This morning in McClurg, Jack Nance just told me a great story. Back in the 30s, he says, when Al Capone was being sent on his heavily-guarded way to the Atlanta Penitentiary for tax evasion, he went by way of the Dixie Flyer. “That train had to stop in Sherwood to make a connection, and so they let all the kids off of school that day so they could go down to the station and look at Al Capone.” Jack says he’s heard that from old-timers in Sherwood, and claims to have seen it in some magazine as well. Jack’s a great story-teller and singer too, as you can see in the video clip some of my students made below.
Capone, of course, is also said to have been a frequent guest at RyeMabee, the stone building that’s now High Point restaurant in Monteagle (check out this NPS document, p. 16) ; some even say he built it. High Point doesn’t discourage the stories, as you can see, nor do I suppose would I if I ran the place. A brutal gangster, Capone was a colorful character nonetheless and the desire to connect local history with a larger-than-life figure is understandable. But what’s the shelf-life of a criminal reputation, anyway? It’s Halloween next week and I remember one of my sons asking me about costumes a long time ago. Pirates were bad people, he said, but now it’s OK to dress up as them. So will kids be trick-or-treating as al-Qaeda terrorists in a hundred years?