Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It exists now only in memory or in grainy old videos or home movies. There are some old photos still left and that special rendering done by artist Phil Ponder, framed and memorialized in many Nashville homes.

It was Fred Harvey's "Gift to Nashville"...a bigger than life-sized nativity scene that from 1953 to 1967 made this city a special place to visit and grow up each holiday season. Sure what the department store magnate provided made little historical sense (a symbol of Christainity in front of a replica of a pagan temple), and sure they'd likely be little chance such a display would be legally allowed in today's politically correct atmosphere, but you just had to be there each year as a child or an adult to understand how pretty and memorable the display was as the Christmas carols played and the lights changed colors (even if the colors were like those artificial holiday trees some of us had at home).

Here's a video look back at the Centennial Park Nativity Scene, courtesy of Nashville's WNPT-TV and it's MEMORIES OF NASHVILLE program produced a few years back. Caution, you might see a voice and face you recognize....

It was snowstorms like the one I mentioned in the video back in 1967 and one of the city's rare White Christmases in 1963, plus the constantly up and down holiday temperatures of Nashville's climate that ultimately ruined (rotted) the display beyond repair. It was sold and used in Cincinnati shopping center for a year or two before it was completely scrapped.

And so it was gone by the time our Centennial Class made it to Vanderbilt in the fall and winter of 1969. But for those of us who grew up in this area it will never be forgotten, although it is a bit daunting to realize you now have to be close to 50 years old or older to have many memories of that special display.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


For the first time in school history, the Vanderbilt football team is practicing for its third consecutive post-season bowl game. This year it's the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama versus the Houston Cougars with kickoff at high noon (ESPN) on Saturday, January 4.

The bowl trip comes after a regular season that saw 8 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1920s. It was also the first time ever Vandy defeated Georgia, Florida and Tennessee all in the same season. And it's the first time since the late 1920s we've bested the Big Orange two years in a row.

Beating UT is always sweet and two straight is something we've never experienced. So here's a video with a chance to re-live it from the VU players' perspective and/or enjoy it again if you've been celebrating since the Dores pulled off the victory in Knoxville last month....

These Revealed videos have been produced by the Vanderbilt athletic department after each of the team's wins home and away the last two seasons (with this year's Wake Forest win still in production). You can find them all by googling the words Vanderbilt Revealed. You can also likely find them at

As we glory in the good times for the VU football program, those two words came into my mind as well when I heard of the death of country music star Ray Price. "FOR THE GOOD TIMES" went platinum for him and was a number one country hit back in 1970 while we were in school.

It was a much mellower sound than the honky tonk hits Price had in the 1950s and 1960s. Maybe that's why it was also a cross-over hit, rising as high as #11 on the pop charts. I seem to recall we played it some on WRVU (and we almost never played country music).  Maybe the song being written by Kris Kristofferson helped too.  Regardless, here's that mellow tune with some very nostalgic lyrics courtesy of YouTube......

And so, as the song says at the end (to the members of the VU Centennial Class): "Let's just be glad we had some time to be together (our 40th Reunion weekend in October). ...For the good times...for the good times."

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


December, 1969. It may be been one of the longest months of our young lives.

 After  an all too short Thanksgiving weekend at home in late November,  you can see from the calendar above, we had three full school weeks to endure (until Friday, December 19) before our first Vanderbilt Christmas break got underway.

Then it was mom's home cooking and sleeping in for an extended period of time! It was also the only year we were in school that we didn't have to take final semester exams before going home. Of course there were advantages to doing that from 1970 on. It didn't matter if we forgot everything we learned in class before we returned!

As for our mood during that fateful month of December, based on what songs were Number #1 on the BILLBOARD Charts at that time, we may have been doing a lot of thinking about the separations and relationships that lay just ahead surrounding coming home and going back to school....

Long before it became a crowd chant at many sporting events (even until today), the song NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIM GOODBYE had such popularity it topped the rock charts from December 6 through December 20, 1969. But it was quite odd that it did. According to Wikipedia, the song was written and released under the name of a fictitious band (Steam). The tune had almost fill-in-the- blanks lyrics in some parts (na. na, na) and seemed to be produced as a B side number that would never get any play.

But it did....and here it is courtesy of YouTube....

And what was the Number #1 song when we got home on Christmas break our freshman year from December 20-27,1969? How about "LEAVING ON A JET PLANE" by Peter, Paul & Mary.  Written by then little known John Denver, it turned out to be (according to WIKIPEDIA) the biggest and final pop hit for PP&M and the trio's only Number #1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart. It also spent three weeks on top of the easy listening rankings.

Elsewhere on this blog, our classmate Steve Womack remembers the continuing seasonal popularity of this song, how each year as holiday break approached we'd get calls at WRVU with requests (mainly from coeds) to play it over and over again, even every hour. I guess their bags were packed, they were ready to go, with a taxi waiting and he's blowing his horn. In case you need any further introduction, and before I use all the lyrics, here's the song courtesy of YouTube....

The final number one song during our first Christmas break (December 27, 1969-January 2, 1970) came from one of the top girl groups (and indeed one of the top artist groups of the 1960s), Diane Ross & the Supremes. Indeed, SOMEDAY WE WILL BE TOGETHER was the final number one hit of the entire decade of the 1960s and the last number one hit (of 12 total) for the Supremes. Indeed it was the farwell hit the group had with Diane Ross who went on to a successful solo career in the 1970s and 80s.

So as we prepare for the holiday season in 2013, remember that first Christmas break from Vanderbilt we had as members of the Centennial Class, back in 1969, and how the top songs we listened to seem to almost mirror both the joy and the melancholy we might have experienced as we were "home for Christmas" for the first time.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Vanderbilt Mourns the Passing of Ava Sellers

For many years, she was as much a fixture on the Vanderbilt campus as Kirkland Hall and the statute of the Commodore.

For over a half century, Ava Sellers was Director of Career Planning and Placement for the University and held the title of Director Emerita when she stepped down from her duties. It was many a nervous, career-challenged and soon-to-be graduating senior (including, I suspect, several of us forty years ago in our Centennial Class), who she kept calm and informed about what businesses and other groups were coming to campus to interview for prospective job openings. Her updated postings were always in the weekly Vanderbilt Registar with upcoming career panels,  job interviews or other services her office provided.

I can remember coming back on campus a few years after I graduated to be a part of some career day event, and she greeted me warmly and by name! She was always so nice and friendly and one of the greatest boosters of Vanderbilt I can remember.

Ava Sellers passed away here in Nashville on Monday, November 25, 2013, just one day after her 94th birthday.

For her nearly life-long efforts on behalf of Vanderbilt, she received from the University the Rob Roy Purdy Award for dedication and service to students as well as the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers. She was a co-founder of the Tennessee Association of Colleges and Employers, an organization which bestows one of its top annual awards, the Lumsden-Sellers Award, each year to one of its deserving members.

Ms. Sellers was a member of the Vine Street Christian Church and, until her health declined, she was also active in the Nashville Chapter of the United Nations, the Life Long Learning program at Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt Women's Club and its Book Group and Garden Club for Campus Beautification.

Ava Sellers was a native of Lexington, KY and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, with a Masters from Peabody College. Her funeral was held in Nashville today (December 2) with interment in Elizaville, KY. Memorial gifts may be made to the Vanderbilt University Women's Club Scholarshp Fund. 

May she rest in peace, with the Pearly Gates decked out in Black & Gold to greet her!