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- [Presenter] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by... - [Announcer] 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 go to Murfreesboro to get an authentic taste of Thailand. Then, we explore the Harmony Lane Farm and Creamery in Smithville. We'll discover how historians helped solve a wartime mystery in Nashville. And finally, visit The Big Red Store in Appleton. Hi everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome again to Tennessee Crossroads. I'm sure glad to have you. One of the reasons most of us love to travel is to taste the delicacies of other countries and to experience their cultures. Well, in our first story, Miranda Cohen shows us how to enjoy the exotic flavors of Thailand without even taking your passport. - [Miranda] Tucked away on Robert Rose Drive in Murfreesboro, you will find this hidden culinary gym called Thai Corner. Here, you can experience the sweet and savory flavors of a land far away, but you will never feel more at home. Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles. And when you walk into The Bangkok Thai Cuisine, you'd know why. - [Larpin] I believe you can learn a lot about someone's culture through their cuisine. We pretty much tell the story of Thailand through our cuisine. If you ever come here, it's like coming to a family friend's house and having dinner. We'll explain to you everything. We'll talk to you about it. My mom and dad will come out and say hello. We're showing our culture through our food. Thank you for coming in y'all. - [Miranda] For nearly two decades, Larpin Butchareon, his parents, and his brother, Pree, have been serving up bold and delicious Thai cuisine to locals. - My family opened the restaurant in 1996. We were one of the first Thai restaurants in Murfreesboro. So this was very new cuisine to the community, new flavors to the community that people weren't used to. - [Miranda] From flavor-packed pad thais to savory curries, crispy spring rolls, rice creations, and colorful vegetable dishes, exotic flavors are bringing the customers in in droves. And from the moment you walk through the door, you'd know you are somewhere very special. - [Larpin] We designed this whole restaurant ourselves. We did everything ourselves. All the hardwood flooring is from Thailand. Artwork, the art pieces is from Thailand, a lot of pictures and everything that show where we are from. So when you step in here, it's like you're stepping into a restaurant in Thailand. That, to us, kind of, completes the experience. The food is one thing, but also when you come in here, you really believe that you are, you're stepping into a different culture. - [Miranda] But the real secret family recipe isn't the warm delicate spice blends or the beautiful decor. It's the Butchareons themselves. - My mom's food is, what can I say? It represents who she is. She absolutely loves to feed people. She's always been a wonderful cook, self-taught. She never had any formal lessons or anything like that. As a kid, she would just watch all the vendors around her cook and she would ask questions and just visually watch them, you know? And she just taught herself. - [Miranda] Bubpha Butchareon and her husband, Mr. Jack, as he is known to everyone in town, came to this country nearly 40 years ago with two small boys, a big dream, and even bigger talent, and an extraordinary work ethic. - [Larpin] Growing up in a restaurant, especially a family restaurant, the moment you step in those doors, you're working. Cashew Chicken going, okay? You're clocked in as soon as you step in those doors. That's just what comes with owning and running a family business with your family. - [Customer] We will not go anywhere else because we know this is the best. Bubpha comes and talks to us about the food, and we ask questions and we tell everybody about it. So this family has been really close to us. - [Miranda] But what the Butchareons are bringing to the table is far more than delicious cuisine. They are bringing comfort, long-standing family traditions, and an undeniable sense of belonging. - After 26 years, we have developed, we've gained many, many, many friends that we call family now from the restaurant. They came to get a meal and the next thing they know, we're, 15 years later, we are still friends. We just want few people to feel comfortable, like they are eating at our house. - Now, Larpin says it is a misconception that all Thai food is spicy. In fact, they can custom make your order with heat levels from zero to five. And if you do overdo it a little bit, we'll tell you the perfect way to cool down. - [Waitress] Number 70? Here you go. You're welcome. - [Miranda] Just steps away from The Bangkok is one of Murfreeboro's most popular spots, Varin's Sweet Shop. Young entrepreneur, Christina Oudomsouk, is blending flavorful concoctions of culture into her delicious treats. - I am four things. I am Chinese, Thai, Laos, and Vietnamese, so we like to incorporate a bunch of their sweet stuff from each little culture and bring it here. And we serve bubble teas, bubble waffles, and croffles. - [Customer] I get bubble waffle 'cause it's really good here and there's no other place in Murfreesboro that have bubble waffle. It's just, it's crunchy but it's soft. It's very, like, not as hard as a waffle, but like fluffy as a pancake. - [Christina] There's Hong Kong egg waffle, there's puff waffles. They call them puffles. - [Miranda] That's right, a puffle. It's a tender, crispy waffle with a very unique shape and texture. - [Christina] It's actually a waffle mode that we make. Inside is an air pocket, so it's light and airy, crispy in the outside. Those, you can have with or without ice cream. You can have them flat with just toppings on it. - [Miranda] The cases are filled with cakes, ice creams, and delicate Asian pastries. But the real draw is the sweet and spicy blends of exotic bubble tea, also known as boba. The bubbles are actually smooth tapioca pearls, and they provide a burst of flavor. - We have over 14 toppings, different kinds of bobas, jellies, popping bobas, crystal bobas that they can have put in their drinks. Everything we sell here is everything that my family and I love. You know, it brings us joy to know that people enjoy it, and knowing that we do have people that keep coming back. - [Miranda] So the next time you get the urge to travel, take a trip to Thai Corner and you might just feel like you never left home. - Thanks, Miranda. Our next story involves some adorable four-legged creatures who provide a number of health benefits. They keep you clean, keep you fed, and warm your heart. Cindy Carter takes us to the Harmony Lane Farm and Creamery in Smithville. - [Cindy] Once upon a time, goats in America were primarily known for their presence in children's stories and fairy tales. You know, like those Billy Goats Gruff. But now, thanks to pop culture trends like goat yoga and screaming or fainting goat videos, you might say goats are getting their day in the sun. - They're so smart. People don't give them enough credit. - [Cindy] And at Harmony Lane Farm and Creamery in Smithville, Tennessee, you simply got to give credit to the goats for all the cheese, milk, soap, and, yes, smooches they provide. - [Julie] Not only do we make yummy products, we're like a destination. We make a lot of memories. A lot of families come here that are traveling. Now, we're the number one attraction actually in Smithville. - [Cindy] Every day, Harmony Lane owner, Julie David, and her staff welcome visitors from all over, offering an informative and entertaining look at the inner workings of a working goat farm. - [Staff] All right, Miss Julie's coming out. - [Cindy] Opening her gates to tourists was a way to earn a living while living a farmer's life. Julie didn't start out like this, a digestive issue letter to goat's milk as an alternative to medicine. - That's really how it started, and I kind of wanted to do something for myself. So I was buying some goat milk from a man down the way, and all of a sudden I said, "Why don't I just get a few goats? And that way, I have milk for my own supply." Those four goats quickly turned into 16. - [Cindy] Today, Julie and her staff wrangle roughly 150 goats of various sizes, shapes, and responsibilities. - [Julie] All the way down, pay attention. - [Cindy] Visitors don't just learn about milking goats, they do it. - [Julie] You're milking a dairy goat. - [Group] Oh, wow. - [Julie] You are milking a dairy goat. Yes, you are. - [Cindy] A hands-on experience that really resonates. Now, this is what the farm is known for, goat cuddling. Visitors can spend quality time with a baby goat, and health experts say there are real benefits to this. It releases endorphins that calm you down, it lowers blood pressure, and Hannah is just so doggone cute. Hannah and her friends are wrapped in blankets and placed in waiting laps, where they just chill for a while. Julie says these kids are sweet because they're bottle-fed from birth. She says if their mommas do the honors, the goats are unfriendly and don't play nice with each other. - Being a bottle baby, they're friendly, they're lovable, and they're just fun to watch. You don't even have to cuddle them. Just watching them in the field and all of their little antics is quite a joy. - [Cindy] As fun as it is to frolic on the farm, the goats do have a job to do. The milk they make is used to make in-house cheese or chevre, seven different varieties. There's also caramels, ice cream, fudge. - They're milk. You can do so much with it. I mean, Cleopatra used to bathing goat's milk. - [Cindy] Harmony Lane does that too. Bars and bags of sweet-smelling goat's milk soap and lotions are mixed and made here daily. - [Julie] It's pushed me to do things I probably wouldn't normally have done. I'm a little stronger than I thought I was. - [Cindy] The goats may get the glory, but they share this 64 acres with dozens of other farm-friendly, family-friendly animals that visitors can also feed and pet, donkeys, llamas, emus, pigs, and 18 Angus beef cattle led by... - [Julie] Here's old Ferdinand. - [Staff] Old Ferdinand? - [Julie] Right here. - [Cindy] Ferdinand the bull weighs in at 3,200 pounds, and he and his friends don't mind the periodic pasture invasions as long as someone brings the snacks. - At the end of the day, I love what I do. I'm passionate about it. I love sharing. I love the knowledge. Children don't know where their meat comes from, you know? I can drive them into an Angus beef herd and say, "This is your hamburger and steak." - [Cindy] Julie proudly points out her farm gives visitors an opportunity to learn, the opportunity to try, and the opportunity to make some pretty cool memories. - So this is our Nigerian dwarf habitat. You can actually go in here and spend time with these little dwarfs. - [Cindy] Between the product production, milking, and merriment, there's a lot of moving parts and critters on this small Tennessee farm, but it's the goats, all those happy, attention-grabbing goats, that are the reason every moving part moves in harmony at Harmony Lane. - Do you believe in fate? Well, the folks in our next story sure do. This story involves a world war and an 80-year-old family mystery, one that was solved thanks to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This is the story of a typical boy from Nashville who grew up to be anything but ordinary. A story of war and perseverance, of memories and mystery, and of love and family. Like millions of other young men in the 1940s, Hardy Mitchener's life was interrupted by a world at war. Leaving his home and family, he took to the skies over Germany as part of the 8th Air Force's mission to cripple Hitler's war machine. Odds were stacked against the American bomber crews during the daring daylight raids. And one week before D-Day, a burst of cannon fire from an enemy fighter ended Lieutenant Mitchener's days above the clouds. Exchanging the danger of combat for the frustration and hardship of imprisonment, Hardy would spend the next 11 months as a POW in Stalag Luft III. The camp made famous earlier that year by the Great Escape of 76 allied prisoners. Aged by his experience but lucky to be alive, he returned home after being liberated by General George Patton in the spring of '45. Sadly, 12 years later, cancer proved deadlier than German gunfire as Hardy passed away in 1957. That would've been the end of Hardy Mitchener's story had it not been for a diary. - My mother and grandmother talked about the diary a lot. - [Joe] Skip Sawyer is Hardy's nephew. - We had heard about this journal all of our lives. - [Joe] Geri Worley is Hardy's niece. - The diary right away caught our attention because we thought it was so interesting and it was such a special item. - [Joe] Archivist, Gwynn Thayer, is not related to Hardy, but nevertheless played an important role in his story. - And when he died, then the diary disappeared. His wife left and the diary went with her. So I never saw it until my sister called. - And for some unknown reason, I was doing some stuff at my computer at home and I just Googled Hardy A. Mitchener, and it came up. - [Joe] What came up was an old, tattered, priceless link to the past. - It was a very important sentimental, emotional kind of discovery. - Oh my gosh, they have this journal, so I called. - She called me and told me she'd found it online and sent me some emails about it. And so, that's when I thought, "Well, you know, maybe I can get a copy of this." - These things come up often actually around here. We find things here that you would never expect. - [Joe] Gwynn is referring to the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which received the diary after the Tennessee Historical Society purchased it at an auction in New York. - We got this diary digitized, we put it on the internet and the family found it and they contacted us. - You know, I put a little note in there that this was my uncle. And as far as I know, my sister and I are his only two living relatives. And I didn't know if I'd hear from her or not. And then, Gwynn responded. - Of course we responded with great excitement and said, "Yes, we wanna work with you." - A week or two later, here we are. - It's very fragile, but of course, you're welcome to handle it. You always think about those archivable moments, and that was one of them that makes your job all worth it. - And that's him, right? - Yup. This is a depiction of the crash. Here you have fire coming out where the plane crashes, and then he's coming down in his parachute. - [Joe] Through the newly discovered diary, Hardy's niece and nephew were reunited with an uncle they barely remembered. What they found was a brilliant, fun-loving airman whose warmth and talent touched not only the lives of his family, but his fellow prisoners as well. Hardy's pilot, Crawford Hicks, recounted how Mitch not only boosted morale, he also made the most of their meager rations. - He said, "I'll do this. I'll be there to cook and I'll take care of all these things. But all the food, all of the food that comes into this room belongs to me. If you get something at home, a package from home, I get it." He took that food and made great pasta out of it. He made good eating food. We had the best meals of anybody in the whole building. - Once we interviewed the pilot of the plane that Mitchener was on, the person who knew him best, we found that the kinds of things he wrote in the diary were very different from the way he kind of presented himself publicly. He helped all of the men with cooking and really kind of maintaining their spirit and their morale. But in the diary, I feel like you get a slightly different perspective on his loneliness and his desire for freedom, his desire for home. And that's what I find so interesting is that it doesn't necessarily reflect the way everybody else perceived him. It's his own personal private story, and that's what I like about it. - [Joe] The personal story of an American hero that would've been lost if not for the efforts of Gwynn and friends. - There is no doubt in my mind that the Tennessee State Library and Archives is really the best spot for you to do your genealogical research in the state of Tennessee. You can do it either online or come here in person. We have many, many letters, photographs, diaries, journals, you name it, from private family collections. And that, to me, is what makes our collections special. And not every state archive will have that kind of thing. - They have more information about my uncle than I. I couldn't believe how much stuff she found. It feels good for people to be so excited about somebody in your family. - It is just so exciting and my children are so excited, and I just think it's gonna be great that he lives on. I'm very proud too. And this will live on forever. - Well, finally, we travel south to Appleton, Tennessee to visit a big store. At one time, it was the largest of its kind. Now, not to be confused with a big-box store. Rob Wilds discovered the history inside The Big Red Store. - [Rob] They're shaking the walls and floors at The Big Red Store in the Appleton community, south of Pulaski today, just like generations did here starting in about 1890 when the store opened. But this round of merry-making is new because The Big Red Store closed in the mid '50s and fell into decay until Linda Boyd got tired of looking out her window at a dilapidated building. - I live in the house next door and I would wash dishes and I'd look out the window and I'd say, "Somebody, please do something to that building. It's falling on down. Do something." Nobody did anything, so it came the opportunity for us to buy it. And so, we did. Basically on the inside, we cleaned. There has been some flooring replaced and some of the columns in the back. But basically, we've cleaned and left it as near the original look as it was. - [Rob] And that made it the perfect place for the people like Marvin Boyd who remember how it was to come to what was the shopping mall of its day. - [Marvin] This was the largest country store outside of Atlanta, Georgia. It was advertised as the world's largest country store. You could buy anything you wanted here just about. - [Rob] Brianna Melton saw things from the other side of the counter at The Big Red Store. - I was working here when I was, I worked here when I was 20 years old. - [Rob] And what was it like? Was it busy place when you were working here? - A busy place. ♪ If I had needle and thread ♪ - [Rob] If you needed a needle and a thread and just about anything else, you could get it here. And Linda and the other owners are doing their best to restock the shelves so visitors can get a look at the way things were when The Big Red Store could take care of you from cradle to grave. - We've got one of the original caskets, the old wooden caskets. Your barrel expense would be $46.75. And the old hearse over here, they would be hauled in in. - [Rob] Visitors love to come by. Some remember the store themselves. Others are seeking signs of ancestors to see what they bought here. Billy Elledge fits in both those categories. - We were filing through when Bob and Linda was putting some stuff in there. One of the first ones that I came to with my great-grandpa, Neal Garner. - [Rob] Is that right? - I believe it's $3 and something, which is not much to us, but back then it was a whole lot. And they've got it. They've got a lot of things like that, that people can come in here and they can look at their ancestors, things from their ancestors. And it's just a place that very few remains. - [Rob] This store was a big part of the life of this community, a community which has a long and storied history. While the last Civil War Battle fought in Tennessee was fought right here through this community and along the banks of Sugar Creek, there's a marker that commemorates that. But the real marker of the life of this community was The Big Red Store, a marker that Linda and her partners definitely want to stand tall once again. - My husband and I would come in here when we were children, kids growing up, and it was just amazing to walk in and come in to buy your Coca-Cola, your moon pie, ice cream, just whatever, you know, your treats would be. And so many people that this has touched their lives. The history is like the older people told their children and they have told their children, and now they can come and see what their grandparents were talking about. - [Rob] With the store reopened as a place for community gatherings and as a museum honoring the lives of the people who called Appleton home, there's a very good chance that The Big Red Store will be the topic of fond conversation for generations to come. - Well, that's about it for this time. Now, surely you've heard about the PBS Video app. That way, you can see our show and any other PBS show anytime, anywhere. You ought to check it out. And of course, there's our website, tennesseecrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook. And what else? Join us next week. See you then. - [Presenter] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by... - [Announcer] 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.
November 17, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 17
Miranda Cohen goes to Murfreesboro for an authentic taste of Thailand. Cindy Carter explores the Harmony Lane Farm and Creamery in Smithville. Joe Elmore discovers how historians helped solve a wartime mystery in Nashville. And Rob Wilds visits the Big Red Store in Appleton.