Charlie Tatum was holding court at Frankie's Cafe in Lebanon on Monday morning fielding greetings from patrons and treating everyone to his lively sense of humor.
Tatum recently turned 93 years young at the cafe where the event was celebrated by the regulars. Monday, Tatum was joined by his daughters, Charlene Ballinger and Linda Thompson, as he answered questions.
"They had a big cake for me on my birthday," he said. "It was a surprise."
Lisa Stafford of Frankie's Cafe said Tatum is her favorite customer. She was responsible for the birthday cake.
"It was a Sesame Street cake," she said.
He said the cafe is more to him than just a place to eat, its a place where everybody knows his name.
"I have more fun right here," Tatum said. "This is my social life."
Tatum reminisced about his late wife and all the years they had come to Frankie's. He said they would always come through the door and yell out "one bacon biscuit and one tater biscuit," their usual order.
"Now I just eat oats," he said with a touch of disgust in his voice. "It's mule food."
Tatum poured a bit of his coffee into his saucer and drank it without spilling a drop.
"This is the only place they let me have a saucer for my coffee," he said.
Tatum is a mainstay in Lebanon. He said he was 4-F during World War II, but he did his part for the war effort by working at the Lebanon Wool Mill where he saw his salary "shoot up" from 25 cents per hour to 45 cents per hour during the war.
In addition to his two daughters, Tatum has a son. All three of his children live close to him, including Ballinger who lives next door. With her close by, Tatum is still able to live on his own.
"They take care of me," he said. "I'm well cared for."
Tatum attends Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon and he said he sometimes accompanies his minister on outings to visit children. For those occasions, Tatum whips out his vibrating Ernie doll and a stuffed dog that rolls over with a contagious laugh. He demonstrated both at the cafe Monday morning. Also in his bag of tricks attached to his walker, Tatum has a compass.
"[It's] so I can tell which way is home," he said.
Tatum is quick to hand out two business cards. One says "It's all about Jesus" and includes his phone number. The other card is a "free hug coupon" with his name and phone number and comes with a reminder the card is "reusable and does not expire."
"I used to be called the town rascal; now I'm the town clown," he said.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.