yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


by Brenda Kirk Fiddler

Lexington Progress, 2000

Paul Williams spins an interesting tale dealing with him and several men skiing on the Tennessee River around 1957. Paul, after a go as a recreational pilot, found flying to be too expensive for his pocketbook since a cross-country flight cost $45, just about what he made per week driving a Lexington Pure Milk truck. He took up water skiing. He could ski all afternoon on six gallons of gas at 30 cents a gallon. That hobby continued "until recently when I passed my 62nd birthday." (Or specifically after the time he pulled a sciatic nerve while skiing at Beech Lake and was transported to the emergency room in a pickup truck bed secured to a ski board.)

While on a vacation trip to Florida in the 1950s, Paul took in the ski show at Cypress Gardens and believed that he could do fancy jumps if he had a special ramp. He enlisted a crew of locals, including Eddie and Billy Holmes, Richard and David Odle, Jimmy Connell and David Jowers, to build the ramp. Paul describes himself as "probably the oldest and certainly the most foolish of the group," and David Jowers, "the youngest and lightest at 120  pounds."

Over a two-week period on the space between U-Totem's and Odle's Garage, the team constructed the ramp using four car engine blocks, 50-gallon drums and heavily waxed hardwood planks. Odle's garage hauled the ramp on a flat bed truck to the Beech River Boat Dock operated by A.L. and Paul

Stregal and managed by Bud Akins. The sign nailed to the ramp, "Club Members Only," the group believed, lessened their liability.

The 1950s was the time when the Tennessee River was the place to be in the summer. David Jowers, in looking back to those fun days, sees their group as pioneering water skiing around here and recalls that he was the first one to jump from the ramp. He remembers that he did not tell his mother, when he left home to go the river for the launching, what he intended to do, since "we figured we'd get killed."

Over two summers, the skiers entertained the crowd lining the banks on Sunday afternoons. "And real soon," David adds, "we found out that we didn't need all that wax. The ramp was slick enough (and dangerous enough).

Then, one spring- no ramp. Paul Williams figures the ramp floated off in high water and/or collided with a barge.

The club members have moved on to other interests. Paul, seeking a more sedate hobby, has organized the Crazy Doe RC Club--that's Crazy Doe Radio-Controlled Flying Club­-with 20+ members. Paul is the safety officer.

More on Paul Williams

Paul has published several short stories on his life and adventures in a collection titled MY MEMORIES AND ADVENTURES.

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