Things change, some for the better

In case you haven’t noticed, a great deal of these columns dwell on change.
Dec 17, 2013


In case you haven’t noticed, a great deal of these columns dwell on change. 

Change was central to the idea I pitched for “Notes from the Southwest Corner” to Amelia Hipps when she was editor of The Democrat more than six years ago. The pitch was I had a different perspective about our home town compared to most folks. I grew up when Lebanon was a small town with a military academy. But the town changed, and I changed. Spending a brief stint as a sports editor in upstate New York, more than 22 years fooling with the Navy, living in a dozen places, seeing most of the world (from a haze grey ship of one kind or the other), and settling in the starkly different Southwest corner gave me a different view of Lebanon. And it wasn’t all that bad.

Amelia bought what I was selling. She thought my recalling Lebanon of my youth comparing it to current times, Navy life, and especially life in the Southwest corner would be a good read for Democrat readers. So the column was born and I have been writing about change and differences here weekly since 2008.

Change is a good thing to write about. The story lines are limitless. After all, there is always change. 

I think the worse thing about change is that we have this terrible habit of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” The explosion of mass communication has homogenized our country and the world. For the most part, this is a good thing.

But there are things I miss.

For example, when I grew up, we could tell where someone was from by the way they talked. And I’m not talking about North or South. I’m talking about Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee, West Tennessee, Atlanta, South Georgia, Boston, New York, Minnesota, and on and on. We had the dialect, the phraseology, the accent of where we grew up. 

These regional dialects are not gone but they are fading fast. I miss them.

When I grew up in Lebanon, we had family restaurants, soda shops, and hamburger places. They all mostly dry (at least those on the up and up were). I drank my first legal beer at Winfree’s sometime around 1965.

I think there was one Mexican restaurant in Nashville in the mid-1960s. I never went there because friends who did didn’t recommend it. My Mexican food came from Virginia Harding. George, Henry, Beetle and I would scarf down a rather astounding amount of tacos and chile rellenos Mrs. Harding would cook up every so often. I think she brought most of the fixings back from their trips to see family in New Mexico.

I don’t recall any fast food places as we know them today. 

Almost everywhere has Mexican, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisines. Lebanon is no exception. I’m glad I have those available, but I miss my hamburgers at Maple Hill and my suicide cokes at Shannon’s.

I also miss watching the Castle Heights cadets marching to church on Sunday. There was some sense of rightness about those junior school and high school boys in the grey uniforms marching down West Main in the morning. At the old First Methodist Church, they would file in to the sanctuary and up the stairs, filling up the balcony.

It was a fine show.

In keeping with the season, many folks have artificial Christmas trees nowadays. Nearly all others are bought from a stock of trees. I liked to cut our own from our great uncle’s farm on Hickory Ridge. And as pretty and exciting as all those house decorations are, I miss the holly wreaths hanging on the front door.

I hope to see many of you at Sammy B’s Friday. I’ll be there from 4-7 p.m. I will have a limited number of my book, “A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems.” I will be pleased to sign them if you purchase one or bring a copy you already have.

Come to think of it, that’s a pretty big change for me, signing my books in Lebanon. While living there from World War II to 1967, I would have never imagined I would write a book. Of course, when I left for the Navy that September, I did not imagine I wouldn’t come back home to live.

Yep, things change.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is


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