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Celebrating the people and the stories of the city we all love: Jackson, Tennessee.
Why do we create monuments to the past? What is it about physical reminders—be they statues or plaques—that move us? Why do we feel the need to travel to the places of great historical events and walk the same ground? I am struck by the words of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg: “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays.”
Courtney Vandiver walked toward the tall, off-white credenza in the corner of the studio, above which hung two loose coloring sheets with pink crayon streaks bleeding from the bold, black outlines of butterfly wings. About eight feet of blue masking tape formed an “L” shape around the credenza. Before the class began and the girls were still giggling and adjusting their leotards, Courtney told me she had placed the tape there one stressful day, warning her students not to cross the line.
Don’t find yourself empty-handed this Mother’s Day! Jackson has dozens of excellent local shops to explore, many of which are run by women. If you’re stumped on what Mom would truly appreciate this year, check out this gift guide for ten one-of-a-kind ideas from female-run businesses we have featured in our journal and on our blog.
Two or three times a week, I put my body through the ringer. For thirty minutes, I do exercises that a man approaching forty probably shouldn’t attempt. I throw my body to the ground and spring up as quickly as I can. I push a weighted plate across the floor. I crawl like a bear up and down mats made of rubber. After all that is finished, I put on boxing gloves and hit a heavy bag that sometimes feels as if it’s made of concrete. When I kick it, my foot and shin turn red and bruise. My shoulders and arms feel as if they’re weighted by stones.
Hailing from the small town of Pinson, the city of Jackson was considered our metropolis. The vibrant downtown community was a far cry from the simple and wholesome country life of farmwork, church, school, and more farmwork. The coveted opportunity to go to “town” was a big deal. The long journey of a mere eleven miles up Highway 45 from Pinson was overshadowed by the thoughts of bright lights, department stores, food choices, and other amenities that were unavailable in Pinson.
If we could create a community that lets people thrive, prosper, and grow with safe streets, better schools, and improved infrastructure, along with economic growth, prosperity, and a better quality of life for decades to come, would you want to be a part of that vision for our community? For me, the answer to this question began fifty-four years ago just thirty miles up the road in the small rural town of Dyer, Tennessee. As a young boy, nothing excited me more than Saturday night when my family would load up in our white Ford Galaxie 500 and drive south to the big city of Jackson.
My parents were Olean and Carl Mayo. They ran a small grocery store on D Street in Bemis for thirty-five years, working long hours, six-and-a-half days a week, with no vacations because they had a dream of sending all five of their children to college. In our small house, the seven of us learned to share one bathroom, two bedrooms, and chores both at home and at the store. Our parents’ business was not only our livelihood but the key to our future, so we did our part to make it successful.
Like so many of my generation, my family grew up struggling a bit. I was born at 844 East College Street, near the old A&P store, just down from the Aeneas Center. My dad was in the service and retired as Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. Back then, the people of Jackson took care of each other, cared for those who couldn’t care for themselves, and helped families stay together and self-reliant. There were government programs to help, but we relied more on ourselves and our neighbors. I believe we were better off for it.
In the late 1960’s in America, most states still enforced laws that made it illegal for a black person to drink from the same water fountain as a white person. Not all Americans embraced this way of thinking, however. Men like Matt Drayton (played by David Lundgren), publisher of a San Francisco newspaper, made a point to show biracial couples on the front page of his newspaper. Despite his progressive views on integration in America, Matt struggles when his white daughter comes home from her internship with quite a surprise: a black fiancé.
My childhood was probably different from most. Some of my earliest memories are from campaign events and press conferences, crawling around on the floor of the old city hall. Six generations ago, my family settled in Jackson, Tennessee. Since then, the Conger family has been a part of moving Jackson forward. My great-great-great-grandfather, PDW Conger, was mayor in 1861 to 1871. He was also part of the citizens’ committee that searched for the suspects in the Union Bank robbery and murder in 1859.
I can’t quite remember my life before The Great British Baking Show, but for that I’m grateful. If you’re unfamiliar with this British TV show that’s invading America and likely your Netflix watchlist, you really are missing out. Polite bakers, quirky hosts, scrumptious desserts—I mean, come on. It’s a true cup of tea, and as a former baker myself, I often daydream of creating my own treats under the white tent in that storybook-like field. All throughout high school, I was known as “the cake girl.”
In the last fifty-two years, the city of Jackson has had a total of three mayors. Robert Conger was mayor from 1967 to 1989. Charles Farmer succeeded him and served until 2007. That same year, Jerry Gist transitioned from county mayor to city mayor and will step down later this summer when Jackson elects a new mayor. There are a few possible reasons that only three men have held the most important position in the city over the course of half a century.
I like tattoos. I like tattoos a lot. So when the chance came up for me to interview the owners of Other Mother Tattoo, I jumped at the opportunity. I already knew that Briana Walker and Whitney Harbin were amazing at what they did, but after our conversation, I decided to start referring to them (and all the other tattoo artists that I know) as artists—not just tattoo artists. After reading our discussion, you might choose to do the same.
Already hungry for lunch? Us, too. Instead of trying to drive across town in your short break or run home for disappointing leftovers, try out the recently launched Waitr app! Waitr currently delivers food from over two dozen area restaurants, over half of which are unique to Jackson, and the list is growing. Not only that, but their app also offers an easy-to-operate group ordering option that allows for a special and convenient way for multiple people to grab a bite in a hurry.
If you drive through the suburban sprawl surrounding Nashville, headed west towards Jackson, Tennessee, the rolling hills will soon taper to level ground. You’ll know you’re almost there when a field of trees swallowed in kudzu forms hovering masses, almost like ancient creatures gathered alongside the road. We don’t think about it too much, but there’s something to the landscape of a place. Plenty of artists have tried, but it shapes us in ways we can’t quite name.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Like any place, Jackson, Tennessee, has its fair share of history, some things worth celebrating and others worth mourning, but all are worth remembering so that we can move forward in hope for change. One of those historically significant events for our community (and hundreds of others across the U.S.) is the brutal lynching of African Americans—not just one, but three. Jacksonians Jesse and Mary Chandler Wooten gave birth to a daughter in 1883.
As the weather gradually warms up this month, we’re all eager to get out of the house and find unique ways to spend our weekends. This March is full of exciting events, new and old, and many of which are as fun for kids and they are for adults. Check them out!
"I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things." I remember hearing this line when watching Mad Men one day, and while it was referring to the breakup of two characters on the show, I couldn’t help but think how much it speaks to a greater human characteristic. Do we not all love the start of something new? Isn’t an infatuation with the promise of beginnings a universal condition?
As I sat near the window at Starbucks, a man wearing brown leather boots and a denim jacket hand-stitched with the name “Wolf” immediately caught my attention. Though I had heard and read many things about Lee Wilson, I had never met him up until this point. As one of the co-owners of Jackson Escape Rooms and a winning contestant of CBS’ reality show, Hunted, Lee has proven his seemingly uncanny ability to strategize and solve problems, a skill that far surpasses his knack for style.
Even though I’ve lived in Jackson for almost twenty years, I still feel like a newcomer in a lot of ways, so it surprises me when somebody I think has lived here for quite a while tells me they didn’t know that Jackson has a third post office. It makes sense, when I think about.
When I was young, my family would take vacations to different cities to watch baseball games. While I loved baseball, the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing the skyline of whatever city we were visiting. In my single digit years, it was always St. Louis. Driving past the multitude of Drury Inns in the suburbs and waiting for the skyline to materialize in the distance never got old. Seeing the Arch stretch across the sky is something I can still see in my mind today. As I got older, the cities became larger: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York.
While the weather may be dreary these days, Jackson’s social scene is most definitely not. February is bringing the most dancing, learning, and new fun our city has seen since the holiday. Here’s just a handful of the awesome events happening throughout our community this month.
“We are ‘be the change you want to see’ kind of people. Ultimately, we can complain about what is not available to us in rural West Tennessee or we can choose to change it.” This is Katie Weatherford’s heart behind Retro Coffee Bar, West Tennessee’s newest coffee option that is on the move and popping up at events, weddings, and festivals. Based in Selmer, Katie and her husband Jake have teamed up with couple Matthew and Sarah Moore to create the delicious coffee they crave, without all of the hassle of attempting a full storefront in a small town.
I had a college professor tell me once, “Remember, you are changing your generation and the generations of the people around you.” Those words are so true and are still relevant in my life today. In fact, that professor was living proof of that statement by changing my life with mentoring, advising, and pushing me to be better. It was not just that one professor, of course. There were (and still are) many people who continually wanted to invest in me as I grew up here. My father and mother met at Lambuth University, but my dad was not in school there.
“third wave coffee.” noun. 1. The most recent cultural phenomenon in the history of the coffee industry and consumption. Comes after the first wave of coffee, which included “growing coffee consumption exponentially,” and the second wave of coffee, which began to “define and enjoy specialty coffee.” 2. Purchasing coffee due to its “origin and artisan methods of production.” 3. A movement aspiring to produce the highest quality of coffee possible at every level while pleasing and intriguing the coffee consumer. “UrbanHouse.” noun.
Martin, Tennessee, is a town with a population of around 11,475. It’s known for its annual Tennessee Soybean Festival and for the University of Tennessee at Martin. If you drive down University Street, you’ll go right through the university, pass by Sammie’s (an aptly-named sandwich shop), and mosey by several boutiques and small shops. It’s a small, charming place. Locals support the UTM Skyhawks and the Westview High School Chargers and eat at The Grind.
What comes to mind when you think of a gym? Is it bulging biceps, wrenching pain, or maybe an excuse to consume more calories? Going to the gym may give you a dream physique, sore muscles, or justification eating sweets, but Brick House Strength offers more than just a physical workout. “We are a grass roots women's fitness movement,” owners Melissa Stanfill and Natalia Santiago affirms. “Our mission is to help all women build stronger foundations, brick by brick.”
I’m sitting by myself, the steady thrum of others’ voices around me, and I’m looking at a white sign with neat black lettering: “WHERE HOT COFFEE AND WARM CONVERSATION FLOW.”I’ve got the hot coffee part—it’s steaming pleasantly in a glossy brown mug—and I can hear the groups talking around me. There are some college students in the corner of the room. (I can tell they’re in school because of their tired eyes trained on the laptops perched in front of them, even as they continue to hold conversation with each other.)
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With so many changes happening amongst our school system, it’s easy to become discouraged, but we’re thankful for leaders like Dr. Jared Myracle whose vision hold our community together. Today on our podcast, Kevin Adelsberger interviews this Chief Academic Officer of the Jackson-Madison County School System to learn about how he ended up in the world of education and why investing in our local schools is essential to building a great city.
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