Obion Memories

Jane Powell (the first County-Coordinator for Obion County, TNGenWeb) emailed the email-list in March 2004 with the following post and got such a positive response from the other list-members that she created a web-page with all of their posts.

I think it’s a fantastic way of sharing the memories of Obion County and if you want to “Leave A Reply” with your thoughts and memories of Obion County, please feel free to do so (scroll down to the bottom of this webpage).

From: “Jane Powell” March 09, 2004 8:05 PM
I had a chance memory this morning while ironing and listening to Jackson radio talk station host, Bill Way, relate tales about Sheriff Pusser and things that went on at the state line some years back. Bill was a Commercial Appeal reporter and covered all the events in McNairy County first hand.

And I remembered something that probably happened in the summer of 1936 in Obion County … Momma and my step-daddy and I went to a place between Troy and Obion on the right hand side of the road that looked like a house from the outside, but inside people were laughing and dancing and drinking something that I didn’t know what it was. Everyone was having so much fun and it was so different from the music and singing I heard at church. (for you kids, this was before radio and TV).

It was all so different and I think the place was called the “Big Apple” or they were dancing the “Big Apple.”  Internet research confirmed that sure ’nuff the dance, The Big Apple, supposedly began in NY city in 1936.  Sonny Watson’s website gives a different take.

Most people think of New York when they hear the name, but the Big Apple actually originated at the “Big Apple Night Club” in the Palmetto state of Columbia, SC around 1936. The night club was actually a abandoned African-American church converted into a nightclub. The club used a “Nickelodeon” for its music and had a balcony around the floor.

I’m fairly confident that the Obion County “Big Apple” was a bootlegging place, leading me to wonder again if Daddy had run whiskey from NC or the mountains of E. TN because he told a tale about hearing a panther while stopped in the mountains to put water in the radiator. Said he jumped in the car/truck/or whatever and took off fast as he could.

I wish I knew all that went on. To me, it doesn’t make the people and Daddy worse, it just makes everything more human, and makes more sense about a lot of things that went on during the depression. I hope all our memories don’t die with us.

From: “Jim Rodgers” Tuesday, March 09, 2004 9:52 PM
Jane, Yes you are right, I know the place you are talking about and it was called “The Big Apple.” It was on a hill in a bungalow house and had a ditch in front of it that grew cat tails in the summer. That was before my day but I remember my daddy pointing it out and as I remember he had a grin on his face. I wonder why.

From “Sylvia Fleming” Wednesday, March 10, 2004 10:02 AM
Hi Jane, Thank you for posting your memory. I forwarded on to my Dad, who grew up around those parts and asked him if it brought back any memories. The following is his reply:

Hi Syl; Yes it did bring back a host of memories. The Obion River is where my Dad had his roadhouse [called a pig stand in those days]. That is where my Dad captured the wild lynx cat that we had for years. That is the place where I saw my Dad run a deputy Sheriff out of the pig stand with a  44 pistol in his hand. He told the man if he didn’t have a warrant he was not searching the place. Yes a lot of memories. love you >>>>>DAD

My Dad is Ed Chilton, his father was John Chilton.
Thanks again, Sylvia Fleming, Phoenix, AZ

From “Rebecca Smith” March 11, 2004
Big Apple Story & Memories Lost & Found
Hi, Jane — I want to thank you for sharing your “Big Apple” story.  I agree with your statement:

“I wish I knew all that went on. To me, it doesn’t make the people and Daddy worse, it just makes everything more human, and makes more sense about a lot of things that went on during the depression.  I hope all our memories don’t die with us.”

Sometimes we tend to put off recording the stories we remember and I know I’ve “lost” some of them. At the time my grandmother told me, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t remember every word.  But words and facts fade from our memories eventually and if we haven’t written them they can be lost forever. When that happens a certain richness of our history is lost or at least diminished.

I hope we’ll all make a renewed effort to talk to our own families AND to write what we remember, including our thoughts and feelings about various things both large and small.  Will some future family genealogist or historian care that ggg grandmother Becky had three dogs and an 18 year old cat that she loved and want to know their names?

Will someone enjoy knowing how I love the beauty of the snow-white plum tree in full bloom in the spring of 2004?  Will they be happy to know that even now I care about them, those future family members I’ll never know personally?  Maybe not.

But I know that I would love to know those things about any one of my ggg grandmothers so maybe they will, too.

Each one of us has lived through some historically important and pivotal times the past few years and I think that our descendants, at least some of them, would be interested in knowing how those events have affected  us and how we felt about them.

Right now we still use tape players and CDs but it may be that those will be replaced and forgotten as technology advances and information on our tapes and CDs could become inaccessible. I know paper can crumble, but if it’s protected, printed information may be accessible to more descendants for a longer time than methods which require equipment of various kinds to read it. It’s wonderful to have the information on the computer but at least for the most important information and family stories and legends, I think we need to print it as well and while we’re alive pass it along to as many family members as possible.

Also, sometimes we forget that our own lives will be family history to to a later genealogist or family historian — we can make their research much, much easier by including our own personal life history with the family research.  Often, the more recent information is harder to obtain than information farther back.  Our lives will one day be as important to our descendants as our ancestors lives are to us today.  It could also be helpful to include illnesses and causes of death to begin building a family health history.

I didn’t mean to rattle on this long so I will stop before I think of anything else.  I wish each you a day as beautiful as this spring day in the Texas Hill Country!

From “Cecil Irvin”
Subject: the big apple nightclub in obion
Date: Friday, January 21, 2005 12:03 AM
i’ve really enjoyed your websites on the history of obion. tonight, i ran across a discussion of ‘the big apple’ nighclub on the site. let me tell you what i know of it. according to the stories i’ve heard, it was owned by my great, great uncle, tench carson wilson, also known as ‘uncle pink’.

uncle pink was a gambler. he also owned the theater and several other buildings in obion.

tench carson wilson was the brother of my great grandfather, alphonso wilson, who married inez (nezzie) wilson. alphonso and pink were sons of of wm “uncle billy” wilson, the founder of obion. nezzie wilson’s family founded hornbeak, which as you know was orginally named wilsonville.

nezzie’s parents (henry m. “pappy henny” wilson) operated the original wilson hotel in obion. when it burned, alphonso and nezzie took the hotel guests into their grand obion home and that was the beginning of the second wilson hotel, known as the A. wilson hotel.

i began researching my obion roots last year and have found a great deal of information. additionally, i have collected and organized the memories of my mother from her summer visits to obion as a child in the 1930s.

thanks again for your great site.
cecil irvin, nashville

From “Billy Maynard”   “Little Places Beside The Road”
I can remember as a kid when there was a place on 45E just out of S. Fulton toward Martin, TN called Doc Nanney Pig Stand.  I do not know why it had the name but it was one of those places like the Big Apple.  On a Sat. night there would be cars lined up on the road on both sides.  The places did a landslide business.  There was also one between Troy and Union City on Old Troy Highway.  I do not know the name of it.

From “rudy burd” March 11, 2004 2:48
Anyone remember the “Little Breezy” just South of S Fulton on 51? It was just an old fashioned red neck beer joint. Ha.  Also, just a bit further down the road a drive inn where lots of teenagers hung out called “The Southland”, or was it “The Dixie”? Can’t remember now.

From “Martha L” April 15, 2004
I am the daughter of Mr. Owens that built the Little Breezy, it was a family restaurant and began as one room with about 4 stools and a short counter. It was also the first place in the area to have curb service. We had gone to Mich. on vacation and had seen some places that had curb service, my dad worked at “baby shoe factory” in Union City and built that small place for my mother to run. But the business grew so fast he had to quit the factory to help run it. He had an agreement with the neighbors that there would be NO alcoholic beverages sold there, but they moved away and after he sold it around 1958, the new owners started selling beer and from there on it became a dive. Enjoyed your stories very much.

From “Sharon Cunningham” March 11, 2004
That place was the Southway on Hwy 51 btw. Union City and Fulton … and, even though it was a place teens hung out, I was forbidden to go there … go figger.  My Dad was one of those who “knew what went on in all those places…” and if I had just had the guts to ask, probably would have told me!

Our favorite place to hang was The Round House at Blue Bank on Reelfoot Lake. It’s still there, but no kids, no music, no dancing …. (sigh)

From “rudy burd” March 11, 2004 5:42 PM
Thanks Joe, I recall a couple more of those places that you mention but no where near all of them. I was raised over in Graves County but had lots of ancestors who had lived in Obion County. I made it a regular ritual from my  home over in Graves County (West of Mayfield) for 25 years or more, to drive down to the “Keg” at Fulton, to chat with Mr. Sherman, the old black gentleman that worked there far longer than I can remember, and have ribs. Mr Sherman was a friend of my father and a fine gentleman. He must have  worked at the Keg for 50 years or more. Seems like the college kids from  Martin finally took it over. Rudy. PS: Did you ever play in Cairo?

Quoting “Joe W. Stout”
The “Little Breezy” was run by Billy VanHoy. He had an old house next door  he turned into a dance hall. We played there in 1966/67.
I’ll see how many I can recall in the Northwest TN area:

  • Bogota, near Kenton in the 1940’s
  • Hop-In, on the Obion/Weakley line, 1950’s
  • Red’s, The Lake Club, Samburg, 1960’s/70’s, Original Red’s burned in late 60’s and a new one built which mysteriously blew up.
  • Cellar Lounge and Ray’s Lounge, South Fulton, 1960’s/70’s
  • Shady Rest, south of Trimble, 1960’s/70’s
  • The Golden Eagle/Yellow Dog, Betty’s, Chic Club, near Milan, 1930’s/40’s/50’s
  • Mullins Club, Western Corral, Greenfield, 1940’s/50’s/60’s/70’s80’s/90’s
  • Greenfield Drive In, Greenfield, 1940’s/50’s/60’s then rebuilt as Stardust, Greenfield, 1970’s
  • The Triple Club, Cotton Club, Big Apple, Puryear, 1950’/60’s/70’s/80’s
  • Rainbow Inn, Paris, 1960’s/70’s
  • Duke’s Drive In, Doyle Reed’s, Dyersburg, 1960’s/70’s
  • Oasis, 3 Way, Huntingdon, 1960’s/70’s
  • Rainbow Club, Dresden, 1940’s/50’s
  • Strata Club, 45 Drive In, Martin, 1940’s/50’s
  • 22 Club, Martin, 1930’s to current date
  • Last but not least the Infamous “Maggie Lee’s” in Martin, that Maggie and I operated and played music from 1973 to 1992

I have several stories about growing up in the 1930’s and 40’s along with stories that have been told and retold about lovable characters on my website. Also our biography originally on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website.

Joe Stout

From “Dennis in UC™” March 11, 2004 5:45 PM
The Shady Rest cafe is still down there outside of Trimble. My favorite hang-out was Wiley Barnes Truck Stop in Troy. The building is still there, and the Greyhound Bus Station, American Legion, and Strand Theatre in Obion. Dennis in Union City©

From “Dotti” Friday, March 12, 2004
The Little Breezy between So. Fulton and Union City was built by a Mr. Owens. He bought the house in about ’45 or ’46 and built the restaurant.  He and his family were living in the house until about ’54 or so.  I remember since we lived in the house when it was sold to Mr. Owens and I was in the class with his daughter in school. In So. Fulton in the ’50s, it was Ray’s Drive In with the best Bar-b-cue in the area.  It was a hangout for kids mostly but everyone went there for the bar-b-cue, the best in the area.  Don’t know when it became Ray’s Lounge.  Dotti

From “Jane Powell” I thought Fulton, or South Fulton was the place everyone went to get married. There was a “marrying judge” or someone of the sort who preformed thousands of marriage ceremonies.

From “Dotti” That was “Squire McDade”. He lived on the State Line Rd as you left So. Fulton toward Dukedom.  He used to sit outside the Elks or Moose Lodge, forget which, in later years and spoke to everyone who passed by and would often ask, “Did I marry you?”

From “Beth Kersey McDavid” March 11, 2004 7:37
There was a place about halfway between Union City & Fulton on the South side of the old road (before 51 & 45?), during prohibition, according to my Dad’s Dad, Earl Kersey.  There was a tunnel entrance from the house to the road.  You got your whisky (not that he did) at the side of the road.  The road was in a deep cut there.  There was a door in the road bank with a tunnel leading to the house.  Dad, David Kersey, said this is what he was told when he described the door to his Dad in about 1980.  The house was still there at that time & is still there now, but he thinks the road bed may have been filled in.

By the way, he said the Big Apple was a square house.  The next place towards Troy from there on the East side of the road was the Silver Dollar.  Beth Kersey McDavid

From “Helen Ferguson” Thursday, March 11, 2004
Gladdy Hollow
Here is another tale about the places by the side of the road.  When I was a little girl, my father (Jim Frank Darnall) and my uncle Wilson and aunt Martha Darnall and Susan their daughter, my favorite cousin, all went down to Gladdy Hollow to fish. When we came out of the hills there in front of us was a little place by the road called The Lyons Den. Daddy suggested that he and uncle Wilson go in and see if anyone was there, then if not, we could go in and all get a cold drink.  No one was except the man that ran the place and he happened to be distantly related to us.  So they sit down to talk and Susan and I stood at the door looking out at the highway and just about that time my Uncle Len and aunt Cap from Tiptonville came by going to see my grandmother, Susie Mai Darnall at Hornbeak.  Well, guess who they saw standing in the door?  When they got to Hornbeak they were beside themselves. Asking my grandmother why Susan and I were at the Lyons Den. It was funny to us but not to Uncle Len and Aunt Cap.

From “Sharon C” March 13, 2004 9:22 AM
Hi, Joe Stout!
I remember some of those places you mentioned…have even been there after I married…especially Maggie Lee’s. You mentioned Red’s Place and The Lake Club in Samburg … I grew up there, and as I stated in a previous post, was forbidden to enter! My Dad sometimes worked as a bartender in Red’s when it was hanging out over the Lake, so, as I also stated, he would know about the places I was not allowed to visit.

The Round House at Blue Bank was NOT a night club or honkey-tonk, but an open air, round, what is known to day as a covered picnic area…concrete floor, etc., on State Property, so … no booze allowed. It was just for the kids, actually, and was a place where we came from several counties around to dance to jukebox music and have a good time.

There was a refreshment area at the back, run by Mr. & Mrs. Jimerson from Ridgley, TN. They kept a pretty tight rein on the place, and it was always a safe and happy place to congregate on a summer evening. Too bad there aren’t places like this these days for the young’uns to have good, clean fun.

From “Jerry Dalton Shelby” March 31, 2004
Hello Jane, sorry I did not get involved with the past memories of Obion County messages that were going on just within the last weeks. We had our 2nd. annual “Shelby” family reunion at Reelfoot Lake’s Ellington Hall on this last March 6th and all I can say is, that it was truly a blessing. Most of my family was born and raised in Obion (Rives), Dyer & Lake County so this seemed to be the most logical place to have our reunion. Anyone raised near Reelfoot Lake should have lots of good stories & memories to tell about. I would recommend to anyone that is planning a family reunion in this area to checkout Reelfoot Lake’s Ellington Hall. The facilities were great and there was such a variety of things to do for the young children and even the older children.

We also celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of Sammie Dee (Shaw) & Taylor Pleasant Shelby of Braggs City Missouri. Sammie was born in Troy & Taylor was born in Rives Tennessee.

Getting back to those memories, I have copied each of those Obion County memory messages and mailed them to my Uncle Taylor Pleasant Shelby in Missouri and he could remember most all of the places that were mentioned. He also had some other memories that I would like to relay (share) that some of those on the mailing list may remember also.

They have shared such great memories of their childhood in Obion County dating back to the early 1930’s. Taylor has told me so many good stories of a Doctor Callicott riding in his horse & buggy going house to house delivering babies (to whom he always gave his middle name of “Pleasant”) & helping those that were sick. Also of a Cauthren Varner the Rives Pharmacist, both of these men helped the families there to survive during the depression years. They lived in what was called the “bottom” just east of the Rives Post Office near the river. When the river got out of it’s banks they had to paddle by boat to their grand parents house (John B. & Jemima Francis Shelby) up the hill towards Stovall cemetery to get water. Uncle Taylor’s momma (Josie) sent him up the hill once to get some Muscatine’s from the vines at the Stovall cemetery to make some jelly (he has got a cutting from those vines now in his back yard in Missouri) . Another story of a dare once from his buddies, that he was too scared to go up to the Stovall cemetery after dark and place the buddies box knife in a tree. If he did he could have the knife, it was a hard thing for him to do but, he sure got a lot of joy from that ole box knife. Once my Uncle Taylor’s brother Alton jumped a box car at Rives and ended up in Mobile Alabama. These old memories happened during a very hard time in our countries history but can be most precious of all. Thanks for allowing me to ramble on & share some of my families memories of Obion County.

From “Martha L” April 18, 2004
There was another place beside the road, but wasn’t there for very long, must have been in the late 40’s. Was Toy Dunn’s place, just off the Ken Tn. road down another road about 1/4 mile, I don’t know the name of it, but its almost across from the trailer park there, and there is a house still there where they lived.

I remember one sun. we ran out of bread at the Breezy, at that time all the stores were closed on sun. I rode with my dad down there to buy some bread from Mr. Dunn.

There was also a place on Ken-Tenn. that had a cider mill, that is where my dad bought Cider to serve at the Breezy. A wholesale Flower shop, owned by the Cardwell’s that later it became a discount shoe place, also on Ken-Tenn was about 2 or 3 mi. from Fulton.

It depended on where you lived the now Ken-Tenn hwy. was called the Union City Hwy. if you lived in Fulton, and was called Fulton Hwy. if you lived in Union City. When I married and moved to Union City, I didn’t know what to call it, the best I can remember wherever I was I would call it accordingly.
Enjoy your memories page.
Martha L.

From “Joe Sullivan” June 24, 2005 6:21 PM
I have really enjoyed reading Obion Memories. When I was in grammar school my father Edd L. Sullivan owned the DX Service Station in the town of Obion about 1948 or 1950. During that time there was a “beer joint” called the “Little Victory” across from the gym. Of course I was not allowed to enter the establishment but remember vaguely some of the stories about the goins ons.


Obion Memories — 1 Comment

  1. Can anyone tell me if there was a skating rink or something similar that was owned by a Harris family in Union City around 1940ish?

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