Video archivist Bradley Reeves and Ciderville’s own David West produced a wonderful tribute to Cas Walker at the Museum of Appalachia on March 2. It was appreciated by a standing-room-only crowd of music lovers and local history buffs. The $10 admission was a bargain as Reeves showed vintage clips of Walker’s live television show, “The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour.”
And there was the ol’ coonhunter himself on screen, selling itch-curing salve and threatening mayhem on thieves. To paraphrase: “You thieves need to know we’ve installed security in the parking lot (of his Cas Walker Supermarkets). If we catch you stealing, we’ll whup the hell out of you. People say why don’t we call the police, but what would they do? Put you in jail for 10 days? When we work you up, you’ll be in the hospital for 10 days. Let’s have some music, Curly Dan.”
Reeves has produced a 40-minute show of vintage Cas Walker commercials and rants, unique mountain music and a variety of acts from two boys tap dancing to Dolly Parton’s debut.
Walker was a marketing genius who grew his chain of grocery stores to produce some $60 million in annual sales at a time when most of his customers earned $4,000 to $12,000 a year. He self-promoted constantly, including live radio broadcasts started in 1929 and live television launched in 1953. (“The Today Show” debuted on NBC on Jan. 14, 1952, for context.)
I liked Cas and admired his cussedness and vigor. So why was I seeing images of Donald Trump during Saturday’s show?
There are a lot of similarities between Cas and Trump. Both are alpha males; both claimed to be populists, political burrs to the establishment; both are profane and outrageous; both are marketing wizards. Also:
Nicknaming political foes:
Cas – Toby “Posthole” Julian, “Rootie Tootie” Mary Lou Horner
Trump – “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, “Crooked” Hillary Clinton
Perceiving external threats to security:
Cas – Fluoride in public water – “a communist plot”
Trump – Hordes of criminals stampeding across our border with Mexico
Populist attacks on “elites”:
Cas – Raging against “Knoxville’s silk-stocking crowd”
Trump – “Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I am smarter than they are; richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
Complicity of elites:
Cas – Knoxville’s business elite feared change/competition because it could bring higher wages, even unions. “Hence, this group often sided with men like Cas Walker (whom they personally ridiculed and abhorred), whose constituency often opposed change for other reasons.” (Bruce Wheeler and Michael J. McDonald in “Knoxville, Tennessee,” 1983 edition, p. 134).
Trump: Paul Ryan is just one example of how the Republican establishment flipped. “I am not going to defend Donald Trump,” Ryan said in October 2016, after the “Access Hollywood” tape went public. “Not now. Not in the future.” (Politico) By the time Ryan announced his retirement from Congress in April 2018, he had presided over the biggest spending increase in modern history and a record national debt; supported Trump’s pledge to “build the wall”; and allowed his committee chairs to obstruct legitimate congressional inquiry into Trump’s ties with Russian dictator Putin.
Amid ads promising cures for erectile dysfunction and thinning hair, Sebastian Gorka wrote about Trump’s cabinet on Breitbart: “After Eight Years of Pajama Boys, It’s Time for the Alpha Males.”
This essay pretty well sums up the followers of Cas Walker and Donald Trump: mostly men who sleep unclothed.
Are there differences between Cas and Trump? Sure.
Cas made his money without a stake from his dad. Cas actually punched people and killed raccoons. And Cas had bigger hands.