You knew the work was hard. You knew the work was good. You knew the work deserved an award. So, a delegation of Ponca Citians went to Nashville, Tennessee to receive one.
Nashville is magnificent. This town is generally know for its music found at
places like the Grand Old Opery, Music Row and Printers Alley. But, there is much
more to Nashville. We are not just talking about the famous or perhaps infamous
Second Street or the fact it is a major inland port on the Cumberland River.
As the theme of the awards presentation indicated the history of this place has
earned it a place in history. The list of historical places and the events that
occurred is best discovered in the nation's history books.
As historians, Nashville offers a wealth of resources for research. From the state archives to the man on the street to the very streets and landmarks themselves, Nashville is history. Nashville is therefore the logical home of the AASLH, the American Association for State and Local History.
The meetings were well organized and intended to entertain and educate
From the first day, seminars and exhibits were made available to delegates. AASLH's stated purpose is to serve as a means of recognizing extraordinary effort on the local level to compile and promote historical studies. They do this by having recognized experts evaluate projects and rewarding the best. We all brought back ideas that will serve us well in promoting history in the community.
Within a stones throw of hotel that housed the exhibits and seminars were the Tennessee State Archives. A number of Ponca City's delegates took advantage of these facilities. Their comments suggest that these are some of the most well equipped research tools in the country. It is a historian and genealogist heaven. Darlene Platt, the writer/researcher for NCOHA's award winning two volume history book, was able to locate an obituary for an Internet pal.
The AASLH gave us all a treat by arranging a tour of Nashville. The sites,
we were given special access to, typified a variety of the history Nashville finds
interesting. Eight bus loads of delegates trekked through notable exhibits nibbling on hors d'oeuvres and, for those who would, sipping fine wine. Stops included the Museum of Tobacco Art & History. Smoking paraphernalia from well before the turn of last century to the present day were on exhibit. Pipes from virtually every culture in North America and elsewhere were represented. Sherlock Holmes and Geronimo must have donated to the museum. We were met at the door by the director of the museum sporting a brilliant red smoking jacket and fez. The atmosphere was made complete as we were serenaded by a three piece ensemble consisting of flute, guitar, and violin.
At the appointed time the signal was given and we loaded back on the bus and preceded to our next stop. While chatting about the tobacco museum, the food and all that we had seen, the group was caught off guard as we approached the Parthenon. That's right! We were suddenly looking up at a full scale replica of this famous Grecian temple to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The building itself was in fact a museum. Castings of the original sculptures, that decorated the cornices, lined the walls on permanent display. The doors opening to the main chamber dwarfed imagination. Fully 45 feet high, spanning the 20 foot wide opening, and at least a foot thick these massive structures certainly required many more than one mere mortal to move. Downstairs a replica of the crane used to set the massive marble sections of the temple was on display. Some what reduced in scale, of course. Examples of the original stone and marble were also displayed.
The majesty of this place held us in rapt appreciation of that ancient culture. Silently and aloud all of us mused over the goings on at the original temple so long ago. Impressive as the building itself was, nothing could prepare us for the sight of Athena herself. Mortal is not quite the word when you stand before 42 feet of satin finished marble so finely sculpted as to give the impression the goddess was about to speak.
In order to maintain what had become a somewhat cramped schedule, we were again herded into the buses for the finally leg of our journey.
After experiencing the industry of the region and the broad historical scope of the community, we were now treated to local historical culture and architecture. As if transported via time machine, we were deposited at the door step of Belle Meade. Belle Meade was a true working southern plantation styled in the Victorian fashion circa 1853. The complex was owned initially by W.E. Harding and later brought by A. Jackson. (Neither related to either President) We were greeted by the white gloved butler who bade us welcome in the traditional fashion and handed us a brochure. Following the indicated path, we explored the main house. The mirrors, windows and ceilings were very high. The antiques including the house were completely authentic. Mannequins were dressed in period costume. It seems there was a wedding in progress. The Belle Meade curators were indeed presenting a display of wedding apparel. One wedding grown was especially notable in that the person for whom it was intended could not have been over four feet tall. The sophistication of the original residents of the home was apparent from the furnishing. However, out back was the out house. In all fairness, there was in fact a fully equipped bathroom, added sometime in the early 20th century. Beautifully tiled and having a full body shower, it was quite elegant.
The real purpose of our visit to Nashville was now soon at hand. Upon leaving the mansion our path lead to the livery. On the way we were serenaded by old country banjo and fiddle and served Mint Juleps. As we passed through the huge livery barn we noticed the walls were bedecked with tack and harness racing paraphernalia. Fringed surreys and work wagons told of the hard work and lifestyle of the 19th century. It also did not take long to notice the country vittles that would be our meal for the evening. Hmmm Good!
We exited the livery into a large circus tent filled with place settings for hundreds. Formally dressed attendants seated us and brought such other accoutrements as we required. We enjoyed the meal and pleasant conversation until the program began. After some brief acknowledgements and program modifications we were spellbound by a historical dramatization of the life and times of Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg was responsible for saving the lives of Jews during the Nazi era.
Those accepting the awards for us all had their picture taken before the awards dinner.
Many received awards this night and all were worthy. We wish all who contributed to our book could have attended. We hope that this small acknowledgement will impart a taste of the true Award. We did it and we did it well. The ceremonies in Nashville only confirmed what we already knew. North Central Oklahoma is rich in history and rich with the kind of people who care enough to tell it as it should be told.