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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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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