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
  • 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

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

    The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

    July 8, 2014

  • We the People: American women, be informed and vote

    Voting for today’s Republican Party and its Tea Party members, means you are voting against more than most realize.  This is especially true for women.

    July 8, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites
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