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- [Announcer] Taylor Farms provides farm-fresh vegetables and fruits to grocery stores, schools, and hospitals, including vegetable kits, snack and veggie trays, and organic salads. More information at taylorfarms.com. - [Joe] This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we take you on a haunting experience on the Nashville ghost tour, then discover the hospitable comeback of Central Station in Memphis. We'll visit one of the oldest country stores north of the Bluff City, and discover what attracts diners to The Plaid Apron in Knoxville. Hi, everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Sure glad you joined us for "Tennessee Crossroads." They say Nashville is growing in population every day. Whether it's for the natural beauty, the great food, or the great people, once folks get here, some never really want to leave. Rich in history and plenty of urban legends, some folks say the departed are still hanging around. Miranda Cohen takes us on the Ghosts of Nashville tour, where they stop at all the local haunts. - [Miranda] The beautiful streets of downtown Nashville draw visitors from all over the world. Plenty of great things to see. Celebrity sightings are common. But visitors and locals are excited for the things they can't see. - I'm here to see if I can find some sort of paranormal activity tonight. With all the war history and that sort of thing, I think the whole town is haunted, actually. But this is home to me and I wanna see more about what I can find just when it comes to ghosts. - [Miranda] Rick Owens has taken plenty of ghost tours in other cities, and was intrigued to find one in his own backyard. - So all of Ghosts of Nashville, you guys ready to get our tour started for tonight? - [Miranda] Tonya Curtis is hosting the popular Ghosts of Nashville tour. The mile-and-a-half jaunt through the streets of Music City is as much about the history as it is about the hauntings. - How many believers do we have tonight? How many believers in the paranormal do we have tonight? It's not just about the ghosts at all. We do tell the ghosts' story, but we're also teaching about the rich history of Nashville, about the things that have happened here in Nashville. - [Miranda] And according to Curtis, plenty has happened to keep the spirits hanging around. - I believe that when traumatic and tragic things happen, it kinda leaches into the soil. I just believe it's the land that kinda makes Tennessee the paranormal hotspot that it is. - [Miranda] From the land's original settlers, the Native American Indians, to the Battle of Nashville during the Civil War. - But for 10 days, they battled here in Nashville. - [Miranda] Hard-fought, violent battles over the land, and even the buildings. - Tonight, we're actually gonna start out at our Capitol, because we actually have one of the most beautiful and unique state capitols. - [Miranda] The stately brick-topped landmark took 14 years to build, and two bickering architects didn't make the process any easier. - The first ghost story that has to do with our Capitol is of Strickland and Morgan, of while they were working on this project, they literally argued about everything. - [Miranda] As fate would have it, William Strickland and Samuel Morgan are both entombed in the walls of the Capitol, and it seems they still just don't get along. - Employees have told us around 9 PM here at our Capitol, they start hearing yelling inside the Capitol, and it's two men still going at it about the building. - [Miranda] And the Volunteer State's Capitol serves both as mausoleum and cemetery. James K. Polk was the governor of Tennessee who went on to be the 11th president of the United States. Both he and his wife, Sarah, are buried in this beautiful stone gazebo. But even here, Curtis says, they aren't exactly resting in peace. - And every time they get close to this man at Mr. Polk's grave, he disappears right in front of them. They also say they see a lady in antebellum-era clothing, and every time someone approaches her as well, she does the same thing, she just disappears. Whatever's going on, we do know that the Polks are not at rest at all, and they do haunt our Capitol. - [Miranda] The Ghosts of Nashville tour will wind through the streets and alleys of downtown. Every tour is different, and you never know who or what you'll see. - I think there's this mystery to it that it's just fascinating to try and unravel. You hear the history and it's one thing, but you hear things that go on now and you try and piece it together for yourself and figure it out that way. - And don't think the ghost tours only go during the spooky season. In fact, they go 365 days a year. That's right, every day. Because ghosts don't take holidays. - This tour is seven days a week. It isn't just spooky season that people wanna learn about ghosts. They wanna learn about it all the time. And we have a lot of out-of-town people that come to Nashville and wanna see a different side of Nashville, and this is a great way to do it. - [Miranda] The tour will stop at several churches that also served as hospitals during the Civil War. - [Tonya] Which is St. Mary's of Seven Sorrows. This is Nashville's second Catholic church. - [Miranda] But not all of the stories are scary, and not all of the ghosts are up to mischief. - Now, some ghosts are drawn because it was their favorite place, it was the place that they loved. Several ghost stories along our way talks about the fact that they're still there because they loved it. And the building we're actually gonna talk about is the building right there. It is the Hermitage Hotel. - [Miranda] Built in 1908, the opulent five-star hotel seems to be a favorite haunt, and why wouldn't it be? Presidents, celebrities, even notorious bank robber John Dillinger all stayed there. It's no wonder folks never really want to check out. Which brings us to the last stop on the tour, the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, a place where, in life, some people spent their happiest times. - That's mostly what the activity is at the Ryman. It is hearing, really, people from a rich musical past, they talk a lot about hearing Hank Williams Sr. there and Patsy Cline, and I believe that the reason why they are drawn back to the Ryman is because that is where their dreams come true, where their story began. We are at the Ryman Auditorium. Now, this was named after Thomas Ryman, this is Mr. Ryman right here, and he was a riverboat captain on the Cumberland River right down there. - [Miranda] So whether you have a passion for the paranormal, a curiosity about the unknown, or just want to learn more about Music City, the Ghosts of Nashville tour is the way to go. Tickets and tour times are available on their website. - Enjoy the rest of your time, everybody. Thank you so much. - Thanks, Miranda. All too often, historic buildings fall victim to the constant push for new construction. Everyone benefits, though, when beloved old structures can be restored and resuited for use in the present day. Thankfully, that's the case in our next story. Here's Linn Sitler with the story of the Central Station Hotel in Memphis. - It's a train station. It's a hotel. And it's also sort of a radio station where disc jockeys spin records, piping Memphis music into every room of the Central Station Hotel. The Central Station Hotel has opened in downtown Memphis as a jewel in the crown of Memphis, Tennessee. And who better to oversee the train station's transformation into a luxury hotel than McLean Wilson? - My grandfather founded Holiday Inns in 1952, and what we're doing here at Central Station is an attempt to do the exact same thing he did, relative to being innovative. What we're attempting to do is really create an authentic, genuine expression of what Memphis, Tennessee, is. The building itself has a storied past, so there's a lot of architectural details and design details that pay homage to the past, but we also wanted to make it relevant for not only today, but for the foreseeable future, and so we had to create some modernity to it as well. And really, the big notion for what this hotel offers that a lot of hotels around the world don't is a music lounge with world-renowned speakers, acoustically dialed in perfectly, an album wall full of records that all harken back to some tie to Memphis music, to really showcase that which Memphis has done for many, many decades, and that's put out really wonderful music. - And thanks to the technical genius of Jim Thompson, guests can listen to Memphis music through custom-made EgglestonWorks speakers. - Memphis has played such an important role in the development of popular music that we wanted to highlight that. So the music is not necessarily just Memphis musicians or Memphis bands, it is writers, producers, bands that recorded in Memphis for the reason that it is Memphis. - [Linn] You can listen to the Memphis music in the hotel bar, called Eight & Sand. In this sleek redo of the train station's waiting room, you might even see a Memphis music legend or two, like David Porter and Boo Mitchell. There's even a listening room appealing to the most serious music lovers. - It's a small room that has a pair of speakers in it and a few chairs, it seats only about six people. So that one was a lot of fun, and I don't think you're gonna find that, yeah, I know you're not gonna find that in any hotel, but you probably aren't really gonna find it in any public space at all ever, so it's really unique. - [McLean] When you're at the Central Station Hotel, there's no doubt that you're at the South Main Historic District. And really, where that's represented is in our art. We recruited a friend of ours who's a phenomenal photographer named Jamie Harmon, and so every guest room is littered with photographs that he took along the train lines. That was one idea of how we stayed connected to the past and to the present, which is the fact that we are a train station. It is an active line that Amtrak has going to Chicago and New Orleans. And the other piece is curating original pieces of art from Memphis artists, as well as artists in Chicago and New Orleans, and so, all of the public-area art is hand-selected, handpicked, and all that you experience is rooted in a Memphis feeling. - [Linn] Each of the rooms has a view of the downtown South Main Historic District, or a view west toward the Mississippi River. Each is a little different in shape, designed from the nooks and crannies of the 106-year-old building. Looking back at the train station's transformation, it's hard to imagine that the project grew out of the city's desire to simply turn the train station into a transit center, but when legendary Memphis developer Henry Turley took the bait... - I thought about it for a minute and I said, "When the train arrives, you want someone that'll welcome 'em and show 'em a good time. Well, that's pretty easy. A hotel." So I picked up the phone and called Kemmons Wilson. I said, "Will you do a hotel?" He said, "Well, will you go in it with us?" I said, "Sure, if you just, so I don't have to work. You've gotta run it, 'cause I don't know anything about a hotel." I've said, "I've got one specification. When someone gets on the train in Chicago and buys the ticket to New Orleans, I want him to get off at your hotel and be so happy that they tear up the ticket to New Orleans and stay in Memphis." And that's the only thing I did. And from what I've seen, they've pretty well done that. - Thanks a lot, Linn. If you're going fishing or camping or on a weekend getaway, Murphy's law says you're gonna forget something you really need. Well, this is when the old general store is the place to go. Ken Wilshire paid a visit to one of the oldest ones in the state, just outside Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. - You could honestly say it's out in the middle of nowhere. But this has never stopped thousands of visitors every year from finding the Shelby Forest General Store. As its name indicates, it's just down the road from the entrance to one of Tennessee's most-visited state parks, near Millington. It's not only a landmark for park visitors. You'll find it might just be more than you would think. So if you're planning on stopping by the Shelby Forest General Store for a MoonPie or an RC Cola, boy, you sure are missing a lot. - Let me get you a sack. - No problem, I got my own bag. - No sack? No sack, hurry back. - No sack, thank you. - Thank you, ma'am! What's up, 7-Up? - [Ken] And I do mean a lot. Just take one short step inside, and welcome to some 80 years of history. You can truly experience when an old country store means to this community, as well as getting to know one very special family who's now its caretaker. - There's something magic about this place. There really is. - [Ken] The new owners are Doug and Kristin Ammons. While you'll find various and sundry goods, it's also stocked full of passion, energy, and spirit. We found Doug behind the old cash register making change and small talk flavored with limericks. - Do you like football? - So-so. - Here's a quarter back. But I really believe that everybody has their own version and interpretation of what the innocence of their childhood was, and without meaning to, this store symbolizes yesteryear, and stands for, as a beacon of yesteryear, what their innocence and childhood was like. - [Ken] Young and old will discover it's truly family fun. Kristin takes care of dishwashing, stocking, and just about everything else. While she did let Doug be the spokesperson for our story, she made a cameo appearance, screen left. - I have fun. I have fun. And sometimes she, Mama, where, there she is. Honey! She does it well. She'll try and tone me down a little bit, because I get carried away. $30.30, down and dirty. Thank you. - $30.30. - $30.30. And I'm not gonna apologize for it. If that's what it takes to survive, that's just, it is what it is. But it is fun, and I have too much fun sometimes. She said that that had... Zip! Hey, you know the old mom-and-pop? This is true mom-and-pop. We do the trash, we do it all. Heather does it all, too. We couldn't do it without Heather. And our staff. - [Ken] The cooks and staff are like family as well. Their famous cheeseburgers are huge, and portions of everything else are equally as generous. - They're also gonna find a Philly cheesesteak, a fried bologna and cheese, a grilled chicken wrap, French fries, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, fried cheese sticks. It's not heart-healthy food. We're not sitting here beating our chest of the brave new Aldous Huxley world of fine fiber and nutrition. - [Heather] All right, all here. - When you're standing there lookin', give us a call, and we'll do the cookin'. How about that? Thank you, Melvin! - [Ken] It seems music is always on the menu at the general store, which even has its own ballad. Robert and Joe come by often to entertain and set the mood for dining. ♪ At the Shelby Forest General Store, General Store ♪ ♪ They got everything you're looking for, looking for ♪ - [Ken] Folks say it's a gathering spot that's been kept alive with family spirit and good old-fashioned customer care. The general store has been at its present location since 1934. - These are the original worn wooden floors. I wish they could talk. I wish they could be the odometer that could, mile by mile, tell you what happened. - They recycle their tin can lids by covering holes in the old floor. Actually, the uneven floors add to the store's quaint character. And just to prove the point that you won't find a level floor in this building, it's... And you never know who just might drop by, from Justin Timberlake, who grew up in this community, to someone who actually grew up in this old store. She was in the third grade when her parents moved in and opened the store, so it truly is a homecoming to Dixie Wright every time she visits. - We had two rooms right back there where the tables are. One was the kitchen, and my brother slept on a cot, I slept on the sofa, and there was one bed for my mother and father, and that's where we stayed. And we probably stayed there about four or five years and then built the house across the street. And that was such a joy to have a house. - [Ken] While the store was Dixie's home for years, now it's like home to Doug, Kristin, and their family. - But, and that's a privilege. Now, people say, "Yeah, but man, y'all work a lot of hours." It's not work. It's not work. I say every day, I'm the luckiest guy alive, because I'm right here in heaven without the funeral. Yeah, give me a one, I'll give you- - [Ken] But even more meaningful, you'll feel right at home as well after stepping back in time and experiencing genuine community spirit at the Shelby Forest General Store. ♪ The past is our present to you ♪ ♪ At the Shelby Forest General Store, General Store ♪ ♪ They got- ♪ - All we have done is preserved it, and try and make it available today. "The past is our present to you." You know, that's our saying. ♪ At the Shelby Forest General Store ♪ - Thanks, Ken. If a restaurant is off the beaten path, and the older sometimes refuses to make dishes his customers want, you might think that guy was asking for empty seats and angry guests. But what Rob Wilds recently discovered is if the food is fresh and flavorful enough, diners will seek out that restaurant. That's what Rob Wilds did when he walked into The Plaid Apron in Knoxville. - [Rob] There are plenty of restaurants along Knoxville's busy streets, but you'll have to look a bit into the neighborhood of Sequoyah Hills to find where owners Drew and Bonni McDonald planted their restaurant, The Plaid Apron. - We're off the beaten path, definitely. And that fits who we are. We're not mainstream people. - [Rob] True. Drew and Bonni met by chance on a mission trip to New Zealand. Drew was going to be a doctor. Well, plans change. Drew learned his trade as a chef in Nashville and New Zealand, and then they came to Knoxville and opened their place. That unusual take on life shows up on the menu, too. - We do a lot of familiar stuff that's unfamiliar. And I say that because, for instance, our grilled cheese is not what you would consider a grilled cheese. Currently, we make all our breads in house. It is an herbed focaccia, with goat cheese, Sweetwater Valley cheddar, it has roasted peaches, house-made onion jam, locally grown sprouts, so you literally are having a bit of a sweet, salty, earthy, almost umami flavored grilled cheese, rather than you have two pieces of white bread with some Velveeta or American slices slapped on it and then toasted in a skillet with margarine. - Here at The Plaid Apron, they got what you might call their credo on the wall. "Locally grown, handmade, artisan-crafted, but you've gotta allow time for culinary decadence." Now, that can mean a lot of different things to different people, that "culinary decadence." To me, it means that the food is so good, when you bite into it, it makes your socks roll down! - Go to the supermarket and buy a beet, or a cantaloupe, even, or anything, and then go to your local farmer's market and buy a beet or a cantaloupe or whatever. Eat them side by side, cook them exactly the same way, and tell me that one is not more decadent than the other. The profile, the flavor that come from the dirt that they came from, from the hands that sweated, and brow that sweated when you reached down to pick it up and then washed it gently. It didn't go through a machine on the way to hit a back of a truck. It went from one hand to a basket very gently, then delivered by hand to your mouth. And then as long as the person behind the cooking can treat that delicately, it turns that, what commodity calls vegetables, into what I would call a decadent piece of food. - [Rob] That's really the heart of the place. They make everything from scratch. Well, honestly, not everything. - We have ketchup and salt and pepper, and that's really the only thing that we have not- - Hot sauce. - Oh, yes, we do hot sauce too. - [Rob] Their homemade dishes are made as much as humanly possible from locally grown foods, which Bonni says some people just don't expect. - One thing that shocked people when we first opened is that we only had tomatoes during tomato season, and it shocked people- - Still shocks people. - 'Cause sometimes it made 'em mad. But when we serve tomatoes, they are beautiful and juicy and wonderful, and they're not white like you can get on some burgers in the middle of winter. And so I think that does make a huge difference, and I think people, when they taste it, they understand, they realize that there is a difference when it's in season, versus being shipped from Mexico, or even California, or halfway across the world. - [Rob] Drew looks at his restaurant almost like a school, educating as well as feeding his guests. - Our vegetable plate, for instance, is not where we take a scoop and we pull three or four different things and plop 'em on a plate. Everything starts from raw form and is not precooked, to where it is literally a composed dish of anything from a minimum of six vegetables to, I've had as many as a dozen vegetables on there at one time, depending on the year. And with that comes an education. I try to use things that people do not know and are not familiar with. - [Rob] So now, diners come not only from the neighborhood, but from all over. But no matter how far they come from, they're made to feel like part of the community, which now includes Grantham Ace McDonald, who should know this place pretty well. His mom worked here on Saturday night, then took the next morning off to deliver him. He's been here a lot in his young life. - [Drew] You gotta start 'em early. - Yeah. - I say it's a great training, because you're gonna either realize they wanna do it or they don't wanna do it really quick, so. - He'll probably start in the dish pit when he's old enough. Yeah, soon as he can understand hand-eye coordination, we'll put a scrubbie on him and let him go to work. - [Rob] Well, whatever winding road Ace's life takes him down, we know he'll be well-fed with the delightfully decadent dishes created by his mom and dad at The Plaid Apron in Knoxville. - Hard to believe our time's just about up. Thanks for joining us. And if you get the chance, join us on our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook, of course, and join me right here next week. See you then. - [Announcer] Taylor Farms provides farm-fresh vegetables and fruits to grocery stores, schools, and hospitals, including vegetable kits, snack and veggie trays, and organic salads. More information at taylorfarms.com.
February 18, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 27
This time on Tennessee Crossroads, Miranda Cohen takes a spooky stroll in Nashville. Linn Sitler visits the Central Station Hotel in Memphis. Locally grown ingredients and unique twists on old favorites make the Plaid Apron Cafe in Knoxville a special find. Ken Wilshire heads to the Shelby Forest General Store, a North Memphis staple since the 1930s. Presented by Nashville Public Television.