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Take a peek at old Lebanon

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Kim Jackson Parks, executive director of Historic Lebanon and author of "Images of America: Lebanon." Kindred Moments Photography & Design / Jana Pastors

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then Kim Jackson Parks' new Images of America: Lebanon is worth 200,000 words.

But don't worry. This 128-page pictorial history of Lebanon, which covers the Cedar City from the early 1800s to 1969, proves a breezy read with more than 200 images and photographs.

Each is accompanied by a meaty caption, thus in a couple of hours a reader can take a quick tour through the town and walk away with a good feel for Lebanon of yesteryear.

For Parks, who serves as executive director for Historic Lebanon, compiling the book was sort of a scavenger hunt as she searched high and low for photographs while also attempting to verify the facts behind them.

"Sometimes I would just find stuff like the Lamb Festival Parade," Parks says of the two celebratory photos of the 1941 event that marched down Lebanon's Main Street.

"People need to be interested in their history, and the best way is to read books and look at photographs of our town," said the first-time author, a Lebanon native, who had been gathering her information for several years.

"I think people want to know their history. Most don't like to do research but enjoy learning about it. Seeing these photographs maybe there will be one thing in here that might capture their imagination and make them curious about Lebanon's history."

Parks and Historic Lebanon debut the book 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at Cumberland University's Baird's Chapel. Priced at $22, the book will benefit the local historical association.

The week after the book signing, copies will be available at the Wilson County Chamber of Commerce office on the town square.

The historian organized the book into seven chapters: "Early Lebanon," "Education," "Lebanon From 1900 to World War II," "Maneuvers From 1942 to 1944," "Lebanon From After World War II to 1969," "Uniquely Lebanon" and "Cracker Barrel Old Country Store."

Parks had been thinking it was time for a new history book about Lebanon when Arcadia Publishing contacted her in 2013. She took the idea to her board, sent in samples to Arcadia and had a contract by late September a year ago.

The diversity of vintage photographs and images should pique the interest of Lebanonites, whether you were born and raised here or moved in recently.

Among the author's sources for photos were the City of Lebanon Museum and History Center, the Ridley Wills Postcard Collection at Cumberland University, the I.W.P. Buchanan Collection, the Wilson County Archives, the Stockton Archives at Vise Library at Cumberland University, the Castle Heights Military Academy Alumni Association, the Tennessee State Library Archives and various individuals.

"I looked at over 500 images, and I had to cull. It needed to be a good quality photograph, and I wanted to use the photos to tell the story," she said of the process. "I laid them all out and put them in a line how I thought they would go and edited from there down."

The oldest photograph shows the northeast corner of the town square in 1859, while Parks' favorite image captures the square at night in the late 1960s. And the photo that amuses her most depicts Wilson County Sheriff Harold Griffin and his posse posing with a batch of confiscated moonshine as the moonshiner peeks from a window in the background.

The most noteworthy fact Parks discovered while accumulating her data had to do with the large volume of manufacturing going on in Lebanon in the 1850s.

"The production of cotton and woolen goods and by the flour mills blew me away. Flour from Lebanon was shipped to Europe. A lot of people thought of Lebanon as just a little hick town, but that was not true. It had a college and all this manufacturing," she noted.

As for several other cool facts, the book reveals a ledger from a store partly owned by Andrew Jackson which shows what people in Lebanon were buying in 1804. And the town boasted a very cultured society in the 1800s with its many academies and schools. It also held its own with entertainment venues ranging from an opera house in the Westside Hotel in the late 1880s to its many movie palaces of the first half of the 20th century, that bore such names as the Nickel-O, the Howard Theatre, the Lyric, the Bijou, the Custer, the Star, the Ritz, the Princess and the Capitol Theatre, the lone survivor.

"This new history of Lebanon, one of the earliest towns in Middle Tennessee, is long overdue," say Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West. "With important historic photographs and insightful text, this newest offering from Images of America is a welcome addition to anyone's library of Tennessee history and architecture. Historic Lebanon is to be congratulated for bringing the history of Lebanon to life for a new generation of residents and visitors."

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

. . .

Historic Lebanon and Kim Jackson Parks will premiere their book, Images of America: Lebanon, 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at Cumberland University's Baird's Chapel. The 128-page book will sell for $22 with proceeds going to Historic Lebanon. Later book sales will take place: at 1 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Chamber of Commerce office; 5-8 p.m. Nov. 20 at Wilson Living Holiday Expo Gala Opening at the Wilson County Fairgrounds; 5-8:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Historic Lebanon Home Tour (Mitchell House, 106 N. Castle Heights Ave.​); and the afternoon of Dec. 12 in the main lobby of Wilson Bank & Trust on West Main. The book also will be available at the Wilson County Chamber of Commerce office on the town square. For more info, go online to historiclebanontn.org.

This 1894 photograph shows, from left, Bessie Weir Doak, Amy Weir, Alice Williamson Bone and Martha Martin Burke enjoying a carriage ride along Lebanon’s South College Street.
Castle Heights Military Academy seniors toss their hats into the air as they celebrate graduation around the circle in front of Old Main in the spring of 1967.
Floating along South Maple during the flood of 1948 are, from left, Frances Anderson, Perry Martin, Nancy Graves and two unidentified citizens.
In the mid-1960s Lebanon Bank’s drive-in branch proved a modern addition to the business. It was located in the back of the Cedars Shopping Center, the city’s first shopping center, on West Main Street.
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