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Picturing the Past 132: Whittling away

Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011, at 4:18 PM

Whittlers on the Shelbyville square in April 1968. (T-G File Photo by Bo Melson)
Most people in Shelbyville over, say, age 40 (maybe even younger) remember the whittlers who sat outside Bedford County Courthouse on warm days.

They added color and character to the square. And, gradually, they just faded away.

We don't have these guys' names, but maybe some of you can identify them.

Seems like a good way to simply relax.

And we also get a good look at the old Dixie Hotel in the background.

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

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I contacted Huell Howser's production agency almost two years ago with this same question (episode about Uncle Pete, because some friends told me he had mentioned me during the interview). I got this reply:

"Huell just read your email and asked me to convey the unfortunate news that the WSM episodes no longer exist. We do a pretty good job of archiving Huell's tapes here in L.A., but I can't say the same for WSM in the 1970s.

But thanks for the email. You took Huell back."

-- Posted by razyn on Sun, Oct 9, 2011, at 11:36 PM

I called the Huell Howser production office here in the L.A. area and they have 2 video's that were made in Tennessee which have nothing to do with Shelbyville. The lady said to contact the station in Nashville to see if they are available there. Huell comes on here at 7:30 every night and has some great shows.

-- Posted by Cal t on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 7:09 PM

leeiii: I can manage to find the date of the newspaper feature and will send that to you. Regarding the Huell Howser piece, you'll probably have to check with the archives of the tv station. I think he was with Channel 4, WSM TV (but I'm not positive). I do know Huell has been in California for a number of years, doing the same type photojournalism. In fact, I think I saw in the Tennessean recently that his dad just died. I'm not sold on the idea that the man on the left is B.H., but maybe it is.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 1:13 PM

The man closest to you is BH Sanders remember him wearing leather hats?,sitting beside him is Marion Bomar who worked for BH.The man sitting by himself is Mr Warren.Best I can tell you.

-- Posted by mytaxesaremine on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 12:57 PM

No razyn, that is not Uncle Pete. His face is very familiar to me but I just can not come up with his name at the moment.

marnold1118, I sure would like to have a video or even audio of Huell Howser's interview with Uncle Pete if you could give me a clue as to how I should go about acquiring a copy. As a matter of fact if you could give me a date of your and David's story I could look it up in the archives at the library the next time I am in Shelbyville and possibly make a copy of it.

-- Posted by leeiii on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 11:54 AM

Looks like two whittlers and two talkers. I don't think the gentleman on the right is Uncle Pete. However, it was about this time that David Segroves and I did a story and photos of Uncle Pete and his mouth bows that he made and played, that we published in the T-G. The Associated Press also picked up the story and it appeared in other news media. Huell Howser also saw it and visited Shelbyville to do one of his TV segments on Uncle Pete Pilkington--fun memories!

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 10:49 AM

Is the guy on the right Uncle Pete Pilkington? I guess leeiii should know, but it looks like him to me.

-- Posted by razyn on Thu, Sep 29, 2011, at 10:36 AM

They past a law against whittling away at the court house years ago didn't they?

Speaking of Whittling away, has anyone watched the new two and a half men? Charlie Sheen was right. That new show is dead. When they ran Charlie off they killed the show also.

Now it is a show about a childish man (Ashton) and Allen who is starting to look and act gay on the show. Don't think it is going to make it. I give it one more show to straighten up before I decide to turn it off.

-- Posted by Unique-Lies on Wed, Sep 28, 2011, at 7:40 PM


I think the name you're looking for is Bob Wilkes.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, Sep 28, 2011, at 7:04 PM

Does anyone remeber who the bild fella was that ran the snack bar in the lobby of the courthouse?

-- Posted by eyeavol on Wed, Sep 28, 2011, at 5:28 PM

I think all the problem solvers moved to Hardees?

-- Posted by Bjaj1 on Wed, Sep 28, 2011, at 4:34 PM

It sure is good to see Hotel Dixie in the background.

-- Posted by bomelson on Wed, Sep 28, 2011, at 3:07 PM

David, that brought back a lot of good memories for me. I have heard my wife say many times that it was her duty in the 40s and 50s to go fetch her Grandfather from the Court House when they would get ready to leave and go home after a Saturday in town. I too can see in my mind's eye the wooden benches on the main floor, and the brass spitoons on the floor close by the benches. I can almost smell the stench from the restrooms underneath the Court House. I can also see the concrete benches out in the Courtyard where the "spit and whittlers" would congregate. I guess that many world and local problems were hashed and rehashed on that very property.

I recognize the man on the extreme right of the picture but his name escapes me at the moment. I am sure that some of our regulars will be able to tell you who all four of them are.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Sep 27, 2011, at 6:28 PM

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