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MJ History: Youth Well Spent

This week we have a work from Nealon Agee about growing up in Mt. Juliet, particularly playing sports with the neighborhood boys. 

The boys of winter were often engaged in a breath condensing game of basketball at Butler’s Gym. It was “at” Butler’s Gym instead of “in” because it was in the barnyard with a makeshift goal. The only spectators were the chickens forced under the apple trees with their clucking, picking and Bronx cheers. The four Butler brothers were always there, Joe, Jimmy, Bobby, Tommy, and other boys from the community. The game was most always two on two with two more waiting to play the winner. 

All of this took place on present day West Caldwell Street in Mt. Juliet and was then known as Jim-joe-Allie; the name is apocryphal, but allegedly taken from the names of people who lived on or near the street, i.e. Jim Sullivan, Joe Hardaway, Allie Gibson. It is said that Allie Gibson once lived in what was then the Butler house. If a car entered what is now West Caldwell from North Mt. Juliet road and made no turns, it would run into the house. Remember the basketball games, since they will come into play later. 

Winter became spring and the games changed to baseball and softball which were played in a field just across the road from the house (the lot is still vacant). In the early years, when we were not strong enough to knock a baseball into Mr. C.B. Smith’s yard, that was our game. When we grew stronger, to keep the ball in play, we switched to softball. We had big games on Sunday when the Butlers had visitors such as Ralph Denney (son-in-law), Charlie Butler and older brother, et al. 

When we could not muster a quorum for team games, there was always a one-eyed cat, and regular marbles, but the passion was still there. Should there be a full wash-out, we pulled out the checked board and monopoly set. Yes, there was always an alpha male in all these activities, and if there was a consensus winner for all activities, it would have to have been Joe Butler, the oldest of the four brothers (there were some older brothers). 

Joe was also a good baseball pitcher when Mt. Juliet was in the Wilson County League. There were teams from other counties, but it started in Wilson County. He was the only pitcher we had, but his arm endured. Joe was a self-effacing guy who never tried to make himself more than what he was. He was “good ole Joe.”

It should be mentioned that all this energy, at least a significant part of it, came from Mrs. Butler’s biscuits. She used to make big pans of biscuits, knowing there would be some poachers among her visitors. 

Like most mothers, she was flattered when all the boys would risk harm and line up liking starving hobos for her early morning servings. Yes, can you believe that, it was like it was their duty to go to the Butler’s for biscuits. Charles McCorkle still talks about his early morning biscuit raids. 

Baseball and softball continued on through the summer, and “the boys of summer” became the “boys of fall” and football. The milder form of this game was “setback.” This form of football was only passing and punting and trying to land the ball past the opponents goal without them being able to catch it. 

Then there was tackle football, played in the side yard of Butler Stadium, as we called it. The hazards were a hedge or stumbled into rock wall. It seems that I remember at least one person breaking a rib on the rock wall, and there were a number of scratches and bruises caused by crashing through the hedge. All of this, dangerous as it was sometimes, was played with a sense of fairness and good humor. 

Fall droned into winter and back to the barnyard we went. One day while there was a rare lull in the action, Sammy Jennings noticed that there was no smoke coming from Mr. William Sharp’s chimney and it was January. All the boys in Mt. Juliet loved Mr. William, as we called him. 

Mr. William lived on the highest hill in Mt. Juliet and could be seen, especially in winter, from just about any point in the village. The hill of his home was just behind the old Bradshaw place, now the home of Rufus Page. 

Boys roam and many times we would walk down “the old railroad bed,” now called West Division Street, about two hundred yards past the entrance to the Mt. Juliet Cemetery, to walk over the creek on a bridge (remnants of the bridge are still there) on the south side and up the chair leaning against a big maple tree in his yard. 

On all occasions we would gather around him and talk. On some occasions we would ask him if we could pick blackberries on his place, and his answer was always the same, “yeah, and if you don’t quit asking me, I’m not going to let you pick’ em.” That was his way of saying, “yes, you can pick ‘em anytime you want to.”

Mr. Lee Alsup, brother of Mrs. Jordan, who operated a grocery in Mt. Juliet for some years, was a frequent visitor to Mr. William. They were about the same age and just liked to share memories. 

Anyway, Mr. Alsup went to see Mr. William and found him in his bed where he had died perhaps two or three days before. Mr. Alsup hurried back and spread the word; when we heard of his death, we went hurriedly to his home. While we were there, an ambulance drove up, the driver ran into the room and fell across Mr. William and cried. Seeing all this as we were standing in the room, we were puzzled. 

This was in late January of 1949 and we were between 13 and 15 years old, so we had never even considered the history of Mr. William. It turned out that he used to married to Nannie Willis, and they had one daughter, Johnie Guill Sharp. 

Johnie, was described in a newspaper while announcing her marriage, as “one of Mt. Juliet’s most beautiful and accomplished young ladies.” That article also showed that Johnie had married Corporal Robert L. Jones of Watertown, who had come home on leave to get married. They had a son, John Thackston Jones. 

It is not known what happened to this marriage, but Johnie remarried Ralph Kidd. Ralph Kidd adopted Johnie’s son and gave him his last name, and he became John Thackston Kidd. And, it was John Thackston Kidd, Mr. William’s grandson, who drove up in an Ellis-Kidd ambulance and cried when he saw his deceased grandfather. Mr. William and Nannie were divorced. 

They are buried in the Mt. Juliet cemetery, Nannie Willis Sharp, born Feb. 4, 1867, died Dec. 25, 1930s (exact year is not known). Mr. William Sharp born Sept. 22, 1870, died Jan. 22, 1949. 

The boys of “all seasons” revere the visits and memory of Mr. William Sharp. 

His cordiality and generosity is his legacy and will be remembered. 

As you drive or walk past the Butler house on West Caldwell look at the barn, side yard, and vacant field across the road for apparitions of young boys playing. 

Mr. Riley Benjamin Butler and Mrs. Addie Granstaff Butler died while still living in that enchanting house and all the boys had moved away to make lives of their own and left that beloved place. 

As long as our memories exist, they still live. 

We are running low on Mt. Juliet History stories, so if you have someone that has a story to tell, please have them call Kenny Howell at (615)754-6111 or email at 

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