Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

February 19, 2013

Random Thoughts: A little piece of forgotten history

CROSSVILLE — So often history is forgotten or lost. When we retired here over 25 years ago I wanted to learn all I could about Crossville’s past and where better than reading old Chronicle newspapers.

In February 1943, there was a simple entry. It said, “Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia stopped here for a short call on Mayor C.M. Smith.  ‘I like it here. You have a beautiful little city,’ he told the mayor.” The article said only that LaGuardia had arrived unannounced because he was anxious to meet a colleague and pay his respects to Crossville’s mayor.

This story nagged at me. What was the mayor of New York City doing in Tennessee? How did he get here since roads were restricted in war time and I-40 was not even a dream at that time. I found the answers when I interviewed Mayor Smith’s widow Angela.

She learned the story behind the visit many years later because Mayor C.M. Smith had been sworn to secrecy. Crossville had a prisoner of war camp which held Italian and German high ranking officers although to the local population it was mistakenly known as the Jap Camp.

Mrs. Smith showed me a slim volume written by Herston Cooper, one of the camp commanders and a good friend of the Smiths. He told the story of the visit in this book titled Crossville.

Commander Cooper wrote, “A visitor comes on a business trip! The craft had settled upon the crude runway carved from the mountain. The visitor stepped down, flashing his famous smile. It was Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, New York’s beloved Little Flower. The camp officers persuaded him to complete his mission the next day and we went to a roadside spot near Crossville and had char-broiled steaks.”

It was after that meal that LaGuardia met with Mayor Smith in the automobile parked outside Smith’s pharmacy. The mayor had been told secretly by camp officials that LaGuardia was coming and would visit him.    

What was the mission for the visit? There was an Italian officer incarcerated at the camp who had great political connections in Italy. His real name is a question mark but he was always called Electric Whiskers by those at the camp. LaGuardia came to try to persuade him to use his influence with Mussolini to withdraw from the war.

After more research I can only speculate on why LaGuardia was chosen for this unsuccessful mission. During WWI he was a lieutenant in the United States Air Service and commanded a bombing squad in Italy. He proved his skill as an effective propagandist among the Italian population during that time.

This colorful man served three terms as mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. He was called Little Flower because that is the meaning of Fiorello in Italian. This small but roly-poly mayor changed New York’s corrupt ways under the Tammany machine as he promised.      

In 1941 President Roosevelt created the Office of Civil Defense and named LaGuardia as its first director. This established a link with the White House.

Had the mission been successful, Crossville would have been an important footnote is world history.

• • •

Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at dcb1@frontiernet.net.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014