Sulphur Dell, the “Goat Man,” the Roxy, and Other Nashville Memories

A reminiscence by Larry D. McClanahan.

As a 1956 graduate of Gallatin High School who lived in Nashville from ages two to eleven, I was raised on Krystals (I had one this afternoon!) and Krispy Kreme doughnuts sold in a shop where the Estes Kefauver Federal Building now stands. I loved the balcony dinette at the Woolworths on 5th Avenue. Their ham sandwiches on grilled toast were never excelled anywhere else.

I remember street car rides, the old car barn where the Municipal Auditorium now stands, the peddlers’ carts and horses stabled there after the street cars left. I also remember Gilbert’s Men’s Clothing Store on the square, where the money was sent via cable car to the cashiers on the mezzanine. There my dad traded for his clothes, and my parents bought my first suit with long pants. It wasn’t far from the Nashville Court House fountains, with their colored lights under the water.

Early in the morning the street peddlers loaded their carts with produce at the market that is now the Ben West Building. They spread out across town and through the residential streets where they sold ears of corn by the dozen, pole beans by the pound (weighed on a scale on the back corner of the cart), and ice-cold watermelons. They also carried bread and snacks for the kids. I can still hear the call of the drivers as they broadcast their wares.

The paddlewheeler Idlewild

Then there was the annual thrill of driving down to Broad and First to watch the docking of the steamboat Idlewild and hear the calliope. I always wanted to ride on the paddlewheeler but never had the chance. And, of course, I loved Sulphur Dell, where ‘Bama Ray, Buster Boguski, Buckshot Tommy Brown, and Carl Sawatski thrilled us in person or through the radio voice of Larry Munson as we lay in bed on those hot summer nights with the lights out and the windows open, hoping for a breeze to calm the heat. We had an occasional opportunity to see the “Goat Man” when he came through on his endless journey. He rode on a little wagon pulled by a team of goats, trailed by a dog or two and a nanny that was his milk source. It was a true wonder of the world to a youngster.

The original Sulphur Dell (photo used by permission of Skip Nipper)

We had our movie theater, too – the Roxy in East Nashville. On Saturdays at noon, we rushed home, washed up, grabbed a sandwich, and took off on our bikes to get in line for the movies. Note the plural: there were two movies, three or more cartoons, and a serial starring Whip Wilson or Lash Larue, all for 10 cents. A nickel for popcorn and a nickel for a Coke sustained us for the afternoon until we could go home to reenact the roles of good guys and bad guys. There were no gray guys. We knew who was who and that the good guys always won.

Of course, we all made Red Cross boxes, and collected papers and tin cans, while we took our ration books to the store to buy bread, milk, and sugar. If we lost the book, or if the store was out of what we needed, it was a long week until the next supply came. I don’t know whether it is a bad thing or a good one that later generations did not experience those days, but I am glad that I did.

Hermitage Hotel Memories since 1929

A Reminiscence by Mary B. Williams.

Living a lifetime in Nashville has been a storybook experience in many ways. Memories of the magnificent Hermitage Hotel have certainly played a large part in creating the desire to write my own storybook for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Photograph courtesy of the author

My first visits to the Hotel were by invitation when my uncle, an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, came here frequently to visit my family. He usually stayed at the Hermitage and my brother and I, though quite young, were always included in his invitation for dinner at the Hotel. What a splendid occasion that was!

In those days of early childhood I had a vivid imagination, so on those evenings I became the beautiful princess who lived in this wonderful castle right out of the storybooks my parents had read so often to me – it was much more than a mere hotel!

My mother often went to the beauty salon that was located on the mezzanine at the Hermitage. Daddy would drive us there and, while waiting, would sometimes get a shoe shine just off the lobby, somewhere in the vicinity of the men’s restroom, as I recall. I could always be found nestled in one of the big comfortable chairs in the lobby, reading a book. Even at that young age I enjoyed pausing to enjoy my surroundings and observe the beautiful carvings that were an important part of the architectural design.

Later, as a teenager, I enjoyed the Hotel in a different fashion when I attended sorority meetings there on Saturday mornings.  I felt so sophisticated as I mimicked the movie stars like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Loretta Young, and smoked along with the older sorority girls. My mother and daddy would have killed me!  So they wouldn’t know, I hid my cigarettes among the potted plants in the beautiful urns, ready for my next party at the Hermitage!

Sorority and fraternity dances were held in the Grand Ballroom with its exquisitely rich wood paneling. All the brass features throughout the Hotel shone with a mirror finish. I remember being a little reluctant to use the handrails as I was fearful of leaving fingerprints.

On one particular evening I was waiting for my handsome date, who was going to drive me to the Hotel for his fraternity dance. I was in a panic before leaving the house, rushing around to find Daddy’s tool chest, using any tool that I could find to pry the high heels off my new evening sandals, specially dyed to match my evening dress. Of course, to my horror, the heels came off, but the nails were left intact. I had no choice but to take them to my daddy and say sweetly, “Please do something.” He actually laughed when I explained that my date was probably about my height and those heels would make me look taller than he was. I knew my daddy was still laughing when I walked awkwardly out the front door.

When the two of us arrived at the Hotel, the doorman, dressed in his beautifully tailored clothes and top hat, was even more elegantly dressed than my date, who was probably wearing a rented tuxedo. Bellboys, doormen, every person employed by the Hotel, male or female, were all sharply dressed, with excellent posture and manners. The band was playing – I’m wondering whether it might have been Frances Craig, everybody’s favorite. The huge vases were filled with fresh flowers, and I danced away the night, never giving my damaged shoes another thought.

Beautiful evenings like this came to an abrupt end when World War II was declared.  The next memorable event would be the day my handsome Army-Air Force Lieutenant and I were married at West End Methodist Church, located just a few blocks out of downtown. Our wedding dinner was held at the Hermitage Hotel, and the beautiful wedding suite with a large arrangement of fresh flowers on the table and chocolate on the pillows was ours for the night. Just as when I was a small child, I felt like a princess in my castle, which was, of course, my beloved Hermitage Hotel.

After my husband and I returned to live out our lives in Nashville, the Hermitage Hotel memories would continue. My mother was still a patron of the Hotel beauty salon when one morning, with my baby boy in tow, I found myself back in that familiar area. Wanting all the hairdressers to see my beautiful little boy, we stepped inside, where I nearly burst with pride!  As we were walking to the lobby, my sweet son tugged on my coat sleeve, asking, “What were those women doing with those big buckets on their heads?” Well, those old hair dryers really did look like big buckets!  On that day, sitting in the big comfortable chair with a book in my hand, reading to my child as I waited for my mother, I was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia. I shared with my son stories of myself as a little girl, sitting in the same beautiful Hotel lobby waiting for his grandmother all those years before.

 Except for an occasional lunch with friends or a very special dinner, I did not spend a great deal of time at the Hermitage while we were raising our family of five children. Our youngest child, a daughter, would be the one to bring the Hotel back in my life when her wedding reception was held there in June 1991. The wedding took place just a few blocks down the street in the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church at Fifth and Church. Many guests walked the short distance to the Hotel, while others rode the trolley, which was not difficult to spot, with a large wedding wreath on the front, its white ribbons flowing lightly in the breeze. All the wonderful people employed by the Hotel seemed to get into the spirit of the evening, as we had become good friends during the weeks of planning. They also enjoyed my loving memories of the Hotel, which I was eager to share.

Leaving the ballroom at midnight, we watched the bride and groom being whisked away in their limousine, and I cried. I walked back inside just for a moment, glanced around the lobby, said “Good night!” to two young couples on the verandah, and then walked down the steps and out those handsome doors with an ache of sadness: an era in my life was now closed.

Just a few years ago, this same daughter’s children, my grandchildren, had become old enough to appreciate a tour of downtown Nashville. I took them to the lovely old church where their parents were married, and to the Hermitage Hotel where the family celebrated afterwards. Of all they saw and loved, they were most impressed by the Hotel.

Photograph courtesy of the author

I could see their excitement when we first walked through the doors. They didn’t know which direction they wanted to go first! We covered it all – every nook and cranny. They kept saying, “Nunny, I’ve never seen anything this beautiful.” Those children could understand how, when I was even younger than they were, I viewed it as my castle! I’m sure the Hermitage Hotel has never hosted more appreciative young visitors.

Just recently, when a group of younger friends asked where they could take me for lunch to celebrate my 85th birthday, my choice, of course, was the Hermitage Hotel. What a treat! As I stepped out of my car, that rush of nostalgia engulfed me once again, and I had to keep myself from dominating the conversation, as I yearned to share every memory.  Just this morning, one of those precious young women said she hadn’t gotten to see it all on that day, so she and I will return in the near future. I can hardly wait. One more time I will have a captive audience to share the grandeur and my unforgettable memories of the Hermitage Hotel.

Cohn High School 50th Reunion of the Class of 1954: Remembrances of Things Past

by Edwin S. Gleaves, State Librarian and Archivist of Tennessee: Speech delivered on October 2, 2004.

Here we are together again after 50 years, one full half century since some of us last saw each other when we graduated from Cohn High School in 1954, on what was once the city’s western border. Had we been born a few centuries earlier, those intervening fifty years would have been years of little change. The truth is that for thousands of years most of the world’s population lived just as their parents lived, worked just as their parents worked, and died where their ancestors had been laid to rest. The idea of progress, even of change itself, was not only foreign, it was simply unknown, unthinkable.

Not with us. Little did we know, back in the tranquil years of the 1950s, that ahead of us lay a world of change – local, national, international. Experts are now telling us that at the current rate of technological growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years at today’s rate of progress. Whatever that means, that’s too fast for me. As one young student of history said, “I wouldn’t mind studying current events if there weren’t so many of them.”

Tonight, I would like for us to leave high-speed technology and current events behind while we journey backward briefly to the Nashville we once knew, the Nashville and West Nashville of the fifties.

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas

Do you remember when downtown Nashville was the place to go – the only place to go – for many things in our lives? Back then, before the days of videos, DVDs, and multiplex suburban theaters, we went to downtown Nashville to see first-run movies such as The Caine Mutiny, On the WaterfrontRear Window, and White Christmas – all hits of 1954 – at the Loews Vendome Theater, the Knickerbocker, the Paramount, or the Tennessee. Now those grand old theaters are gone, all gone.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront

If we wanted to shop, we also went downtown – to Harvey’s, where I saw my first escalator; to Loveman’s Department Store; to the “new” Cain-Sloan building on 5th and Church; and to Castner-Knott on 7th and Church. They too are gone, all gone.

Nashville also had first-rate bookstores downtown in the 1950s: Mills, Zibart’s, Stokes & Stockell. Gone, all gone.

And there were a surprising number of restaurants downtown as well: Cross Keys, the B&W Cafeteria, three Krystals, two Orange Bars, two Zagers, and Satsuma, among others. All gone? Not quite. Satsuma is still serving down on Union Street. Go there while you can; it has already closed once but reopened by popular demand.

1954 Chevrolet Bel Air

By the way, for most of our school years, we rode the bus downtown. How many of you owned your own cars in high school? Most of us borrowed our family cars when we could. Need I mention how different that is from today’s high school kids? Today’s high school parking lots are bigger than their football fields!

Closer to home, West Nashville had its own downtown on Charlotte Avenue, roughly between 42nd and 51st Avenues. I’m sure that you remember it well. I do – the Dari-Delite on 43rd and Charlotte where my dog Vicki and I savored our first soft-serve ice cream; Allen and Bean Appliance Store, down near 51st, where I saw my first television set; my grandfather’s drug store next door where I was treated special because of my name (but still had to pay full price for a cherry Coke); and the Sanitary Barber Shop near 46th and Charlotte where Doc Martin nearly cut my ears off. I bet that you remember Lovell’s Pharmacy, later Dorris’s, next door to that barber shop, and Thomerson’s Drugs a couple of blocks down Charlotte Avenue. If the potions and purgatives that we bought in the drug stores didn’t work, there were no less than three funeral homes ready to serve us: Burkitt & Bracey, Pettus & Owen, and Wood Funeral Home, later Pettus, Owen, & Wood.

In West Nashville we had several places to shop, such as Kuhn’s and Katz’s and Kroger’s, and quite a few little places to eat – if we could afford to eat out. And best of all, we had our own elite movie theater, fondly and reverently called the E-lite Theater, where we could see third-run movies at bargain prices and, once upon a time, cowboy movies on Saturdays, starring Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Lash LaRue, for the princely price of 12 cents.

Lash LaRue (r) in Song of Old Wyoming

Those of us who could get a car would sometimes venture out Charlotte Avenue to Gable’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop, a popular drive-in restaurant, where we could hear Doris Day singing sweetly of her “Secret Love,” Kitty Callen reminding us that “Little Things Mean a Lot,” and Frank Sinatra crooning “Three Coins in a Fountain” – all interspersed with a new sound to the words, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” by Bill Haley and the Comets. It was in 1954, by the way, that a shakin’ young fellow from Memphis by the name of Elvis cut his first record – and the rest was history.

Bill Haley & the Comets

Another drive-in, the Belle-Aire Drive-In Theater, was just up the road. It was there that some of us watched movies from our cars, while others of us, shall we say, continued our education. I distinguished myself by driving off with the speaker three times. Mr. Cool I wasn’t.

Need I say that our old neighborhood has changed over the years, along with nearly every other aspect of our lives? And need I mention that Cohn itself has changed? The building we knew has not served as a neighborhood high school since 1983, but it now serves our community in other ways through its Senior Renaissance Center, the Cohn Community Education Program, and the Cohn Adult High School. Those of us here tonight remember it, as noted on the Cohn High Alumni Association webpage, as “a place of learning and inspiration, . . . a place where lifelong friendships are formed.”

Yes, we are still here but we too have changed. In 1954 we left the security of the school that many of us had known for six years to go out into the sunlight and shadow, the triumphs and tragedies, of the real world. We either went into the job market or into military service or to college or got married – or all of the above. We knew the joys of good marriages and the pain of failed ones, but through it all we did our best to be good parents and to raise our children in the way that they should go. Then we watched our grandchildren come into a world as different from that of their parents as our children’s was from ours. Sometimes we have dared tell our children how they should raise theirs, knowing all along that we didn’t have to raise them ourselves. We learned quickly that child-rearing is for the young, and we aren’t that young anymore.

I started out by noting how different life was a few centuries ago. But consider this: had we been born only fifty years earlier, the chances of our being around at our current age would have been minimal. Life expectancy in our country in the early years of the twentieth century was only 47 years. Surely it is by the grace of God that some of us, but not all of us, have lived long enough to share this night together, to recall our formative years at Cohn High School and to share with each other a little of what we have experienced since that day in 1954 when we blithely and confidently took hold of our diplomas and set out, as we sang in our alma mater, to conquer and prevail.

Okay, so we didn’t always conquer, but we did prevail, and we are here tonight to prove it. I am confident that what we learned at Cohn, along with the friendships we shared, prepared us for the half century that followed, and I am thankful, as I’m sure you are, that tonight we can share this common milestone in our lives and say together, Hail to thee, our alma mater, Cohn High, all hail!

My Hermitage Experience

A Reminiscence by Houston Seat.

My first visit to The Hermitage, at the age of five years, was with my grandfather in a borrowed Model A Ford. I had to remain in the car and be good, and I didn’t get to go into this big brick house even though I really wanted to see what was inside. Perhaps I should explain.

My grandfather, Samuel H. Seat, was a blacksmith adept at working with iron and fashioning hand-wrought objects. The quality of his work was well known and he was often occupied in some special project. It was 1935 at the time, and The Ladies’ Hermitage Association had contacted my grandfather about reproducing the latch assembly on the window shutters of the mansion since time had taken a toll on the original iron pieces. I had to remain in the Ford while he was inside meeting with the ladies in charge of the restoration. Memory brings back the wasp that came through the open car window, buzzing around me for a few moments and then flying on toward the big house with the loose, sagging shutters.

As time passed, I learned that this was the home of Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel, who died suddenly on December 22, 1828, the year Andrew was elected President of our country. Rachel is quoted as saying, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to live in that palace at Washington.” Was her wish granted?

On a return visit thirty years later, I had a five-year-old with me – my son. We toured The Hermitage together. The Model A Ford is past history, along with the grandparent who let me tag along. Memories can last a lifetime and those with whom we experience special occasions live on, too.

Nashville Memories: The Man Who Shot Buses

by Carter G. Baker.

Nashville was a very different place when I worked downtown during the early 1970s. There were some real characters on the streets. These weren’t your low-grade panhandlers. No, the misfits and down-and-outers of those years when law enforcement and mental health services were a little less mindful really knew how to get your attention.

There was Shorty, sometimes known as Scooter, who had somehow lost both legs and had to push himself around on a little cart that looked like a skateboard. He could generally be found around Church Street and Seventh Avenue. Shorty had a drinking problem and would sometimes be found tipped over in the gutter where he’d run off the sidewalk; the steep hill on Seventh was his nemesis.

A more malevolent stalker of the downtown streets was the well-known and dangerous Foot Stomper.  His predilection for stomping women’s feet with his size 12 brogans as they walked down the sidewalk was infamous. Many an unsuspecting woman had her foot broken by him and was no doubt crippled for life. He’d be taken to jail but after his release would go right back to his ruthless habit. He just couldn’t seem to stop himself.

But my favorite of all the downtown denizens was the Shooter, a heavy-set guy who hung around the bus stop at Union and Fourth Avenue North. His favorite time to come out was rush hour, when there was a steady stream of buses heading up Union and he could perform his magic. He’d stand in front of a bus and pretend he was shooting the driver. Holding his hands in front of him like a kid playing at shooting a pistol and making bang-bang sounds, he would dance around until a bus started moving toward him. Then he’d quickly scamper to the sidewalk and wait for the next one.

There was one bus driver who just couldn’t stand him. This driver was a very tall man – at least six feet, six inches. I’d known him since childhood, as I rode the bus all over Nashville in the ‘50s. I was most surprised when we moved over on Richland Avenue to discover that he lived just a block away on Central. 

One warm afternoon, the tall driver had finally had enough of the Shooter jumping away from his bus at the last second. He arranged for a supervisor to be there with a policeman, and when the shooter performed his act, the officer arrested him.  Much to my sorrow, I never saw him again.

The driver told me this story one afternoon as we cruised out West End toward my stop. Whatever happened to him, I wanted to know. The story was that some relatives from down in the country came and got him. They took him somewhere that didn’t have buses to tempt him. I still sometimes wonder whether going cold turkey helped him, or whether he went completely over the edge after he was bereft of his beloved Nashville Transit Company buses. Or maybe he discovered school buses in that small town and had a happy retirement.  I hope so.

Nashville Memories: The Worried Wife of Deer Park

by Carter G. Baker.

Back in the boom years of the 1920s when Prohibition was the law of the land, it was impossible to have a real cocktail party legally.  The liquor had to be bought from a bootlegger, and there was always the chance that it might be contaminated with an additive that could cause serious problems of a neurological nature.  One possible result was called “jake leg” or “iron foot” because of the way the victim staggered along looking as if he’d had a stroke.

However, knowledgeable Nashvillians had a way to protect themselves from unintentionally poisoning their guests – or themselves – with bad whiskey.  A cheap insurance policy came in the form of an old sot who hung around on West End or Elliston Place in the Vanderbilt area.  This fellow would drink anything that had alcohol in it, and he had turned his unique talent into a source of income.  For fifty cents or a dollar, he would taste a sample of your bootleg liquor or sip from the jar of moonshine your cousin had brought in from the country.  You might hope it hadn’t been distilled through an old car radiator full of lead, but you didn’t know for sure.  The tester would take a few swallows and give you an opinion of the quality of your cocktail makings.

One memorable Saturday evening a well-known Nashville lawyer and his wife hosted a dinner party at their lovely Belle Meade home.  The food was delicious and the bar, stocked with taste-tested Bedford County moonshine, was well-attended.  These elite citizens of a much smaller Nashville, where everyone knew everyone, had a wonderful time and left in a happy mood, singing the praises of the host couple.

But the next Wednesday morning as the wife drove along West End Avenue in her big Packard automobile, she saw a most disturbing sight. The old booze tester was limping along looking for all the world as though he had a bad case of jake leg.  Mrs. Lawyer panicked, found the first pay phone she could, and called her husband to tell him that they’d given their guests bad whiskey, and that he needed to get down there right away and find out what was going on.

The husband made his excuses to the client sitting in front of him – a man who had, in fact, attended the party – and raced out toward Centennial Park looking for his quarry.  He found the old-timer sitting on the stone wall in front of the park rubbing his foot and looking rather feeble. A few questions quickly lifted the curtain of fear as the old boy said that he didn’t have the jake, but only a bad corn on the ball of his foot.  With a sigh of relief, the lawyer handed him a quarter and sent him off to buy some corn plasters.

The lawyer immediately drove to Kensington Place where his wife waited at a friend’s home, fearing the worst. He set her mind at ease with the good news and they went on their way, a much happier couple.  Still, they resolved that night never to serve corn liquor at a party again.  From that day forward, they spent a few more dollars and bought the bonded blends shipped down from Canada and sold through a reputable bootlegger. 

Nashville Memories: Take Me Out to the Ball Park

by Carter G. Baker.

It was a warm summer evening back in the early 1950s as three or four ten- or eleven-year-old boys gathered at one of their houses near Blair Boulevard.  The Dad who lived there was taking the boys out to Sulphur Dell to watch the Nashville Vols play baseball. Full of excitement, everybody loaded into the old black ’48 Chevy, and they were on their way.

Photo of Sulphur Dell from the collection of Skip Nipper. Used by permission.

The Dell was back behind the Capitol down beyond where the Bicentennial Mall is now.  Back then, big old brick houses and little wooden ones filled the area right up to the edge of Capitol Hill itself.  By then, the neighborhood was so rundown that no one wanted to go down there.  But Mr. Dad drove right in, as it was a shortcut to the ball park.

The streets were full of kids running around and folks hanging out on their porches talking.  Suddenly, the car full of boys grew silent and their eyes popped wide open as they watched a trim teenage girl without any clothes on run out of a house and right across the street in front of Mr. Dad’s car.  He came to a quick stop to keep from hitting her, and everybody stared as she ran up onto another porch and disappeared behind a ragged old screen door.

No one said a word, but they all stared at that door in the hope that she’d run back out and cross the street again.  As Mr. Dad began driving on down the street to the Dell, he looked over his shoulder at his dumbstruck passengers and said, “You know, boys, you just never know what you’ll see in the quarters!”

With that, the spell was broken and everybody was soon slapping their fists into their gloves in anticipation of the foul ball they just knew they were going to catch. Arriving at the ballpark, each one bought a Coke for a nickel and settled in for some baseball.  None of those boys can remember the score of that game, or even who was playing, but they never forgot what they saw “in the quarters” behind the Capitol on that summer night some sixty years ago.

Memories of Cornelia Fort

A Reminiscence by Peggy Dickinson Fleming.

In the short lifespan of Cornelia Fort, this remarkable Nashvillian accomplished great things. She was a premier aviatrix and was privileged to play an important role in history. The first female flight instructor in Nashville, she was sent to Hawaii to teach military personnel to fly. On December 7, 1941, Fort was flying with a student pilot when their aircraft nearly collided with an invading Japanese plane. From the air she saw the smoke from the Pearl Harbor bombing.

In the fall of 1942 Cornelia Fort was selected as one of the first members of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Service (WAFs). She flew a number of missions in the service of her country before she was killed in March 1943 in a flying accident in Texas.

High school photograph of Cornelia Fort used with permission of the author.

I went to high school with Cornelia at Ward-Belmont in Nashville. She was an outstanding student, even then having the “look of eagles.” As I remember, Cornelia was responsible for the early downfall of my handwriting. Miss Major, our domineering Latin teacher, demanded rather long reports and test responses. Cornelia would sail through the reports and tests with her huge, looping handwriting, covering many pages with essays and answers. This greatly impressed Miss Major. I would be crawling along with my cramped version of handwriting, perhaps getting the job done, but not using up much test paper. Cornelia looked over my work with disgust and advised me to open up and stretch my efforts! This strategy produced the desired effect of creating large bunches of work, but, as you can imagine, it did nothing constructive for my handwriting. It is still rather illegible to this day.

Postcard photo of Ward-Belmont School from NHN collection.

Cornelia lived near Shelby Park in East Nashville. She was driven to and from school by a very amiable black employee by the name of Eperson. I loved being invited to accompany her, as we traveled in style in a large black town car.

Cornelia’s house was a lovely white antebellum home, set far from the road in a grove of walnut trees. Meals there were quite impressive, eaten under the watchful eye of Eperson, who saw to it that the young Forts minded their manners. You can imagine that I ate Very Carefully.

Cornelia had three older brothers who completely awed me. They were Rufus Fort Jr., Dudley, and Garth. Rufus and Dudley became well-known Nashville businessmen, while Garth followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an MD. Garth married one of our neighbors here in Columbia, a woman with whom my husband Swope had grown up. Of course, this was many years after Cornelia’s tragic death.

I did not see Cornelia, or “Corns,” as I was wont to call her, after our graduation from high school; however, I have always valued the memories of our friendship.