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Picturing the Past 63: Baseball time at the Mills

Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2010, at 10:27 AM

The 1936 U.S. Royals baseball team stops for a photo as the crowd looks on. (Submitted photo)
Today's Shelbyville residents, especially those under 50 or so, probably are unaware of the "Mill Village," the community that sprung up around the old Shelbyville Mills plant, which made U.S. Royal tires for many years.

The homes on the east side of Shelbyville Mills Road, the older homes on the road now known as Cedar Circle, and the nearly-adjacent church buildings (Shelbyville Mills Church of Christ and the old Shelbyville Mills Baptist Church) remain from the early days when the Mills, basically, formed their own town, even with its own post office.

Many people remember the old Shelbyville Mills School.

Here's a contributed photo of the mill village's 1936 U.S. Royals baseball team. This came from a newspaper clipping brought in last year which actually had names under the photo; if someone has a copy I'll add the names.

Was this made at what later became known as Kiwanis Park, off West Jackson Street, or at the old Musgrave Park where today's modern Hillard Gardner Softball League fields cover the area where the old field was? Or did Shelbyville Mills have its own field and, if so, where was it? Realize as you read this that my memory doesn't go earlier than the mid-1960s.

The awning over the stands looks like the one which stood at Musgrave into the early 1980s. But I don't remember that stadium having what looks like a concrete wall.

Looks like everyone in attendance was wearing white and many of the men were wearing ties. Must have been a Sunday afternoon game.


From summer's heat to winter's chill: Here's a contributed photo from Tom Williams of himself (left) and his brother, former Shelbyville firefighter Doug Williams, he describes as made "near Duck River where Little Hurricane Creek meets the river north of El Bethel.

"The river got up and that night a very deep freeze hit Bedford County. The river went down and left the ice up in the trees, and the larger pieces broke the limbs down. I do remember it being bitter cold, and if my memory is correct we had to bring some baby sheep inside next to the fireplace. I don't remember the exact date but may find it somewhere."

Tom thought this may have been made in 1953, but I wonder if this may have been from the famous 1951 flood/ice storm.

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

David, I always look forward to Tuesdays with great anticipation to see what pictures and commentary you are going to share with us next. This has been a great adventure to me to be able to go back in history and remember how things were in another time. Please keep up the good work.

I am going to defer to others on both of these pictures. I am guessing that what you refer to as Kiwanis Park was known to me as Shelbyville Mills/Rubber Mill Park. If that is the case then it was just across the road and railroad tracks from where Joe Reed of the T-G grew up. I could not tell you what year the stands were torn down, but I would guess it would have been early to mid 50s.

As for the ice/snow/flood picture I am sure that both Tom and Doug would be vital sources of information. I do not know if the highway split the property of Lawrence Williams or not but I do remember that the house sat and still sits on the North side of the highway. I remember that the creek ran along the side of his property and under the highway down to the river. Another memory that I have of that area is that it was prolific with Limestone, Prickly Pear Cactus, Cedars, and snakes with big bad teeth.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 11:26 AM

David, I'm going to be awfully embarrassed when someone gets on here and says yes, there was a concrete fence at either of the parks above, because I simply can't recall one at either place. I watched a few games in the fifties at the park on West Jackson St., and my daughter played softball through Pony League at Musgrave, but no concrete fence appears in my memories of those times.

Speaking of that concrete fence in the above photo, it appears to me to possibly be constructed of highway barriers, which I have worked behind on numerous bridges in a several county area. Immediately behind this fence there appears to me to be guard rail type steel that may have been driven into the ground to stabilize the barriers in case of impact with a vehicle. I doubt that step would be necessary if the intent was to protect the crowd from the catcher chasing a foul ball.

I guess if you took the ball players out of the picture, and asked me to take a wild guess at what I was looking at, I would probably say a crowd of people gathered at a dirt track about to enjoy a Sunday afternoon of auto racing, possibly at Winchester, Tn., though I have no idea if that track was even in existence at that time.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 11:38 AM

ilikeoldsongs, You have brought back some more memories of the Dirt Track at Winchester. I spent many a pleasurable Sunday afternoon watching races at that old track.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 11:50 AM

What I'm referring to as "Kiwanis Park" is exactly the location you're thinking of, leeiii. I remember it having stands, although not covered stands, as late as the early 1980s before the park fell into disuse and abandonment. A subdivision is there today.

I wonder if maybe the stands were rebuilt by the Kiwanis Club at some point in the 1950s or 1960s.

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 12:29 PM

Yes, the old track at Winchester was my first contact with dirt track racing, and to me a dirt track still represents racing in it's purest, closest to it's beginning in a cow pasture, form.

The most amazing race I ever saw was at Winchester,by a car and driver from Alabama. I've never seen a car before or since that "drove through" the turns like that car did that afternoon. No starting low and sliding up high, then fighting for traction to slingshot the next straightaway. Nah, this dude grabbed the low track and the rear end of his car never slipped more than three or four inches, and he didn't lose more than five miles an hour coming out of a turn, if that. I kept waiting, thinking he's bound to break loose on this next turn and go completely off the track, but it never happened, and he lapped the entire field twice in a twenty five lap feature race. It was like he had steel spikes on his wheels instead of tires. I never saw him back over there again, and have often wondered why. Could there have been a little bending of the rules?

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 12:54 PM

I believe the park in question was known as Royal Park or U.S. Royal Park. It was a covered park and baseball was played there for many years, especially on Sunday afternoons.

-- Posted by bomelson on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 2:31 PM

Bo, do you remember when the old grandstands were torn down? When I played softball there in the early to mid 60s there was only bleachers on the first base side and on the third base side with a scorers stand behind the plate and a larger building farther back on the property that served as a concession stand and field equipment storage. It also seems to me that there was another small storage building close to the entrance which was further back directly behind home plate.

ilikeoldsongs there have been some really good drivers there through the years that traveled from Alabama, Georgia, Chattanooga, Nashville, and points in between. I even remember Hart Hastings taking to the track with his Corvette and putting on kind of an exibition. It was amazing. That was long after he had quit driving.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 3:54 PM

Anybody remember U.S. Keds? You could get them at the company store in the Mill Village.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 3:57 PM

Bo,I agree about the park being called Royal Park or U.S. Royal Park, that's all I ever knew it by. A couple of cousins who lived in "The Cedars" and worked at the mill, called it by those names, so I did,also.

When I went to the park in, I guess the early 50's, the grandstand was really dilapidated, probably to the point of being downright dangerous. As a matter of fact I don't remember anyone other than my friend and I being in that area during games.

And yes, I remember U.S.Keds, and Buster Browns, and Buster's dog Tige, and PF Flyers, and Red Ball Jets. And little Bobby Benson and the Riders of the B-Bar-B.....oops, got carried away there.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 4:53 PM

Yes I thought maybe you were going to say Straight Arrow, Captain Midnight, Sky King, Cisco Kid, and "Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men?" "The Shadow knows"

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 5:01 PM

I wonder if there's still a place "in the Orient" that we could go and learn that "strange secret," how to cloud men's minds so they can't see us, like old Lamont did?

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 5:07 PM

David,I don't think tires were ever made at Shelbyville Mills,but the cord that made the inner liner was produced there. My Mom worked there many years on 2nd shift.

And during WW2 the mill ran 3 shifts,7 days a week.The shift hours were not what we are accustomed to today. They ran 6am-2pm; 2pm-10pm; and 10pm 6am.

-- Posted by LarLMoore on Tue, Jun 1, 2010, at 5:31 PM

I believe this is the same park where Babe Ruth League baseball was played in the mid-50s, and high school 'conference' tournaments were held, and even, perhaps, the state American Legion tournament when Tim McCarver was catching for Memphis Christian Brothers. I recall the 1953 Bell Buckle vs. Winchester tournament game--Joe Forgy was pitching for Winchester...the PA guy announced him as "Joe Froggy", which brought howls of laughter from his teammates. He still beat us (BBHS)!

-- Posted by dkd57 on Wed, Jun 2, 2010, at 11:03 AM

Leeii to the best of my memory the Royal Park was across the railroad tracks from the Reed home. And Bo, I seem to remember the Musgrave Park across from the Musgrave Pencil factory. The Royals played on Sunday afternoon(after church in those days), because the fans were at work in the mill the reat of the week. With no air conditioning in the 30s/40s, it was amazing how workers could do back breaking labor in 95 deg temps. They did have hugh fans, but with the cotton flying and the hugh machinery, it was torture. Also, some of the workers at the Shelbyville plant came from cotton mills in Lindale, Ga and Merrimack mill in Huntsville. Many had worked in the cotton mills when they were 8-13 years old, before the child labor laws were passed. Go to Google advanced search and "Merrimack Mills Employees in 1905". Then go down to picture 15 and 17 to see group pictures of the little children that worked in the mill. The mills were originally in Lowell, Mass., but were relocated in the South for the cheap labor provided by children. Also google "Lindale Georgia cotton mills".

-- Posted by Grits on Wed, Jun 2, 2010, at 6:28 PM



-- Posted by silver on Tue, Aug 17, 2010, at 2:56 PM

I remember the Royal Park from the 30's and 40's. I have watched many a ball game there while sitting on the roof of the stands. we could chase foul balls that went over the top and in the field behind. It was located just beyond the tressle and across the railroad tracks. There was a limestone rock quarry to the left as you were headed from the road to the park. Just below the quarry was the dump and further down was what was then known as the Ceaders then the Shelbyville Mills Babtist Church and then the School. It is correct there were a lot of prickly pears in that area, i have gotten into them more than once. I used to walk to and from Bakertown to the Shelbyville Mills School either on the old dirt road and sometimes on the tracks.

-- Posted by Dorris on Sat, Aug 28, 2010, at 12:26 AM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.