Paul said it would be like this!

September 21, 2014 at 2:57 am

My Channel 3 weather friend Paul Barys hears it everywhere he goes: in the grocery store, in the mall, on vacation, even when he goes to the mailbox.  “Paul said it would be like this!”  Here’s the promo that started it all:

I think it’s one of the most successful promo campaigns in Chattanooga TV history.  The promos aired only for a few years in the late 1980s, but they sure made an impression.  Paul joined WRCB in 1985, and was the latest in a long line of weather forecasters at the station.  John Gray held the job for 12 years before leaving in 1970, and after that nobody stayed very long.  The station used various men and women, black and white, young and not-so-young.  Some were meteorologists, others were not.  Some were hired because they were pretty or cute.  Some lasted a year, others lasted a month. One or two were quite good, others were um…not.  Then came Paul.

Paul Barys, 1987

Paul Barys, 1987

Now in his 30th year at Channel 3, the bearded weather wizard certainly knows his stuff.  But in 1985, he was just another new weather person on Channel 3, and nobody knew if the Chicago native would stay any longer than his predecessors did.  Thankfully, he fell in love with the area, and he and his wife Sarah decided it was the perfect place to raise their daughters Maggie and Jamie.

Everybody has a favorite “Paul weather story,” and I have two.  On Thursday, January 7, 1988 I had only been at Channel 3 for about three months.  Paul had predicted a significant snowfall the day before, so the station put several of us up at the Whitehall Apartments, just up the hill from the studio.  A steep hill, in fact.  The news director had asked Paul and me to come in early to handle the weather and school closings.  We got up in the wee hours of the morning and prepared to head down the hill.  Paul, who had grown up in wintry Chicago, surveyed the heavy snowfall (12 inches!), took a few steps outside, and proclaimed, “Oh, this is nothing.  This is the kind of snow you can drive in!”  I figured he must be right, so I followed him to his car.  He got behind the wheel, while I strapped in on the passenger side.  Down the hill we went, spiraling out of control, finally skidding into a ditch at the foot of the hill.  There were no injuries, except to Paul’s pride.  Needless to say, I never let him forget that.  Every time it snows, I ask him, “Is this the kind of snow you can drive in?”  He loves it when I do that.

Then on Tuesday March 9, 1993, I had just returned to the station after doing a story in Rossville.  It was almost spring, and it sure felt like it.  Sunshine and 75 degrees.  I was digging out the baseball equipment for me and my sons.  Might as well start throwing, the heat was on.  That afternoon, I was passing by Paul’s desk just before the news and said hello to him.  “Come here,” he said.  “I want you to see something.”  He showed me some computer printouts of squiggly lines on charts and maps that I couldn’t possibly understand.  “We’re going have 2o inches of snow on Saturday,” he said.  That was still four days away, and it was short-sleeve weather outside.  I patted him on the back, said something like, “Right, Paul,” and wondered if maybe he’d been staring into his computer screen too long.

You know the rest of the story.  On Saturday March 13, we woke up to a white-out: 20 inches of snow, even more in some places.  He saw it coming several days in advance, long before the days of the Viper, Doppler, and whatever else they’re using today.  To this day, people thank Paul for giving them enough notice back in 1993, so they could stock up on milk, pork and beans, and toilet paper.

But it just might have been those promo spots that put him on the map in the first place.  There were several of them, but I only have one that is YouTube quality.  It was modeled after a KNBC Los Angeles promo, but our Chattanooga versions got a lot of attention, and had enormous staying power.  I have almost 200 classic videos on my YouTube channel, and I’m adding new ones every week.  You really should subscribe, and you’ll get notified every time I add a video.  It’s easy, just click here, and then click “Subscribe.”

Now, since you’ve been kind enough to read the whole story, you get two bonus photos:  first is a 2013 photo of Paul in Shanghai, demonstrating the art of Tai Chi, plus a rare photo of Paul without the beard, prior to his arrival in Chattanooga.  Enjoy!

paul-taichipaul-young

 

 

2 days only: FREE medical, dental & vision care. I’m not kidding.

September 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I’ve heard it all my life, and I’ve said it all my life: “If it sounds too good to be true…it usually is.”  This one time, I’m not gonna say it.  It’s good, and it’s true.  Read this next line out loud, and then share with anyone who might need some help.  This Saturday and Sunday, real doctors are offering real care for your medical, dental and vision needs, absolutely free.  I know, it sounds weird.  Go back and read it again, I had to do that two or three times.

For those who prefer to cut to the chase, here’s what you need to know.  This is happening Saturday and Sunday, September 20th and 21st, very early in the morning at Ooltewah High School’s new gym, at 6123 Mountain View Road, just off exit 11 on I-75.  First come, first serve.  ***NOTICE*** If you arrive after 12 midnight either night, you may be too late!  Get there as EARLY as possible, or you may not get served that day **** Click here, and all your questions will be answered.

ram3This event is organized by Remote Area Medical (RAM) Volunteer Corps, a non-profit agency that provides free health care, performed by doctors and dentists who donate their time and services.  The group is headed up locally by Bob Nevil.  Bob works hard to make this a success, but he’s not alone.  “Our medical volunteers do this out of the generosity of their hearts,” he told me.  “This is the fifteenth clinic I’ve participated in, and doctors rarely tell me no.  They know they’re filling a need.”  He is also thankful to Ooltewah High principal Jim Jarvis, and the school’s JROTC, who will spend all day Friday setting up for the weekend.  “We’ll be in their new gym, which is air conditioned.  We want to make folks feel comfortable.”  RAM’s founder, Stan Brock will be at the site, handing out numbers in the wee hours of the morning.

What types of services are offered?  It’s quite a list:

  • DENTAL: Cleaning, Fillings, Extractions  (NO denture work, NO root canals)

  • VISION: Complete dilated eye exams, glaucoma testing, diabetic retinopathy, glasses made on site; want to save time? Bring your current eye glass prescription (within 1 year) to avoid an eye exam.

  • MEDICAL: General Medicine  (NO MRI’s)

  • PREVENTION: Breast Exams, Diabetes Screening, Physicals, Women Health

Why am I trying to get the word out?  Because the same folks did this two years ago in East Ridge, and thought they had done a good job spreading the news.  By mid-afternoon both days, the docs had to pack up and leave, because they ran out of patients.  Here’s the deal, again: they’re volunteering their services, absolutely free, two days only.  This doesn’t happen the other 363 days of the year.  These medical experts want to help as many people as possible, at no charge, this Saturday and Sunday.  If what I’m hearing about financial and insurance woes is true, we should be able to keep them busy for two days.  Many people are employed with little or no insurance plans, and this is a rare chance to get some free help.  Not to mention those who are out of work, and have no insurance at all.  It’s open to everybody, from everywhere: there are no residency requirements.

You may have friends or relatives who are not computer-savvy, and aren’t reading this blog.  Maybe they don’t read the paper, or watch much TV.  Media outlets have tried, again this year, to get the word out, but it seems like on Monday there’s always someone who says, “If I had known about it, I would have gone!”  Let’s make sure the people who need this help know about it, and let’s help them get there.

Each morning, they’ll begin giving out numbers at 3:00 a.m., and the doors open at 6:00 a.m.  There are dozens of volunteers manning a gym full of dental, medical and vision exam chairs.  The treatment they usually administer in doctors’ offices is being offered at Ooltewah High.  No insurance? No problem.  No cash, no money in the bank account?  This is for you.  Is it that simple?  Not quite.  Obviously, they’ll need to know about your medical history, and drugs you’re currently taking (or cannot take), so there are forms to fill out.  Just like the doctor’s office, with one cheery exception: you won’t get a bill.

ram2

So if your eyes are a little blurry, here’s your chance to get glasses.  Free, on the spot.  Got a toothache, and you’ve been avoiding the dentist’s office because you’re broke?  That excuse won’t fly this weekend.  What else is ailing you?  Go see a doctor this weekend, for free.  If they’re unable to fix what’s ailing you, they’ll try to arrange some help.

Let me shower some praise on those who are volunteering, and those who are organizing this event.  They’re doing this because they can, and because there’s a need.  They’re getting the word out every way they know how, including this blog.  If you share it with someone you know, you’ll be doing them a huge favor.  Send the link, print it for them, call them, read it to them, give them a ride to Ooltewah.  This happens in the Chattanooga area every two years, that’s all.

For now, let’s assume this event is successful, and lots of people show up seeking care.  “Well,” someone might say. “I might have to wait for a while.”  That is true.  Just like a visit to the doctor’s office.  Except it’s free.

Bob Nevil hopes the turnout will surpass the 2012 event, when doctors saw 880 patients, providing an estimated $371,000 in free medical care.  “Don’t be embarrassed,” he said.  “Don’t be scared.  We accept everybody, and we want to help.  We’ve been blessed, and we want to share.”

If you have questions that haven’t been answered here, or on the website linked above, call (423) 463-5875.  If you have to leave a message, they’ll call you back, honest.

 

 

 

Illinois news anchor tells viewers he has 4-6 months to live

September 15, 2014 at 12:42 am
Dave Benton and co-anchor Jennifer Roscoe

Dave Benton and co-anchor Jennifer Roscoe

This is just heartbreaking.  Dave Benton, a news anchor for the past nine years on WCIA-TV in Champaign, Illinois has been fighting brain cancer for a while, and recently learned “the cancer is too big for surgery or radiation,” according to his doctors.  On a live newscast Thursday, with great poise, he told viewers the sad diagnosis: he has 4-6 months to live.  Here is a link to the video:

Dave Benton tells viewers he has incurable cancer

I couldn’t help but think of MaryEllen Locher, our Chattanooga news anchor who passed away in 2005 after a 17-year on-again, off-again battle with cancer.  As recently as January, doctors believed he was cancer-free. Upon getting the most recent bad news, it appears Mr. Benton is dealing with his struggles much as MaryEllen did: with courage and candor.  It is true that for those of us in TV, the viewers are part of the family.  You say hello to us in stores, and the most common greeting is, “I feel like I know you.”  We don’t take that lightly.

The 51-year-old Illinois newsman says those who watch him on the news lift him up daily, and that obviously means the world to him.  I especially admire the way he takes the focus off himself by acknowledging that many, many people who are watching are fighting the same battles, and just because their faces may not be as familiar, it doesn’t make their struggles any less important.

Most people don’t get a chance to tell the world about their cancer diagnosis.  I think Mr. Benton did it as well as it can be done.  He’s counting on faith, family and friends to get through this, and he’s determined to make the most of every day, even adding a few days if treatments allow.  I’m sure others who are dealing with this awful disease are inspired by this man.  We’re all in this together, he is telling us.  And on one thing, we can all agree.  Cancer sucks.  It is an enemy worth fighting, with everything we have.

 

“Anonymous Angel” hands out $100 bills at local school

September 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm

So you’re just doing your job, on a normal day.  The boss knocks on the door and says, “There’s someone here to see you.  They didn’t give their name.”  Well, this can’t be good, right?  It has to be someone serving papers, or collecting bills, or delivering bad news.  I mean, what possible good could come from an unexpected visitor?

How about a few kind words, a hug, and a hundred bucks?  Yes, this actually happened.  Over and over, thirty times to be exact at Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School in Hixson.

ganns-1

This proud old school, built in 1937 and soon to be replaced by a shiny new building, is one of my favorite places.  The classic auditorium, the creaky wooden floors that amplify every footstep, even the closet that serves as a nurse’s room.  It’s a neighborhood school that takes me back to a different era, when parents attended PTA meetings and schools were so small that the principal knew everyone’s name.  That’s Ganns Middle Valley.

Allyson DeYoung is in her second year as principal, and like all good leaders, she sets the right tone.  When you walk in the building, you feel welcome.  So when a total stranger asked to see her last week, Mrs. DeYoung ushered the woman into her tiny office, pulled up a chair, and asked, “How can we help you?”

The anonymous visitor quickly turned the tables and said, “No, I want to help you.”  She explained that she was a supporter of education, that a family member was a longtime teacher, and she wanted to do something nice for the teachers.  Why Ganns?  “She just said she was a member of the community,” Mrs. DeYoung said.  “I don’t know why she chose us, but I’m glad she did!”

The visitor said she wanted to give every teacher a gift of one hundred dollars.  She had brought enough cash that day for fifteen teachers.  “How many teachers do you have?” she asked the principal.  Mrs. DeYoung responded that there were about thirty classroom teachers, plus a few who teach classes in music, PE and other related arts.  “Let me reward part of your teachers today, and I’ll be back next week to take care of the rest,” the visitor said.

By this time, Mrs. DeYoung was convinced this anonymous donor was for real.  “There were no strings attached,” she said.  “I asked every question I could to make sure she was sincere, and she convinced me that she just wanted to let my teachers know they were loved.”

So, door to door they went.  Starting with the kindergarten teachers, Mrs. DeYoung would knock on the door, and ask the teacher to come out to the hall and meet someone.  One by one, the unknown visitor told each teacher the same thing.  “I don’t want any attention, and I can’t tell you my name, but I just want you to know that I appreciate you, and what you do every day.  Here is a hundred dollars to spend on yourself.  Don’t spend it on your classroom, you do enough of that already.  Get yourself a pedicure, or take your husband out on a date, or buy something that will make you happy.”  With that, each teacher, overcome with emotion, responded with a tearful embrace.

Group hug for 2nd grade teacher Jennifer Fields

Group hug for 2nd grade teacher Jennifer Fields

Second grade teacher Jennifer Fields told me, “I’m not sure what I said to her.  I went back in my room and asked myself, did that really happen?  I wanted to thank her again, but by the time I pulled myself together, she was gone.”

First grade teacher Jennifer Rodgers said, “I just hope I deserve this.  I guess the best way to say thank you is just to keep working hard every day.” Fighting back tears, she said, “Just the words of encouragement were enough.  At first, that’s all I thought it was, and that alone made my day. But then, the money…I didn’t know what to say.”

On that first day, teachers in grades K-2 got their surprise rewards.  As promised, a few days later the lady came back to meet the teachers in grades 3-5.  Fifth grade teacher Melanie Covert got the same knock on the door, the same words of encouragement, and the hundred dollar bill.  “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I went back into my class and asked them, do you believe in angels?  They said yes, and wanted to know why I asked.  I told them I just met one.  That’s truly how I feel.  She has lifted us up.”

Mrs. DeYoung said the anonymous angel’s work is still unfinished. “She said she’s coming back again, she wants to help the rest of our support staff because they all work so hard too.”

Ganns Middle Valley auditorium (photo from Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Ganns Middle Valley auditorium (photo from Chattanooga Times Free Press)

The principal said that donors are usually thanked publicly, often on stage in that historic auditorium. “That’s not what she wants, though.  She says it’s not about her, and I understand.  We will honor her wishes.”

Mrs. DeYoung said, “I watch the news, and it seems like one bad thing after another.  This restores my faith in people.  All it takes is one person, one random act of kindness to let you know that you’re loved.  You may not have money to give, but even a simple thank you can make someone’s day.”

I hope this story will inspire us all to thank our everyday heroes, the people who do the jobs most of us dare not try.  The ones who toil each day, underpaid, often under-appreciated, and frequently in dangerous conditions.  I won’t attempt to make a list here, because I know I will leave someone out.  But you know who they are.  An extra thank you, some words of encouragement, a hug, or a pat on the back would be nice.  And if you happen to be as blessed as this anonymous angel, who is able to share her wealth: I promise I won’t give your name.

Click here to see my WRCB story on the anonymous angel.

 

 

Floating museum in Chattanooga: LST 325 is the last of its kind

September 9, 2014 at 3:34 am

UPDATE: Wednesday’s attendance was 3,959 for total of  22,085 a new record! The all-time record for a six-day LST 325 stay was 17,000 before their visit to Chattanooga..

It left Ross’s Landing Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., taking the same route from which it arrived.  She went down the Tennessee River through the Nickajack Locks heading back to Decatur, Alabama before proceeding to its home port in Evansville, Indiana.  The ship fired the 40 mm Bofers guns as a send off, also blasting ‘Anchors Aweigh’ as she headed home.  Here’s video, courtesy of Mark Simpson:

We got lucky, Chattanooga. Our town hosted a rare piece of American history at the riverfront for six days.  The World War II-era USS LST 325 was at Ross’s Landing.

I talked to retired Navy Captain Mickey McCamish, who coordinated the local visit, and the 27-year vet couldn’t be any prouder.  The LST (Landing Ship Tank) visits only two cities a year, and this year, Chattanooga was one of them.  “This ship helped us win the freedom we have today,” McCamish said, and that cannot be disputed.  Get this: there were 1,051 of these vessels constructed during World War II (mostly by women!) and this is the last ship standing.

Photo by Charlie Brown

Photo by Charlie Brown

How important was this proud 73-year-old vessel, now a floating museum?  It delivered tanks, supplies, vehicles and soldiers to enemy shorelines at a time when Americans were facing long odds, trying to push back German and Japanese soldiers.  On D-Day, just over 70 years ago, the LST 325 was at Omaha Beach, Normandy.  That was one day, June 6, 1944, a big day to be sure.  But it participated in many other invasions and occupations as well.  She was there for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily in 1943.  She sailed as support for the invasion of Salerno, Italy later that year.  From then until April 1945, it made 44 more trips between England and France, many to the Normandy beachheads. On return trips to England, the ship carried wounded soldiers.

Get this: the ship can hold up to 136,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and when topped off can sail around the world nearly 1 1/2 times without refueling.  It is 328 feet long and 50 feet wide, with enough space to hold 20 Sherman tanks.

lst1

Who came up with the idea of LSTs? British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who recognized that Allied forces would have to avoid heavily mined ports and deliver troops right to Nazi-occupied beaches.  As you might expect, crew members were occasionally injured during attacks by enemy warplanes.

The LST 325 was decommissioned and reactivated twice in the 1950s and, in 1961 became part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet.  She again was recommissioned in 1963 and transferred to Greece in May 1964. The ship served in the Greek Navy until the end of 1999, when she was retired permanently from service.

In the summer of 2000, the decaying LST 325 was salvaged from a Crete scrapyard by Captain Bob Jornlin and fifty retired Navy veterans.  (Jornlin had served on a similar LST during his active duty in the Navy in the 1960s.) They acquired the ship with the help of the US Congress and Greek authorities.  After making much-needed repairs, they made a 30-day, 6,500 mile journey to Mobile, Alabama that received worldwide attention.  From 2001-2005, it was in Mobile, but Jornlin, who at age 75 still steers the ship today, said getting it out of the salt water would be a good for the vessel, so the move to Indiana was made.

During the Chattanooga visit, McCamish saw families, school groups, veterans, and history lovers taking the tour.  “It’s a real honor to have this historic vessel and its crew in Chattanooga,” McCamish said.    For more information, go to http://www.lstmemorial.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “commanding presence” saves a child’s life

August 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

This story needs to be told, even though it may not get much attention.

As I’ve written before, the public always clamors for good news.  Mainstream media outlets, I’m constantly told, are only interested in controversy and bad news.  Perhaps in response to that, some media outlets are reporting a lot of positive stories these days.  I, for one, enjoy doing so.  But when those stories run, I always see a decrease in “shares,” clicks, and comments. I did a story on Friday about some 5th graders who take great pride in raising the flag at school, and I know many people said, “Why is this news? Don’t you have any wrecks to show us?”

For instance, If a cop sets up radar, makes an arrest, and gets a crazed driver off the road before someone is killed, we yell, “Speed trap! Money grab! Big brother! I saw a cop speeding last week! Why didn’t someone arrest him!”  (We just had 7 traffic fatalities in a 48-hour period in our area.  And people get upset about speed enforcement.)

But if a cop does something good, we say, “Uh…isn’t that his job?”

(Let me pause here to say I’m not a big fan of the word “cop.” I try not to use it on the news.  I prefer “police officer.”  But for the purposes of this blog, it will pop up now and then, no disrespect intended.  It’s just a lot quicker to type.)

Now, let me tell you what happened last week at MoMo Hibachi Japanese Grill in Soddy-Daisy. John and Natalie Fiddler are new parents.  Their son Ethan is almost 15 months old.  Here’s a picture of this cute family:

John and Natalie Fiddler, with son Ethan

John and Natalie Fiddler, with son Ethan

It’s great when your child gets to the age where you can go out to eat.  The first year or so, it isn’t easy.  So John and Natalie enjoyed a great meal at MoMo, tipped the waitress and started gathering up their stuff.  Natalie looked away just for a moment, to get her bags (when traveling with a baby, you bring lots of bags), when she heard little Ethan cough.  He had been sick a few days before, so a cough wasn’t unusual.  She picked him up, and they headed for the door.  Suddenly Ethan starting crying out, but not breathing in.  Natalie knew something was wrong, and a look of panic swept over her face.  Her little boy couldn’t breathe.

(Spoiler alert: If you don’t like to read positive things about cops, don’t go any further.)

Master Patrolman Eddie Mansell of the Chattanooga Police Department was off duty that evening.  He was also having dinner at MoMo, accompanied by his wife Beth.  He is a 22 year veteran of the CPD, and along with his other training, has taken 11 CPR classes during his career.  Those lessons would come in handy tonight.

“He recognized the signs of choking quickly,” John Fiddler said of Officer Mansell.  “We didn’t know who he was, he wasn’t uniformed, he was having dinner with his wife.  He was this commanding presence, he just took over.”

Here’s Officer Mansell’s side of the story: “I saw this lady patting her child on the back, and she had this terrified look on her face.  I got up, my wife started praying, and I guess my training kicked in, just muscle memory from all those classes.”

Ethan had stopped breathing.  That initial burst of crying had stopped.  Now there was silence, which is much more alarming.

Officer Mansell said, “By now his eyes had rolled back.  I leaned him down, and gave him three quick strikes to the back.”  Ethan’s dad John described them as “harder pats than we’d been giving him.” An ice cube was expelled, and Ethan was able to breathe.  “At first he coughed a little bit,” Mansell said. “Then he gave me this look, like, why are you hitting me?” he said with a laugh.

John Fiddler says he is CPR certified, but his wife is not.  “This all happened so fast,” he said. “I might have been able to do the right thing, but Officer Mansell jumped in first, much to our relief.”

Lessons were learned. “I want parents to know how fast this can happen,” John said. “We looked away from Ethan just long enough for him to grab an ice cube from a glass.  It was within his reach, so he went for it, like kids do.  He’s at that Mr. Grabby stage, he wants to try everything. We’ll be taking the CPR classes, and watching the videos.”

John and Natalie are thankful this off-duty police officer was paying attention.  “He could have pretended not to notice, or to look the other way, like some people do,” John said. “But he jumped right up, and saved a life.  I think he deserves some commendation.”

Master Patrolman Eddie Mansell, Chattanooga Police Department

Master Patrolman Eddie Mansell, Chattanooga Police Department

Officer Mansell told me this story shouldn’t be about a cop hero. “Regular folks do this a lot, people who have had CPR training.  I was just in the right place at the right time.”  But he later added, “After all these years, all the classes, this is the first time I’ve needed to use those skills.  This is the highlight of my career.”

If you’ve gotten this far in the story, I bet you’re like me.  I know that when a “bad cop” makes the news,  someone who got caught speeding last week will celebrate.  But when I’m in trouble, or a loved one’s life is in danger, thank God that Eddie Mansell and his colleagues will answer the call.

(Please share this blog.  Also you’re invited to search the archives for more stories you might like.  While you’re at it, please subscribe to my posts! Thank you, David)

Chattanooga’s # 1 Eyesore: What’s the holdup?

August 27, 2014 at 2:49 am

I’m so lucky to live in a beautiful, scenic city.  One of my hobbies in recent years is to drive around, up and down the mountains and ridges in search of great photos.  It’s so easy.  But almost every day, I drive by this:

eyesore 004It’s best known as the old Pruett’s Food Town store on Cherokee Boulevard.  Just a block or two away are bright, well-designed new businesses and homes.  The new Publix store is less than a mile away, and its success will surely bring more progress to this north Chattanooga area.  Yet this ugly blight has gone largely untouched for fifteen years.  Every few months, there’s some new graffiti, but that’s about it.

eyesore 006In February of this year, the local newspaper reported that a law firm from Winchester, Tennessee would open its new Chattanooga offices here, and that it was “undergoing an extreme makeover.” Sure enough, within days the sights and sounds of heavy machinery filled the air.  Five truckloads of trash were hauled off, and progress seemed to be just around the corner.  But soon, all was quiet, and this is all we saw:

eyesore 010That sign you see says “Available,” with a phone number to call.  The newspaper had not updated its February story, so two weeks ago, I called the number.  Floyd Davis answered the phone.  He is the founder of Davis, Kessler and Davis, that law firm that was reportedly ready to remedy this canker sore of a building.  He was more than happy to talk about it.  “I’ve paid $900,000 for it, but the city won’t give me a building permit.  I haven’t heard from anybody.  I think I’ll just put a homeless shelter there.  You tell the city that, and see what they say. They think I’m kidding, but I’m not!”

He was just getting warmed up.  “They won’t deal with me.  I’m not Volkswagen or Publix, I’m just Floyd Davis from Winchester.  They’ve sent three letters, but they never put a name of anybody I’m supposed to call.  They say I’m supposed to hire an architect, an environmental specialist and a flood control expert.  I’ve got an architect ready to go, they just won’t issue a permit!”

I just kept listening, taking notes. “One of the letters said, ‘You need a new roof, new windows, and you need to remove the graffiti.’  I called the number they put on the letter, and told somebody, ‘I got your letter, and I agree! I have a crew ready right now to fix all those things, and they can be there in two hours.’ They said, ‘No, no, no you can’t do that!’  I’ve had fifty calls from people who ask me what’s going on, and I tell them, I can’t do anything without a building permit, and the city of Chattanooga won’t give me one.”

eyesore 007

I knew I was only getting one side of the story.  Surely the powers that be at City Hall must be as anxious as anyone for this ugly shell to go away.  I mean, it’s like that zit on your forehead, right between the eyes.  Except this nasty pimple has been festering since the end of the 20th century!

Gary Hilbert is the city’s Director of Codes and Inspection.  After concluding my chat with Mr. Davis, I called Mr. Hilbert’s office. “Gary, you of all people can’t be pleased with this hot mess right in the middle of Chattanooga’s beloved North Shore.  Why is the city dragging its feet?” He said, “It’s not exactly what you’ve been told.  We have concerns about safety, exits, lighting, all the code requirements that every commercial building owner must meet.”

“But Gary,” I pressed on. “The guy says he’s ready to go.  He’s just waiting for your okay.  He wants to get rid of the graffiti, replace the windows, install a new roof.  Why is this dragging on, endlessly?”

“I’d love to see some movement too,” he said. “But we must have a plan to approve.  As soon as his architect presents a plan that meets our codes, we’ll do everything we can to make something happen.”

eyesore 009In the two weeks since my conversations with Mr. Davis and Mr. Hilbert, I am told that a plan is to be presented, any day now.  The architects and engineers reportedly are ready to move forward, and if the city approves (fingers crossed here), the ugliest eyesore in Chattanooga will soon fade away.  I haven’t been told exactly what the new building will look like, but I’d bet it will be an improvement over this:

eyesore 005“Something will happen soon,” Gary Hilbert assured me.  “We’re hopeful the plan will be approved, and this project will move forward.”  Floyd Davis said, “Yeah, I think they’re finally going to let me get to work on it.  I think they just don’t want a homeless shelter there.”  I think he was kidding, but I can’t say for sure.  Hopefully I can update this story soon, with photos of the most extreme makeover this city has seen in quite a while.

A tribute to Tiger Radio: WMOC-AM 1450 in Chattanooga

August 26, 2014 at 12:08 am

If you want to hear some great early 1960s Chattanooga Top-40 radio that hasn’t been heard in more than fifty years, you have my permission to jump to the end of this post, and click the YouTube link.  But if you have a moment, read the story behind it first.

Most folks these days don’t even remember WMOC Radio in Chattanooga, and truth be told, I’m one of them.  By the time I really started listening to local radio, WFLI and WGOW were playing the hits, WDOD was spinning country records, and Luther Masingill was finding our dogs on WDEF.  A few other stations were up and down the AM dial, and FM started to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s, but WMOC had started to fade.

At 1450 on the AM dial, the station began as WAGC in 1946, broadcasting from the Hotel Patton.  Harry Thornton, “The Milk Man” competed against Luther for the morning listeners, and personalities like Roy Morris and Gus Chamberlain came along later.  The station broadcast Lookouts and University of Chattanooga games at various times through the 1940s and 1950s.  In 1959, new ownership renamed the station WOGA, competing with WDXB for the teen audience.  By 1961, the station was sold again to brothers Al and Jim Dick, who attached yet another set of call letters to 1450 AM: WMOC, in honor of UC Mocs football and basketball.

WMOC staff, circa 1967

WMOC staff, circa 1967

Earlier in 1961, WFLI entered the top-40 music battle with a powerful 10,000 watt signal.  WDXB soon changed to a more adult-sounding format, leaving WMOC to do battle with “Jet-FLI.”  For most of the 1960s, Chattanooga’s young listeners switched back and forth between WFLI and WMOC to hear the latest hits, with WFLI consistently winning the ratings battle.

WMOC shouldn’t be forgotten though.  The station had some terrific radio personalities, like Allen Dennis, Charlie Champion, H.C. Clark, Wild Bill Carter, Bill Lee (Lassiter), Ronnie Brandon, Dave Randall (Cleveland Wheeler), Bob Reich, Sonny Limbo, Bobby Dark (Bobby Box), Fred Forrest (Fred Gault), Phil Rainey, Bob Kelley, Paul White, Pat O’Day, Jack Diamond (John Deering), and Elliot Dubrow, among others.  Limbo and Champion died many years ago.  Carter, Lassiter, and Dennis died recently.  Brandon, Wheeler, Box, Gault and White are still active, working and on social media.  I haven’t been able to find the whereabouts of Clark, Rainey or O’Day.  Deering left WMOC in 1966 to serve in Vietnam.  He was a Prisoner of War, often in solitary confinement from 1968 until 1973.  He died in 2007 at the age of 64.  Dubrow died in a car accident on his way to cover an Atlanta Braves game in 1966.

A 1962 classified ad in Broadcasting magazine reads, “Wanted: Two fast-paced top-40 announcers to work for a swinging operation in one of the largest cities in Tennessee.  Prefer men on their way up who are willing to follow directions.”

One thing’s for sure: it was a swinging operation.  And it remained so until about 1968, when owners threw in the towel in the top-40 battle, choosing to battle WDOD for the country audience.  Many of WMOC’s announcers opted to stay in the top-40 game when Ted Turner switched adult-format WAPO (AM 1150) to WGOW.  Most of WGOW’s deejays were former WMOC jocks.

When you click the YouTube link below, you will hear sounds and voices that have not been heard in more than fifty years.  You may hear them now, thanks to a gentleman named Steve Farrington from Atlanta, who contacted me in 2002.  He was researching the history of WFLI radio, and other stations owned and operated by the Brennan family of Alabama.  Sadly, Steve died a couple of years later, and never finished his project.  But during our brief friendship, he was kind enough to send me a treasure trove of early 1960s Chattanooga radio tapes.  He used to visit family on Signal Mountain when he was a teen in the early 1960s, and would tape his favorite radio stations on his Wollensak reel-to-reel recorder.  Most of the early WFLI sound I used last year in my Jet-FLI tribute came from Steve. Thankfully, he recorded WMOC as well, and what you’re about to hear has been on my shelf for the past few years.  Let’s put it out there for everyone to hear.  By the way, WMOC’s call letters were surrendered by yet another set of owners about 30 years ago, and are now being used by a station in Lumber City, Georgia.  I sure wish we could get them back.  What a great set of Chattanooga call letters.

So with no further ado, here it is: Tiger Radio, WMOC:

 

A quiet visit to Coolidge Park, then ice happened.

August 24, 2014 at 2:51 am

Yes, I finally answered the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  There I was, at Coolidge Park on a beautiful Saturday morning, just minding my own business….and then, well just click and watch:

As you can see from the ending, I always admired Frank McDonald, who was a great businessman, and a bright, funny musician and entertainer with the Dismembered Tennesseans.  He was always so nice to me, even when he didn’t have to be.

Frank McDonald 1930-2000

Frank McDonald 1930-2000

He lived a great life, with a difficult ending due to ALS.  I’m honored to participate in this enjoyable awareness campaign in his memory, and to make a donation to ALSA.org.  I hope you will too.

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Other notes on a Sunday morning:  my friend Alan Pressley is one of the most thoughtful people I know.  Every time he hears about someone in need, or someone who needs cheering up, or just a pat on the back, he springs into action.  I’ve accompanied him on several surprise visits, as he presents his hand-made shadowboxes to grateful recipients.  Inside those framed boxes are autographed SEC or UTC memorabilia, autographed by everyone from Nick Saban to Pat Summitt to Russ Huesman and more.  All these big names never say “no” to Alan, because they know his heart is in the right place.  Here is a photograph from a recent presentation:

Hamilton County Judges Clarence Shattuck, Christy Mahn Sell, Gary Starnes and David Bales

Hamilton County Judges Clarence Shattuck, Christy Mahn Sell, Gary Starnes and David Bales

A few months earlier, these judges had honored one of their own, former Judge and Alabama football great Ron Durby, who retired early due to health reasons.  Alan was very touched by how these judges had stepped in to reduce their colleague’s workload, and the genuine love and concern they had shown during Durby’s final few weeks on the bench.  He framed the newspaper coverage of their retirement sendoff for Judge Durby, and I know they will always cherish this keepsake.  I appreciate Alan for always thinking of himself before others.

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The new Publix in north Chattanooga has opened, and I am told (unofficially, but quite believably) that the store has DOUBLED its original sales projections.

publix144I don’t know how Publix trains their employees, but every other retailer should train theirs the same way.  It’s really nice to greeted with a smile, and offered assistance from everyone who’s wearing a Publix shirt.

 

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I try to stay politically neutral, because well, it’s part of my job description.  But I can’t be neutral about Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles.  He was just re-elected for the umpity-umpteenth time with no opposition, and is beginning his 41st year on the job.  He and his wife Marlene have been married 59 years, and have raised a wonderful family.  Bill is that rare public official who is always on the job, always available, always returns your calls, and isn’t afraid of an inquiry from the media.

Bill Knowles

Bill Knowles

The former barber has constantly been out front, when it comes to modernizing his offices, and making life easier for those of us who used to endure long lines while renewing our tag each year.  Even without opposition, he was (again) the leading vote-getter in the recent election, which is impressive.  I mean, voters could easily bypass his name, and move on to a contested race in which their votes really mean something.  Instead, every election, we stop at Bill’s name and vote for him anyway, because he deserves a pat on the back.  If there was a Hamilton County Elected Officials Hall of Fame (and maybe there should be), Bill Knowles should be the first inductee.  He’s simply the best.

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Finally, to close with a song, here’s a song John Denver started writing 44 years ago this month.  It took him nine months to finish it! He began writing it in August of 1970 while enjoying the scenery of the Rocky Mountains near his home in Colorado.  He recorded it in 1971, released it in 1972, and it finally became a top-10 hit in 1973.  In his autobiography, he wrote, “I remember, almost to the moment, when that song started to take shape in my head.  In mid August, Annie and I and some friends went up to Williams Lake to watch the first Perseid meteor showers. Imagine a moonless night in the Rockies in the dead of summer and you have it.”

The song briefly became controversial FCC was permitted by a legal ruling to censor music deemed to promote drug abuse.  Some radio stations refused to play the song until Denver publicly explained that the “high” was his innocent description of the sense of peace he found in the Rockies.

Ironically, Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana earlier this year, and “Rocky Mountain High” is the state song.  So, when many people hear it today, I’m sure they get a different meaning than John Denver originally intended.  As far as we know.  Have a great week, and enjoy the music!

 

 

Remembering big ol’ hairy David Earl Hughes

August 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm

On August 22, 2004, my radio friend Dex called me at home.  It was late that Sunday afternoon, and when I heard his voice, I knew it wasn’t good news.

hughes-12

“David Earl just died,” Dex said.  I had that odd feeling we get when we hear about someone’s death.  On one hand, it was a surprise.  David had just turned 48, and was in the prime of his career.  On the other hand, he loved to eat, smoke and drink, and at various times he had done all of those things in excess.

David Earl Hughes defined the term “larger than life.”  About ten years earlier, a fellow US-101 deejay also died suddenly, and young.  He too, was overweight and didn’t take very good care of himself.  “That’s it, I’ve gotta clean up my act,” David said.  And for a little while, he did.  But old habits are hard to break, and he resumed his regular lifestyle until his heart couldn’t take it any more.  So, in all honesty, a few seconds after Dex delivered the bad news, I said, “Well, I guess we saw it coming.”  That didn’t make it easier for his family and friends, though.

I first met David at WGOW in 1980.  I was on KZ-106 a couple of doors down, and he started his midday shift as I was ending my morning show, around 10:00 a.m. each day.  He made an immediate connection with listeners with his booming bass voice and distinctive drawl.  He was proudly Southern to the core, and he delighted in baiting “Yankees” like my then-girlfriend (now wife)  Cindy.  It was fun watching them go at it.  She wouldn’t back down, and he liked that!

Dale Deason, David Hughes, Don Welch and Garry Mac in the 1980s

Dale Deason, David Hughes, Don Welch and Garry Mac in the 1980s

He spent a few years on WGOW, as part of a solid lineup that featured Dale Deason and Garry Mac in the mornings, and David Earl in the afternoon.  In 1985, a couple of years after I left KZ-106, the station wanted to create a different kind of morning show, modeled after the “Morning Zoo” format in other parts of the country.  The KZ programmers recruited David Earl from WGOW, and moved up “Jammer” Jay Scott from the night show to create their own Morning Zoo.  Other station personalities rounded out the cast, and the KZ Morning Zoo resulted in chaos and high ratings for about five years.

KZ-106 Morning Zoo, 1987

KZ-106 Morning Zoo, 1987

During that time, I would still see David each weekend at our “Foul Tips” softball games, and he would tell me about offers from stations in bigger markets, even Chicago.  But he seemed to prefer country music, and his goal was to eventually work in Nashville.  In 1990, he got an offer from Chattanooga’s top radio station, country music giant US-101, and he was unleashed from the Zoo.

Getting the afternoon show at US-101 turned into a great career move.  He was right at home from day one, and he took their already-high ratings even higher.  A few years later, he did a very admirable and generous thing. Bill Poindexter, better known as “Dex,” was a veteran of local radio and national record promotion, but had tired of the travel.  He had settled back into his north Georgia home, and had taken a couple of jobs to tide him over.  That old radio bug was biting though, and he convinced US-101 to give him a job, any job, to get his foot back in the door.  He was setting up remote broadcasts, and doing traffic reports.

David Hughes, Blake Shelton and Dex

David Hughes, Blake Shelton and Dex

On many days, he reported traffic on David Earl’s afternoon show, and the two built up a great rapport.  Their personalities meshed well, each could make the other laugh, and their chemistry was outstanding.  I’ll pause here to say that 99% of “solo” radio hosts enjoy being solo.  Think of Howard Stern.  He is surrounded by co-hosts and sidekicks, who make up a huge part of his show.  But his show never was, and never will be called “Howard and Robin,” or “Howard and Jackie.”  The same goes for Dan Patrick, Tom Joyner and many others.  There’s only one “star.”  David Earl knew better.  He knew his show was better when Dex was trading one-liners with him.  Almost immediately, this one-man, top-rated afternoon radio show became “Dave and Dex.”  A very good show became an even better one.  Just like that, Dave and Dex were partners.

The duo scored some astronomical ratings, but in 2003, David Earl’s dream job came open: the afternoon show at the powerful country station WSM-FM in Nashville.  The biggest, deepest voice in country radio had a chance to be heard every day in Music City, by those who were making the music.  At first, Dave and Dex were going as a team, but Dex decided to stay in Chattanooga, so David Earl Hughes was a solo act again.  With his family established in Chattanooga, David Earl made the two-hour commute each day, which had to be tiring.  His tenure in Nashville was destined to be brief, cut short by his death at age 48.

hughes-11

He was one of a kind to be sure.  When our Foul Tips softball team visited neighboring towns in the KZ-106 listening area, big Dave was a crowd favorite.  He played a solid first base (making a great target for our infielders).  Occasionally he would wear overalls, or his own size XXXL jersey, with number 747 on the back.  That was always good for a laugh.

US-101 station manager Sammy George, and Dave’s longtime partner Dex spoke at David Earl’s memorial service on August 22, 2004.  With the help of editor David Fowler, I have assembled a six-minute “highlight reel,” of their very funny, very moving speeches, along with a musical tribute at the end, spotlighting David Earl’s favorite television show.  If you weren’t able to attend, you missed a wonderful service.  And we are still missing a world-class radio personality.

Here’s an added bonus: you can hear that booming David Hughes voice again, from his KZ-106 Morning Zoo days, in this 1986 WRCB news story: