Tag Archives: Cumberland University

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Football and a Musical Complaint

7 Nov

Lately, I have watched some bad football. The Tennessee Titans leave a lot of be desired. The season of the Tennessee Volunteers has gone from great promise to a quagmire. I am also reading a book about an infamous game in the history of Cumberland University. For those who do not know, our school lost to Georgia Tech 222-0. It is the biggest defeat in the history of college football.

Sam Hatcher, who I have known for years, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the game. Heisman’s First Trophy: The Game that Launched Football in the South is an interesting read that provides a great story of the game. I would recommend it to anyone. Some of it is fictionalized, but the heart of the story remains true.heisman-book

I have been surrounded by bad football, but I have also witnessed some bad halftime performances. The University of Tennessee Marching Band is known as the Pride of the Southland, and they have been performing something called the “Circle Drill” for 50 years. I know that because they announced  that this year is the 50th anniversary of the routine. Certainly, it is a difficult marching formation to perform, but I have one request.

PLAY SOME NEW SONGS!

I have been watching the “Circle Drill” for 42 of the 50 years that it has been in existence, and they have played the same songs the entire time. I can even recite the announcer’s script.

They do a musical tour of Tennessee by starting out in Memphis. That is when they play Elvis Presley’s “signature” tune “C.C. Rider.” Then, they go to Chattanooga with “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Next is a visit to Nashville with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They end up in Knoxville with “Rocky Top,” the school’s unofficial fight song.

I understand “Rocky Top.” It fires up the crowd and needs to be played. However, it is time to spruce up the rest of the collection. Tennessee is one of the most musical places around. I know they can do better.

First, “C.C. Rider” is not the “signature” song of Elvis Presley. I guarantee that if you ask anyone to name and Elvis song that one would not be mentioned. I would choose “Hound Dog.” Here is the other thing. Elvis was not the only creator of songs in Memphis. What about doing a Tina Turner songs? Or an Isaac Hayes song? What about a Blues classic or something from Stax Records?

I know that “Chattanooga Choo Choo” is an obvious selection for Chattanooga. However, they could throw the crowd a curve with “Chattanooga City Limit Sign” by Johnny Cash. How about “Lookout Mountain” by Drive-By Truckers?

Nashville, otherwise known as Music City, is home to hundreds of artists and thousands of songs. I think they can find a new one. “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful would be a great pick. Heck, they could shock the world by playing a Jimi Hendrix tune. It would work since he spent his early days in the clubs on Nashville’s Jefferson Street. I cannot even do this paragraph justice. There are so many songs to play that they could close their eyes and pick one out of a songbook.

Better yet, they could get the band from Tennessee State University to do the “Circle Drill.” I know the Aristocrat of Bands and the Sophisticated Ladies could circle it up.

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.

 

 

From Dancing With the Stars to Highlander

28 Sep

A glass of Pappy Van Winkle is sitting by my computer. Dancing With the Stars is on in the background. Is it any wonder that politics has taken the form of a reality show? We have been watching reality shows for over two decades.

The breakfast room table is covered with things that have nothing to do with breakfast. There are two laptops, including the one that I am using. There is a bottle of Ranch dressing. I guess that could be used for breakfast if you are into that sort of thing.

My stepdaughter and I went to a bookstore this afternoon. I always find comfort in a bookstore even when I cannot find a book. We have to drive to the next town to go to a bookstore. That is one of the things I want to fix about our town. Every town should have a good bookstore even at a time when bookstores are being killed off by this Internet thing that you are reading.

I am trying to think of what cannot be bought on the Internet. Is there anything that cannot be bought on the Internet?campus

This year, Cumberland University, where I teach, reached record enrollment. We are in our 175th year and have a rich history. However, 2016 may be the best year ever. That is pretty good when your alumni includes Cordell Hull, Father of the United Nations, and two Justices of the United States Supreme Court. It is a good reason to celebrate with a glass of Pappy Van Winkle.

Some people think you can buy a college education on the Internet. It is a fad that has made a lot of money for a lot of universities. However, it is a plan that I believe is not educationally effective. I could be old-fashioned, but I am a History teacher. There are times when old-fashioned is the better way.

I guess that is all I have to say. I will finish with a quote from the Kurgan in Highlander.

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

 

 

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Martyr of Phenix City

15 Mar

There have been tons of movies about corruption in America’s cities. The list is long, but it includes:

New York

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

Chicago

Boston

Phenix City, Alabama

Have you never heard of Phenix City?

In the 1940s and 1950s, Phenix City was a den of organized crime that included prostitution and gambling. Those enterprises were successful because Fort Benning sat across the border in Georgia. Where there is the military, there are young men with money. Where there are young men with money, there are folks who come up with ways to get that money. Phenix City was where those folks were based.

However, there were also folks who did not want their community to be dominated by corruption and who worked to clean up the town. Albert Patterson, lawyer and politician, was one of these people.Albert Patterson

He served in the Alabama state senate from 1947 to 1951. After that service, he joined the Russell Betterment Association to help eradicate organized crime from Phenix City and Russell County.

This did not sit well with those who profited from vice, which was proven by the resulting violence. As a result, the members of the Russell Betterment Association decided that it had to be fought on the state level. Since Patterson, had held office in the capital, he was for the Democratic nomination for State Attorney General.

At the time, Alabama was a one-party state, and the Democrats were that party. If you won the primary, then you had won the office. That was not a result that the organized crime figures of Phenix City could tolerate. In 1954, Patterson left his office and was shot while getting into his car. His son, John Patterson, replaced his father on the ballot and won. He would later become governor.

In 1955, Hollywood entered the picture and released The Phenix City Story, which told the tale that I just wrote about. It stars John McIntire as Albert Patterson and fits in the film noir mode.

So, why am I writing about long ago corruption in an Alabama town?

Well, I have heard about Phenix City my entire life. My dad was fascinated with it, and I picked up bits and pieces of it. In later years, I watched the movie and found it interesting. As I learned more about the story, there was always something nagging at the back of my mind. There was some bit of information that I knew was in there, but I kept missing it. Finally, I started digging around and figured it out. I could have heard it before and forgotten it. I could have just suspected it. Now, I know.

Albert Patterson, who fight against organized crime and resulting death was chronicled in a movie, graduated from Cumberland University.