Breaking Ground & Breaking Records

Day 67
Listening to: Who Can It Be Now
Thought for the day: If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you are. ~James Burke

March8

Today is the 96th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Old Hickory Powder Plant (village construction began earlier). After that first scoop of dirt was lifted, construction proceeded at an unthinkable pace. There were doubts from the government and other competing companies that DuPont could meet their set timeline. The first of Old Hickory’s nine smokeless powder units would begin operation on July 2, 1918, 3 months ahead of schedule. The powder plant operation itself called for the construction of 1,113 buildings. All but 100 of these structures were completed by the day of Armistice, November 11, 1918. That’s 1,003 buildings built in 8 months! I think about the rapid pace in which the powder plant and village were built all of the time and try to comprehend how loud it must have been. The chorus of hammers, machinery, and 32 train cars arriving/departing daily had to have been deafening. It was probably just a part of life to those who lived here during that time. Today’s photo is of the plant managers who oversaw the entire process of construction and operation.

Photo: Hagley Museum
Facts from Williams S. Dutton’s book, DuPont –One Hundred and Forty Years

What’s in a Name? Just ask Brickhead.

Though I’m not a huge baseball fan, I find myself totally intrigued with the game of old.  I suppose it’s possible that the movie, Field of Dreams, prodded my interest, or it could just be the fact that I love anything that steams out the nostalgia of life.

As I’ve commented in prior blogs, I am the keeper of a large collection of memorabilia relating to the DuPont facility and village in Old Hickory, Tennessee. My collection dates back to 1918.  Out of all of the photos in my possession, the industrial baseball league photos are some of my favorites.  Employees in the 1920s-1950s were hired by the company for their baseball skills and the company took great pride in the team, and for good reason.  The team earned the Nashville city industrial championship 11 years in a row starting in 1927.  In 1932, the team won the national industrial championship.

Here they are in 1927 on the dawn of a massive winning streak. Recently, while studying some of the pictures, the ball player’s nicknames caught my attention.  Here is an example of a nickname explosion from the annual old timers game in 1950 (when current team members played old team members).

It dawned on me that the modern nicknaming practice in major league baseball isn’t as colorful or pervasive as it once was.   Nicknames were like Cracker Jacks to the game back then and though nicknames are still a part of the game today, it’s just not the same.  Our culture has lost something.    James K. Skipper who presents a veritable hall of fame of nick names in  “An Analysis of Baseball Nicknames” concludes that the decline may be “representative of the fact that the general society is becoming more and more impersonal.” I encourage you to visit http://research.sabr.org/journals/analysis-of-baseball-nicknames.

I’d love to know the stories behind the names that Skipper has listed as well as the ones I’m finding within the DuPont baseball league.  If the stories are anything like the tales of how some of my now-retired coworkers got their nicknames, there is much humor to be found.   For instance, to this day one of my favorite nicknames granted to a former coworker is “Brickhead.”  I don’t remember Brickhead’s real name, but he was a character.  He earned the name late one night when he hit his head on a piece of machinery and sustained a deep cut which without a doubt needed stitches.  Over the years the story has reached legendary proportions where some say the cut was so deep you could see his brain.  Despite the injury, there were no tears or complaints.  Brickhead smiled bravely, insisted everyone stop fussing over him, and valiantly put duct taped on the wound. He wore his duct tape bandage of honor until his head healed and the rest is history.  For what it’s worth, nicknames have dwindled in the workplace too.  I suspect that too is a result of how impersonal our society has become.

Note:  I’m currently doing research on the DuPont baseball teams.  Sandra Eddins, daughter of Dick Cartwright, has been kind enough to loan me some pictures that I will soon share.  If you had a relative who played for the team, I’d love to hear from you!   Here are some of the pictures Sandra has shared with me.


The DuPont team visited Yankees Stadium in 1947.


Dave Scobey went on to be the Vice Mayor of Nashville from 1971-1995.


Many will remember Boots Smartt.

……………..more to come!