Nashville, TN. March 22
Well we crossed the border from Kentucky to Tennessee and traded bluegrass for blues; Daniel Boone for Davy Crockett, the 15th state admitted to the Union for the 16th, and a state that did not secede from the Union for one that did (although both were bitterly divided).
Before we left Kentucky though, we made a stop in Bowling Green to visit the National Corvette Museum. It is a private, non-profit organization devoted to the Chevrolet Corvette; as they say, America’s only true sports car. First produced in 1953, it was named after the British warships that were designed to be light and fast. The Corvette automobile did not gain immediate popularity until Zora Argus-Duntov wrote a three page internal memo telling the big brass that the Corvette should be re-focused as a true sports car. Zora was a Russian emigre who had worked for auto companies in England and later joined GM. His passion for quality in sports cars had a lasting impact on the success of the Corvette. The Corvette is now known around the world and has a stunning list of race victories.
Even non-sports car fans generally have heard of the Corvette. even more people heard of the car on Feb. 12, 2014 when a large sinkhole opened up under the showroom of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Eight Corvettes valued at over $1,000,000 dropped into a sinkhole 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Several of the cars were deemed a total loss. Others were repaired. The Museum, besides repairing the damage, soon added a new feature: The Sinkhole Exhibit where you listen to the sound of a sinkhole roof collapsing, can stand where the sinkhole occurred and see tape outlining the edge of the hole, observe the cars in all of their smashed glory, and even buy a small container of dirt from the sinkhole.
It took us 90 minutes to go through the museum. I am sure Corvette and car aficionados spend much more time. The time spent was enjoyable to recollect on an American icon, the various models designed, and various tidbits of information about the Corvette. I had to make sure Chris did not sit down somewhere and sign on the dotted line to buy one.
Nashville was just a quick hour trip down the interstate through the rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. We are staying south of the city in an Airbnb townhouse. Nashville hotels are extremely pricey and the one timeshare exchange located in the area had no openings from January through May of this year when we were trying to book a room. So we drive a bit more.
Before coming to our lodging, we visited the Tennessee State Museum and State Capitol. The State Museum will be moving to a new facility later this year assuming the work is completed timely. Nashville is undergoing a construction boom and workers are in short supply. The current facility is twice as big as the new one but shares space with other state offices and performing arts organizations. The new facility is proposed to have more advanced displays using technology and multi-media displays.
I find it hard to well describe the State Museum. You know how sometimes you gather an impression early and may not give later reactions a full consideration? I felt that about the Tennessee State Museum. It covered the time up to about the First World War. Most topics had a display but they struck me as brief, general, covering the clichés. Maybe I have seen too many museums and historical sites. It overdid the “We as Tennesseans are just the common man with our roots in the 1800s”. After 90 minutes here, we moved on to the State Capitol a few blocks away.
The State Capitol was completed just before the Civil War. It is small, with most officials, including legislators, having offices and meeting rooms in nearby buildings. The marble and granite are from Tennessee and are attractive, with nice ceiling decorations. There is no outstanding art, generally the walls are bare or have pictures of past Governors or early state leaders, complemented with marble busts of similar types of famous people. The Supreme Court has moved to its own building and the Senate and House Chambers are pleasant but not notable.
We did learn on a tour that the state flag shows three stars, indicating East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. It seems there is a strong identification with each area, and the Supreme Court judges have to reflect a degree of balance between the regions. The Capitol is also notable that two people are buried within its walls, the architect and the head of the original Capitol Building Commission. President James Polk was from Kentucky and he and his wife are buried outside on the Capitol Grounds. This is the only U.S. State Capitol to serve as a mausoleum and a cemetery.
The tour guide refreshed our memory about the role Tennessee played in the passage of the 19th Amendment for Women’s Suffrage. The Amendment came to a vote in Tennessee, where if Tennessee approved it, the Amendment would become the law of the land. In the process of passage, an attempt was made to table (and thus kill) the Amendment. The vote was a tie. If a motion to table is voted on three times with all being a tie, the motion dies and the whole Amendment would not have passed. The second vote was also a tie, no one was changing their vote. On the third vote, the newest and youngest representative received a note from his mother telling him she expected him to vote for passage. He had not voted for passage on the previous two attempts. On the third vote, he voted for passage, the Amendment was approved and the Governor quickly signed it before any other action could be attempted. Can you imagine the media and social media attention today if that occurred?
We had an early dinner downtown, along with many visitors from Toronto who were in town for the Predators-Maple Leafs NHL game (the Maple Leafs won). Puckett’s has been serving food downtown for over fifty years and we both had a barbecue special. Quite tasty. After a ride through rush hour traffic, we landed at our Airbnb location. In the last two reported years, Nashville ranked 19th and 23rd worst for rush hour traffic, not out of line with its ranking as 25th largest U.S. city.
Ed and Chris
Epilogue: Snippets on life in America from Chris
Day 7: Visual art is all around us. The beautiful quilts made into intricate patterns with thousands of pieces of fabric. Magnificent detailed paintings of birds in their environment by Audubon. Stone buildings constructed by the CCC workers in the 1930s. What is tacked on your refrigerator door?