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- [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by... - [Narrator] Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at www.TNTrailsAndByways.com. - [Narrator] You can't predict the future, but you can count on Tennessee Tech always putting students first. Our faculty, staff, and students have shown strength, compassion, patience, and kindness during these trying times. For us, it's personal. That's what you can count on at Tennessee Tech. - This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we head to an Old Hickory diner with fine food and a funny name. We'll discover the mission of Walden's Puddle in Joelton, then explore Chattanooga's Medal of Honor museum. Finally, we'll visit a Columbia business, where the lights are always on. Hi, everybody. I'm Joe Elmore. That's the lineup for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Glad to have you. When you think of having a flat tire, that's not a pleasant thought, but a diner in Old Hickory might change the way you think about that term. You see, in our first story, Miranda Cohen takes us to a unique eatery, and learns the story behind its catchy name. - For most of us, the mere mention of flat tire brings up a lot of unsavory thoughts. But for people in Old Hickory, Tennessee, they hear flat tire and start to get, well, hungry. - [Customer] I like either the crunchy french toast or the chicken fried steak. - Usually breakfast because it's hard to get good breakfast anywhere. - [Miranda] Tom Mead and Cheryl Caballero are the owners of the Flat Tire Diner. Tom is a classically trained chef who always wanted to open an authentic American diner. - And that's where all my beginning of my career started out was doing all the high-end expensive restaurants. And after a while, I just realized it's like... I just like a perfect burger that's made with a fresh bun and fresh meat and fresh ingredients, and it doesn't have to be a $50 burger. Stuff like cinnamon rolls that we're making from scratch. It's not... Biscuits are everywhere. Most popular is probably just eggs and bacon. Just a simple eggs, bacon, and hash browns. It's hand selecting every single ingredient, every single item, that you know... Down to our forks and napkins on the table. - Very yummy and scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. It's a lot of hard work. - [Miranda] Tom and Cheryl met years ago working at, what else, a diner. So they wanted to keep the menu simple, but add in some tasty twists and offer items no one else was serving up. - We both came from the diner style, which is Americana food. Bacon and eggs is our most popular item. And I feel like that during stressful times, you eat what's comfortable. And you know, it doesn't get much better than bacon and eggs, and a cinnamon roll, or pancakes, or something. We knew we needed to stick with a cuisine that was gonna kinda survive time. Be yummy for people in Tennessee. So we really looked at what we had to have for an Americana restaurant, but then looked at what other people weren't doing. The machaca, though, that is a braised beef with the kind of salsa flavoring to it. Things like the pastrami, we just didn't find people doing pastrami around here. The chicken fried steak. - [Miranda] And about that clever name, the Flat Tire Diner. Tom and Cheryl came to Tennessee in a food truck, and as luck would have it, the truck was constantly having a flat tire. - [Cheryl] So we were on the food truck for about five years, I think, give or take, and we all of the sudden started having a slow leak on one of the back tires, and it just drove me crazy 'cause we'd be late all the time. And then it kind of clicked for us. The flat tire really was what got this whole idea started. "We'll go with Flat Tire Diner, even if it does make people wonder, 'Are you changing tires, or are you cooking food?" - Before or after you have a delicious meal, make sure you check out the pictures on the wall. Each one depicts a special scene of guess what? A flat tire. Paintings, prints, cartoons, and sculptures. You name it. Cheryl took the theme and rolled with it, personally framing and hanging every piece of art. Now, their collection of flat tire art is as impressive as their masterful culinary creations. - Yeah, well, I'm a car guy, so I love it. So I work on cars a lot, so this kind of thing is interesting to me. - [Miranda] The creative name may bring you in the door, but the great food and staff will definitely bring you back. - So I love how just everyone is so friendly. And I love that they have such a great menu. It's huge. And you can get so many different things on there. - [Miranda] Owners Tom and Cheryl are constantly reminded of the importance of their devoted community, and for those loyal customers, who are keeping the Flat Tire Diner running at full speed ahead. - [Cheryl] It's just been continuous, the customers, the families. I mean, it really is like having a family around here. Having people come back and love what you have, and being grateful. - [Tom] I've never actually experienced so much of a, "We want you to be here forever. Let us know what we can do to support you to make sure you're here forever." And that's something I've never experienced anywhere else. That has definitely been very wonderful to have the neighbors so supportive of us. - Thanks, Miranda. It's no secret, more and more people are discovering our great state and moving here. Good news for the economy, not so good for our native wildlife. Laura Faber gives us a behind the scenes look at our rare wildlife resource that's all about helping our native species thrive and survive. - [Laura] Behind every adorable photo of a baby animal, there is a story of a good deed, rehabilitation, and survival. - [Worker] Hi. - [Worker #2] Hi . - Hi. I found a possum. We found a sibling. - [Laura] Every day, one after the other, kind hearted Tennesseans bring all kinds of injured and orphaned animals to a place called Walden's Puddle. - [Worker] It's a girl. - [Laura] Located in Joelton, this professionally staffed wildlife rehabilitation center serves 39 Tennessee counties. Carolyn Pendarvis is the operations manager. - We're one of the largest wildlife rehabilitators here. We bring in orphaned, ill, and animals that are in need of care that cannot survive on their own without medical care. We bring those back into the wildlife center. We give them the food, the medicine, the nutrition that they need. They may be with us 24 hours, or they may be with us for six weeks. Whatever that care is, we provide 100% of that back to that animal so that they can be released back into the wild where they belong. - [Laura] Walden's Puddle started in 1989 by a backyard rehabber named Vicky Carder with a mission to help native species. The need grew and the organization transformed. Now led by musician and animal lover, Lane Brody, it meets incredibly high standards in licensing requirements. - Although we're not deemed a sanctuary, we think of ourselves as a sanctuary. All of our animals here are... They're in a rehabilitation mode. So we require quiet. We don't have animal viewings here. We're not a zoo, so you can't just kind of walk the grounds. - [Laura] Drop-offs are by appointment only. An animal care technician, Rebecca Garner, says only trained staff and volunteers handle the animals. - [Worker] We provide a service for the public in Middle Tennessee to take care of any injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife so that they can bring it here. We can rehabilitate it, and then we can release it back where it was found. - [Laura] There are a handful of non-releasable animals that live at Walden's Puddle, like Graydon the Grackle, an intelligent bird. - He was attacked by a cat when he was a fledgling, so when he was learning to fly. So unfortunately, he ended up with some neurological issues, and he unfortunately can't fly anymore, so he gets to spend his days here. - This is Nagini, she's an albino corn snake and educational ambassador for Walden's Puddle for 13 years, and she's never bitten anyone yet. King Arthur, a gorgeous red-tailed hawk, is actually a she. - [Worker] She was hit by a vehicle, and that impaired her ability to fly. And she also has some visual issues, as well. - [Laura] But the main focus is doing whatever it takes to return animals to the wild. - We get over 2,000 animals every year, so we have a wide range. We have to tube feed and syringe feed our babies. For our foxes, we get a lot with mange, so we have to treat the mange, and then we have to get them back up to weight. So we have to feed them. We have to make sure that they are having clean bedding and nutrition while they're here so they can grow. We also have to do wound care on anything that's been attacked by something and has an open wound. We have to treat any eye infections. We have to give fluids and medications. And we have to do this for a wide range of species. - [Laura] Human interaction is kept to a minimum. Animals stay from three weeks to a year. Once stabilized, they are moved to a prerelease enclosure with more space to build up strength, then tested to be sure they are exhibiting the proper behavior to survive. And finally, it's release day. Today, a pair of red foxes that came from the back of Sylvia Herzog's property. She first saw them on her security footage. - I noticed that the male started to come out during the day, which is very unusual. And he was looking for food, and he was very thin. And his eyes were almost shut. He was almost blind. And so I knew he couldn't hunt because of his eyes. - Both had mange, a huge skin problem with this species, but now are healthy. The male darts out, but the female, well, not all releases go as planned. And the crate is dismantled. And finally, she runs. - [Sylvia] Never seen that happen ever. - Only for NPT. - I think we're very fortunate. And we have so much building in Nashville. A lot of the habitats are shrinking, and so that puts stress on the environment, and so we're seeing a lot more wild animals because of that. So it's great that we have Walden's Puddle to take care of our wildlife. It's a gift to the town, really. - [Laura] A gift, indeed. Walden's Puddle does not accept state or federal funding. It relies on donations, of which 92% go directly to animal care. A rare and wonderful thing. - [Carolyn] Every time we pick up the telephone, we remind ourself that it's all for the animals. And that these people care. Oh my goodness. Laura, they really, really care about what's going on here. - Did you know that Chattanooga is the birthplace of the National Medal of Honor? The tradition started there in 1863. So it stands to reason that Chattanooga would become the home of a one of a kind museum, one that shares the history of our nation's top military award for valor. - America has heroes. They don't wear capes and tights. They wear a medal with the blue ribbon. - [Joe] That's Keith Hardison, executive director of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, named in honor of Charles Coolidge, who earned his medal for service in World War II. The Heritage Center is an immersive experience, where you practically walk in the boots of heroes as their stories come to life. The story of the medal itself goes back to 1862 as a way to honor exceptional Union soldiers. - And quite frankly, when it was created, the Union side of things wasn't going particularly well. So this became also a morale booster. - [Joe] The main exhibit hall tells stories of heroes like Andrews' Raiders, a group of 44 volunteers who hijacked a Confederate locomotive, then headed toward Chattanooga, destroying rails along the way. For their bravery, 19 raiders received the country's first Medals of Honor. The only woman to receive the medal was Dr. Mary Walker, she was dispatched to Chattanooga to establish a field hospital, where she would oversee the care of sick and wounded soldiers. - [Keith] Mary Walker's was rescinded, not technically because she was a woman, but because she was a civilian contractor to the Army, as opposed to being in the military. They notified her that this was being stricken from the record and she should send the medal back. She made some comment about her cold dead hands, and indeed, when her body was placed in its coffin, the medal was on it. - [Joe] The exhibit figures here are remarkable pieces of work. This one represents George Jordan, a former slave from Williamson County, who received a Medal of Honor for action during the Indian Wars. - Literally, we had things made throughout the United States of people who had various specialties to make sure that these could be the most authentic possible. In other words, Alvin York looks like Alvin York. Charles Coolidge looks like Charles Coolidge, not a department store type mannequin. - [Joe] Now, this exhibit honors World War I veteran, Joseph Adkison, that Tennessee native who charged a German machine gun nest, capturing weapons, and three german soldiers. No veteran of the Great War was more acclaimed than Sergeant Alvin York. He received the Medal of Honor for an attack on another German machine gun nest, gathering 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132. The World War II section features a parachuting Paul Huff. Huff was the first paratrooper in history to win the Medal of Honor. Then there's Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who never fired a weapon. What he did do was rescue 75 soldiers, one by one, down the treacherous cliffs of Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. And of course, there's Chattanooga's own, Charles Coolidge, who won his top honor by single-handedly taking on a German Panzer tank. - We get to teach, but we also get to listen and learn 'cause I had a gentleman come in. He was a veteran of World War II, 101 years old. We introduced ourselves, and I said, "Thank you for saving the world." And he looked at me and he said, "I didn't do anything except my job." But I said, "You are one of the 16 million Americans who wore the uniform. The greatest generation who defeated totalitarianism across the globe." - [Joe] The Korea and Vietnam exhibit show how war was increasingly brought into American living rooms by way of television news coverage. In here, more recent Medal of Honor heroes are recognized, those who bravely served in Iraq and Afghanistan. - [Keith] Wooden shoes. Here's a type of camera. - [Joe] There's also a room dedicated to changing exhibits. This one's called Experiencing Europe: Tourism and the American Soldier in World War II. It's designed to show you what it was like to be an American soldier then, on and off the battlefield. It's full of souvenirs and artifacts, and even a set of K-rations. The Heritage Center staff hope visitors of all ages will find their visit educational and inspiring. That people leave with a new sense of heritage and a profound respect for the six character traits shared by all of those who earned the Medal of Honor. - If they did this, how can I be a more patriotic citizen? Courage is courage, whether it's on the battlefield, a playground, or in a boardroom. - There's an old saying that goes, "It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Well, the folks in our next story have been lighting candles of a sort since the Great Depression. Susan Watson shines the light on a special business in Columbia. - When the first neon sign in America went up in 1923, people stopped and stared in wonder at the words written in what some poetically called liquid fire. By the 1950s, neon lit up the highways and main streets of America from LA to New York. Now, Columbia Neon had its beginnings way back in 1934. But today, they're as busy as ever, making signs that use not only the latest technology, but time-tested techniques as well. - We got two sheet metal men over here that have been with us for years, and they can build 'em all the way from the old historic type sign to the modern sign, so they physically build the sheet metal, build the sign itself, install the steel, then they install the transformers inside of it. And now, they put the housings on it. They put the design on it. And we'll take it and install the sign ourself. We do all the work ourself. We all wear several hats around here. - [Susan] Charles Stofel was hired in 1960 as a painter in the spray department. And worked his way up, eventually buying Columbia Neon from the original owners. He's seen a lot of changes in his 50 plus years here, working with signs made from neon to fluorescent to LED. Charles and his staff of 19, change with the times and can do it all. From design to finished product. - Well, when I came in 1960, the outdoor signs were primarily neon signs. Then later on, probably '65 or so, we started building plastic signs, plastic face signs. The neon signs are more labor intense and usually cost more. So a lot of people went with the plastic signs due to the expense of them. Now, a lot of people have found out that the neon signs hold up longer in some cases, and are more of a historic type of sign. And we build on a lot of neon signs and recondition a lot of neon signs. Columbia Neon actually built the Crockett Theater, marquee and all in 1950. That was before my time. The city of Lawrenceburg bought the Crockett Theater, so they contacted us in order to restore the sign. And we restored the sign back, just like it was back in the 50s. And it turned out real good, so they really got a classic in Lawrenceburg. - [Sylvia] A look around the cavernous shop reveals a time capsule of sorts, with all manner of signage, showcasing local businesses and the evolution of advertising trends. But more importantly, to Charles Stofel, it represents his connection with the past, his community, and the people he has known as customers and friends. - [Charles] We try to hold on to a lot of local history. A lot of the local people enjoy coming over and looking over the whole history. - [Susan] Columbia Neon made three different signs over the years for a jewelry store in nearby Mount Pleasant. And Charles, himself, sold Mr. Petty the third sign in the mid-70s. - Several years later, he called and said he and his wife were gonna retire, and he was gonna close the store. And wanted to know if I want his old sign. And I told him, "I sure would like to have it, Mr. Petty." So he said, "Well, you come down and take it down, Charles. I'm gonna give it to you." I went down. Took it down. And while I was there, said "I've got two other signs in the basement. Would you like to have those?" I said, "I sure would." So he gave me his other two signs. Felt real close to 'em. They were just good people. We got that full history here in signs. - [Susan] The Rivers family has a history with Columbia Neon too. David Rivers is the second generation with the skill to bend glass into any shape, number, or letter needed. - My dad did work for Columbia Neon back in the early 50s. I've been doing this since 1985, so I believe that would be 32 years now. It's a whole family tradition, I guess you could say. The method of bending is still the same. There's been a few changes in the way that we fill the tubes with gas, and the way patterns were made for neon has changed a little bit as well. Here at Columbia Neon, they had a man named Mr. Lewis that hand drew those patterns. Now, the designs are emailed to me. And I take a plotter machine and I make the patterns myself. It has changed a little bit as far as that respect goes, but basically, we're still doing things pretty much the way they've been done for the past 70 years. - [Susan] The adage, "What's old is new again," can certainly be applied to advertising as the rusty spur sign at test too. But sometimes, what's old can be made new again. And that is something that David is very proud to be a part of. - We see a lot of old signs come in. They have no neon on them anymore. And we'll bring 'em back to life. And I've done a lot of old sign restoration. And that's a lot of fun to see something you've just... An old metal sign has no life to it, if we brought back what used to be. And it's just... You know, it's good to know that I'm doing something that was a part of how this nation grew from American roadside. I mean, neon is what made businesses grow. And it's what got people to stop traveling to have a meal or a night's sleep. You know, there's nothing, as far as I'm concerned, anymore beautiful than a neon sign as far as outdoor advertising goes. So since it's becoming more and more rare, it's meaning more and more to me that I keep this going. I don't wanna see it vanish away because I think this generation has kinda forgotten how beautiful neon can be. - Well, that's gonna do it for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Say, did you know that you can watch us anywhere, any time, all thanks to the new PBS Video App? Of course, you can check out our website, www.TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, and by all means, join us here next week. See you then. - [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by... - [Narrator] Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history, and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at www.TNTrailsAndByways.com. - [Narrator] You can't predict the future, but you can count on Tennessee Tech always putting students first. Our faculty, staff, and students have shown strength, compassion, patience, and kindness during these trying times. For us, it's personal. That's what you can count on at Tennessee Tech.
September 29, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 10
Miranda Cohen heads to an Old Hickory diner with a funny name. Laura Faber learns about the mission of Walden’s Puddle in Joelton. Joe Elmore explores Chattanooga’s Medal of Honor Museum. And Susan Watson tours a Columbia business where the lights are always on.