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10 Country: Nashville’s own sound

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February 18, 2003

Nashville-- In the days of space travel, microwave ovens, cell phones and cheap watches, one town still let’s people know an important time of day.

In Nashville, Georgia not Nashville, Tennessee, patriotism flies high, the clock works on the court house, rush hour in the town of five thousand lasts for maybe five minutes, and people expect to hear a special sound.

“It’s lunch time,” says Doris Krewer. Almost everyday at 12 noon, everyone within hearing distance knows what time it is.

“I live three miles in the country, and if the wind is blowing just right, we can hear it,” says Sondra Pickard.

Nashville’s fire whistle, they don’t call it a siren, has been around so long people don’t remember living without it. “This has been a lifetime thing almost,” says local historian Pat Webb. It stopped alerting volunteer firemen in the 80s when they got pagers, but kept its time-keeping responsibility.

Three whistles were located throughout the town at one time, but they wore out, and a modern early- warning whistle high atop city hall took their place. There was a time when the whistle stopped blowing because people complained.

The citizens of Nashville wanted their whistle back, and they got it.

It blows at high noon Monday through Saturday, but it doesn’t blow on Sundays. “We don’t want to upset the church during preaching services, telling the preachers it might be time to quit, ” says Fire Chief Travis King.

There was a time when fireman Jimmy Temples manually operated the whistle. It sounds like a simple job to flip a switch at noon, and he had people making sure it did it at the right time. “One of the local jewelers up here, he’d keep the exact time and he’d call us once in a while saying our time was off,” said Temples.

An automatic switch freed him from public scrutiny. What would Nashville be like without its loud timepiece? “It would be a ghost town,” said Pat Webb. The whistle, a blast from the past, is about the only sound louder than trucks passing through Nashville, Georgia.

At one-time, sawmills blew steam whistles to tell people when to start work, when to have their mid-day meal and when to the workday was over. Now, only the one at city hall remains.

posted at 3:00PM by dave.miller@walb.com