Notes from the Southwest Corner: My Connection

This column was written for the Lebanon Democrat. It was my first one. Amelia Hipps, the editor at the time was kind enough to allow me to publish this column and keep the copyright. It was published October 15, 2007, my sister’s birthdate. It ran for about ten years every Thursday.

i had written several articles for both The Wilson Post and The Democrat about numerous topics. The two were competitors. The two editors i had for that version of The Democrat, Amelia and Jared Felkins were superb, effective local newspaper journalists. The owner, the Sandusky Acquisition Corporation, headquartered in Ohio i think, let the paper be a local paper, pretty much on its own except for cutting costs at the price of adequate local coverage. i really can’t comment about the current paper or the owner, the Paxton Media Group, other than add they fired Jared and most of the staff when they took over in 2019. i haven’t looked at one since. The Wilson Post is now my hometown newspaper.

The original Democrat’s publisher and editor, J. Bill Frame, and his wife, Bessie Lee, were our neighbors across the street. J. Bill became the president of the Tennessee Press Association in 1963. i was the ring bearer for their daughter’s wedding. Laura Lee and Glenn Mingledorrf were wed in the First Methodist Church of Lebanon in 1949. i was five years old.

In 1964, the paper was bought by Carl Jones. Sam Hatcher, the younger brother of one of my best friends, Jimmy Hatcher, was the editor for many years before the Sandusky Acquisition Corporation took over in 2002. Sam moved across town to The Wilson Post. It was not an amicable parting.

But i still considered it my “hometown” newspaper. And perhaps the best part was being on the “OPED” page with JB Leftwich. JB was my mentor, as well as many other cadets, as the guiding hand for the Castle Heights “Cavalier,” a by-weekly high school newspaper that consistently was named among the top high school papers in the country. JB was also responsible for my getting my first newspaper job as the cub reporter, office boy, for Fred Russell and the sports department at Nashville Banner. i felt like i was in journalism heaven.

My plan, at least for 2023, is to post one of the columns more or less in chronological order, each Thursday after this one.

A note: i did have one more job as the Safety Manager for Pacific Tugboat, after i began writing this column.

i hope you enjoy them:

SAN DIEGO, CA – I live in San Diego. My home remains Lebanon.

I live here because I married a native, a rare breed when I met her. Yet I am more of a Middle Tennessean now than when I left for the Navy in 1967.

I like San Diego. In Tennessee, I cannot see Navy ships from the top of my hill. My home does not require an air conditioner. But Lebanon has a charm which won’t let go. I have said many times, the song “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” describes my feelings.

I am torn between two worlds.

I probably have had more jobs than almost anyone. The Navy was largely responsible: I was a first lieutenant, anti-submarine officer, and shipyard coordinator for a sonar suite installation on a destroyer; executive officer of a Navy unit aboard a merchant marine troop ship; anti-submarine officer on a guided-missile destroyer leader; a destroyer chief engineer and shipyard overhaul coordinator; an NROTC associate professor; current operations officer for an amphibious squadron; weapons officer, overhaul coordinator, and training officer on an helicopter carrier; executive officer of  a destroyer tender; director of leadership training, and facilitator for an excellence seminar. I was also sports editor of the Watertown Daily Times in New York between my first Navy obligation and reinstatement to active duty.

Fifteen jobs in twenty-three years.

Generating the list, I also considered other jobs I’ve had, starting at ten years old. This includes yard maintenance; newspaper delivery; water plant worker; grave digger; service station attendant; auto parts inventory worker; camp counselor; clothes salesman; sportswriter; newspaper correspondent; and radio announcer. Eleven jobs in fourteen years.

After the Navy, I carried on job instability.

A life-long job was created when my wife gave birth to our second daughter the day I retired. In a little more than a week, I went from being a commander to “Mr. Mom.”

In this capacity, I chased more occupations: writing the first draft of a friend’s book about his Prisoner of War (POW) experience in Vietnam; organization development consultant; energy regulatory newsletter editor; facilitator for Department of Energy nuclear site reorganization; career transition consultant; automobile sales trainer; customer service trainer; business development manager; military training marketer; business management columnist; awards shop manager; and executive coach.

The jobs in this phase total fourteen, bringing the grand total to forty jobs. That’s pretty close to being a jack of all trades. I believe “master of none” also applies.

Underlying all of this flitting about have been three constants. I have a great love for my family, who remain my top priority. Lebanon has always been my home, and I remain connected. Finally, I have always had the desire to write.

This column attempts to tie the three together. “Notes from the Southwest Corner” is intended to give my perspective on Middle Tennessee, a recollection of my youth, and other thoughts I would like to share.

I want to describe places I’ve been and people who affected me. There will be some thoughts about running an organization and some “sea stories.” I plan to present similarities and differences between life on the “left coast” and in Middle Tennessee.

I won’t tell you HOW to do anything. Most of you are as smart as me and can figure it out on your own. I will refrain from political comments. Also, I don’t plan to make any religious pitches.

My goal is to write well for a place I love. I am shooting to give you anecdotes and thoughts which you can use as you see fit to your benefit.

From birth until 1967, I lived across the street from J. Bill Frame. He was the publisher of the Lebanon Democrat. He was the most intelligent, knowledgeable person I have ever known. He was also kind, and understanding. The Democrat was journalism as I knew it then, and he may be the reason I have this drive to write. J. B. Leftwich, while a professor at Castle Heights taught me journalism.

So in a way, I have returned home. It is with joy I write for the Democrat. It is with pride I write where J. Bill Frame once ruled. It is an honor to write alongside J. B. Leftwich, who taught me and many leading journalists in the country.

Writing here is real close to coming home.

I hope you enjoy the read. I know I will enjoy the ride.


Note: the “-30-” was the symbol as the end of copy for a news or sports story in print newspapers back when the old Linotype/hot press system was used.

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