Watertown Reuinion

25 Years Later.. in the Blink of an eye

Watertown Reuinion


While little league baseball season was upon us this spring, I found myself in the bleachers watching my son and my friend, Meredith Bayse’s son, playing in 25 yearsthe infield together. While Neill and Kendal were chasing grounders, Meredith and I were in deep discussions planning our 25th Watertown High School Reunion.

25 yearsIf you had told me when I was 18 that Meredith Curtis Bayse and I would, some 25 years later, be sitting in a ballfield, 10 miles down the road from where we grew up in Watertown, planning this reunion, I would have told you…that’s exactly what I thought would be happening. Or more to the point, what I hoped would one day happen.

Don’t get me wrong, like every other graduating teenager in 1988 I had big, big plans, some of which eventually happened, others of which, only by the grace of God, did not. But like many that I know from this area, staying away too long wasn’t one of them.

I don’t know if there is something in the air or the water, but I find it doesn’t matter if you attended Watertown, Lebanon, Mt. Juliet or Friendship, while many of us may stray a little from home, when it comes to finding our way back, all roads lead to the comforts of long held memories and mama’s cooking.

This past September, 25 years later, my classmates and I, the 1988 Class of Watertown High School, gathered on my back porch to reminisce about the good times, to honor those who left us too early and to catch up on all that we had become. We could all agree that the 80’s were not the most outstanding decade. Unlike prior generations, most of us we were not heroes of a great war nor did we suffer through a major depression. Instead we stood at the forefront of what many of those prior generations had fought for – a time of sustained peace, economic optimism, and unimaginable innovation.

25 years later

My high school days were spent running around Watertown in my 1977 Chrysler Cordoba (you may recall the old Ricardo25 Years Montalban commercial extolling that model’s “rich Corinthian Leather” which failed to mention its 9 miles to the gallon fuel economy) listening to Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Hank Williams Jr. Kevin “Spaceman” Roberts, Greg Allison, Ralph Bailey, Gerald Lamberson and James Vaden were among my running buddies and if I wasn’t working a shift at Wendy’s, we’d spend many a day swimming at Cedar Forest pool and night, riding the roads and hanging out at the Cherry Valley gas station.

I laugh now when I hear teenagers say they don’t have any freedom. I hate to break it to you kids but you have you will have when you’re 43. Mortgages, jobs, and kids will keep you on your toes more than any parent’s curfew. And I venture to say from my conversations with Kristen Graves Ragsdale, Elizabeth Hudson Scruggs and Kirsten McDonald Harris and the many others who shared their 1988 class reunion photos with me, their days were spent much like mine. Although these fine ladies were probably at Rivergate or Hickory Hollow rather than Cherry Valley.

Through the years, these same classmates have become as familiar as family. We were in each other’s weddings, have seen each other’s children grow into teenagers, been around to congratulate each other through promotions and business ventures. In the same manner, we’ve been there to support each other when we’ve sustained hard times and sadly, also been there when it came time to bury a loved one.

And while we may not see each other on a daily basis, no matter the school we graduated from, there is something comforting about seeing a former classmate in the aisle at Target or the DMV or even better, on the local ballfield late at night. Words are not always needed, a simple nod takes us back to a good place.

These days, however, because of work commitments and all the duties that come with being a grown up, my running buddies can’t meet at Sonic late at night, just to hang out. Instead, I’ll be watching the UT – Florida game at home and I’ll text Greg about that terrible call. Or I might see James Vaden at Demo’s and immediately send a text to Terry Tarpley, recalling the time we three went to the lake without a care in the world.

So, 25 years later, we may be a little thicker, a little grayer, a little slower but in the blink of an eye, we are on my back porch laughing, cutting up, living our25 yearsJack Thompson & Greg Allison Winners of the most changed and least changed awards lives, and that’s exactly where I had hoped to be.


POPULAR FILMS – Rain Man, Die Hard, Beetlejuice, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

POPULAR MUSIC – Robert Palmer, U2, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, George Michael, Guns N’ Roses

INTERESTING FACTS – Year End Close of the Dow Jones Industrial Average- 2,168, Interest Rates 10.5%, One gallon of gas – .91 cents, Movie tickets – $3.50 George H.W. Bush defeats Michael Dukakis

25 Years laterMt Juliet High Reunion

Elizabeth Hudson Scruggs, Vonda Sellars Paris, Michelle Beasley Carpenter & Greg Paris

Shelly Woodard Baker, Lisa Mutz Elms, Vonda Sellars Paris Kristen Graves Ragsdale, Carrie Poss, Elizabeth Hudson Scruggs & Julie Smith

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Newtown Shares Teddy Bears of Love



Just eleven days before Christmas last December 2012, our nation and the world were shaken by the unthinkable shooting of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. What followed this horrific tragedy was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy, love, prayers, and support for the school and Newtown community. People from around the world who wanted to express their grief and extend love to Newtown sent letters, cards, toys, and stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, an endearing symbol of love and comfort. The City of Newtown received so many stuffed animals, they had to rent warehouse space, and eventually began to share the toys with other organizations serving children in need.

Local business owner Mike Slarve, President/CEO of Four Seasons Coach Leasing in Lebanon, heard about Newtown’s abundance of toys. Mike is nicknamed the “Teddy Bear Man” because he collects new or like-new teddy bears year-round to give away to area children, through his favorite local charity, Christmas 4 Kids. Mike’s employee, Pat Nabors, contacted the Newtown Chamber of Commerce, and after several months, Pat and Mike received word that Newtown would share their teddy bears with Christmas 4 Kids. But, there was a contingency with the offer, that is, Mike had to pick up the toys in Connecticut within just a few days, because Newtown was closing down the warehouse. What must have been a Divine plan, Mike happened to have one of his luxury coaches and a driver, with a trailer, that had dropped off a group in New York City that very day. The driver, Brook Langdon, gladly agreed to drive to Newtown and pick up the teddy bears, and deliver them back to Mike’s company headquarters.

Mike estimates Newtown donated more than 2,000 teddy bears in various shapes and sizes, which will be distributed to each child through Christmas 4 Kids,TeddiesHolly Thompson of WSMV – Channel 4, shopping with a child Photo Coutesy of Cyndy Carroll and also other area charities. Slarve noted that kind notes of encouragement and prayers are attached to many of the teddy bears.

Christmas 4 Kids began several years ago with bus drivers who donated their time and money to take area children Christmas shopping. As the organization grew, the entertainment coach owners also supported the effort by donating coaches and funds, along with celebrities like Charlie Daniels, Tennessee Titans, and many volunteers.

The effort is also supported by local fire fighters and law enforcement. About 80-100 buses take nearly 1,000 children for a day of Christmas fun. Wal-Mart closes a store for the event, and gives the children a discount on purchases, with the money provided to them through the charity for shopping.

This year, The Charlie Daniels Band & Friends will host a benefit concert at the Ryman Auditorium on Mon., Nov. 25, and there will be a tour bus show on Dec. 16th. On Dec. 17, hundreds of children will be treated to a day of special activities, and then taken Christmas shopping that evening.

“We do this for the love of the children,” declared Slarve.

“My heart has been broken many times when going as a chaperone with a child for the shopping event. Often they use their money to buy gifts for family members, rather than for themselves,” he said. The children selected for the event are recommended through Tennessee Children’s Services and area schools. Mike said many volunteers are needed to serve as chaperones, and financial donations are welcome. He will continue collecting teddy bears for children for upcoming events. To donate, drop off your teddy bears at:

Four Seasons Coach Leasing, 9 am. – 5 p.m. weekdays, at 211 Babb Dr. in Lebanon.

For more information about volunteering or participating in events for Christmas 4 Kids, visit their website at www.Christmas4Kids.org

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The Art Mill

The Art Mill

Just around the time Wilson Living Magazine was conceived, our friends, Scott and Kirsten Harris, were starting their own new venture, The Art Mill. As WLM has grown over the years, so has The Art Mill. With the holidays approaching, The Art Mill is about to hit one of its busiest seasons as many folks will be lined up to paint amazing holiday artwork that they can then take home and display. And we couldn’t be prouder of our talented friends who have turned their idea into one of the area’s most successful businesses.

To that end, Scott sat down with us to share their story…

 The Art Mill

Tell me how you and Kirsten first conceived the idea of The Art Mill?

The Art Mill actually started as an invitation from some friends to help make their dinner party a success by adding an art party at the end of the evening. That went so well that some other friends “dared” us to start doing it on a larger scale. All the pieces fell into place and our first class was two weeks later on April Fool’s Day 2010 (no joke).

The Art MillSo tell our readers, what is The Art Mill all about?

The Art Mill is an interactive art studio that primarily focuses on painting on canvas with acrylic paint. We have classes for adults and kids. Our instructors are very hands on with all of customers to make sure that your painting is a masterpiece. Good friends, great music and a whole lot of fun is what you can expect at every class or party at The Art Mill.

Do you have to know how to paint to go to The Art Mill?

 No experience is necessary. Our talented instructors walk you through step-by-step to make sure that your painting turns out GREAT and that you have fun in every class! Our customers should always expect to take home a painting that you are proud of and created yourself.

How do you schedule a class at The Art Mill?

Our classes are posted on our website at www.TheArtMills.com. Simply click on the calendar and you can see every class that is coming up at The Art Mill. Just click on the picture on our calendar and in just a few quick steps you will be registered for class. We offer classes for adults or kids with different canvas sizes for both.

How are your classes structured?

Each class is about 2 hours long. Our instructors walk you through every step of painting and help you create your very own work of art. You can choose your own colors and make your painting exactly what you want. We play great music and walk you through step by step until your painting is complete. We always say… “If you don’t like your painting, you can have ours” To date – no one has taken us up on this.

Can you bring snacks and/or drinks to class?

Of course! Feel free to bring any type of snack or drink (including wine) to your class. Our classes are real painting classes…but they are also lots of FUN!

Where are your studios?

The Art Mill has studios in Lebanon (on the town square), in Cookeville (just off the town square) and our newest location is in Mt. Juliet in TownCenter (which is soon to be Mt. Juliet’s town square). Kirsten & I are lifelong residents of Wilson County. The Art Mill is not a franchise…it is a local small town business.

I see on your calendar that you have something called Open Paint Night…can you explain what that is?Art Mill

Open Paint Night is your opportunity to paint something from a class that you might have missed. Open Paint Nights offer limited instruction, but there are still instructors on hand to help you with your painting. We do recommend that you paint in one of our regular classes first, in order to make sure you know your way around the studio first.

Do you offer parties at The Art Mill?

Private Paint Parties are a very big part of what we do at The Art Mill. At each of our locations we have a front studio and a back private studio specifically for Private Paint Parties. Our front studios can seat approximately 40 painters and our private studios can hold 20 to 40 people. Our Private Paint Parties do require a minimum of 10 painters, but you also get a private studio, your own instructor, you get to pick the date, the time and the painting. Booking a Private Paint Party is easy…just call the studio and we’ll match up calendars and schedule your event. Private Paint Parties are perfect for corporate events, birthday parties, girl’s night out, church groups and more!

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Holiday Delights

….. within the doors of Michael’s Cover Up


MichaelsDesign consultant, Michele Miller discussing a custom order with manager, Michael Ezsol & WallyWith the holidays almost upon us, everybody wants to make sure their home looks spectacular as the entertaining season is about to begin.

One local establishment that is always abuzz right before the holidays is Michael’s Cover Up. This season, however, customers are not only stopping in for last minute reupholstery work or custom bedding and curtains to have in place for holiday parties, but also coming by to purchase lamps, tables, mirrors and pillows.

Michael Ezsol and Miles Fields, owners of Michael’s Cover Up, have been reupholstering middle Tennessee one fabulous chair at a time, for several years now, and noticed that many of their customers were looking for decorative items. With their recently expanded space at 703 South Cumberland Lebanon, TN 37087, they knew they had the perfect opportunity to give their customers exactly what they were looking for.

The store now not only carries fabrics, shades and shutters but also occasional tables, pre-made drapes, clocks, Michaelsbookends, ceramic pieces – basically all the finishing touches to make a room look beautiful and lived in. Additionally, they carry many other gift items that would be perfect for a hostess this holiday season including gift soaps, wine bags, drink mixes, dip mixes and candles.

Michael and Miles are both known for their excellent taste and easy going natures. They have left their imprint on many homes in and around Wilson County with their custom work and are about to do the same this holiday season with their one stop decorating and gift shop. Be sure to stop in soon to say hello and take a look around. You will be delighted that you did!

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Where In the World is Christina?


We’ve all had that feeling where deep in the pit of your stomach, something doesn’t feel quite right. You feel there is more you should be doing. You feel where you are now is not the place for you. Some heed the call, others don’t. Most everyone, at some point in their life, wishes they had.

ChristinaFor Lebanon resident, Christina Eichler, that feeling came early as she had recently checked off all the right boxes; college degree, her own place, secure job, on track for a promotion. Yet by mid-June she was scouring the internet looking for a way to bring together her two passions: her love of traveling and her love for God.

“I’ve always had a desire to do something different in my life. ‘Life is too short to live the same day twice’ is one of my favorite quotes.  It wasn’t long before I found exactly what I was looking for when I was introduced to The World Race,” expounds Christina.

The World Race is an 11 month, 11 country mission program, organized by Adventures in Missions. Beginning in January, Christina and her squad will travel to countries in Europe, Africa and Asia including Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and the Phillipppines.

Once they arrive in each country, they will set up camp, disperse into teams of 6 to 8 and then partner with a church or mission located in that country full-time. Their job will be to do whatever may be needed including plant churches, work in orphanages, minister to men, women and children, provide labor on construction projects and, more importantly, share God’s love everyday with everyone they encounter.

“This is an exciting and, yet, terrifying decision. I will be trading my car for a pair of hiking sandals, my apartment for a tent, my bed for the sleeping bag, the known for the unknown. Yet, I truly feel like this is where I am called to go in the next season of my life.”

Christina will be updating our Wilson Living Magazine readers on our Facebook page as she begins her journey in January of 2014. She will also be blogging about her mission at http://christinaeichler.theworldrace.org.

“Prayers are the number one way for people to get involved and support. But I am also raising money for the mission whose total cost is $16,250. To donate, people can go directly to my blog and under my picture is a link to “Support Me!” Donations can be made online or by mail, one-time or monthly. The deadline for to be fully-funded is at the end of June 2014.”

For those of you, who’ve heard the calling and followed it, you know Christina is about to embark on a journey that will not only serve others, but will also serve her well for the rest of her life. For those of you, who’ve heard the calling but have not yet followed it, it’s never too late. You sometimes just have to close your eyes and take that first step.

As we share Christina’s adventure this coming year with our readers, we hope her first step will lead many, including us, to take our very own.

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Watertown’s Candy Makers



ToffeeBrad Dawson spreads a super-hot batch of toffee on to a granite slab as the candymaking process moves to the next stagePHOTOS & STORY BY KEN BECK

The sweetest place in Wilson County?

The Walker Creek Toffee candy kitchen inside the former American Hardware Store in Watertown may lay claim
to the title. “We’re the best-kept secret in Watertown, and we’re not a secret,” said Bruce Mott, who created the toffee recipe and produces it with his wife Cathy McCook.

The duo began selling their toffee a few years ago when they made it in their home kitchen in Alexandria, but last January, Mott, who does residential remodeling, replaced the floor in the century-old structure and built a 500-square-foot kitchen and a 250-square-foot packing room.

Thus, one night a week, they handcraft their toffee and caramel candies in small batches right here with a little help from their friends. Mott began making toffee in 1978 and continues to adapt the recipe.

“The toffee recipe is in every cookbook known to man. I’ve taken a similar recipe and refined it to the formula we have today. I have a chef gene,” says the native of Carmel, Calif., who opened Nashville’s first vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Man, in 1975, and has been in construction the past 35 years.

“Toffee is a hard candy to make, and I appreciated the challenge. You have to cook it very hot in order to reachToffeeBruce with caramel maker and wrapper: the machine is a batch roller designed for taking a batch of caramel and turning it into a rope of caramel the perfect temperature, about one degree away from being burned. You can’t leave it alone,” Mott said.

“I will still mess up a batch from time to time. I’ve had to learn a lot more of the chemistry of candy. Ninety percent of the time we get it right, and I won’t put it out for sale when it’s not right.”

“We can’t even put out samples if it’s not right. I’ll just really watch it,” said McCook, who shares samples of their candy during Watertown’s bi-annual milelong yard sales. “Bruce has the eye and nose, and I’ve developed the same senses.”

The couple’s Toffee, Salted and Short Mountain Shine Caramels may be purchased at Nona Lisa Pizzeria and Lulu’s in Watertown and at the Nashville Farmers Market on Saturdays. Or it may be ordered via their Web site. The candy will also be sold at the Wilson Living Holiday Expo Nov. 22-23 at The Mill in Lebanon.

So how good is this toffee, which consists of creamery butter, cane sugar, raw California almonds and Belgian chocolate?

Jason Scott of Jackson, Tenn., who obviously has a sweet tooth or two, sent in this email testimony:

“We recently stopped by the Nashville Farmers Market and discovered your product. My wife, son and myself were blown away with the quality and taste of your caramel and toffee. We purchased one bag of toffee and one bag of each of your caramels.

ToffeeUsing a large wooden spoon, Bruce Mott stirs creamery butter as he prepares to make a batch of Walker Creek Toffee from his own tried and true recipeAfter returning home to Jackson, Tenn., my wife took the remaining candies to work to share. Needless to say they were loved by everyone!!! I now regret sending them with her because I’m out. LOL. You have a wonderful product and we look forward to future orders. Thank you!!”

Says McCook, who was born in Union City, Tenn., and was working for UPS in Atlanta when she met Mott at the Appalachian Craft Festival in Smithville in the early 2000s, “He made toffee for me before we were married. I had to put it in the trunk of my car so I wouldn’t eat it all.”

Mott is definitely the salesman. “I will walk into a business and say, ‘Hey, eat this.’ I figure once I get it in their mouth, it’s sold,” said the candy man,ToffeeCathy McCook spreads rich Belgian chocolate over the hot toffee who across the years gave his toffee away as gifts.

“People would ask, ‘When are you gonna start selling it?’ We started putting the framework together and another year or so later got a home kitchen approved by the Department of Agriculture,” recalled McCook, noting their candies became part of Pick Tennessee Products in 2009-2010.

“There was a certain ambiance to making it at home,” said Mott. “We were selling a couple of hundred pounds a year and never knew it would grow.”

In 1999, the couple purchased the old hardware store on East Main Street, never contemplating they would one day transform part of it into a candy kitchen.

“The building never had electricity for the most part. We had to rewire it, plumb it, and we built this building within the building. Owning a building like this is an incredible stewardship. We love this old building,” said Mott. As for making the toffee, the steps include preparing and heating the ingredients, pouring it out to cool, covering it with chocolate and almond dust, allowing it to cool more and then wrapping it.

“It’s been done the same way for hundreds of years,” said Mott, who uses a three-foot long wooden spoon to mix the sugar, butter and almonds as the blend heats in a giant copper kettle. “What we’re doing when we’re making toffee is caramelizing sugar with butter,” he said about the cooking process, as the temperature in the kettle rises to around 300 degrees.

The two variables to how the toffee turns out prove to be the almond and butter supplies. “We try to get the same stuff from the same guys all the time but sometimes they throw a curve ball at us. This year we used 50-pound blocks of butter from Purity. It’s more consistent,” the candy chef said.

ToffeeCathy McCook regularly peddles Walker Creek Coffee on the sidewalk in front of the century-old American Hardware Store during the bi-annual Watertown Mile-Long Yard Sale. Here she offers free samples to passers-byThe sweet couple expects to employ four or five helpers this holiday season and have already been teaching Watertown’s Jennifer Folsom and Brad Dawson how to make the candy. “Bruce and Cathy have been family friends for a while and I love them to death. Having the opportunity to work for them fits my family needs and the needs of Walker Creek Toffee, so it was a no brainer,” said Folsom, who makes caramels and does the finishing work on the toffee. “I have helped out seasonally for a couple of years and been a lover of that toffee for as long as I have known about it.

“I think the most import thing about the candy is that you have to learn by doing. You can’t read and know how to do it. It’s more of an art but there is science in there. You have to get in there and make some good ones and make some bad ones and fine tune,” said the young candy maker, whose husband Brad, a chemist at Environmental Science Corporation in Mt. Juliet, began making toffee in July under Mott’s watchful eye.

Let it be noted the candy kitchen is not open to the public, however Mott says, “If we’re here and not in the middle of production, I’ll give people a tour, but when I’m cooking candy at 300 degrees, it’s just not safe.”

Walker Creek Toffee’s primary customers have proven to be corporations that present the candy as Christmas gifts, while, coincidentally, in the Watertown area, Mott often portrays Santa Claus at holiday events.

“We fill lots of big orders. We like for businesses to say, ‘We’d love to give your candy to all our clients. Can you ship?’ Yes, we can,” said McCook. “We’ve grown the company slowly to make candy in a timely manner. Now I want more people to know about us,” Mott said. “We’re real careful to keep the quality where it needs to be. We’re open to some retail relationships, but it’s got to be the right fit.

“My favorite part is when people eat their first bite of the toffee. I’ve seen people’s demeanor change 180 percent. They squeak or perform an eye roll. I think we have a great product. I love introducing people to it.

“In residential remodeling, sometimes people are not happy with me, but everybody is happy with candy,” said the Candy King of Watertown


Made in Watertown, this pure and natural candy is produced in small batches using creamery butter, cane sugar, raw California almonds and Belgian chocolate. The toffee may be ordered online or purchased in Watertown at Lulu’s and Nona Lisa Pizzeria; and at Green Door Gourmet in West Nashville, Art & Invention Gallery in East Nashville and at the Nashville Farmer’s Market (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays). Also available are Salted Caramels and Short Mountain Shine Caramels.

For more info or to place an order, go online to walkercreektoffee.com or call (615) 295-4137. The candies will be available at the Wilson Living Magazine Holiday Expo Nov. 22-23 at The Mill in Lebanon.

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Model Kali Nolen with Monty Mires, Dustin Alexander and Pamela Garrett at the Lebanon Country Club

Sabrina Out On The Town – Nov/Dec


Wow! You guys have sure been busy. With the holidays approaching and the weather cooling off, there have been so many opportunities to meet some SabrinaSabrina with TN Senator, Lamar Alexander at the Capitol Theatrewonderful neighbors. From Watertown to Mt. Juliet to Hartsville and back, the ladies (and men) of Wilson Living Magazine have been trying to hit all the events to showcase all the fabulous people and organizations we have in our community. Be sure to also check out Wilson Living Magazine’s Facebook page as we post photos of events each week. If there is an event you would like us to cover, be sure to drop us an email at info@wilsonlivingmagazine.com and we will do our best to come out!

Happy Holidays and see you all in the New Year!

See you soon!!




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