Friday, July 31, 2009

I Heard The Bells

It was Christmas 1864. Everywhere there was blood shed. It was brother against brother. The American Civil War was at its climax. The thought of peace weighed heavily upon the mind of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for in every single stanza he wrote, "Peace on earth, good will to men!"

"Peace on earth, good will to men."

Peace on earth, good will to men?

During the Civil War?

Those words - peace on earth and good will to men are definitely out of place.

Who could imagine Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as a hymn writer! Who would have thought it? With the mere mention of his name come thoughts of "the village smithy," "the chestnut tree," "three doors left unguarded," and the stair clock tirelesly ticking away, "Forever - never! Never - forever!" But at Chrimast time during the year 1864, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took out his pen and wrote...

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the chords repeat of peace on earth good will to men. And thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good will to men.

The next two verses echo strongly what Longfellow must have been feeling...

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

But it is the final two verses that tells the tale. The verses are normally left out of hymnals.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men

What you may not know is.....

In 1861, Longfellow had an ideal home; a lovely wife and 5 children. When the Civil War started a sorrowful tragedy occured. Longfellow's wife had been cutting their youngest daughter's hair and wanted to save a lock of her curls. She was heating some sealing wax and a breeze blew some hot wax onto her dress, igniting it in flames. She ran to her husband's study where he tried to put out the flames with a rug, but it was too small, so he embraced her with his own arms and put the fire out. His hands, arms and face became severely burned. His wife had been so badly burned that she died the next morning and he was in the hospital for the burns he had suffered. For three years he wrote in his journal that he no longer had peace or happiness in his life. To make matters worse, his son, Charles, was wounded in battle with the bullet hitting his spine. In 1864, just as the war seemed to be coming to an end, Charles became healed of his wounds. Longfellow's faith was restored. That was the basis for I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, written during Christmas of 1864.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christmas in July

Yesterday and today have seemed like Christmas in July to me.

A friend of mine, Jim, gave me a nice present yesterday. Fifty-nine 78 r.p.m. records. Today, he came back with more to give me. I counted 121 records. Thanks, Jim!

I started collecting 78's a few years ago, after I was given a 1918 Edison Disc Phonograph that used to belong to my grandfather, Elmer Boles. There were 30 Edison Records with it. The records only play on an Edison Phonograph.

For my last birthday, my aunt Donna gave me a Philco record player/radio. Just like my Edison, it is in mint condition. She also gave me eighty-eight 78's.

So now, the number of 78 r.p.m. records in my collection has grown to 250.

I love listening to them. Many are 90+ years old and those artists are among the very first recording artists ever. What an exciting time that must have been.

Edison would put his phonographs in a big music hall and invite the masses to come listen to his invention. He believed that people would rather listen to a record than hear the singer perform live. Naturally, that was years before Elvis came on the scene. LOL!

I would have loved to have been a member of those audiences. You know how we reacted to the internet, the iPod and text messaging. The fax machine blew me away when it came out. Imagine what people thought about the phonograph when it first came out.

The photographs of singers like Billy Murray, Elizabeth Spencer, The Edison Quartet, Henry Burr and countless others recording the very first records are amazing. Backed by full orchestras, you can tell they are enjoying what they are doing. Why wouldn't they? It was all brand new to them.

Edison, Victor, then RCA Victor and Columbia were among the biggest record companies at the beginning of the 20th century. I have many of those labels in my collection, along with great labels like Decca. I enjoy studying each record, tracing down the history of the song and/or the artist, and sometimes being able to learn some amazing facts about both.

It's a great hobby and I love it.

Most kids today don't even know what a record is. As a child, I could not wait to go to the local store that sold records and see the latest releases. I used to always try to purchase as least one or two records whenever I went there. Three Dog Night, The Beatles, Elton John and on and on.

I remember the day dad brought home 'Green Eyed Lady' by Jerry Corbetta & Sugarloaf. The organ solo in the middle of that record had a huge impact on me. So did The Five Americans 1967 album, Progressions, which includes great songs like Con Man, Black is White, (But Not) Today, Zip Code, Evol Not Love and more. A few years ago I had the great opportunity to talk to lead singer Mike Rabon a few times. Last I heard, he was teaching at a high school in Oklahoma. Two summers ago, I met Jerry Corbetta. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me. I shook his hand and told him he had a big impact on my life. He sort of looked at me funny, but later we exhanged a few e-mails. He said his biggest influence was Elvis.

Having records and phonographs lets me remain a kid. It's a great escape.

One other thought. Every time Edison had an idea for an invention, he took a nap and when he woke up, he would know how to proceed with his idea. I wish I had a job like that. Not that I have an urge to invent something, but the taking a nap part during work. That's kind of a neat idea.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life Is But A Vapor

Have you ever looked out a window after it has rained and noticed those tiny raindrops on the window pane? Imagine the smallest one. That's like our lives....but a vapor.

We are born and if we are lucky we get to live to be 70, 80, even 90 and above. Bill Johnston lived to be 95. Before he died, he told me that he had lived a 'short life.' I used to think that did not make sense, but now it does.

I attended a funeral the other day and I couldn't help but notice a framed photograph sitting at the end of the casket. It was a photo the departed loved one and her nine siblings, taken when they were all very young. My mind was drawn back to my own childhood and all the fun I had. I thought, what if I could live my life twice, just to be able to be with my friends and loved ones more? I would want to spend one more hour each day playing baseball. I would visit my grandparents more often, I would sit and talk to my dad more.

One thing I would not do again is climb up in that tree with my friend, Tim, and skin all its bark off like we did that day with our pocketknives. Don't blame him, it was my idea. I really thought that naked tree was a work of art...and then my mom looked out the window and saw it. A couple of days later, I asked dad why the man was cutting the tree down and when he explained it, I understood.

None of us know how much time we have left. I often think about Oren Reneau, a local drug store owner and son of the legendary preacher, Isaac Tipton Reneau. The date was July 20, 1965. Harlin Dyer, a local businessman, bank cashier, former state representative and a prominent member of the methodist church in town, had died two days earlier. As they were rolling the casket out the Church door to go to the cemetery, Oren was heard to say, "I wonder who the next one will be?" Two days later, it was him.

Life is a vapor, but in Heaven there awaits an eternity. There, life will become more than a vapor, and I will get to be with my friends and loved ones for ever and ever and ever. There will be no end in Heaven. There will be no vapors to speak of.

In the Bible, James says not to worry about tomorrow, because we don't even know if we will be here. "It's like a vapor, here for a minute, and then it's gone," he says.

I like what Helen Keller said. "Live your life as a magnificent adventure, or don't live it at all."

Monday, July 27, 2009

In Memory of Bess Farmer

Previously, I wrote a story about Ruel Thomas and his involvement at Renfro Valley. If you do not know about Renfro Valley, click on Ruel's name above to read that story. Anyway, before Ruel left the Renfro Valley Barn Dance he introduced the audience to three young school teachers and gospel singers. They were Bess, Marie and Hazel Farmer. Little did anyone know that those three young ladies who were from my town would have a huge impact on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance over the next 25 years. As far as service to the barn dance goes, the Farmer Sisters went on to equal or surpass the legendary Coon Creek Girls. They quickly established themselves as permanent fixtures in all activities in and out of Renfro Valley. Bess would play the accordian on the Saturday night Renfro Valley Barn Dance and Ma Lair's old parlor organ on the Sunday Morning Gatherin' Radio Show. The Farmer Sisters talents fit the 'Gatherin' to a T, and their personalities made for a fun-loving Saturday night at the barn dance.

Bess Farmer died today at the hospital in Glasgow.

The Farmer Sisters

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rehobeth Springs

It is the perfect setting for a community, is what Thomas Stockton must have thought when he was the first to arrive in this part of Kentucky in 1798. The man who had built one of the first grist mills in the Smokey Mountain area of Tennessee had crossed over Cumberland Mountain and as he stood on a spur of that elevated platform, later to be called Poplar Mountain, he looked down at the area below area he named Stockton's Valley. According to "A History of Kentucky," written in 1847 by Lewis Collins, on the subject of Poplar Mountain, he wrote, "On a clear morning, the fog seems to rise of the water courses in the distance, and stand just above the trees, when the eye can trace the beautiful Cumberland River in its windings for at least one hundred miles, and may distinctly mark the junction of its tributaries, in a direct line, for thirty miles." "On top of this mountain," he wrote, "lays three chalybeate springs. These waters, combined with the purity of the atmosphere, proved to be of immense benefit to invalids who resorted there for their health. It is believed that, in the hands of an enterprising proprietor, the springs would soon become a place of great resort. The elevation of the mountain, which is 1,745 feet above sea level, and the consequent purity of the atmosphere, the beauty and magnificense of the scenery and prospect daily presented to the eye of the visitor, combined with the medicinal virtues of the water, a good host, and intelligent and refined association, would make these springs a most desirable point for a summer excursion."

According to "Kentucky: A History of the State (Battle, Perrin & Kniffin, 3rd ed., 1885), sometime after that, such an enterprising proprietor by the name of Joseph Perkins, did in fact own a resort atop the mountain at the springs. Perkins was a farmer and extensively raised and sold livestock. This book also says that Perkins also engaged in the distilling business and owned a hotel and mineral springs near Albany.

A Chalybeate spring, (pronounced Cle'bit), is a name given to a mineral spring which contains salts of iron in quantities sufficient to be of some therapeutic value. These salts are usually the carbonate and the sulphate.

In the book, A History of Kentucky - Embracing Gleanings, Reminiscenses, Antiquities, Natural Curiosities, Statistics and Biographical Sketches of Pioneers, Soldiers, Jurists, Lawyers, Statesmen, etc., (1872), author William Allen wrote that the three chalybeate springs "have been visited a great deal over the last twenty-five or thirty years and have proved a great benefit to invalids."

A geological survey of Poplar Mountain, taken in 1888 by R. H. Loughridge, showed iron, lime and magnesia carbonate, silica, potash and soda salts in minute quantity. The summary revealed it was a weak chalybeate water, good of its kind.

According to the WPA Guide to Kentucky (Federal Writers Project's American Guide Series written in 1939), "On a foot trail that follows the old overgrown carriage road to the summit of Sewell Mountain, here is Rehobeth Springs, a watering place of the early days, near three chalybeate springs. Before the War between the states, the springs were visited by many invalids, who proclaimed numerous benefits and cures. From the top of the mountain, on a clear day, the surrounding country is visible for a distance of about 75 miles."

According to "Report" by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Labor and Statistics (1908), "There are chalybeate springs on Sewell Mountain, a high plateau northeast of Albany, the county seat, where a view of the surrounding county for several miles can be had, which gives great pleasure as the scenery is so varied. A hotel has been erected and pleasure grounds laid out, which makes the place very inviting, as it is perhaps the coolest summer resort south of the Ohio River."

Another book, Historical Sketches of Kentucky by Lewis Collins of Maysville, Kentucky, published in 1850, also talks about the hotel and mineral springs.

On his 73rd birthday in 1908, J.C. Bristow wrote about visiting the top of the 'great Poplar Mountain' and about a little log cabin and two women living there. He wrote, "There is a medical spring and father's second wife and another woman are there for their health." He wrote about "looking down on the old ranch, upon the great scene where the youthful wonders of my father were displayed. And there on my right is a large sugar (?) orchard and between it and the house lies what was called the poplar field. I remember lying down on my back one day in that field. I looked west and I wondered what was far away in the west. I did not know then but I understand it all now."

In "Every Creeks A Story in Clinton County Hill", originally published in the 1930s, Howard Hardaway wrote, "Next morning, I started north, leaving to my right Sewell Mountain with it's mineral springs near the top, an ideal location for a summer resort or, best of all, for a youth hotel."

Today, for the most part, all that is known is that the hotel and mineral springs did exist. The hotel foundation is still there. Perhaps one day more information will surface and we can have stories regarding its existence.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here We Go Again

"Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, suddenly the clouds opened up and God said, 'I hate you, Alfalfa!'"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stay Forever

Maybe I pray too much, maybe I'm wastin God's time
Livin without your touch, is driving me out of my mind
If you could only see, how much you matter to me
Maybe you would stay forever

Maybe I care too much, maybe I'll push you away
Maybe I'd have my doubts, if I were in your place
And if you could see inside, this achin' heart of mine
Maybe you would stay forever

You don't have to go on livin'
With your back against the wall
Let my lovin' arms surround you
I won't let you fall

And if you would trust in me, and this love of mine
We'll sail an endless sea, under a starry sky
And when the cold wind blows, we'll hold each other close
Maybe you will stay forever

And when the cold wind blows, we'll hold each other close
Baby you will stay forever

Words and music by Bentmont Tench and Hal Ketchum.


My soul thirsteth for thee
My flesh longeth for thee
In a dry and thirsty land where no water stands
I will seek thee
To see thy power
To see thy glory
To know your love is the lovingkind
I will praise thee
And I will bless thee while I love
I will lift up my hands in thy name
Yes I will lift up my hands in thy name
In a dry and thirsty land where no water stands
I will seek thee

Taken from Psalm 63

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The World Without Walter

The passing of longtime CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite is a sad affair for me. My growing up years incuded sitting down in front of the television every late afternoon at 5:30 to watch Mr. Cronkite deliver the news. No one else could do that like he could. He was the best. More than that, he was the standard and everyone who came after him learned from him.

In my house, most times supper was prepared prior to the CBS evening news so everyone could watch it. So many times, I have sat in front of the TV with my plate on a tv tray so I could watch him.

I clung to every word. I believed every word. If Mr. Cronkite said it, then it was the truth. I think most people felt that way. I was too young to remember his infamous President Kennedy assassination newscasts, but I remember keeping up with the vietnam war through him.

One of Mr. Cronkite's trademarks was ending the CBS Evening News with the phrase "...And that's the way it is," followed by the date. I can remember during the Iranian hostage crisis, how he altered his closing so that we would be constantly reminded how long the hostages had been held captive. He began on day 50 and he stopped with the crisis ended on day 444. It was very dramatic.

As most of you know, while I have never read the news on television, I grew up reading it on the radio. So, for me it was like I was the student and he was the teacher. I paid attention to his delivery. I think that's what I admired most about him.

I watched his last newscast on March 6, 1981. He said...

"This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News. For me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists; writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change. Furthermore, I'm not even going away! I'll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."

I agree with what George Clooney said. "I hate the world without Walter Cronkite."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I believe (Big 'Un)

Every now and then soft as breath upon my skin
I feel you come back again
And it's like you haven't been gone a moment from my side
Like the tears were never cried
Like the hands of time are holding you and me
And with all my heart I'm sure were closer than we ever were
I don't have to hear or see, I've got all the proof I need
There are more than angels watching over me
I believe, I believe

That when you die your life goes on
It doesn't end here when you're gone
Every soul is filled with light
It never ends and if I'm right
Our love can even reach across eternity
I believe, I believe

Forever, you're a part of me
Forever, in the heart of me
And I'll hold you even longer if I can
The people who dont see the most
Say that I believe in ghosts
And if that makes me crazy, then I am
cause I believe

There are more than angels watching over me
I believe, I believe

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rambling On...

Today, my blog received its 5,000th hit since February 13th, which is an average of 1,000 hits per month. That's not a lot compared to most other blogs, but with me it has never been about numbers, although I do notice the counter. It's just about writing.

My writing has slowed down lately. There are a couple of reasons why that is, but, that's alright. I am fortunate to have a lot of people who care about me. I am amazed at the number of people who actually take the time to read what I write. It is humbling.

I'm just rambling here, but a while back on Facebook I wrote that clown steaks taste funny. A lot of people wanted to know what a clown steak is. Beats me. I guess it's just a steak whose owner happens to be a clown.

I've always heard that people have more fun than anybody. Is that really true?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what my pastor once said...that we as Christians are called to be a positive and proper influence and an example to everyone around us. It's a huge responsibility. One that I admittedly struggle with. I recently had a friend who went by the wayside and I wish I had been more of the right kind of influence and example to her. And, now I worry about that.

One of my friends is Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Greg Martin. He is a great player and a very busy man. In addition to the Kentucky HeadHunters, he also performs as a member of Rufus Huff, which performed at the 2008 Foothills Festival. He also hosts a radio show called The Lowdown Hoedown every Monday night on WDNS in Bowling Green. Greg is also a member of The Mighty Jeremiah's, a gospel rock group that released an awesome CD. He gave me a copy of it and in return, I later turned him on to an early 1970's group known as Acts, which consisted of friends Jim Powell, Rick Carrol and David Pennycuff, along with Phil Mann. Greg told me that if he had heard that group back in the day, it would have influenced him to do some things differently in his life. I told him 'it's not where you've been, but where you're going that matters.'

In the same conversation, he asked me what our mutual friend, Andrew, was up to. So, yesterday Andrew called and I told him Greg had asked about him. I also told him about how I had given Greg Acts' songs and how Greg had said if he had heard the group back in the day, it would have influenced him to do some things differently in his life.

Here is what Andrew said back to me: "(laughs) Man, he gave me The Mighty Jeremiah's CD and it caused me to see things differently and I quit [a rock band he was in] and am now pursuing gospel music."

What a great story. Greg says there have been other instances where The Mighty Jeremiahs has influenced others. I say amen.

I want to be that positive influence and example to others, too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Let's Hear It For AM!

A friend and colleague of mine asked me about my AM transmitter today. What can I say other than she is exceptionally, wonderfully, amazingly, remarkably beautiful and solid as a rock for my radio station.

You could say my AM transmitter is a member of my family. We have known each other our entire lives, she and I. I call her mine, but we are like brother and sister I suppose. My dad and his dad were among the first to lay hands on her. I came along later and took their place and became official overseer of her. Well, actually, it is she who oversee's me. If you know anything about radio then you understand what I just typed.

You see, my AM transmitter has been a loyal member of my family for going on 51 years now and, although she might have been kicked a time or two (but not by anyone who had a heart and loved her), she's still stayed loyal and has never strayed from her purpose.

My Gates BC-1T transmitter came to us during the later summer/early fall of 1958 and has never failed to be anything other than loyal to her purpose. She has served well and continues to do that today. She has made many legends in her lifetime - names that you probably wouldn't recognize unless you are from my little corner of the world. She has been responsible for so many popular disc jockeys, and while the faces of so many of those great voices have come and gone, it was settled in my mind long ago that my AM transmitter was sent here for one reason and one reason only - to transmit, and no matter who is here, or who is not here, she will continue to serve her long as she is loved and cared for.

I have to confess that at times I have ignored her pleas for things she might need, such as new tubes, transistors and/or resistors, etc., but the thing that has always amazed me about her is when I finally came to my senses and gave her what she asked for, she acted as though nothing had ever happened and went about doing what she does best - transmitting. Even after I have proven to be unfaithful to her, she has never held it against me.

Almost 20 years ago, she had to have a major transplant, but she survived and she continues to survive to this very day. She is my Gates BC-1T AM Transmitter and I will always love her.

Below is a photo of my dad made in 1961. My AM transmitter is directly behind him. Isn't she beautiful?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Freedom in America

Two of my ancestors paid the ultimate sacrifice so that I could live freely in America. They were John Frogge, at the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774, and Jacob Speck at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina on August 16, 1780. This Independence Day, let us honor the many others who also died so that we might have freedom.

You can revisit the story of John Frogge by clicking HERE.

You can revisit the story of Jacob Speck by clicking HERE.

Happy Fourth of July!

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...