Eyes on the road: Let’s show this in every school

September 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Everyone needs to see this one, and it only takes a minute and twenty seconds.

A Hong Kong movie theater asks its patrons to leave their cell phones ON when they enter the movie. Using that, Volkswagen made an eye opening ad, with more than 28 million views so far.  I’d like to see this shown to every teenager in every school.  We can’t afford to bring them Driver Education classes, yet they can learn a valuable lesson, at no charge, in 80 seconds.  Teachers, take a brief break from Common Core, and help save some lives.   Thank you.  And Danke Schoen, Volkswagen.


Y’all know anybody who speaks Southern?

September 29, 2014 at 2:02 am

I haven’t had my hearing checked lately, but maybe I should.  After all, I was a disc jockey for about ten years, and I kept those headphones cranked up high.  Each year, when we have our reunion of old disc jockeys, the voices keep getting louder, but I think most of us are reading lips by now.  It’s like that old joke about a couple of guys, both hard of hearing.  One says to the other, “I just got a new hearing aid! It’s great, I can hear everything! “Oh,” says his friend, “Maybe I should get one, what kind is it?” The first man looks at his watch and replies, “Oh, about a quarter to six.”

Of course, I’ve always had trouble understanding people.  Maybe it started in our family store, in good old Bryant, Alabama.  Being raised in a rural Southern community taught me a language, that was reinforced every day on TV.  All those people on “Green Acres” and “The Andy Griffith Show” sounded perfectly normal to me.  Later on, when broadcasting became my career goal, I realized I’d better work on sounding more like Johnny and Merv, and less like Barney and Gomer.

Barney Fife & Gomer Pyle, speaking fluent Southern

Barney Fife & Gomer Pyle, speaking fluent Southern

(No offense intended for my fellow Channel 3 guy Jim Nabors.  He talked like Gomer Pyle for a long time, and lives on a ranch in Hawaii now.)

I do remember some embarrassing moments from my country store days.  I couldn’t have been more than ten years old, but I was manning the counter one day when some folks from up north came in.  Yes, now and then, someone from above the Mason-Dixon line would invade our parts. Perhaps they were visiting relatives, or selling something, or maybe they just got really, really lost.  Anyway, they walked in, looked around for a bit, and asked me, “Where’s your pop?”  I pointed to the kitchen in the back, and said, “He’s back there with my mom.”  They looked at each other, then back at me, and said, “No, no.  We mean where’s your soda?”  I pointed toward the grocery shelves and said, “The Arm and Hammer is on this aisle.”  They looked at me like I was crazy, and said, “Not baking soda.  We mean soda pop.  You know, something to drink, like Coke!”


By then, I figured it out.  “Oh, now I get it!  Our Co-Cola drink box is over there by the window.  We’ve got regular Co-Cola, grape Co-Cola, orange Co-Cola…”  They hustled over, grabbed a couple of Co-Colas and went on their way, not lingering to chat much longer.  I can’t imagine why.

On another occasion, one of our regular customers, who I’ll call JB, came in during my shift.  “I need a batcher,” he said.  “A batcher?” I replied.  “Yep, where do you keep your batchers?”

I was well into my teens by now, and thought I knew where everything was, but he had me stumped.  “What exactly is a batcher?” I asked him.  He too, looked at me like I was crazy.  “It helps you start your car,” he said.  My head was spinning.  I was thinking a key, the ignition…which was pretty much everything I knew about starting a car.  “Hang on,” I said.  “I’ll go ask Dad.”

Dad was in the back somewhere, so I tracked him down, and with complete self-assurance, I asked him, “Where do we keep the batchers?”  He gave me that same look that was becoming so familar.  “The what?” he said.  “Batchers, batchers,” I replied.  “Where are they?”  He paused for a second, and said, “Son, what’s a batcher?”  I gave him that look that everybody was giving me.  “You know, it helps you start your car!” I said knowingly.

“Who wants one?” he asked.  It was to the point of being ridiculous now.  “What difference does it make?” I replied.  “Do we have batchers or not?”

Again, he said, “Who wants it?”  I said, “It’s JB, but why does that matter?  Just tell me where the batchers are!”

“Oh…now I get it,” he said.  “Yeah, JB was in here yesterday and said his battery died.  He needs one for his car.  I’ll go get him one.”

I was reminded of this recently when my lawn mower wouldn’t start.  I took the battery to an auto parts store, and it tested fine.  But the guy at the counter had the solution.  “It’s probably your cellanoid,” he said.  “My what?” I said. “The cellanoid,” he repeated.  “They go bad sometimes.  I’d go home and check that cellanoid if I were you,” he said.

I didn’t know what this “cellanoid” thing was, but I went home, Googled “cellanoid,” and figured I’d get it replaced.  I couldn’t find it online anywhere.  I’d remembered hearing that word before, but I guess all my cellanoids had worked until now.

It's a solenoid!

It’s a solenoid!

After a few hours of research, I found the word, “solenoid.”  It turns out it’s a switch that allows electricity to flow to the starter.  And according to the dictionary voice guy who pronounces words on the Internet, it’s pronounced “SO-la-noid,” as in soul music.  Except in certain auto parts stores.

Despite my hearing and comprehension problems, I’m glad some people still speak Southern.  If my “pop” hadn’t been in the store that day, JB would still be waiting on a batcher.

2014 Braves in review: We got caught looking

September 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Now that the 2014 Atlanta Braves season is ending with a whimper, no one is whimpering more than me.  Last March, I made nine bold predictions for this year.  Out of those nine, I got one right.  I said B.J. Upton would struggle again this year (not exactly going out on a limb there, right?).  On the other eight, much like the Braves of 2014, I whiffed.

B.J. Upton and umpires didn't see eye to eye

B.J. Upton and umpires didn’t see eye to eye

But I did not argue with the umpire, or ask for a review.  I marched back to the dugout, and realized that confession would set me free.  In baseball, 1-for-9 is a batting average of .111. It’s why I was always chosen last in high school PE games.  Let’s review my March of shame:

1.  I predicted that Jason Heyward would not bat leadoff, and that he would emerge as a 30 HR, 100 RBI guy.  Even though he stayed healthy, it didn’t happen, and I don’t understand why.

2. I predicted Jordan Schafer would win the center field job, and be an effective leadoff hitter.  He was not given a chance to do either, and after the Braves dropped him, the Twins picked him up.  He’s hitting okay, but hasn’t won the leadoff job there either.

3.  I said Chris Johnson was “for real,” even though some observers felt his good 2013 season was a fluke.  He struggled, for real, and maybe those observers were right.

4.  I said the starting pitching was “a wreck,” following the season-ending injuries to Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen.  Actually, following a Wren-ovation by the recently dismissed GM, the starters pitched well enough to win 100 games with a decent offense.

5.  I said Freddie Freeman would get even better this year, and said he would be a future Hall of Famer.  Well, there’s still time for that, but this year he took a step back.  There were rumors he was upset when his buddy Dan Uggla was released.  For whatever reason, Freddie’s power stroke disappeared at a time his team desperately needed runs.

6.  I predicted Ramiro Pena would end up playing second base instead of Dan Uggla, which did not happen.  Various people replaced Uggla, none with any long-term success.  Pena, LaStella, Gosselin, Bonifacio and Pastornicky all plugged the hole, putting up 3 home runs from a position for which the Braves paid $65 million for Uggla’s power.

7.  I said this would be Andrelton Simmons’ breakout year at the plate, and that he would be an MVP candidate.  Wrong.  He actually regressed in 2014, going for the fences and swinging himself into a corkscrew several times a game.

8.  I lavished words of praise on GM Frank Wren.  Yes, he found some decent starting pitching, but his other acquisitions in recent years were flops, and the Braves are stuck with many of them for a long, long time.


Umpire Sam Holbrook and B.J. Upton have a friendly disagreement about the strike zone.

Umpire Sam Holbrook and B.J. Upton have a friendly disagreement about the strike zone.

So there you have it, I got B.J. Upton right, and everything else wrong.  My faulty foresight has been exposed.  Now, let me turn this around, and share some happy hindsight, because a lot of things went right for the 2014 Braves!


Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel

1.  Craig Kimbrel.  Thankfully, he had another healthy year, and is still baseball’s best closer.  The Braves gave him very little to do in September, because they almost never had a lead in the 9th inning.  But when they did, he was lights out, all year long.

2.  Roger McDowell.  The pitching coach has proven he’s one of the best in the game.  Given a starting pitching staff made up of kids, castoffs and free agents, he guided them to a great season, despite no run support.

3.  Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons (both, on defense).  I’m glad opposing teams hit the ball to these guys a lot, or it could have been a lot worse.  Both are human highlight films, giving 100% on every play.

Timothy Miller brings it home

Timothy Miller brings it home

4.  Timothy Miller.  “The Tenor Lion” batted 1,000 again this year, singing “God Bless America” flawlessly at many home games, to a standing ovation each time.  Simply the Best.

5.  Jim Powell.  The Voice of the Braves in the post-Ernie/Skip/Pete era.  He is a gift to Braves fans.

6.  Mark Bowman.  The MLB.com beat writer writes great game stories, and communicates with fans on Twitter in a friendly, engaging way.  And here’s a shout-out to AJC columnist Jeff Schultz, who’s always brutally honest, and often hilarious.

7.  The pregame radio pairing of Ben Ingram and Chris Dimino.  Ben is an excellent host, and Chris has obviously studied a few thousand baseball games. He pulls no punches, and his candor is refreshing.

Tom Hart talks this fan into giving out his phone number. That went well.

Tom Hart talks this fan into giving out his phone number. That went well.

8  Tom Hart.  The sideline reporter’s interviews with fans this year were Emmy-worthy.  He’s smart, smooth, and funny.  When he filled in as a booth commentator, he displayed his knowledge of the game.  Tom’s going places, enjoy him while you can.

9.  Braves game event staff.  From amazing organist Matthew Kaminski, to the video production team, to the staffers who honor our Veterans, they do a great job keeping even non-fans entertained.  There’s always something to see and do between innings.

10.  Braves fans.  Having survived 1984-90, when a few hundred fans would show up for meaningless end-of-season games, it’s been a pleasant surprise to see decent crowds during this dismal September.  Kudos to my fellow Choppers.


B. J. Upton and baseball, going different directions.

B. J. Upton and baseball, going different directions.

Finally, some random thoughts:  I’m mixed on whether Fredi Gonzalez should return as manager.  No doubt, he’s a good guy, and most players love him.  But those fundamentals: outfielders taking odd routes, making bad decisions and terrible throws.  Wild pitches, passed balls, pitchers and catchers not on the same page.  Poor bunting skills, batters who can’t move up runners.  Guys trying to hit it 500 feet when a base hit is needed.  You can’t blame Frank Wren for this stuff.

The mystery of Dan Uggla. I did cartwheels when the Braves obtained him in 2011.  “Finally, a right-handed, power-hitting middle infielder!” 5 years, $65 million? I didn’t care.  Then he had one good month for the Braves, before he was let go early in the 4th year of his 5-year deal.  Next year, he’ll collect his final $13 million, for… nothing.  Hard-earned money from the wallets of Braves fans.  I know that’s not his fault, and he’s certainly not the first big-money bust…but could you do that?  Just wondering.

One more prediction:  I think Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will win National League MVP, although I’d vote for Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.  Kershaw should be a unanimous Cy Young Award winner, but McCutchen seems to put his team in a position to win every day.  Kershaw fans, don’t worry: I don’t have a vote.  And judging from the predictions I made earlier this year, I sure as heck don’t deserve one!

Now, your reward for reading all the way to the end:  here’s the 2001 Braves post-game celebration after winning their tenth straight division title in 2001.  It’s filled with locker room champagne, lots of laughs, and a brilliant end-of-season TBS credits montage, to the music of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”  Watching those balls fly over the fence just might make you smile.  Enjoy!



Eyesore no more! Before and after pics of once-weedy downtown

September 25, 2014 at 3:03 am

You wonderful people who follow this blog regularly know that I’ve been whining and complaining about the weedy median on Highway 27 in downtown Chattanooga.  I started complaining the old-fashioned way a few months ago, and when that didn’t work, I did it online.

In all honesty, that didn’t work either for quite a while.  But eventually, the right person, the guy in charge, stepped up and got the job done.  Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has had some turnover and cuts recently (like the rest of the world), and they have owned up to some mistakes, some poor decisions, and some bad timing.  One very nice supervisor even called me and said, “Mr. Carroll (please, just call me David), it’s my fault.  I’m new, and if I could do it all over again, there are some decisions I made that didn’t go too well.”  He went on to say, “I learned from it, and I’m just like you, I want our city to look its best as much as possible.”

He explained that we had a lot of rain at some inopportune times this summer, especially on weekends, which is the only time they can cut weeds along that stretch of 27 through downtown, due to the weekday traffic flow.  And true to his word, the work was completed during the last two weekends.  Just in time, thank goodness for this weekend, which features Ironman, Wine Over Water, Mocs football, and other fun downtown events.  The gateway to the Scenic City is beautiful again.  TDOT Maintenance Department, I thank you.   By the way, keep checking back on this blog: I will have some very good news about another notorious eyesore soon!

Here are the “Before and After photos:

September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014

September 22, 2014

September 22, 2014

September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014

September 22, 2014

September 22, 2014

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.  He has become the longest-running weather forecaster in the city’s broadcast history.

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!




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.


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.


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.


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)