Taking a trip down Nashville’s memory lane

We’ve been back in Nashville for two weeks and I am happy and exhausted.  There are awesome things about spending large chunks of time in the places that make me happy, like Colorado and North Carolina, but I have to be honest when I say, there’s really NO place like home!  Especially in April, Nashville is a glorious place to be.  It’s green everywhere, the birds are singing, the weather is perfect, the shopping is getting so much better, there are a myriad of new restaurants to try out, and most of all, my friends and family are here.  Among the many benefits of having an empty nest, besides the flexibility to travel and spend time away from home, is the ability to socialize whenever you want.

Springtime in Nashville…it’s the best!

So when we pass through Nashville after being away for almost four months, and want to re-connect with our friends and family, we experience a social life that we never had.  Long coffees that extend to lunch, nights out with my girlfriends, dinner on a school night, leisurely lunches…all possible without worrying about getting dinner on the table at 6, or school meetings, or daily grocery store trips.  When you’re only in town for a couple of weeks at a time, that means squeezing get-togethers in on a daily basis!

It’s been great.  And exhausting. But I feel like I’m experiencing my home town in an entirely new way.  It’s unbelievable how much this little town has changed, seemingly overnight.  After dinner at Pinewood Social Club the other night, our friends drove us around downtown like we were guests, and honestly, I felt like one.  Between the new Convention Center, the new Omni Hotel, tons of hip new restaurants with outdoor patios for dining, and the throngs of tourists on Broadway, I felt like I had never been here before!

Music City Center-image from The Tennessean archives

Back in the middle ages, when we were celebrating my friend’s bachelorette party at the Urban Lounge on 2nd Avenue (anyone remember that place?), I remember driving down a deserted 2nd avenue at 1 a.m., and one of our friends had to pee, so she hopped out of the car and ran over to an alley to do her business.  (I’ll never tell who!).  There was literally NO ONE around.  There were two places to go on 2nd avenue back then (other than Tootsie’s), Urban Lounge and Ace of Clubs.

My little tour of downtown had me thinking about the Nashville of my youth.  (Geez, I sound old…oh yeah, I AM old!)  I have a lot of memories as a 20-something of downtown.  I met my husband at Ace of Clubs (through a mutual friend, not a bar pick-up, thank you very much!).  Ace of Clubs was a bar/dance place that had cages you could dance in, and I have many memories of that place, which later became Bar Nashville.  Before that, my girlfriends and I would drive down to TGIFridays on Elliston Place, Exit-In (REM, The White Animals, Talking Heads, Jimmy Buffet, Tom Petty, They Might be Giants…so many great bands played there), the Mardi Gras nightclub down by the warehouses near the river downtown, where you could buy the most potent Long Island Tea in existence, and HeartThrob’s at the Fountain Square Mall in Metro Center (an 80’s dance club where a VIP card let you bypass the throngs of people waiting to get inside).

Ready to go out, Big Hair, Big Eyeshadow and all!


There was The Wind in the Willows off West End, where we went to see “Hubert Davis and the Season Travelers”…probably the best bluegrass band I’ve ever heard.  (Apologies to the Steep Canyon Rangers, who run a close 2nd).  I remember Hubert’s tag line like it was yesterday…

“Wednesday….Thursday…..Friday…..and Saturday night…every week that
rolls around, right here at the Wind in the Willows (or later, the Bluegrass Inn).  If you like your friends you tell em about it, if not, then keep your mouth shut.  Every things gonna be alright!”

        — the late great Hubert Davis

Click here to hear them play “Rocky Top”!

The hot apple pie a la mode at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, the caramel popcorn at Harding Mall (one of two malls we had in the early 70’s that were nice, clean, and very busy), the hometown department stores, Castner-Knott and Cain-Sloan (I was on the “Teen Board” at Cain-Sloan in 1978-1979), Harvey’s downtown with the amazing carousel horses and their nativity scene at Centenniel Park, and  I worked at “The Jewel Box” when it opened in Hickory Hollow Mall in the late 70’s, a busy, crowded, teenage hangout of a place.

Jewel Box was a jewelry store…in the upper left corner of this pic

I remember when a friend moved to Brentwood back when I was in elementary school.  It was so far, it felt like we were going on an overnight whenever we drove out there to visit.  But during the 80’s, Nashville had truly become a metropolitan area, spread out from Brentwood and Franklin on one side to Madison and Goodlettsville on the other.  But the thing that I remember, is that no matter where we went, we ran into people we knew!  We’d drive 20 minutes to get to downtown where we’d run into all our friends.  That doesn’t happen anymore.
When I start that journey down memory lane, it’s not just the 70’s and 80’s…the 60’s pop in there, too, and they start flooding back.  The rollercoaster at Fair Park, swimming at Pine Springs, shopping at Zayre (our 70’s version of Target), baseball games at Una Recreation Center, Hermitage landing, Vandyland, prom dates at the Jolly Ox, Sailmaker’s or Cajun’s Wharf,  “Creature Feature” on TV with Sir Cecil Creep, that weatherman that threw chalk and caught it in his pocket after every forecast “by George!”, Coyote McCloud on Y-107…”Lock it in and rip the knob off!”, and Scott Shannon at WMAK,  Shoney’s, Opryland (where I had season passes and basically used it as summer camp for a couple of years, before having a series of summer jobs sweeping or working the kiddie rides), the “Dixie Flyers” professional hockey at the Municipal Auditorium, driving out to the old airport to stand on the outdoor observation deck to watch planes land and take off…I think you get the picture.  Once I start thinking back it’s never ending.
I do love the changes that have happened in our fair city…it’s nice to have so many more options in shopping, dining, and the arts, but I miss the ‘small town’ ambience of Nashville.  I think it has taken me 50+ years, and leaving Nashville for months at a time to really appreciate our history.
What do you remember about Nashville?


  • julief73

    Elisha, I am from Nashville born and raised. Born at Baptist and graduated from Glencliff in 1991. I graduated Nursing school and decided to travel and left there in 1998. I still visited family there. I have been in South FL for 18 years and miss Nashville everyday. I moved my family up there in 2015 only to return here in 2016.

  • julief73

    My kids and husband are native Floridians. I KNOW what you mean by missing old Nashville. It has changed so much. No one in Nashville is from there anymore nor does it feel like my home that it felt for so long even when just visiting. People look at you crazy when you mention a place that no longer exist cause they are newbies.

  • julief73

    I could be gone for a year or so and visit and I was home and felt good. No longer do I feel that and it is very disheartening. Especially when I hit the mid 40’s and need that long ago feeling. No matter what Nashville will always be my home as my roots run deep there many generations.

  • julief73

    I am like you with I am glad to see the growth of the city but I hate that the old is not there. I felt like everybody I knew left and no one was left. I too find myself going thru all the memories often. It has me 20 years of living away from there and 43 years of life to appreciate my hometown.

    • Elisha

      I know what you mean about feeling like no one is left. I think they’re still here, there are just so many more people they get lost in the crowds. Either that or they don’t go out anymore.

  • J

    Thanks for the memories; those were my haunts as well. I was from the country at that time, Hendersonville. But we came into town and I was really into the new wave/punk alternative scene. I could add a few places to that list (Great Escape, Cats Records free shows on West End, Country Macks). Good times. Interestingly, I too moved to Snowmass in the early 2000s then returned back to Santa Monica.

  • Paul Turner

    Charlie MacAlexander (Charlie Mac) was the weatherman you’re thinking of.

  • Dfree

    In trying to find the location of the old ‘Ace of Clubs’, I came across your blog. I’m remembering it was located in the Derryberry building at 111 Broadway which is now ‘Rock Bottom Brewey’ but can’t find anything on the internet to confirm that…does anyone know if that is correct?

    • Elisha

      I don’t know the address, but it was an old building a couple blocks below Broadway on 2nd avenue. It looked like it might have been an old renovated garage.

    • Scooter

      I thought Ace of Clubs was where Joe’s Crabshack is now?

      • elisha

        It’s close. I think Ace of Clubs was across the street on 2nd.

  • Vicki Dean Rucker

    I used to go to a bar/dance club near 100 Oaks Mall, right there in the parking lot on the right side of the mall in the mid 80’s. I can’t remember what it was called. Anybody remember?

    • elisha

      I remember a bar called Flanagans which later became Mardi Gras. Fun times.

    • Rhee

      Oh my gosh I remember that place – the Oasis or Midnight at the Oasis or something like that?

      • Scooter

        Thank goodness someone remembers Midnight at the Oasis in Metro Center!! That’s where I met my wife!

        • Jack

          From what I remember, Midnight at the Oasis was across from Rivergate Mall, on Two Mile Parkway. The one at Fountain Square Mall at Metro Center was Heartthrob Cafe.

  • James Sutton

    Hi there I was posted from London to Nashville by my work in 1989 and had a blast. I was searching the web for any information on the Urban Lounge and couldn’t find anything other than you who mention going there on a bachelorette night. I used to go when DJs from Detroit or Chicago played and had a such a wild time with a great bunch of people who all worked in the music industry. We would go to these afterparties in this warehouse by the river that would carry on from Saturday night through to Monday morning and as this all pre-dates mobile phones I have no photos and very little way of confirming it actually all happened. Anyway very good to come across someone who remembers the Urban Lounge – dark sweaty little downstairs dance floor if i rememberer corrrectly.

    Take care


    • Scooter

      You are absolutely right about Urban Lounge. It was the Alternative crowd. I felt out of place there if I wasn’t wearing all black! Still a fun place to be different.

  • Jamie Sutton

    I also saw REM, Talking Heads and Hot House Flowers at the Exit -In or was it the Ace of Clubs I can’t remember as this was 1989 – but such fun times. I remember going out on boats on the lakes at weekends and the Amish settlement just 30 minutes south of the city.

  • Thaxton Waters

    This article was definitely a BLAST FROM THE PAST!!! I’m 40 and still live in Nashville. So many memories. It is so not the little Mayberry town I grew up in…hell, my Dad & I would go to Acme Seed & Feed on Broadway and actually pick-up plant seed, chicken feed, dog food, and salt licks for the horse. The place is a dance club now.

  • John

    Bogeys in Lions Head every Wednesday night,
    Cock eyed Camel, what was the place on music row? The Wharf, The place on Highway 100 that became Candyland for awhile, another place near sperrys,

  • Barbara McClain Parriott

    The club by 100 Oaks was called Mardi Gras – one could gain entry via a highly coveted VIP Pass. It was festive there with two big bars – a clown who walked around juggling, confetti pouring nightly and packed every weekend. Elisha I recognize the fourth woman from left in your photo but cannot recall her name. My best friend knew her through a guy she dated (the woman dated a friend of his) and we went to an aerobics class with her and her friends once! Nashville is and still is in some ways, a small town. I remember Hickory Hollow being such an “upscale” mall at the time. I worked at Stuart’s in Rivergate Mall (owned by Petrie – the same man who owned Marriane’s, which was near Harvey’s and had all the big windows in front, and Lerner’s). I traveled from mall to mall dressing the mannequins in each store – best job ever, which included a discount on clothes! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • elisha

      Such a small world! I worked at Stuarts in Hickory Hollow Mall. We probably saw each other at Mardi Gras back in the day. Nashville used to be a place where you ran into people you knew everywhere. Thanks for sharing!

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