Jim Lawson


After a crop failure in 1928, Jim's father accepted a job at the DuPont Rayon factory and moved the family to Old Hickory. They moved into a house at 1810 Overton (house is no longer there) located in a section called New Town, a neighborhood DuPont added to supplement the older village houses built in 1918.  Four years later Dr. Johnson helped Jim enter the world via an at-home-delivery.  With the exception of the time he was in the military, Jim has spent his entire 80 years in Old Hickory.  His experiences range from life growing up in the village to being a parent raising children in the village. Jim says Old Hickory was and still is a great place to live.  
Photo:  Jim and his daughter, Deby Lawson, who also contributed to the interview.




Meet Jim 

First Grade - Twice

Jim began first grade at DuPont Elementary when he was 6 years old, but due to overcrowding the first graders only attended school for half a day.   The implication of this was that many would have to repeat first grade. 


Sliding Out of DuPont Elementary

When DuPont built DuPont Grammar School, they incorporated their own knowledge of safety into the construction.  With experience in explosives manufacturing, the company knew the best emergency exit from a the second story of a building was via a slide.  The elementary school was built with this in mind and equipped with slides. 


Grammar School Cheerleaders - Slide is Visible in the Back

Slide is visible behind the unidentified cheerleaders in this photo.  Photo courtesy of Austin Kinzer.

Scouting in Old Hickory

Scouting was a very big deal in Old Hickory in the 1940s.  Old Hickory's Boy Scout troop met in a log cabin located close to where the DuPont Union building is today.  


1943 Boy Scouts - Troop 69 - Old Hickory

Unidentified Old Hickory Boy Scouts recieving first class badges in the Scout cabin. 
Rayon Yarns - 1943

Phoning Home - WWII

WWII affected the lives of everyone in the United States. Old Hickory was not exempt. Some of the changes were subtle. Jim was a child during WWII and his stories reflect these subtleties.  From helping war widows with chores to witnessing the recovery of bodies from a military maneuvers accident*, the war impacted Jim as a young boy. 

*In October 1942, 6 men were killed when 2 tanks fell off a pontoon bridge crossing the Cumberland River ( http://www.tn.gov/environment/arch/pdf/roi13_ww2_2007.pdf).  


Walking to Work

After many years, Jim would eventually go to work for DuPont himself. In this segment he briefly touches on the beginning of his career but quickly transitions into what it was like for those who worked for DuPont during WWII.  Walking was the major mode of transportation. Even the plant manager walked. Shift change would fill the streets with a parade of people. 


1940s Shift Change - DuPont Rayon Old Hickory

Shift Change - DuPont Rayon - Old Hickory -1940s
Photo courtesy of Austin Kinzer

The One Meal at a Time Mentality

Jim's mom only thought “one meal at a time.”  She would send Jim to Robinson’s Grocery in the triangle three times a day.  He says he put a lot of miles on his bicycle.  Find out the painful way he earned the bicycle (tonsils).


Robinson's Grocery

Jim describes Robinson’s Grocery from his perspective as a young child and shares with us a few other tidbits about the store. 


Ice and Coal

In the early years, all of the houses in the village were heated with coal.  There were two places you could buy coal, Tom Hartley’s and Old Hickory Coal and Ice.   Jim talks about playing in the rail cars at the Old Hickory Coal and Ice company and what it was like to have ice delivered ………and not have a refrigerator to cool a pie.   


Old Hickory Ice and Coal Receipt from 1936

The Tale of Two Coins

DuPont High School was involved in a program called Youth Views the News. The program often sponsored speaking competitions.  Jim won two silver dollars during one of the program’s competitions.   Find out what happened to the two coins. 


Demon Dean and Her Flying Machine

Jim talks about two teachers he remembers at DuPont High School.  Find out how a math teacher challenged a young teenage boy not interested in school to go on and become a successful accountant. 


Jim's Old Hickory Favorites

In this segment, Jim discusses his favorite activites and places to hang out during his youth.


Freezer For Rent!  The Locker Market

In the days before freezers, there was a place called The Locker Market in Rayon City.  The market rented freezer space to customers so they could store meat for longer periods of time.  Jim worked at The Locker Market under the guidance of Gingo Mangrum.  


A Lawson Christmas

The Old Hickory Tales leaders always like to ask the people being interviewed what their childhood Christmases were like.  There are similarities in what we hear about Christmases from the 1940s, but there is always something a bit different and special about each answer.  Hear about the Lawson's Christmas. 


Nashville or Bust!

Hopping on a bus and making the journey from Old Hickory to downtown Nashville was a fairly regular occurrence for Jim.  The real treat came when the state fair would come to town.  Listen to how Jim prepared for it every year and how he continued the state fair tradition with his own children.


What Do You Do When You Don't Want to Move Your House?

In this segment Jim talks about DuPont's approach to selling the village (1947-1952).  Homes were sold first to DuPont employees and then to people based on village seniority (how long they had lived in the village). Houses were moved and in the Lawson case, additional deals were made after the DuPont sale.  Hear where Jim’s childhood home on 808 Debow is today and how the sale of the village unfolded in his eyes. 


Jim Enlists in the Air Force

Like many in Old Hickory, Jim did not wait for a draft.  He enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean conflict.  Though he never saw battle,  his work in the military was a part of the massive support that is required of any country when there is war.  In Jim's case, enlisting lead to meeting his wife, Theresa Tanberg Lawson. The way in which he met her should serve as reminder to all of us that sometimes the people we think are not our friends turn out to be God sends.  


Jim's Air Force photo

Post Military Service - Moving to Rayon City

After getting out of the service, Jimmy and Theresa moved back to Old Hickory and rented an apartment in Rayon City for $10/week.  They would move several times before finally settling at his current residence in 12/1/57.  Other than his time spent in the service, he never lived more than 2 miles from the place he was born on 1810 Overton.


Newlywed and Pancake Days

What happens when you spend all of your money on Christmas gifts as a young newlywed couple?  What do you eat?  It's simple if the wife has been stocking up on pancake mix. 


Wearing Many Hats

From grocery store clerk to railroad worker to service station owner to DuPont technician to Credit Union accountant, Jim worked hard his entire life.  One of his most visible jobs involved owning and operating an Esso service station on the corner of Hadley and Donelson.  In this segment, Jim discusses his job changes and the inpact the opening or Robinson Road had on his business when it opened in 1958. 

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Jim's Esso station on the corner of Hadley and Donelson

Jim at his Esso station on the corner of Hadley and Donelson



Raising Two Generations in Old  Hickory

Jim shares his thoughts on growing up in Old Hickory and then raising his own family in Old Hickory.


A Lifetime with Old Hickory Church of Christ

Jim has attended the Old Hickory Church of Christ since 9 months before he was born and is still an active member.  In this segment he reminisces about spending time at the church building with his father and delivering the church bulletin.


Employer Loyalty Begets Employee Loyalty

Like Jim, Theresa also ended up working for DuPont.  However, after experiencing heart trouble she was given a disability pension, also known as Total and Permanent pension.  Jim reflects on how the company treated his wife and his father who also had to retire because of illness. Employer loyalty was a big thing in Old Hickory. Employer loyalty beget employee loyalty. You didn't talk bad about the company. 


From Texts to TVs

Facebook has nothing on Jim. He keeps up with technology. Jim has been around to see changes  that have affected convenience and entertainment. One convenience most of us take for granted is the evolution of television. Jim shares with us memories of his dad's first color TV and the story of one of Old Hickory's biggest success stories, Homer Thompson, the original owner of H.H. Gregg. 


Remembering Jim

Despite our interview with Jim lasting close to an hour and a half, we never even touched on the tremendous amount of time he has spent involved with missionary work through his church.  He has gone far and above in doing what he needs to do to achieve what he wants to be remembered for when his time on Earth is complete.