Don't have the PBS App? Click Here
- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we explore the history and natural beauty of a popular Tennessee state park. We'll visit a century old gathering spot at Murfreesboro, then explore the quality works of a furniture maker in Woodbury. And finally visit the Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville. That's what's on tap for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. I'm Joe Elmore, welcome as always. Safe distancing, wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds. By now we all know the safeguards, but is there a safe way to enjoy a day trip or a mini vacation? Well, how about a Tennessee state park? Like Montgomery Bell. We went there recently and discovered there all kinds of things to do. Whether you explore the natural beauty or its intriguing history. It covers about 4,000 acres of scenic Tennessee beauty. Only a few miles from Dickson, yet once inside you feel like you're worlds away from so-called civilization. Surrounded by natural splendor that beckons to be explored and enjoyed. - We're very blessed. We've got a whole lot of different opportunities, outdoor opportunities, indoor opportunities and a lot of history too. So it's kind of a good combination of everything. - [Joe] Eric Runkle loves his job. He's a ranger here at Montgomery Bell State Park and considers himself lucky to live and work in this natural playground. - Best part is the variety. I've got a little bit of everything. Some days I'm talking to folks, giving them guidance on where different things are in the park. Some days I'm out helping them for whatever reason, could it be injured visitors, could it be lost hikers? You know, the variety of things I get to do in a day is just amazing. - [Joe] The park was developed in the late 1930s and early 40s using labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Workers Progress Administration. It officially became a state park in 1942. The parks namesake moved here in the late 1700s to buy an iron works operation. Eventually his furnaces were producing everything from farm tools to cannon balls. In fact, those cannon balls helped General Jackson's army beat the British in the war of 1812. Ironically the main furnace on the grounds wasn't owned by Bell, but remnants of the once bustling iron industry, well like this piece of slag, can still be found today. - Back in the 1800s the area we're in right now, which is our church hollow area, would have been an iron furnace area. And so of course they'd have harvested the iron ore out of the ground, brought it to a forge, heated it up, separated out the impurities from the iron ore itself, turn the iron ore into, they call them pig iron bars. - [Joe] The park contains 11 miles of hiking trails, including an overnight trail for camping. This shorter trail offers hikers a look at some of the deep pits where iron ore was extracted. - This hole out here would be an example of some of the ore pits there that are found here at Montgomery Bell throughout the Ore Pit Trail that, as you continue hiking the trail, you'll find several other pits, some bigger, some smaller, but all similar. and would have been areas where the iron ore would have been dug out of the ground, hauled back to the iron furnace, and then it's separated out and then the remainders would have been just spilled wherever they could. - [Joe] Montgomery Bell is home to another chapter in history. This is where the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded in 1910. And this is a replica of a family home owned by the church's founder, Reverend Samuel McAdow. A nearby sandstone chapel was built in the mid 1950s to commemorate the church's advent. Visitors are welcome to come in and visit. Water's a big attraction of the park and there are three lakes for fishing, swimming at the Lake Acorn beach, and even boating. - [Eric] Over at Lake Acorn, our lake over by the hotel area, we have a boat rentals there and it's... there's paddle boats and kayaks that are available for rent. It's all done online. - [Joe] The park's golf course was built in 1973 and redesigned in 1988. Fairways are surrounded by hardwood trees so you might even see some wildlife while you're on the course. There are 121 campsites open to RVs and campers alike. And for more modern amenities, there's a recently renovated 118 room resort hotel complete with a restaurant and a conference center. - Folks come to just get away and relax and, you know, use the camp ground. Some come, they use it to golf, some come to fish, get out on the water, paddle around. Some just want to get outdoors and hike trails. So we're really blessed that folks come out for every reason to come enjoy the park. - [Joe] There are 56 state parks in Tennessee, each with its own charm and personality. Montgomery Bell isn't the largest, that distinction goes to Fall Creek Falls, however, when it comes to natural beauty, history and outdoor indulgences, this is a true middle Tennessee treasure. Remember the popular TV sitcom "Cheers"? And that line from the theme song about going to a place where everybody knows your name? Well, Boston isn't the only town that has a place like that. Ed Jones found one in Murfreesboro. In fact, it's been around since the turn of the century. No, I mean the other one. - [Ed] If you're looking for a good restaurant, just ask the regulars how long they've been coming back. - Going on 33 Years. - 40 years. - 50 years. - It's either 1953 or 1954, I'm not real sure. - [Ed] That's more than 60 years. Which is just half as long as the City Cafe has been serving up Southern comfort food with a heaping helping of history. History carried on by Teresa and Roland Kellogg. - Some of the things we hear is that we're old. The tables are old, the chairs are semi old. - We need to update the decor, but this is what it's about. It's about the history. It's about keeping the history alive. - [Ed] History that dates back to the horse and buggy era. History that covers the walls and transports patrons back to a simpler time. History that you'll find in the people who dine there every day. - A lot of the college students that used to hang out here, now they come back and bring their kids or grandkids. And it's memories, you know, that's been made here over the years. - [Ed] Matt Ward is one of those memory makers. - I started coming here when I entered college in 1961. We had a little clique of friends that would come here frequently, at least once a week. I've been coming ever since. - [Ed] He made so many memories in fact that he wrote a book about the place. Matt's inspiration sprang from one particular section of the cafe, a table with two names. - A community table or liars table. The guys sit around it and tell stories and I just remembered a lot of those stories and wrote them down and put them in the book, I called it "True Stories Told at City Cafe". - [Ed] Our favorite story was the one constantly being written in the kitchen, sheer poetry. - We are a traditional meat and three. We do the traditional breakfast in the mornings, the meat and threes. We try to do as much fresh food as we possibly can. All of our desserts are homemade in house. My husband is, he makes all of our desserts. I come in in the morning and do all of our meats and all of our vegetables. And then of course our cooks, they do all of the grilled foods and things, but it's... We try to keep us traditional to the country foods that my grandmother taught me how to cook, my mom taught me and we have meatloaf on Mondays and our new one that we've started is my fried pork chops on Tuesdays. We'll do chicken and dressing on Thursdays and fish on Fridays. Saturday, that's really my day of, just depending on what I want to get up and fix. So it's a free for all on Saturday so... - [Ed] While it does get busy at the cafe, it never feels rushed. And that's just what the Kelloggs want. - We want that down home feeling that you can come here, if you want to come in and have a cup of coffee and sit for a couple hours, read the paper, do your crosswords. We love it, we love it. We love coming and talking and the banter between our customers and you know, I want my grandkids to come in here and see these things and I want them to be able to share their stories on through the line. - People want to share memories. They want to share some of their piece of history here and a lot of it comes through in the pictures. - [Teresa] A lot of our pictures have been donated by customers throughout the years. And we inherited them when we took over the building, we have a lot of the history of MTSU, a lot of the MTSU students used to come here. We still get quite a few of them now. - Our daughter just got into MTSU so we'll be up here a lot. - [Ed] Floridian Sarah Spivo and family quickly became fans at the cafe. This was their second visit in as many days. - We would come here all the time if we could. The people are so nice which I think makes the food even better. It's just one of those small family run businesses and it's great. - [Teresa] Nobody's a stranger here. I think all of our customers treat all of our customers like family. - It's just a family. It's a family gathering place and you're not related, but you are family. And every time you come in, you feel welcome and wanted. And everybody that hasn't tried it should come in and try it because today is just like it was 40 years ago. - We're kind of the custodians. That's kind of the way we look at it is we're the custodians of City Cafe. We love this place. - [Ed] And it shows. In the family recipes handed down through the generations, in the memories adorning the walls and in new memories and new friends being made every time the door chimes at the City Cafe. - They walk in the door, you're automatically family here and you come in and you relax. I think it's important that they come in and not only enjoy a good meal, but they enjoy a good time and the atmosphere while they're here. So when they leave here, they can leave with a smile on their face. You never know what's going on with somebody when they come in and if we can give them that little piece of happiness is what makes my day. Well hi Mr. Larry, how are you? - Thanks Ed, Styles may come and go, but quality never goes out of fashion. And nobody knows that better than Alf Sharp. You see, for years he's designed and built furniture of changing styles, but constant quality. That's what Rob Wiles discovered when he visited Alf in his Woodbury shop. - Well, we're out in the woods, appropriately, outside the town of Woodbury and the place we're looking for, it's a little hard to find but that's okay because, for decades, people who were interested in high quality handmade wooden furniture have had no trouble finding this place. This is Alf Sharp's shop and Alf Sharp knows a thing or two about furniture and wood. - I had started out in law school at Vanderbilt and woke up in a cold sweat one morning and realized that was the last thing in the world I really wanted to do. And so I just sort of bummed around for a couple of years and ended up on a carpentry crew just in order to make some money and everything fell into place, I just understood immediately what they were asking me to do and could do it. And before long I was doing the kitchen cabinets and the built ins, the bookshelves and that sort of thing. And then that caused me to take another look at furniture. So that's made out of wood too. How did they do that? And so I just set out to learn to be a furniture maker. - [Rob] And that's what he became. Taking commissions to create just about everything. - I make beds and chests and tables and chairs and mirrors, and what have you, whatever the customer wants. Within a certain quality level. But within that understanding, I make every kind of furniture. - [Rob] All different. All the same in one regard, quality. - It wants to be solid pieces of fine old wood. The workmanship wants to be first rate. The style wants to be significant. It wants to be an important piece of furniture to go in a home or a business. - [Rob] Alf's original designs are modern, but grounded in the past, - When I come up with an original design, it almost always has a toehold in tradition. It's a reinterpretation of a traditional piece or a original use of the piece of furniture is re-imagined or a particular style that I'm fond of. I'll make a piece of furniture that resembles that style. - Alf's creations are seen and appreciated in private homes everywhere. But you can still see 'em when you come to places like this, which was a very famous private home. - The wallpaper in the hallway's 193 years old. It was picked at by Rachel Jackson whenever people were in the house. - Every year, a quarter million people come to visit the family home of President Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage. They'll see many things from Andrew Jackson's lifetime, but the rest, well... - [Alf] It said that that 90% of the furniture in the Hermitage actually belonged to Jackson and I've done the other 10%. - [Rob] Alf built everything from Venetian blinds to the capitals on top of the front porch columns, and a lot more. Marsha Mullins, the chief curator here at The Hermitage, says the recreations are important to give visitors a feel of what things were like when the Jackson family actually lived here. - Most of the furniture in The Hermitage actually did belong to the Jacksons. And so we made the decision because of all that authenticity to recreate pieces that were missing rather than try to find antique similar pieces. - [Rob] It's the kind of work Alf truly enjoys. - [Alf] For the historic houses especially, you're trying to match exactly what the original owner of the house had. So there's a lot of research that goes into discovering what exactly the original owner had, how that was made, what it looked like. There's a lot of committee work goes on and you're working with a house restoration committee. And so you'll probably do a prototype or two before you do the actual piece of furniture for them. But all of that stuff actually makes it fascinating. - It does take a lot of skill because it, you know, it's a different form than what you're used to if you're making modern things and he has a real sensitivity to it all. - [Rob] You might say Alf has a feel for all of his work. - [Alf] A properly sharpened tool slicing through a piece of wood is a sensual thing. It's very satisfying. And consequently I use a lot of original old hand tools. I mean I do have power tools here in the shop and I use them in certain cases, but I also use a lot of the original hand tools because they are so satisfying to use. And there's no noise and no dust when you're working with the old hand tools, it's very pleasant. - [Rob] By the time Alf begins to carve and cut, he has a deep knowledge of what he wants and how to get it. - This is, this is a passion. So the passion remains. - [Rob] Still Alf is semi retired now and admits there's a strong urge to just relax. In the end, the passion wins. Passion for the work and his own standards. - [Alf] My goal has always been to, have them be more excited about what I've done than they were when they commissioned it. In other words, I want to surprise them with the quality and the appearance of the piece of furniture. - [Rob] Furniture made with skill and passion by Alf Sharp. - Thanks Rob. Middle and West Tennessee are now joined by, what's called, The Music Highway. It's actually a stretch of interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. Ken Wilshire got off at exit 56 near Brownsville and discovered an amazing place that pays tribute to the area's musical heritage. ♪ I'm going ♪ ♪ Back to Brownsville ♪ ♪ Take that right hand ♪ ♪ Well I'm about 18 to 25 ♪ ♪ I left Tennessee very much alive ♪ - [Ken] It started out as a visitor center, but rather than stopping in to pick up a few travel brochures... - [Female] Mr Carl Perkins. Very famously sang rock-a-billy music. - [Ken] Visitors end up staying to see all the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center has to offer. - Some people will come in and say, I don't really have time to look and two hours later, they're still here going through things. - [Ken] Center director of Sonia Outlaw Clark says while the Center appears to be relatively small, surprisingly it offers a world of history about West Tennessee and many of its famous residents. - [Sonia] Well, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center started in 1998. It was a brainchild of the mayor at that time, former Mayor Will Banks, and he just knew that sitting off I40, Brownsville's proximity to I40 and having the exit here, it would be a perfect place to welcome visitors, to give them a taste of our culture and to share with them what West Tennessee was all about. - [Ken] There are five museums within the center. Each one gives visitors a look at the diversity and history of West Tennessee. - [Sonia] They'll find the West Tennessee Cotton Museum. We're really proud of our cotton history and heritage here. Of course agriculture is one of our biggest industries and Haywood County is the largest cotton producing county in the state. We also have the West Tennessee Music Museum, which helps to showcase all of the talent that is in West Tennessee, and then the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. We have the Hatchie river room, great natural resources, one of the last wild rivers in the lower Mississippi system. ♪ Now what you both doing ♪ - [Sonia] We also have the last home of Bluesman Sleepy John Estes, who is from this area. If you're just stopping in to get tourist information, brochures, travel information, you find a whole lot more. - [Ken] Music Highway is between Nashville and Memphis. These two cities are commonly known for their masculine musical royalty, like the Kings of Country, Rock 'n' Roll and Blues and more. But this stop along the way, honors a queen. When she was a little girl, Anna Mae Bullock attended this one room school house at the time it was in Nutbush, Tennessee. As the story goes, she was always running late and she'd have to sneak in one of the side or back windows. Well, it's difficult for Anna Mae to sneak in anywhere anymore, because most people know her today as the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll Tina Turner. ♪ Nutbush oh Nutbush ♪ ♪ We call it Nutbush City ♪ ♪ Nutbush City ♪ This was Flag Grove school where she attended in Nutbush. It was moved here to give visitors a more personal look at the rock and roll icon. So she went to school here-- - She did, she did. These were original desks to the school. She probably sat in one of those. This is also a video that she did for us that talks about her remembrance of her experiences going to this school and of Nutbush. - Everyone has a dream, I think but I have to say that your dream cannot work without education. I think I stand for, an example for poor children. For their future, to show them that it is possible. If you just go straight ahead, stay on course, you can achieve success. - She realizes that she was a student there and she went far and that can be an inspiration to other students, but it's also part of her family legacy because the school was, the land was given and the school was built by her great uncle, her great grandfather's brother. In all of our dealings, she was always emphasizing that we should never lose sight of the educational aspect of that school and the students who attended that school. - [Ken] Even though she was late every day coming to school. - That's, right. She wants other students to learn a lesson and not to be that way. - [Ken] In fact, many other legendary musicians are recognized here for their contributions. - We think music is what ties us together, ties all of our elements together. In the cotton fields, the spirituals and the music that came out of the hard labor and work of the people working in the cotton field helped shape what our West Tennessee music is. We also know what the Hatchie river, it was the grounds of the Chickasaw Indians and we know that they had a tremendous musical talent. So we're actually working on some stuff that will tie all that into our music heritage as well. Along with highlighting more musicians who are from this area. - [Ken] Like Tina Turner started out nice and easy in this tiny school house, the community is prouder than proud Mary for what the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll has meant to music from this part of the state. - Last year alone, we had visitors from every state in the United States, but we also had visitors from 40 different countries. So for the local people to realize that people are stopping here in, what we think is, you know, just hometown America, a small home town that are coming here from all over the world and enjoying what they find and spending time here, it's kinda opened things up for the local community. She went to Carver for two years so this is her right here on this page. - [Ken] Of course, the Center host a variety of festivals year round, and it's a popular venue for concerts and events. And most of all, you might just find another answer to Tina Turner's hit song, "What's Love Got To Do With It". ♪ What's love got to do ♪ ♪ Got to do with it ♪ ♪ What's love but a second hand emotion ♪ Well, it seems love has lots to do with it here at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center. Where folks love to tell about their history and homegrown music with not a second hand, but firsthand emotion. - Well, that's about it for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Thanks a whole bunch for joining us. And why don't you check out our website and time to time tennesseecrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook of course. And, don't forget to join me here next week. Be looking for you.
July 30, 2020
Season 34 | Episode 05
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, Joe Elmore pays a visit to Montgomery Bell State Park. A place full of things to do, whether you explore its natural beauty or its intriguing history. Ed Jones visits the City Cafe in Murfreesboro. Rob Wilds learns about master craftsman Alf Sharp. And Ken Wilshire explores the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television.