Retro Crossroads 0104
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- In this episode of "Retro Tennessee Crossroads", we're going back to 1988 to meet the man behind the Peabody Ducks. Susan Allen meets a Franklin man who rides for law and order. I'll take you to Mason, home of a world-famous Southern delicacy. Finally, Al Voecks introduces us to Nashville Pipe and Drums, Middle Tennessee's premier bagpipe band since 1984. Yeah, that's our lineup for this week's "Retro Tennessee Crossroads". I'm Joe Elmore, sure glad you're here. Well, I'm here in the studio of NPT with Becky Magura again. Hi, Becky. - Hey, Joe! - You know, I got a feeling you're gonna get a kick out of some of the stories we got in today's lineup. - Oh, I know , I know I'm going to, and I'm sure you know that I'm gonna love these blast to the past. So why don't we just head to 1988 right now? Shall we? - That's a long-- Long time ago, but okay. Sounds good. That's the year we made our first trip to Memphis to visit some of the famous sights and to meet a remarkable character who was behind the scenes of a downtown tradition. It was an unforgettable visit with Edward Pembroke. It's hard to even imagine Memphis without the river, or its rich Delta heritage, or the world famous Peabody Hotel. For countless generations, it's been a favorite gathering place for world travelers, and a first class party place for people of all ages. ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Oh down and home ♪ - Today, as always, the magnificent lobby makes visitors feel like royalty in some romantic Southern kingdom. Well, today as always, the centerpiece of this grand hotel is the big marble fountain here in the Peabody lobby, which is also home of the Peabody Ducks and has been for over 50 years. Now everybody's heard of the Peabody Ducks, they're famous worldwide. But we thought you'd like to meet the man behind the ducks. Why, he's a Peabody legend himself, Edward Pembroke. - [Edward] Now, come on, let's go. - [Joe] Mr. Pembroke's worked here since 1940, longer than anyone else. And for most of those years, he served as keeper and companion of the renowned Peabody Ducks. - Somebody got to teach 'em. They don't like to be whipped. And when they do wrong, they got a whipping coming. They know when they're doing wrong. - Oh, they do? - Oh, yeah. They're smarter than you give 'em. - [Joe] This 89-year old duck keeper is a tough bird himself, and both ducks and humans learn not to get in his way. - You may not know it, but she's the one that keep the flowers going. She keeps the ducks alive when she is not in my way. - [Joe] Oh, I see. - And she's usually in the way! - [Joe] Here in the Duck Palace, high atop the hotel, Mr. Pembroke gives the residents the royal treatment. And according to him, they even communicate with each other. - I don't know what the hell you think, but some people think I'm crazy 'cause I talk to 'em just like I talk to you. - Yeah, I know. - And they'll stand at attention and I'll say, "Well, sit down," they'll sit down. They're pretty good on obeying 'cause they don't wanna get hit. - [Joe] Mr. Pembroke pretty much avoids publicity even though he's made national TV appearances, one on the "Johnny Carson Show". Mostly he just doesn't have time to slow down and be interviewed. - You gonna call me to have more trouble. - Why is that? - Somebody's going to see us and, hell, they gonna want it. Uh-huh. See just what you doing now? I never did this before. - You didn't? - No! Won't do it again! - No! You the only one! I ain't kidding you! I don't know where in hell you got that idea from. - [Joe] Yeah, don't let that tough exterior fool you. During daily duck marches in the lobby, you can often find evidence of a big, generous heart, especially when he uses his tricks to make kids happy. - [Edward] See, I'm the ducks' protection. - [Joe] Yeah. - I said, "Wait a minute, duck," but at the same time, I'm talking the same damn time I'm backing up! But the duck, at that time, it's gonna stop in front of your child, but he's coming home and telling his mother that the ducks stopped for me. - Yeah. - Well, that's what he wants to hear. They don't like it, but that's the way I do it. - [Joe] You'd be surprised how many people come here just to witness the celebrated march to the fountain. And thanks to Edward Pembroke, they never go home disappointed. - [Edward] Go on! - [Joe] Since I used to live in Memphis, I've seen this march many times, but you know what, I think I'll appreciate it a lot more now. That is, after meeting the unflappable, lovable character who keeps this tradition afloat. - [Edward] Don't try to fly, you ain't got but one wing. Get up, there you go. Thank you. - Well, Becky, I hear Mr. Pembroke retired in 1991, but after 90 years, the March of the Ducks tradition goes on and on. - I've seen that and I love it. I actually had the chance to go up where you did and by the way, you had a pretty snazzy outfit in that segment. - Oh, you like that shirt, huh? - I did like that shirt! - All right, we're going to move on to 1993 now. There have always been wannabe cowboys who dressed the part with boots and hats. But Susan Watson met a real-life cowboy who kept the peace, on horseback of course, down in the town of Franklin. - He don't have to work like he used to. - [Susan] This is Ray Marley, but he's best known simply as Kid. - His granddaddy was the world's champion cutting horse. - [Susan] Where's he from? - Well, he's kinda like me. He's been there to war twice. - [Susan] Kid was born and raised in West Texas cattle country. He ran away from home at 14 to become a ranch hand. At 17, he began a rodeo career. In 1981, he signed on as Franklin's only full-time mounted police officer. - Step right up there. - [Susan] Kid agreed to show me the ropes of mounted police duty. I was teamed up with Jesse, a veteran who really knows his job. - [Kid] Top on dime, give you a quarter's worth of change. Starting on patrol. - [Susan] There's a great deal of trust between Kid and his horses. Flash and Jesse seem to pace their gait to Kid's soothing Texas drawl, but their ears are constantly in motion, alerting him to any nearby activity his eyes may have missed. - [Kid] Horses talk, but they talk with their feet and their head and their ear. You know, people tell me that animals can't talk. I can understand them a lot better than I can foreign language. I have people ask me, "What's the difference in horses and people?" I tell 'em the thing I've noticed most, the horse is smartest. You live in Hickman County? - [Susan] It was because of trouble in the park that Franklin officials initially approached Kid about the job. But these days, things run smoothly. His presence is a comforting sight for adults and children learn to look upon policemen as their friends. - [Kid] My background was cattle and horse business and the rodeo business. And far as law enforcement, I don't consider it law enforcement, I'd rather be called a peace officer. But the best part of police, when you get the opportunity to help people, like if somebody gets hurt, I can call in on the radio, which is very few times anybody's ever been hurt. Now the visibility to just know that, let 'em look out and know that you're there. Just make 'em feel a little more secure. - [Susan] The life Kid chose early on didn't lend itself much to learning the usual three R's. He was more schooled and riding, ropin' and rodeoin'. But a lifetime of wit and wisdom has been put in print in a collection of sayings entitled "Cowboy Things I've Heard And You Should Know". - Well, I don't know whether I'm an author or not, but I've got a book. I've had two or three people want to do a life story, but I don't know whether I'm ready for that or not. - [Susan] You're not finished living yet, are you? - No, I just got started. I have people ask me, when am I gonna retire, I tell 'em, "I'm huntin' a place to start." I don't have any intention ever retiring from anything. But I might slow down a little. - [Susan] Kid admits to being 62 years young, going on 30. It hasn't always been an easy life, but he's had the luxury of being exactly what he's always wanted to be. - [Kid] Never thought about nothing but bein' a cowboy. - Now when Friday rolls around and kids' work week is finished, he doesn't just hang up his hat and sit on the back porch. If there's a rodeo or a roping within 150 miles, you can bet that Kid's gonna be there. Some 45 years of rodeoin' makes this his home away from home. And Kid's the king of cowboys here. - Well, I've been around a good while. Most of these boys you see here and girls, too, I rodeoed with their daddies and mothers and their, some of 'em grandparents. I would associate with young people and that's where you learn is from young people because they're the ones that's optimistic and come up with these new ideas and the old people always tell you what won't work. Young people show you what will work and that's what I like. - [Susan] He's revered by fellow competitors and has won countless titles and championships during his career. But that cuts him no slack in the arena. - [Kid] Them steers don't know who you are and don't care. The name of the game is stop the clock. It's whoever gets it done the quickest, that's who wins. But when you leave here, you gotta leave with a good attitude like you come, good or bad, whether you make good runs or bad, 'cause you can't take it home with you. - [Susan] We wish you good luck tonight, but I don't think you need it 'cause you make your own. - Well, I'll take a little of it. - [Susan] Kid makes his first team roping run of the night with his son, Cody. - [Announcer] Team ropin' horses. They train some of the best, right there, . New best! Mike goes down with a five-second penalty is Cody. - [Susan] His second partner is his good friend, Royce, who beat Kid by half a second in a roping event this spring. - [Kid] If I can't beat him, I'm going to join him. - [Announcer] You just pay a percentage to . Royce Hallowman! Ooh, Royce, you got him roped, but you didn't dally around the horn! It came loose-- - Well, there was no prize money to take home but no regrets either, not about tonight or about his life. - [Kid] I wouldn't change one second of it. I love what I'm doing. There's going to always be cowboys. He may be working in a factory or he may be a policeman, there ain't no telling what he'd be doing, but he'll be a cowboy from the heart. - He was quite a nice guy and by the way, I hear you were quite the equestrian when you were younger. Is that right? - Well, not exactly, Joe. You know, I did ride. We had a little Shetland pony, our family did, and my cousin Mark and I rode a lot on that pony. In fact, that's how-- I broke my arm in the fourth grade. - Fallin' off a horse. - Well, yeah. Pony decided it had had enough and I just kind of started buckin' and I just rolled over and landed on my arm. And you know what? I was a little shy about getting back on a horse or a pony. - Well, I would be, too. I don't blame you. Hey, let's move on. Locally-owned restaurants and diners have always been a part of the Crossroads agenda. This next story is all about a West Tennessee off the beaten path visit to a chicken shack in the town of Mason. Gus's Famous Fried Chicken is now pretty famous around the country, but we were there in the days of humble beginnings. Along Highway 70 in West Tennessee sits the little once thriving town of Mason. Today, it's known by many as the home of Bozo's Barbecue and for good reason, but down the road, it's another claim to dining fame. You might pass if you blink, it's Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. Now, if you come for fancy dining in an elegant atmosphere, you've come to the wrong place. But if you've come for, well, as the sign says, world famous fried chicken, your first trip won't likely be your last. Just ask the hordes of hungry patrons who travel from Memphis and points beyond to this humble shack for a fried chicken fix. Inside, the floors are uneven, the chairs don't match, it's frankly quite funky. But again, forget the ambiance. It's something else that packs 'em in. - The secret. Gus's secret is what brings them back. - [Joe] The secret as Gus's wife Gertrude calls it is the mysterious batter used to soak the chicken before it's dropped into hot oil. And ever since Gus's parents opened the place in 1950, people have tried unsuccessfully to learn the secret of this Southern fried delicacy. - You can't guess it. You gotta know it. Ain't no such thing you gonna guess it. You gotta know it. So we had 'em all askin' me, "You put corn lick on yours?" I don't say yes or no. Yeah, it's my father's recipe, nobody can't take it away from him. - Gus and his sons, they do all of the making of it up. That's how we-- - And private. And private, that's right. That's how we keep it a secret. - [Joe] Gus, whose real name is Vernon Vanderbilt, only works here a couple of days a week now, but he's proud of his half century old secret recipe. And the fact that so many customers flock here to dine in or carry out orders of the spicy chicken by the dozen. - Come on, I gotta get you some more done. - I think the first time I heard about Gus's years ago was when my mom lives in Brownsville was coming up this way and she stopped to get a plate of chicken that she'd heard about. And 'course, she didn't get anything to drink on the way and she thought that she would not make it to the next place to get something to drink. - Just some good chicken. Real good. 'Bout the best I ever ate, really, to be honest about it. - It is the best I've ever ate 'cause I don't even like chicken that much. - [Joe] The dine-in customers can enjoy their favorite blues tunes on the jukebox while they patiently await their mouthwatering food orders. While what happens to the chicken before it's cooked is indeed a secret, Gus will gladly tell you how it's cooked in peanut oil, heated to about 350 degrees. - It stands up long, but we hold it up 'cause we cooks a lot. See, even cookers goes night and everything, but the night and day, now we change this oil. Now we don't take this oil. I got guys workin' for me cook years, years, years in that same oil, no. That all cook itself down to a certain thing, we change it out. When that chicken change the color of a darkness, it gets darker and then, then we change the oil out. It know it doesn't burn itself out like a crawl, you know, in a car, oil needs changin'. - It's real moist. It has something to do in the batter, I think the way that they cook it. It's spicy. It's a great, real good chicken. We come up from Memphis here to get it. It's a pretty good drive so it's gotta be worth it. - Yep. The day we got married, this is where we came to celebrate our wedding. So it was worth it. - While Gus's is usually packed with repeat customers, well, every day, a new recruit or two drops in to try it for the first time. - Had a little time today so I was gonna stop in and eat here today. Experience it myself. I like this atmosphere, I like the floors being unlevel and stuff like that, so I think it'd be good. - What's the verdict? Me, too. It's tender, juicy, very spicy but most of all, tasty. The only challenge now is saving room for Gertrude's other specialty. - My homemade pies, I just brought something in. You want me to get one out and bring it up here and let you see it? I've had customers that loves them all. I've got old fashioned coconut, pecan and sweet potato. - [Joe] By the way, Gus and Gertrude have discussed redecorating their diner many times, but like their famous secret recipe, some things are better off unchanged. - [Gertrude] Well, we have kind of thought of changing it, but our regular customers say, "Don't change a thing." That's what they say. They love the atmosphere. - [Joe] After all, food critics from all over the country thought the atmosphere was just fine and appropriate for fried chicken at its down home best. But it's the rave reviews from customers who keep coming back that keep Gus and Gertrude going. - [Gertrude] Well, we really appreciate it. We really do, we appreciate having good customers like that. - Now to find Gus's, you're gonna have to travel off the beaten path a bit, just like everybody else. It's Interstate 40 to Exit 35 up to Highway 70. But if you get lost, just follow your nose or ask someone to point you toward Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. Yeah, that brings back a lot of memories. You know that now there are about 35 Gus's-- - Oh, really? - Stores around the country? Mostly the Southeast, several in Memphis, Little Rock, so forth, none in Nashville, of course. - Okay, that's just not right, Joe! We've gotta get a Gus's in Nashville, I think! - Get this, get this. I got a son that lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and I invite him to come see me a lot 'cause he stops at Gus's and brings chicken. - And is it good when it gets here? - Yeah, my welcome mat's always out for him. - Wow. And when you were there, you actually got to see the original Gus, that's who was in the segment. - That's him. That was the man. - Wow. I love fried chicken so thanks for that story. - Oh, I love it, too. You know, in Nashville, you can find bands that play all kinds of music from country to jazz. Well, in 1984, some talented musicians got together to form the city's premier pipes and drum band. Al Voecks went to a rehearsal and discovered what it takes to be a part of this Scottish music tradition. - Nashville is Music City, USA. All types of music can be found here. Now admittedly, most of it comes from guitars and fiddles because country music is the backbone of the industry here. But there are those who want to preserve other forms of music. It's a small group, but it is dedicated to preserving the music from one of the oldest instruments known to man. These are members of the Nashville Pipes and Drums. They get together every week to practice and hone their skills with the bagpipe. Now I'm not sure this will ever replace the Grand Ole Opry, but for those involved in all of this, there is nothing else like it. Steve Snoddy is the musical director of the group, Pipe Major is the proper title. It all started in 1984. And one of the most asked questions is, "Why the pipes?" - Everybody's just a little bit crazy somewhere. I had been going to Scottish festivals for two or three years and had played music, keyboards and clarinet and a few other things before. And I said, "I can do that." Well, it's a little more difficult than anything I'd ever tried before, but it just sort of clicked. And yeah, I can do that. - [Al] Playing the pipes takes practice, a great deal of practice, and the practice sessions don't really look like the real thing. - [Steve] You learn, say for the first six months to a year on a practice chanter, which is a mouth-blown instrument very similar to a recorder. And there's not much sense in even owning pipes until you've accomplished the fingerings and playing tunes. We play for memory. I mean, there's no place to put a music stand. You know, a music holder. People, they either hate or dearly love bagpipes. I mean, there's no in-between. You can't take 'em or leave 'em. And you'll find that even the drummers like the pipes music, that's one of the reasons they're here. In addition to the fact that the drumming style is much more technically difficult than American snare drumming. - [Al] Is a bagpipe a hard instrument to play? - [Steve] It's not necessarily difficult to play. It's just difficult to control. - [Al] There is no age limit to playing the pipes. Gregory Sanford is the youngest at the age of 11 and he's been at it for the past two and a half years. It's hard to stand around and watch all of this without wanting to get involved. So here goes. Steve provided a quickie lesson, it was then up to me and that one up here. - Yep. - All right. And the bag under-- - Don't worry about the bag getting under your arm yet. You gotta fill it up first. - Okay, I fill it up now? - Yeah. - Am I ready? - Left hand goes on the top three holes, right hand goes on the bottom four. - Well, wait a minute. Why don't I just worry about this first? All right-- - Let me do this part. - All right, that's it. - [Steve] It's gotta be full, completely full of air before you ever try and make a sound. Don't squeeze until you get it full. - It takes forever! - [Steve] It's a big bag. Big arms. Okay, now strike it in. I'm impressed! - Thank you very much, but we'll let them carry this one on. - [Steve] You don't have to spank it. - [Al] Steve assured me everyone starts the same way. All of this is very serious business, however. The Nashville Pipes and Drums are kept busy at public appearances all around town. There may never be a nightclub in town featuring the pipes, but the members of this group definitely feel they are involved in country music. - [Steve] I joke around and tell people that, you know, this is Nashville, of course, Music City. In Gaelic, on our base drum is USA, Music City, USA. We harken back to a little bit of our roots here. We wear ancient Hunting Robertson tartan for James Robertson, the founder of Nashville. But I like to say that we play old country music. That Celtic music is the history behind bluegrass and all of the hillbilly music that all of us know, it's really more of a coming home to the original than it is something brand new. - You know, Becky, Nashville Pipes and Drums is making more music than ever. They play at the Highland Games around the country and right here in Nashville, too. - Wow, I've seen 'em, they are amazing. Of course, most of us in this area grew up with some sort of Scottish-Irish heritage so when you get to see that, experience it in person, it's phenomenal. - You know what, we're out of time. - What, no! - Yep. Well, I hope you enjoyed the journey through time in Tennessee. Join us again the first Sunday of next month at 6:30 PM for more of our favorite retro segments, or you can watch early on the PBS video app. We'll see you then.
Retro Tennessee Crossroads
October 02, 2022
Season 01 | Episode 04
In this episode of Retro Tennessee Crossroads we're going back to 1988 to meet the man behind the Peabody Ducks. Susan Allen meets a Franklin man who rides for law and order. Joe Elmore takes us to Mason, home of a world-famous Southern delicacy. And finally, Al Voecks introduces us to Nashville Pipes and Drums, Middle Tennessee's premiere bagpipe band since 1984.