An Old Timey Town: Celina, Tennessee
Article and Photography by Charmaine Lanham
In September of 1986, husband Marty and I were getting acquainted with the beautiful Upper Cumberland area of Middle Tennessee. We were soon to buy a bit a of land and build our dream cabin above beautiful Dale Hollow Lake near Byrdstown and the Kentucky line. That Fall we started our exploration of the area at the dam at Celina. We stayed at the famous Horse Creek Marina, our gateway to the 65 mile long lake with water “clear as a bell”. We listened to to locals talk about Merle Haggard and Jerry Reed fishing there. We saw the picture of the “biggest small mouth bass ever caught” which hangs at Sunset Marina. To say the least, this is a beautiful place. We are privileged to be part of it, although our cabin is in Monroe, Tennessee, at the opposite end of the lake from Celina.
Celina was a boom town when the dam was being built in the 1940’s. After the dam was built and workers moved on to other jobs, Celina reverted to the quaint and tiny town it is today. It stands as a tribute to another place and time.
The most memorable experience on our first visit was the old-time store on the square. You could buy new-old stuff and stay to hear stories of the town from the unhurried Locals. People in Celina are proud of their town.
On the town square sat several men, chatting and whittling on cedar sticks. My friend asked them, “What are you making?” One of the whittlers answered, “I’m ‘Making Time’.” That phrase stuck in my head. Whittling is an end in itself and when you are finished the wood is gone. It is a great way to pass the time. The poem below is what I wrote as I imagined the life of that old fellow:
The Whittler sat in the old courthouse square
Carving some cedar in a red rocking chair
What are you making, old friend of mine?
He smiled and told me, “I’m Making Time”
I’m “Making Time” in my old age
My life’s work is over, I’ve made my own way
With a knife and some wood there’s little to say
I’ll whittle away the rest of my days
All of my memories are of times that are gone
When I sat round the table with my wife and my sons
The long days of work with the crops in the fields
The chores getting done in time for a meal
You are a young man, your future’s ahead
While I am an old man, waiting for rest
My children are scattered, my farm has been sold
And my dear wife, my one love, is a memory I hold
The whittler walked from the old courthouse square
In the fading grey dusk, with wind in white hair
At my feet were his shavings of cedar so fine
What are you making?
I’m Making Time