Jim Jewell: It was a lovely little town

I intended to write about automobiles again, but decided that topic needed a rest.
Aug 26, 2014
Jim Jewell


I intended to write about automobiles again, but decided that topic needed a rest.

Besides, I became nostalgic when my life took another turn. On Tuesday, I retired from Pacific Tugboat Service. It has been a good run. I loved going down to that old pier, arriving before “crew-on,” when it’s time for the captain and his crew to board their boat for an early morning task. The bay bridge lights arch underneath the stars as those stars begin to fade with first light. Walking down that pier, especially at low tide when egrets and great blue herons can often be seen working the shore line, makes me feel alive.

Work was becoming more of a grind than pleasure. Pacific Tug may call me to assist in special, time-sensitive projects, but essentially, I am retired. It is time. 

In the past year, our family and Lebanon lost Jimmy Jewell and Estelle Jewell. Their departure has changed our game plan. We were lucky to have had them into their late 90s, relatively healthy and of good mind. They were a joy, but they were ready to go. They had made their peace with their Lord. And we must move on. 

I am 70. My sister, Martha Duff, has noted, I have some of my father in me. It is not likely I will ever stop working. For now, I will continue to write this column and try to give you readers something to think about, something to reflect upon.

Saturday in the early evening, we drove to dinner in La Mesa, a community on the eastern edge of San Diego. The 125/94 freeways are the primary corridor from our home to the eastern edge. The route is dominated by Mount San Miguel, a sentinel looming over the landscape like a feudal overseer. This time of year, Mount San Miguel is brown, folds of brown hues wandering up to the top where man’s need to communicate is symbolized by a collection of antennae, standing like guardians of the Southwest corner.

Mount San Miguel is not a super high peak but it dominates the vista. I imagine the ancient Kumeyaay climbing up to the zenith and sending smoke signals: a bit far-fetched, but a satisfying thought to me. One of my better poems is about Mount San Miguel. On Saturday’s drive, I became nostalgic thinking about how things used to be in the Southwest corner.

Of course, I translated that to how things used to be back home.

As with most of the world, Lebanon has grown. There is a certain civic pride in the population increase and the expansion of homes and businesses. Financially, this is good, if not necessary for the tax base and continued improvements in the quality of living.

But I come from a different place.

I was born in a country town, a county seat with a majestic old yellow-painted courthouse lording over the center of activity called the square where we went to get almost everything…except antiques. The only antiques I knew growing up were family hand-me-downs.

The four arteries out of the square were two-lanes. South Cumberland ended in a ford. Murfreesboro Pike was a hilly road extending from South Maple.

West Main was mostly majestic homes lining the two-lanes out to Johnson’s Dairy, or thereabouts, when the world as I knew it turned to country.

Castle Heights was a conglomeration of old buildings with beautiful architecture and sprawling grounds of athletic fields, drill fields, and a nine-hole golf course with brown dirt (or sand) greens.

Of course, it changed. Four lanes became de rigueur for the arteries. West End Heights was the new development for people moving up in the world. Commerce rolled in with Lux Clock, Precision Rubber, TRW, Texas Boot and others.

Until I left, we walked to school. Newsboys delivered The Tennessean in the morning and The Banner in the afternoon on bicycles. Boys in grey uniforms marched to church on Sunday morning, and wandered down to the movies on Wednesday afternoon. We never locked our cars and only locked our home at night when we went to bed.

There is no photograph with this column. The pictures are in my mind.

I think Lebanon is doing pretty well compared to most towns. But to be truthful, I miss my old home.

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 jim@jimjewwell.com.


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