By the time you see Cordell Hull Lake arriving on route 53, the cell signal is spotty at best.
Passing by the Granville Marina and Campground and heading into downtown, the signal completely disappears. One look down Clover Street, the main drag in this quaint town, and you'll forget about your cell service. Without even a slight assist from H.G. Wells, you have stepped back in time. It is a time many believed lost, but one that lives on daily in Granville.
To the left, tucked behind some trees, a few yards and some preserved homes and buildings, flows the Cumberland River. It has had different names dating back to the early Native Americans but Cumberland is the longest lasting. Like years and decades later when towns cropped up everywhere along the newfangled development called the railroad, when flowing water was a main source of transportation, the Cumberland and others like it created river towns along the way. Granville is part of that legacy.
"Uncle" Jimmy Thompson, the first person to perform on the Grand Ole Opry when it was known as the WSM Barn Dance, was born in this community. His barn is preserved here as are many other things. For the first part of the 20th century, Granville buzzed. Even when the river traffic waned, the U.S. Army showed up during World War II and used the town and the river as training. That spirit of volunteering never died.
There are only a shade fewer 400 folks who call it home now. But the community has nearly 190 volunteers to help put on events like Heritage Days, the Scarecrow Walk and the Grits and Glitz Barn Sale. It is a remarkable story really, the restoration that has taken place there.
There is the T.B. Sutton General Store, the kind where the floors are uneven and creak when you walk. There are canned goods, dry goods and baked goods. And ice cream. And, like any Tennessee town, there's music. In a dining room off to the right every Saturday night you can get fed to a full southern meal and get to top off the evening with a bluegrass concert, live and direct from the famed corner stage. It is barely big enough for a band much less one with instruments, especially if one is toting a doghouse bass. But, oh, do the bands make do and not only fill the stage but the air with the sounds of bluegrass. Supper is $15; the music is free. But not only are you treated to the sounds, so are listeners from around the world as the show is broadcast on 39 stations and streamed online. One story is told of a couple from Ireland who walked in one day and asked to see the "famous corner stage." They had listened to the show many times online and wanted to see it in person while on a trip to the U.S. They may have been surprised by the size of the platform but not the sounds coming from it.
The homestead of Mr. Sutton of general store lore has been preserved as well. Depending on the time of year, you can be treated to a wonderful tour by even more volunteers in a rotating time period. During one visit it could be the 1920s inside the homestead, in another visit it is the 1950s and Ike is in the White House.
They have saved the church building. It now is a museum filled with displays, each one telling a story, even if it is a stagnant item. The floor slants toward the front and one hostess shakes her head. She attended church here as a child. "If you dropped your nickel trying to put it in the offering plate, everyone knew it because it would roll all the way to the pulpit."
The office of the town doctor, who for years visited patients on horseback, is preserved.
The Transportation Museum sits just off the main drag. It has a car sitting at the gas pump and one expects Elvis or Carl Perkins to come out of the AM radio. There are cars and tractors and reminders of a hard but maybe simpler way of life. The antique store, a bed and breakfast and a gift shop, are all open for business.
All this history made complete with no cellphone signal.
Want to stop back in time? Just head to Granville.
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