Last week with mixed feelings, I watched the soap opera called Vanderbilt football from the Southwest corner.
While watching, I remarked how sad it was for college football to keep repeating itself.
I am sad James Franklin left Vanderbilt for the Penn State head coaching position. I am sad that he misled us all with a grand façade of loyalty gone north…all the way to Pennsylvania. I am not sad at what he left behind. As noted, Vanderbilt football is in a significantly better place than it was three years ago because of Franklin. It is time for the next chapter.
Mostly, I am sad that college football coaching (and basketball) has become more about the coaches’ egos and their salaries than about the teams. It’s been going on for a long time. Red Sanders left Vandy in 1948 and turned UCLA into a national power house.
It is now out of hand. I think any college athletic coach who makes more than a million a year, should give back everything over a million to scholarships for non-athletes. That, I’ll guarantee, won’t happen. And that’s enough about football for now.
Jim Leftwich and I have been exchanging emails between Starkville, Miss. and the Southwest corner again. Since memories of Lebanon are an essential part of this column, here are excerpts from what Jim sent me, a classic Jim’s dad, J.B. Leftwich wrote in 1966 after walking two miles one Sunday from his home on Castle Heights Avenue to the Methodist Church, then on East Main Street.
“Along Castle Heights Ave. (formerly Southern Heights or Rte. 5…), I walked…by Bennett's Market (formerly Thorne's Store) and along Leeville Road (formerly Tucker's Gap Road or the old railroad)…Thence to South Greenwood. You discover streets that you have known for years now have names you didn't know about and you are glad the city erected markers.
“Along the Cumberland College (formerly Cumberland University) campus. You remember college friends, some now deceased, and teachers such as Mrs. Y.P. Wooten and Miss Mabel Hones who were dedicated to cramming craniums with knowledge…Down University Ave. and on to South Cumberland…
“To the corner of Gay and South Cumberland. You glance at the old Democrat Building (now a salvage store) and remember John and Bob Spears, and Mike Hibbitt and Howard Kirby, once so important to the paper, now gone…
“By the jail, soon to yield to progress. You remember Miss Mary Hamilton, a CORE [Congress of Racial Equity] leader, jailed during a demonstration here. "That's the worst jail I have ever seen - and I've been in a lot of them," she said…In front of the Dollar Store (once the Princess Theater). You remember Clark Gable in "Gone With the Wind" and Gable and Laughton in "Mutiny on the Bounty." But most of all you remember Mr. John (John Hatcher Sr.) who once gave you a $20 bonus for some work you had done - at a time when $20 was like a fortune…
“By the courthouse, a relic of the past which soon will yield to a modern, functional building and by the Lebanon Bank Branch Office (formerly the main office formerly the Lebanon Bank and Trust Co.)…
“In front of Shannon's (formerly J.L. Shannon and Sons) now a bright, modern drug store but once a colorful gathering place of business and professional men where Homer stood in the open doorway with hand extended and where Big Mister held court during the World Series, which his Yankees usually won…
“By the post office, (soon to move into new quarters) and thence to the Methodist Church building (soon to become a part of the Hankins and Smith complex.)
“I walked for 30 minutes – and relived a quarter of a century.”
I have walked most of those streets myself in the past several years. I certainly had driven on all of them while on my frequent memory drives, but probably not J.B.’s route. His walk was the year before I packed up for the Navy and parts then unknown without any hint of the Southwest corner becoming my home port.
I wish J.B. and I could take that walk together now and note the changes from 1966.