Jane's homecooked meal on T-Day 1971
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 11:32 am
You can meet interesting folks at Parsley's Grocery located on John Bragg Highway between Woodbury and Beech Grove.
Although fellow Friday catfish-eater Tony Parker and I are newly acquainted, we share family linkage dating back five-plus decades when I wrote for a Nashville newspaper.
"You did a story in the Banner about the motorized wheelchair Dad (Merlin Dudley Parker, now age 91) constructed and used in his small lawnmower and small engine repair business located in the shadow of Beech Grove Cemetery in downtown Beech Grove," Tony noted. "We have clippings of your newspaper stories dating back to 1971."
His father was a successful businessman despite being handicapped.
Fellow history buff Tony and I recalled that the "Battle of Beech Grove" is where Southern Valor fell to Yankee bullets fired out of the first repeater rifles used in wartime fighting.
This battle followed on the heels of the larger Battle of Stones River at Murfreesboro (Dec. 31, 1862 - Jan. 2, 1863) in the cold winter time. Bodies of fallen Confederate soldiers lay on open frozen ground until spring, when area residents interred them in today's pristine-kept Beech Grove Cemetery. One legend stemming from that historic battle has Northern soldiers' old single-shot rifles being buried in an area cave, but they've never been found.
Although honored to get a job on a sophisticated big city newspaper like the Banner back in 1971, I recall being a homesick young bachelor reporter, being away from my Missouri family for the first time in life.
It was an assignment from Banner State Editors Weldon Grimsley and Harold "Cowboy" Lynch that first took me to Beech Grove, where I met petite Jane Lovell Brothers, who ran the Welcome Corner Drug Store Café in nearby Bell Buckle.
After getting numerous story ideas from Jane at the Welcome Corner, I finally took her up on repeated invitations to attend her little New Hope Baptist Church in the unincorporated Fairfield community.
The church cemetery has graves dating back to the 1700s, including two graves of soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War.
It was a cold and dreary winter day, when they stopped the church service as I tried to slip unnoticed into the back pew.
"We've got a visitor this morning," confirmed the man in front of the pulpit who turned out to be Jane's husband, Clyde. "I think we all ought to go back and shake our visitors' hand ..."
"That's Dan Whittle, the writer from Nashville," Jane instructed.
I was embarrassed that my presence stopped an entire church service, as I shook hands with the entire congregation that included Jane and Clyde's three daughters Karon, Judy and Lydia, along with talented brick mason Coleman Brandon and wife Margaret, a sister to Jane.
That was in September 1971, around the time I did the story about Tony Parker's talented father.
When Jane and Clyde invited me to stick my feet under their Thanksgiving Day feast table in 1971, I took them up on the offer.
It turned out to be a bountiful meal that included meeting Jane and Clyde's extended family, including farm neighbor Kenneth Phillips Sr. and his children, Kenny Jr., Eloise, Billy and Lorraine.
But, why would the Brothers' family adopt a stranger from Missouri into their trusted inner-family?
A family member called me aside one today to share: "You're good for Jane and her family, because your personality reminds them of her brother, Jerry Lovell, who was killed in Vietnam."
Good story ideas tend to germinate other good stories, as evidenced in a 1972 Thanksgiving Day community-hog killing story on the Phillips' farm where I met Lack Buckingham, a sought-after artist with a butcher knife on area hog killing days in the Beech Grove area.
As it turned out, Mr. Buckingham was a relative to Robert Churchwell, the famous first black reporter who worked at the Nashville Banner.
"For years, it's been a family tradition that I drive each Sunday morning to the 'Bottoms' in Bell Buckle, and pick up Lack Buckingham to attend Bell Buckle's First United Methodist Church with me," farmer Phillips shared.
It was a "25-cent" clip job that first brought me to Woodbury back in 1971.
Each month, Clyde Brothers and I would visit Elmore's Country Store in Beech Grove, before motoring on Saturday mornings over to Woodbury for a 25-cent hair cut in barber Jim Borren's ancient barber shop that sat in the shadow of old Good Samaritan Hospital.
I eventually did a story in the Banner about the locally-famous barber, who charged a quarter for a haircut, and he gave a nickel of that back to child customers.
It stunned the region when someone brutally beat the elderly barber to death late one night in 1984.
"The barber shop never reopened," recalls former Cannon Courier Publisher/Editor Andy Bryson. "My brother Hayden purchased and still has Jim Borren's ancient barber chair."
A lot of water has passed over the dam at the old Fairfield Mill across Garrison Creek that runs through the heart of Beech Grove.
Although Jane and Clyde are gone now, along with oldest daughter Karon, the former post master at Beech Grove, they live on in my heart as Thanksgiving Day 2015 comes and goes.
Thanks to Tony Parker for opening up a whole keg of cherished Thanksgiving Day memories from 1971, when beloved friends Jane and Clyde Brothers opened their home and hearts to a stranger from Missouri.
Their kindness welcomed me to Tennessee.