Paddling: Thank God for Mississippi–and Alabama and Arkansas

September 30, 2006

Whenever a national publication runs what might be called Lists You Don’t Want To Be On, such as percentage of morbidly obese people, number of illiterates, or rate of child abuse, I always pick up the newspaper or magazine with trembling hands to see if Tennessee is there.

Today’s New York Times has a front page article on corporal punishment, complete with a photo of a formidable-looking middle school principal in Texas holding a paddle that would make any fraternity proud.

The article’s seventh paragraph reads:

“The most recent federal statistics show that during the 2002-3 school
year, more than 300,000 American schoolchildren were disciplined with
corporal punishment, usually one or more blows with a thick wooden
paddle. Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating more
painful. Of those students, 70 percent were in five Southern states:
Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas.”

Oh, no!  I turned to the inside, and there was a map of the US showing the “percentage of students punished in 2002” in the  22 states where paddling is still permitted.  The figures came from the Center for Effective Discipline, which sounds like a very strange place to work.  But I digress.

The stats are as follows:

Mississippi  9.1%

Arkansas  7.6%

Alabama 5.2%

Tennessee 4.4%

Texas 1.4%

Texas must be slipping.  As we used to say in Tennessee when education figures were released, “Thank God for Mississippi,” for the Magnolia State was often the one that kept us off the bottom–or the top, depending on how you look at it–of various lists.

That Mississippi must be some place–almost one out of ten students are on the receiving end of paddling.  Wonder if teachers are issued official paddles or if they have to procure their own?

My last encounter with corporal punishment was in the seventh grade at Colonial Heights Junior High outside of Kingsport, Tennessee.  I had committed some transgression, and was offered the choice of taking one lick from a paddle wielded by a male teacher or writing an 11-page essay.

Heck, I would have taken one lick from King Kong rather than write 11 pages.  Several of my comrades made the same choice.  We were marched into the hall one at a time, smitten on the backside, then allowed back into the classroom.  The blows echoed down the long hall, bringing the activity in every class to a halt as everyone counted the licks. 

By the next class change, the entire school would have the answers to these questions:  Who got it?  Why?  Did he (for girls never did anything to get paddled) cry? 

As for me, I shed not a tear.  But it smarted. 

In Many Public Schools, the Paddle Is No Relic – New York Times

Baseball Change-ups

September 29, 2006

West Tennesseans have enjoyed AA league baseball at Jackson’s Pringles Park, named for the potato chip factory nearby.  The West Tenn Diamond Jaxx will have new uniforms beginning in 2007 as the Seattle Mariners begin a two-year affiliation with the Jackson park.

The Chicago Cubs’s AA team, who played at Pringles Park for nine years, are moving across the state, where they will play as the Tennessee Smokies, replacing the Arizona Diamondbacks AA team.

Confused?  To see who’s going to be on first, wait til Opening Day of 2007.

Jackson Sun – – Jackson, TN

Taking the chains from Hank Williams’s music

September 29, 2006

Today’s Tennessean brings the good news that nine years of legal fisticuffs between record companies and the children of Hank Williams has come to an end with the kids–and Williams fans–winning.Back in the days of live radio–before tape recording–station engineers often captured performances on blank records called acetates. These could be played again for later broadcast, distributed to other stations, or, more rarely, used to produce records that could be sold.

In this case, one of Hank’s sponsors, Mothers’ Best Flour, recorded over 40 Hank Williams broadcasts in the early 1950s. When WSM moved to new studios, some dimwit threw out the acetates, which were pulled out of the trash by a sharp-eyed photographer, Les Leverett. He later sold these to a former guitar player in Hank’s band with the wonderful name of Hillous Butrum.

The legal wranglings, as such matters usually go, are too tedious to relate here. The good news is that fans will soon be able to hear live recordings of one of the most dynamic performers in country music history.

New music from Ol’ Hank? – Nashville, Tennessee – Friday, 09/29/06 –

Knoxville works with developer to save historic house

September 29, 2006

How many times have we seen some historic structure in Tennessee cities or towns torn down?  “Someone should have saved that place,” we say, or, with resignation, “You can’t stop progress.”

Actually, you can.

Knoxville has just demonstrated how to do it right.  The Mary Boyce Temple House, built in 1907, sits on a corner on Henley Street, one of Knoxville’s main thoroughfares. Once home to a woman who helped preserve Knoxville’s Blount Mansion, the house witnessed the growth of Knoxville and the virtual elimination of single family houses in the dowtown area.  Following an all-too-familiar script, the house was cut into apartments and slowly declined.  When plans were announced for construction of a new Hampton Inn & Suites, it looked like curtains for the house.

Knox Heritage, Inc., a local preservation group, worked with the hotel developer to alter the footprint of the hotel and save the house.  The city did its part by offering a tax abatement.  A local architect bought the house and announced plans to renovate it, making the distinctive structure his home and office. The house will enhance downtown for all who see it. 

Knox Heritage maintains a list, The Fragile 15, of threatened buildings.  The Mary Boyce Temple House was Number 9 on that list.  Having a list like this is not hard to do and can help galvanize the public and officials to maintain Tennessee’s historic buildings.

KnoxNews: Local

R.I.P. Pop Tunes sign in Memphis

September 26, 2006

Today comes the sad news that the black sign that for decades heralded Summer Avenue’s Pop Tunes will be painted over and transformed into a sign for the store that now occupies the old Pop Tunes space.

Pop Tunes, then Popular Tunes, was the record store where the young Elvis Presley, at that time a resident of nearby Lauderdale Courts public housing, would listen to and occasionally buy records. You can see a photo of Elvis in 1958 here: Cats Music – ELVIS . The store claimed to be the first place to sell Elvis records.

Pop Tunes closed several years ago, but survives on the web as Cat’s Music. The site is here: Cats Music – Home

In its day, the 40-foot tall sign, designed to look like a 45-rpm record, had neon lights around it that made the record look like it was rotating. Too bad this roadside attraction didn’t make it to a museum or Beale Street or even Graceland.

Memphis Commercial Appeal – Memphis’ Source for News and Information: Local

"Real Daughters” of Civil War Union veterans

September 26, 2006

Fred Brown of the Knoxville News Sentinel writes today about the vanishing number of people who were fathered by Civil War veterans. An organization called the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War claims that 26 women are still alive who are direct descendants of the boys in blue. (You can see the Daughters’ website here: Four of the Daughters live in East Tennessee.

Other daughters exist, apparently, but they are not members of the group–
Perhaps that is why the card-carrying members are dubbed “Real Daughters.”

Civil War veterans, it seems, sired children far beyond the years when most men experience fatherhood. Take, for example, the woman featured in Brown’s article, Minnie Malicote. She is 98, which means she was born in 1908. The article says her father died at age 90 in 1936, which makes him 62 when she was born. There was no mention in the article of Mrs. Malicote’s mother, or how old she was when Minnie was born.

Veterans of the Civil War received pensions, which could be passed on to their wives. In poverty-ridden times and places, those pensions no doubt caused some young women to marry bewhiskered veterans. The last known Civil War widow was Gertrude Janeway, who died in January, 2003 in Blaine, Tennessee. She married her husband in 1927, when she was 18 and he was 81.

While the dwindling number of daughters, real or otherwise, certainly should be honored, my heart goes out to their mothers, those young women who, for whatever reason, married those old coots and bore their children.

Not all of the victims of war suffer on battlefields.

KnoxNews: Columnists

Shooting Machine Guns for St. Jude’s

September 24, 2006

Here’s a charity event that raises a few eyebrows.  For five hours, people in Memphis could shoot machine guns, with the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  No word yet on how much money this event raised; last year’s shootathon raised a mere $1,800.

Memphis Commercial Appeal – Memphis’ Source for News and Information: Local

Finding movies filmed in Tennessee

September 22, 2006

Here’s a site taking advantage of Google Maps and showing where various movies were filmed in Tennessee. You can type in the name of a city or, search by name of the film, or put in an address and see what was filmed within 25 miles of that spot.

Within 25 miles of Kingsport, where I grew up, I found Days of Thunder, The River, Dreamers, The Work and the Glory: American Zion, and The Evil Dead.

None of these, alas, are destined to become classics of the silver screen. Try your favorite Tennessee town–maybe you’ll have better luck.

Moviemappr: Find Movies Filmed Near You

Let us now praise the sons of famous men

September 21, 2006

Daniel Golden, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has just come out with book called The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gate. Having taught at one of those colleges, and then worked in its fundraising office, I had to read this book.

I perked up when I saw that Golden subtitled his introduction “The Tennessee Waltz.” He chose to begin by focusing on the male offspring of, respectively, Tennessee Senator Bill Frist and former Tennessee Senator and Vice-President Al Gore. Harrison Frist went to Princeton, while Albert Gore III went to Harvard.

Golden says “Both were middling students who preferred partying to homework and the company of jocks to scholars,” then goes on from there:

“Once enrolled in these premier universities, the two youths hardly distinguished themselves. Harrison may be best known at Princeton for joining a rowdy, hard-drinking social club, and both were arrested on substance abuse charges. If they appeared not to value an elite college education, it may be because they didn’t earn their admission; it was delivered to them as a birthright.”


When it comes to elite universities, Vanderbilt is the closest thing Tennessee has. It gets mentioned in the book primarily because of Chancellor Gordon Gee, who while president of Brown University, the book claims, bent over backwards to recruit the offspring of famous parents.

140009796701_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v58782342_.jpg The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates: Books: Daniel Golden

The Savannas of Tennessee

September 18, 2006

Morgan Simmons of the Knoxville News Sentinel delivers a great article today about a 900-acre grassland in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. “Grassland” is a term not usually associated with Tennessee. Pioneers found grassy places they called “barrens” or, in the Smoky Mountains, “balds,” but these areas are anything but barren.

Native wild grasses thrive here and choke out trees, which can only succeed by moving in from the perimeters. Grasslands support deer and elk and, in Tennessee’s past, bision.

To get to the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, go north of I-40 on Hwy 298 from Crossville. Here is a useful overview of the Area: Sherpa Guides | Tennessee | The Tennessee Mountains | Upper Cumberland Plateau | Catoosa Wildlife Management Area

KnoxNews: Local