- This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we uncover the story of the Jefferson street music sound in Nashville. Then, get a taste of the islands at the Merengue Cafe. We'll discover a moving history story near Jackson, and finally, take a walking tour of Arlington in West Tennessee. Hi everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome once again to another edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." Nashville may be synonymous with country music, but for decades, Jefferson Street had a live music scene that was teeming with rhythm and blues. Well, this coming Monday, September 21st at 8:00 p.m, NPT is premiering the documentary "Facing North, Jefferson Street, Nashville," which looks at the history and culture of that famed street. We're taking the opportunity to explore how Jefferson Street's music legacy lives on, all thanks to the efforts of one tireless collector and curator. Travel down Jefferson Street today, and you won't see many reminders of its glory days. A time when the excitement and energy of live music emanated for more than 20 night clubs. - This was a very exciting place to be on the weekends, man. I mean, you go up, you walk down Jefferson from Good Jelly Jones down at fourth and come up Jefferson and music coming out of the buildings and out of the doors. - [Joe] Lorenzo Washington should know he grew up here. He was part of the music scene as a fan and friend of the musicians, and later, even as a record producer. - I saw Jimi Hendrix walked down Jefferson street with his guitar on his shoulder because he'd never had a case for his guitar. - [Joe] Hendrix played bass and guitar, in several local bands that backed-traveling artists from Aretha Franklin to Little Richard. If you're old enough, you might remember seeing Jefferson Street Players on locally produced television show, "Night Train." - And Jefferson street was a part of the Chitlin circuit, is what they called it back then. And the Chitlin circuit was where you could go to different cities, and go different clubs in these different cities. And Nashville was a perfect place because Nashville had Jefferson street with over 20 something clubs and bars. - [Joe] The heyday of Jefferson Street ended in the mid to late 60s, partially because of Interstate 40, which divided the street, but also because of a lesser known reason. - Most of all the clubs back then had gambling rooms, either upstairs, in the back, or somewhere, there was a gambling room. And Ben West, sure, and he said he was gonna clean the city up and he did. You know, he would go in and raid these nightclubs up, and take axes and tear up the tables. And just like, you'd see on TV in one of these gangster movies, you know? - [Joe] In 2010, Lorenzo single-handedly, set out to preserve the area's musical legacy. Here and what's now Jefferson Street Sound Museum. One of the museum's main features is this tree, connecting the nightclubs with the many musicians who played in them. - I put the clubs on paper, and then, I start adding the artists that actually played in those clubs. It's about 150 names on that tree. And, but that's only a portion of the folk that actually played on Jefferson street, and played in those clubs. - [Joe] Thanks to items donated by musicians and other supporters, the museum has grown, now with artifacts that range from musical instruments to countless photos. - [Lorenzo] I've got a guitar in there that Jesse Boyce had wrote a platinum song on, "Firefly" by the Temptations. I've got some artifacts from Marion James, shoes, dresses, that kind of thing. I've got some artifacts from Jackie Shane. Jackie Shane was one of the first transgenders to come out as a woman on stage here in Nashville, because back then, you know, that was a no, no. A person came over and donated a mixing board. And this mixing board, was used at WLAC Radio to mix the music that went out over the radio of John R, and all those guys use this mixing board. - [Joe] Preserving this musical heritage, is an ongoing mission for Lorenzo Washington. Part of that mission is ensuring future generations appreciate what was once the glory years of the Jefferson Street Sound. - I'm going on 80 years old now I say, so, I'm gonna only be able to do so much, but I'd like to partner with one of the schools, because I think this is something that should be a curriculum, teaching this history. And to make this a part of the curriculum, would be my legacy. - Presently, the museum was only open on Saturdays, but visits can be made by appointment. Oh, and don't forget to check out MPT's documentary premiere of "Facing North, Jefferson Street, Nashville" Monday, September 21st at 8:00 p.m. You know, Nashville is becoming more diverse every day, but new neighbors arriving from countries around the globe. Of course, one of the benefits to that are all they exotic dishes we get to enjoy now. Danielle Allen recently sampled a taste of the islands at a place called the Merengue cafe. - [Danielle] Where can you find authentic Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican food? You could pack your bags and fly to Latin America, or just drive to Berry Hill! - [Di] Our food is a little bit different, but it's so full of taste, full of flavor. - [Danielle] This is the Merengue cafe. It's a little house that's filled with dishes, packed big flavors. It's also a place where their servers are just as authentic as the food. - [Danielle] Di Castello is the owner of the cafe. She makes sure everyone feels welcome, especially, if they've never eaten there before. - So guys, first time here? - It's our first time! Awesome, come on in! Our food is not too well known on Nashville, so, I love to see people curiosity about it when they come. Most of the people that come for the first time, we welcome them like if we know them forever. Welcome! - Yeah. - [Di] We basically, explain with detail what everything is. The way a plate works, is you get one choice of rice, one choice of beans, one choice of meat, and then also, we have salad food in here. - [Customer] Okay. - You know, I love to see their faces when they finish eating. And some of them, even go like, "Yes!" - [Danielle] Because Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican foods are so similar, Di figured, why not serve all three? These traditional dishes are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. They're then laid out for customers to see. - Choosing at the buffet, you can get a little bit of everything, but our number one, must-have dish, is the Mofongo which is much fried plantains, we fry, and then we stuff it with coconut shrimp, or garlic shrimp, or any other meat, that's definitely, a try, you have to! - [Danielle] Of course, Di doesn't do all of this alone, she has several cooks, and her mother and son help too. And apparently, working with family has its perks. - Well, that you can yell to them and you don't get sued. - [Danielle] Before Di was cooking up mouthwatering dishes, she was honing her skills as a business woman. Back in the Dominican Republic, she opened her first business at the age of 22. She later moved to the U.S about 10 years ago and helped others get started. But when the idea for the Merengue cafe came about, she was a little hesitant at first. - I was not looking, I was not ready, I was a little bit scare. And one day, I was looking for something on Craigslist for a customer that was opening a restaurant that I was helping to open a restaurant, and I saw this posting, "Business location for rent on Berry Hill," and I call, and actually, the owner of the place answer. We have social, good communication, and he was so nice and I felt comfortable. I came, it was a tiny little house, which I loved it, it was a lot of work. I immediately, I just felt that it was right and plus, the house, offer this homey environment that I love. - [Danielle] Di add it to the homey feel, with the decor in the cafe. In fact, she took a hands-on approach and was involved in every part of the dining area. - I was very hands-on, and the people that was working with me, helping me, they can tell, oh my God, that I was on everything. I chose the wood for that bar, I chose my floor with it, our tables, with it, our chair, we paint in, and repainting like three times until I got satisfied. All the paint you see, is one of my cousin work, my son has his spot, this is my son's spot with his guitar and all that. - [Danielle] If you ask Di why she worked so hard on the details, you'll hear a theme that's brought up often here, authenticity! - I wanna feel it like mine, like something that I create. The only way, I could have passed to order, the pride that I feel, from coming from were I'm coming from, it's, if I actually, put a little bit of meaning into it. Happy Birthday! How old? - [Customer] 21. - Oh, my goodness! If I want people to know a little bit about our culture, I definitely need to get involved, 'cause hiring a contractor, it will not be the same. They will do an awesome job, but it will not be personalized. - [Danielle] You don't find many restaurants in middle Tennessee like the Merengue cafe. So, in some ways, Di feels like she's filling a void, and giving her fellow Nashvillians, a taste of a place she once called home. - The feeling that I'm creating something that I can transmit to people a little bit of what we are, and what we eat, that it's amazing, it's an amazing feeling! Thank you ladies for coming, have a good one! [Customer] Bye Bye! - Thanks, Danielle. Moving can be one of those necessary evils of life, but sometimes moving has done to preserve history. That's what Ken Wilshire discovered when he paid a visit to Madison County a while back. This is a moving story that was months in the making. - [Ken] If the walls of this historic old antebellum home in acquaintance, Trenton, Tennessee, neighborhood could talk, all the stories they could tell. I mean, it's more than 175 years old, was stunning Greek revival architecture, 14 foot ceilings, original wood floors, and so much more. And when you're into preserving history like Casey Jones Village CEO, Clark Shaw is, all he had to do, was discovered that this story could be lost forever. - We learned about it through our local newspaper, "The Jackson Sun" that this home was about to be lost to history. The church that owned it needed to expand on the land that this home was on for an expansion project. And they had tried to work it into their ministry for a lot of years and it just wasn't working, and had not. And so, we read in the media about this home that was about to be demolished. - [Ken] While they call it Providence House, and Clark Shaw couldn't give it the attention it deserved in Trenton, so we decided to move it. The plan was to take the entire structure from Trenton to the Casey Jones Village in Jackson, where he and his wife Juanita could bring it back to life. But people told him it couldn't be done. Never tell Clark Shaw something can't be done! - [Clark] We love history, and we just think it's so important to kind of remember and preserve that history from where, for which we came. And to see how people lived and worked so many years ago. And you can't build this, you can't build this character into these homes. You know, you just have to have the real deal, and this is the real deal! - [Ken] So, how do you move a 175-year-old, two story house? Well, Clark contacted moving coordinator, Joe Mitchell, who even had his doubts. - He had the vision, in my back of my mind, I says, "Uh-uh, nah! No way to move this house." It was... But with his vision, you know, we got everybody together, the movers, the demolition guy, everything just worked out great. To cut the house in two, we actually had to go upstairs and put floor joist across this all the second floor, so that way, we could cut the house right under those four joist, otherwise, when we raised that top up the walls, would just flop. The house is post in beams, they was a very difficult house to move. Because of that, you just couldn't lift it up. There was everything was pegged together, there was, very few nails in the house. So, every corner post in his house are 12 by 12 toping, approximately 29 feet tall. And then, bottom floor, all the way to the top, there was eight of those, so we had to go around and slice all of those in two, in order to lift the house so that the second floor were up. And to top it all off, nobody in the crew has ever done this before. So, it was, it was an experience, yeah! - Yes! - All right. - [Ken] Then it was time to open its doors and welcome its first visitors. And since the roof of the house provided a viewing deck for spectators during the 1862's Civil War battle of Trenton, Tennessee, it was fitting that general U.S grant, played by Dr. EC Fields, speak part of the ceremony. - This house, is what is called a witness house. People sat on this roof and watched Bedford Forrest personally commanding troops against my troops in the Trenton area. This is special and precious to the Jackson, to Tennessee, and to our American history, in general. This is a jewel! - [Ken] But proudest of all, is the Scrape family. Michael Scrape is the great, great, great grandson of James D. Scrape who built the house in 1837. - You can't express the appreciation to the Shaw family what they did. I am like Clark, I believe it was Providence for them to do this. I believe that they were an answer to my prayers. It just fascinates me every time I come over here. - [Ken] Providence House is another historic addition to the Casey Jones Village, where Clark's father's dreams of preserving history became real. - [Clark] It's been such a joy to be a part of helping save this piece of history. My father, Brooke Shaw was in the business of saving history when he started her Old Country Store, 47 years ago, the thousands of Southern country story antiques he collected, and later, you know, our involvement with the historic Casey Jones, and Railroad Museum, literally helping save that because it was about to be closed in the mid 70s, and we relocated that to the village here, and now, it's a part of our history, and the little Wellwood Country Store that my father worked in as a boy that I walked through that with him, and then, to know that that's here now. The little 107-year-old church, the country church from Haywood County, that we were able to save and bring here, and now, this wonderful old home. - [Ken] Providence House will be used as an eloquent setting for accommodating weddings, receptions, and other memory-creating events. It's truly been a labor of love for all the families and supporters who kept its story alive. And that's just what they do, at the Casey Jones Village. - Thanks Ken! There's a curious plaque in Columbus, Ohio with an inscription that reads, "On this data in 1897, nothing happened." Well, you might say there's nothing really happening in many Tennessee towns. If you don't count things like charm, history, and down-home hospitality. Take Arlington in West Tennessee, for example, well, let's let Rob Wilds take it from here. - When you get into downtown Arlington and Shelby County, we've got some tough choices to make. I mean, any way you go, I'd say, say you went that way, or maybe you went over this way, or are even over that way, there's always interesting stuff, historic stuff that you can see, hard to choose! Think I'll head to Wilson's first! Make sense to start here since all sorts of folks, two-legged, four-legged, have been starting here since the 19th century. According to Susan Wilson Hoggard who knows this store very well. - The business was established in 1893 by my great grandfather, Samuel Young Wilson. I went to work there 30 years ago, doing secretarial and retail work, loved it, that's what I've always done. - [Rob] We all know the general store is a vanishing breed and Susan could have closed this place, but she was determined not to do that. - [Susan] You would just have to know my family because we're all very sentimental. And this store has been the hub of Arlington for so long, and it has a lot of community spirit to it. It was the place where everybody came to swap stories and brought their cotton. I meet people all the time that say, my grandmother used to buy my Christmas presents here. And I'm just sentimental in that and I love it. And my main goal was to keep it going as long as my parents were living. My dad's love was the town of Arlington and the store, he was the mayor here for 18 years. He was involved in every thing you can imagine in Shelby County, civically. And he loved the store, and just to see it stay open really, and truly was my goal. - [Rob] So, the general store is now an antique mall and it's ironic really, many of the things that are now antiques would have been stocked here in the general store days. - [Susan] I'll see things that were sold there when I was a little girl, because when I was young, we had clothes, food, hardware, you know, animal food, material, we did everything. And my dad used to say, we sold everything from the cradle to the grave because years and years ago, we did sell caskets, there are some in our upstairs still, and even, sold the clothes that people could buy to be buried in. - [Rob] Well, life moves on, but it's nice to look back once in a while, especially, since virtually, across the street from the store, is the local museum, one of several historic places to visit in Arlington. This one, reminds us of life here, according to Linda Street, who's part of the Local Historic Association. - [Linda] We have a beauty shop chair that was used in one of the first real beauty shops in Arlington. We had the, a dental chair that was used by Dr. Harold. His office was in the, what's now the barbershop. The vault is still there, we have grandma's kitchen that started with an old refrigerator, with the round thing on top that is unique. Here in Arlington, we've been very lucky, when someone gives us something and other people see it, they say, "I have something that you can add to the group of items," and it just mushrooms. - [Rob] So what is this, this little building here that we're gonna go see? - [Linda] It's our post office. - Post office? - Mm-hmm. - Mm-hmm? - Original post office. - So when you say original, when would this have been the post office? - Arlington was named Arlington, so they could get a post office in 1900. - [Rob] Oh, really? Okay, so this- - So, we think this began soon after. - [Rob] And so you've got, looks like another window over here that- - [Linda] That came out of our second post office. - [Rob] Uh-huh? - These boxes were the rule sorting table from the second post office. - Oh, I see! - And those boxes in the back or what, I got mailed from when I was a little girl. - [Rob] Is that right? - [Linda] I had to know the combination. But the original, outside mailbox was left in the building when we started renovating it, and that's where the Santa letters are made. - [Rob] Well, I see! So this is a good place to put your letters to Santa when Christmas start? - Mm-hmm! - [Rob] So, whether you've got a letter to post to Santa, or maybe you'd like to pay him a visit when he's in residence at Wilson Store, Arlington is a good place to visit at Christmas time or anytime, really, if you want to experience the real life history of the people who used to live here, and the real life friendliness of the people who still do. - Well, y'all did good. - Yeah. - I mean, that worked out pretty, that worked out pretty well. - My Christmas shop is done! - Bye! Thanks, Mr. Patterson. Have a good day! - You too! - Well, it's time for us to pack it up and go after my usual reminder for you to join our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, of course, and we'll see you next week. Take care!
September 17, 2020
Season 34 | Episode 10
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, Joe Elmore introduces us to Lorenzo Washington and his Jefferson Street Sound Museum. Danielle Allen introduces us to a man in Hampshire, TN who salvages old pieces of wood and re-imagines them into one of a kind art pieces. Ken Wilshire visits Providence house in Jackson. Rob Wilds explores the town of Arlington. Join us on Nashville Public Television.