A Block Off Dinah Shore Boulevard

Perhaps you remember this stanza, from Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song?

When you feel like the only kid in town without a Christmas tree,
Here’s a list of people who are Jewish, just like you and me:
David Lee Roth lights the menorah,
So do James Caan, Kirk Douglas, and the late Dinah Shore-ah.

The last name in the list, Dinah Shore, is of local interest, as she grew up in this area. Now, I will admit that, until Adam Sandler informed me, I had no idea that Dinah was Jewish.  Furthermore, I had no idea until I moved here that she hailed from Franklin County. In order to get to Walmart or Home Depot, you have to drive down Dinah Shore Boulevard. As I have found out, Dinah’s time in the county is a story worth knowing a little more about.

WinchesterJewsactivephoto2According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life,

In 1908, Solomon Shore, who had been born in Russia, arrived in Winchester and opened a clothing store. He would remain in Winchester until 1924 when he moved with his wife, Anna, and two daughters, Bessie (Seligman) and Fanny Rose, to Nashville. Fanny Rose began singing with radio station WSM in Nashville and changed her name to Dinah.

The building that housed S.A. Shore’s Department Store  in Winchester Square is gone now, according to a plaque now on the site where formerly it had stood.  Nonetheless, one can still feel the place it occupied in the square, where the Lynch law firm building now is (furthest to the left in the picture below), across from the county courthouse.

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The house in which the Shores lived is only a block from Winchester Square, near the public library, and now occupied by the noted collage artist, Anne Bagby, who tells the story of how she came by it here.

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This sweet little bungalow, with its small front porch, features in a noteworthy episode from Dinah’s young life. According to the alumni magazine of Vanderbilt, where Dinah would end up going to college,

Fanny also felt like an outsider as a child of the only Jewish family in a small Protestant town. As an adult she remembered standing on her childhood porch one night and watching a Ku Klux Klan parade march by, the men masked in cowardly hoods made from sheets. Normally an even-tempered man, Solomon raged that night because, attentive dry-goods merchant that he was, he recognized his sheet-masked patrons and neighbors by their shoes and the way they walked.

I stood outside the Shore house this afternoon, having admired the colorful work of Anne Bagby within it, and gave some thought to the long-ago Klan march on this very street, and to the Jewish family that watched in fear and anger as it passed by, feeling rightly that they were part of its target. What is there to say? Now the county’s main thoroughfare, a block away, bears Dinah’s name, while Klan activity is largely (alas, not wholly) extinguished in the region.

In later life, Dinah would herself be the subject of unfounded rumors about a “secret” black baby born out of wedlock.  If you’re interested, you can look around the internet and still find nasty racist remarks about Dinah, written by trolls with hidden identities, the on-line version of hoods and sheets.

I began with Adam Sandler’s song, but it would be criminal to leave that in your head in a post about this legendary American singer.  Below is Dinah singing her biggest hit, “Buttons and Bows,” a #1 hit in 1948.  To my mind, there’s nothing that could sound more mainstream than this, nothing more “whitebread and mayonnaise,” nothing less un-American:

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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