Nashville History

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

“Through the Eyes of a Child”

I was trying to think of how to title this post, and these words came, “Through the Eyes of a Child.” There have been so many uses of the phrase, I was not sure how to credit it.  And then I found the lyrics to a song with the same title.  Listen to the song while you read - Through the Eyes of a Child.

I wish, for one day, I could go home.  I would walk up the front steps, and the look through the long glass panel in the door.

1017 Meridian (Metro Assessor, thanks to Tim Walker)

I open the door and step into the living room  Too early for Mama to be cooking, but I wonder what she has planned.  Maybe it will be fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread and fresh brewed tea. I walk into the next room, which doubles as a den and my bedroom.  I find Mama singing along with a Doris Day song that is playing on the radio. I sing the words with her, Que Sera, Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be....  It is so hot, on this late summer day. Window fans are running in the den and in the kitchen, mostly just stirring the warm moist air.  Time for Mama's show, "As the World Turns." 

I go out back and stand in the shade of a huge old hackberry tree.  My cousins, Linda and Eleanor and I played so many times under this tree. We would play baseball with my cousin Jerry and Marty White and other kids in the neighborhood, the Martins, the Crouches or the Cunninghams. Sometimes instead of baseball we played freeze tag, hide and seek, or some game that we made up.  We were always outside.  With no air conditioning, inside was not an option.  For our baseball games, the sewer grate, in the middle of the alley, was home plate.  First base was in my yard, second was in the alley, and third was in Mrs. Charlton's backyard.   I wish I could go running through my old neighborhood and visit my friends.

Daddy comes driving up the alley and turns into the back yard.  He takes his lunch box and big coffee thermos out of the back seat and heads into the house.

I wish I could walk down the alley and go into my grandmother's house.  She was Mama Oeser to all of her grandchildren and every child in the neighborhood.  She would have fresh baked cookies or cake or pie waiting. She had a window air conditioning unit in her den and we, Linda, Eleanor and I, would sometimes go there to cool off.  My cousins Janice and Cheryl would be there.  They stayed with Mama Oeser while their parents worked. We were never inside long.  Out in the back yard, Mama Oeser had a wonderful flower garden, with a pond, filled with big gold fish, with water lilies growing on top.  In the winter the top would freeze over.  My grandfather would break up the ice.  The goldfish stayed low and survived the cold weather.  Mama Oeser loved roses and had them everywhere, lots of varieties and colors.

Her house was fun.  She had so many things to touch and look at.  Her front bedroom was painted pink.  The furniture was painted white with rose decals.  There was a bed and a dresser and a wardrobe.  Also a little dressing table with a mirror and a bench.  The furniture was sort of dainty looking.  Mama Oeser and Papa bought the bedroom suit when they first got married.  There was a vanity set on the dresser and Avon powder and cologne, "To A Wild Rose."
The next bedroom was blue, even the phone.  It was a princess phone.  She had another princess phone in the den, it was beige.  I don't remember much about the furniture.  There was a big chifferobe with mirrored doors, probably ten feet high.  It had belonged to Papa's sister, Minnie Rogers.

If Mama gave me a quarter, I would go out back and up the alley to Red Cross Drugs to spend it.  As I walked, I would see Mrs. White out back hanging laundry on the clothes line.  Mrs. Hargis might be looking out her back door.  All along the alley, at the back of the houses, were old garages and storage buildings.  Several houses still had a trash pit at the alley where residents would burn trash before there was city trash pickup.  Sometimes when I got near the corner, I would see a box turtle in the alley.  Mrs. Sharpe (I thought her name was Mrs. Shark when I was little) lived on the corner and she had turtles in her back yard.  I don't know why, just remember they came from there.  Her yard was sort of overgrown as I remember. A couple of times I carried one home but Daddy made me take it back.

I had to cross Vaughn St. to continue. It was not a busy street and usually there were no cars in sight.  There were houses on the Meridian St. side of the alley for most of the block until I came to Meridian Street Methodist Church.  The red brick church had some sort of bays at the back that were open and there were always pigeons roosting in there.  Their cooing made a weird echoing sound, and the slapping sound of their wings was loud and I was always afraid and ran until I was past the church to Cleveland St.  I crossed Cleveland which was a little busier than Vaughn St. and go on up to the end of  alley and the drugstore on Wilburn Street.

Metro Assessor Office (thanks to Tim Walker)

A quarter would buy a comic book, a candy bar and a coke.  Next to the Red Cross drugstore was Jacobs.  It was a dry goods store and sometimes I would go in and look around.  If I had extra money, I would sometimes buy something.  I remember getting flip flops there.  Just across the alley from Red Cross was the old Roxy Theater building.  It was closed by the time I was old enough to walk that far from home.  (Except for the time when I was about 4 and I took my cousins, without permission, on an adventure to find Mickey Mouse.) There was a coin laundry in the lobby area and a church was using the theater auditorium.

How much fun it would be to walk through Glenn Elementary School and stop in each classroom and watch the teacher and the children as they go about their day. I would stop by the library, where there were so many books, I wanted to stay forever. The wide hallways with beautiful wood floors always seemed warm and safe.  Down to the cafeteria, vegetable soup and hot dog day, always smelled so good.  Out to the school yard and the swings where we all tried to swing higher than anyone else, pumping our little legs and soaring through the air.

Most kids I knew got new clothes for school every year.  Mama and I would go to town on the bus and shop at Harvey's and sometimes Castner's or Cain-Sloan.  I usually got three maybe four new dresses.  Girls were not allowed to wear pants to school.   I don't think I was the only girl at school who had to come home and change before going out to play so the dress could be worn another time before it was washed.  I would get a new pair of shoes, sometimes two pair if I needed dress shoes.  One year my Uncle Jimmy and his wife Doris bought me a new coat.  Financially, times were difficult at our house.  My daddy had lost his long time job because the company closed.  It was a long time before he found a decent job again and it did not compare with the one lost.  He always worked but it was often for little money.  To be honest, I really didn't know then, how bad things were.  I did appreciate that new coat, though.

Washing clothes! Oh if kids today only knew.  At our house wash day started early, as soon as Mama got Daddy off to work and out of the house.  We had a wringer washer and she had to use the bath tub as a rinse tub.

Mama would pull the washer near the bathroom door and fill it with hot water and add powdered tide.  White clothes always went first. If there were a lot clothes the water would be changed but usually one tub of water did all the clothes.  Load the clothes into the hot water, let the machine agitate for awhile.  Then run each piece of clothing through the wringer and place it in the tub.  The machine I remember most was electric but the older ones had to be agitated by hand and the wringer had a handle that was turned to wring the clothes.  Ours had a motor that turned the wringers as clothing was fed through.  After the clothing was rinsed in the clean water, it went back through the wringer again and into a basket.  Then out to the clothes lines.  We had five or six lines strung between metal "T" poles that had been secured into the ground with concrete, so the weight of the wet clothes would not pull them down.

Once I was tall enough I helped hang the clothes.  Mama wouldn't let me use the wringer.  She got her hand caught in one and was afraid I would get hurt.  We had a lot of people in our house at times and a lot clothes.  By the time enough had been washed that all the lines were full, usually the first clothes hung, had dried and were taken down to make room for the next load.  In the summer my sister Ann and I were always home to help but once school started Mama was on her own.  It was an all day job and Mama washed the clothes and hung them out year round.  Rainy days would delay wash day and in the winter she sometimes had to wait for the warmer days.  I do remember when clothes froze on the lines, but they seemed to dry anyway.  When I was about 10, I think, an automatic coin laundry opened in the old Roxy theater.  By then my sister was married and she would bring her laundry and we would take Mama's and go there to wash clothes in bad weather.  Mama still washed and hung the clothes in good weather until she moved from Meridian in 1972. And next came ironing day!

I wish I could visit the neighborhood pharmacy, grocery, diner, cafe, dime store, these places of my youth.  But I am getting old and the children I knew are growing old as well.  Most of the adults in my life back then, are gone.  The houses and buildings are gone or changed. I have lived many more years away from that old neighborhood than in it. For most of us, our childhood was our "good old days,"  even when sometimes things were not so good.  We never had much money, and I really didn't know anyone who did.  Most of us have happy memories of childhood.  Even hard times are not so bad through the eyes of a child.  Lyrics to "In the Eyes of a Child."

You might also enjoy reading a similar blog page - That Old House

Friday, April 4, 2014

Henry Clay Binkley, Nashville, Tennessee

Pictures of Company B.
Nashville Banner, April 16, 1934.  
Funeral for Capt. Binkley To Be Tuesday

Forrest Cavalryman Had Enviable Career as Soldier and Citizen

Funeral services for Capt. Henry C. Binkley, 86, one of the last of Forrest’s cavalrymen, who died at his home, 902 Chickamauga Ave., Sunday, will be held from the residence Tuesday at 10 a.m. Services will be conducted by the Rev. John F. Baggett, and the Rev. T. C. Ragsdale, with burial in the family cemetery near the Hermitage.

Capt. Binkley was born and reared near Nashville, and spent his life here. He retired five years ago as assistant manager of the Security Title Company, with which he had been connected since the company organized in 1894. Survivors are a son, J. H. Binkley, and two granddaughters, Misses Gladys Ree and Mary Evelyn Binkley. Active pallbearers will be Edwin L. and S. H. Haynes, Ben Binkley, Ben J. and H. Barnett Carver, and Allen Mason. Honorary pallbearers will be members of Company B, United Confederate Veterans, and Ernest Walton, J. M. Whitsett, General Harry Rene Lee, Henry Thornton, W. W. Porter, K. T. McConnico, Carson Bradford, P. D. Houston, Paul M. Davis, J. D. Torrey, C. B. Whitworth, Sanford Duncan, George I. Waddey, John Gaffney, Jr., J. B. Daniels, R. R. McClure, W. M. Lingner, Jordan Stokes, Walter Stokes, Thomas Malone, E. B. Rucker, W. E. Norvell, Jr., S.E. Linton, W. P. Cooper, H. H. Hughes, T.G. Chase, Judge J. D. B. DeBow, Congressman Joseph W. Byrns, Mayor Hilary E. Howse, Judge Litten Hickman, James G. Stahlman, L.A. Bauman, J. W. Wagner, and Noah W. Cooper.
Enlisting at the age of 15, when the War Between the States had turned its second year, Captain Binkley served in the brigade of Col. James W. Starnes in Forrest’s division. The youth was with the remnants of Joe Johnston’s army in North Carolina just before it was captured, and then was part of the escort for Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, through North and South Carolina. At Washington, Ga., he was with the last of the gray troops to be captured and was paroled. Captain Binkley was one of the last of Forrest’s troopers. 

Captain Binkley was commander of Company B, United Confederate Veterans. He was always full of old war stories and at his desk nearly every day before his retirement, could be seen some old veteran sitting, talking over old times. He always had a happy greeting for all, a word of good cheer for every old soldier and comrade. Company B is composed of veterans of many different companies and brigades. It wears the old rebel uniform to all reunions and is in demand at many public functions. It has been through the individual efforts of Captain Binkley that this company has been able to attend the annual reunions in recent years. He took great pride in his company and in different ways provided for the transportation to and from the reunions.

One of Captain Binkley’s best adventures happened when he was a boy, scarcely fifteen years old, and before he had joined the army. He was born and reared ten miles from Nashville on the Stewart’s Ferry Pike, near the Hermitage. He was at home with his father, Joseph Binkley, in 1863. His brother, Benjamin F. Binkley, had joined the army, had become a captain, and had been in many fights.

In March, 1863, great distress prevailed in the Binkley home, for they had not heard from Ben in months. Joseph Binkley then asked his son, Henry (Captain Binkley) if he would not venture through the lines and find out about Ben, whether he was dead or alive.

On this trip Captain Binkley went through many hardships, walking most of the way. He was taken to Lebanon on a horse and from there walked to Tullahoma, where he had learned that the troops were stationed. When he reached Tullahoma he was informed that his brother had been ill and had been removed to a hospital in Rome, Ga. He then took a train to Chattanooga, and from there to Kingston, Ga., he made his way in a box car full of wounded soldiers. He walked from there to Rome. He later found his brother on the outskirts of Rome after many harrowing experiences in keeping out of the way of the Federal troops, who were in possession of the town at that time.

In 1924 Captain Binkley celebrated his golden wedding anniversary. He married Miss Ree J. McGee in Chicago on August 16, 1874. Mrs. Binkley died in 1928.

Captain Binkley was born in Davidson County November 25, 1847. He was a member of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry (Starnes) and surrendered with the latter’s command. In 1861 he joined Capt. Carroll Martin’s company, but on account of his age, 13, he was not allowed to leave. In June, 1863, he joined Capt. James Payne’s company in Morgan’s Cavalry in Wilson County. It disbanded and he was attached to Company B of the Second Kentucky battallion under Capt. J. B. Harris. In Company B of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry, he was under Col. McClemore in Dibrell’s brigade.

He took part in the Battle of Chickamauga, Rockyface Ridge, Resaca, and all of the engagements of General Wheeler’s command from Dalton, Ga., to Atlanta, and from Stone Mountain to Columbia, S.C. He was never wounded. He was paroled at Washington, Ga., on May 10, 1865