Bowers v. Bowers, 1928

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1994-95 at The Tennessean


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Prep Prattle: Nashville Teen Life, Early 1950s

The_Tennessean_Sun__Apr_20__1952_Gannett has not even bothered to market a service it’s offering that will delight scores of Nashville-history nerds. The entire archive of The Tennessean and its predecessors, dating back to the early 19th century, is now available in digital, searchable form for a subscription fee of about $8 a month.

Some of the news sources included in this service have been available for a few years via a Proquest database that on-site users at the Tennessee State Library & Archives can use, but it cuts off at 1923, the last year the content can be safely considered to be in the public domain. The Tennessean‘s archive includes every issue of the paper up to about a month before the current date.

I was working on a brief item for the Nashville Scene‘s annual “In Memoriam” issue about insurance executive Bill Cochran, who had been a classmate of my mother at Hillsboro High. Contractor/arts patron Walter Knestrick, also of the HHS class of 1955, told me Cochran had been student body president and the football team’s quarterback. A search for “Billy Cochran” turned up confirmation of those facts within the paper’s “Prep Prattle” column.

The Prattle was nothing more or less than the social media of its day. Every Sunday, it rounded up news of proms, square dances, parties, high school fraternity/sorority activities and other wholesome goings-on among the teen offspring of the paper’s core readership. Once I discovered the column, I knew my parents must have made appearances in it.

A search for “Steve Wood” and “Nancy Bowers,” limited to the 1950s, turned up 35 hits. I’m linking to some of them below. I remember my mother mentioning several of the names found in these columns—such as Patricia Champion, the future Mrs. Tommy Frist. I’m posting these columns mainly for the interest of my family members, but I know that numerous friends of mine will find references to their kinfolk as well. Enjoy!

April 20, 1952—Among the youngsters mentioned are Betty Chiles (Nixon), Lucy Tritschler (Sensing), Dede Bullard (Wallace) and May Werthan (Shayne).

June 21, 1953—Names include my Mom’s classmate Charles (“Red”) Grooms, Don Brothers, Charles Trimble, John Hardcastle and John Sloan.

October 18, 1953—Names include Matt and John Gorham, Al Strayhorn, Martin McNamara, Bobby Alford and Bobby Lineberger.

October 22, 1953—A standalone photo from a Kappa Phi hayride features my future orthodontist Bobby Lineberger with his future wife Anne Mashburn, as well as my Dad Steve Wood with future wife Nancy Bowers.

November 1, 1953—This snippet from the Prattle column notes that Anne Mashburn, Steve Wood and John Hardcastle have been on the radio promoting MBA’s homecoming festivities, and it hails Dad’s work as manager of “pep week” at our alma mater.

May 2, 1954—Jim Sasser, Went Caldwell, Chloe Fort,  Joe Lentz and more….

July 4, 1954—The Prattle leads off with an account of the farewell festivities for Nancy Bowers, who is moving to Hagerstown, Md. before what would have been her senior year at Hillsboro. Also in the column are Tish Fort (Hooker), Irene Jackson (Wills), Carole Minton (Nelson), Runcie Clements and Fran Keltner (Hardcastle).

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1884 story on what would become Sulphur Dell

1884 story on new Sulphur Dell

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1940 census discoveries: Red Grooms, age 2

Here is my mother Nancy Bowers Wood’s Hillsboro High classmate Red Grooms as a baby, right on the edge of Sevier Park. To the end of her life, Mom regretted not saving the textbooks of hers in which Red had doodled caricatures.

Hey, 12 South: You can get a historical marker put up for a couple grand. Don’t miss the opportunity!


I’m sure some readers here can reach Mr. Grooms. Do pass this link along to the artist.

This blog is still pretty much dormant, but I’m finding a few bits in the 1940 Nashville census that I have to share. I’ll put them up here as I keep finding them.

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Paper losses

What follows began as a comment I meant to post on this Scene blog post. It growed, and I decided instead to send a rough version to Scene Editor Jim Ridley with the idea of maybe making it a post unto itself on the news blog, Pith in the Wind. But it growed some more, and it may have become something more interesting to a few of my fellow refugees from journalism than to the rest of the world. So I’m posting it on my long-dormant Old News blog just to put it out somewhere. If you care about the issues it raises, then you’re probably, like me, a fan of the engaged, hyper-local, community-focused journalism of the old coots who inspired me to create this blog. Have a look around. — Tom

The Tennessean is bleeding the patient once again. This time, as in 2007, employees will be offered buyouts to get them off the payroll. Leaving one’s job – and, probably, the journalism trade itself – may be marginally more palatable with a buyout than through a layoff of the sort 1100 Broadway’s people endured in June 2011July 2009, and August 2008. Whatever form “workforce reduction” takes, there is plenty of pain to go around. Almost all my old friends are gone from the paper, where I worked in the early 1990s, but I wish only the best to those stepping off the crazy train at this stop. Continue reading

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History on hold

To all who have enjoyed reading Old News in its first few months, Happy New Year.

A hectic holiday season kept me from rolling out the weekly posts after mid-December, and now I am about to embark on a project that will absorb all of my energies for some time to come. So, with regrets, I have to put Old News on mothballs until my schedule becomes more manageable.

Best wishes to all,

Tom Wood

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This week in Nashville history: Goodbye, hello

Departures and arrivals figure prominently in this week of Nashville history.

December 13 was the date of at least three notable Nashville demises in the first half of the 20th century, as noted in this history item from 2005:

December 13, 1907 — Arthur St. Clair Colyar dies at age 90. He served in the Confederate Congress, led a successful effort to place Nashville in financial receivership in 1879 on the grounds of alleged public corruption, served as publisher of the Nashville Daily American, and co-founded the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Co. — a prime mover in the development of the steel industry in Birmingham, Ala., and a company included in the first Dow Jones Industrial Index in 1896.

December 13, 1928 — Jacob McGavock Dickinson, a Nashville lawyer who became Secretary of War under President W. H. Taft and president of the American Bar Association, dies at 77.

December 13, 1935 — Joel Owsley Cheek dies at the age of 83, seven years after the Nashville-based coffee business that he co-founded was sold for a reported $40 million. As detailed in newspaper obituaries, the roster of Cheek’s honorary pallbearers was truly a who’s who of Nashville civic life at the time, with the likes of C.A. Craig, C. Runcie Clements, Dr. Rufus E. Fort and Ridley Wills of National Life & Accident Insurance Co., emerging grocery magnate H.G. Hill Sr., telecom entrepreneur Leland Hume, Gov. Hill McAlister, Mayor Hilary E. Howse, American National Bank honcho P.D. Houston Jr. and Vanderbilt Chancellor J.H. Kirkland.

In more recent history, Nashville said buh-bye to its status as a national air travel hub on December 14, 1995. That’s the day American Airlines ceased to operate flights from Nashville to Austin, Denver, Newark and Philadelphia, with a spokesman conceding that BNA could no longer be considered an American hub.

On the other hand, two longstanding Nashville religious congregations have celebrated new milestones during this week in years past:

December 16, 1894 — Christ Church, Episcopal moves into its new building at the corner of Ninth and Broadway.

December 19, 1930 — The Nashville Tennessean spreads word that the three-year-old Hillsboro Church of Christ has set out to build a fine new church building at the corner of 21st Ave. S. and Ashwood Ave. The church would meet there until it outgrew the facility in the 1970s and constructed a new home at the corner of Tyne and Hillsboro in Forest Hills. Hillsboro is now in the midst of a major expansion at that campus.

Just next to Hillsboro’s news is the announcement of a significant moment in the history of the arts locally. James M. Cowan, a little-known former resident of Nashville, was revealed to be the donor who left an art collection and $10,000 in support funding to the Parthenon.

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In other news: Vandy turns down Orange Bowl invite

3 December 1935: Red O’Donnell of the Evening Tennessean reports that Vanderbilt’s football program has rejected a “feeler bid” to play in the second annual Orange Bowl at Miami on New Year’s Day 1936.

The Commodores have just wrapped up their season with a 7-3 record, including wins over Georgia Tech, Alabama and Tennessee. But times are hard, as Coach Ray Morrison explains:

“It would be a fine vacation for the boys, who deserve it, but little or no profit could be realized. And since we can’t afford to lose any more money on athletics, I’d say that Vandy be counted out.”

The Orange Bowl ultimately chose Catholic University and Ole Miss for the game. Catholic won, 20-19.

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This week in Nashville history: News of the military and the ministry

This week, millions of Americans will remember Pearl Harbor, the calamitous Japanese attack that brought our country into the Second World War — even though only a few thousand survivors of the raid on the U.S. Pacific Fleet remain to carry forward the living memory of it.

As Honolulu’s Star-Advertiser reported last week, actuarial realities are working against the remaining veterans of the 1941 surprise attack. For example, one Medal of Honor winner from the fateful Sunday died this year at 100. After 69 years, those who lived through the battle are considering disbanding the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

If you have seen and heard the elegiac press coverage that went along with the last reunion of Civil War soldiers in 1938, you’ll see something familiar in the unavoidable pathos surrounding the Pearl Harbor vets’ situation.

Last year, the Nashville Scene‘s news blog ran a post that focused on Nashville’s experience of the war’s first days, as chronicled in the Banner. On December 8, as the nation declared war against Japan, the afternoon paper ran a full page of photos and information on Nashville people known to be in the area of the hostilities.

One photo was of was Miss Cornelia Fort, a local socialite who had become a flight instructor in Hawaii:

In her last letter, Miss Fort recounted that “the streets of Honolulu were teeming with Army and Navy men and were lined with defense workers.” She did not indicate, however, that any disturbance was pending in that area and commented only on the “peaceful and beautiful country and the enjoyable American gatherings that were frequent at the Pearl Harbor Officers’ Club.”

Only later would her family learn that Fort had been in the air near Pearl Harbor as the Japanese attack began. She had to grab the controls from her student and swerve to avoid an oncoming enemy bomber. She then landed the aircraft under fire.

Fort went on to join the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, flying military aircraft to bases around the country. On March 21, 1943, when the airplane she was ferrying went down after a mid-air collision over Texas, Cornelia Fort became the country’s first female military pilot to be killed in the line of duty.

Before the week ended, the paper would carry the first news of a local service member killed in combat:

BEN EDWARD HOLT, 21, Negro mess attendant, was listed today as the first Nashville man to give his life for his country in the war against Japan. Holt’s sister, Inez Stewart, received a letter from Honolulu last Saturday in which the boy said he had ordered two tons of coal for his mother and father for Christmas. Yesterday Elder R. E. Holt, Sr., minister of the Negro Church of Christ in Springfield, received a telegram from Rear Admiral C. W. Munitz [sic – Nimitz] saying that Ben was “lost in action in the performance of his duty and in the services of his country.” The boy’s mother and father, four brothers, Mack, R. E., Jr., Homer Cleoplus, and Hawthorne, and two sisters, Mary and Juanita Holt, all live at 508 Fourteenth Avenue, North. His grandmother, Missouri Oliver, also survives. Holt graduated from Pearl High School of Nashville and then attended A&I State College here for one year.

The newspaper would go on to report that Seaman First Class James Dewey Wauford and Radioman Robert H. Bennett, both from Nashville and both 20 years of age, had also died at Pearl Harbor.

Curiously, the names of Holt, Wauford and Bennett are missing from an official list of Navy dead from Nashville that was compiled after the war. They are also not included in the National Park Service’s lists of those who perished aboard the USS Arizona and elsewhere at Pearl Harbor.


Our encounter with the 80-year-old reminiscences of Nashville Banner Managing Editor Markmaduke Morton ends this week with a final installment that may have more going for it than first appearances indicate. The old fella chose to conclude his memories of life in the 1880s with a somewhat rambling recollection of Nashville’s clergymen from that decade. But he does drop some interesting names from the city’s ecclesiastical history, such as:

  • David Lipscomb, E.G. Sewell and Phillip Fall — three 19th-century ministers who did much to popularize the revivalist theological approach of Rev. Alexander Campbell in the Nashville area. Campbell’s ideas provided the foundation for the Church of Christ movement, which remains influential in Nashville today, not least through the university that bears Lipscomb’s name.
  • Brothers R. Lin Cave and Robert C. Cave, who were both early leaders of what became Vine Street Christian Church. Robert Cave went on to become a highly controversial figure after preaching that the Bible was not divinely inspired and that Jesus was not raised from the dead.
  • Catholic priests John A. Floersh and Samuel Stritch. Floersh went on from Nashville to become Archbishop of Louisville for thirty years and founder of Bellarmine College (now University). Stritch was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1946. In 1958, shortly before his death, he became the first American cardinal to be placed in charge of a congregation in the Roman Curia.


Also this week, a little sports item: Vandy turns down Orange Bowl invite.

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