Stumping for History

September 17, 2006

For years, the Pemberton Oak stood, a tree so old it had sheltered the colonial Overmountain Men who marched off and defeated the British at the battle of King’s Mountain in 1780.

The tree blew down in August of 2002, yet people still come by just to see the stump, and various souls have taken parts of the tree and made bowls or pieces of furniture from it. – Entertainment – People still visit the stump of historic Bristol tree

Riding the Music City Star in Nashville

September 17, 2006

The Music City Star, the first commuter train in Tennessee, begins service tomorrow. This $40 million transit experiment will run from Lebanon to Riverfront Park in Nashville, stopping in Martha, Mt. Juliet, Hermitage, and Donelson along the way.

The Lebanon leg is the first of a proposed seven rail lines that will radiate out from Music City, and mass transit officials, not to mention train buffs, hope it succeeds.

For visitors to Nashville who would like to get out to places like Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage or other attractions without using a car, the train does not offer much. Right now its schedule accomodates only commuters, with the last outbound train in the morning at 8:30 AM and the first inbound one at 3:20 PM.

The train is a start, however, so let’s hope it is a big success and that the number and frequency of trains increases.

A lot rides on kickoff of Music City Star – Nashville, Tennessee – Sunday, 09/17/06 –

Paean to Moon Pies

September 17, 2006

The Chattanooga Times Free Press (link below but subscription required) contains two chapters from a forthcoming book on Moon Pies by David Magee, who writes a column for the newspaper. Weirdly enough, the book and the official Moon Pie website, which you can see at Moonpie: Homepage spells the name of the venerable baked good as “MoonPie.” Would one say “Hersheybar” or “Fignewton?” I don’t think so; I will stick with the way it ought to be.

Growing up in East Tennessee, Moon Pies were, for some reason, always associated with Royal Crown Cola, which we always called “RC.” Having a Moon Pie and an RC, which some people actually did, became more of a joke than a reality. The band NRBQ even recorded a song called “RC Cola and and Moon Pie.”

In the summer of 2006, I accompanied my parents to the wedding of a relative in Kentucky. We were invited to the rehearsal dinner, an affair in which the decoration and food and everything is designed, as such things should be, to give a good impression of the groom’s family. I had the (I thought) hilarious notion of running out and buying up a bunch of Moon Pies and placing one on every plate.

Wiser heads prevailed.

“MoonPie: Biography of an Out-of-This-World Snack” (Jefferson Press; hardcover; $19.95) by David Magee.

Excerpts from David Magee’s new book on the MoonPie | Chattanooga Times Free Press

Mud Island in the eye of Memphis locals

September 17, 2006

Today’s Memphis Commercial Appeal brings a story about Mud Island, the 52-acre buffer between downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River. Long an attraction for tourists, the island hasn’t quite caught on with locals.While homefolks are always the toughest critics of any local park or attraction, the very best parks, such as Chattanooga’s Coolidge Park or Chicago’s new Millenium Park, are those where travelers can see a great place AND the people who live around it.

In the article, general manager Trey Giuntini makes an important point: “When I was here as a city employee, you wouldn’t allow a person to
rollerblade, skateboard or bring a bicycle into the park,” Giuntini
said. “Now, under RDC, we open this up for bicycles, skateboards. …
We want people to come down and use this park.”

That’s the spirit!

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

Chattanooga pays for press coverage

September 16, 2006

Tourist bureaus in cities and states, like magicians, do not usually reveal their tricks. In today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press, (link below but they charge a subscription fee) however, an article describes the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s practice of using “fam tours” to promote their fair city,

A familiariztion tour is a jaunt in which magazine and newspapers writers are brought to town for free–airfare included–then taken to restaurants and the usual sites and sent home to write, one hopes, favorable pieces.

As the article explained:

“Some writers come through tours arranged by a
public relations firm hired by the visitors bureau. At the end of this
month, the bureau is hosting one of those trips, with writers from the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, National
Geographic Traveler
, Southern Hospitality, Country Living and a few
in-flight airline magazines.

“The bureau pays Tallahassee-based
Geiger & Associates $94,000 a year to find journalists to come, and
in turn, the media coverage reached an estimated 7.6 million people
this past year, Ms. Davis said. The bureau estimates the coverage was
equal to $390,000 in advertising.

“The tours include visits to
the aquarium, the Hunter Museum, Rock City, Ruby Falls, Lake
Winnepesaukah, the Incline Railway, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga
National Military Park, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the downtown

Top publications will not allow their writers to accept such freebies. Publications such as The New York Times make writers sign agreements saying they did not receive any hand-outs. One would think, then, that the Times would pay princely sums for articles untainted by giveaways, but they do not. That is a topic for another day.

Several years ago I shamelessly took part in one of these Geiger tours, and they aren’t bad. The Geiger people don’t put any pressure on writers to produce nice stuff. They hauled me around with an rather elderly crew of fellow scribblers who became most animated when it was time to tuck into a meal.

“A boy must hustle his book,” as Truman Capote once said, so I used the occasion to hand out copies of Moon Handbooks: Tennessee to my traveling companions. One of them, truly a gentleman and a scholar, actually mentioned my book in his piece.

Chattanooga Times Free Press

Chattanooga in 36 hours

September 16, 2006

The New York Times gave the “36 Hours” treatment to Chattanooga this week, with a quick look at places to go and things to see. These articles, which run once a week, tend to give a quick overview and drill down to a handful of specifics.

Interesting parts here include a line or two about St. John’s Restaurant at 1234 Market St., with “ranch antelope with a cantaloupe churney and stone-ground grits” for $30.

Chattanooga – New York Times

Helicopter Museum opens in Pigeon Forge

September 14, 2006

The Halson Helicopter Museum joins the Tennessee Museum of Aviation as another stop for aircraft fans vacationing near the Smokies.

According to a story in the Mountain Press, the museum “is not quite ready for the public,” so admission prices are at a discount until all the exhibits are in place. The Museum web site,, appears to be under construction as well.

Scenic Helicopters, which offers tours of the Great Smokies National Park, is one of several helicopter concessions offering to take tourists aloft. While I’m sure that the flights are fun, I can remember when there were so many of them that the Parkway seemed like a scene from Apocalypse Now.

The Mountain Press

More on Rev. Mull

September 14, 2006

On hearing that the Rev. J. Bazzel Mull had died, I sent Jack Neely, writer of the “Secret History” column in Knoxville’s Metro Pulse, a copy of The New York Times piece I wrote on Mull years ago.

Jack wrote a nice piece on Mull, containing these lines: “But maybe most memorably of all, no man has ever made more of the
simple and reasonable gesture of soliciting his wife’s assent.”

Jack is referring to the “Ain’t that right, Lady Mull?” question that punctuated their radio and television shows.

:: Metro Pulse Online ::

Railroad excursions along the Hiwassee River

September 12, 2006

Excursion trains will soon begin rolling up the Hiwassee River. The 50-mile round-trip ride will take three hours and will run from October 7th through the month of November. The Hiwassee, northeast of Chattanooga, is beautiful anytime of year, but during the fall the trees will really put on a show., Rail buffs will enjoy the Great Hiwassee Loop, a spiral of rails that puts passengers 64 feet over track the train rolled on just a few minutes before.

Future plans include taking the train all the way to Copperhill, once brush is removed from the tracks. This excursion has long been a dream of Tennessee Overhill , one of Tennessee’s most prominent culture and heritage tourism organizations.

Click on the link below for ticket prices and schedules.

Hiwassee River Rails Adventures

The Athens of the South Once More

September 10, 2006

Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center had its formal opening last night, a symphonic shindig to celebrate the opening of the country’s newest center for classical music.

The $123.5 million Center is a welcome addition to downtown, expanding the center of downtown gravity of downtown in a more southerly direction and closer to the Cumberland River.

It was interesting to see how–or if–any country-sounding notes would play in this stately hall on opening night. Bela Fleck, who might be described as a banjo soloist, played with a trio in an especially commissioned concerto. The Tennessean’s reviewer of the evening, Evans Donnell, wrote: “While the piece could have been more potent in a shorter timeframe, it
nevertheless mixed some moments of lively earthiness with haunting
passages of ethereal beauty.”

Ethereal beauty. There’s a phrase for the music and for the building.

BRAVO! – Nashville, Tennessee – Sunday, 09/10/06 –