Those unforgettable places

More Than A Day Away By Mike Steely

Some places stick in my old memories, places and things that just pop up in my mind for no real reason and help to make my day and life better.

My wife and I have traveled the States on jobs and vacations and often stop here and there if something curious interests us. We’ve visited the past homes, birth- and deathplaces of presidents, patriots and famous people.

Our travels and life keep popping up in my memory, usually bringing an external or internal smile. Here are a few of those memories.

When we were in Atlanta, we visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and I walked into a mock-up of the Oval Office. I remember standing at the doorway wondering if I should go behind the desk and have a seat. My mind flashed back to a chat that my wife and I had with Carter in between his term as Georgia governor and becoming president.

The Carter Library memory led to another one and I recently found a photo of that memory. We’ve been fans of the Juliette, Georgia, site of the filming of “Fried Green Tomatoes” and I’ve written about the little town. Among the TV and motion picture displays in the Carter Library is a Tomatoes exhibit with the tombstone of “Buddy’s Arm” from that iconic movie.

If you don’t remember the movie, the tombstone that was used depicts one of the characters who lost an arm to an oncoming train. The arm, in the movie, is buried and marked with the stone.

I recall visiting the childhood home of Helen Keller in Alabama and visiting her grave in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

I recall walking through the park in St. Louis as we approached the Gateway Arch and remember standing at the three-state marker in Cumberland Gap and interviewing Col. Harlan Sanders at a restaurant opening years ago in northern Kentucky.

I remember the route I took walking to school as a child, a skit that a friend and I did before the 6th grade class and sitting on our porch as a teen in Florida when my family moved, watching the other teens walk by on their way from school. I recall my family shopping in Knoxville when I was a child at Miller’s Department Store and Buster Brown Shoes. I recall those long car drives down to and back from Knoxville long before Interstate 75.

Other places and things seem to stroll across my memory as I get older, like seeing President Eisenhower at a rural airport when he was campaigning in Kentucky. And I fondly and sadly recall holding the doors as an honor guard for the senators who attended his funeral.

I can still see John Denver accepting a presidential campaign button I handed him after he performed in Johnson City and recall crawling through Ice Box Cave in Pineville, Tennessee, with my old friend Roy Price and the unopened can of beer we found there sitting on a stalagmite.

Things like that pop up as well as more recent events like Eddie Mannis handing me a new campaign ball cap when he ran for the Tennessee legislature and the first hug I got from Vivian Shipe when I met her.

I have so many good and unexpected memories and too many to mention, of family, people, places and incidents. Maybe I’ll wait for a later time to share them with you.