Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Naman Crowe

  • Wednesday, August 30, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg
Johnny Cash and Naman Crowe
Johnny Cash and Naman Crowe

If you ever had a conversation with Naman Crowe you’d never forget him. The former writer died this past Monday at his home in Ferger Place at the age of 77.

He enjoyed talking about his friendship with country Singer Johnny Cash. He even sent this writer a picture he was very proud of.

I remember his campaign against Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts in the 80’s and really it didn’t get a lot of attention. Mr. Roberts, a musician, was entertaining at the Admiral Benbow Inn on Market Street and he invited Mr.Crowe to bring his guitar and join him in singing. The media was also invited and I was one of those reporters who attended the event.

Mr. Crowe accepted the invitation of his political rival and provided the audience with a great evening of entertainment. They never mentioned politics during the show and television crews left after about 30 minutes. Mr. Roberts said afterwards he thought Mr. Crowe was crazy for running but; “he’ll make it interesting and keep us laughing all through the campaign.”

Mr. Crowe decided to run for office after voters changed the Chattanooga form of government in the early 90’s. In an appearance on my talk show he said he’d refuse any money to keep him honest.

He announced his campaign for mayor in 2004 and again created a lot of humor. He’d call in and re-act to what was happening at city hall.

Mr. Crowe wrote for several publications - the Chattanooga Times, Dalton Daily Citizen, Catoosa County News, Quality Shopper and other publications.

After retiring he penned many “Letters to the Editor” for both Chattanooga newspapers. His ideas seemed more liberation than right or left and he said, “I will always be an independent.”

Mr. Crowe passed away early Monday (Aug. 26th) and one of his nieces posted the announcement on Facebook.

Uncle Naman...

I'm so sad to hear of your passing today You were always the Wild Spirit, even in your older years, and some may say the "Black Sheep" of the family, but I consider that a compliment to the fullest degree.

Us kids would often spend the day with you and Mammaw, and I miss your stories. I miss you playing with us, making your garage a kids clubhouse, or walking us down to the playground.

One thing I will always appreciate and cherish from you is your encouragement to keep writing. And I'm proud to say I finally published my first essay a couple years ago with a local history group. I owe the encouragement to keep up with my writing and success, especially academic papers, to you.

You had such a great memory and were the family Storyteller, I'm going to miss reading those posts on FB.

But what I will miss and appreciate you most of all...You showed me, not to be afraid of being different and standing your ground, and even though we disagreed on some things when I became an adult, I always appreciated your willingness to stand up and challenge anything that didn't seem right even amongst family and friends (maybe that's a Crowe trait). But in a world where burying your head in the sand and elude is the way to go....no, you always wanted to remain alert in all aspects of your life and stand your ground. You were a true Chattanooga Boy who "walked the Line".

May your unchained, free bird, warrior spirit fly high; you will be greatly missed.

Your Great Niece, Kelymn

He was a Facebook friend and would comment on my posts. He even sent me several of his pictures.

In my scrapbook I found the following script from the “Crow’s Nest” about this writer and his Granny Jolly. I don’t know the exact date this story was originally printed, probably in the 90’s when we did a lot of nostalgia radio programs and Namon would all in from time to time.

Here’s the article copied from the original script.

“Granny Jolly and Hey Earl” – Naman Crowe

I must be getting old because I get a kick out of the Hey Earl Show. It’s probably the closest thing we’ve got here in Chattanooga to the old spitting and whittling gangs that used to hang out down by the courthouse and major grocery stores in cities all over the south, chewing the fat and blowing smoke.

It was man’s work in those days and women weren’t included. Except for women like my Granny Jolly who used to always stop by and enliven the bunch every time she encounter one, leaving them laughing and guffawing and wanting more.

But then she was a preacher woman and had one of those larger than laugh personalities that dominated most of those around her and who knew her way around center stage like a champion boxer knows his way around the ropes.

Still, Granny Jolly wasn’t really a member so much as a passing highlight of the day’s ritual of gossiping and talking politics and talking just to be talking. She’s didn’t have time to sit around like that, wasting her time.

I guess that’s probably the major reason those spitting and whittling gangs back then never included any women. They had other fish to fry.

These days women can be frying their fish and still participate in the spitting and whittling club without having to leave the Kitchen. In fact they can have any type fish sizzling in the pan while frying another type of fish over the phone out into radio land via the Hey Earl Show on WDOD AM 1310.

Her girlfriend Edna and many of her other girlfriends are listening to the show while they do their knitting or various other morning activities. She might throw her two cents in, then someone else and then the men will jump in. Before you know it things are smoking down at the old spitters and whittlers bench.

Not everyone is talking, most of the listeners are just people like me, getting dressed ad driving to work and just eavesdropping. That’s about the same as it was in Granny Jolly’s day.

Earl Freudenberg knows the majority of his callers by the sound of their voices and so do a good many of his listeners. That’s a combination right there that provides the spitting and whittling atmosphere which allows for just about any topic under the sun to be discussed in detail, even if it’s nothing more than wondering where it was that the old Double Cola Bottling plant used to be or what was in that used to be stand on the corner of such and such street.

By the time he and his fellow club members are through you have been led on a delightful and entertaining trip back through the history of Chattanooga in quaint little ways told by the common people who lived it and are still a live and wanting to talk about it.

The one question skillfully handled by Earl snowballs and he just keeps rolling it along, gathering up every little bits of information on the subject that he can from his callers, until you’ve learned more than you knew before about bottling plants and where they were and old soft drinking that you never heard of before that were bottled right here in Rivercity and other tidbits.

Local radio legend Luther recalled for the listeners the time when the Double Cola folks offered to pipe the brew underground right into the station next door for his own convenience and enjoyment but that he had to refuse them on the grounds that the station had an advertising contract with Coca Cola whose very first bottling plant was here in Chattanooga.

It was cute too the way Luther, who visited our school when I was in the 5th grade and had lunch with this 10 year old, sort of let his hair down, and advised Earl that he’d better remember to stay on the straight and narrow. “I know it” replied the Earl of Pearl to the king of smooth without missing a beat. Earl is not the kind of man you need to warn about staying within the straight and narrow, that’s part of his charm.

It’s straight spitting and whittling and it brings a certain portion of the community, its people and its history together for a little period of time in the mornings to chew the cud, talk it over and eves drop on each other a bit. I swear I must be getting old but I like it.

Listening to the Hey Earl Show brings back so many good memories of my Granny Jolly.

Hey Earl, did you know that Chattanooga really means “Crow’s Nest” in the ancient tongue of the people who named it? I heard that once from Granny Jolly when I was just a little spitter, eaves dripping down at the whittler’s bench.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel.

Naman Lewis Crowe
Naman Lewis Crowe
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