Tag Archives: Cracker Barrel

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.

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The Cinematic Legacy of Jerry Reed

8 Mar

The other day, I told the story of our visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. While writing it, another post came to mind.

Jerry Reed was featured in the museum’s latest exhibits on Nashville musicians. He was one of the greatest guitarists who ever came to town and played on a ton of albums. Chet Atkins thought that Jerry Reed was better than him. In addition to playing for other performers, Jerry Reed also had his own string of hits, and this video from The Porter Wagoner Show provides a good example of his talent.

With all of that being said, some people may know Jerry Reed more for his movies than for his guitar playing. That is why this post is not about his numerous songs. It is about the five movies that, in my opinion, are Jerry Reed’s best.image-8

There is no better time to start the list than now.

5. What Comes Around was released in 1985. It was not a great movie and probably cannot be found anywhere. However, it must make the list because part of it was filmed in my hometown. In the climatic scene, they blow up a building, and, in real life, that building was the original Cracker Barrel. A ton of people went out to watch the explosion.

By the way, they did not really blow up the building. It is still standing.

4. W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings was also filmed in this area. Released in 1975, it was Jerry’s first collaboration with Burt Reynolds, which would lead to the top movie on this list. The movie also starred other Country music performers. It is cool to watch and see some places in Nashville that no longer exist.

3. Gator came out in 1976 and also starred Burt Reynolds. In fact, it is a sequel to an earlier Reynolds movie. It is also different because Jerry played the bad guy. He was a criminal empire of drugs, gambling and prostitution. He also had a sidekick named Bones whose head stuck out of the sunroof of the car.

2. Bat 21 was released in 1988 and was a completely different movie from the other ones on the list. It is a true story that stars Gene Hackman as a pilot stuck behind enemy lines in Vietnam. I will not spoil the plot, but Hackman, Reed and Danny Glover find an ingenious way to get him out. If you have not seen it, then it is worth a watch.

1. Released in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit is one of the greatest movies of all time. If you do not think that, then you are wrong. That is just the way it is. Jerry plays Snowman, the truck driving sidekick of the Bandit, played by Burt Reynolds. Did I say that it is one of the greatest movies of all time? It was the second highest grossing movie of the year behind Star Wars. I really do not know what else to say. It is great.

Bonus

There is one more Jerry Reed appearance that I must mention. In 1972, he played himself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies. His performance of “Pretty Mary Sunlight” may be one of the greatest things that has ever been on animated television.

A Local Business Called Cracker Barrel

16 Dec

Yesterday, my wife and I had lunch at Cracker Barrel. Since that chain has over 600 stores in 42 states, thousands of people across the country did the same thing. However, it was a little different for us.

In 1969, Cracker was founded in our town of Lebanon, Tennessee. Dan Evins owned a Shell gas station at one of the interstate exits and hit upon the idea of selling to food attract customers. It was not just any food. It was good old southern food like grits, turnip greens and biscuits.Cracker Barrel

Obviously, the concept proved successful.

I write all of to explain that going to Cracker Barrel in Lebanon is more like going to a locally owned place than a nationwide chain. As soon as we walked in the door, we saw people that we know.

While waiting for a table, we saw my dad’s childhood friend and his wife. They mentioned that they sold one of their farms to one of our county officials, who happened to be standing behind them. That led to a great conversation that people who had gotten off the interstate probably did not understand.

After getting a table, we talked to the corporate pilot for Cracker Barrel, who is also a part-time preacher. In fact, he performed a wedding that turned into a blog post.

Before finishing our meal, the mother of a former girlfriend was seated next to us. She stopped for a few seconds before sitting down with some family from out-of-town.

The corporate headquarters of Cracker Barrel are located in town, and it employs a lot of local people. However, the leadership is no longer local. They all came in from somewhere else, and many of them live in another Nashville suburb. That does not matter. Cracker Barrel remains a Lebanon, Tennessee business.

Years ago, I was in Montana doing historical research. I was driving down the interstate and looking for something to eat. Up ahead, there was a sign for a Cracker Barrel. I pulled in at a strange eating time and was the only customer in the place. The manager came over to talk and asked where I was from. I said that I was from Lebanon, Tennessee and asked if he knew where that was.

He absolutely knew where it was because Cracker Barrel is one of our local businesses.

In Memory of Meacham’s

27 Dec

Tonight, we struggled to make dinner plans. My wife wanted to eat at home. My stepdaughter wanted to go out. I didn’t care what we did. We decided to dine out and made our way to one of the chains. That’s when my stepdaughter spoke up and said that she wanted to go to Los Compadres, one of the local Mexican restaurants.

Apparently, everyone else wanted to do the same thing. This place was packed. There were tons of people, and we knew a lot of them. A couple of people dropped by the table. Other people were sitting in the bar. On the way out, we stopped at a few tables. Everybody was there, and, with the kitchen being backed up, we had plenty of time to talk to them.

I started thinking about two things. First, people must have been tired of staying home and eating traditional Christmas fare. They had to get out and eat some chips and dip. Second, I started thinking about a place that used to be in town where you would see everybody. It was our local version of Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

Meacham’s Italian Cafe was owned and operated by Meacham Evins, whose father started Cracker Barrel. It sat at one end of a strip mall and served basic Americanized Italian food. The food was good, and it gained popularity because it was the nicest restaurant in town. We had the usual interstate chains, but this was something different. It was convenient and was a place where you could feel at home. Meacham was always there to ask about your meal and ask about your family.

Lunch was one of the peak times at Meacham’s. All of the movers and shakers could be found there around that time. My friend Robert and I were not movers and shakers by any means, but we had lunch there countless times. We saw all kinds of people, but I always looked forward to seeing one particular waitress. I ended up asking her out, and that led to all kinds of trouble that I could not have foreseen.

Speaking of trouble, Meacham’s became more than a lunch place when it was expanded into the neighboring space. That’s when the bar became the most popular hangout in town. There’s no way to know how many times I saddled up to the bar to get a drink from James, the bartender who knew everyone and knew what they drank. The place was always packed, and it was usually full of the usual characters.

My friends and I spent some great nights and some less than great nights in Meacham’s bar. I can remember one night when I found myself in the same room with three women whom I did not want to be in the same room with. Wait, I didn’t feel comfortable with them being in the same room with each other. That’s the better way to put it.

Lots of action took place in Meacham’s. Most of that action involved fun and frivolity. People went there on dates, and people went there with their friends. People dropped in for a quick meal or drink, and people sat on a bar stool all night. Meacham’s had something for everyone. And, that leads me to a story.

I was at the bar when a local preacher walked in. He wasn’t there for  a drink. He was on his way to a dinner in the private room and had to walk through the bar to get there. However, this wasn’t just a preacher. He preached at the church where my dad was raised and had known me since I was a kid.

I escaped to a dark corner when I realized that someone else in the bar needed to know. A local coach who went to the bar a little too much also grew up in this man’s church. I eased up to him and told him that the preacher was walking through the door. He looked at me like I was crazy but realized that I wasn’t joking. To make sure that he wasn’t seen, he got off of the bar stool and laid down flat on the floor. The preacher walked by and never saw him.

Meacham’s has been closed for a long time, and a few restaurants tried to take its place. None of them worked, and the location now looks something like this.Petco

Despite its demise, a bunch of people in my town spent a lot of time in Meacham’s. Some of it is fun to remember, but all of it is getting a little cloudy.

A Brief Look at the Historical Legacy of Lebanon, Tennessee

19 Aug

I just started a new book by Andrew Carroll called Here is Where, about a journey to find historic places that have been lost to, well, history. Although I am only a few pages in, it promises to be a good read about his journey to find these places and the people he met along the way.

It has also made me think about the history of my town. In class, we talk about the big events and people who took part in them, but history is local. There are a lot of amazing stories about people and events that we have never heard of. They are important to the towns in which they lived, but their notoriety doesn’t go past the city limits. My town is full of history.

Of course, some people don’t believe that. Several years ago, I was in a meeting, and a lady said that we had no history. That’s when I rattled off a list that included some of the following.

My workplace, Cumberland University was founded in 1842. Thousands of students have passed through its doors, but none are more important that Cordell Hull.Cordell Hull

Never heard of him? Well, he was Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt and known as the “Father of the United Nations”. He was also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course, his time as Secretary of State was in and around World War II. During that time, Cumberland University also played an important role as the headquarters of the Tennessee Maneuvers, a series of war games to prepare for the invasion of Europe. Soldiers fought battles and captures town all of Middle Tennessee. General George Patton was in charge of the Maneuvers and spent some time in town. I have heard that his private plane was still at the local airport when he was killed.George Patton

Another military leader started his career in town. Sam Houston opened his first law office on the square.Sam Houston

He went on to become governor of Tennessee, an office from which he would resign under mysterious circumstances. It was then that he went to Texas and became one of the leaders of the fight for independence from Mexico. After victory, Houston became the president of the nation of Texas and the governor of the state of Texas.

I always thought it was fitting that the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. They were just coming back home.

Following the military theme, Castle Heights Military Academy opened in 1902 and was a top private school for decades. Kids were sent from all over the world for a regimental education. The local girls loved them. The local guys didn’t care for them all that much. Thousands of students marched the grounds of Castle Heights, and some of them became famous. Can you imagine Gregg and Duane Allman in a military school?Allman Brothers

Me neither. However, they spent time at Castle Heights.

Another famous rock star spent time here while he was doing some recording in Nashville. Paul McCartney showed up with Wings and stayed at a local farm.Paul McCartney

He even wrote a song about it.

The farm was owned, and is still owned by Curly Putman, who wrote “He Stopped Loving Her Today“, considered by most to be the best country song ever recorded.

Oh, there’s one more thing that is of some historic note. Cracker Barrel was founded here by Danny Evins, who started serving food to attract people to his gas station.Cracker Barrel

The next time you get Uncle Herschel’s breakfast you should remember that Uncle Herschel was from here, too.

Looking It Up

3 Apr

The ladies at Book Snobbery have developed a great posting idea by turning their search terms and the search terms of others into haiku that are cleverly written and make me laugh every time. Knowing that I am nowhere near as witty as them, there is no way that I would be a copycat and try the same thing. However, their ingenuity has inspired me to look into my search terms and see how people get to my blog. Some are straightforward; some are funny; and I am thankful for each one of them.

Here are a few of my favorites from the most searched to the least.

ufo crash in town – I wonder what town they live in.

sandhal bergman bondage – This scene was not in Conan the Barbarian, but I wish it was. I bet Ahnold does too.

dylan “leaving for the coast” – Did he go with the sixteen vestal virgins? And, if he did could they understand what he was saying?

elvis presley childhood interests – They included playing guitar and eating fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

cracker barrel artifact painting with muslim woman – Cracker Barrel was founded in my hometown, so I know they have had accusations of being prejudiced. Therefore, I can’t imagine anything there with a muslim woman.

spring semester starts tomorrow and my books aren’t in – Was this a student or a teacher? Either way, I hope they made it work.

when can i find the hangover slot machine in tunica – Right now. I lost a few bills trying to become a member of the wolf pack of one.

american revolution prostitution – George Washington slept here, and so did everyone else.

True story. I was pushed into giving a lecture to the Daughters of the American Revolution about prostitution during the American Revolution. It was me lecturing about sex in front of a bunch of blue-haired ladies. To soften the topic, I used words like camp followers. As I talked, the following conversation took place.

Old Lady in the Back – What’s he talking about?

The Other Old Lady in the Back – He’s talking about camp followers.

OLitB -What?

TOOLitB – Camp followers.

OLitB – What?

TOOLitB – He’s talking about whores.

OLitB- Oh, I understand now.

does everyone wear a cowboy hat in nashville – NO

salma hayek “she kills” – A professional assassin, she also acts a little on the side.

day spa bug problems – I suggest you go to a spa that is not next to a truck stop.

electrawoman vampire – Bram Stoker meets Sid and Marty Krofft.

billy joe mccallister moustache bridge – I wish I had this when I wrote the post about misheard lyrics. Apparently, he threw his electric razor off the bridge. Mystery solved.

vampire winona ryder – She can bite my neck anytime.

acdc dirty deek and the dondo chief – Did someone really hear this? If they did, then did they sing it out loud?

did albert einstein like cheese? – Actually, he was eating string cheese when he developed string theory. Good thing he wasn’t eating squeeze cheese.

has natalie merchant had sex with women – I am not sure, but I will ask her when I see her. Or, maybe I should get a woman to ask.

that you are in fact surrounded by imbeciles – Now, you have come to the right place.

I will be away from the blog for a few days. I hope everyone has a good rest of the week