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Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

Picturing the Past 72: Still an interesting sight

Posted Tuesday, August 3, 2010, at 11:57 AM

(Photo)
Bedford County deputy Robert Osteen, ATF agents and Sheriff Virgil Newman (in hat and tie at right) begin demolishing a still in woods off Rippy Ridge Road on April 2, 1963. (T-G file photo)
Jack Daniel's and George Dickel weren't the only alcohol manufacturers around south Middle Tennessee in the 1960s.

It was headline news in the Times-Gazette when a still was busted up on Tuesday, April 2, 1963 off Rippy Ridge Road in southeastern Bedford County. Two men from Coffee and Lincoln counties were arrested.

According to the story, 900 gallons of mash were fermented and ready for processing. Deputy Sheriff Robert Osteen surprised the men and caught them after a short foot chase. Sheriff Virgil Newman and ATF agents were around as well.

The mash was in 500 and 400 gallon fermenting boxes, according to the story, and the still was over a mile off the road down a vehicle trail.

Are stills still around? I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is yes.

MORE '63 STUFF: The news and advertisements in that April 3, 1963 edition were interesting. City council members were taking steps to stop parking along the 4-lane portions of Madison Street and Cannon Boulevard. I wonder if this meant people were actually parking their cars in the traffic lanes, for example, in the area of Madison between Evans and Whitthorne Streets. Remember, back then there were old houses on each side of Madison in that area and until relatively recent years you could still see the driveway curb cuts.

Blakemore Funeral Home was just opening for business, according to an advertisement. Charles Blakemore's assistant was today's county mayor, Eugene Ray. Blakemore's funeral business became somewhat secondary for a period of the late 1960s and very early 1970s when they ran the county's only ambulance service, before today's county EMS was founded.

Super Tire Market, owned by Haywood Russell, had opened at 904 Madison St. in the old Gentry's Garden Center location. That business later grew into Russell Dodge at the same spot.

Greenfield's Appliances, in another new building on Madison, offered "a new convenience for Shelbyville shoppers" - they were staying open weeknights until 9 p.m. A far cry from today's 24-hour businesses.

And remember The Fair Store and the H.J. Thompson store? They were advertising new spring clothes and shoes. Stewart-Potts Ford was touting the quality of '63 Fords and Wilkins Motors was selling Ramblers.

Photobucket

A Pure gas station in Shelbyville during, apparently, the early 1950s.

WHERE WAS THIS? What we have here is a picture of a picture. A photo of Family and Community Education Club members touring Garland King's museum was sent to the T-G. I was processing their group photo and noticed they were standing by this picture.

I've got a feeling some readers will instantly recognize this Pure gas station. It's before my time. Where was it? Judging by the vehicles, this may have been taken in the early 1950s.

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


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From an AP article found in the August 6th edition of the Southern Standard, (McMinnville, TN):

NEWPORT - A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter looking for marijuana plants found 50 plants in Cocke County.

When the ground crew he was supporting got there, officers also found seven moonshine whiskey stills - each capable of making 500 gallon batches. There were 200 gallons of finished whiskey. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports six of the stills were full of mash to make more.

So your assumption would be correct David, there's still plenty of "shine" being made in TN!

Thanks for another great article David.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Tue, Aug 10, 2010, at 12:26 AM

Thanks David, great memories and I can sure visulize Bo Melson in those days getting bowled over by the Sherif. Bo sure made some magnificent photos for the paper, which our entire family loved to see.

I may be mistaken, but I think George and Brooks Tune were twins. I was talking with Brooks one day in 1987 and he said George died from an abdominal aorta anureism and he may have to have his repaired. They were two of the nicest men I ever knew in Shelbyville, and there were so many great personalities in those days. A moonshiner told me one day in 1945 that the main reason he was wanted by the law was moonshiners did't pay taxes on their whiskey and the law was furious at anybody that did'nt pay taxes.

-- Posted by Grits on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 6:10 PM

I don't know if anybody who reads this is old enough to remember my cousin Sam Holt, who lived on a farm out near Haley. He was a retired Revenooer, active during Prohibition, and had a little museum of things pertaining to his career. They included weapons that had been fired at him, and one or two that he had used. Around 1930, he was sort of the Eliot Ness of Bedford County. I don't know what became of his stuff, there was an auction after he died -- I guess that was around 1959 or so.

-- Posted by razyn on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 4:02 PM

That is hilarious Bo. I can just visualize the event. I do not believe that I had ever heard of moonshine being used at the hospitals in the incubators.

However, it seems to me that I heard one time of some liquid substance being used in childbirth to help a woman pass a baby. One old boy standing nearby said "that aint nothin. I once put three drops on a dogs behind, and he passed a motorcycle." I can not swear to it whether or not that was a true story.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 12:03 PM

I covered moonshine still raids in practically every area of the county...including within the city limits of Shelbyville. Does anyone remember when some of the moonshine was often taken to the hospital for use in incubators?

A funny thing happened one afternoon when two deputies decided to run a little of the shine off to take to the hospital. They didn't know how to run the still. The person caught at the still advised them not to even try.

A few minutes later pipes started rattling, steam was spewing everywhere. I backed off a few yards and was trying to take a picture when the sheriff at that time, B.H. Sanders, ran right over the top of me. He said, "Take their picture!"

I replied, "I'll try as soon as you get off me."

The moonshiner told one and all how lucky they were the still didn't blow up...and said next time let him run a little batch off for them.

-- Posted by bomelson on Sat, Aug 7, 2010, at 10:38 AM

redddj, I always look forward to your input on racing. Thanks for all of your contributions.

Charlie even drove on the NASCAR Late Model circuit for awhile as did others who had driven for Hart Hastings. Most notable were Donnie Allison, and Darrell Waltrip.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Aug 5, 2010, at 11:48 AM

This is a story written (by Russ Thompson) on opening day, July 19, 1958 which many might be interested to read. On that day Shelbyville forever became a part of the racing history of Fairgrounds Speedway and the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

http://savenashvillespeedway.com/blog/20...

-- Posted by redddj on Thu, Aug 5, 2010, at 10:50 AM

I couldn't resist after reading about George and Brooks Tune as well as Hart Hastings and the race car. The first winner at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville was Charlie Griffin driving a car owned by them. I am proud today to be the public relations director for Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and do everything I can to make sure George Tune, Brooks Tune and Hart Hastings are remembered for history purposes. These three was the early pioneers of racing in this area.

http://savenashvillespeedway.com/blog/wp...

-- Posted by redddj on Thu, Aug 5, 2010, at 10:46 AM

ilikeoldsongs, I wanted to check Popcorn's autobiography "Me And My Likker" before I answered. In these parts it is said that Popcorn made the best moonshine of any they had ever tasted, and that you did not have to worry about being poisoned by his moonshine because he only used the very best materials in the construction of his stills. Popcorn was known as a truthful man whether you liked it or not. If there was something he did not want you to know, he would not lie about it, he would just tell you that it was none of your business. He says that his reputation was that he made the best moonshine in the whole country and beyond. He had customers from England, Australia, and France. He told them when they went through the airport to just say they had Mountain Spring Water in the jars, and he said that none was ever caught. I can not verify that myself, but I will take his word for it.

Speaking of Cocke County and Newport when you mentioned stolen cars reminded me that the trial in Cocke County of a multi-million dollar stolen car ring had just concluded in the last few months with a conviction.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Aug 4, 2010, at 12:52 PM

From about the mid fifties into the early sixties the only things I heard about from East Tennessee were the Vols, the Mocs, the Ramp Festival and Cocke County moonshine. The only one of those I rooted for was my Vols, but there was a lot of respect for the quality of the Cocke County product among those that had sampled it.I think it could be said, with a high degree of accuracy, that in the minds of many it was the benchmark by which other 'shiners were judged. I personally heard one defend his product as "just as good as anything you'll get in Cocke County". I can't say either way, because not a drop of 'shine has ever slid down my gullet.

On the local scene, I seem to remember another still being busted up just past Rover, in a little scope of woods on the right, not far off the highway. Can't remember the time frame, though. And of course there have nearly always, it seems, been rumors of stills down in the 18th, or on Chestnut Ridge.( Really was one there, but way before my time.)

Seems that a lot of things go in cycles. Do we have as many cars stolen around here as in the sixties, for instance? Seems that I don't hear of as many, but maybe I just don't pay attention like I used to when I was young. There for a long time it seemed that at least every couple of weeks a car was stolen and burned down in the 18th, or carried to Grundy County and stripped.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Aug 4, 2010, at 10:42 AM

leeiii: Popcorn Sutton was legendery...even beyond the confines of East Tennessee. I think it's widely known that Newport is the "moonshine capital" of the universe...even today.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Wed, Aug 4, 2010, at 7:56 AM

Sharon22, No he was from near the Tennessee/North Carolina border near the interstate in the general area of Maggie Valley, Cosby, Hartford, Newport, and Parrottsville. His funeral was attended by many celebrities and politicians, the most notable being Hank Williams, Jr.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Aug 4, 2010, at 7:06 AM

leeii,

Would that moonshiner you speak of be from around the Townsend TN area?

-- Posted by Sharon22 on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 9:59 PM

razyn, that is hilarious. I basically learned how to drive by pulling cars into the wash rack at the service station and then backing them out after I had finished washing them.

Another thought came to my mind. Back in the late 50s down at the bowling alley Gerth Batte had a small car kind of like a Triumph or Opel or something like that. Shields had a parking spot beside the bowling alley roped off with telephone poles sawed off and buried in the ground with steel cables running through them. Gerth would park in there and several of us boys would go out and pick his car up and put it back down sideways in the parking spot. It is strange but he did not see the humor in it that we did.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 3:28 PM

Now, that's a good story. Besides the funny part, I like the toll gate reference (how far you could drive on a well paved road, for free).

My mom was allowed to teach herself to drive, as long as she didn't go out onto the street. The family car was a long Pierce Arrow. She would back it to the edge of the street, stop, and go forward into the "garage," which was a recently converted carriage house. Backing out again required her to make an L shaped turn, and miss two pecan trees, while moving backward. So she was pretty skillful in reverse, for the rest of her life. One time, though, she thought she would turn the car around in the carriage house, so she could go forward out the driveway. She got the car turned 90 degrees, but wedged in. They had to remove an end wall to get the car out, and she wasn't allowed to drive any more for a while. This was at 734 N. Main St.

-- Posted by razyn on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 2:51 PM

Another interesting story revolves around Stewart-Potts Motors that I was reminded of with the passing of J. Ivan Potts, Jr. Back in the late 20s or early 30s my Grandfather bought a new Ford from J. Ivan Potts, Sr. He had never driven an automobile before and Mr. Potts was going to ride with him out to the toll gate and teach him how to drive. My Grandfather wrecked the car before he got out of town and Mr. Potts told him to turn around and go back to the dealership where Mr. Potts gave him another new car. He proceeded to his home where he had cleaned out the buggy shed to park his new car in. He pulled in and hollered Whoa, but the car did not respond to his voice commands and he knocked the back out of the buggy shed.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 1:16 PM

Thanks David for two more great pictures. I am reasonably sure that there are whiskey stills around today. Here in East Tennessee one of the legendary Moonshiners (Popcorn Sutton) has just died in the last couple of years. Up until the time of his unfortunate demise he was still active in moonshining.

You bring up a lot of interesting information in your More '63 Stuff. I could not put a date on the Madison Street and Cannon Boulevard parking dilema, but back in the 50s it was common for people to park on the street in front of their houses on Madison Street.

We moved to North Carolina in 1976 and somewhere around that time one of the Blakemore girls was a reporter for WLOS-TV in Asheville. I think her name was Sherry, or Sheree, or maybe Sheri. And I can remember when all of the funeral homes had an ambulance service.

I also remember all the other businesses that you mentioned.

As for the Pure Oil station on the corner of North Main and East Franklin, I remember it well, but most closely associate it with George Tune. It was just across the corner from your Grandfather's Texaco Station. George, and Brooks, and Hart Hastings worked on their race cars in the back part of the Texaco property. The race car shop actually fronted East Franklin.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 12:50 PM

David, Another interesting blog topic. Regarding the Pure Oil gas station. I'm 99% sure this is the one on N. Main St. that in the 30s was owned and operated by Raymond Tucker (my father-in-law) and Lloyd Payne. I think they sold it when Raymond joined the Navy and was stationed in Pearl Harbor. When he returned from the service, he began a business with W.M. Earnhart, his father-in-law. In later years it was owned by George Tune and his wife. It was, for a period of time, also the bus station. There is a photo in the Bedford County Historical Society's postcard book (2007) of Raymond Tucker standing in front of the station. That steep roofline was very distinctive. There may have been another owner between these two. It'll take a bit more research.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 11:04 AM


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