Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 26, 2013

Random Thoughts: The rest of the story

By Dorothy Copus Brush
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — Maybe we finally know the whole story. I should say I know the story. After retiring in Crossville over 25 years ago I learned a lot about its history. In all those years I never got the complete story on why or how Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia came to Crossville in February 1943.

Several times I have written about this incident in Random Thoughts. The last time was February 20, 2013. By that time I knew LaGuardia had arrived by airplane. This article brought an e-mail on February 22 from Robert Parsons, Chief Information Officer at Tap Publishing. He gave the answer to who ‘Electric Whiskers’ really was.

In his e-mail Parsons said I mentioned an unidentified Italian officer referred to as ‘Electric Whiskers’. The officer in question was actually General Annibale Bergonzoli. He was personally tasked by Mussolini with defending Italian positions in the Libyan port city of Bardia. Unfortunately for Bergonzoli his forces were cut off from supply lines and he was forced to surrender to Australian troops. He was held for awhile in India, then later transferred to the US where he made his way to Crossville. After the war he returned to Italy and lived a quiet existence in his birth city of Cannobio. He died in 1973.

He also enclosed a photo of General Bergonzoli. It showed the ‘Electric Whiskers’ and it is easy to understand why he was given that name.

I spoke with Parsons by phone later to thank him for the information. It was then I learned he was interested in the subject as a young man and found out about ‘Electric Whiskers’ by reading.

Because of Parson’s interest all those years ago we now know the whole story. And to think it took over twenty years. It will never be mentioned again in Random Thoughts!

Do you think there will be an article forty years from now that will help us remember the ‘Blizzard of the Century’? I must admit without the article by Michael Moser the date of March 13, 1993 would have passed without a thought. Instead I read and remembered.

We had retired here in 1985 from Michigan so we didn’t think of snow in sunny Tennessee. We lived in a rental while our home was being built and I had ample time to decide on plantings I wanted. Experience has taught me that the magnolia tree I chose doesn’t like our weather.

It was one of the first I planted and it grew fine but each year the buds would appear and sometimes they lasted a day or two and then the weather would dip and the buds would turn brown and were gone. Year after year I have watched this happen. And yes, it happened again just last week.

When two of our four children decided they would take time for a quick visit on the weekend of March 15, 2013 I didn’t realize until I read the story about March 13, 1993 how lucky we were. Sleeping on the floor in front of the roaring fireplace and searching for some place to find food came to mind.

On the weekend 20 years later the weather was beautiful!

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