The Reality of the Graphic Image

Posted December 3, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

Those of us who write, for fun or folly, are continually told by our teachers and mentors, “show me; don’t tell me.” We are taught imagery. We are to find nouns, adjectives, and adverbs that provide stimulus for the senses and evoke emotion. We are at a disadvantage when we compete with the visual arts. Words are only what they say to the reader. We are then reminded that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The magic of high definition television brings us the graphic images of human suffering, natural disasters, brutality, physical deformity, and the anomalies of our most vile sensitivity.

I grew up in a world of religious fundamentalism. I was often warned of an eternal inferno of humanity in flames, or cities destroyed by the wrath of God. That was somehow lost in the depiction of demonic figures with pitchforks and satanic features, and the Sunday school narratives of the flood, David and Goliath, a talking snake, Jonah and the big fish, or Daniel in the lion’s den. I felt comfort in the assurance of the unfailing justice of God in the apocalyptic devastation of the forces of a godless social order. I was embraced in the imagery of being reunited with generations of ancestry. I lived in a world which would not allow the finality of death.

My earliest images of graphic horror came from newspaper stories of World War II and the Nazi storm troopers, Dachau, Auschwitz, the bombing of London, and the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My formative years were shaped by photos of Kent State, the naked Vietnam girl burned by napalm, the burning of Watts, attack dogs and fire hoses to quell demonstrations, flag draped coffins, and body bags.

The graphic images of violence and evil in high definition television depiction may have reached a new intensity. Terrorism, random acts of violence, shootings, bombings, decapitations, and torture are now brought to us live, followed by twenty-four hour reruns, and revisionist editing.

We watched random or targeted mass shooting in two cities in California while we were still trying to understand Colorado Springs. We looked at police photos of the Planned Parenthood shooter, and the series of graphic photos of fetal tissue and “baby parts” that may have provoked him. We saw a three year old Syrian child face down on a beach; Chinese citizens in masks riding bicycles in near-zero visibility; the errant attack on doctors without borders; and the masked Islamic executioner. We watch a candidate for president mocking a physical disability to the cheers of an angry mob. We see dashboard camera images of another black teenager shot, and a photo of a young policeman and pastor killed protecting his community.

We use the phrase “the mind’s eye.” By faith we often come to believe that which we cannot see or know, while we often deny or reject the obvious. We find ourselves in a conflict of knowledge, reason, faith, and human conduct driven by human emotion. Sooner or later we come to what may seem to be contradiction of faith and reason. Either we passively accept the deterministic will of God in praise or worship in a form of subservience, or we accept the challenge to interpret and actualize the evolution an unfinished divine goal of human perfection.

I am concerned that the graphic images of electronic media and the amplification of the pulpit and podium of political doomsday ideology may have diminished the power of the written word in the communication of ethics and logic.

We who write are not innocent. We ask whether the purpose of language is to inspire, to teach, or to confound the certainty of the misinformed. Who among us are the custodians of truth? We lessen or deny suffering with euphemism; we create discontent with anecdotal anomaly; and we exploit the weaker with the advocacy non-substantive meritocracy. We elude the scrutiny of veracity, with the sleight of fallacious reasoning. We add mockery to the syllogistic conclusion, with non-sequential premises. We have the devices of metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, and ultimately the option to craft the structure of the sentence to convey falsehood that passes for truth in the mind of the untrained grammarian.

I don’t know at what age I developed a love for the graphic imagery of the written word. I have often wondered at the logic of God’s confounding of language following the arrogance of the architectural fiasco at Babel, and then miraculously enabling an audience of potential disciples to understand their many languages in their own tongue at the inception of Christianity. And now he has numbed the mental acuity of nations, religions, politics, and human interactions with the imposition of graphic images of reality that perpetuate our brutality and the anomalies of our most vile instincts. I don’t pray for divine intervention. This is something we have to fix ourselves. We have to find the nouns, adjectives, and adverbs that stimulate the senses and evoke emotions to compete in our quest for “peace, love, and understanding.”

Confessions of a Main Street Philosopher

Posted November 14, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

I feel some compassion for authors who write books with some ignoble biographical information they wish they had not written. I feel a similar empathy for the essayist or blogger who speaks or writes hurtful thoughts about an adversary or friend, with words they might wish they had not chosen. In writing my sixth book, Main Street Philosopher, I carefully chose sixty chapters that were biographical and some that were philosophical just to give credence to the title. I struggled with the need for humility and appreciation while telling a rare and exemplary, slightly enhanced success story.

Much of what I write and talk about is related to the First Amendment and the freedoms of religion, speech, print, assembly, and complaints about some grievance, real or imagined. I believe in the separation of Church and State, and the Bible and the Constitution. When I write about the rights that I enjoy and defend, I realize I am thinking from a narrow viewpoint. I am an over-sixty-five, southern, white, male, Christian, Liberal, Democrat, and it is difficult to think in terms of universal rights or voter demographics. I don’t spend a lot of time defending the Second Amendment, because I have never had a desire or need for keeping or bearing arms. I spent 6 years in a well-regulated militia, but the government furnished me a rifle and a typewriter for everything they wanted me to do.

As a male, I have never had an unwanted pregnancy or wanted an abortion. After a midlife vasectomy, I haven’t needed contraceptives even though they might be covered in my medical policy. I like Social Security and Medicare, and having supplemental coverage with no co-pays or out of pocket costs except for a few prescriptions. As far as I know, I was born heterosexual and have been blessed with a traditional civil marriage contract, which Brother Ira North said was an institution ordained by God for better or worse. It has survived 50 years of better, with one woman who loves me and our three daughters and seven grandchildren.

Our children attended public schools, and we didn’t worry about them learning something they shouldn’t know, or we couldn’t help them with in subjects we had not learned. As a school board member, I respected and trusted the teachers. We still taught our children about church and religion at home, and answered the questions they asked, as best we could with what we knew and believed. We celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t vote, or drink from a water fountain. Ever since I was fifteen, I had a job on Main Street. I went to college for fifty-nine years and have no student debt. I don’t mind paying taxes to the government for things I can’t do, or build, or make happen, by myself. I feel safe in Franklin and Williamson. Wherever I go I feel that I am among friends who have no intention of doing me any physical harm. I was in thirteen elections, won ten and lost three which is better than some Democrats.

It doesn’t bother me that in my years of teaching Sunday school I couldn’t convert everybody in Franklin to the Church of Christ. I get along well now with Unitarians, and a few friends who might not believe in God, and some who might be a little too religious. Even as a Liberal Christian, I don’t feel persecuted. A few of my literate friends buy my books, many of whom are “not from around here” who found and befriended me on Facebook. I don’t feel guilty from the advantages that made my life disproportionally good, just fortunate, being at the right place, with the right people, at the right time in history. Nobody told me than never having known my father and being raised by a single mother was the proverbial and overrated gateway to greatness that people often claim. I wasn’t successful in spite of where I came from, but rather because of where I came from.

I don’t do a lot of praying, but I do a lot of thinking, and feeling about things and people. With a lot of wishing and giving thanks, not out loud and not in complete sentences, but that seem like praying. I really don’t understand God, and the voices I hear in my head are probably not his. A long time ago in Boston, in school, in church, at home, sitting with my mother and grandmother, I decided that I believed in “Good.” That is not a misspelling. I equate and interchange that with my conversation about God. I don’t find any conflict or disharmony between my faith and reason, between the spiritual and the secular, or between law, logic, and love.

But this morning [November 14, 2015] I am angry, and I am sad, for the people in France, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria and throughout the Middle East, in Palestine and Israel, in theocratic Islamic countries, and for people who live in states, in cities, in neighborhoods, on streets and sidewalks, in homes without loving families and the basic needs and the peace and freedoms and education that sustain life.

Discontinue the May Republican Primary

Posted October 18, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

Some of you may have read my book The South Side of Boston which includes a chapter called “Boston’s Two Republicans.” It is set in southern Williamson County in 1944. Our polling site at the school had an average of 40 to 60 votes cast in state and national elections. Only two voters were Republicans, the others were Democrats. Local elections did not include primaries and consequently party labels were not on the ballot. We assumed everyone was a Democrat, but it did not matter for local court house and administrative offices.

People ask me, “How and when did we become a Republican county.” We changed labels without having to change southern ideology, our religion, our cultural attitudes, or anything we had ever thought about anything. John Kennedy carried Williamson County with 62.4% of the vote in 1960, my first year to vote for a president. Four years later, Lyndon Johnson beat a more conservative Goldwater with 65.2%. It was President Johnson who said following the Voting Rights Act, “There goes the South.”

In 1968, the conservative Democratic vote went to George Wallace with 50.1% and as they say, “The rest is history.” In 1972, Nixon beat McGovern with 74.3% of the vote. Jimmy Carter held the conservative Democrats with 50.9%.

The most recent trends for Democratic candidates for President in Williamson County are as follows: Carter 51 and 42%, Mondale and Dukakis 27%, Clinton 32 and 33%, Gore 32%, Kerry 27%, and Obama 30 and 26%.

Beginning around the early 1980s the Williamson County Republican party initiated local primaries; local office holders embraced the Republican label to retain their offices, and since then Republican margins in presidential elections have ranged from 54% to 74%.

The Republican Primary for local offices is held in May every four years for the offices of County Commissioners, Sheriff, County Clerk, Judicial positions, and other Administrative offices. In the 2014 Republican Primary only 9% of registered voters voted. The Williamson County Democrats do not hold a May primary knowing they cannot win a local office with the Democratic label. Occasionally, someone runs in the August general as an Independent and is elected. Normally, 23 of the 24 commissioners are elected in the Republican Primary.

In Williamson County we do not register by party. Anyone can vote in the May Republican Primary. This has created a problem for Republicans. Democrats do not like to vote in that primary. The Republican Party is divided with traditional Republicans, including former Democrats, and a right-wing group on the other side. The right-wing is hard to define. We saw them turn out for the 2014 school board race and elect 6 very radical board members and we almost lost our Superintendent of schools. The attacks on the Superintendent were followed by attacks on textbooks and classroom instruction. The far right candidates gained 3 seats on the County Commission. The Republican Party chairman, one County Commissioner, and one Franklin Alderman have endorsed a right-wing candidate for Alderman in the October non-partisan Franklin municipal election.

The next scheduled Republican Primary for local offices would be in 2018. With a low turnout we are at risk of losing more seats on the County Commission. This could put the funding of our school districts at risk. We could lose some of our excellent judges and highly qualified and proficient administrative officials.

The Republican Party with their May primary has eliminated approximately 26% of registered voters with the exclusion of Williamson County Democrats. It would be better if the Party discontinued its May primary. Democrats can legally cast votes in that primary, but most are reluctant to do that, and many new voters do not know who the radical right candidates are. They don’t know the names of the people who show up at our school board meetings and candidate forum events. Potentially, with this schedule, 5 percent of registered voters could elect 23 County Commissioners in 2018.

So, what should we do? Moderate Republicans should begin a movement to discontinue the May Republican Primary. All local offices would be elected in the General Election in August. The voter turnout would be a minimum 20% and a potential 40 or 50% if there are contested State races. This would essentially dilute the power of the right wing—Americans for Prosperity, the 9/12 Project, the religious right, the tea party, Freedomworks, the Family Action Council Tennessee, right-wing talk radio, and the dozen or more key local players in random mischief and disruption in the county. Encourage your elected officials to discontinue this event and cancel the May 2018 local Republican Primary.

Understanding Williamson County Politics

Posted October 16, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

I am on a quest to understand why Williamson County is 74% Republican. Academically, 98% of our adults have high school diplomas and 56% have four year degrees or greater. The Republican Party in Tennessee is not perceived to be a public education friendly legislative entity. Williamson County has the highest performing students in Tennessee, and the Superintendent of the Year. Education seems to be the most unifying issue in the county. The recent attacks on the Superintendent and the school board turnover last year had roots in the right wing leadership of the local party. I listen to Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson and I don’t see an ideological appeal to anyone I know. I see the voting patterns of our State Legislators and they are so often in conflict with the best interest of our school district and our students. I don’t know if it is the Obama stigma, or if it goes back to the McGovern days. I don’t know if we have a large contingent of Religious Right preachers who identify Jesus as a conservative, and maybe a Republican. I don’t see how the message of the tea party would have an appeal to the people of Williamson County. The parents who support our schools and our superintendent share a common vision with Democrats, but still vote for State and National candidates who support legislation for vouchers and privatization.

I closed my small Main Street business in 2003. That had nothing to do with political economics. The reason for closing began in 1988 with the proliferation of imported clothing and the introduction of casual dress and the end of quality clothing and strategic corporate apparel. I listen to Republican candidates and hear them trying to convince me that President Obama and the Democratic Party are not friendly to small business. I don’t understand how the Republican Party, which usually identifies with and caters to big corporations, would have greater appeal to a small business owner. Our enemy is not big government or oppressive regulation. Our enemy is a dysfunctional economy that favors big corporations and a disproportional concentration of wealth.

Another question would be the correlation of politics and religion in Williamson County. Apart from economic issues, the three most divisive issues that I hear are reproductive rights, marriage equality, and the Second Amendment. These seem to divide us along liberal and conservative labels which then translate into Democratic and Republican voting patterns. These seem be more definitive in determining party preference than issues of economics, foreign policy, immigration, and education. I spend much of my time with educators and authors and I seem to hear a philosophy closer to Democratic ideology than to the message coming from Republican candidates.
Our argument over reproductive rights is about whether abortion should be legal or illegal as it was before Roe v. Wade. It is not about being for or against abortion. Our differences over marriage equality seem to be the terminology of civil union or marriage. There is nothing in the marriage contract that mandates or prohibits sexual intimacy or procreation. Some people adamantly oppose same-sex marriage based on biblical dictate. The current consensus supports the right to a civil union which is logical. The religious ceremony is supported by all of us in the Christian community, but within the law, marriage is made official by a civil document. All of us have friends who love each who should not be denied equal rights.

The people of Williamson County, as part of southern culture, own guns. We all support the Second Amendment. Nobody in the Democratic Party wants take away our guns. We respect the right to hunt, to be secure in your home, your car, or your workplace, or some desolate place alone. We all agree that we should keep guns out of the hands of criminals, people with mental problems, and people who are not trained in respect for guns and gun safety. We decided a long time ago we should regulate the lethality of weapons designed for military use. Those weapons have reached a new level of mass killing our founding fathers could not have imagined in the days of the musket and horse drawn artillery. Right wing media has convinced law-abiding citizens that Obama or some future Democratic tyrant is coming to take away our guns, our Bibles, our religious holidays, and maybe the minds of our children.

You may have been told there is a war on Christians that has something to do with party affiliation. Most Americans support the concept of separation of church and state. The First Amendment precludes government establishment of religion and guarantees freedom of religion. This is why the founding fathers amended the Constitution to protect government and churches from each other. This is why schools do not advocate religion or compel students or teachers to recite religious affirmations in the classroom. We teach the history of religion and its influence on exploration, wars, civil or human rights movements, and on the moral and ethical values from which we draft our civil laws.

We have just watched two Republican and one Democratic debate. The ideological polarization of the parties has lost much of its appeal for moderate voters. The Democratic Party has an establishment candidate with Hillary and an ideological candidate in Bernie Sanders. The Republican Party is divided into establishment Governors and Senators, and the outsider image of Trump, Carson, and Fiorina.

Within that national environment, Williamson County seems to be an anomaly. The local relationship between most Republicans and Democrats is one of harmony and logic. Government is local. Democrats show up in the local Republican Primary to elect County Commissioners who support the funding of our schools. We both vote to elect competent judges, sheriffs, mayors, aldermen, administrative officials, and school boards. Our county has become a three-party, or maybe a four-party county. We have found a common enemy that has no name or identifiable membership. We see it at our school board meetings, at our candidate forum events, and in the candidates they recruit for Republican primaries.

The fourth party is the radical left that we often identify as liberal, progressive, socialist, and even the misnomer communist. It is a vestigial remnant from the radical days when the Republican Party upset the agricultural economy and abolished slavery. It has had a presence in every cycle of our history. It had a continuum in multiple political parties in the labor movement, the movement for a woman’s right to vote, for integration, for legalization of abortion, for ending slavery, and for opposition to corporate barons, sweat shops, and child labor. Some members are destructive and violent; others have found their mission in protests and the struggle for individual rights and opposition to oppression from the government. Some wear the label Liberal; some prefer Libertarian; others who oppose taxation defer to the tea party ideology; others feel excluded from the American dream and find no voice or safe haven in either party.

I recently attended a bi-partisan party for the reelection of our Mayor. The first comment I heard was from a Republican who was concerned about the direction of his party both at the National level and the division within local politics. His comment was that the Republican extremists had become more extreme than Democratic extremists. I think we have many areas of common ground between Democrats and Republicans. The support for our schools has been the greatest unifying factor. We believe everyone should be safe in their home, in our schools, on our playgrounds, and in public buildings. There should be affordable housing for anyone who wants to live here. Everyone has a right to the basic human needs, whether by earning a living wage, the profit from free enterprise, the charity of the community and churches, or the safety net of government assistance programs. We recognize that the equal rights of others do not diminish those same rights that we enjoy. We exercise our right to vote with a rational evaluation of each candidate. Most of us have eliminated race, gender, and religion from our political profiling. Our political reality is that candidates, even in non-partisan races, come with an official or perceived party identity that often creates the conflict of party allegiance and good government.

Do I Miss Being in Retail?

Posted September 21, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

People ask if miss my store, or downtown Franklin, or Main Street, or men’s clothing retail? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. To explain this requires a chronological narrative. Main Street, or downtown Franklin, was my second home. I was raised inside a retail store from the age of two. I had assumed I would live into my late 80s and die of a heart attack on Saturday night or Sunday morning at the end of a busy week on my way to church on the same street. I don’t know if anyone else was continuously employed on Main Street for more than 52 years. Ralph Duke (Gray Drug’s) had more years, but not continuous.

In the years between 1975 and 2003 at our Fourth and Main location, several new clothing stores opened and closed, and all of the older stores selling men’s clothing closed. Cool Springs Galleria opened in 1991, with 5 department stores with 116 to 207 thousand square feet, and 165 other smaller corporate stores.

The demise of men’s specialty clothing stores began in 1988 with casual Fridays and casual dress for church. This came at a time when imported designer labels were replacing quality apparel. Between 1981 when Paul Pigg retired until 1988 our sales grew at an average annual rate of 9 percent. Beginning in 1989, the casual dress trend had a major impact on quality men’s clothing stores and sales declined each year until we closed in 2003.

Marketing strategies changed. I was a novice in computer technology and social media. I bought one piece of software and with my one course of Introduction to Electronic Data Processing I maintained a customer base that in 1988 included 4500 customers. Instead of a spread sheet with cells, it was designed in fields for data input. From this I had a mailing list by zip code, subdivision, alphabetized, for printable track-feed labels. It also enabled a printable continuum of customer data. On a single line it included—name, total purchases, date of last purchase, name of spouse, coat size, pant waist and inseam, style preference, brand preference, neck size, sleeve length, collar preference, and random personal information.

Unlike department stores we did not advertise sale merchandise. We began twice-a-year clearance sales on the first business days of January and July. All of our customers received a letter about 5 days before the sale began. This gave them a few days to buy basic merchandise that we did not reduce, and preview the upcoming sale items.

To understand sales in men’s clothing you have to carefully plan your markup strategy. Even though I was an English major in college, I had minors in Business Administration and Economics. I took a course in Principles of Retailing when I was 51 years old after 35 years experience in retailing. The professor taught us the textbook formula for calculating markup. In the “olden days” small retail stores often sold merchandise at a 33 1/3% markup. As rents and salaries increased markup eventually became 40% and later 50%, which was known as “keystone markup.” Merchants multiplied cost by two. Men’s clothing stores had two clearance sales a year, at the ends of seasons, in January and July. This usually included only seasonal merchandise or out-of-style items which were reduced 20% to open the sale and 50% for final liquidation. For many years that worked well for men’s clothing specialty shops. Today, stores have fictional suggested retail prices and sequential markdowns on in-store or designer labels.

The opening of manufacturing plants in third world countries and the closing of American factories changed that. Garment workers in some factories are paid 25 to 50 cents an hour to produce apparel with designer labels or prestigious brand names. I can explain that with an experience at a clothing store in Nashville. Between the closing of Pigg & Peach and my working at Dillard’s, I needed to purchase an all-weather raincoat. One of the Nashville discount stores ran an ad for all topcoats and all-weather coats at half-price on Friday and Saturday only. My wife decided to buy one for me for a gift occasion. She went to that store on Thursday, before the sale, to look. They had a coat she liked with a “suggested manufacturers retail” tag at $350. It also had a removable sale ticket on the sleeve at $149. She asked about the Friday and Saturday half price sale and purchased the coat that day for $149, rather than the $175 weekend sale price.

The change in retail in Downtown Franklin was influenced by Cool Springs Galleria, and the free standing big-box stores. Main Street stores that sold “consumer items” were replaced by shops that catered to a tourist clientele and sellers of food and drink. We went through that period of closing the office supply store, the drug stores, the shoe store, the hardware store, the locally owned groceries, and the furniture store, and finally the men’s clothing store.

No retail business can survive without great employees. The long list of college and high school students who spent their summer and Christmas breaks as part time employees, included the names of some of the most successful business and professional leaders in their respective fields. The skilled hands of Louise Mason and Martha Putman, fine tuned every garment in our alteration department. Wayne Sims, former manager of National Stores for many years across Fourth Avenue on the other corner, joined Pigg & Peach in 1987, and was part of our team for 16 years. Main Street stores truly are family businesses with a dedicated and loyal extended family.

I miss the retail that I knew and understood. I miss being part of Streetscape, of the Main Street Festival, of Dickens of a Christmas, the Jazz Festival, Pumpkinfest, and other events I helped create and promote. I miss owning a building on Main Street. Most of all, I miss the people. I miss being a landmark, a point of reference, and a source of information and public relations for Historic Downtown Franklin.

Taking the Keys Away from Pope Francis

Posted September 20, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

In Chapter 16 of the book of Matthew we read of Jesus giving Peter (Simon Bar-jona) the “keys to the kingdom.” Peter fell out of favor with most of us in the Church of Christ when he denied any knowledge of Jesus. We do not accept the theory of Papal Succession and we see no relationship with the inception of the Holy Roman Empire. We think of ourselves as having two origins—one defined in the second chapter of Acts and another in something we call the Restoration Movement which is another story. We never felt any allegiance to the Pope. We read with indifference the list and the names and the numbers of popes and study the conflict with kings in European and Eastern history.

Normally, I would be considering the Papal visit to America within the purview of the First Amendment and separation of church and state. As an international celebrity Pope Francis is deserving of a cordial welcome. Technically, he is a head of state, whether it is religious or secular. I have some reluctance about his being invited to speak in the House or Senate, but since we allow the presence of a chaplain I assume we could consider Pope Francis among the other Catholics who have been welcomed there. We gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a similar venue, and I think Rick Warren and some other televangelists may have been there a few times.

I have not heard serious opposition to the visit among members of the Church of Christ. Over time we have come to treat the Catholic Church as we do the many Protestant denominations, and those which come as Evangelical, Charismatic, Community, Non-denominational, the People’s Church, or the new Church of the City. We have finally admitted we are one of many religious sects within the broad umbrella of Christianity.

Many in the Church of Christ in former times regarded the Pope as the Anti-Christ. I thought of “the keys to the Kingdom” as metaphorical or symbolic. Now we watch from the sidelines while the Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and many televangelists are protesting his visit. They have labeled him as a liberal, a leftist, a Marxist, a socialist, and questioned his legitimacy. They have lifted his words from a literal context in the Bible and used them to discredit him.

Historically, I have thought of the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church as being conservative. We both believed in the Virgin Birth and the divinity of Jesus. We are Trinitarian; we are insistent on premarital celibacy; scriptural on rules for divorce and traditional marriage; strong on ritual and procedure for attaining salvation. However, we have more closely identified with the Reformation though we believe no one got it right until the Restoration Movement of Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone.

The Church of Christ has insisted on congregational autonomy. Each congregation is governed by elders and deacons with duties clearly defined in the Book of Acts and the ensuing Epistles to the early churches and individuals. We are bound to a single document, the New Testament. In addition to the recorded practices of the Church in the first century, we are bound to the teachings and examples of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels. Churches of Christ are more closely concentrated in the South or Bible belt. For many years our fundamentalist and literalist rules attracted a conservative membership. Even in the days of Franklin Roosevelt, the labor movement, and the coming of social security and Medicare the Church clung to its conservative base. Through the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War it maintained a southern tradition of segregation, male dominated family structure, and a national patriotism defined in the Christian Nation affirmation.

Our opposition to the Pope did not follow the liberal and conservative divide. I don’t think we identified the Pope with any similarity to Jesus. As a clothier, I saw his attire as ostentatious. We questioned the pomp, the artifacts of gold, the giant cathedrals, the processionals, the entourage, the music, and the splendor of the Catholic image.

This was not the church of Jesus who came to save the poor, the persecuted, the stranger, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the peacemaker, and the downtrodden. The Catholic Church has been a paradox of ministering to the poorest among us in many underdeveloped countries, a concurrent contrast with its storehouse of riches and ostentation. The Church of Christ has also been a paradox of southern politics of conservatism concurrent with the teachings of Jesus on charity, compassion, tolerance, and ministering to the least of these.

I don’t understand the metaphorical reference in Matthew 16 to giving the “keys to the Kingdom” to Peter or why the Catholic Church had any claim of rights in the declaration of Papal succession. However, I am hearing the same message coming from Pope Francis that I read in the Gospels having come from Jesus. I don’t know if these are the keys. His words have evoked opposition from organized religion and from government. I hear echoes of the voices of the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin Council, the scribes, Pilate, Caesar, the Jews, the money changers, the magicians, the sorcerers, and the Roman Legions. I don’t know what Jesus was referring to when he proffered this gift to Peter or even have a clear understanding of the Kingdom to which they provided or denied entry or membership. It would be a rare moment that I would come to the defense of a Pope, but I don’t want the Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and televangelists to take away the keys to the Kingdom. I don’t know if he has them. I don’t know if Peter lost them in his disavowal of Jesus. I don’t know if the ones passed on to the successive Popes were authentic. I think they are metaphorical for the words and power of Jesus and if Pope Francis believes he has them, don’t take them away from him. Let him visit and speak in peace.

Pigg’s Men’s Shop, 1949-1971

Posted September 15, 2015 by billpeach
Categories: Uncategorized

My earliest memories of Main Street included grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, and Rose’s Five and Ten Cent store. After World War II, a venturous investor, Oscar Godwin came to downtown Franklin. With some local financial backing, he opened a car dealership, a restaurant, and a men’s shop. In 1949, Godwin’s venture left the Harpeth Bank owning among other assets, The Men’s Shop at 414 Main Street in a building owned by Mattie Armistead, widow of the founder and mother of Bill Armistead, publisher of the Review-Appeal newspaper which was next door. I think the rent was less than $100 a month. I remember in 1970 increasing it to $125 with a five year extension of the lease, and our agreement to fund any repairs and improvements.

Columbia, Tennessee had a very successful men’s clothing store, Pigg & Parsons, owned by two generations of the Pigg family and Cliff Parsons. A nephew/cousin of the store owners, Paul Pigg, had been in a partnership in Florence, Alabama and later in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He learned that the men’s shop in Franklin had closed and negotiated a purchase from the bank and acquired primarily fixtures with very little inventory.

In the years following the war rationing, manufacturers were returning to domestic production and retail stores had the challenge of finding suppliers and merchandise for stocking stores. The store opened in September of 1949. From the stories Paul Pigg told, customers were lined up for the opening and bought mostly white dress shirts which had been hard to find during the war.

The building was 14 x 84, wide enough for a center entrance aisle, a low display fixture on each side and shelves and hang rods behind. These were the days before “browsing and shopping.” Customers were “waited on.” Dress shirts, mostly white, were packed three in a box without plastic wrap or open display. The basic opening price was $2.95, with a better shirt at $5.00. The hanging suits were by Sewell Manufacturing Company, the Joseph & Feiss Company (Cricketeer) and the top line, Hyde Park at $59.00 in Dacron and wool and $65.00 in all wool.

With my humble and rural upbringing, quality men’s clothing had little meaning for me. I remember having gone to Nashville with my grandfather once for him to replace the only Sunday suit he owned at one of the three or four men’s clothing stores on Sixth Avenue.

I had worked at the dime store, Jenkins’ Ben Franklin part time during three years of high school (Hillsboro, Williamson County), one year at David Lipscomb College (Lipscomb University) and one year full time. Each fall as my friends went off to college, the idea of “clerking” in a dime store became less attractive. I knew, or thought, I could one day own a store on Main Street in downtown Franklin, but not now. I wanted to “go to college.”

My closest friend, and pick-up basketball buddy, Porter Maxwell lived on West Main and he and I walked to the “county center” behind the old Franklin High School which later burned on Columbia Avenue. Porter worked at Pigg’s Men’s Shop in the summer of 1956 and referred Mister Pigg to me as a possible full time employee. I don’t remember much about the interview. I remember it was intimidating. It was a cultural shift from “mass retailing” at the dime store to becoming clothier for the business and professional civic leaders who were the movers and shakers of Franklin. This was an experience similar to the generational history of young men destined to own a family business. Paul Pigg was 43 and I was 20.

In the fall of 1957, the unrelenting desire to go back to school led me to consider a lesser costly state school—Middle Tennessee State (then College) University. I contacted Vergil Jenkins at dime store and asked if I could come back and work part time. Vergil and Anne Jenkins were almost like family, and I could have eventually probably been part owner of that store. When I told Paul Pigg, his response was to let me work at Pigg’s Men’s Shop part time, which was a more challenging job and maybe twenty-cents an hour more pay.

I arranged my schedules to attend school Monday/Wednesday/Friday and work at the store three days a week. In the second semester of my senior year 1960, I was unable to schedule two courses I needed to complete my English major and graduation. I dropped out after a month and went to work full time, only fifteen hours short of a degree.

By 1962, I had developed a clientele and some retail skills, and began to be recruited by local business men to open a shop with their backing. The most serious offer came from Lewis Aita, the local Ford dealer. At the time Paul Pigg’s mother was terminally ill and he was spending a lot of time away from the store. He and I had a long conversation, and I agreed to stay, forming a partnership, with incremental purchases of interest in the business, starting with 10%. In 1971, when we chose to form a corporation, for tax reasons, we were an 80/20 partnership and we officially sold our ownership to the corporation that we chartered under the name Pigg & Peach, the funny name that would eventually become the 4th and Main landmark that would survive until 2003. I became the minority stock holder and by default the vice-president. With that came my name on the sign hanging over 414 Main Street and the intrinsic frustration of being a minority stock holder and vice-president with someone 23 years my senior with different ideas about retailing, and no immediate plans to retire.


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