At a business group meeting the other night, a speaker was recalling the days of her youth. She spoke of a family shopping trip that was punctuated with an evening meal eaten at the most special restaurant of that time: Shoney’s. That conversation reminded me of my first adventure to that eating establishment.

The visit took place sometime in the 1960’s. Uncle Ed and Aunt Rosie were visiting from Cincinnati. They were childless, but when upon their arrival in Knoxville, no fewer than nine nephews and nieces descended upon us. The two were the same age as our parents, but infrequent trips to Knoxville made them special, and their spoiling of us made the visits the next best things to Christmas.

On that summer visit to Knoxville, the two opted to take Jim, Dal, and me to lunch at the newest restaurant in town. The Shoney’s was located in Bearden on Kingston Pike. Next door was a theater. For our uncle and aunt, the visit wasn’t that special. They’d eaten numerous times at Frisch’s, the Cincinnati version Shoney’s. Aunt Rosie wanted onion rings, and Shoney’s specialized in them. Up to that point in life, I’d never heard of onion rings and wondered what could be so special about a slice of onion unless it was covered by a hamburger bun or it floated on top of a bowl of pinto beans.

We slid into one to the big booths and looked at the menu. On it was the now famous figure of the “Big Boy” and all sorts of offerings made choosing difficult. I thought about ordering the Big Boy hamburger, the first one I’d ever seen that was two patties with double buns, lettuce, pickles and secret sauce. Then I saw the perfect thing. It was a Kingfish sandwich. At home, we’d had crappie, fish sticks, tuna salad, and canned salmon, but I’d never experienced a sandwich with a huge hunk of fish. A side of fries and a glass of tea, sweet tea that is, rounded out a wonderful meal.

Aunt Rosie scooted a plated piled high with onion rings in front of us three boys. With hesitation, I picked one up and prepared for oncoming nausea. Instead, my taste buds delighted in the combination of batter, grease and onion. We shared the order and wished more had been coming.

After our meals, we sat back and enjoyed talking with family that weren’t around too much. Uncle Ed declared that we had to have dessert before leaving. The waitress came, and he ordered strawberry pie for all of us. I wasn’t thrilled about that. Mother had made her version of strawberry pie plenty of times. She’d usually included some rhubarb that counteracted sweetness with tartness. I’d rather have had lemon pie of a bowl of ice cream.

When our server delivered the slabs of pie, I was amazed. The berries were huge and they were held in place with a sweet substance that made us want to lick our plates. On top was a thick layer of cool whip. In a matter of what seemed like seconds, we devoured the pie and plopped back to allow our swollen bellies room to expand.

Over the years, I ate plenty of meals at Shoney’s. It was a good place to take a date or eat a meal after church. Later, it became the best place for breakfast. These days, I don’t stop at the home of Big Boy, but the memories of the food and time with family are plenty filling.

Everett the Cop and an Old Story

I received a message from Vince Blanton. He told me that "Everett the cop" who used to break up the drag races at the red light and, in general, give kids a hard time is still around. I know his house was in Karns but didn't know if he still lived there. The man struck fear into the lives of plenty of people, mostly those in their teens. I was one of them.

One summer I broke my ankle-for the second time- working for the maintenance department in Knoxville. I had an orthodontist appointment and had to drive Mother's car since it was an automatic. Being a typical teen, I took the long way to the appointment, and that route took me over Byington-Beaver Ridge Road. Just past where the water department used to be and MK Mechanical Services is located there is a narrow bridge. As I came over that structure, a boy in my class passed me going the other way. He was speeding and nearly hit me.

The incident scared me witless, so I passed the first driveway on the right, backed into it and prepared to chase the guy down and...flog him with my crutch. I looked to my left, the shortest distance, to the right, and back to the left. With no other car in sight, I pulled out. Midway in the road, I looked up to see a Knox County Sheriff's squad car barreling straight for me.My first instinct was to stomp the gas pedal and allow the 386 Plymouth Fury to make a getaway. The police vehicle's rack of lights was spinning, but there was on siren.

Tires squealed, mine as they grabbed the road in traction and the lighted one as they tried to stop and avoid a crash. Too late. Mother's car moved far enough ahead to avoid being t-boned by the officer's cruiser. The impact occurred on the rear quarter panel. Everything went into slow motion. The sound of grinding metal and exploding plastic was deafening.

I watched in amazement as the cop car struck mine and then began to slide sideways. Its rear end lost traction and left the road. It went down the steep ditch and came to a definitive thud with the front of the car facing perpendicular to the road.

I scrambled out of the car, grabbed my crutches, and cursed. Yep, Mother would kill me. I screwed up her car. But what was I to do? The police car was on top of me in the blink of an eye. I'd done everything properly, but the car was still mangled in the side.

I walked to the ditch and looked down at the patrol car. The door swung opened and a form exited. He grabbed the door frame and used it as a way to pull himself up the embankment. When he stepped on the pavement, the officer glared at me. Deputy Gene Everett was hopping mad and looked as if he'd relish the opportunity to draw his pistol and put the teenage punk in front of him out of commission for good.

A Highway Patrolman covered the accident and found me at fault. No tickets were issued, but I was the one who was supposedly in the wrong. Mother contacted Sheriff Wagoner and asked him how I could be at fault when the officer was speeding after the car driven by the teen I was going after, but was doing so without having his siren on. Let's say the matter was dropped, and I was no longer the offending party.

I figure of all the encounters teens had with Deputy Everett, mine was the worse. In hindsight, I see where my road rage began. I also know just how lucky I was to have not been injured. Everett the cop patrolled the community for years to come, and to be honest, he did more good than harm. We teens just didn't like him because he gave us so much grief.

Friday Night

According to my wonderful wife, Friday night is the best one of the week. I started thinking about that statement and realize that she’s right—again. Friday has always held a special place in all of our hearts.

During my life as a student, Friday represented the end of long week filled with homework, tests, and all the other trials and tribulations of school. During elementary years, it meant that I could play outside longer without being dragged in to complete the next day’s assignments. We didn’t leave the home place for activities. After Friday night supper, which many nights consisted of Mother’s spaghetti or hamburgers and homemade fries, Jim, Dal, and I would then gather around the television to watch our favorite show, “The Twilight Zone.”

For high school students, Friday was the best day for social activities. Ball games were big events for all of us. We were filled with school pride in those days and cheered our teams in victory or defeat. Some guys were lucky enough to have a girlfriend, so Friday meant dates and dances. The rest of us piled into cars for an evening of cruising the Copper Kettle, driving to Broadway to circle Shoneys, and then setting out for Oak Ridge to see what girls might be at McDonalds. It was cheap fun since gas was no more than 30 cents a gallon. Later in the night, some guys gathered at the red light in Karns. Cars lined up on both sides of the highway, and when the light turned green, they raced for the community center which was a quarter mile away. Races were suspended when cars came toward the racers or when “Everett the cop” came to break up the fun.

During college years, Friday nights brought a sweet break from the grind of mind-numbing lectures, hour-long labs, and late night study groups. Big schools were surrounded with businesses that catered to the interests of college students—drinking and the opposite sex. Smaller schools became ghost towns on Fridays as students threw bags of dirty clothes and textbooks in the backseats of their cars and then raced for the Interstate that led home. I knew a couple of guys who went home every weekend during their freshman year. They didn’t have a vehicle during some of that time, so they walked the ramp to the Interstate and thumbed down rides to home a hundred miles away. It’s hard to imagine doing that these days.

Young parents today spend many of their Fridays at some activity in which their children are involved. Baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball are just a few of the things that suck every minute of time from Friday. Sometimes weekend tournaments in those sports consume entire weekends as well, and moms and dads say a “thank you” when they can return to work for a rest.

Some couples make Friday a date night. They hire a babysitter and enjoy each other’s company without the constant harangue of children. At other times, parents load up the kids and go out for a meal on Friday. It’s a treat for moms who have worked hard at work and at home every day. The food doesn’t have to be special; it only needs to be prepared by someone else.

These days, Amy and I forego the dining out experience on Friday nights. It’s not worth the effort to fight for a place to eat or to wait for an hour to get a table. We have Tony’s Pizza on speed dial. Anymore when we call, they ask how we and our dog Snoop are. Netflix provides our entertainment. At least it does until one or both of us is falls into a deep sleep in our recliners. Fridays are now times to stay at home and sleep as long as we please on Saturday mornings. It’s a treat only offered by that one day of the week.


I have listened to enough political bull crap the last few months to last me a lifetime. In earlier years, debates and skirmishes between parties were fascinating. Times have changed. I’ve grown too old to like this stuff, and the times are too bad for such shenanigans by our elected officials.

One thing I hope everyone caught is the fact that the word “leaders” wasn’t used to describe the folks in Washington, D.C. The Republicans and Democrats might be a lot of things, but leader is not among them. I like to think of more positive individuals such as, well, nobody in present positions of political power comes to mind. We are a nation bankrupt of true leaders.

These elected people might do well to remember that they are stewards of the country. That means that their jobs are to make decisions that benefit the citizens, as well as the country. The American voter didn’t send them to Washington to get rich or powerful. Their jobs are representing the will of the people.
Representing the people means just that. It does not mean pushing the agenda of a political party or some splinter group with radical ideas. It means listening to constituents to learn what is important, not what is politically expedient. Then the senator or congressman must look deep into his heart and choose to do those things that help the people. It has nothing to do with helping the lobbyists or the corporations to maintain their special deals and privileges.

Partisan politics will destroy this country. The Republicans had several years when they held power in the executive and legislative branches. During that time they crammed down the throats of Americans the things that served their party or their ideology. The Democrats fought tooth and nail and tried to filibuster against any legislation that came down the pike. Now the Dems are in power, and they evidently learned little from the past because they are now doing the same thing their counterparts pulled before. The Republicans have taken on the Democrats role by opposing anything that is suggested.

The US is in deep poop. Our economy, and with it our way of life, nearly crashed. President Obama took over a reeling ship and spent billions to regain control. The country faces a deficit that might someday act as a tsunami that sweeps us away. What was he to do? Cutting taxes wouldn’t do much good for so many people out of work. The Republicans have lambasted the president, but just what would they have done? This country should hang its head in disgrace that so many of its citizens have inadequate or no health care. The Dems want to involve the government; the Reps want to keep the status quo. All the time, too many people must choose between medical care and housing or eating.

The time to “just say NO” is over. If these guys keep it up, the gridlock now present will remain as our country comes to a complete standstill. The time for partisan politics is over. If individuals won’t represent the people and provide the needed leadership, they must be defeated and sent home to face their angry, confused, and desperate constituents. Lead or get out of the way, all of you. Work for us, the citizens, instead of your own elections team or the narrow and hateful views of some fringe group. Inspire us; don’t destroy us.

Sock Hops

Only enough lights shine to light walking areas. The place is crowded with teens, some on the floor and others sitting in groups in the bleachers. A band is set up under the far basketball goal, and their limited repertoire contains most of the favorites of the age group. On Friday night after a ball game in the 60’s, teens spent the rest of the evening at sock-hops.

For steady couples, a sock-hop was a time to be with friends and fill up an evening for just a little money. Most of the guys couldn’t dance, but they knew to give it their best efforts in order to please girlfriends. The Jerk, Watusi, Pony, and twist were just some of the popular dance performed to varying degrees of success during the night. Bodies gyrated and arms swung, sometimes so wildly that they swatted others, during faster tempo songs. The air of the gym filled with a mixture of sweat, Wind Song or Wood Hue that girls dabbed on necks and wrists, and English Leather or Jade East in which boys had bathed. Males stood in place and moved only as little as was necessary to appease their dates and to avoid future teasing by friends. These guys weren’t to be pitied because every third song or so, the music changed and a slow dance started. Couples danced and melted together with only minimal movement. It was the perfect balance of high energy and young-love emotions.

If a guy couldn’t get a date for the dance, he attended “stag.” Upon entering the gym, he peered through the dark until friends were located. Then the boy joined the group as they sat three or four rows up on the bleachers. There they told jokes, punched each other, looked over the available girls at the other end of the bleachers, and dared each another to ask a young damsel to dance. Eventually, a brave male would take the dare and make the long trip to where the gaggle of girls was located. Most often, the strutting male would make it only two-thirds of the way before turning around and high-tailing himself back to the safety and harassment of his friends. Once in a while, a boy would make the entire trip, ask a girl to dance, and then return thoroughly humiliated at having been “shot out of the saddle.” But guys continued the ritual because they’d heard stories of others who’d actually asked a girl to dance and she’d said yes, and the two became a couple. Each held out hope that he could be so fortunate.

Sock-hops disappeared sometime; I don’t remember just when. It’s for sure that kids today are missing out on something specials. Those dances were times when kids solidified friendships. They marked times when the joy of love and the excruciating pain of break-ups were experienced. As much as anything, those get-togethers allowed teens a chance to mature a little in a safe place. Guys learned the steps of “courting” until they no longer acted like silly freshmen boys. Girls came to realize the power that they held over what was supposed to be “the stronger sex.”

Do kids dance today? I’m not sure. If they do, it might be alone or with a Wii or some other game control in their hands. Something’s missing when a partner isn’t a part of the equation. Sometimes I wish that good things from the past could return for today’s youth. I bet they’d enjoy a sock-hop.