By Susie James
Having recently learned to embrace my age, I was motivated to take a look back and realize how deeply my roots are planted in this little community we call Wilson County.
I was born at McFarland Hospital, attended the first class of Mrs. Edna Bennett’s Pixie School, in the basement of her home, and if I close my eyes I can almost smell the peanut butter cookies from the lunchroom and see the big wide halls in the old McClain Elementary School from the late 1960s. I started with the first class of Friendship Christian School in 1973 at the old College Street Church of Christ, a congregation that I have attended my entire life and still do today at College Hills. After attending Lebanon High School for my freshman year, I returned to FCS and graduated back when our only school colors were green and white! I was somewhat shy back then, but I met so many people, both at LHS and FCS and have always treasured those relationships. I still have a lot of the same friends from school and those connections are strong as many of them also stayed here to enjoy the good life.
My parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me. My mother is Joyce Bobo Barry and she and her sister Doris Newman grew up living in the Ligon and Bobo Funeral home preparing food for the grieving families and working in the flower shop there. My mother was a real estate broker for some 30 years and was a part of the tremendous new growth in Wilson County during that time. My father, Richard Hunt, now deceased, was a contractor and he is responsible for building several local landmarks, including the First United Methodist Church, the First Baptist Church and the Peoples Bank (now SunTrust), among others. The Wilson County Courthouse still bears the plaque with his name as the builder. Their example served as my motivation and so from a very early age, I was earning a paycheck. From cleaning hotel rooms, handling the front desk and managing the gift shop for my father’s properties in Nashville, to being a real estate broker like my mother, the sense of accomplishment in a job well done was modeled for me. To this day, I don’t really like to tell my mother I’m taking a day off, even on a Saturday!
My stepfather William O. Barry, “Pop”, is a Castle Heights and Vanderbilt graduate, whose family started the Barry Carter Milling Company in 1929 (Shenandoah Mills today). He still drives almost daily to Nashville managing his radio station WAMB. My exposure to radio, through him, caused me to pursue my current career as owner and manager of Wilson County’s Own Radio, WANT-FM 98.9 and WCOR AM 1490.
Since 1993 I have been able to provide our area with local news, sports coverage of Lebanon High School, Cumberland University and the Tennessee Titans, as well as a variety in programming of country music’s finest. Our studios are in the same old building on Trousdale Ferry Pike that I used to pass as I would ride with my grandparents out to their farm, Bobo Stables. My grandparents, Alex and Vera Bobo, would stop at Wharton’s market and let us buy a coke or Popsicle for the ride. The most fun was holding onto the cattle rails on the back of the truck with my brother, Bill Hunt and my cousin Randy Newman. Being the youngest and a girl, they were always throwing snakes or bugs on me from the creeks we would explore on Papa’s farm. Lots of weekends all six grandchildren, including my sister, Janice, and my cousins, Lori and Jenny Lyn, would be loaded up at some point, headed out to the farm. It was a definitely the good life.
I have been blessed to meet many people through the radio station. They come from all walks of life: advertisers, listeners, prize winners, politicians, local business owners, songwriters, musicians, ministers, school children on field trips, talk show guests, athletes…I could go on and on.
There was a particular young lady that worked at the station through college who just happens to be one of the founders of this magazine. I like to tease Becky Andrews about taking credit for all her accomplishments!
So many of these individuals return again and again to the point where we have developed relationships outside of business. And I can’t talk about the radio station without mentioning my staff. Most of them have been together with me since the time we went on the air some 18 years ago. As a small business owner, I value my co-workers. They are like family to me and I can’t imagine doing this job without them. And speaking of family, I am married to a wonderful Statesville/Watertown guy, Ed James. He is a general contractor and real estate agent with Agee and Johnson. Most afternoons we sit on the back porch and share details about our day. If you’ve met my husband then you know he truly enjoys meeting people and even considers a trip to the grocery store a social event. We have both been fortunate to serve on several local nonprofit boards. We are members of all 3 Chambers of Commerce in Wilson County, and both of us have gone through the Leadership Wilson program. Of course we are somewhat of a divided household in that he is a member of the breakfast Rotary Club and since 1994 I have been a proud member of the Lebanon Kiwanis Club. All of these experiences and organizations have allowed us to build relationships with an incredible variety of people.
Of course there are two very important people that I have yet to mention and they are my greatest source of pride, my children, Christopher and Chelsea Bay. They followed in their mother’s footsteps in that they both were born at McFarland Hospital, both attended Pixie School and both are graduates of Friendship Christian School. Christopher received his MBA from Cumberland this past spring and is currently in law school at Belmont University, while Chelsea is beginning her senior year at MTSU.
I’ve heard it said that in a small town you “best be careful who you talk about ‘cause more than likely they’re related.” Well, as you can see my roots here run deep and the relationships I have made throughout my life have brought me brothers and sisters from all walks of life. I do feel like it is truly a good life to be living here in Wilson County. We all are so blessed to enjoy the beautiful seasons in Middle Tennessee and take advantage of the many benefits of living here. We can ride a train to work or an NFL game, or be at an airport hub in minutes to fly anywhere in the world. And although I enjoy travel, like Dorothy, to me there is “no place like home.”
I was born here and there is no question I will die here. (My children know exactly where to find my funeral instruction file, among other things.) And I can’t miss this opportunity to encourage readers to Shop at Home. If we are to continue to enjoy the good life, we need to support our local businesses by spending our tax dollars where we live and while you’re at it, you just might tune in to the local radio stations!