Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, March 24, 2013. The initial paragraph in the paper edition was from the last column and not deleted…just in case you were wondering.
SAN DIEGO –Lebanon High School’s 1932 “Souvenir,” has generated my desire to visit the town that existed 80 years ago.
This town of yore was between two world wars and smack in the middle of the Great Depression. My parents often remarked the depression didn’t have much impact on Lebanon life. They didn’t remember any soup lines, and most people had jobs.
Lebanon had its factories. Dr. Edgerton’s startup went on line in 1908. I believe the pencil factory was still in operation on “Pencil Mill Alley.” There were several others, but agriculture was the primary area of employment. Even those with other occupations had working farms.
The square was figuratively and literally the center of town. The courthouse, hardware stores, banks, clothiers, restaurants, drug stores, and even a grocery were either on the square or within a block or two of town center. The majority of citizens dined; shopped, tended to their hard-earned money; sought their justice; or just simply socialized with folks outside of the family. Of course, one diversion was on the courthouse steps: whittling cedar.
Mule Day and the Lamb Parade were major events surrounding General Hatton. Was the square’s “Sweet Potato Day” still observed in the 1930’s? It was a big event at the beginning of the 20th century.
Most churches were within blocks of the square. Sunday worship was an all day affair. The Wednesday night prayer meetings were a mid-week requisite for church goers, nearly all of the residents. Tent revivals were frequent.
But Democrat readers should be more aware of all this than I am. Out here in the Southwest corner, there is not a lot of references for Lebanon or its past. I must rely on G. Frank Burns’ histories of Lebanon and Wilson County; Eleanor Schlink’s recounting in “This Is the Place;” Wilson Bank and Trust’s wonderful pictorial book, “Remembering Wilson County;” my incomplete collection of JB Leftwich’s columns from this paper; stories my parents told me; and my own faulty memory.
I do have another source: friends and family who grew up with me. For some reason, their memories seem to be more reliable than mine.
Looking through the 1932 LHS “Souvenir,” I wish I had kept better tabs, since my recall of the people who impacted my life has some holes. Many photos and names from the senior class strike me as people I should know but have forgotten. Lovell Rousseau was the class president. Arch Agee was a football and baseball player and one of many in the Future Farmer’s of Tennessee. Francis Eskew, Louise Grandstaff, Winfield Smith, Grace Partlow, Vincent Simms, and Haber Vickers are also names I know but can’t remember why. I tried to recall Harriet Edgerton, undoubtedly Dr. Edgerton’s daughter, and I tried to connect the dots.
Then there are those seniors who had direct impact on my family.
Jim Horn Hankins’ dealings in automobiles, oil distribution, and real estate changed the face of Lebanon. He, along with others, forged the future makeup of the city. Jim Horn first hired my father in 1939, and the two were close friends for the remainder of their lives. It made sense to find him listed in the “Hi-Y Club,” the annual’s business manager, and the manager of the football team. But I was surprised to learn he also was the treasurer of the Future Farmers of Tennessee.
Blanche Paty and Mary Neil Thackston were close to my mother. Consequently, our families were always close as well.
Lindsey Donnell’s bio is in the middle of the senior class. Due to some editorial quirk, Lindsey, Jim Horn, and Willie Rue Cagle are not listed in alphabetical order. As mentioned in last week’s column, he was not only the “Bachelor of Ugliness,” but also his likeness also appears in the Athenian Literary Society, Dramatic Club, Le Cercle Francais, Hi-Y Club. He was also on the Student Council. Of course, he was a star athlete in football, basketball and baseball.
I tried to describe Major Donnell, as I knew him at Heights, to myself. I arrived at many superlatives, but my overwhelming thought was respect. He walked a different path, thought a different way, took a different cut on life. I not only had the greatest respect for him, but marveled at his intelligence, his concern for others including me, and the goodness that kept shining through his every action.
Long ago and far away, Lebanon was a wonderful place. If you know more about the citizens discussed above, I would like to learn.