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- [Narrator] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [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. - Happy holidays and welcome to our " Tennessee Crossroads" Christmas special. I'm Joe Elmore. I'm Joe Elmore. I'm Joe Elmore. I'm Joe Elmore. I'm Joe Elmore, glad you joined us. You know after doing this show more than 10 years, we've collected what we consider our favorite "Tennessee Crossroads" Christmas stories. We'll share some of our favorite holiday memories from the past 31 years. Happy holiday everyone, I'm Joe Elmore, welcome to a "Tennessee Crossroads" Christmas. There are quite a few Tennessee communities that once had a thriving heyday that, well faded away without a trace of history of how things used to be there. One such community is called Christmasville believe it or not near McKenzie in West Tennessee. Ken Wilshire pays a visit and discovers there's something special about this place, especially this time of year. - [Ken] It's simply amazing what the mind can do when it hears or sees a word or sign like this one near McKenzie It points us towards Christmasville. Well, I don't know about you but I would think to most people just the name of a town called Christmasville brings warm, cozy holiday visions of a village covered with brightly-colored lights, decorated trees, holiday foods and more. Well, we just had to find it. And if it's about Christmas, there's just no one who might know where it is or what it looks like better than third or fourth graders like these students at West Caroll County Elementary School in Trezevant. We can't find Christmasville and we're hoping that someone would tell us what to look for. - Well, I'm not really sure where Christmasville might be but I can probably think it's probably joyful and has a lot of stuff like big Christmas trees. Pretty good place probably. - First thing you'd probably see in Christmasville would be snow and I wouldn't surprised to find a sleigh. - [Ken] So with these colorful directions in mind, we enlisted the help of Dale Cooper. This is pretty much the original site. This is where the boats would come upstream and. - Oh yes, sir, they would bring supplies in from the Mississippi. - Dale was born and raised in the Christmasville community and if anybody knows about the town, it's Dale. - It does still hold a place in many people's heart because so many people have ties or connections. In it's day it was quite a bustling place I'm sure. - Actually the Christmas in Christmasville comes from John Christmas Macklemore. - [Ken] And John Christmas Macklemore was one of the area's first settlers and land owners and despite several more Christmas-related accounts of how the town got it's name, most historians feel it was named after him but this hasn't stopped some vivid imaginations. - In Christmasville Road you can find a lot of Christmas trees and well, you might find some snows. - And children playing outside in the snow and a lot of people hanging up Christmas lights and stuff. - And you might find Santa Clause's house. - Really in Christmasville? - Hmm-mm. - [Ken] Wow, I thought he was in the North Pole. - I'm just fooling with you. You can't find Santa Clause's house in Christmasville. - [Santa] Ho, ho, ho. - [Dale] A lot of supplies that came into West Tennessee interior came through Christmasville. That's why there's Christmasville Road in Jackson, there's in one in Paris. There's a Christmasville Road goes to Dresden, there's one to Trenton. So all of the major county seats in this area had a road that came from Christmasville. - This is the south fork of the Obion River. It's as far as the boatman could push, pull or paddle their boats upstream here in Christmasville but it's also the point from which this community could have reached the entire world. - [Dale] There was several stores and shops there in Christmasville as well as churches and I'm sure that many other towns in West Tennessee had the same fate as Christmasville that they were carved out of the wilderness early but then they had a relatively short lifespan due to the fact that the railroads missed them and the people that lived here, a lot of the people sought fame and forces in other places and so they moved on to greener pastures so to speak. - [Ken] For many reasons Christmasville never survived as a town, only a small community remains. So why is this place even on the map? Well, from what we found it's about the spirit of Christmasville. - It has a relationship to Christmas as the season and the spirit as well as Christmasville, the village and bustling town that helped this area to grow out of a wilderness. - [Ken] It's my guess that maybe a leisurely drive down this quiet, peaceful stretch of road called Christmasville or just the thought of a town named Christmasville might give us all some time to reminisce about holidays past, remember our family and friends and help us to relive the Christmas spirit every day of the year. And maybe we should say thanks to those early American settlers who named this place Christmasville. But if you really could go there. - I would like to celebrate Christmas with my friends and family, have a good time on Christmas Day and it's all not about the presents, it's about just spending time with each other. - The idea of visiting a botanical garden in winter time may sound a little bit strange unless it happens to be in Huntsville, Alabama. As Rob Wildes discovered the whole place is blossoming with lights and it's all designed to make your holidays a little bit brighter. - My Aunt Mary used to love Christmas time. She'd get the family all in the car and we'd go driving around town on what she called her twinkle tour looking at the neighbor's Christmas lights. I'm just sorry Aunt Mary's passed on the big light display in the sky because she would love the twinkle tour here at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. - We had 23,000 cars come through last year which is roughly 125,000 people. Half of our visitation comes during this time of the year. - [Rob] What Harvey Cotton, the chief operating officer of the Huntsville Botanical Garden is talking about that attracts such a big crowd is the Galaxy of Lights and I do mean Galaxy of Lights. - We say millions, I don't know that we've counted each one now. Numbers of pieces easily into three or 400 individual pieces, I think it's over 120 displays as we call them and each display may have several pieces to it. And then the difference being with rope light. That's a little different than the little twinkle lights. So it's kinda hard to say. I know my electric bill's fairly high. We can probably look at it as kilowatt hours maybe more than number of lights. - [Rob] Lights that are bit different each year. - [Harvey] We try to add something new every single year. I think that's our success in that we don't want anybody to drive through to say, "Well, that's just what I saw last year." So every year that we've been open, we've been able to add new exhibits or new pieces to them. Maybe move them around in the garden to where they're in different locations to give a different feel. This year we're very excited, we've added a half mile loop to the south end of the garden which will be the first time that that's been opened. So, it's allowed us to put in three new display areas that we haven't had previously. - Uh-oh. - Don't worry about that little uh-oh. Volunteer, Nick Mangus knows how to get the lights back on. He's a retired engineer and one of the Galaxy guys who worked so hard on this project every year. - I see what it is. We start by having theme areas and then within the theme areas we decide what scenes we'd like to put up. We wanna tell a story. So once you've decided what story you wanna tell, you now do a little research. For instance in the botanical area, this is the botanical garden, I had to research every flower out there to make sure it was correct because we've got 6,000 botanicals critics who are members of this garden and if I didn't get it right then I would here about it. You'll also notice some other themes out here that had to be technically correct which we had to research. Once you get that done, then the artwork comes. I make sketches, we review them, if they look good, we blow them up to full scale and print them on paper, turn that over to a welder who builds us a frame, that comes back to our guys and they put lights on it, animate it and put it out for display. - [Rob] Making the display's different each year and the Galaxies been going on for a decade puts people like Nick to the test. - [Nick] And you'll see a whole group of snowmen out there. We call him the headache snowman, juggler snowman, an exploding snowman, a melting snowman. And I designed those, we built them locally with local welders and the guys on my crew put lights on them. I think those are the ones that I did recently and are fond of. - [Rob] Oh there are many sites to be fond of, sparkling reminders of the season, mostly. Okay, I'm not sure a red elephant is associated with Christmas but, I mean, this is Alabama after all. But putting that aside, the Galaxy gets great reviews from the critics who count most. - Did you like the lights? - I liked the lights. - [Rob] Like them, you bet. The Galaxy of Lights here at the Huntsville Botanical Garden most definitely puts you in the mood to say. - Merry Christmas. - Thank you. - Say what would Christmas be like without Santa Clause. Well, pretty disappointing to some kids and pretty boring to the lady you're about to meet in Hermitage. Tammy Ardener paid a visit to her home where old St. Nick's gonna be mighty proud when he drops down her chimney. ♪ Here comes Santa Clause here comes Santa Clause ♪ ♪ Right down Santa Clause Lane ♪ - [Tammy] There are Santas with fishing poles and some in shorts. Santas with kids and those who play sports. There's springy Santa or one in an igloo. There are all white Kringles and those who cook too. June Sowells collects old St. Nick, it's those rosy red cheeks that make her tick. - After I had one or two, I just loved to look at the Santa faces. To me Santa Clause symbolizes love and that's why I got started. My husband was interested in them too and he loved them almost as much as I did, so we collected them together. - [Tammy] June and her late husband, Charles Sowells started collecting Santas in 1987. It started as a little something extra for decoration at the yuletide season but after a few years, the collection grew and grew. Now June has 800 Santas on display in every room of her house. She's hardly handed out the Halloween candy before she has to start unwrapping the Mr. Clauses. - Thank you, Katie. I usually start right after Halloween. I try to let Halloween pass before I begin to get them out. Is he okay? I have to start then to get them all out. See if he'll work, Katie. That's one of your favorites, isn't it? You like that one. - [Tammy] June has now recruited two of her grandchildren, Taylor and Katie to help with putting out the Santas and making sure they work and have batteries if they need them. - Are their lips moving? - [Tammy] When you have 800 Clauses, most of which stay tucked away in every closet of the house for most of the year, these girls make very good elves. - Taylor let's get the hip hop one and see if he works. - [Tammy] Plus seeing their excitement is all part of the reason June goes through this holiday hassle. - I guess just the joy and excitement of the season and I'm trying to realize why we have all these and being able to share them with other people has been the greatest part of having this collection. - [Tammy] June says this is the Santa that first started it all, the fireman holding a child. Her father was a fireman so this collection has a very special place in her heart. June also says these three Santas are her most cherished, they were a gift from her husband just before he passed away. - [June] My husband died on Saturday and on Thursday before he died he bought me three Santas. So those are probably the most cherished ones I have at this point. - [Tammy] But many others also hold a special place in her heart like these, she and Charles collected while traveling the world, ones from Ireland or Italy and especially the ones from Finland which were made by the Laps. Legend has it this is where the idea of Santa Clause was born and this one which glows through priceless Waterford crystal. - There are many of these Santas that I have that are retired from the collections that I collect from, so they are all worth more than probably what I paid for them. The red and white Santas that you see over there are not made anymore. - [Tammy] Although Christmas is supposed to be a peaceful time of year, the Santa collection did bring a little bit of strife into the family here in the sports room. You see it's rare that you'd find a University of Tennessee and an Alabama St. Nicholas standing this close together. - We had a real conflict in our family because I was a Vanderbilt fan, our daughter graduated at UT and my husband was an Alabama fan, so during football season, we had a big thing going on. - [Tammy] You didn't have peace in this house through football season. - No. - This was not the peaceful time of year it was supposed to be. - Right, no. - [Tammy] But at least they could all agree on the Titans. As June takes time to read the Christmas story in the Bible, she's reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and while she loves the laughter and smiles that the ho ho ho brings to the home, she never loses sight of the fact the real gift of love came through a manger, not a chimney. - [June] Santa is apart of Jesus to me, apart of the true Christmas spirit. - [Tammy] With all of her Santas sitting stately throughout her home, she overflows with the joy that Christmas brings whether it's just her and a cup of coffee or the giggles of the grandchildren, the stress of the packing and unpacking, placing and replacing just melts away. Sadness seeps back in in February when they're all put away. Yep, they stay up through January. - We need to put them away. It's sad when we have to put them away isn't it? - [Tammy] But June knows that for her family and those that visit her home during Christmastime, her labor of love may have put a little more laughter in their heart. - [June] I hope they leave with the feeling of love and of, you know, just a little deeper meaning for the Christmas season. ♪ 'Cause Santa Clause comes tonight. ♪ - For this show we put together some of our favorite Christmas stories we've brought to you since our first Christmas on "Tennessee Crossroads" back in 1987. Now this first story involves an event that takes place several weeks before Christmas. I'm talking about the Santa Special which each year brings joys and gifts of Christmas to children in the Appalachian coal country. The railroads are a winding, wondrous fixture of the Appalachian landscape. For ages, they've been used to haul coal from the mines of this region that covers parts of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. But once a year, these rails carry a traditional train on a very important holiday run through the mountains. A train called a Santa Special. Each year the journey begins here in Kingsport up in East Tennessee. With Santa's helpers including the Chamber of Commerce, CSX railroad and several hundred volunteers. They show what the real spirit of giving is all about. - We got about 5,000 pound of candy, got 18,000 moon pies, 18,000 Little Debbie cakes, so we got a load of stuff. - [Joe] Raymond Gallion has been one of Santa's busiest helpers over the past 40 Christmases. This year, he helped collect over $150,000 worth of toys, candy and school supplies which were donated by businesses. - That's for the kids out in the coal fields. - A lot of fun. - A lot of joy and to see the kids eyes when they get a toy, that's worth everything you ever do. 'Cause they light up like a Christmas tree every time they see Santa Clause and get a toy or some candy. We all get joy out of it, we really like it. You look forward to it from one year to the next, 'cause you wanna see if you do something a little better. - To make this 50th anniversary ride better, this legendary steam locomotive came to pull the 10 cars and one million pounds of cargo. The Challenger's the largest steam locomotive still operating in America and it was appropriately chosen to pull Santa's sleigh on the railroad this year during this traditional ride. You see a locomotive just like the Challenger pulled the first Santa Special back in 1943. - We talked about it for the last couple of years looking towards this 50th event and we said, wouldn't it be great. And so by golly it's gonna be great, we're gonna do it. - Last call for boarding! - Finally loaded with 15 tons of goodies and at least one ton of media, the Challenger headed north. Destination Pikeville, Kentucky for an overnight stay before Saturday's 110 mile trip back south to Kingsport. This is Freemont, Virginia, one of the seven stops along the 110 mile journey through mountainous coal country. By now two or three generations of children have come here to anxiously await Santa's arrival. What's he gonna bring? - Candy and all kinds of junk. - [Joe] All kinds of good junk. Are you gonna get some? - Yes. When the train stops, there's only a few precious minutes to score some candy and toys. For Santa's helpers, it's a challenge to distribute the goods evenly. - Throw me a notebook! - And although Santa's here for the kids, sometimes the adults get pretty anxious for a prize catch too. But everyone gets to take home something and for some that means memories of coming here as a youth. Well, it's about an hour an a half later down the line at a town called St. Paul where even a pretty steady rain couldn't keep these people away from their date with Santa Clause. - Santa Clause. - To me it was just the excitement of seeing the train and it meant that Christmas would be soon and. - Right around the corner. - Ah yeah, yeah. - [Joe] Probably didn't hurt to get the toys and candy either did it? - Well, back then I don't remember getting much. - In earlier years I'm told, this was the only Christmas some Appalachian children got. Times may have changed for the better but the thrill of greeting Santa by railway is one that never runs out of steam. It's hard not to get the Christmas spirit when you hear this train coming. Especially when you think about all the memories it brings, the goodwill and of course the looks of joy in the children's eyes. You know just about everyone gets into the spirit of goodwill this time of year. We count our blessings and try to help our fellow man. Well, recently Rob Wildes met a couple up in East Tennessee who demonstrate that spirit all year around with just a little extra during Christmas time. - Around Christmas day the ribbons start to look a little ragged doesn't it? So do my spirits, I mean everywhere you go somebody's trying to sell you something, buy this, buy that. Makes you wonder where the real spirit of Christmas has gone doesn't it? I found it here at Mascot, Tennesee on Santa Clause lane. - Put some oatmeal in there. All the kids likes oatmeal. - [Rob] Ronnie Green runs the East Knox Community Fund in Knox County year round with one goal in mind. - I don't want to see nobody if I can help it go hungry. Thank you there, Miss Becky. - [Rob] The fund and the people who volunteer to run it will feed thousands of people in the course of a year, delivering food with a smile and good cheer. But around this time of year, Ronnie and his wife, Cathy go from Mr. and Mrs. Green to Mr. and Mrs. Santa. - We have a friend hat has a four-year-old. And he was in the chimney and his mama, you know, caught him in the fireplace and she said, "What are you doing?" And he said, "I don't understand how Ronnie Green's gonna get down through there on Christmas." So yeah, there are some kids that really believe Ronnie Green is Santa Clause. - [Rob] Well, why not, they got the sleigh. And even if it is pulled by eight shiny cylinders instead of eight tiny reindeer. Ronnie and Cathy sure act like Santa. In fact they can become the Clause clan at the drop of a red pointed hat. - We always ready to go. If it's kids involved, we enjoy seeing them. - Ho Dasher! - [Rob] And today they're paying a courtesy call on a local afterschool care center, a surprise visit, one of dozens the Green's, the Clause's will make. - We probably see between three and 7,000 kids between Thanksgiving and Christmas. - [Cathy] Hi there. Let's go, well, there we go. - [Rob] A visit from Santa, talk about exciting. - I'm getting my size Barbie, what you getting? - My size Barbie. - My size Barbie, say my size Barbie. - Ho ho ho, hello there young lady. - Hi. - What in the world do you want old Santa to bring you? - A Barbie light up bed and some Barbie clothes and that's all. - Are you a good little girl? I love you? Bye. - [Rob] You know, come to think of it, I'm beginning to agree with that little boy that Cathy told us about earlier. I think maybe Ronnie Green really is Santa Clause. - Bye, bye, see you ones Christmas. Santa love you ones. - Thanks, Rob. One of my personal favorite "Tennessee Crossroads" Christmas stories goes back to 1989. And to find out what that story is, you'll have to tune in next week for part two of our "Retro Crossroads Christmas Special." Hope you'll join us. Until then, hope you enjoy this magical season. Merry Christmas. - [Narrator] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [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.
December 15, 2022
Season 36 | Episode 18
Join us as we look back at holiday episodes from years past in the Tennessee Crossroads Retro Christmas Special.