Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Love Miniature Golf? You can thank a Tennessean.

Animation by Web Weaver
  Did you know that a Tennessean is considered to be one of the fathers of miniature golf, or minigolf as the World Minigolf Sport Federation prefers to term it?

An article by Roland Gray, which appeared in a 1931 edition of Modern Mechanix, notes, "Midget golf, which burst on the country last summer, is moe than a fad, more than a game.  It's a gigantic new amusement industry which is coining millions of dollars for the men back of it."

The article poses this question, "Who started driving the country goofy over golf?"  

"And here's the answer," Gray writes.  "Down in Chattanooga, Tenn., Garnet Carter, as genial a host as ever epitomized the hospitality of the South, began fancying a system whereby the guests at his Lookout Mountain hotel might get a little compact diversion."

Carter was born in Sweetwater, Tennessee in February of 1883.  He became a wealthy entrepreneur, an inventor, and an expert at promotion.  Your probably know his work best as the mind behind the "See Rock City" signs painted on barns and birdhouses.  He put Lookout Mountain on the map as a must-see vacation stop for American families.  While he did not invent miniature golf, he was the first to patent it and was instrumental in commercializing it.  His 1927 patent referred to the game as "Tom Thumb" golf. The game's popularity added to his considerable fortune, even despite the depression which came soon after its inception.

Carter developed his version of minigolf in a roundabout way.  He operated a hotel on top of Lookout Mountain, and he also ran the Fairyland Golf Club in conjunction with it.  He had a little extra space next to the golf course which he turned into an area for practicing putting.  He noticed that his clubhouse guests lingered a long time at this pitch and putt area, and he jokingly referred to it as his "Tom Thumb" golf course. He started charging  for the use of this tiny green, which continued to grow in popularity.

Garnet started a company to build and sell his little golf courses, and he worked with other developers to help distribute his minigolf empire around the country.

For further reading:

Garnet Carter
Modern Mechanix
Miniature Golf History
History of Miniature Golf 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Freezing and Sweating in Tennessee...

So far, winter of 2014 has been the season of the polar vortex.  This has sent the weather topsy-turvy.  While Tennessee and other parts of the South are experiencing incredible lows, Alaska is having a warm spell. Something's off when -- as I now write -- Anchorage is at 40 degrees while Nashville is at 17 degrees.  

Well, if there's one thing you can say about Tennessee weather, it's always unpredictable and exciting. During our winters, one day will be rainy and cool; the next, cold and dry, and the next, as balmy as spring.

The National Weather Service  posts records for local weather going back to 1871. According to overall Tennessee records, the highest recorded temperature was a Death-Valley-like 113.  This was in Perryville on August 9, 1930.  Whew!  Just reading this makes me crave sweet tea!

The lowest temperature was -32 (Brrrrrrrr!) in Mountain City on December 30, 1917.  I suppose I'll have to be ok with our current temps, which have slid down to single digits.  At least that's a plus and not a minus sign in front of them.

Does it seem like warm days are few and far between this winter?  Take heart.  This isn't the longest string of chilly days, at least not so far.  In fact, the most consecutive days that the state has gone with maximum temperatures below 60 degrees was from November 12, 1872 to January 13, 1873. 

We in Tennessee are used to long, long summers that go right into October.  Did you know, though, that the earliest measurable snowfall occurred on October 30, 1925.  On that day before Halloween, at least one place in Tennessee had one inch of snow.

On the other end of the cold season, the latest spring freeze was April 25, 1910.  This is almost three weeks after our average last freeze, which is April 6th.  The safe planting date in much of Tennessee is considered to be April 15.  Some springs, I rush my flowers into the ground a little early.  The statistics would indicate that I should use more caution.

Here's a fact that boggles my mind:  There have been a few spells persistently cold enough to freeze the Cumberland River.   The last one occurred from January 25-29 of 1940.  

Stay warm!