Dead men don’t sue

Sandra ClarkInside 640, Our Town Stories

Ridge Running: A Memoir of Appalachia

If you grew up in Burlington in the 1950s and ’60s, this book is for you. Well, if you’re a guy.

Chris Wohlwend has this memoir off the press and available via Kindle or in paperback, on or wherever you get your books.

Chris was a reporter and copy editor for the daily Knoxville Journal – back in the days of Tom Anderson, Ralph Griffith and Guy Lincoln Smith. He was pals with Grady Amann and Jim Dykes. In his five years at UT, he knew Tom Jester, Vince Staten and more.

Chris hung out with football players and even set up an off- (but close to) campus apartment with a living room dubbed “The Saloon.”

As a copy editor, Chris writes crisply and doesn’t misspell stuff. A weakness is his fake names for characters. He only names the dead ones. Dead men don’t sue. The gossip in me wants real names.

Reading Wohlwend, you see a suburban community, Burlington, where Beaver Cleaver played with and tormented his older brother, Wally. Chris recalls the excitement when the Tennessee Valley Fair came to town. He and his pals would sneak in at the fence’s weakest point. They finally got jobs and ran the candied apple stand or the fish “everybody wins” game.

The Fair had better shows and rides in the Midway, but these guys never got a chance to work there.

Chris and his friends ate at the Tic-Toc Drive-In and Ruby’s café. And after he bought a car, Opal’s Tap Room on Chapman Highway and Marie’s Olde Time Tavern near the Greyhound bus station. Buying moonshine, watching Ace Miller coach Big John Tate at the Golden Gloves arena, shooting pool at Comer’s. These shared experiences are guaranteed to draw laughs from men of a certain age.

Chris butted heads with Rod Harkleroad playing football at age 12. Harkleroad went on to sign at UT although he had limited playing time. The starter was Bob Johnson.

The men remained friends until Harkleroad’s death. His recollection of UT football weekends is the high spot of the book. For instance, Harkleroad would call Dewey Warren’s pre-game show, disguising his voice as Mrs. Parker.

Chris writes: Today Mrs. Parker wanted to talk about Casey Clausen.

“I am reminded of breakfast when I was a child,” she said. “We had to be quick if we wanted an extra biscuit. That young Mr. Clausen’s holding the ball too long, and that’s why the young men on the other side break through and he gets his rear side blistered. He just needs to be quicker in order to get the last biscuit.”

One more: A couple of weeks before Rod’s death, Danny Meador and Chris visited him at home. In pain, he was in a lounge chair, his reactions showed by painkillers. His wife, Brenda, a nurse, was at work. A woman we didn’t know met us at the door.

“I’m Rod’s first wife,” she said.

“Second,” Rod corrected her.

“We couldn’t live together, but we’re still friends,” she said.

He turned to us. “It’s tough when you’re dying, fellas. They even bring in your ex-wives.”

We all laughed, finding comfort in knowing that he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.

Update: Per a reader, Danny Meador is alive and well, so Wohlwend did use one name of a living soul.

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