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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we meet the Lebanon proprietor of Ragtop Picture Cars, then meet a Clarksville lady who's cashing in on cake. We'll discover what kept this craftsman whittling away for decades and lined up with a couple of stay at home virtual visits. Hi everyone, glad you're visiting. I'm Joe Elmore, welcome again to Tennessee Crossroads. Have you ever been watching a movie and a particular car caught your eye? Maybe it was the same kind of car you drove to your senior prom or a real hot car you wish you had driven. Rob Wilds knows the man who might've put that car in the movie, he's the guy that movie makers call when they've gotta have the right set of wheels. - Hope this guy can help me. How you doing? - [David] Good, how are you? - I'm doing good, listen. I've gotta do some moving, I need a truck of some kind. You got anything? It's hard to find them sometimes. - Yeah it is tough but I do have one. - Do you? - Yeah, sure do. - Okay, well why don't you bring it up and I'll have a little take it. - Okay good, I'll go get it. - Think it can haul some stuff? - Oh yeah, this truck'll haul some stuff. - Okay. - Here's your truck. - Back to 1951, let's move it. And our tour guide back to the 50s is David Tinsley, the guy the movie guys call when they need just the right car. Chances are, David has it right here on his place. - I call it a picture car farm. - [Rob] A farm? - Yeah, I raise cars instead of cattle and sheep and pigs, I raise cars. - [Rob] That's a real bumper crop here. - [David] Yeah it's a bumper crop. - [Rob] Yep, business is booming. - [David] I've done over 400 music videos, who knows how many TV commercials, 14 feature films. - [Rob] Whether you need to hire the work horses of the farm. - [David] The work horses would be the police cars, the modern day police cars, they get a lot of use. Old pickup trucks seem to be used a lot. - [Rob] Or maybe something a little harder to come by. - [David] Just finished a movie and we needed a 1950s, two 1950s Greyhound buses. So I had to find those. - [Rob] Not one but two, huh? - [David] But two and I did find them and we got them down here and used them in the movie. - [Rob] Oh, where'd you find those? - One of them in Pennsylvania, the other one in Illinois. - [Rob] David travels all over looking for vehicles to add to his movie fleet. He's got 150 of them or so right now. He owns everything from Gremlins, to lemons, to taxi cabs. - [David] I bought that from an estate sale in Columbia. - [Rob] Tennessee? - [David] Columbia, Tennessee, right. We drove it back from Columbia, it hadn't been started in 11 years and we got it running down there, it didn't take much, got it running and made it almost back home. - [Rob] Almost back home? - [David] Yeah, almost back home. - [Rob] What's the story there? - And the points closed up on it, so, yeah we had to go get some points and put back in it, made it the rest of the way home. - [Rob] Well there you go. Which is why it's a very good thing that David likes to work on cars. He keeps all of his vehicles working, although what the cars look like is really the most important part. - [David] No the outside, a lot of them is what they like to see on camera. Patina, rust, age, very seldom do I use really nice cars on set. - [Rob] Yeah I guess it's more like, a character kind of thing, right? - [David] That's correct, yeah, character. - [Rob] So rusted and dented is good but sometimes his cars don't exactly get the pampered star treatment on the set. - [David] We did the movie Deadline and we had a '67 Pontiac LeMans and we were supposed to wreck it. We actually did do some ramming into the back of it and tore it up a little bit but not bad. - [Rob] And so in the shot where it was wrecked, it wasn't the same car obviously? It was just a, or did you see it actually get wrecked? - Yeah we saw it actually get wrecked, yeah. - [Rob] Oh so you did wreck it? - Yeah we did wreck it but I put it back together and now I'm using it again. Didn't wanna break a window. - [Woman] Yeah? - [David] One of the pickup trucks. - [Woman] Which truck? Like, we have about 15 trucks so did they choose one yet? - [Rob] I guess you take special orders, right? People call you and say I need a milk truck from 1935 or something? - [David] Right, then I have to find it. - [Rob] Could you? - [David] Yes, I can get you a milk truck from 1935 if you need one. - [Rob] You think you could, huh? - [David] I know I could. - [Rob] Oh you know where it is, right now? - Yes, sir. - [Rob] Golly Moses, you're good, you know? I thought that'd be a pretty obscure thing. - [David] No. - [Rob] If David doesn't have the vehicle you need right here on his farm. - That'd be a nice rent-a-truck right there. - [Rob] He can find it for you. - [David] The Internet's a big help, word of mouth, I've actually been on some film shoots where I've met the people and they had an old truck that was in their back yard and we worked out a deal on that, so I've gotta pick them up at different places. - [Rob] Like a lot of show business, David's work is not all glitz and glamor but still, it's perfect for David. - I love the film industry. Yeah, I love the film industry and I knew I wasn't ever gonna be an actor, so I wound up on the other side of the camera. - [Rob] Well you're probably working more than most of the actors I know, so. - Very true. - [Rob] That's a good thing. But you must like cars a lot too. - [David] I do, yes I do. I've liked cars since childhood. Always had a nice car through high school, then I went to, started racing NASCAR race cars in the 80s, got out of that and restored some cars, that led into the business of picture cars. - [Rob] Yes and how often these days are the classic cars the best part of a movie? The part provided by David Tinsley and the bumper crop he produces at his Ragtop Picture Car Farm in Lebanon. - Thanks, Rob. When it comes to capping off a perfect meal, there are some classic desserts that have becomes staples of every menu. Ken Wilshire met a lady in Clarksville who takes the cake, cheesecake that is, when it comes to fulfilling a passion for this divine dessert. - [Ken] Cheesecake, just say the word to yourself. Well for many of us, our minds have been conditioned to sense its creamy, tantalizing texture and it's sublimely subtle sweetness and dating back to Ancient Greece, it's been one of the most popular desserts the world has ever enjoyed and so it is today. In fact, just visit this tiny little shop overlooking the Cumberland river in Clarksville. There's usually a line of folks waiting for freshly baked individual cheesecakes. - Y'all have a great day. - [Ken] It's called B's Cheesecakes and it's the creation of Bonita and Jim Lacy. - So I actually make mine a little different. - [Ken] You see, Bonita, or Miss B as she's called, started baking cheesecakes for family meals and events. The demand soon became so great, she left her promising career in industrial quality control to pursue some pretty sweet dreams. - We were actually doing the cheesecakes at the downtown market, about three and a half years on the side. So finally it got to be that it was more than we could handle, I was not sleeping at all, so we finally decided that it was time for me to quit my job. We came to a time when we had paid our house off, so we were financially ready, we didn't have to go into debt, this became available, so we jumped and haven't looked back since. - Cheesecake comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. It's often topped with every conceivable delight and for thousands of years, we've savored its simple richness. You know historians say that the earliest cheesecakes were made with some pretty simple ingredients. Started out with cheese of course, not this modern day cream cheese, some flour, eggs and honey and today's cheesecakes aren't much different. - [Bonita] Very simple ingredients, there are maybe four, five ingredients that go into the base cheesecake recipe. We do a basic New York cheesecake recipe and that's what we use for everything that we make. The only thing that changes is what goes in it, on it or under it and that will make the difference in the cheesecake but they're all the same basic recipe. - [Ken] But according to Miss B, it's truly an art to transform these basic elements into decadent desserts. - [Bonita] They're very particular, they're very dependent on the weather. The batter changes when the weather changes. You know, I knew that was true with breads and a lot of baked goods but I really didn't realize how much it was with cheesecakes until we got into it. You cook it fast at first, you cook it low and slow to finish it and you'll make a perfect cheesecake every time. - [Ken] And every time the doors are open at B's, you'll find family. It's ironic, her first cheesecakes were just for family and now it's family that's making her cheesecake venture a success. - [Bonita] It is definitely a family operation. My husband still works full time, his name is Jim, his apron says Mr B on it, little girl nicknamed him Mr B. My daughter, son-in-law, it's quite the family operation. Everybody pitches in to keep it going. - [Ken] Since Miss B's cheesecakes are baked New York style, that's basically high, dense and firm, it's the creative toppings, flavors and presentations that set hers apart from all the rest. - [Bonita] We're upwards to over 100 flavors now because we play a lot and we tell people we just don't care, we love to play, we love to experiment and our customers love that. We've got six flavors that stay every day and then the rest of our flavors just roll in or out and there is no rhyme or reason as to what flavor we have on what day because I tell people that I worked by a schedule for 28 years and we don't work by schedule here, we work by whatever we wanna come in and bake. We'll take suggestions but everybody watches the menu, the menu gets posted about 10 o'clock every morning, right before I unlock the doors, we post the menu. - [Ken] Miss B creates hundreds of cheesecakes a day for folks who visit from around the country. Her love for baking is obvious but she has a special place in her heart for taking care of her customers. - Oh, she's a cutie. - She goes to a pre-school just down the road and it's our little treat. So when we leave preschool, she'll sit there and say "cake?" So she's one of Miss B's biggest fans. - And I really don't know what makes it any different. Like I tell people, sometimes I just don't even measure, I mean I can do it with my eyes closed now but I do it by texture and by feel. You adjust your ingredients to the batter and I just, it's just delicious. - [Ken] Delicious? Well, even the shop full of bobble heads seem to nod in agreement. But what could make her cheesecakes even more tasty? - We do do a maple candy bacon, my husband candies the bacon with brown sugar and pure maple syrup and it is delicious. - [Ken] You'll find Miss B's personal touch and passion for quality control everywhere in the bakery but it's now B's and she's in control. - [Bonita] When you work in quality in manufacturing, there is always a problem, there is always something that you have to deal with. There's always something wrong that you have to deal with, that's why there's quality there, you know, to try to fix those issues and you never make people happy. There's always something that you're complaining about, something that you've gotta take care of. Here we make people happy every day, every day and if they're not happy, we will make them happy. - [Ken] Well this culinary artist isn't happy until her works are signed. While it's not a B, it is a counter-clockwise swirl of sweetness on a creamy round canvas. It's her quality stamp of approval that this is the best batch of B's cheesecakes ever. Well, until the next ones. - I've never, ever looked back. It's a lot of work, there are days when I leave here and we're exhausted and we're tired but I love it every day, I love every day that I open up that door with the key that's my own key, so I love it. - Thanks Ken. Whittling wood is a popular pastime down on the farm. Gretchen Bates one day met a farmer down in Columbia who's carved out quite a niche for himself by carving a collection of artwork. One that was seven decades in the making. - [Gretchen] You might not notice at first glance but behind those clear blue eyes and crisp denim overalls lies the heart of a true romantic. - [Billy] Now there's lots of hearts on them, that's the love, you know. I'm known as a spoon carver. In the history I'm gonna be known as spoon carver. - [Gretchen] History plays a big part in Billy Roy Park's passion for turning a piece of wood into a work of art. Especially when it comes to carving love spoons. Welsh love spoons are handmade spoons carved from a single piece of wood. Centuries ago, it was a tradition for a young man in love to carve a beautiful, intricate spoon for his lover in hopes that she would accept his spoon. Long, cold winters gave men many long nights to hone in on their whittling skills. This also showed the practical skills of the potential husband, which was a very desirable trait. The more difficult to carve a design, the more it would symbolize the depth of the carver's love. If a young lady accepted a man's spoon, it was a confirmation of their relationship to the community, which by the way, is where the term spooning comes from. Given his natural ability to work a piece of wood, it's no surprise that Billy Roy had no trouble winning over the lady of his own affection. - Oh my wife enjoyed my carvings, yeah. She certainly did. Irises was her favorite kind of flower and I carved up a relief carving, it's a picture in a piece of wood. I carved three or four roses, it took me about a week to make one. Looks almost real. - [Gretchen] As much as he loves carving love spoons and flowers, Mr Park's collection is surprisingly diverse. Of course, he's been carving for a little while now. - I did a carving about 70... Five years, yeah that's a long time. I just picked it up on my own when I was about 15 years old and didn't have anyone to show me anything, just came natural to me. Soon after I started, I went to carving birds. They're not too hard to carve. Now wood carvers, professional wood carvers, they buy feet, legs and eyes. I don't like that myself, that's not much craftsmanship when you do that, I make my own. I carve different things now and then, animals. Just whatever I got a pattern of, I can carve anything if I've got a pattern to go by and a picture. When you're carving, you have to be careful not to cut something off that needs to be left on. It would destroy it, of course and what some carvers, now I don't like to stop to talk, or to eat or to sleep, I like to keep carving. I'm in to it that much. It takes a lot of hours on everything, as far as that goes. You've got to have patience and a sharp knife. - [Gretchen] Patience and a sharp knife and maybe a sense of humor too, for the character pieces, that is. - [Billy] The uglier you make them, the better. See the hands, big hands and feet and now that's what you call a character carving. This is one thing I show everybody, feed the chickens. - [Gretchen] Is it a cowboy that he's carving? - [Billy] Yeah. - [Gretchen] Well look at that. He looks kind of like you. - [Billy] Think so? - [Gretchen] Yeah. Billy Roy has been carving wood for as long as he can remember but growing up in rural Tennessee, there was real work to be done and he wasn't one to shirk his work on the family farm. - Well I always liked to work and I've done my part of the work on the farm. I just carved on my spare time. A lot of my carving is done between five and 10 o'clock at night. Well I joined a carving class, about 1965. We had a class on carving spoons, I carved it, I enjoyed it and I've been carving spoons ever since. I guess this is the most delicate one that I made. That's spiral and a lot of them have Celtic knots in the handle, that's an over and under. Then I finish one side and have to turn it over on the back and sometimes I get confused, that's hard to do. Most anybody'd be glad to get one of these love spoons, especially the ladies. They love these love spoons. - [Gretchen] The ladies love the love spoons and they love Billy and Billy doesn't intend to give up carving any time soon. - I don't know what I would do with my spare time. I'm retired from farming now, I don't know what what I would do if I didn't carve, have no idea. I wouldn't change a thing about my life, if I had to live it over, it'd be the same thing exactly. I'm sure God intended me to carve 'cause I'm so good at it, you know, and I enjoy it. There's no better hobby than wood carving, I don't think. It's sure meant a lot to me. - Thanks, Gretchen. The pandemic that we're now living through is a serious situation and it requires diligence when it comes to things like social distancing and staying at home. Well, isolation can have its amusing moments too. So with time on my hands and a little camcorder, I decided to record my own exciting day in the life. Like many of you, it all starts with coffee to get the day going and occasionally, I have to ask myself: is this Tuesday or Wednesday? No problem, I'll just consult my calendar and while I'm at it, check my schedule. Yep, just as I thought. Well now's a good time to do some of those things I've been putting off so long, like learning a new blues guitar lick. Or reading, I've read a ton of books this past month. This one's about anti-gravity and I just can't put it down. Of course, these days it's a good idea to catch up with old friends and share each other's exciting news. Hey, it's great to hear your voice. Oh, not much here, what about you? Same. Okay, well goodbye. On the plus side, I have improved my cooking skills here in the kitchen. Well, not so much. On pretty days like this, I can at least get out for a walk and some fresh air and while social distancing with humans, I can at least have a little contact with the neighbor's pets. Come, Leon! Goodbye, Leon! Well that was kind of funny. Okay, speaking of pets, studies have shown that the bond between people and animals can result in better fitness, less stress and a new found type of happiness. Mary Jill Kenner knows that first hand. She's a communications consultant in the Memphis area but she also rescues, fosters and finds homes for dogs and cats. Several, like Luna here, were foster failures, meaning she couldn't let them go. - You're definitely not lonely and you're not bored when you have an animal in the house. There's always, you know, you have to feed it, you have to give it baths sometimes, kind of like having a baby in the house except it doesn't cry at midnight, which is a good thing. But they also are good companions because they don't judge you, they don't care if you're working in your pajamas and if you are stressed about something, a lot of times they can tell and they'll come up and nudge on you because they want your attention and they want to make you feel better too. - [Joe] Of course a dog can be high maintenance, especially when it comes to things like taking them out for a walk in the rain. So what about a cat? - Cats can be more simple to care for than dogs because they generally don't have to be walked, it's a good idea to have toys for them to play with in the house and I've actually had a couple of cats that would fetch, you would toss them a toy or a ball and they would bring it back to you. - [Joe] Before long I could see it coming, my old friend Mary was leading up to a proposition. - I think you need a cat, Joe, definitely. - Okay, I'll get back with you on that, Mary. Well the newest member of our Crossroads team had an interesting pair of pets recently, at least for a day or two. Miranda Cohen said she was going out for a stroll and well, here's what happened. - And I was walking in my neighborhood, I live in a subdivision, part of it's, like a subdivision, and part of it is up against a real wooded area and I noticed something in the road. My daughter was with me and all of a sudden something, this something, whatever it was, started getting closer and closer and as we got closer, it got closer. So I sort of said to her, back up a little bit. They were two baby squirrels, two baby squirrels, I had never seen this before and I immediately thought they were darling and I'm just a crazy animal person and I thought they were just so cute and I thought they would run the minute they saw we got closer but they kept running toward me and not away from me. So immediately, one, then the other, started crawling up my pants, thank goodness I was wearing long pants and just chirping and making little squirrel noises and the next thing I knew I had one on my hand. We immediately raided my baking pantry and got some pecans and some walnuts and they were living pretty high there for a while. So we started feeding them the pecans and immediately they sat up on their back legs and started eating them. It was just, I was so smitten with them. So I set them up in a little tree house and gave them some water and kept going back to check on them and they were just the sweetest, cutest things and I did call a cousin of mine who had a lot of experience with squirrels and he told me, he said "oh they're big enough to be on their own" and he said, and he really did say, "you don't want to go interact with them too much "because they need to kind of wild up" and so the next couple of days I went back and kept feeding them and then of course, they turned into typical teenagers, they ignore me now, so, they've moved on. - That is a cute story. By the way, that was my first visit with Miranda, virtual as it was and I can say she's a lovely person inside and out. Glad to have her onboard and we're glad to have you onboard for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Please check out the website, join us on Facebook and by all means, join me next week, right here at home.
May 14, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 36
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, find a cure for your sweet tooth at B's Cheesecakes in Clarksville. Meet a woodcarver in Columbia who makes spectacular spoons. And round out your adventure with a trip to Lebanon where we meet a man who specializes in casting cars for films. Join us on Tennessee Crossroads and Nashville Public Television to find out more.