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- [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by. - [Man] 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 start out at a Brentwood cafe that's famous for muffins and much more. Then discover why the state library and archives is a treasure of genealogy research. We'll meet a multimedia artist in Cookeville, and over in west Tennessee explore a homemade backyard hometown. That's the rundown for this week's Tennessee Crossroads. I'm Joe Elmore. We're glad to have you. In our first story this time, Cindy Carter takes us to a popular little bakery and restaurant in Brentwood. One that's all about comfort food, but don't get too comfortable. You see, over indulging at the Puffy Muffin might lead to unwanted muffin tops on its' customers. - [Cindy] In Brentwood, Tennessee, Christie Stone makes it her business to greet her customers. - Y'all, thanks for coming in today. It's good to see you! - [Cindy] As if they were old friends, and many of them are. - How are y'all today? - [Woman] Very good. - Very good. How was lunch? - [Cindy] Simply put, the Puffy Muffin Bakery and Restaurant is comfort food. Seriously, as soon as you walk through the door, you can literally smell the rich aromas that bring to mind home and family gatherings. And that, Christie says, is exactly the point. - Food is love. Okay, food is love. It's one way that I can show my family I love them. It's one way that I show my friends that I love them and enjoy them. - [Cindy] Puffy Muffin has been bringing people together since 1986. Christie's mother Linda started the bakery in their family kitchen, baking puffy muffins and other tasty delicacies for the guests she entertained at home. - [Christie] Her idea was to have a business where people felt like they were coming into our home. And so to build relationship, make connection with people, make people feel good and fill their bellies. And so that's how it all started. - [Cindy] Today The Puffy Muffin, named for those delicious rolls that just puff up when you bake 'em, is a Brentwood staple beloved by both locals and folks just passing through. - I've been coming to the puffy muffin somewhere in about five years or more, off and on and then regular for the last five years. - Puffy Muffin, regular Lloyd Potite with cell phone in hand often conducts business over breakfast or lunch or sometimes both. - [Lloyd] They don't try to rush you. The help here is very congenial and the food is good and it's reasonably priced, so everybody's real nice here. - Hello. - [Cindy] The workday begins pretty early at Puffy Muffin. The kitchen is teeming with activity as staff members mix, sprinkle, slice, grill, garnish, and of course bake their way through the day. - [Christie] Some of our specialties are chicken salad, quiche, ginger tea, which is a fruit tea with ginger ale in it that my mom, a recipe that she came up with. Also, we've got a wonderful bakery counter as you can see behind me where we've got, made from scratch cookies, petit fours, cakes, quiche, we've got a grab and go counter where we do salads and sandwiches and cake in a cup, things that people can just pop in and grab for a quick lunch. There you go, you're going to 53. Thank you. - [Cindy] There's absolutely nothing fast about this food. These dishes are meant to be savored over conversations with friends or loved ones, but at Puffy Muffin you must remember to save room for dessert, and the dessert display case pretty much ensures you will. - [Christie] We want it to be like home cooked food that you would make yourself at home. - Now this window inside the Puffy Muffin offers a delicious view of the bakery's cake department. Wedding cakes, graduation cakes, everyday cakes. And if you're lucky, you just might spot a celebrity inspired cake headed to the Grand Ole Opry. For more than a decade, the Puffy Muffin's cake, baking and decorating artists have helped the Opry officially induct its' new members with a customized cake, and assisted in sweetening a few other musical milestones as well. - Typically, it's white or chocolate cake with buttercream icing which is, how can you go wrong with that? Delicious. And they'll give us a picture or an idea about what they want. So for Keith Urban, we did a, we drew a guitar and we made the strings out of fondant like every single bit of that cake was edible. We've done Dolly Parton's birthday cakes, two of them in the last few years. Little Big Town, I mean just all of them. - Cake artist Elizabeth Starpley is honored to have her work appreciated by so many in the country music industry. - These are our buttercream roses. - [Cindy] But says she's equally thrilled to design cakes for Puffy Muffin's loyal customers. It's a job she's loved for more than 15 years. - [Elizabeth] I think having a great work environment makes it amazing. And I also love the family feel. My mom has worked here for over 25 years and there's a lot of people that have worked here for decades, so I love the family aspect of it. - [Cindy] A family that invites everyone to sit down at a table and enjoy a taste of home. - Just getting together with friends for lunch. I love it. Well enjoy. Okay! - [Cindy] Because as delicious as the food is, it's the relationship between the Puffy Muffin and its' customers that is the secret ingredient behind this restaurant's rise to the top. - Very nice. Thanks Cindy. Depending on which survey you read, genealogy is the second most popular hobby in America, second only to gardening. Well, more than ever people are exploring their roots and ancestry through genealogical investigation. That's one reason people are visiting the new Tennessee State Library and Archives. It's a free treasure of historical discoveries. It was 21 years from dream to reality, a splendid 165,000 square foot three story building next door to the Bicentennial Mall. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is one of the most state of the art facilities of its kind. For its overseer, Secretary of State Tre Hargett, it's a treasure for all of us in the state. - We have incredible hopes and expectations because now not only are we to preserve Tennessee's documents appropriately, we're now more than ever able to make them accessible to all Tennesseans. - [Joe] Your journey begins in the spacious lobby, a place where you could spend an hour exploring state history through all kinds of original documents. Copies of Tennessee's three constitutions beginning in 1796 are on display, and you can enjoy giant touch screens that let you interactively view a myriad of records, censuses, manuscripts and more. Now this touch screen allows you to explore the lives of prominent Tennesseans throughout history. Well such as track star, Wilma Rudolph, and of course the one and only Dolly Parton. Here's a touch screen of state maps through the years. State librarian and archivist Chuck Cheryl demonstrates. - Choose an area. Let's say, you know, your family came from Cumberland County, so you'd see, well here's Cumberland County in 1973, more or less a current map. And let's say your grandmother had told you that they came there sometime early before the Civil War. So you could go back and look at the 1832 map and you see that Cumberland County is actually not there. So if your family had come to Cumberland County at that time, you would know that they settled either in White or Bledsoe or Morgan County. - [Joe] At one end of the lobby there's a rare books room that you can visit and actually browse through priceless publications from around the world. Well, like this German bible printed in the 16th century. - I was looking through a stack of books and one of them was this volume, which is not so interesting from the outside, but on the inside it says 1834 speeches. Andrew Jackson, his book not to be loaned and I checked it and it is an original Andrew Jackson signature. So not only does it have some value, but it's interesting to us because it came from Jackson's personal library. - [Joe] The building house is about 360,000 books and journals in addition to countless government records, maps and court case files. The grand reading room is a comfortable space for historians and writers to do their work, but it's also a popular attraction for genealogical investigation. A place where you can come discover your family roots. - And it's really cool for us, these are really hallelujah moments for us when we get to watch people's face light up when they find out something about somebody two or three or four generations before them that they'd only heard about but didn't really know much about. - And we have had occasions where people were looking for a parent that they had never met or a family member who was lost, to have been able to connect here and sometimes actually meet up here at the library. - [Joe] Actually about one fourth of the collection is in library shelves. The rest can be stored in this one chamber. Thanks to a team of hardworking robots - [Chuck] It actually saved us from building over a hundred thousand more square feet and saving the taxpayers over 50 million dollars because we were able to shrink the space that the collection required and retrieve it by robots. - [Joe] Here's how it works. First you sit down at one of the reading room's computers, find the book you're looking for in a catalog, and touch the request button. Upstairs someone will turn your request into a command for one of the robots to retrieve the bin containing your book. By the way, this is the only state library to use a robotic retrieval system and it's 8,400 bins can hold a half million books. Next the worker will pull the requested book from the bin, send it downstairs in a dumb waiter, and in less than two minutes, here's your book. Well thank you very much. - You're welcome. - That's all there is to it. The building houses a state of the art conservation lab for restoration and treatment of books, photographs and such, and for items damaged by water or insects, there's the blast freezer today set at minus 25 degrees. It's like the North Pole in Nashville. - [Man] What the freezer really does is suspends the material and the damage until we have time to work on it and do proper conservation work. - [Joe] The building has classrooms for student groups and for training of the next generation of archivists. Shakespeare once said, there is history in all men's lives here, men and women and kids can come explore their histories and just maybe discover some perception of tomorrow. - We feel that every Tennessean has a story, and our goal is to preserve as many of those stories as possible. And sometimes we're just preserving a little piece of a story and some record or document. But putting those pieces together using good research skills enables us to learn more about both the past, the present, and the future. Because history does have a tendency to repeat itself. - Traditional artists say there's nothing more satisfying than making something with your hands completely from scratch. Well, Laura Faber introduces us to a Cookeville artist who is doing just that in multiple media. From portraits to murals to bronze sculptures, you name it. Chances are you've seen her amazing work and thought how did she do that? - [Laura] There are many tools in an artist's studio and in Cookeville, Tennessee, Cindy Billingsley uses them all. whether painting one of her exquisite wildlife portraits, or molding and sculpting clay. - I saw portraits in high school. I was probably known in high school for the one always dragging art around cause I always had something in my hand. Portraits. It was my main focus for probably 15 years or more. - [Laura] Cindy's work can be found all across Tennessee. Her murals and sculptures are inside the children's section in the Brentwood Library. As a student of fine art and illustration, portraits and wildlife have always been a passion. But her interest in sculpture piqued after seeing an exhibit, a French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. - When I saw Rodin exhibit, and then they had Camille Claudell which was kind of his assistant, you know and they had part of her, you know something just clicked and I just wanted to sculpt and so I started learning my own picking up books and stuff and what clay I could find. And then they had a head class I took at Watkins School of Art there. And then that's when Alan LeQuire was teaching the class. And then I kept pestering him, don't you want an apprentice? Don't you want an apprentice? - [Laura] Of course LeQuire is a master sculptor in Nashville whose work includes Athena at the Parthenon and Musica on Music Row. - [Cindy] He never had a female apprentice so it took me a long time to talk him into it. - [Laura] Cindy learned every step of sculpting, including the art of casting. A 7,000 year old complex process used to take a sculpture from clay to a mold which then can be bronzed. One of her most recent sculptures is the bronze lion that sits at the Brentwood Police Headquarters. It's a five foot long memorial that honors fallen officers and those who have served 20 plus years. - [Cindy] The chief of police in Brentwood had decided he wanted a sculpture for the memorial. He had seen that Washington DC has some like a grouping of lions. So he had saw that and he wanted something similar. And so I really wanted the job because you know, I had done a lot of wildlife and it was right up my alley and it was like, and I wanted a bronze, you know 'cause a large life size bronze commission. And so I did. I sent him like probably five or six different sketches of different lions like standing up or lying down. Do you want him powerful and like brave or do you want him like solemn because it's a memorial. The chief wanted him, the lion, alert and protective. - [Laura] The lion took 250 hours to complete, starting with 400 pounds of white oil based clay supported by pipes and metal mesh so it wouldn't collapse and could be transported to the foundry for Bronzing. - [Cindy] I like creating it, but I like the response you get from people because an artist always, especially a sculptor, they live to do a life size bronze because it's something that's out in the public and it's gonna outlive them. - [Laura] On this day, Cindy is creating another life size sculpture, a public commission for a city in Indiana of a woman named Marie Stewart Edwards. - [Cindy] She was a suffragette in Indiana and she was big in suffragette. She was one of the main suffragette. And so she was known when she was like 12 years old to get the first bicycle in the town. So bicycles at the time were the first thing, it gave really women freedom because this was, so, she grew up in like 1890s and so back then you had to get somebody to like drive the carriage for you or drive the car for you. So women were never like could just get on something and go. And so bicycle was the first time they could like just go somewhere by themselves. - Every project begins with hours of research from data and historical photographs, inanimate to actually observing wildlife. All of Cindy's life size sculptures consist of hundreds of hours of work and they all start on a smaller scale called a maquette. This is her suffragist sculpture that she's working on now. This is the bronze lion that sits now in front of the Brentwood Police Department. And this will be a seven foot eagle that will hang on the memorial wall at the Cookeville Police Department. - So for seven foot eagle, I've gotta put all the feathers in the, I've gotta know all the interior feathers of the wings. I gotta know how the wings work, I gotta know how the heads and the talons work. So I have to do all the bird research on that end before I even, you know, start the large sculpture. - [Laura] The maquettes allows Cindy to troubleshoot and calculate the scale she needs to get to the life size version. But it's when Cindy can combine painting and sculpture and a social issue that she is most fulfilled. - [Cindy] To me it's like speaking in two different languages. I can have an idea and I might be able to relay it better in painting as a narrative or I might want you to come up close and have something to touch and feel like a sculpture. - [Laura] For instance, she had a very personal connection to an exhibit on Alzheimer's disease. - [Cindy] My whole life mom was my biggest supporter and I probably wouldn't have been able to be an artist if it wasn't for mom's support. When she got Alzheimer's and she was losing her voice, art was a way I could give her voice back to her. Plus it was a place for me to put my emotions of, you know 'cause you're watching your mom disappear day after day. - [Laura] Her sculptures are incredibly detailed. Her wildlife portraits look like photographs like this painting of George, a bison from a nearby ranch in Cookeville or these bees, one of my favorites. - [Cindy] Art's how I make a living. I feel extremely lucky. Yeah, it's the only thing I ever wanted to do. - [Laura] Whether by the stroke of a brush or molding a block of clay with her hands. Cindy Billingsley is a true talent. - We recently received a request from a viewer to re-air an old story about a west Tennessee couple who lived about as far away from a city as you can get. So they built their own town in the backyard. Ken Wilshire takes us to a place called Herbie Town. - [Ken] You won't find this tiny town on any map or Google search. It's not incorporated and doesn't have a charter, but it is a slice of 1800s Americana. Carved out of the wild, wild west, West Tennessee that is, actually this nostalgic settlement just northwest of Humboldt is called Herbie Town. It's the first stuffed horse on the right if you need directions, it's named after one of its only two residents, Herbert and Marie Adams. So why didn't they call it Adams? Well, there already is one. besides there's no place in the entire world called Herbie Town. This just adds to its earthy charm. It's a very special place for visitors. So it's been a labor of love for how many years now? - I'd say around 40 years. Of course now you know, I started when I was little baby. I've been building on it at least 40 years off and on. 'Cause I've always liked old stuff, old buildings and I thought if somebody don't gather it up it's all going to be gone. - [Ken] Herbert and Marie wanted to preserve a place in time along with all its historical artifacts and memorabilia. And Herbie Town is filled to the city limits with thousands of interesting items that otherwise would've been lost forever. They want to keep it alive and accessible to everyone, especially the younger folks, as a reminder of days gone by. When the kids come to visit what do they have to say about it? - [Herbert] Oh, some of 'em are carried away with it. And some they're like a bunch of kids in Walmart. A lot of 'em are. And some are more enthused than others, you know of what we have. Grown people come through here that they'll just look at something and walk on by and the next person come up, they'll ask you, say, make questions about it. You know, so that's kind of where it goes. - [Ken] You see, before he retired, Herbert was in the construction business for years. This has given him the skills necessary for building this quaint village where he's mayor, sheriff, fire chief, judge, and about 20 other hats he wears. He says the town is best known for its community spirit. Or was that spirits? It's fiscally sound with a balanced budget and just a nice place to call a hometown. - We have van load, a lot of them are seniors from church and then we'll have people that visit their friends or kin in the summertime they'll bring them. We've had 'em here just about all over several states. It's kinda like you do something bad, word travels fast, you know? So. - [Ken] And where do you go from here? - [Herbert] Add on some more, some or another, you know course got a whole farm here to put it, you know. So I'll probably add on. It gives me something to do. And I like to fool with, you know, old lumber. I've always liked old, you know, old buildings, old lumber barns. We used to play around barns when we were kids, or old vacant houses. And I just kinda like to fool with it. - [Ken] And apparently there hasn't been any fooling around in Herbie town. Herbert and Marie have been married for over 60 years and Herbie Town has been a fun part of their lives together. Marie says she never had to worry about him when he said he was going to town so much in the middle of the night. 'Cause town has always been in their backyard. But even if the population of Herbie town isn't growing, Herbert keeps on building because you see, he certainly has the fields and a heart full of wonderful dreams. Folks just keep on coming to see it. - Well, that's gonna do it for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. It's time to say goodbye after a few messages. First of all, check out the new PBS video app for a way to watch our show and any other Npt show anywhere, anytime. Plus, you wanna check out our website Tennessee crossroads dot org. Follow us on Facebook and by all means, join us next time. - [Narrator] Tennessee Crossroads is made possible in part by. - [Man] 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.
January 05, 2023
Season 36 | Episode 20
Cindy Carter takes us to a popular little bakery and restaurant called The Puffy Muffin. Joe Elmore tours the new Tennessee State Library and Archives. Laura Faber introduces us to Cookeville artist Cindy Billingsley. And Ken Wilshire meets West Tennessee couple who built a town in their back yard.