Nov 20, 2011
East Tennessee lost a print media icon this week. Jim Dykes wrote for the long dead Knoxville Journal, published a series of books, was an unofficial ambassador to the 1982 World’s Fair and the secret ruler of Rockford, Tennessee. Because he was mostly a print guy and because he worked for a newspaper that was much better than its competition he wasn’t front page news, but those who knew Dykes would say he would have been just fine with that.
Personally I only had three contacts with him; the first was in 82 at the World’s Fair where I found him lounging around early one morning in the pressroom. I was working for a radio station that had a remote studio down the hall from the press area and on a news break I walked out to see if any of the foreign press had come in. Dykes was on a couch, draped out like a dead man with his dirty boots resting on one of the pillows. It was my first physical encounter with the guy and I was taken by how long he was, had to be well over six feet, and how big a foot he had. Looking at him and hearing him snore with such conviction reminded me of the old adage about letting sleeping dogs rest and I did. Two hours later when my show was over Dykes was awake, enjoying a free beer, a Little Debbie snack and working the door to the press room like a Wal-Mart Greeter. As I walked by him, headed to the hall I complimented him on his derby.
Encounter number two was in Gatlinburg. We (CP and I) were working a big Christmas party for a very large oil company. After we told our jokes, helped give out gifts and turned the evening over to the DJ we moved to the bar for a few bracers to get us back to Knoxville. The room quickly filled with inebriated dancers trying to do “The Bump” and various free form interpretations when a side door opened. Due to the fact that one full wall of the hall was glass, allowing those walking by to see the festivities, Jim Dykes and his bride Peg spotted the private gathering as they strolled past. Without hesitation Dykes and said bride entered the far end of the hall, embraced and executed a very good waltz right through the gyrating throng. Without missing a beat, Dykes managed to open another door and continue waltzing right out of the room and into the hall toward the lobby. CP and I both gave the couple 10s for style, grace and balls.
The third and final encounter with Dykes came in the mail, as in the real mail that you walk across the yard to retrieve. I had been fired from something, can’t remember if it was a newspaper job or radio, but whatever it was he had found out about it. On the side flap of a Pall Mall carton in real ink (not the ballpoint pin crap but the real deal) he said he saw I now have some free time and suggested I come visit him at his estate (Condorhurst) in Rockford. I had moved to Rockford in 1978 and to the founders like Dykes I was more or less an outsider. Getting such an invite from a guy I had admired, read and in a left handed way stalked over the years made the dark situation I was in fade away. Unfortunately I did not get to visit him, meant to do it, and thought about it but a combination of shyness and a touch of inferiority kept me from making the drive over. I so wish I had now that he is gone.
Posted by walker at Sunday, November 20, 2011