Nashville

Postcards From An East Nashville Attic

Finding this unique lens into East Nashville’s past is like discovering the gold at the end of the rainbow. Thanks for sharing Jason!

Jason Galaz

While searching in my closet for my school credentials to complete my Real Estate license exam I felt cold air from the exposed insulation. I pulled it away and it revealed an entire portion of the attic I thought there was no access to. There were a few piles of items which seemed to be tossed by decade. About 10 ft away was a bin full of odds and ends which included these letters and postcards. All of which seem to be related to East Nashville residents.  Some are as old as 1911 but my house was built in 1936. It’s a mystery!! Help me find their relatives!

I did my best to make out what they say. Maybe you can help me with that too.ANDREW JACKSON BUILDINGburtdear carolyn page 1dear carolyn page 2dear carolyn page 3Doctor WhitfieldDomain backdomain of the golden dragonHeading homeHello MaggieHello MaryMary ChristmasPhotoSTAMPSvernon is going to japanVICTORY STAMPWOMEN IN ARMED FORCES STAMP

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Straight Outta Carthage

advisory

1985 saw the rise of of hip hop and hair metal in the music charts, which terrified mothers across the country. One woman decided to do something about it, and her name was Tipper Gore. Tipper, wife of former VP Al Gore of Carthage, TN; created the Parents Resource Music Center (PRMC) which is responsible for the Parent Advisory stickers on every single CD I ever ordered on Columbia House when I was 11 years old.

She, along with several other women whose husbands were in politics formed their own gang, “the Washington Wives,” and set out on their quest to shelter each man, woman, and child’s ears from offensive lyrics about sex, dope and any other Bible sin.

It started small with the Filthy 15 (Wikipedia) which they coined as “porn rock”:

1 Prince “Darling Nikki”
2 Sheena Easton “Sugar Walls”
3 Judas Priest “Eat Me Alive”
4 Vanity “Strap On ‘Robbie Baby'”
5 Mötley Crüe “Bastard”
6 AC/DC “Let Me Put My Love Into You”
7 Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
8 Madonna “Dress You Up”
9 W.A.S.P. “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”
10 Def Leppard “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)”
11 Mercyful Fate “Into the Coven”
12 Black Sabbath “Trashed”
13 Mary Jane Girls “In My House”
14 Venom “Possessed”
15 Cyndi Lauper “She Bop”

Before the stickers were put into place, the Senate held a hearing where the “offending” porn rock musicians could come to say their piece. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Frank Zappa and John Denver showed up to fight against censorship. But we all know how that turned out…

The Washington Wives couldn’t stop there. They needed real live maryrs and created a modern day witch hunt based on their wacky lore.

As a trippy hippie leftover from the 70’s, Tipper and her girls were also concerned about subliminal messages in songs – especially when played backwards. None more plagued by the witch hunt was Judas Priest, who were blamed for the deaths of two teenagers. The two kids reportedly shot themselves after listening to Judas Priest and the going theory was because there were subliminal messages in the lyrics telling the kids to commit suicide.

Here’s a fun list with videos of all songs with allegedly satanic messaging in them when played backwards:

Here’s To My Sweet Satan: The 15 Creepiest Backwards Messages In Classic Rock

The 80’s were such an interesting time. Cocaine is a hell of a drug…

The Mystery of Lyncoya

Did you know that Andrew Jackson never had children of his own, but the brain child of the Indian Removal Act adopted a Creek child? Paradoxical enigma that he is, Jackson sent home a child found on a battlefield (disputed either the Battle of Talladega or the Battle of Horseshoe Bend) with his dead mother and raised him as his own. His name was Lyncoya. Lyncoya received the very best education and had hopes to attend West Point but because of his ethnicity he could not. Instead, he became a saddle maker and died of tuberculosis when he was around 16 years old.

As with anything Andrew Jackson, there is perhaps a darker side to the story.

Historians speculate that Lyncoya may have been brought home as a plaything or ‘pet’ for his other adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr. It was not uncommon for African slaves to tour the world in “Human Zoos,” and some think that his initial intentions might have been more along those lines given Jackson’s betrayal of Native Americans just two short years after Lyncoya’s death.

For whatever reason, historians can document that Lyncoya was well cared for, although the romanticism that he warmed Jackson’s cold, black heart may be just that as his body has never been found. In 2003, cadaver dogs searched the property of the Hermitage looking for slave burial grounds and for Lyncoya. While the rest of the family, and even Jackson’s most loved slave Alfred are buried in the same area, but Lyncoya still remains lost today.

Below are the graves of Alfred (buried close but still separate) to the large gazebo-esque monument atop Jackson and his wife, Rachel. The rest of the family lie in the bottom right section of the grave site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stix Near the River Cumberland

File Dec 15, 10 21 31

Photo by Angela Schmidt “While Definitely Not Driving”

A lot of people don’t like it. It’s a whole bunch of seemingly random big sticks in the middle of the newest roundabout that no one in Nashville can navigate.

Nashville traditionally doesn’t like new things. It’s in the midst of a personality crisis right now as throngs of ‘youths’ from California, New York and all points in between rush into our previously ‘big small town.’

Spending money on things like roundabouts and public art is not what old Nashville is about. In fact, there are still a group of Puritans who occasionally put clothes on the “Musica” statues they put in the middle of the old roundabout by Music Row. But the times, they are a changin.’

“Stix” is now Music City’s tallest (and most expensive) piece of public art. It is also our most interesting. The actual work was not done by an artist, but unconventionally by a power pole company, Rains Electric Company, based in Madison, TN.  The German artist Christian Mueller created only the concept.

Mueller wanted the piece to pay homage to the Native American tribes who first walked and hunted the land on which we now each day wreck – literally. He relies on painted wood and natural colors like the Native tribes would have used in their art. There are native wild grasses that will grow underneath and the whole things glows at night. Mueller imagined the piece as arrows that had fallen from the sky, in a kind of dreamy battle of past and present.

 

 

Because Somebody Blundered

In 1918, what is still considered to be the worst railway accident in U.S. history occurred right here in Nashville. Sitting unassumingly in on White Bridge Road in between the Greenway and the Hospital is a memorial.

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Photo by Angela Schmidt

Two trains collided head on, resulting in 101 people killed and 171 injured. One train was heading to Memphis, and the other from Memphis to Old Hickory when “somebody blundered” according to the Nashville Tennesseean paper, and the engineer gave the wrong signal to the approaching trains.

Rounding the Dutchman’s Curve bend of the track, the trains collided around 7:15 am. 80% of the passengers were African-Americans heading to work at the Dupont Factory, which is still operating in a suburb of Nashville – Lakewood, TN (see also Wizard Tree).

The scene is described a little too gruesomely for me, but you can read the original newspaper story reprinted here. I prefer the old way of storytellin’ best – through music.

R.I.P. Fort Nashboro

It is with a tear that Nashville bids farewell to Fort Nashborough today.  The Fort, which may or may not have any historical significance whatsoever, was scheduled to be torn down and then re-built as a part of the $100 million Flood Wall project proposed by the Mayor.

The project lost backing by Metro Council, but the demolition of Fort Nashborough was never cancelled.

Now, I’m not here to argue the fort’s place in history, but to eulogize a place that was special to me as a child through adulthood. I recall field trips to Fort Nashborough, and although I have no memory of what they told us, I just remember being enchanted by the place.  I would fantasize about living there and having a riverfront view.

Even last week I walked the Germantown Greenway onto Gay Street and stopped at Fort Nashborough to keep my childhood dream alive of one day prancing around in a robe with a bowl of popcorn, standing in the center of the fort laughing at the outside world.

Please share your memories in the comments below. I have the feeling that this one is gone forever…

Picture stolen from some guy who stole it from his friend on the East Nashville Facebook page

Picture stolen from some guy who stole it from his friend on the East Nashville Facebook page

Wizard Tree

In a time not so long ago, in a land not so far away lived two teenaged adventurers.  One; yours truly, and the other – my partner in crime.  After an afternoon of skateboarding at the old Donelson Hospital, we decided to drive down Old Hickory Boulevard, past the Hermitage and arrive in the then incorporated town of Lakewood, known mostly for it’s speed trap by Nashvillians.

But we had heard another story.  One of mystery and intrigue.  About halfway down Debow Street stood the large, carved tree, locally referred to as the Wizard Tree.  Under the cover of darkness, those brave enough to face it arrived to soak in it’s power.  The legend was that a man accidentally drove head first into the tree, and upon impact, had a vision of God speaking to him.

Now, you know that the holy ghost just loves to appear to people as chips, bananas and as cinnamon buns, but the wizard tree was something else all together.  The man who saw the vision deemed it his responsibility to carve the tree up, to bear witness to the face he saw.

A funnier story is that the man on the tree manifested himself after losing a pie eating contest with the devil and would play telephone with people who came to visit him from hell.

The tree was known around town to have powers, and the man on the tree looked much like a wizard, dubbing it the appropriate “wizard tree.”  Now friends, those were the days before cell phone cameras when we used our minds for memories so I do not have, nor do I know anyone that has a picture of this tree (if you do please add it to the comments!).  But I can tell you one thing: it did exist.

There’s a nice marina bar now over in the neighborhood and I drive by Debow sometimes just to see what’s happening.  The tree is no longer there and the street feels different.  My adult mind also wonders how a man could have possibly crashed into the tree on such a narrow, small road.

But those thoughts are no fun.  I think I’ll just sit on Old Hickory Lake and remember things the way they were.

Hank Williams Wuz Here

Hank Williams is the South’s very own George Washington who slept, ate, and even died all over the place. The night of his death is still a much disputed bar game where everyone likes to argue what they think really happened.  People will tell you that he ate his last meal in Bristol, VA at a place called Burger Bar but others think that he wouldn’t have wanted to eat after being shot up with morphine by a Doctor in Knoxville (after the chloral hydrate and all the booze he had already had), and that his last words really may have been that he did not want anything. It’s more probable that his chauffeur was eating a burger from Burger Bar as Williams died. And actually, there may (?) not have even been a Burger Bar at that time.

And where did he die? We know for sure that it was somewhere between Knoxville, TN and Oak Hill, WV but the exact location is impossible to know. Was it the morphine, the combo, or just bad luck? His reported cause of death “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart” but he could have just been done.

Nevertheless; he died the modern day seafarer’s death which has a beauty all its own – on the road.

What is certain is that his life was in decline as he started down his own lost highway to Canton, OH. It was New Years Eve, 1952 (heading into 1953): An ice storm caused his show in Charleston, WV to cancel so Charles Carr began driving Williams to his next show at the Windsor Theater in Canton. They stopped in Knoxville at the Andrew Johnson hotel to get Dr. Morphine, then at Burger Bar in Bristol (113 miles from Knoxville), and then again at a gas station in Oak Hill, WV (157 miles) where Carr discovered Williams was dead.

And perhaps it was his traveling spirit that keeps him around.  There are more stories than I can count of people who have seen his ghost either as him or a white mist at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  He is also active in the alley behind the Lower Broadway Honky Tonks in Nashville that back up to the Ryman’s backstage exit, thehallways in the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, the Tyree Funeral Home where his body was autopsied, and homes and honky tonks all over the South.

Have YOU seen him?

Come for the Heroin, Stay for the Polar Bears

 

Polar Bears (6)

I posted this image on Instagram the other day and got one of two responses. Some were intrigued and wanted to know more about where and what it was, but the people who already know where it was, they wanted to know what the hell I was doing there.

One PM went like this:

Friend – “Are you getting drugs?”

Me – “No, do you need some?”

Friend – “OMG Why are you in Edgehill Angela? You should stay out of there”

Me – “I just stopped to take a picture.  I swear I went right back to my safe little village of East Nashville just after.”

Bordering the likes of the Belmont Mansion, the Condos at 2600 Culture Wipe Pike,  and Music Row; Edgehill is the last real holdout of gentrification anywhere around it. In 2013, it “won” one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the U.S., but Nashvillians know it better for the six foot tall, 800 pound polar bear statues.

snow dome

So, why are there polar bears in Nashville, TN, the very  home of the snow dome? The answer is custard.

A man by the name of Gio Vacchino of the Mattei Plaster Relief Ornamental Company created the bears for the Polar Bear Frozen Custard shops on Gallatin Road and West End Avenue (in Nashville.  No one knows for sure how many more he created for shops all over the Southeast).  Custard wasn’t quite the craze everyone thought it would be I guess, so after WWII, the shops closed and the bears were bought by Reverend Zima Hill for his front yard at 1408 Edgehill Avenue.  He also placed two in front of the local funeral home.

The two at the funeral home were sold (one lives next door to the famous meat and three Monell’s in Germantown; the other is broken and in a backyard down the street) and the other two ended up as property of the city once the home at 1408 Edgehill was sold (1408 Edgehill is currently a halfway house called Oxford House- Polar Bear).

Students from Tennessee State University were a part of the team to restore the crumbling polar bears, and in 2004, MDHA created the Polar Bear Plaza at the corner of Edgehill Avenue and 12th Avenue South.

In the winter make sure to drive by and see them all dressed up for Christmas with garland, just waiting for the snow that will never come.

 

 

 

The Brass Stables – Nashville’s Only Exotic Dance Club

Nashville’s got plenty of strip clubs, just ask Pac Man Jones (never forget!) –

But it only has one “exotic” dance club which has been grandfathered in to have different regulations than the other strip clubs in town (i.e. their dancers do not have to follow the “three feet” rule because the building is so narrow, they literally cannot be three feet away from their clients).  It is not only the oldest “exotic” club in town, but it is also the one with the richest history.  The Brass Stables began as a fancy pants restaurant called the Brass Rail Stables and Lounge.  The restaurant was located on the second floor of the building, and the stables were below.  Today you can still see the original wood from the stables on the wall in the Brass Stables.

Andrew Jackson, then Governor of Tennessee and founder of the modern Democratic Party himself, kept his horse boarded there.  At the time, the restaurant and ‘lounge’ was really more of a brothel, which was where Andrew Jackson’s three week journey (read: wild party and celebration) to Washington began after he found out that he had won the Presidential Election.  Now, in case you missed that, Jackson’s presidency in theory started at what is now the Brass Stables in Nashville, TN.  Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829 and his reception was so drunk and rowdy that Jackson climbed out of the window of the White House and went to a hotel.  The crowd refused to leave until bowls of liquor and spiked punch were put out around the White House lawn and eventually everyone got extra drunk. It took three months to restore the White House to the condition it was in before the Jackson inauguration party, all of which *technically* began at the Brass Stables.