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- [Joe] This time on Tennessee Crossroads, you'll meet a father and son who bring new grandeur to old, forsaken wood. Then travel to Memphis to a state-of-the-art children's museum. We'll discover a 19th century gristmill now grinding corn and feeding visitors. Finally, we'll explore the history and architecture of a century old Nashville attraction. Hi everybody. I'm Joe Elmore and it's time for Tennessee Crossroads again. Welcome. One of Tennessee's most precious and beautiful resources is our abundance of majestic trees. Breathtaking to look at and a shame to see go to waste. Miranda Cohen found a father and son woodcarving team in Murfreesboro that's turning abandoned wood into one of a kind pieces of art. - [Miranda] On this peaceful farm in Rutherford County you will find two generations of master craftsman. Tucked away in this rustic workshop, Tom Cayll and his son, Anthony are quite literally turning abandoned or fallen trees into works of beautiful art. One of Tom Cayll's earliest memories is working with his own father, an Italian immigrant who taught him the meticulous craft of woodworking. - [Tom] I look back. The biggest thing I can remember is when I was probably six or seven years old, my father was helping me to build a dog house. Couldn't wait for him to get home, to go to the next step working on the dog house and ever since then, it's just been in my blood, always using my hands to do whatever. - [Miranda] And the talent runs in Anthony's blood as well. - [Anthony] If I'd see him carving or whatnot, I'd pick up a piece of wood and just start whittling. Whether I was making something or not, I, I really don't know, but, you know, I just thought I was doing good. So following his footsteps and trying to make something out of nothing - [Tom] Pick up, like I said, old crates or whatever, and then they join in. If they could hold a hammer, they could pound nails, and pull them out of the wood. And that's where basically it all started. - [Miranda] With a shared love of working with wood and working together, the dynamic duo have turned their attentions and sharpened their skills, making more artistic works, like intricately carved bowls, platters and decorative pieces. - [Tom] At first, it might give you an idea of what you're looking for, but then as you are working on it, all of a sudden it'll start revealing certain things and it gets you to kind of shift to go in the direction that it's pulling. And sometimes it works out and sometimes it just doesn't. - [Miranda] And these masterpieces aren't just beautiful to look at. When carved by true craftsman, tighter grains of wood can be shaped into handmade pieces that are food-safe and usable. - [Tom] To have a bowl that you can eat a salad out of or soup or cereal or oatmeal or whatever out of is to me it's more personal. It's just the feel of the eating out of a wooden bowl and off of a wooden plate. It's so much more, I guess you could say it's just a warm feeling. You know, just more back to the old days. - Now here in the woodworking shop, they can make almost anything. But the one thing they don't use, is paint or stain. That's because the Cahills believe in letting the natural color of the wood shine through. Look at this cup made entirely of Box Elder wood. The brilliant reds almost make it look marbled, but in fact, it is nature's palette. And with a deep respect for the majestic beauty of mother nature's bounty there is another thing the Caylls don't do. And that's cut down trees to create their art. - [Tom] I hate to take a beautiful living tree just to create something like that when there's so much waste out there. There's so much that's being thrown to the wayside and just being wasted in general, that it's it's just a pity to cut trees down that are live. So I'd rather use things that are available and such as when Anthony and I walk through the woods and we'll see pieces that are on the ground. And if it looks like there's something that we think is interesting within it, then we take it with us. - [Miranda] Most of the Cayll's raw materials come from Rutherford County, like Hackberry, Walnut, Box Elder, Mulberry, Ash, Oak, and more. And they will spend hours turning, shaping, sanding and perfecting their pieces. Even many of the tools that they use to hone their craft are handmade, vintage, and once owned by other craftsman. And Tom Cayll believes they hold secrets and talents of their own. - [Tom] It's all hand tools, old tools that I can find that are still functional rather than just hanging them on a wall and look at them. I like to be able to utilize them. I have some hand planes that are made back in the 1800s. And when you hold the actual handle, you can feel the shape from the person that obviously owned it ahead of me. 'Cause you can actually feel their hand where they had grasped it. And so those things are still functional and they've got a lot of history behind them, and plus they know what they're doing. You just guide them. - [Miranda] And the Caylls don't just spend their time whittling away. After all, they are on a working farm and under the watchful eyes of Horace and Doris. - [Tom In background] Come on, it's low-calorie. Come on. - [Miranda] Father and son find it peaceful and relaxing doing what they love to do. That is, most of the time. - [Tom] 99.99% of the time. There's that little percentage that, you know you'll get aggravated at something where the wood just doesn't want to cooperate with you. Everything you try to do it just you think, you want to make this out of it. And it's trying to tell you, no that's not what I want to be. And then you just, you just get aggravated. So you have to walk away, just kind of take a breath and reassess the situation and come back at it. And your blood pressure's lower. - I got to finish sanding it by hand because - [Miranda] And the flow seems to come natural to father and to son. Whether it is in his genes, or his years of observation, the younger Cayll's admiration for his father is obvious. - [Anthony] Very fortunate. There are many people out there that don't have the luxury that I have to have someone that has taught me the things that I know. If it wasn't for him I doubt I'd be doing what I'm doing. - [Miranda] And the feeling is mutual. - [Tom] He's just kind of followed, you know, in my footsteps. However, I truly believe he's passed me, because of his expertise. I have no words for it. I'm so proud of it. As long as it stays with him and he gets such satisfaction out of it, the way I've been all my life. And that's exactly what I'd say I'm looking for. - Okay, thanks Miranda. Kids these days spend way too much time staring at screens right? Well, except for Tennessee Crossroads. Danielle Allen found a spot in Memphis that not only makes youngsters forget about their cell phones, but also teaches them something in the process. - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis, where a kid can be a kid. Or a firefighter, or policeman or anything they dream up really. This is where imagination takes center stage. - [Stephanie] At the end of the day, the museum is all about having teaching children, but doing it through play. You know, everything, we don't have a lot of collections. This is not a collections museum of dinosaur bones and artworks. This is really a touch, play, and feel museum. And so, everything is designed to really engage a child's movement, creativity, and engagement so that they can have fun, but also learn while they're doing it. - [Danielle] Stephanie Butler is the Executive Director of the museum. She says, learning this way is essential to a child's growth. - [Stephanie] Learning through play is a key part of human development. All children, even when they're, you know, in diapers, are and mom and dad are interacting with them. A big part of how they're learning, you don't think you're teaching your child, but you are through playing peek-a-boo, through playing with different toys and so forth. The museum is able to do that on a grand scale. - [Danielle] That grand scale includes a station to plant vegetables, flying a huge plane through the sky. And there's even a place to go hang-gliding. It's a creative way to reinforce what's learned in the classroom, which is something parents appreciate. - [Parent] lots of fun, very different creative type things out of the box, out of the ordinary. - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis has a history that's just as interesting as the present. This building was once a National Guard Armory. It sat empty for years before the museum opened in 1990. Since then, hundreds of thousands of kids have passed through solidifying its place in Memphis culture. - [Stephanie] It is a cultural amenity. It's a civic amenity. Certainly it's an important destination for people visiting the city. We're certainly a regional draw, especially for folks in rural areas who may not have access to a children's museum. So I think that that's important, but I think at the end of the day, whether it's to visitors, one time visitors to the community, or our residents and citizens, what it does is it promotes the importance of children. - [Danielle] Obviously the museum is geared toward children. But there's one thing that people of all ages enjoy. The grand carousel. Immaculate horses fit for a king and a queen. And it's a ride the parents and kids equally get a kick out of. It's a piece of Memphis history that connects the young and the old. - [Stephanie] When the Libertyland closed down the carousel had been part of the fairgrounds and of Libertyland Since the 1920s. It's a 1909 Dentzel carousel. Everything is hand-carved. It's an amazing work of art. It's an amazing historical feature. But when Libertyland closed down it had gotten very safely mothballed and put away safely. The community, the city really wanted to be able to keep it but there wasn't a home for it. The museum and its trustees really had the vision to think what better place, especially since we're located right on the side of the fairgrounds, to really able to be, able to be a home for, for the carousel. - [Danielle] Getting a carousel running again was no easy task. It had been in storage for years. So crews had their work cut out for them. They had to carefully remove layers and layers of paint. But after a year of work, the horses looked shiny and new. It now has the colors and look of the original carousel from more than 100 years ago. - The carousel was fun. I really liked to see my little sister having so much fun on it. - [Stephanie] I think it's a great draw. I think it does bring in a broader group of people who suddenly see the carousel when they're driving down Central Avenue and think, wow, I remember that from the fairgrounds or from Libertyland, back in the day. - [Danielle] The carousel also has a chariot for wheelchairs. This is one of the many ways the museum is making sure everyone is included in the fun. - [Stephanie] We're always striving as we improve our exhibits and so forth to make sure that exhibits are accessible especially to those kids who have physical disabilities. - [Guest] On you mark, get set, go. - [Danielle] The Children's Museum of Memphis saw more than 260,000 guests last year. And they have plans to bring in more. They're refreshing popular exhibits like the replica of the FedEx plane. And they're adding new additions to help children learn in new ways. But no matter what kids play with here the museum hopes to have the same impact on every child who walks through the door. - [Stephanie] I think whatever, wherever the child is coming from, whatever their background, their ability, we want to make sure that we have an experience where they can come and be inspired and engaged. And at the end of the day we want people to come and leave thinking, wow, you know I might want to be a dentist, or I might want to fly an airplane. But at the end of the day we're trying to think about what are we trying to inspire and teach kids with this? And then how can we design it so that kids are gonna have fun? - Thanks, Danielle. When you need a bag of flour or cornmeal all you have to do is visit the closest market. But back in the early 1800s, it wasn't so easy. Folks grew their own grain and took it to the local gristmill for grinding. Well, Ken Wilshire visited an old mill in Cannon County to see how it's been restored and how the new owners are doing more than just grinding corn. - [Ken] It was built around 1812 and rebuilt after the Civil War, when fire destroyed much of the building. But the Readyville Mill in Cannon County has been a landmark along the Stones River and is steeped in history. So what does it mean to you to be able to be the caretaker of this kind of piece of history? - [Karen] It's an awesome responsibility. You know, you feel privileged because you're continuing the tradition of what was prepared so many years before you and then also preparing it for the next generation. - [Ken] One of the Mill's new caretakers and owners is Karen Ford. She and her husband, Bob had a restaurant and catering business in Murfreesboro and fell in love with Readyville the first time they saw it. - [Karen] When we first moved out here people didn't know even where is it? And they're like, Oh I can't believe you left Murfreesboro. Where's Readyville? Then as they come out we always tell them that their first drive's the longest, and after that, it's a lot shorter. And they come out and experience that it's beautiful out here, there's history out here. It's charming for private parties. That is a little bit off the beaten path because not everybody can offer a historical significance of this. - [Ken] The Readyville Mill has a long list of previous owners. It served the community in many ways as a Gristmill, ice house, and even a power company using the Stones River to generate electricity. But today when you visit the newly restored mill you'll be saying, goodness gracious. That's when you finish your meal at the Goodness Gracious Cafe. It's the Ford's way of preserving the old mill which is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The family's making it a productive part of this small community again and satisfying not only their love for cooking, but lots of appetites. - [Karen] I think some people just have it in them to do it. And we do. We're just been in the food business pretty much all my life. My grandmother was a little Polish caterer and I've, as a little girl, hung out with her as she went and did catering jobs. And my mom is an amazing cook and our family the table almost groans when it's a celebration. Cause that's how, that's all we know how to do is bring food in and eat a lot of it. - [Ken] And like this pancake covered plate the Fords make sure no one leaves hungry. - [Karen] So we serve breakfast all day. So if people run a little bit late, don't worry. You can still have all the wonderful fixings that can be associated with breakfast. We have our ground wheat and corn. So we do corn cakes, wheat pancakes, of course, regular pancakes. We have a full array of omelets, quiche, chicken salad. We run specials, especially on Sunday, of roast beef. - [Ken] Their breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, draw guests from all around. And if the, from-scratch omelets, pancakes, or burgers, didn't quite fill you up, desserts are on the way. - We bake and frost all our own desserts here and make our own icing. So we have a Banana Hummingbird today, Red Velvet Sticker Bar Cake that is quite decadent and delicious. Pecan Pie is always a favorite. So we just switch them up all the time. - [Ken] And it is a family venture. Son Eric is the chef who puts the goodness in their creations. Her daughter, Danielle adds the gracious with a warm welcome and the employee family serves it up with pride. - [Karen] He's a very good cook. He's talented. I love his ideas. And then I have my daughter who she has the twin girls who are here today. She heads up the front. She's usually the first person someone talks to when they call, she schedules everything. She schedules parties. She books catering, which is a big part of what we do here. And then I get to come in and just smile at people and say hello. And then just kind of just oversee. So I have probably the best job of all. - [Ken] But the job that started it all over a century ago, was milling wheat and corn. The tradition continues today with Tennessee-grown grain. Only electricity has replaced the water-powered mill. - [Karen] We buy our corn from a farmer in OrLinda, Tennessee. So it's, it's produced here. It's organic. It's brought here, it's milled, it's sold in bulk in bags or we incorporate it into our product. It's a neat treasure that a lot of people can't even claim to do. And we are fortunate enough to be able to make that happen here. And it's, it's neat. - [Eric] And this is all the cornmeal, your grits. And then your shell is on this low side, so. - [Ken] You can take home a bag of freshly ground cornmeal, grits, or wheat flour for your own recipes. But you just have to taste them first in the Corn Cakes or the Gouda Grits, while you're here. - [Karen] We love doing just the basics, but we love to just come up with new recipes and do fun little specials that make it a little bit more interesting than just everyday just doing the certain things. We try to add some fun and some twists to our menu that make it exciting. Especially seasonally. - [Ken] The Fords are proud of what's happening here at the Readyville Mill and maybe the family's next generation of restaurateurs are right on their apron strings. - A pancake. - Just a plain mini pancake? - Yes. - Wow, super. - [Ken] So whether they're catering a special occasion, serving it up in a historic old grainery, or hosting an event on the grounds, Goodness Gracious Cafe and the Readyville Mill is history preserved. I'm certain, the founding fathers would graciously say, 'good job.' - [Karen] Most days you walk out of there and knowing that you want to do everything you could to make people happy and they enjoyed their experience. And that's something to hang your hat on and say you know what? That was good. That was good. Let's do it again tomorrow. - Thanks Ken. Say, are you looking for a family-friendly and free place to visit downtown Nashville? Well, here's a suggestion. Back in the early 1920s, the city built a remarkable structure dedicated to the veterans of World War I. Well, today the War Memorial Building and Museum remains a place of gathering and remembrance. - [Joe] It's an award-winning architectural gem of Tennessee's capital city. A noble landmark of legislative class. A thing of beauty with ties to an ugly chapter in history. The European War, the Great War. It was even declared the War to End All Wars. Whatever it was called, many, a brave young Tennesseean answered the call. - [Lisa] Just as the first World War raised the profile of the nation, now on a global scale, the war raised Tennessee's profile nationally because Alvin York and because of the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. I mean, the Tennessee boys were right there. - [Joe] Lisa Boudreau is a World War I historian and curator of the Military Museum, downstairs at the War Memorial Building. It's free and open to the public. And it features military artifacts gathered from around the nation and beyond. Personal belongings of Sergeant Alvin York, a jacket worn by General Dwight David Eisenhower, and numerous weapons of all sizes, used by allies and enemies alike. There's even a replica of the most destructive weapon ever used in war. - She was, she was quite a mover and shaker - [Joe] The movement to build a permanent War Memorial building was led by a group of progressive and very determined Nashville women. And their efforts paid off. In 1925, the landmark structure was dedicated, and the architect, Edward Doherty received the coveted gold medal award for his work. Other architects and artists contributed to its style and near perfect acoustics. Today, this classic room proudly retains its timeless beauty. - [Brent] The ceiling is really one of the most beautiful ceilings you'll you'll see anywhere. This, this art deco inlay is just absolutely beautiful. When people walk in, they just can't get over that. This is the speech that he gave that day. - [Joe] That's TPACs Chief Operating Officer, Brent Hyams who tirelessly gathers and shares the auditorium's rich history through words and pictures like this one of Bell Kinney, the artist responsible for the famous gilded bronze Statue of Victory in the courtyard. - [Brent] And he represents each of the military forces of World War I. So he is holding the wing to Nike in his left hand which represents the Air Forces. And his right hand, he's holding a wreath and the sword which represents the ground forces, the Army. And his left foot rest on the prowl of the vessel which represents the sea forces of the Navy. - [Joe] In 1929, bronze plaques were placed on the outside walls. Inscribed were the names of 3,400 Tennesseans who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. As an entertainment venue, the auditorium was home to the Nashville Symphony from 1926 to 1980. And even the Grand Ole Opry from 1939 to 1943. - [Brent] During that time, Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe all became members of the Grand Ole Opry on our stage. So that's pretty impressive. In the late fifties, it was the home of the National African-American Theater touring circuit. And at that time there were people like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, and the Five Satins and Bo Diddley, they all came. Through the years it's always been really a wide array of, of talent. - [Joe] From David Bowie to Lady Gaga, the auditorium has been filled with the music of contemporary stars. And now even emerging artists thanks to an ongoing Attic Sessions project. Backstage dressing rooms have been remodeled with special themes like the Alvin York room, celebrating military and political history. - [Brent] We have a Roy Acuff suite, which represents the the opera years and it's the Star Suite. We also have the Belle Kinney room, which represents some of the more architectural history and Belle Kinney is just a phenomenal, under-celebrated Tennessee sculpture artist. - [Lisa] It has become a place of collective memory for all of us for the state, in terms of other wars and as a place of a congregation, I think you would say. A place of memory and we should be proud of this. - What's fun for me is to see the patrons that are coming to shows here, stopping, you know, and studying the the images that are on the walls, because they're they're learning about the things that have happened here through the years. And it's exciting to see that revelation come across to them like this, this really is a historic place but we're creating new history every day. - [Joe] As a classic entertainment venue, a shrine to veterans of all wars and an epicenter of fascinating history, War Memorial Building will always be a treasure for both Nashville and the state of Tennessee. - Well, I'm afraid that brings us to the end of another Tennessee Crossroads. But before we turn out the lights, I want to remind you to check in on our website TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, and of course, join me here next week. See you then.
March 11, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 30
Miranda Cohen visits a wood carving family in Murfreesboro. Danielle Allen takes a spin through the Children's Museum of Memphis. Ken Willshire visits the old Readyville Mill in Cannon county. Joe Elmore explores the history of Nashville's War Memorial Building. Presented by Nashville Public Television.