This week in Nashville history: Wavelengths, wayfarers and a would-be whuppin’

This week in Old News, the crumbling pages of long-forgotten Nashville newspapers take us back to the origins of an iconic radio show and to the beginnings of modern tourism promotion in what we now call the Music City. They also tell how one local schoolboy evaded a scheduled trip to the woodshed, with a little help from the Union Army.

12 Nov. 1925: The Nashville Evening Tennessean announces the arrival of George Dewey Hay, a/k/a the “Solemn Old Judge,” to take over operations at WSM, the National Life and Accident Insurance Company’s “big broadcasting station.”

This new “Voice of Nashville” needs no introduction to Nashville and Tennessee radio fans. As announcer of WMC, the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s station, he won such wide renown and popularity that last year he was awarded the Radio Digest cup as the most popular announcer in the country. For the past 18 months he has been directing the destinies of WLS, Sears-Roebuck’s Chicago station, with ever increasing popularity….

Among the new ideas which he introduced at WMC was the Mississippi river steamboat whistle, which he used as a “sign-off” He brings to WSM a new signal, this latest being a railroad whistle which is guaranteed to make the lordly whistles of the Dixie Flyer and Pan-American locomotives become shrill with envious anger and the plaintive tootings of the Tennessee Central engines even more mournful.

In his first weeks on the job, Hay would create the Saturday evening program of old-timey tunes that he would later dub the Grand Ole Opry.

9 Nov. 1921: Tourists are money! The growing popularity of motoring vacations is paying off nicely for Nashville, the Banner reports:

As early as 1915, 1,500 touring parties registered at the Nashville Automobile Club headquarters. In 1916 the number increased to 2,500; in 1917, 3,400 registered; in 1918, 4,000 parties were routed by the club; in 1919, 5,200 parties registered at the club; 1920, brought about 9,000, and 1921 promises to bring about 15,000.

Data collected by the Automobile Club shows that at least $500,000 was spent by tourists in Nashville last year.

9 Nov. 1930: Marmaduke B. Morton recalls “Kings of Commerce — Strong Array of Lawyers — Outstanding Physicians — Spectacular Fires” — and the tale of a youngster for whom the rod was spared when Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant came calling.

As recounted in a 2008 history column, Grant’s troops gained control of the Cumberland River in mid-February 1862 when they routed the Confederates at Fort Donelson, near what is now Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The fall of the fort left Nashville indefensible, and Rebel forces hastily abandoned the city to the Yankees.

Squire George Campbell was a live wire in the eighties. He was active in politics and in the affairs of the county. He had an unusual maxim: “Never do today, what can be put off until tomorrow.” When asked why he had adopted such a dilatory rule of conduct, he said that just before the Civil War he was going to a country school with his brother.

One Saturday afternoon the teacher asked him and his brother to remain after school had been dismissed. He then explained that he knew of some of their misdoings that deserved a whipping, and they were going to get what was coming to them. “But,” said he, “it is Saturday, and if you prefer it I will put it off until Monday.” The brother said he would take his punishment at once, and not have it on his mind all day Sunday. So he got it.

The young Squire-to-be said he preferred to defer the evil day, and would take his licking Monday. Sunday came the news of the fall of Fort Donelson, and there were no more schools in Nashville for three years. And the Squire’s licking will have to be administered in the New Jerusalem, where hickory switches do not grow.

About Tom

I'm an old news man, any way you look at me. Not as old in years as some local journos I much admire, but committed to bringing old news from Nashville's deeper past back to life.
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2 Responses to This week in Nashville history: Wavelengths, wayfarers and a would-be whuppin’

  1. V.E.G. says:

    George Dewey Hay is the cousin of George Dewey, John Dewey, and every single Dewey known to exist! Even David Dewey Alger, the victim of the worst terrorist attack on anybody’s soil!

  2. Pingback: E. Thomas Wood’s Old News Is Good News |

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