The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Little Stones Rant

Oh, a storm is threat'ning

My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away

War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

A storm is threatening. Most probably a s--t storm. Gimme some shelter.

Rolling stones gather no moss. That's what uncle Adam and Uncle Jamie say. They proved it.

And I'm a stone. A Stones fan anyway. I guess I ain't been rollin' enough lately.

Moss is building up on my shoes. Or is it something else sticking to my soles, some other kind of crud building up on my soul?

What I read in the news these days is making me sick, physically and existentially. I know I'm on about the Stones here but I'm sorta like the guy in the Beatles' song too, you know? The one who blew his mind out in a car.

Jumping from one allusion to another like this is probably a symptom of what that guy had.

Like I said, there's this stuff on my shoes. And it stinks.

The failure of the President to protect our diplomats in Benghazi (I know, I know, what difference does it make now), the President's corruption of the IRS (I can't believe the audacity of these people expecting any rational person to believe their lies and distortions), the President's complete (and insane) withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, the resulting emergence of the latest crop of Muslim terrorists, the more recent failure of the President to deal with the border crisis of his own making...and above it all, over it all, under it all, Main Stream media's total abandonment of its responsibility.

I think I need to scrape that shit right off my shoes.

Wading through the waste stormy winter

And there's not a friend to help you through
Trying to stop the waves behind your eyeballs
Drop your reds drop your greens and blues

Thank you for your wine, california
Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruits
Yes, Ive got the desert in my toenail
And hid the speed inside my shoe

But come on come on down sweet virginia
Come on honey child I beg of you

Come on come on down you got it in you
Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes.

Going West for awhile. See you guys next week..

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Bluegrass Post With a Little Side of EP

I've enjoyed bluegrass music for most of my life. I can remember sitting on the floor in our living room listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio in the late '40s before Dad bought a TV. Even then I liked the bright tinkling banjo, the dobro, the fiddle, and the guitar flat picking.

Commemorative Plaque Outside the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN

My interest in this music increased when Joyce bought me a Silvertone in the '60s. On the surface, it appears simple, easy to play. But it's not. I've never gone beyond the three basic chords, but I still love bluegrass to this day. And that means that I enjoy the music of Bill Monroe, sometimes referred to as the "Father of Bluegrass." I'm never quite sure what to make of all those "Father of This" and "Father of That" claims, but the genre did acquire its name from his group, the Bluegrass Boys.

I think I've mentioned before on this blog, that I've lived on a dead end road in southern Sumner County since 1973 and that Monroe had a farm at the end of our road until his death in 1996. He was a good neighbor, always waved when we passed him on the road, and once when we had a deep snow, he came along on his tractor and offered to plow off our driveway and several others who live along our stretch. On our trip to England in '87, we were eating lunch in a Pub and struck up a conversation with our waiter who was a Bluegrass Bill Monroe fanatic. When we told him Monroe was our neighbor, I don't think he believed us.

As the plaque above indicates, besides Monroe with his mandolin and vocals, the members of the original group included Chubby Wise on fiddle, Howard Watts on bass, Lester Flatt, vocals and guitar, and Earl Scruggs on the five string banjo. This is the original group with Monroe's famous waltz "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
The story of how a Rock and Roll version of the song in 4/4 time became the "B" side of Elvis' first Sun Records single is on Wiki. Wiki says Monroe liked Presley's version and gave it his blessing.

Lester and Earl left Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1948 to form their own bluegrass group. One important, make that very important, thing they did was to add Uncle Josh and his dobro. Here's that old raunchy classic "Salty Dog." Look for Josh's fantastic break.
Sometimes you just feel like an old "Salty Dog." Ain't that the ever lovin' Bluegrass truth?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sexy Fins

Sometime in 1954, my friend Doug and his father invited me to go with them to the GM Motorama show which was making a stop in Nashville. It was a memorable and important experience. The show itself was spectacular with its focus on new GM models and concept cars like the new Corvette.

One of the things we did at the show was join the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild, which sponsored a nationwide auto design contest for teenagers. We received a packet of literature with information on the contest's junior and senior divisions and specs for models that could be entered (types of cars that could be entered, suggested construction materials, scale 1 inch equals 1 foot, etc.).

Doug and I both began designing and building models to enter in the contest and we both won several state awards over the next few years. My first junior entry was a carved wooden model of a convertible sports car based on my own design. I won an honorable mention and $25. My last year in the junior division ('55-'56) I built a big Buick looking sedan that was lucky enough to win the First State Tennessee and Regional award. The prize was $150 and a trip by train to Detroit that summer.

 Besides the cash prizes, I received a small personal trophy and my high school (Isaac Litton) was given a trophy as well. The principal presented the school trophy during an assembly that fall. The trip was fantastic for a 16 year old.

All the winners stayed in the Sheraton Cadillac Hotel and we visited the new GM Tech Center, talked to real stylists, and saw the futuristic GM concept cars up close.

I was so inspired I came home in the fall of 1956 and began work on two models to enter in my first year in the senior division (the rules allowed more than one entry per person).

One of these designs was a radical front entry car carved out of a big block of balsa. I only have one pic of it from those days and it's unfortunately a double exposure. I'm posting it anyway so you can get an idea of what it looked like.
This car is in bad shape today so I can't at this point take a newer picture of it. (As an over indulgent grandfather, I had unfortunately let my grandsons play with the big models during the 80s. None of the models held up to well in that kind of play but the fragile balsa is in especially bad shape. I'm slowly restoring the models today and when they're ready I'll take some new pics and post them here on the Cumberland Post.)

The other car I built that year was carved out of a solid block of poplar wood my grandfather (a master carpenter) had found for me. This model, about 18 inches long, was also pretty radical looking and had super high fins.

If you remember, the fall of '56, all of the Exner inspired Chrysler Corp's cars were beginning to have sexy looking fins. They went all out for fins in '57 - '59 but the fins on their '56 models were still relatively restrained, as you can see from this pic of a '56 Dodge (the La Femme model).
I was slightly ahead of the fin curve with my design as you can see in this current pic of the model being restored.

I selected this model to restore first because it's in the best shape. I plan to get around to the others in time. Actually, this high finned design is a bit radical too in the sense of its impracticality. I think the fins looked pretty cool and sexy, but rear vision would have been considerably reduced. Looking at the car now, I see several other design features that were just beginning to show up: stacked quad headlights, a wrap over and wrap around windshield, a huge amount of glass in the rear window, and painted and integrated bumpers (those parts haven't been reattached to the model yet).

If I remember right, I received a $50 3rd state award for this model, but it and the other front entry one were both scored extremely low on practicality.
My work on these models and my limited success in the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild gave me more self confidence, something I sorely needed. And I learned other things as well. I learned a bit about organizing large, long term projects and how such projects can be accomplished ahead of deadlines with steady and routine work on a daily basis. I did not pursue my high school dream of becoming an auto stylist, but what I learned from the Guild has stood me in good stead in my education career and my life over the years.

It's too bad that GM discontinued this program in the late '60s. It's also too bad that education which synthesizes work on "fun" projects with valuable concepts is not a part of our educational system today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Royal (Auto) Affair, Part 2

I used my family's 1954 Dodge Royal for dates, errands, and cruising throughout my sophomore, junior, and senior years of HS. At one point in my junior year, I asked Dad to let me remove the hubs and paint the wheels like it was some kind of hot racing vehicle. He agreed as long as I put the hubcaps back on when I finished using the car.

I'd seen other cars at the drag strip with visibly striking painted wheels and I followed their design -- the wheel was divided into quarters like slicing a pie into four parts. Two opposite quarters were painted red and the other two opposite quarters were painted white. When the wheel rolled slowly the moving colors would flip around and be very visible.

Sometimes, cruising around with a couple of friends on a Saturday night I'd remove the oil bath air cleaner and carefully place it in the trunk on some newspaper. I never told Dad about this until much later. When you pressed the accelerator the engine noise sounded awesome (this is not a word I would have used then or like much now, but it seems appropriate in this context) as the hemi strained to suck in as much air as possible through the small two barrel carb.

From my red light experience with other teens, I knew the Dodge with its two speed powerflite automatic wasn't really that fast, but I liked the sound of that hemi when you got down on it. I knew it wasn't all that hot and I wasn't really a racer, but, what can I say, I enjoyed the idea of it. I didn't know this at the time and it may be an inaccurate observation now, but my fascination with drag racing and speed might have been a kind of compensation for the insecurities that most young males feel at that time in their lives.

Whatever. In the spring of '58 my friend and I popped the hubs, removed the air cleaner, and went out to the drag strip at Union Hill. Against all odds, I entered the car in the stock class under an assumed name, Wild Bill Cody.

The class I entered was dominated by the early hydramatic '50s Rocket Oldsmobiles. You remember those, I'm sure. They were very fast off the line. And, as luck would have it, the opponent I drew was driving one, a 1951 two door. It looked a lot like this one.

I should also note that this is the view I had of it as we got the signal to go. He was already two car lengths ahead of me by the time I'd gone 50 feet. So I just turned off the service road to the right and left the race. My ears still burn today as I remember the words of the announcer. "Looks like old Wild Bill has headed back to the corral."

Later that year, in the summer after graduation, my family moved to Texas. I had a good job driving a truck and I began saving money for college. But I did spend a little on some new cowboy boots and hat and some hot looking Moon hubs for the Dodge. Three weeks in TX and I was already a cowboy drag racer!

I had a friend in TX whose name was Red. He had a cool looking black '53
Ford two door. I remember helping him paint some slick looking flames over the head lights on the Ford.  One night we were eating a cheese burger in some diner and he nodded toward my Dodge parked outside. "How fast you think that thing'll go top end?" he asked. "Dunno," I said. "Let's find out," he said. "I know a safe place."

We drove out on a highway outside of town that leveled out for about three miles straight. It was a clear moon lit night and the concrete highway looked like a glowing ribbon of light. Red said, "Hit that sucker."

I mashed the accelerator to the floor and with one eye on the road and the other on the speedometer, I felt the car pick up speed. I pushed it up to 97 miles per hour. There was still a lot left, but I chickened out. Red was disappointed, but thinking back on it, not pressing my luck was probably wise. The car was four years old and the tires were bias plys and had some wear on them. A blowout would have been catastrophic.

That fall, I left for college and was "carless" for two years. Then in 1960 I got married and bought a Fiat. One out of those two decisions turned out great. Joyce and I have been happily married for 54 years this August. The Fiat however, is another story. A sad one.

Sorry, I just don't feel like talking about it here since I'm going on about the old Dodge Royal. But, there's another chapter to the Dodge Royal story which involves grad school. I'll be reporting on that in part 3 of this epistle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Royal (Auto) Affair, Part I

In my adolescent years I was painfully shy, ignorant, naive, green as locust leaf in April, and probably much too aware of all these perceived shortcomings for my own good.

But somehow, someway, 1954 was a good year for me. At the age of 14, my education and experience of the world broadened considerably. The cause of this change in my personality was at least partially related to automobiles.

The family car in early 1954 was an old, gray '47 Plymouth 4-door Deluxe Sedan. (This isn't a photo of our car; ours had a big yellow plastic bug knocker mounted on the hood ornament, but, otherwise, it looked very similar. It even had those curb feelers like this one.)

I liked the way the '47 Plym looked, even though by '54 its "fastback" style had started to look dated. (I put that in quotation marks because it really was more of a "slowback" or "roundback" when compared to the '47 Chevy for example.)

The interior of the old Plymouth was IMHOP excellent bling, especially the metal wood grain dashboard which had about 67 lbs of chrome plating on various gratings, buttons, dials, etc. Today, such hard and shiny surfaces on a car dashboard would be considered a threat to human life as we know it and would lead to lawsuits and various government committees hell bent on making the manufacturer pay for creating such a death trap.

But I liked chrome. Love the shiny. At least on cars. Still do. The more the merrier. What can I say, I'm a child of the '50s.

The old '47 Plym, although only seven years old, was, however, not very dependable. We'd bought it from a relative which is another story and one I'm not going to tell here. The car had started to smoke a lot which as we all now know can lead to cancer in people and cars. It was that bluish kind of smoke that smelled like burning oil and rubber with a slight metallic odor mixed in.

Mother fussed about the car a lot and one spring day, Dad came home from a trip (he was a long haul trucker) and said, "get ready, we're going NEW car shopping." They were wonderful words for a 14 year old to hear and totally unexpected since Dad was not known for buying NEW cars. In fact, we'd never had one. The car before the Plymouth was a dependable but ugly as sin '39 Dodge 4-door, and the one before that had been a disastrous '37 Ford coupe with no back seat and a weak, worn out V8 60 motor.

Dad had said we were "going shopping, but he must've already had his mind made up, because we didn't really shop. We went straight down to the Dodge Dealer on Murfreesboro Road. My memory tells me it was the Beaman Dodge dealership, but I'm not completely sure about that.

The car he picked out was a wine red with cream top 1954 Dodge Royal with the hemi V8 and the 2 speed powerflite transmission. The bench seats front and rear were covered in a classy gray and maroon cloth with fine detail stitching. The dash was austere by '50s standards, but clean and efficient. Dad saved $83 by not getting a radio and as  a result my high school dates were all music-less, a tragedy in the sense that without a radio I had to talk more to fill up the awkward dead air on a first date.

Virgil Exner led the Chrysler Corporation design team that created all the Chrysler models including the '53 and '54 Dodges. The '54 was a clean and responsible facelift of the 1953 model. (I didn't know it then but wiki tells me that '53 hemi powered car had set 100 land and speed records at the Bonnevile salt flats.)

By today's standards, the car would be considered small. But it didn't feel that way since comparable Cheyvs, Fords, and Mercs of that year were about the same size. The rear passenger window had a nice Jaguar sedan like curve to it and the chrome sweep spear down the side was in my mind a cleaner line than the Buick sweep spear. One other detail that I remember clearly was the very small (one inch high) chrome fins that were mounted on top of the little kick up on the rear fender. Those little dwarf fins were a harbinger of things to come -- I'm referring to the Exner inspired, gradually soaring tailfins on the '56, the '57, the '58, and the '59 Dodges. They were there in miniature on our '54.

When my brother and I got out of school for the summer in '54, the family decided to take a trip in our new Dodge to NYC. We visited my Aunt Jo (Dad's sister) and her family who lived on Long Island. The pic below shows yours truly outside my Aunt's home. You might notice the pencil thin white belt and the white mocassin loafers, which I seem to recall being very popular HS fashions of the time. You might also notice that my Aunt and her husband Leonard owned a new '54 Ford which is parked behind our Dodge.

While in NYC, we went to Coney Island and saw the statue of Liberty. But the thing that I remember most is the night uncle Leonard took us to see the Dodgers play the Cubs at Ebbets field. All those heroes I'd only heretofore read about in the newspaper were there on the field, live -- Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson--not to mention the Cubs' great, Ernie Banks. I was amazed at how small Ebbets Field was compared to the other major league parks I'd read about. It wasn't that much bigger than Nashville's Sulphur Dell where I'd watched the Vols play many times. It even felt a little like the old Dell. But it held quite a few more fans. And it was Ebbets field and I watched a game there! Not many left who can say that today.

It was a great trip and the new '54 Dodge Royal got us there and back in comfort and high style.

more later on the Royal at the local drag strip, looking hot in Texas, and in its beater days when I was in grad school...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Spring Flowers @ the Circle J

The flowers in our yard have been exceptional this year. Our neighbor gave us these state flower Iris bulbs over ten years ago and they are just now beginning to reach their aesthetic peak.
And Joyce's rose garden, with a huge carpet bush in the foreground and knockouts in the back, has exploded after a nice pruning in the late winter.
Like Lynn Anderson's pop/country song says, "I never promised you a rose garden." But Joyce, being an industrious lady, got us one anyway!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day

My dad Mack B. Jewell, Jr. passed away in December of 2007 at the age of 90. He was quarterback on the Watertown Tigers team that went undefeated in 1937, beating both Wilson County powerhouses Mt. Juliet and Lebanon.  A true triple threat, he could run, pass, and kick. That would be kick as in drop-kick, a method of kicking extra points and field goals favored by many in those days when the shape of the football was more rounded and lacked the sharper ends of footballs in play today. In the pic, he's on the back row, far left, number 12.

In his 20s, 30s, and early 40s, he was a long haul truck driver. Here he is in his prime in 1957 at age 40. He put many, many blue highway miles on that big International V8 and his other truck, a cab-over White. In the pic you can see his ever present cigarette (Luckies or Camels) resting naturally between his fingers. At the age of 70, he got a warning from his doctor so he went cold turkey and stopped. As I said, he lived to be 90, so the cold turkey move was a good one.
And here he is in 1961, standing beside his dad, my Papa Jewell. That's Dad's sister and my aunt Imola who's holding my infant son Barry. They are laughing at something my Papa said; I can't remember what, but it must've been pretty funny.

Rest in peace, Dad.