Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Swine Flu Is Not Just A Bunch Of Hogwash!

Wednesday, Egypt began slaughtering its entire pig population (some 300,000 pigs) as a precaution against swine flu even though no cases have been reported there. Farmers were infuriated and blocked streets and stoned vehicles of Health Ministry workers who came to carry out the government's order.

Normally, I do not do news stories here. I get enough of that in my real job. But, with all things considered, I thought I would make an exception.

And then the headlines read:

* Pig flu virus kills up to 86 people in Mexico
* Two people admitted to British hospital as 'precaution'
* Eight New York City children have 'mild form' of flu
* Canada and Spain confirm first cases
* 10 students in New Zealand 'likely' to be infected
* Reports of possible cases in Israel and France
* 1,300 others thought to have been infected

Where will it end?

Tennessee has one unconfirmed case of swine flu, involving a Williamson County child. 19 other cultures are currently being tested. There has been one confirmed case in Indiana, involving a young adult in northern Indiana.

Locally, we have certainly had our fair share of seasonal cases of influenza. So many kids have been absent from our schools, especially at the elementary school.

So far, there are no reported cases of swine flu in Kentucky, but Public Health Commissioner Dr. William Hacker says many are sick and being tested for it and it's reason to be concerned, but not panicky. He said this not the time to overreact, but be cautious.

Did he say it's not the time to panick?

Someone should have called the egyptians. Yesterday, 300,000 pigs went to market and none came home.

The World Health Organization says there are now 64 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States. None of the cases in the U.S. have been fatal.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Strother Line

Remember the story of when George Washington cut down the cherry tree? It happened in Fredricksburg, Virginia on a farm once owned by William Strother III.

My great-grandmother, Nannie Koger Boles, was a descendant of William Strother I, who came to America from England prior to the 18th century.

In my story, ‘My Family Tree Has An Executive Branch," I mentioned that my family tree, through the Strother clan, includes John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States; Zachary Taylor, the 12 president of the United States; and, James Madison, the 4th president of the United States and the Father of the Constitution.

Another Strother descendent is Randolph Scott, a star of the stage and screen from 1928 to 1962.

That’s cool right there…I don’t care who you are.

Patrick Henry is also in the Strother line, as is President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, General George S. Patton and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s son-in-law, Charles Robb, former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator.

I just found out about the George Washington connection. I also learned something else...

William the immigrant’s son, Robert, was the 6th great-grandfather of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States!

William the immigrant was already wealthy when he arrived in America. According to an excerpt from “Royal Lineage of Seven Gentlemen Who Settled in Virginia About 1650” by Edward Lewis (1917), Strother was a descendent of King Edward II.

It is amazing how William III’s daughters and others in his line, produced or married into families that produced so many great men. James Madison was the father of the U.S. Constitution. Jimmy Carter struggled during his presidency but won the Nobel Peace Prize for his great humanitarian work. Known as "Old Rough and Ready", Zachary Taylor had a 40-year military career in the U.S. Army, serving in the War of 1812, Black Hawk War and Second Seminole War. Arguably the most famous and significant achievement of John Tyler's administration was the annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845. The campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too is among the most famous in American politics. Patrick Henry was a prominent figure in the American Revolution, remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech.

William Strother the 4th had a daughter named Elizabeth, who married Sheriff John Frogge, Sr. (Fro-Jay). Their grandson, Arthur Robinson Frogge, was one of the first people to settle in Fentress County, Tennessee (Frogge Mountain). He was also the grandfather of Nancy Frogge, who was the wife of Elisha Koger, Nannie Boles’ grandfather.

The Strother Coat of Arms, pictured above, is Prius mori quam fidem fallere, which is latin for "Die rather than betray trust."

The Strother ancestral line is filled with so many great men and women who, good or bad but mostly good, helped shape America. To learn more, check out The William Strother Society, Inc.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Samuel Morse

Today, we are celebrating the birthday of Samuel Morse, the guy who invented the electric telegraph and Morse Code. What's interesting to me is that Morse chose to fine tune and later publicly demonstrate his electric telegraph machine in the very area where my ancestors once lived and worked.

My ancestor, James Frost, and other men in his family were ironmakers living in Morristown, New Jersey in the mid 1700's. Speedwell Village in Morristown, sprung up in the early 1800's and became the home of Speedwell Ironworks. It was on January 11, 1838 that Speedwell Ironworks became an historic landmark. That was when and where Samuel Morse first publicly demonstrated his electric telegraph.

Even though James Frost died long before Speedwell Ironworks went into business, still he had worked there in that most historic place. Historic because the ironworks of Morristown is where the weapons the continental army used in the American Revolution were made, and historic because, almost 100 years later, Samuel Morse worked on and tested his telegraph machine there in that ironworks plant.

James Frost had left Morristown twenty years before the Revolutionary War. His son, Captain James Frost, Jr., my direct ancestor, who worked as an ironmaker for Troublesome Works in present-day Rockingham County, North Carolina, fought in the revolutionary war at the Battle of Guilford County Courthouse and at Ramsey's Mill.

(The Notorious Meddler in Morse Code)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

At The Drive-In

If you are one of the fortunate ones who grew up in the age of the outdoor drive-in theatre, can you remember the very first movie you watched at one of those places?

The very first movie I can ever remember watching wasn't at Albany Drive-In Theatre, where I grew up. It was in 1964, at a outdoor theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the movie was, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." I don't remember the name of that drive-in, but it had a double screen, and for a 5-year-old boy, it seemed like that place was as big as Texas and there were a million cars there. I remember going to the concession with my aunt, and then trying to find our car on the way back.

"It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" featured an all-star cast; Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Jim Backus, Don Knotts, Larry Fine and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis and many others. The movie was about a former jail inmate enroute to the place where he hid $350,000 before incarceration. His car goes over a cliff, and when people come to his rescue, the dying man gives them details of where the money is buried. A crazy chase develops and the movie is just hilarious to watch.

There was something special about growing up at the drive-in. The atmosphere there was like no other place. Sitting in the car, you could smell the hamburgers from inside the concession stand, and you knew....YOU KNEW that Barney Neal's popcorn was in there, too. People would sit on the hood of their car, or on a blanket on the ground, or in the back of their pick-up truck. Absolutely nothing beat watching a movie on that big screen under the stars. The Albany Drive-In Theatre is where I learned how to drive a car. Along the way, I learned a lot of other things there, too. It was the perfect place to grow up, and if I had a chance to go back and do it all again, I would still want to grow up at Albany Drive-In Theatre.

I was joking when I told John D. Sloan that Pam and I were considering tearing down the radio station and building an outdoor drive-in theater on the lot. I said, "But there is just one condition....YOU have to be the one who runs the projector!" He just smiled the biggest ever. John taught his son, Steve, how to operate the projector, and the two of them did it alternately for many years. And, that's the way it was as my whole family chipped in and helped at the drive-in at one time or another. As I wrote earlier, it was our way of life.

Here's what lifelong family friend David Cross had to say upon the passing of Wallace Allred:

"Wallace Allred was a low-key, fine gentleman. He was as good to the young people in Albany as anybody ever was. Living within walking distance of the Drive-In, I don't know how many times, as a young boy, I would walk to the theatre and sit out front of the concession stand where there were always people hanging out, and watching the movie--sort of. Wallace never charged us for walking in. I suppose he knew we'd buy concessions, including the famous Barney Neal popcorn. The Means family, John D. Sloan, and the whole Speck-Allred clan would be on hand in the concession stand. I miss Albany Drive-In to this day. And the older I get, the more I appreciate Cecil Speck and Wallace Allred."

If you would like to share a special memory of Albany Drive-In Theatre or Clinton Theatre, or Wallace Allred, send an e-mail to, or click on 'Comments' below.

For more stories about Wallace Allred and Albany Drive-In Theatre, read "Life is a Circle" and "Wallace Allred Entertained Us".

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life is a Circle

They say life is a circle and the inside of that circle is filled with lots of ups and downs; joy, laughter, sadness, and along the way, many different milestones. Marina turned 16 today. I woke up thinking I am not ready for this day. But, it's here and there is nothing I can do about it. I called her to wish her a happy birthday before her school started. She sounded so excited on the phone. And why not? Turning 16 is a happy milestone for her. It means she is one step closer to getting her drivers license, and what kid wouldn't be excited about that? But, when I hung up the phone from talking to her, my mind wandered back to the time when I asked Elijah to stop growing and always be my baby, and he replied, "I'm trying Dad, but God won't let me!"

I remember when I turned 16, and yes I can remember back that far. I failed my driver's test the first time I took it because I didn't know how to parallel park. At the time, I thought it was unnecessary and I still think that today. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to parallel park in my life. Praise the Lord for shopping center parking lots! I've already been letting Marina drive on the (ahem) off-roads, and she does a great job. I'm just not ready to admit I have a child that is 16-years-old. It's more of a ME problem than anything.

See, this year, I turn 50, and before you start trying to give me a hard time about it, in the words of President Richard Nixon, "Let me make one thing perfectly clear." THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN FOR SEVERAL MONTHS!

I received a piece of snail mail a while back and from the outside it looked 'governmental' or official, but it also had the words: 'OPEN IMMEDIATELY IF YOU ARE BETWEEN THE AGE OF 50 AND 85.' I should have known better, but before thinking, stupid me opened it. Well, it got worse on the inside. It was from some insurance company, etc. etc. etc. But, then I saw it. Near the bottom of the letter, were these words in large, bold print: 'NOW THAT YOU'VE TURNED 50, YOU QUALIFY FOR THIS PROGRAM!' A-ha! Qualify? I had them and I knew it. I hadn't turned 50 yet. That's not for another several months. So, I wrote, "I THINK YOU HAVE THE WRONG GUY" on the letter and promptly mailed it back to them! My friend, Amy, is always calling me old, but she is usually so pre-occupied with some craziness in her life, I think she has me confused with someone else!

On Monday, my uncle, Wallace Allred, passed away. Two days later, Marina turns 16. I guess that's the way of that circle of life. 16 or not, Marina is always going to be my baby. Nothing will ever change that. I love you, Sissy! Happy Birthday!

Black Elk was a famous Sioux holy man who lived from 1863 to 1950. This guy got around. He was second cousin to Crazy Horse. He participated in the Battle of Little Big Horn...was injured in the Wounded Knee Massacre...and even traveled to England with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Somewhere along the way, he managed to write the following. Please read it.

Life is a Circle
Everything the power of the world does
is done in a circle

The sky is round
and I have heard that the earth
is round like a ball
and so are all the stars

The wind in its' greatest power whirls
Birds make their nests in circles
for their's is the same religion as ours

The sun comes forth and
goes down again in a circle
The moon does the same
and both are round

Even the seasons form a great circle
in their changing
and always come back
to where they were

The life of a man is a circle
from childhood to childhood
and so it is with everything
where power moves

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Captain James Frost

On March 15, 1781, American and British forces clashed near Guilford Courthouse at present-day Greensboro, North Carolina. The battle was the culmination of several months of hard campaigning by the armies of Nathanael Greene and Lord Charles Cornwallis. On the morning of the battle, Greene deployed his army in three lines. The first consisted of nearly 800 North Carolina militia arranged on the edge of a field with “their arms resting on a rail fence.”

One of the militiamen was my 4th great-grandfather....

Captain James Frost

Greene ordered the North Carolina militia to fire two volleys and then fall back. Cornwallis took the bait. His men advanced on Greene’s first line after a thirty-minute artillery barrage by both sides. The British broke through but suffered severe casualties in the advance. One American noted that, after his regiment fired a volley, the British “appeared like the stalks of wheat after the harvest man passed over them with his cradle.” Despite their losses, Cornwallis’s army continued to push against the americans. Unwilling to the risk the destruction of his army, and realizing that he had inflicted massive casualties on the British, Greene withdrew his army to Troublesome Ironworks nearly fifteen miles away. The battered British army did not pursue. Some researches have stated that the experienced ironmaker, Captain Frost, worked at Troublesome Ironworks.

American forces outnumbered British troops almost three to one, and although Cornwallis’s army had held the field, the Americans had punished them severely. One-quarter, or twenty-seven percent, of Cornwallis’s army lay dead or wounded on the battlefield. By comparison, Greene lost only six percent of his force. Cornwallis withdrew to Ramsey's Mill, on the site of the present Lockville Dam, where they encamped for two days caring for the wounded and burying their dead. At Ramsey's Mill, Cornwallis' troops used the rocks of the mill dam to create a bridge over the Deep River, allowing for the army to continue toward Cross Creek. Then, they destroyed the makeshift bridge so Greene's men could not follow. It was a clever trick and a sly way to excape the Americans and hopefully give his troops time to recover from the Battle of Guildford Courthouse. But, fully recover they did not. Five months later, Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington, speeding along American victory in the war.

Captain James Frost was born in 1762. He moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, where he died in 1808. His son, James Frost, Jr. migrated to Monticello, Kentucky, and was one of Micah Taul's volunteers in the War of 1812. James Jr.'s son, Stuart Corydon "Cord" Frost, fought against the Rebels in the Civil War. His son, Ulysses Simpson 'Grant' Frost, was the father of my grandmother, Vada Frost Boles.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wallace Allred Entertained Us

Wallace Allred died Monday at the age of 85. He was a local icon if ever there was one. Wallace stayed away from the spotlight. He never made headlines. You never saw his name in the paper. Most people probably never even knew him by his name. But, if you tell them he's 'the guy who sat inside the ticket booth and sold tickets at Albany Drive-In Theatre, they go, "Oh yeah, that guy!"

For 30 plus years, Wallace Allred entertained us. Albany Drive-In Theatre was owned by Wallace, my uncle, and Cecil Speck, my grandfather. I literally grew up there. Just like the radio station, the drive-in was a way of life for my family. For years, I guess I probably watched every single movie that played at the drive-in, many of them more than one once. Before I was old enough to drive, one of my aunts would park their car next to the concession stand and the younger generation of our family, me included, would sit in it and watch a movie. We did that a lot. Later, as I grew older, I would occasionally help out at the drive-in. I would accompany Wallaces' daughter, Pam, to Byrdstown, Livingston and Burkesville to pass out flyers of upcoming movies. Sometimes I would fill in for Wallace if he had to go see about one of his tractor-trailers. One summer, I popped the popcorn when Barney had to be out for surgery. It was also during that summer, that my brother, Mike, and I swept the field of all its trash 'and otherwise,' from the night before. For a while, we even cut the grass. I didn't mind helping out, but my favorite thing to do at the drive-in was to just sit in the car, with the speaker hanging on the door, and watch a movie. What a life!

Wallace Allred was not only an icon, but he was also an innovator, as well. He was not the first to bring entertainment to the Clinton or Overton counties, but when he did bring it, he stayed the course and held it all in place for 30 plus years....quite an accomplishment! While others came and went, Wallace stayed. In the early 1950's, Wallace, his dad Leland, and his partner, E. Kuell Stephens of Livingston, owned the Skyline Drive-In Theatre outside Livingston. In 1953, Wallace Allred and Speck bought Clinton Theatre, and then later, Albany Drive-In Theatre. In 1956, Leland Allred purchased the very popular Ritz Theatre on the square in Livingston. Built in 1938, the Ritz brought great entertainment to Overton County and beyond. Entertainers like Howard Masters, the best guitar player in Overton County at the time, and Ira Louvin, one half of the future Grand Ole Opry legend, the Louvin Brothers, would climb up on the roof of the Ritz and entertain a multitude of people on the sidewalk and street below, while inside, the theatre would be packed with people enjoying the latest movie. It seemed like every kid in Overton County showed up for the Saturday Matinee. The same thing was true in Albany. Wallace hired performers to entertain on top of the drive-in's concession stand, while the town square was always full of people from early to late every Saturday, and the main attraction was the Clinton Theatre.

The Clinton Theatre eventually closed and by the time the Ritz was destroyed by fire in 1962, Wallace and his partners were down to owning just the two outdoor drive-ins. Allred owned a 1940's model Harley-Davidson and it is a fact that, on many occasions, he would show the same movie on the same night at both drive-ins using just one set of reels - usually four per movie. He would start the show at Albany about a half-hour earlier than Livingston. As soon as one reel would be complete, he would hop on his motorcycle and take a new reel to Livingston. The distance between Albany and Livingston back in the days of the old Highway 111 with all the curves was about 35 minutes. It is legendary that Wallace made his motorcycle run to Livingston a lot sooner than 35 minutes.

A big trick for teenagers back then was to see if they could get by with sneaking into the drive-in. Former WANY disc jockey Art Pryor said, "Surely he knew us boys were sneaking in the drive-in!" Former WANY disc jockey Robin Halcomb said, "Wallace Allred was a gentleman!" Yes, and he was also a gentle man. My guess is that most of the time he did know when people were sneaking in.

The food at the drive-in was so much better than any place else. Maybe it had something to do with the atmosphere there, which was an experience unlike any other. There was just something about it that made it extra special for me. I can still smell Barney's popcorn and taste those delicious orange drinks! When Walking Tall part one came to town, the vehicles were lined up in both directions every night for several nights in a row. It was the biggest movie ever shown there. One of the funniest moments at the drive-in occured late one night when one of the Friday the 13th movies was showing. Just as a very intense moment in the film began to build, a cat found its way onto the lot. Right when the scene in the movie was reaching its climax, suddenly the cat jumped through the window and into the car. Instantly, the car doors were flung open and a boy and a girl emerged from the trans-am screaming for dear life.

In 1983, Albany Drive-In Theatre was sold to make room for a miniature shopping center. Even today, when I pass by Westview Shopping Center, I can't help but look in that direction and imagine the Albany Drive-In Theatre sitting there. One day, several years after the shopping center had been built, as I drove past the shopping center, I saw Wallace walking through the parking lot, and suddenly I was back in my youth again, and Wallace was walking from the ticket booth to the concession stand. I had seen him do that so many times before. It was a special moment for me and I was thankful for the gentle reminder of a great memory from my childhood. I decided right then that I was fortunate to have grown up at Albany Drive-In Theatre.

Monday morning was a sad day for all of us, friends and family alike. As the last reel was played and the movie had ended, the credits scrolling on the screen read...'the part of Wallace Allred was played by a gentle man, who entertained us.' You knew him best as 'the guy who sat inside the ticket booth and sold tickets at Albany Drive-In Theatre.'

Here's a free ticket to Albany Drive-In Theatre. Click here.

When WANY celebrated its 50th anniversary last October, the biggest highlight was when Wallace Allred showed up to help us celebrate. He mixed and mingled with friends for a couple of hours and ended up being on the air with us. As the photo shows, he ha while before making his way back to the studio, where he joined us on the air for a nice walk down memory lane.

You may leave your thoughts and comments on Wallace Allred and/or the Albany Drive-In Theatre or Clinton Theatre by clicking on 'comments' below, or by sending me an e-mail.

Dale Hollow

Dale Hollow Lake is one of the most popular man-made lakes in the South. But how did it get its name? The Corps of Engineers had the policy of naming dams for their location. In this case, studies proved the best site for the dam was in the narrow point in the Obey River valley adjacent to the mount of the Dale Hollow on Obey River.

Originally, Dale Hollow was the name of a farm that had been a full-fledged plantation in ante bellum times. It was settled in 1808 by William Dale, a government surveyor who came to this area to assist in surveying the boundary line between Tennessee and Kentucky. In 1808, he bought the first 449 acres of Willow Grove and named the area around him, Dale Hollow. When Dale Hollow Lake was impounded, some well-intentioned government employees approached Secretary of State Cordell Hull and offered to change the name of Dale Hollow Lake to Cordell Hull Lake, but Mr. Hull, a life long friend to the Dale descendants, said, "No, you have named it correctly already."

Ironically, the man for whom Dale Hollow Lake is named, drowned in the Mississippi River when his flat boat overturned.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Play Ball!

I love baseball. I'm not one to watch a game on TV, but put me in the stands and I LOVE IT!

Today was opening day for little league, and it was a beautiful day to be at the park. I broadcast the opening ceremony live.

Before the games began, Elijah was one of three players who stood at home plate and recited the Pledge of Allegience.

The smell of hotdogs in the air, the sound of the ball hitting the bat, the umpire yelling, "SAFE!" and the crowd roaring in approval...aaah! it's finally that time of year again! !

Today, I watched my niece, Chrissy, play her t-ball game. As the game began, and her team took the field, Chrissy took her place behind home plate as the hind catcher. When the other teams' coach walked up to the plate with his first batter, Chrissy proudly introduced herself by proclaiming,



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nixon's Night Out

So far, there have been 11 U.S. Presidents in my lifetime, beginning with Eisenhower. I have only seen one of them in person. The date was May 28, 1970. The place was Neyland Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The event was a Billy Graham crusade.

550,000 people attended the ten day crusade. As many as 500 buses rolled into Knoxville each evening. There was a 5,500-person choir. It was a time of unrest throughout the country. There were protests against the Vietnam war on college campuses, including at Knoxville. 24 days earlier, four students had been shot dead by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio. Suddenly, the war in Vietnam had taken the lives of young U.S. citizens in their own country. Hundreds of colleges reacted angrily to the terrifying news from Ohio. Many campuses closed.

President Richard Nixon was in seclusion at the White House after sending U.S. troops to Cambodia nearly a month earlier. He was needing to break out of the isolation. Since he felt comfortable in the South, and since his popularity here was considered 'stable,' because his wartime policies were heavily favored, he decided the Billy Graham crusade at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville would be a perfect way for him to connect to the people at a time of devastating national tension. Besides, Nixon and Graham were the two most admired men in 1970, so it was a perfect setting for Nixon to come out and be seen and feel safe doing it.

A group from my Church had tickets to the crusade for the night of the 28th of May, and it was only a few hours before we were to leave that we, and the rest of the nation, learned that a last-minute surprise guest at that evening's crusade would be the 37th President of the United States of America, Richard Milhous Nixon. He was going to be the first sitting president ever to speak at a Billy Graham crusade, and I was going to be there to witness it.

In the first days of the crusade, music legends Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and the Carter Family had been among the special guests. For Billy Graham, the Knoxville crusade was another chance to echo the themes he had pursued in other recently meetings - that the youth of America, hungry for identity and sense of family, could rally around a revolution for Christ. There had been a few protesters mingling outside the stadium handing out antiwar leaflets, but no one had gotten out of line. Little did everyone know that was about to change.

When we arrived at Neyland Stadium, one of the very first things I saw were the protesters chanting antiwar slogans and holding signs that read, "thou shalt not kill." For a 10-year-old boy, it was pretty overwhelming. Back in those days, we only had one hippy in our town. His name was Gus Samaras. You could see him sitting on the sidewalk near Branham Motel just about every day. He had the long hair and the beard, and the holey jeans, and he was always barefoot. I reckon that's how hippies dressed. At Neyland Stadium that night for me, a 10-year-old boy, who judged by what I saw, it was like a whole bunch of Gus Samaras' had shown up. For me, that was pretty wild. Not groovy, just wild.

Soon, a helicopter landed near the stage, and President Nixon and his wife, Pat, exited from it and were led to the platform. It was revealed that President Nixon's chief foreign policy adviser, Dr. Henry Kissenger, was seated near the stage. Also present were presidential advisor H.R. Haldeman, who would later be found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and imprisoned for his role in the Watergate break-in and subsequent scandal. Nixon's long-time friend, Bebe Rebozo, who became involved in the Watergate crisis when he was investigated for accepting $100,000 on behalf of the Nixon campaign from industrialist Howard Hughes, was also there, along with Nixon's long-time personal secretary, Rosemary Woods, best known for her role in the infamous 18½-minute gap in a secretly recorded audio tape she was making of an Oval Office conversation between Nixon and Haldeman that took place three days after the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Watergate Hotel, and might have shed light on whether Nixon knew about the break-in.

That night on May 28, 1970 at the University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, it wasn't Watergate that was on peoples minds. It was the Vietnam War. 75,000 people were in attendance. Just before Graham spoke, some of the 1,500 protesters sang John Lennon's song, "Give Peace A Chance," as they filed out of the stadium. As Graham began his introduction of the president, the 300 or so demonstrators that remained, began chanting, "Politics! Politics! I just stood there staring at them, watching their every move and listening to their every words.

When Nixon came to the podium, the demonstrators began chanting antiwar slogans, only to be drowned out by a roar of pro-Nixon boos. As he began to speak, the protesters began chanting, 'Peace now, peace now!' Someone in the 5,550 choir held up a finger and began chanting, 'One Way! One Way!' Pretty soon the entire choir was doing it. So, you had 'Peace now' on one side, and 'One Way' on the other." When Nixon would speak the protesters would chant. When he was quiet, they were quiet. Finally, singer Ethel Waters walked up to the platform and delivered this message to the protesters, "You chillun there, you hush now! If I was sittin' by you, I'd give you a smack! Then she added, "Then I would hug you and tell you that I loved you." Her sweet spirit seemed to have won out as the protesters quietened considerably.

At the invitation, in a staged event as the Rev. Graham prayed, the protesters stood silently with their heads bowed and one arm extended into the air with two fingers raised in a peace sign gesture.

The crusade ended three nights later. Over 12,000 people came to Christ during that ten-day period event.

For Nixon, his 'night out' in Knoxville was a triumph. Time magazine called his speech the greatest of his presidency. He said, in part, "I'm proud to say that the great majority of America's young people do not approve of violence. The great majority of American young people do approve, as I do, of dissent..." He said, "we can have what can be described as complete cleanliness and yet have a sterile life" without spirituality."

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Good Stuff

Easter Sunday was a nice day. The cantata seemed to go well. Marina had a little problem with her allergies, so we took time out to tend to her and then afterwards, enjoyed a nice meal at The Lighthouse, thanks to Papa and Nana. Later, Elijah and I went back to Church, where the Lord's Supper was being observed. As they were bringing the grape juice around, Elijah leaned over and said, "Here comes the good stuff!"

It was a simple reminder that, at Easter, we do indeed celebrate "the good stuff" - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Growing up, although I know I hunted easter eggs as a toddler, I never really celebrated Easter for anything else other than what it's really all about. When I was five years old, I told my older brother and cousin that the man with the big bag and the red suit was all made up. I'm sure that the following Easter I was shipped off to Siberia or some place for a few days, so I couldn't inflict any further damage. While I was disappointed when I first learned there was no such thing as Santa Claus, I have had several opportunities in my life to never be disappointed in Jesus. There is no charade in Him.

As Elijah so eloquently stated, it is "the good stuff!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today....A Long Time Ago

We've all met people who think the world revolves around them. I've actually seen some good folks die, and wondered aloud how will the world ever revolve WITHOUT them!

Seems like lately there are a lot more of those type folks dying than ever before. Maybe I am just getting older.

Veteran TV anchorman Dan Miller died the other night. He wasn't just the nightly news anchor at Channel 4 in Nashville....he WAS channel 4.

Sometime back, Miller recalled on his blog, Dan Miller's Notebook, when his then-five-year-old daughter had asked, "Daddy, this is a long time ago isn't it?" He said, "What do you mean sweetie?" She explained, "I mean, someday when I'm all grown up, today will be a long time ago."

We all want to live long enough in hopes that today will be 'a long time ago.' I hope that today will be 'a long time ago,' for my children when they reach the age of 100.

As I have written before, I read obituaries for a living, and it's always the saddest thing for me to file them away after the funeral has taken place. I guess that is why what McKenzie Miller said caught my attention the way it did. If what I am doing today is going to be remembered, when today becomes 'a long time ago,' then I need to get busy and make today count for something good. I guess some days I am better at that than others, but I don't want my life to end up being just another obit in a box here at the station.

My friend, Cathi, told me 'a long time ago' to always take the high road, and I have never forgotten that. Taking the high road, I am discovering, is just about the very best way to travel through this world, but it is a pretty difficult thing to do and maintain, and like I said, I guess some days I am better at that than others.

Dan Miller had a philosophy about life that, in his words, "rises far beyond a simple child's nursery rhyme."
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
It's a lot of work to get through life. Sometimes those choices we make don't turn out so gentle. It's a good thing when, on those rare occasions, I am able to keep both oars in the water at the same time.

R.I.P Dan Miller

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Kentucky

The moonlight falls the softest in Kentucky
The summer's days come oft'est in Kentucky
Friendship is the strongest, Love's fires glow the longest
Yet, a wrong is always wrongest in Kentucky

The sunshine's ever brightest in Kentucky
The breezes whisper lightest in Kentucky
Plain girls are the fewest, Maidens' eyes the bluest
Their little hearts are truest in Kentucky

Life's burdens bear the lightest in Kentucky
The home fires burn the brightest in Kentucky
While players are the keenest, Cards come out the meanest
The pocket empties cleanest in Kentucky

Orators are the grandest in Kentucky
Officials are the blandest in Kentucky
Boys are all the fliest, Danger ever nighest
Taxes are the highest in Kentucky

The bluegrass waves the bluest in Kentucky
Yet bluebloods are the fewest in Kentucky
Moonshine is the clearest, By no means the dearest
And yet, it acts the queerest in Kentucky

The dove's notes are the saddest in Kentucky
The streams dance on the gladdest in Kentucky
Hip pockets are the thickest, Pistol hands the slickest
The cylinder turns quickest in Kentucky

Song birds are the sweetest in Kentucky
The thoroughbreds the fleetest in Kentucky
Mountains tower proudest, Thunder peals the loudest
The landscape is the grandest
And Politics the d**nedest in Kentucky

*Written by Judge James Hillary Mulligan for a banquet for the members of the Kentucky legislature held 11 February 1902 at the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington. James Hillary Mulligan was born in Lexington on 21 November 1844. He was an editor, attorney, judge, state senator, consul-general to Somoa, and orator. His home, Maxwell Place, is the offical residence of the president of the University of Kentucky. Judge Mulligan died July 1, 1915.

An Uncommon Soldier

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman was the eldest of nine children when, in the summer of 1862, she posed as a man to get a job as a boatman on the Chenango Canal. Her driving motive was to provide money for her hard-pressed family. When she learned that she could pocket $152 in bounty money by enlisting in the army, she jumped at the chance. At the time, she was 17-years-old. Her regiment, the 153rd New York, served as part of the garrison force in Washington, and was even assigned for a time to guard the Old Capital Prison, while Confederate spy Belle Boyd was incarcerated there.

Wakeman, who used the name ’Lyon,’ during her scheme, had given up on seeing any active duty until February 1864, when her regiment shipped out to Louisiana to take part in the Red River campaign. After surviving the disastrous battle of Pleasant Hill, during which she was under fire for several hours, she was one of many who got sick during the ensuing arduous retreat. Suffering from chronic diarrhea, she was admitted to the regimental hospital and was ultimately sent to the Marine General Hospital in New Orleans. After battling her sickness for almost a month, she died on June 19, 1864, and was buried in a military cemetery.

Incredibly, while she was suffering in the hospital and even after she died, Wakeman was never discovered to be a woman…that is until letters she had wrote home during her military service were discovered in an attic 130 years later, in 1994.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Tale of the Noblesse Oblige

Rice Maxey was born in the year 1800, just as the first settlers were moving into Stockton's Valley, Kentucky. His grandfather, William Maxey, was a soldier in the American Revolution and was present at Yorktown during the surrender of the British forces under Cornwallis. In 1834, just as Clinton County was being formed from Cumberland County, Rice Maxey moved here. He had a legal practice and also served as county clerk, and he and his family all became members of Clear Fork Baptist Church.

Rice's son, Samuel Bell Maxey [pictured], graduated from West Point in 1846. At West Point, he roomed with Stonewall Jackson. Later, after serving in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War, he moved back to Albany, where he joined his father's law practice, and was also elected both Circuit and County Clerk.

In October of 1857, the Maxey family, including Sam, moved to Paris, Texas, where Rice and Sam established a legal practice. In 1860, Sam was elected to the Texas State Senate, but declined so he could fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. He reached the rank of Major General. Following the war, General Maxey was forbidden to continue his law practice because of his affiliation with the Confederate Army. He went to the highest office in the land, where he received a pardon from his former West Point classmate, President Ulysses S. Grant. General Maxey went on to serve as a Texas United States Senator from 1875 to 1887.

"In this country, thanks to free government, we have no hereditary nobility, but we have a nobility far above any that earthly title can give - the nobility God impresses on an honest man."
- Sam Bell Maxey.

Visit the Sam Bell Maxey House State Historical Site

The original 1848 obituary of Clear Fork Baptist Church's first pastor, Isaac Denton, was found pasted onto the back of a photograph taken on April 1, 1902, during the 100th anniversary of the Church. The obituary was written by Rice Maxey.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm Free! I'm Free!

I learned early on that the number one rule when reading the news is to 'proofread' it before you go live with it. It prevents a lot of unnecessary embarrassment that sometimes does not fade from the listeners' memory as quick as you would like. Trust me on that one. When reading a trading post item one day, Sid Scott misread the word 'trombone' when he said that someone had a used 'tombstone' for sale. Back when the news was fed into the station via a teletype machine, my dad one day called Fidel Castro, 'Fiddle' Castro. He once said, a "Presbyterian was run over," when what he really meant to say was pedestrian. Yes, those are funny, but no so funny if you're the guy who read them.

Ray Mullinix, had a bad habit of coming into the station at the very last second, grabbing the local news clipboard, and without any proofreading, would open the mic and commence to reading scripts on the air! Now, most of the time, he could pull that off, but there was one day he didn't.

Donnie Ray Johnson had called from WKYR to ask if I had any local news he could 'borrow,' so I told him I would send over whatever I had. Now, Donnie Ray and I were always up for a good laugh, so when I hung up the phone, I sat down at the computer and wrote a 'very' ficticious story, and then faxed it, along with the other 'real stories,' except I wrote, "THIS IS A JOKE!" on top of the fake story, because I knew about Ray's habit of last minute news reading. Donnie Ray had a good laugh out of my fake story. He then laid all of the hard copy I sent, including the fake one, on the clipboard and left the station. Big mistake.

Sure enough, as usual, Ray came flying into the station just in time to grab the clipboard, sit down in front of the mic and read the following:
"This just in.....a prisoner escaped from the Clinton County Jail today by digging a tunnel from inside his cell. The man dug and dug and dug until finally he was free of the confines of his imprisonment. When he came up above ground, he was in the middle of the playground area at a day care center, and when he realized he was no longer within the confines of the prison, he began shouting, "I'M FREE! I'M FREE! A little girl climbed off a nearby swing set, ran up to the prisoner and yelled, "I'M FOUR!"
He was almost at the end of the fake story, when he realized it was not real. Donnie Ray had just pulled into his family's store when he heard Ray reading it on the air. The more Ray read, the hard Donnie Ray laughed until he was just plum hysterical. Some guy walking thru the parking lot actually stopped and was staring at him. When he called me, he was having such spell that at first I thought Ray had died. Then, I finally realized what had happened. At first, I hated that it had happened, because Ray was sick at the time, and I hated that part, but on the other hand, it was funny to get one over on Ray, even if it was 'allegedly' by accident.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ruel Thomas' Singing School

Shape-note singing was formulated in Colonial New England in the 18th century, and kept alive in the rural southern states. Shape note singing uses four syllables, “Fasola,” for the seven notes of the scale and gives each syllable a distinctive note head: a triangle for fa, an oval for sol, a rectangle for la, and a diamond for mi. A seven syllable systemm "Doremi," was later developed.

When I think of shape-note singing, I think of Ruel Thomas. Reual was an important figure in the formative years of John Lair’s Renfro Valley, particularly after the operation moved to Kentucky in 1939. A native of Clinton County, Kentucky, Thomas was an accomplished quartet singer as well as active rural singing school teacher. His expertise in these areas profoundly shaped many aspects of the sacred music programming and events sponsored by Renfro Valley for over fifteen years during the organization’s most successful period. Not only did he lead various quartets that performed on many of Renfro Valley’s network radio programs, but he also organized many monthly singings, singing schools, quartet contests,an annual all-night and all-day sing and more on the grounds of Renfro Valley that served the surrounding local and regional communities of Kentucky.

Born in 1906 near the rural post office of what was then known as Tearcoat in Clinton County, Thomas grew up, is his own words, “under the strict supervision of one of those ‘Do-Re-Me’ singing school teacher fathers.” In 1950, while filling in for John Lair as emcee for the Renfro Valley Gatherin’, Thomas recalled how during his boyhood he was first introduced to the shape-note method that was taught by his father and would later become part of his own livelihood.

"During my first years in the rural school, a boy came home with me one night, and we were trying to pass away a few hours right after supper, before my mom called bedtime. My dad had already gone to his bed. Lying in bed, he suggested we try learning the musical scale in the old fashioned shaped note system. Of course we were looking for something to do, and we said if he would draw the face of the notes we would learn them. The trade was made, and as a result of that one few minutes spent learning the notes, I have learned to sing as well as I have."

Ruel and Flossie formed The Crusaders quartet in the mid 1930's and the group volunteered to sing for free on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Bass singer Morris Gaskins said they volunteered because of the broad coverage the group would get over the powerful WLW radio station in Cincinnati, which broadcast the Renfro Valley shows at the time. Later, Thomas changed the name of the group to the Seventy Six Quartet, in honor of the community he grew up in, and the group eventually began to be heard over the airwaves of WHAS in Louisville, when that CBS affiliate began carrying the Renfro Valley broadcasts. CBS was ready to turn the weekly broadcast a fifteen-minute daily program, but suddenly, in 1955, General Foods Corporation dropped its sponsorship of the program. It was a devastating blow. The program would have been heard by between five and seven million listeners each week in practically every state in the union. Sadly, this pretty much signaled the end of the Seventy Six Quartet, and eventually an end of the Thomas' public singing careers. Ruel died on Easter Sunday 1958, and Flossie was killed in a car accident four years later.

Old Rugged Cross/Give The World A Smile - Click to download this medley of songs that features bass singer Morris Gaskins. (From the Renfro Balley Gatherin' broadcast on WHAS around 1949.)

Ruel Thomas maintained an active schedule as a singing school teacher throughout his time at Renfro Valley. His shape-note style proved to be a perfect fit for owner John Lair's tapestry of “the valley where time stands still.” On August 5, 1940, Lair introduced Ruel Thomas and his Crusaders Quartet this way...

"I noticed some folks just coming in… It’s part of the choir from over at Seventy Six, Kentucky, and I know they’re gonna sing a song for us, and it’s going to remind me of the kind of singing we used to do right here in Redbud Schoolhouse on Sunday. As they sing, I’m going to sit here and look back over the years and see myself and lots of you other folks here, barefooted kids, sitting here on split log benches attending regular Sunday services in the old log schoolhouse, which served as a church house on Sunday, and I’m going to live over, for just a minute, a part of my life I’ll never forget. Some night we will have a regular old-fashioned singing school here in the school house and we’ll sing just about everything in the book."
Eventually, Thomas brought his singing school classes and choirs to the Renfro Valley stage, including a 1943 performance of the Ottawa, Kentucky Baptist Church Choir singing on the Sunday Morning Gatherin','with Lair emphasizing that the choir “sang from shape notes in the old-time way.” In 1948, Lair presented another one of Thomas’s singing school classes on the Gatherin’. The performance, which survives on a radio transcription disc in the Berea College Sound Archive, features the Cedar Springs Baptist Church from Casey County, Kentucky. (Click the link to download the song.)

In addition to the benefits Lair received by Thomas’s singing school activities, Thomas no doubt gained as well from the association. His exposure at Renfro Valley surely assisted him in filling up his schedule with teaching engagements, and the performance opportunities he could offer his classes was both good motivation for his students and a nice showcase for his work. One example of such mutual advantage was a singing school sponsored by Renfro Valley in July, 1948. Organized by Thomas, the three-week school brought in instructors that were “among the South’s best” and taught various instruments and even piano repair as well as singing. People from afar came to participate, with one group from Wayne County, Kentucky, traveling one hundred and twenty miles each night. With the conclusion of the singing school coinciding with the All-Day Sing, Lair featured Thomas’ student choirs on that mornings Gatherin’ broadcast as well as the broadcasted portion of the afternoon sing.

Thomas' involvement with local gospel singing seems to have only increased in the late 40s and early 50s. During the summer of 1949, he held monthly sings at Renfro Valley’s big barn, and in the early fifties he would publish announcements of local singings taking place in various area churches and communities in his Bugle columns. In August of 1950, he filled in as emcee for the Gatherin’ and used the opportunity to bring in four different quartets from the local area as guests. In addition, his singing school teaching seems to have been as active as ever, with him announcing several engagements in the Bugle during the summers of 1953 and 1954.

Thomas’ swan song with Renfro Valley came in 1956, when Lair asked him to be a part of the special Renfro Valley Folks television series being sponsored by Pillsbury Mills, Inc. The third of thirteen shows completely focused on documenting one of Thomas’ singing schools in action. This was Thomas’ last large-scale involvement with Renfro Valley, a fitting conclusion to his long association with the establishment as its local “old-fashioned music teacher.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wild Wooly Bullies

Since the dawn of time, man has been consumed by the unknown....from E.T. to the Loch Ness monster. Now, I am not saying I believe all that mumbo jumbo, but I will admit that I watched King Kong and Godzilla. I even watched The Blob! One thing I do know, or have read, it hasn't always been Area 52, or the scottish highlands, or the empire state building, or Odo Island, Japan that we've looked to for answers. No sir'ee!

For instance, did you know that, according to legend, an old indian burial mound located on the Adair County farm of Harrison Robinson was excavated around the first of January 1858, and was found to contain 'giant human skeletal remains?'

In December of 1953, two Casey County children witnessed a purported 'Bigfoot' digging in the ground a half mile from Green River. It was reportedly pounding a stick into the ground like a spade, and turning over the dirt. The large, dark haired creature started to approach the children, showing it's large, square teeth. It had dark brown hair and long, thick, dirty square fingers and toe nails.

In May of 1957, a child reported became scared by a 'hairy man' standing in her back yard on Wilson Ridge in Casey County.

In the 1960's, a Casey County teenager reported seeing a large,hairy 'thing' looking into the second story window of her home on U.S.127.

About the same time, a hairy 'varmit' was reported near Grove Ridge in Casey County. It was seen a few times and always scared a coon hunter's dogs. Whenever the dogs scented the creature they refused to hunt and actually ran away from the smell.

On January 3rd, 2007,at 4:00 a.m., 20-year-old Chris went to retrieve his deer stand which was 15 feet up a tree in Lazy Acre Estates at Cave City. As he began removing the straps, he was startled by a high-pitched scream. As he remained quietly in the stand, a rotten stench filled the air, so incredibly strong that the man felt nauseous. Then, 25 yards away, he noticed a dark, hairy seven to eight-foot-tall creature, with reddish-brown hair walking upright, swinging its arms in a more dramatical manner than a human would. Its hands swung down around knee level, it had broad shoulders and a bulky body. The witness could not make out any facial details. He said the creature paused a moment directly in front of his location, then proceeded to walk quietly 40-50 yards away from his tree stand. The witness has heard similar screams, over the past couple of years, while hunting on this private property located near Mammoth Cave.

During ther 1970s, James Vincent, hunted for a large, white-haired Bigfoot in the Black Hollow community of Cumberland County. He said the creature left behind 15 inch tracks and a terrible smell. The hunt was apparently unsuccessful.

In 2003, while driving down Highway 92 in McCreary County, a motorist thought he saw a deer approaching the road. The driver slowed down, but as he drew closer, what he saw was not a deer. It was seven-foot-tall, grey-colored 'Bigfoot' with large red eyes, athletically muscular-framed build, large domed head and hairy face. The creature acted as if it was angry. The motorist sped away.

In the late 1960's, a woman in her 20's, saw a large ape-type creature cross Highway 196 near Jabez in Russell County. A man on his way to work also witnessed the encounter.

In August of 1984, two men, on an overnight camping/fishing trip below Cumberland Falls State Park, discovered huge footprints. Where the tracks started, there was a brand new fish stringer still tied up with about eight ready-to-decompose White Perch on it. Someone had left in a hurry. As the men prepared to go to bed the first night, the crickets, frogs and other nighttime noisemakers suddenly grew quiet. Then, the men heard something jump off of a big rock behind their tent and start toward them growling. One of them fired a rifle, which apparently scared the creature from coming all the way into their camp. However, the growling sound continued for the rest of the night. When daylight came, the men saw something big and black walking upright on the rocks way up the river, but they could not make out what it was. Later, they talked about previous trips to the same area when they had noticed a strange smell on a moss-covered rock that stuck out over a small stream, and how the last couple of times, the rock had smelled like a monkey's cage - like something that really smells bad had been laying on it.

Just so my local friends know they aren't being left the fall of 1973, a Clinton County man, whose name I will not use, saw what he said was a six-foot-tall, dark hair-covered creature with an ape-human face and a bushy black tail as it killed one of his animals. He repeatedly fired at the creature from close range to no effect. After many shots the creature at last seemed wounded and ran off on two legs. Two adult creatures and one young one were also seen in area.

And...while walking along a trail near the Lake Cumberland shoreline late on the night of 4, 1999, two people encountered a 'bigfoot' standing by a tree, shaking it forcefully. They watched in shock for long moments, until the creature began to approach them walking upright. They fled to the safety of their nearby cabin. The creature was described as 8 foot tall and covered in brown hair with big eyes.

To learn more about these strange occurances, go to the Kentucky Bigfoot website.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...