Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Scene About Nashville, circa 1963

By Chester Campbell

I read an article that said Ernest Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast after going through notes he had accumulated during his time in Paris 30 years earlier. I wish I had been that meticulous during my early days. Or even later ones. Notes from my newspaper days ended up in the trash bin after I wrote the stories.

I have found one period in which my activities are well chronicled for posterity, if old Pos is ever interested. It’s the years 1963 through 1969, during which I was editor of Nashville Magazine, a slick paper monthly. I wrote many articles for the publication, though quite a few didn’t carry my by-line. But each issue included a feature at the front of the book titled “Scene About Town.” I modeled it after The New Yorker’s “The Talk of the Town,” which back then included mostly short, often humorous or whimsical vignettes about life and events that took place in the city.

My monthly musings about people and places and what went on around town bring back memories of how life was lived in those days. Looking back over a few issues, I’d forgotten how nice the perks were for a magazine editor. I was invited to all manner of dinners and parties and meetings. While attending, I picked up a variety of little tidbits to put in my column.

At a United Givers Fund (now United Way) luncheon, a voluble advertising guy commented:

“Talk about your all-time salesman, I nominate the man who sold restaurants on putting parsley on every plate. Created a whole industry out of nothing. He should be sought out and recognized with a medal.”

I constantly had visits from strange people who would wind up in the magazine’s pages. Like the young lady named Sue Silber, who wrote poetry and observed her fellowman with a humorous perspective. At concerts, she watched as much as she listened.

“Audience-watching,” she said, “is a delightful sport in itself. Most audiences can be classified into various categories. First, there are the tappers. “This classification can be further divided into the foot-tappers, the finger-tappers, and the hand-tappers. And then the last two can be further categorized as to what they tap.

“Some finger-tappers tap their chin–or chins, some their cheek, some their thigh, some tap their knee, some their program, some their cigarette pack, and some women tap their purse. Then there are, as it were, the back-seat conductors. These wave their hands in time to the music, sometimes quite broadly. Occasionally they even go so far as to use a rolled-up program for a baton. The musicians–foolish men–ignore these geniuses in favor of their own conductor.”

The pages revealed other such dramatic events as a cocktail party The Oertel Brewing Company held to announce its new “real draft beer” in cans. My comment: “This was akin to producing the real Jane Mansfield in a trenchcoat.”

I wrote about such things as traveling up the Cumberland River on a barge towboat, sitting in on a recording session at RCA’s now-historic Music Row studio, working backstage at a theatrical production, and watching them make Goo Goos at Standard Candy Company.

It was an interesting time to be a writer.

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