

Speaking of mysteries, my favorite is the story of D.B. Cooper. Who was he? What happened to him? It is simply one of the all time great unknowns. For those who have never heard of D.B. Cooper, you need to look him up.db-cooper

While no one knows Cooper’s true identity, it is known that he hijacked an airliner on November 24, 1971. My third birthday was celebrated the next day. Here is what else was going on that day.

“Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes was at the top of the music charts.

CBS aired The Carol Burnett Show and Mannix.

NBC offered up Adam-12 and McCloud.

Black Beauty was released in theaters.

Man, it has been a long time since November 24, 1971. If we have not solved the mystery of D.B. Cooper by now, then it will probably never be solved. I guess that is what happens when you jump out of an airliner on a dark and stormy night.

 

The Lair of the White Worm and the Night Stalkers

24 Nov

It is a time to write. Alas, what is there to write about? I only know that it feels like a time to write. In other words, it feels right to write.

Last night, I was reminded that there is an awesome movie called The Lair of the White Worm. It came out in 1989 and was a big hit with my running crew. It starred Hugh Grant and Amanda Donohoe. She was a lot better at her role than he was at his. We watched it a lot of times, but I just found out that it is based on a work of Bram Stoker. I am sure he would be proud of what they did with it.

Here is a funny story. I was dating a young lady and asked if she wanted to watch The Lair of the White Worm. She thought I said Larry the White Worm and assumed it was a porn movie. That was a disastrous moment.

We went to Jamaica a few weeks ago. There is a post about it running through my mind, but I do not have it completely worked out in my mind. I need to write it before it goes stale. Anyway, I mention it because it is a good excuse to use this photograph. img_2134

Last week, I was fortunate enough to tour Fort Campbell, the military base that sits on the Tennessee and Kentucky border. It is home to the 101st Airborne, the unit from which Jimi Hendrix washed out. It is also home to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers. I made a video of their water training facility. Unfortunately, I cannot upload that video. However, I can offer this photograph.img_2144

Hey, that it two photographs of swimming pools. One is for fun. The other one is definitely not for fun.

The room is turned into a small hurricane, and that mock helicopter is dropped into the water. The people inside have to get out. It was an intense thing to watch.

Oh yeah, Fort Campbell is named for William Bowen Campbell who lived in our little town of Lebanon.

Who was William Bowen Campbell? He was the 14th governor of Tennessee and was the state’s last governor from the Whig Party. He is buried in Lebanon’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.

I need to write more, but I fingers have stopped. My mind is at a roadblock created by more serious musings. When I am ready to bring those to the screen, I will let everyone know.

An Ode to Lester Strode

26 Oct

The Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, and they have chance to do it again over the next couple of weeks. Around the country, people are celebrating the return of the Cubs to the pinnacle of baseball achievement, but, around here, we are celebrating something else.

Lester Strode, the bullpen coach for the Chicago Cubs, played baseball for Cumberland University, the school where I teach. In honor of Coach Strode, he are some other things that happened in 1908.woody-strode

A long-distance radio message was sent from the Eiffel Tower for the first time.

The first major commercial oil discovery in the Middle East was made.

Robert Peary set sail for the North Pole.

The Hoover Company acquired manufacturing rights to the upright portable bathroom cleaner.

Emile Cohl made the first fully animated film – Fantasmagorie.

Henry Ford produced his first Model T automobile.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in Bolivia.

Louis L’Amour was born.

Bette Davis was born.

Ian Fleming was born.

Estee Lauder was born.

Lyndon Johnson was born.

Grover Cleveland died.