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Sulphur Dell, the "Goat Man," the Roxy, and Other Nashville Memories

A Reminiscence by Larry D. McClanahan

As a 1956 graduate of Gallatin High School who lived in Nashville from age two to eleven, I was raised on Krystals ( I had one this afternoon!) and Krispy Kreme doughnuts sold in a shop where the Estes Kefauver Federal Building now stands. I loved the balcony dinette at the Woolworths on 5th Avenue. Their ham sandwiches on grilled toast were never excelled anywhere else.

Sulphur_Dell_insideI remember street car rides, the old car barn where the Municipal Auditorium now stands, the peddlers' carts and horses stabled there after the street cars left. I also remember Gilbert's Men's Clothing Store on the square, where the money was sent via cable car to the cashiers on the mezzanine. There my dad traded for his clothes, and my parents bought my first suit with long pants. It wasn't far from the Nashville Court House fountains, with their colored lights under the water.

Early in the morning the street peddlers loaded their carts with produce at the market that is now the Ben West Building. They spread out across town and through the residential streets where they sold ears of corn by the dozen, pole beans by the pound (weighed on a scale on the back corner of the cart), and ice-cold watermelons. They also carried bread and snacks for the kids. I can still hear the call of the drivers as they broadcast their wares.

Then there was the annual thrill of driving down to Broad and First to watch the docking of the steamboat Idlewild and hear the calliope. I always wanted to ride on the paddlewheeler but never had the chance. And, of course, I loved Sulphur Dell, where 'Bama Ray, Buster Boguski, Buckshot Tommy Brown, and Carl Sawatski thrilled us in person or through the radio voice of Larry Munson as we lay in bed on those hot summer nights with the lights out and the windows open, hoping for a breeze to calm the heat.

Sulphur_Dell_outsideThere was an occasional opportunity to see the "Goat Man" when he came through on his endless journey. He rode on a little wagon pulled by a team of goats, trailed by a dog or two and a nanny that was his milk source. It was a true wonder of the world to a youngster.

We had our movie theater, too--the Roxy in East Nashville. On Saturday at noon we rushed home, washed up, grabbed a sandwich, and took off on our bikes to get in line for the movies. Note the plural: there were two movies, three or more cartoons, and a serial starring Whip Wilson or Lash Larue, all for 10 cents. A nickel for popcorn and a nickel for a Coke sustained us for the afternoon until we could go home to reenact the roles of good guys and bad guys. There were no gray guys. We knew who was who and that the good guys always won.

Of course we all made Red Cross boxes, and collected papers and tin cans, while we took our ration books to the store to buy bread, milk, and sugar. If we lost the book, or if the store was out of what we needed, it was a long week until the next supply came. I don't know whether it is a bad thing or a good one that later generations did not experience those days, but I am glad that I did.

Our gratitude to Skip Nipper for permission to use these photos.  For a delightful jaunt into the past,
visit his wonderful website:  http://sulphurdell.com

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