Tag Archives: Lebanon

The Night My Dad Received the Legends of Lebanon Award

14 Nov

Every so often, our city honors a person who has been a business leader and civic leader in our community with the Legends of Lebanon Award.

From Left to Right: Alderman Fred Burton, my dad, my mom, Mayor Bernie Ash, me

Last week, that award was given to my dad.

It was a great night. He was thrilled, and the entire family could not have been prouder.

The proclamation reads as follows:

Charles Bell was born in Saulsbury, a community in eastern Wilson County, and grew up on the dairy farm owned by his parents Albert and Pauline Bell. During his childhood, there was no electricity or indoor plumbing, but his parents and his extended family, which included Uncle Chester and Aunt Selma Bell, instilled in him the importance of hard work. During the summers, Charles sold walnuts; counted cars for the state; measured tobacco; and showed his work ethic in various other jobs.

Charles graduated from Watertown High School, where he played football, and moved to Lebanon when he married Elaine Vanhook. He tried a few jobs but found his calling with the help of his father-in-law J.W. Vanhook. Together, they invested in a business to assemble storm doors and storm windows and sell them door-to-door.

From there, Charles formed Lebanon Aluminum Company, known as Le-Al-Co, which he owned and operated for 30 years. Under his leadership and salesmanship, the company grew to employ 400 people and have its products sold in 49 states and Great Britain. Windows and doors manufactured in Lebanon filled the shelves of Home Depot, K-Mart, J.C. Penny and regional hardware chains throughout the country.

Charles also founded Bell Door Company, which produced wooden doors. After several years of operation, he sold the business to Steves and Sons, which has maintained a manufacturing facility in Lebanon since the 1970s and continues to employ over 100 people.

Charles’ business ventures have not been limited to manufacturing. He served on the Board of Directors of Heritage Federal Bank, a Kingsport-based bank that had a branch in Lebanon.

He was also one of the founders and served on the Board of Directors of Wilson Bank and Trust, which is now one of Lebanon’s largest employers.

In addition, he was one of the founders of The Wilson World newspaper, which is now known as The Wilson Post.

Through the years, Charles has believed in serving his community. This began as a member of the Lebanon Jaycees, an organization that led projects such as the building of the Lebanon High School football stadium, which is now the Cumberland University football stadium.

In 1968, Charles was elected President of the Tennessee Jaycees, and, in 1969, he was elected Vice-President of the United States Jaycees. That same year, he was honored as one of Tennessee’s Outstanding Young Men.

When his time in the Jaycees was done, Charles continued to serve in various ways.

He is a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Shriners International.

He served on the Governor’s Cabinet as Commissioner of General Services for the State of Tennessee.

He has served on the Board of Trust of Cumberland University and the Belmont University Board of Trust.

For many years, he was a member of the Wilson County Water Authority Board.

A long-time member of Lebanon’s First Baptist Church, Charles has also served the church in many capacities, including Deacon.

Charles has also found time to invest in recreational activities. Never forgetting his time growing up on a farm, he has retained his love for agriculture and created Horn Springs Angus Farms. Through an extensive breeding program, his stock became the highest ranked angus herd in Tennessee and one of the best in the country. During Charles’ time as owner of Horn Springs Angus, cattlemen from throughout the nation traveled to Lebanon to attend the annual production sale.

For almost 25 years, Charles sponsored the Le-Al-Co Storms, a men’s slow pitch softball team that competed in the highest levels of the sport. They won 10 state championships and finished as the second ranked team in the nation in 1991. In 2010, Charles was inducted into the Tennessee Softball Hall of Fame as the sponsor with the most state championships and most wins in Tennessee history.

In 1991, Charles suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage while attending a meeting in Kingsport, Tennessee. He was 53 years old. Doctors gave him little chance to live and, if he lived, they believed he would be bed-ridden. With the determination and work ethic he displayed in business and community service, Charles went through years of rehabilitation to beat the odds.

He proved the doctors wrong and continued his work with Wilson Bank and Trust and his cattle operation. He also continued to provide a strong foundation for his growing family.

Charles and Elaine have two sons. Jack and his wife Meleia have two sons, Weston and Bronson. Rick and his wife Necole have one daughter, Isabella. Through everything he has done, Charles’ greatest accomplishment has been a loving husband, father and grandfather.

 

 

 

 

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Movie Wisdom – Bruce Cabot Edition

15 Aug

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my brother that contained an interesting link – the Wikipedia page for Bruce Cabot. For those who do not know, Cabot was an actor who became a favorite costar of John Wayne. Being raised on John Wayne westerns, we know Cabot’s work well. However, this link had information that we did not know.

Cabot’s father was Major Etienne de Pelissier Bujac, Sr. Of course, that means Bruce Cabot was Etienne de Pelissier Bujac, Jr. before taking on a three syllable stage name. Wait, I got off track.

Cabot’s father was a prominent attorney in Carlsbad, New Mexico. You may be wondering where he received his law degree. That would be from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee – the place from where my brother and I have degrees and the place where I teach.

The western movie nerd that I am thinks that connection to Bruce Cabot and John Wayne is awesome. To celebrate, here are some words of wisdom from a few of Cabot’s movies.

From King Kong

The public must have a pretty face.

From Angel and the Badman

Funny thing about pancakes: I lose my appetite for ’em after the first couple a dozen.

The Lord moves in mysterious manner at times, using strange methods and odd instruments.

Each human being has an integrity that can be hurt only by the act of that same human being and not by the act of another human being.

The practice of medicine is one of the most infuriating professions known to man. It takes thirty years of experience to teach you that – in the final analysis – there’s nothing to do but stand and watch.

From The Comancheros

Words are what men live by.

Never go to bed without makin’ a profit.

Do not be too conceited.

From Hatari!

The first sign of spring in the bush and the young bucks start butting heads.

From McClintock!

All the gold in the United States Treasury and all the harp music in heaven can’t equal what happens between a man and a woman with all that growin’ together.

There’s no such thing as free land.

You have to be a man first before you’re a gentleman.

From In Harm’s Way

All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be someplace else.

On the most exalted throne in the world, we are seated on nothing but our own arse.

Fish, or cut bait.

Indecision is a virus.

From The War Wagon

The world needs more simple understanding to bring people together.

From The Green Berets

That’s newspapers for you. You could fill volumes with what you don’t read in them.

From Chisum

No matter where people go, sooner or later there’s the law. And sooner or later they find God’s already been there.

From Big Jake

You shouldn’t butt into things that aren’t your business.

You know what the problem with money is? Somebody’s always trying to take it from you.

From Diamonds Are Forever

One is never too old to learn from a master.

 

The Amazing Journey of an Almost Forgotten Fountain

9 Oct

In 1925, the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution donated a fountain to honor the pioneers who settled our city. The fountain was placed in the northwest corner of the square where, at one time, people gathered to collect water. From its day of dedication, the fountain has had an interesting journey. Yes, it has been on the move.

The fountain remained in place for a couple of decades. I can imagine people in the 1930s gathering around it and discussing the hard economic times. They could have walked by while talking about the new president Franklin Roosevelt and wondering if he could do anything about it. During World War II, it was probably a backdrop for gatherings to sell war bonds or to see sons off to fight. It definitely survived the Tennessee Maneuvers, which were headquartered in our town. I wonder how close it came to being knocked down by a tank.

The fountain sat on the square through all of that, but it could not survive construction. The city was doing major repairs on the northwest corner of the square when Joe Graves, who served as county sheriff, saw the fountain on the back of a truck. When he learned that it was headed for the trash dump, he took it to his home on West End Heights and turned it into what must have been the nicest bird bath in town.

In 1967, Mr. Graves passed away. A year later, his widow sold the house, and the fountain was relocated to the home of their daughter Pam Tomlinson. The fountain that started on the town square was now a fixture in the Centerville community.

In the 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lawlor contacted Pam about the fountain and asked if she would be willing to return it to the Daughters of the American Revolution. She happily gave it back for it to be restored to a place of prominence. In 1976, it was rededicated and placed in front of City Hall on College Street, which was only a few blocks from its original location. A plaque commemorating the event was placed on its base, and it was transformed into a drinking fountain.

Finally, the fountain that had a home on the square and a home on West End Heights and a home in Centerville had a permanent home. Except, it did not. City Hall was moved to the former campus of Castle Heights Military Academy, and the fountain did not make the transition. Pam, like her father decades earlier, became concerned about the fountain. She asked several city officials and employees about their plans. After months of inquiries, she found it behind the city’s Public Works building with a pile of trash headed for the dump. She asked a city employee to deliver it to her house. Once again, the fountain was saved.

That was a couple of decades ago. The fountain faded from the memory of most, and those who remembered thought it was gone for good. Then, I received a call from my friend Larry, Pam’s husband. He had an offer I could not refuse. I had been appointed City Historian, and he was sitting on one of our city’s great mysteries – the Missing Daughters of the American Revolution Fountain. He told me that they wanted to give it back and for me to tell everyone that I knew where it was located.

At the next meeting of Historic Lebanon, I made the announcement that I had talked to the person who was in possession of the fountain. Mary-Margaret, member of Historic Lebanon and the Daughters of the American Revolution, immediately wanted the details. I told her that the location had to remain secret, but they could have it when a good location was chosen to display the fountain permanently.

Last week, the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a ceremony to once again rededicate the fountain.

It now sits in front of the Fite-Fessenden House, which is home to the Wilson County Museum. The fountain is a few hundred yards from its original location. After 92 years, we all hope that the fountain has finally found a permanent home. If not, then, hopefully, someone in the Graves family tree will come to the rescue.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

The Pelican Brief

16 Nov

You may know these lines.

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!

It is a limerick of some fame. In fact, some consider it one of the best limericks of all time.

Through the years, I have heard several limericks, and some of them have stuck in my mind. There is the one about Nantucket. There is also one I heard in a movie about a young lady from Niger who rode on a tiger.

Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what movie featured that one.

Now, back to the pelican limerick. Most people think it was written by Ogden Nash. Apparently, Nash wrote a bunch of limericks, and, when people do not know who wrote something, they automatically think he did it. Look it up. The name of Ogden Nash is all over The Pelican.

However, here is the thing. Ogden Nash did not write this one. The Pelican was written by Dixon Merritt, who lived in Lebanon, Tennessee.Dixon Merritt

His name is prominent in our town’s history. There is a building at Cedars of Lebanon State Park that bears his name. He also taught at Cumberland University; edited The Lebanon Democrat and The Tennessean newspapers; served as Tennessee State Director of Public Safety; and was an amateur historian.

On top of all that, he was a poet, and most people did not know it.