Take a whiff of Sista Smiff and you'll come back for more, that's fo sho!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Retrospective Brentwood

Reading Tony's blog today got me all nostalgic. I know it doesn't take a whole lot to get me in that frame of mind. I'm as sappy and cheesy as the day is long. I already got nostalgic this week remembering my grandfather on the 111th anniversary of his birth, but, thanks to Tony, I'm going to get nostalgic about where I grew up.

I was not born on Tennessee soil. I was born a couple thousand miles from Nashville in Long Beach, California, where my dad was a succesful radio disc jockey and my mother's family had moved to from Alexandria, Louisiana when she was a young girl. As I wrote earlier this week, my southern roots are deep, deep. I've always been grateful that my dad saw fit to move us to Tennessee when I was about 8 months old. He would've certainly continued with more lucrative and financial success had they stayed out there and I'd have been a happy California Girl, but, I'm glad it didn't work out that way. I'm a Tennessee girl to the bone (not to be confused with redneck) and am all about my rich southern heritage. I'm sure had my folks stayed in Southern California, I'd have loved that and felt as attached to the beaches of the Pacific as I do to the green, rolling hills that surround this beautiful area that I call home.

We hit the less than happening metropolis of Brentwood in the fall of 1969. My poor mother was miserable when we first moved here. After growing up in Southern California in the 40's and 50's, going to Disneyland the first day it was open, celebrating Senior Skip Day at Catalina Island, spending countless hours at the beach, having great shopping and a million things to choose from to do, the pickens for fun and entertainment were pretty slim in Brentwood, and Nashville too, in those days.

Those relatively new to the Nashville area who bask in the glow of Cool Springs and the splendiforous shopping should be grateful. Back then, Cool Springs was a the Southwestern Bible company and it's big, blue ball. (No pun intended. It really was a big, blue ball. Resembled a water tower, which may be what it was) The only mall was 100 Oaks (I could do a whole post on that), to go to McDonald's, we had to go all the way to Melrose; the only grocery store was Huff's Food Town, owned by the saintly Glenn Huff. (I could also do a whole post on Mr. Huff and his establishment, where I later worked and learned the art of Customer Service). Kroger did not come til about 1974; there was Carriage House Cleaners (still there last time I was there) with it's little basket of Super Bubble bubblegum, Little's Shell, which sat on the corner of Franklin Rd and Old Hickory Blvd, Pewitt Brothers Exxon, Barbara's House of Beauty; a big treat for kids was a trip to Baskin Robbins; if you needed a new pair of shoes, you went to The Shoebox, owned and operated by the Morrison's, and all the kids climbed up this little ladder and sat on this cool, treehouse looking thing to get fitted for your Red Goose Shoes; if you wanted pizza, it was the Red Geranium; if you needed a prescription filled, you went to Lee's Apothecary; if you wanted a convenience store, there was the Jim Dandy market down on Franklin Rd. just before you get to Concord Rd; Minnie Pearl had a chicken place; there were two liquor stores; the only sit down restaurant was Noble's and the only motel was the Traveler's Rest (I always thought that was THE Traveler's Rest, as in the Overton's place) Mr. Toadvine's hardware store was on the corner of Church St. and Wilson Pike Circle; Harpeth National Bank (later First Tennessee) with Janis Foster, your friendly neighborhood teller, who knew everybody that resided in town and all their secrets;

We played softball and baseball at Civitan Park, behind Lipscomb School. If you were lucky enough, you'd get to take a trip to "Flatrock", behind the baseball fields and make out. (Sadly, I never had that experience.) In the summer, we swam at the Dolphin Club (some went to Crockett Springs and later, Maryland Farms Country Club and a few to Brentwood Country Club. The Dolphin Club was where it was at though. The Reyes Kids ruled the diving team and you could suntan on the roof of the clubhouse. It wasnt until the early 80's that we had a skating rink and movie theater and who can forget the first fast food place in Brentwood....Delites. They claimed to be "healthy" because at that time, the city of Brentwood would not allow fast food joints in the city limits.

There was one elementary school, Lipscomb, (principaled in love by Jesse Frank and we were fed meals from scratch by Mrs. Reed) until 1977 when Scales was built. One junior high, then known as Northside Jr. High (Go Vikings), now Brentwood Middle, with the charming and charistmatic Bob Hardison (aka "Blow Job Bob" we lovingly called him) as principal. Brentwood High did not come along until 1983. Before then, everybody went to Franklin. Most of us were either Baptist, Methodist or Church of Christ. If you were of the Catholic faith, again, you had to go to Franklin to church.

Our neighborhood, Hallbrook, was the best. There were bigger neighborhoods-Carondelet and Brenthaven, namely, but Hallbrook could boast residents who later became household names in the state of Tennessee and beyond...Marsha Blackburn and some lawyer named Fred Thompson. We knew just about every household in the neighborhood: The McNamee's, The Kurek's, The Elliott's, The Comer's, The Dukes', every household, I could tell you who lived there. In this little slice of heaven, we even had a drug bust in one house and a mafia bust in another. (Believe me, those were exciting days! Better than a tv show)

We also had the beautiful WSM tower shadowing us. That tower appears in I don't know how many photographs and was just part of the landscape. That tower was almost like a neighbor and it also connected me to the Grand Ole Opry and WSM radio which I love dearly. To this day, a drive down I-65 and the first sight of her brings a lump in my throat. In the picture, which is an unusual view from the tower, my house is the white one kinda to the left, under the photographer's name...Concord Rd. Church of Christ, where I attended kindergarten, is to the right.

Yeah, Brentwood has everything now in terms of commerce and business, but, man....it was almost a little like Mayberry with most people knowing each other or of each other. We didn't have an official town drunk, but, I guess "Shufflin' Ed" would be the closest thing. He'd make his daily trek from Hardscuffle (now Church St) to the bank everyday. You could set your clock by it.

Brentwood is still indeed a nice place to live, however, I can't help but feel like those of us who lived there in the 70's were the really lucky ones. No, it was not that culturally diverse but it was the perfect community, in terms of being a loving and caring environment. That's what makes a community anyway is the individuals; not the prestige of the zip code or the designer labels at the shopping mall. It's the Glenn Huff's, the Hallbrooks, the Lipscomb Schools and Dolphin Clubs of this world that are signifigant.


Tony Arnold said...

What an awesome post! Red Geranium--I almost put that on my list of things I miss.

I grew up going to church with Mr. Huff at Otter Creek Church of Christ, what a great man. I still go to OC.

What irony that our church, Otter Creek, just moved from Nashville (Forest Hills) into the former Brentwood Baptist then Living Word church building just down from the Brentwood Kroger's.


SistaSmiff said...

The Red Geranium was IT! Remember the jukebox???

Rebecca said...

I emailed a link to you post to my mom, and here is what she had to say....

I read her bit on Brentwood and it was really good but also really weird. The things that she found to be so quaint were, at the time, the '70s, evidence to me that Brentwood had been irreparably blighted by commercial interests and over-population! Like the bank she talks about on the corner of Church St. and Franklin Rd. .... in order to make room for that, the Brentwood Methodist Church where I spent my teen years and in which I was married had been demolished, with the new Brentwood United Methodist Church being erected in its stead to accommodate the larger congregation. The subdivisions were gobbling up the scenic estates and farms ... the Frost's place, Truman Ward's, Lurten Goodpasture's (where Ol' John sat out beside Granny White Pike whittling), McGavock Hayes' land where Marie Chapman's family were tenant-farmers (Marie's brother Billy was gorgeous and her daddy was bad-to-drink). Pewitt Brothers Garage was ESSO, the forerunner of EXXON, and Barbara of the hair salon was just being born to one of the Pewitt brothers. Besides Pewitts there were three commercial establishments....Alex and Eugenia Noble's folks' restaurant and motel, Huff's grocery, and the new Brentwood Hardware. I could write a book! Thanks for the trip into the rose-colored past.

SistaSmiff said...

I remember the Frost Place!! Tammy was a friend of mine in elementary school and I spent the night there. I had NO idea how historical her family home was at the time. I knew it was old, but, no clue....

Interesting how it all boils down to perspective isn't it????

The old Brentwood Methodist Church was still there when we moved here and I have an ever so faint memory of it still standing.

I forgot...The Party Pac! I also meant to mention Mary Sneed Jones...The Barber Shop...Dan Jones father also had a little store (that predated me) on the corner of Church and Wilson Pike Circle.

letha said...

Mrs. Smiff, great story, I love those great memories of our childhood..Who said "You can't go home'

Tony Arnold said...

I loved jukeboxes. My dad never got tired of giving me quarters, but he did have a limit on how many. I think I got 4.


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