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The Ardmore

Connection January/February 2013

Special Editions

Decade of broadband at ‘Your Community Shopper’

Need For Speed ATC improves connections

Music Museums Note-Worthy places to visit

Industry News

Partnering in a time of change Rural telecommunications providers are working together to save money and bring enhanced products and services to their subscribers By Stephen V. Smith, Editor


here is an old fable about a dying man who challenges each of his sons to break a bundle of sticks. Only when the bundle is untied and the sticks are separated can the young men break them. The father knew his sons were facing a future of uncertainty and change, and he wanted them to understand they could accomplish so much more if they would work together. Like those sons, the telecommunications industry is looking at a future of unknowns. Changes in government regulations are retooling the very mechanisms that determine how telecommunications companies make their money. And just like the lesson of the bundle of sticks, telcos are finding ways to increase their strength by joining forces with their fellow utilities.

The age of partnerships

“Partnerships are an absolutely essential tool for reducing costs that can’t be reduced any other way, if certain services are to be maintained,” says Fred Johnson, general manager of Farmers Telecommu-

2 | January/February 2013

nications Cooperative (Rainsville, Ala.). Johnson serves on the Industry Committee of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). This group of telco leaders from across the country reviews developments and recommends policy affecting technological developments, industry structure and member needs in federal and state regulatory matters. Levoy Knowles is also a member of this committee. “Our industry is going through monumental change,” says Knowles, former CEO of Ben Lomand Connect (McMinnville, Tenn.). “In the past, when we were launching a new service we did it all ourselves. We must get out of that mindset and work through partnerships with other companies in order to be efficient enough to launch new products and services.” Jason Dandridge, CEO of Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative (Walterboro, S.C.), serves with Johnson and Knowles on the Industry Committee. “For better or for worse, the Federal Communications Commission has made up their mind and they’ve set an agenda to where they want

to see industry consolidation,” says Dandridge. “There are definitely some synergies we can take advantage of for small companies to partner and share resources to be more cost efficient.”

Partnership examples

Rod Ballard is a principal with Jackson Thornton, a certified public accounting and consulting firm based in Alabama. He oversees the firm’s telecommunications division. “Telcos are looking harder than ever at the concept of cost-sharing through joint ventures,” Ballard says. “Customer billing is one area where telcos are working together. “We’re even seeing joint ventures between telecommunications companies and electric cooperatives,” he adds. “FTC already shares video headend facilities with a number of other companies,” says Johnson. “Other industries, such as airlines, railroads and automotive, have experienced the same type of changes we are facing. Companies learned they could share certain costs with others in their industry and thereby provide a

better product at a more efficient price. We are just following that model.” Another example of partnerships in the telco industry is Telecom Management Services (TMS), a group of centrally managed companies that includes WK&T Telecommunications (Mayfield, Ky.), Ben Lomand Connect and Ardmore Telephone Company (Ardmore, Ala. & Tenn.). Knowles transitioned from his role at Ben Lomand Connect two years ago to that of chairman of the board for TMS. “We are leveraging the knowledge and expertise of employees across our companies,” explains Knowles, “to allow us to operate more efficiently, benefit our members and bring new products and services to our service area without adding a lot more staff at our different locations.” Not only do the TMS companies share employees skilled in areas such as marketing, human resources and technology, but they are also leveraging their collective buying power to create partnerships with vendors to save money for each company.

A partnership tradition

The idea of partnering with other telcos is not a new one. For more than 20 years, five East Kentucky telcos have enjoyed the benefits of partnering through the East Kentucky Network (EKN). “It was a very positive move,” says Allen Gillum of the formation of EKN. Gillum is the general manager of Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative (West Liberty, Ky.), a partner in EKN. “For 22 years we’ve had the same five partners, and we each own 20 percent interest.” Through EKN, the partners have built a fiber ring that connects all their service areas to provide greater reliability for their customers. The partnership also operates Appalachian Wireless, a regional wireless phone service provider. Owning a wireless company is critical for these rural telcos, as consumer phone habits continue to shift. “It’s very important to the future of our company that we have a piece of that wireless pie,” says Keith Gabbard, general manager of partner company Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative (McKee, Ky.). “Wireless

accounts for an increasingly substantial portion of our revenues.” In South Carolina, Spirit Telecommunications is a long-time partnership between the state’s independent telcos. “It was originally set up to help us get better long distance rates,” says Dandridge, “but has morphed over time into a robust statewide fiber network that allows us to compete on a statewide level for state contracts, with schools or other state entities.”

Publishing partnership

The magazine you hold in your hand is the latest example of partnering in the industry. For the first time, telcos across the Southeast have come together to jointly publish a magazine that brings company and industry news to their subscribers. “Like many other telcos, we have long seen the value of staying connected with our members through a print publication,” says FTC’s Johnson. “Through this regional partnership, we will end up with a better product at less cost for each participating company.” Knowles of TMS agrees. “We can now communicate with our subscribers through a top-quality, professional publication that none of us had the time or resources to do alone,” he says. “This publication is a shining example of what we can accomplish by coming together as partners.”

Looking to the future

In a future where traditional revenue streams are being disrupted, partnerships will be “critical for the success — and maybe even the survival — of these companies,” says Leo Staurulakis, executive vice president of JSI. His telecommunications consulting company celebrated 50 years of service to the industry last year. Staurulakis sees a future where an increasing number of rural telecommunications providers form partnerships to develop and market new products and services, as well as to operate more efficiently. “By combining operations and leveraging each other’s networks, back office systems and human resources,” he says, “we can reduce the cost of operations for everybody.” 

Lifeline Service When you need help paying for telephone service Is your annual household income at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of its size? Do you or someone in your household participate in any of the following low-income government assistance programs? If so, you may qualify for Lifeline Service. • Medicaid • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program To find out whether you qualify for Lifeline assistance, customers must fill out standard forms, available at your local telephone company’s office, as mandated by the Federal and/or State government. Your telephone company is not responsible for determining who qualifies for these programs or who receives assistance. Customers must meet specific criteria in order to obtain assistance with their local telephone service, and qualifying is dependent upon government-established guidelines. To qualify for Lifeline credit, each customer must apply and provide proof that he/she, or a household member for whom he/she is financially responsible, participates in at least one of the programs listed above or that the customer meets the income-based requirements. Additional eligibility requirements may also apply. Customers must choose to apply the Lifeline discount to a landline or a wireless number, not both.

For more details about Lifeline Service and to apply for assistance, please contact your local telephone company.

January/February 2013 | 3

From the CEO

A new year of challenges As the calendar turns over and we recover from all the holiday gatherings (and all the food), the new year calls us to a time of reflection. What did we accomplish in 2012? What were the milestones? Where are we headed in the new year? At Ardmore Telephone Company, I’m pleased to report that we made significant progress in several areas. One of our more exciting projects is the magazine you are reading now. With so many changes taking place in our industry, and so many things happening at Ardmore Telephone, we knew we needed to ramp up our efforts to keep you informed. Through a regional partnership with other rural providers, this magazine will update you on our network upgrades, share information about our services and shine a spotlight on local people and events. You’ll also find helpful tips, industry news and interesting feature stories from across the Southeast in these pages. Be sure to read Pages 2 and 3 to learn more about the increasing importance of such partnerships. Ray Widner and our team at Ardmore Telephone Company made significant progress in 2012 toward improving the network that connects you to the world. Specifically, we added new equipment (called “remotes”) in three key areas: • Ready Section remote, off Highway 53, southeast of Ardmore in Madison County • Cash Point remote, on Highway 110, northeast of Ardmore in Lincoln County • Stateline remote, near Wall Triana Highway, east of Ardmore in Madison County Together, these upgrades will deliver enhanced service — including broadband download speeds of 6 - 10 Mbps — to well over 725 homes and several businesses. And there’s more. We also invested in enhanced VDSL2 technology to deliver broadband download speeds of 10 - 20 Mbps within the Ardmore city limits. There are some distance limitations, so please call or come by the office for more details. For 2013, Ray and our team will focus on building new remotes in the Stella, Pinedale, Sandlin and Liberty Hill areas. Once complete, these upgrades will deliver broadband download speeds of 6 - 10 Mbps to more than 700 homes in our service area. These efforts are focused on extending true broadband technology throughout our network — and eventually to all the customers of Ardmore Telephone Company. By doing so, we will be able to offer connections that allow you to benefit from the many opportunities made possible by this technology. I’m not exaggerating when I say broadband is changing how we live. On Pages 8 and 9 we begin a series of articles exploring how broadband will impact various sectors of our society. After a few of these articles, I believe you will begin to see just how important broadband is to the advancement of smalltown America — just as important, I believe, as the arrival of electricity was in the previous century. Thank you for your support of Ardmore Telephone Company. You are an important part of our progress, and the reason we work hard to bring advanced telecommunications to our service area. I’m looking forward to creating a great 2013 together. Trevor Bonnstetter Chief Executive Officer 4 | January/February 2013

is a hometown service provider delivering advanced telecommunications technology to the people of Giles and Lincoln counties in Tennessee and Limestone and Madison counties in Alabama. The company is managed by Telecom Management Services and owned by Synergy Technology Partners.

Ardmore Office: 30190 Ardmore Ave. Ardmore, AL 35739 Mon. - Fri. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. New Market Office: 1720 New Market Road New Market, AL 35761 Tues. and Thurs. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit our blog:

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The Ardmore

Vol. 1, NO. 1 January/February 2013

Connection is a bimonthly newsletter published by Ardmore Telephone Company, © 2013. It is distributed without charge to all customers of the company. Ardmore Telephone Company P.O. Box 549 Ardmore, TN 38449 Telephone: 256-423-2131 or 800-830-9946 Produced for Ardmore Telephone by: On the Cover: Joe Stagner, editor at the Community Shopper, has enjoyed Ardmore Telephone’s DSL service for 10 years. Photo by Nathan Morgan Photography

Modern telecom system

built on history of community service


ongevity says a lot about a company, especially in these economic times. That is why we’re so thankful to be celebrating nearly six decades of service. Of course, when you see that Ardmore Telephone Company was incorporated 57 years ago, that’s only part of the story. In fact, we were a community mainstay long before that. Ardmore’s first telephone was actually installed at Lonnie Ivy’s local store in 1908. Anyone who called could leave a message, which Ivy would then deliver by hand to the intended recipient in the community. By 1928, that single phone was replaced by a magneto switchboard, which relied on a hand-cranked generator and required an operator to connect calls. In 1955, when Ardmore Telephone Company was incorporated, a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration enabled us to upgrade from the old switchboard to a modern central office with 90 miles of copper cable. Three years later, our service expanded again with the purchase of several local phone companies. The 1970s brought further growth, including the rebuilding of each exchange,

This photo from 1987 shows crews working on the digital switching office located behind Ardmore Telephone’s main building. the installation of buried cable and the establishment of one-party service. This increased the number of customers from a modest 230 in the 1950s to over 2,600 by 1976. Fast forward to today, and that number has grown to 10,000 customers in four counties in Alabama and Tennessee, an all-digital central office and more than 150

miles of fiber optic cable. Our pledge to you is that we will remain focused on bringing you top-quality service. But while we move into a future of high-speed connections, we won’t forget where we came from. After all, it is because of our customers that we can proudly celebrate so many years as your preferred telecommunications provider. 

Forget the bill? Make it automatic! Ardmore Telephone now accepts recurring credit card payments. That means your account can be set up to charge your credit card or withdraw from your debit card automatically each month. Don’t worry about remembering to pay the bills and stop worrying about late fees. Make it automatic! To set up recurring payments, call the business office at 256-423-2131 or 800-830-9946. Ardmore Telephone Company

January/February 2013 | 5

Broadband Focus How to outsmart scammers The AARP Fraud Fighters have helped more than 600,000 seniors who have been victims of fraud, says Program Director Jean Mathisen. These volunteers share fraud prevention techniques, such as: • Never share personal or financial information with anyone unless you initiate the contact. If someone calls claiming to be from your bank and asking for information such as account numbers, tell them you do not share such information over the phone. Then call your bank using the number on the back of your statement, not the number on Caller ID. • Don’t make a decision on the spot. “If told you have to decide now, say no thanks,” Mathisen says. • Use a locking mailbox or take your outgoing mail to the post office.  “Often, crooks pop open curbside mailboxes and remove outgoing mail that contains checks or applications with tons of personal information,” Mathisen says. “You wouldn’t want that to get into the wrong hands.” • Do not carry your original Medicare card in your wallet. Mathisen advises making a copy of your Medicare card and crossing the number off of the copy but leaving the letter at the end of the number. Carry the copy with you and leave the original in a safe place at home. If you are going to the doctor and you need to take your Medicare card, then retrieve the original just for that day. 6 | January/February 2013

Avoid being a victim of phone and Internet scams

By Nancy Mann Jackson


uring the past few months, FBI offices have received numerous calls from citizens who have been affected by the Reveton ransomware scam, says Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone. The scam is activated when a computer user visits a compromised website. Once the virus is installed, the user’s computer locks up and displays a warning that the FBI or Department of Justice has identified the computer as being involved in criminal activity. Users are instructed to pay a “fine” using a prepaid money card service in order to unlock the computer, and are threatened with criminal prosecution if they fail to make the payment. “This is a scam to extort money,” Stone says. “This is not the way the FBI works. Fines resulting from criminal activity are assessed and processed by the court system. The FBI will never demand payment to unlock a computer.” However, a number of citizens across

“Seniors are targeted because that is where the money is, not because we are less smart or competent,” says Jean Mathisen, program director for the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center.

the country have fallen for this scam and lost money in the process. In many cases, those victims are senior citizens.

Targeting seniors

While telephone scammers have long targeted older Americans, Internet fraud has also become a danger. “As Internet use among senior citizens increases, so does their chance of falling victim to online fraud,” Stone says. According to the FBI website, Internet fraud includes non-delivery of items ordered online and credit and debit card scams. “Seniors are targeted because that is where the money is, not because we are less smart or competent,” says Jean Mathisen, program director for the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center, which provides one-on-one consumer education, victim advocacy and assistance for the financial exploitation of older people. “In addition to having maybe a retirement nest egg, seniors are also more likely to be home, to answer the phone and to be polite. Many

times I hear, ‘I finally gave him the information he or she wanted because I couldn’t get them off the phone.’” In addition to Internet scams such as the Reveton ransomware, Mathisen and her team see a number of other types of fraud such as investment fraud; in-home service fraud; lotteries and sweepstakes; workat-home; “official” business such as IRS, bank or Medicare needing money or information about the victim’s accounts; and “grandparent scams,” whereby the victim is notified that a grandson or other relative has been involved in an accident or arrest, had luggage stolen or something similar, and the victim is being asked to wire cash to save the relative in distress.

Resisting fraud

The FBI says there are several warning signs of telemarketing or Internet fraud.

To avoid becoming a victim, be wary of phrases such as: • “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good.” • “You’ve won a free gift, vacation or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges. • “You must send money, give a credit card number or send a check by courier.” You may hear this before you’ve had time to carefully consider the offer. • “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone, including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau or consumer protection agency. • “You don’t need any written information about the company or its references.” • “You can’t afford to miss this highprofit, no-risk offer.”

If you or a loved one becomes the victim of a scam, it is important to report the crime. “Often, older people are reluctant to let anyone know,” Mathisen says. “We fear loss of independence, embarrassment, loss of trust and that the family will turn against us. These fears sometimes happen. But it is important to find someone you trust so that you can recover emotionally, if not financially.” For help, call the Senior Information & Assistance program in your area. Seniors and their family members can also call the Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-6462283 for consumer education and victim advocacy.

Click to learn more...

Broadband: Changing the way our world works

Rural telecommunications companies across the Southeast are upgrading their networks to provide faster, more reliable connections to their subscribers. This is creating amazing opportunities for rural communities, changing the way people work and live. Consider these real-life examples: • A single mother in East Tennessee with limited travel capabilities is taking distance learning classes over broadband at a local campus extension. • A fire department in West Kentucky saves travel time and money by connecting with training videos over broadband. • Students in North Alabama have access to remote psychiatric services thanks to a broadband connection to a major university. • An East Tennessee woman has regular video conversations, over her broadband connection, with a daughter who is stationed in Japan.

• The owner of a small tire store in South Carolina remains competitive by connecting to his suppliers over broadband. • A healthcare clinic in a small East Kentucky community uses electronic medical records accessed over broadband to deliver better patient care. • Owners of small shops, restaurants and tourist attractions use their broadband connections to attract customers. • Public safety agencies, including law enforcement and 911 centers, use broadband to achieve faster response times. • Economic developers across the region use the availability of broadband to help attract new jobs to rural communities. January/February 2013 | 7

Special Editions

Stagner family keeps paper true to town

Joe Stagner, publisher of Your Community Shopper, and staff member Linda Keith review a page of the newspaper. 8 | January/February 2013

the community. “But mother was having fun here,” says Stagner, “and she told him that if it was all the same to him, she would start her own paper in Ardmore. She did and here we are today.” The Pulaski owner even helped her get started on the project. Since that time, the newspaper has grown to a readership of more than 4,000 and a staff of seven, including indispensable 34-year veteran Patricia Coulter, Julie Wessler, Linda Keith and Shannon Brister. Stagner’s wife, 32-year veteran Patty Gates Stagner and son Dylan Stagner also work at the paper. Stagner himself started at the bottom. “I was 10 years old when mother started the newspaper, so I would ride with her in the summers until I was about 14 or 15, and

then I started driving her around to sell ads, meet people and cover events.” Later, he says, he ended up leaving Memphis State before graduating to return home and, ultimately, take over the paper after his mother’s death almost ten years ago. “There was a time I thought about going to law school so I could stay in Memphis for a few more years instead of coming back here to work,” says Stagner. But he knew the newspaper was just too important to let it fold. “I feel having a newspaper in a community gives the community an identity, and an opportunity to discuss who and what they are.” And it’s that sense of identity, in turn, which Stagner says has helped Ardmore grow from a quiet village to a bustling town. “Ardmore is a good place to live

Photo by Nathan Morgan Photography


oe Stagner knows how important customer loyalty is. As the owner and publisher of Ardmore’s “Your Community Shopper,” Stagner has relied on the continued support of the community’s readers since his mother, Helen T. Stagner, founded the newspaper in April of 1964. “For the past 49 years – since the beginning – my mother and my family have been very blessed that the people here read our newspaper,” he says. “We stay here because they buy our newspaper and read it.” Back then, says Stagner, Helen was an arts major who worked for the owner of the newspaper and radio stations in Pulaski, Tenn. She convinced her boss to expand his newspaper into Ardmore, but after a time, he decided to withdraw from

Ardmore Telephone Company

and I want to see it stay that way,” he says. “I don’t want to see it fold.” To help ensure that it doesn’t, Stagner does his part to be a loyal customer in his own right and support local businesses like Ardmore Telephone Company. “When I stay with Ardmore Telephone, that helps the guys installing the lines or the repairmen have a job,” explains Stagner. “And the more people who stay with them, the more jobs in Ardmore they support.” Stagner was, in fact, among the earliest to subscribe to Ardmore Telephone’s Internet service. “I just saw from the beginning that it was where everything was going, so I was sitting ready when they put it in,” he says. As a result, Stagner now holds the distinction of being Ardmore Telephone’s first 10-year DSL customer. “Joe had the foresight to see how the Internet would change the newspaper industry, so he was one of the first customers to sign up for our Internet service,” says Ray Widner, operations manager at Ardmore Telephone. “That makes him one of our oldest — and most valued — Internet customers.” In the beginning, of course, service wasn’t nearly as fast as it is now. “They have expanded and modernized, just like we have,” says Stagner. “I think they do a good job of listening to what people need and of finding workable solutions if it’s something they just can’t do.” Dial-up was quickly replaced by DSL, and now DSL speeds are improving. “They’re keeping pace,” he says. “They do a good job of finding ways to offer faster service, whether by doubling the line or going to fiber optics.” But it’s not just the speed that Stagner appreciates as an Ardmore Telephone customer. It’s also the service the company provides to its members — whether it’s solving a minor glitch or repairing lines after the tornadoes in 2011. “They are very responsive and always eager to resolve whatever’s slowing or shutting me down,” he says. That service is part of what has kept Stagner loyal over the Ardmore Telephone Company

Stagner’s mother Helen, pictured here with her husband Russell, founded the Shopper.

Photos by Nathan Morgan Photography

Stagner works alongside his wife Pattie (bottom right), Patricia Coulter (bottom left) and Shannon Brister to build each issue.

A new batch of newspapers is ready to be shipped out from the newspaper office.

years, but that’s not to say he hasn’t had offers from other providers. “My big thing is, I would rather support any and every business in Ardmore.” It’s an approach that hasn’t gone unnoticed. “We know Joe has a choice when it comes to Internet service providers, but he’s chosen to stay with us,” says Widner. “That means a lot to us, not just as a company, but as individuals who live and work in Ardmore.” For now, the newspaper continues to be mainly a print publication, though Stagner would like to expand its Internet presence. The news industry is changing rapidly, but Stagner says he and the Shopper aren’t going anywhere. “I just won’t sell it,” he says. “I’m not through with it.” The community can be sure that their newspaper will still be there in the years to come, continuing to help shape Ardmore’s identity and promote local businesses.  January/February 2013 | 9

Photo courtesy Ryman Auditorium Archives

A circle unbroken

Museums across the South trace the region’s musical roots, celebrate the larger-than-life personalities who make the songs come alive and educate legions of new fans. By Cassandra M. Vanhooser


egendary entertainer Conway Twitty may have said it best: “Country music takes a page out of somebody’s life and puts it to music.” Twitty’s words are etched in stone outside the entrance to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville, Tenn., and they sum up the enduring popularity of the South’s favorite music. Simply put, we can relate to it. It’s real music about real people, and there’s no better place to learn about country music than Music City U.S.A.

Gone Country

The sparkling Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum stands as a monument to Southern songs and traditions. Multimedia exhibits take visitors on a journey through the development of this uniquely American art form, from its roots as folk music from the British Isles through its various incarnations to the mainstream country pop enjoyed today. The story is masterfully told with photographs, original recordings and video clips. In addition to two floors of exhibit space, visitors can also peek behind the scenes into the museum’s archives thanks to the glass walls that encompass the staff’s workspace. Artifacts currently on display range from Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes to Webb Pierce’s 1962 “Silver Dollar” Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Even the building’s architecture helps tell country music’s story. From afar, the windows in the front of the museum resemble the ebony and ivory of piano keys. The swooping arch of the building’s roofline speaks of a ’50s Cadillac fin, while the tower atop the rotunda mirrors the WSM tower that still sits just south of town.

The Mother Church of Country Music

The Ryman Auditorium, just a couple of blocks north on Fifth Avenue, is more of a religious experience. “This building is 10 | January/February 2013

Visitors enjoy the Grand Ole Opry display at the Ryman, where they can see stage clothes worn by stars such as David “Stringbean” Akeman, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. alive,” says museum curator Brenda Colladay. “There is a great vibe to this place. There is no other place like the Ryman.” The soaring stained-glass windows and worn oak pews speak to the building’s past as a church. Visitors can take a leisurely self-guided tour of the many exhibits, or splurge on a guided backstage tour. There’s even an opportunity to have professional photos made center stage or make a record in the Ryman studio. In many ways, the Ryman’s history parallels the story of country music itself. In the 1940s, fans stood in lines that stretched for blocks to get a seat, but by 1974, when the Grand Ole Opry moved to the new Opry House at Opryland, the Ryman was slated for demolition. It survived — barely. The old auditorium was allowed to fall into disrepair, until a crop of young artists embraced their country roots and traditions and lobbied for the Ryman’s renovation and rebirth. Today performers young and old yearn to take the stage at the Ryman, and they come from every musical genre — just as they always have. “Everybody loves to play here,” Colladay says, “and it’s a great place to see a performance because it means so much to the people on stage.”

Where the Bluegrass Grows

The International Museum of Bluegrass in Owensboro, Ky., pays tribute to the “hillbilly music” of Appalachia, that high lonesome sound developed by the state’s own Bill Monroe and now played around the world. A large portion of the first floor is dedicated to telling Monroe’s story, from his birth in Rosine to his recognition as the Father of Bluegrass. Visitors can also access documentaries from the Video Oral History Project, an ongoing effort to record first- and second-generation bluegrass musicians. In addition to preserving the history of bluegrass, the museum

Dixieland Delights

Together Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook are known as Alabama, one of the most successful bands in music history. Since signing with RCA Records in 1980, the group has sold more than 73 million records. They’ve had 43 singles hit No. 1 on the music charts, and 17 albums are Platinum sellers. Eight times they’ve been country music’s “Entertainer of the Year,” and they claim a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Though the band gave its farewell tour in 2003 and 2004, admirers still visit their fan club and museum in Fort Payne, Ala. The museum itself is a modest collection of memorabilia, awards and hit records, as well as a souvenir and gift shop. Tiny Muscle Shoals in the northwest corner of the state has been a hotbed of music since the ’60s. A number of country,

rock and R&B performers have retreated to small-town Alabama to write and record their best. FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are both still in operation and allow tours by appointment. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame, located in nearby Tuscumbia, offers a glimpse into the lives of artists such as Lionel Richie, Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Gold City and Martha Reeves. A favorite exhibit among visitors is Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle costume.

Country on the Beach

If not for Myrtle Beach, the group Ala-

bama might still be laboring in obscurity. The boys got their start playing for tips in the honkytonks here. Still, Calvin Gilmore was the one to open the area’s first music theater in 1986. Today, the Missouri-born musician and a bevy of talented performers entertain more than 300,000 visitors each year at the 2,200-seat Carolina Opry. Alabama and Dolly Parton now have theaters on the Grand Strand, too. “I thought when I came out here that it would work,” Calvin says. “I bet everything I owned on it, but even in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the success we’ve had.”  Photo courtesy International Bluegrass Music Museum

is dedicated to educating and training a new generation of fans and musicians to carry on the legacy. Audiences around the world can tune in to Radio Bluegrass International, an online radio station that broadcasts round the clock. The museum offers a Saturday Lessons program that outfits students with instruments and reasonably priced instruction. The museum even sponsors a Bluegrass in the Schools program that takes instructions and information to students around the state. The tiny community of Renfro Valley claims the title “Kentucky Country Music Capital.” This vast entertainment complex is home to the country’s third longest running radio show, Renfro Valley Gatherin’, broadcast every Sunday morning since 1943. The Renfro Valley Barn Dance, a live stage show, is performed on Saturday nights, and other headline acts take the stage throughout the year. The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, also at Renfro Valley, features an Instrument Room, a fully functional recording booth and a blue-screen studio, where visitors can perform with their favorite Kentucky music stars. Honorees range from Rosemary Clooney and Loretta Lynn to the Kentucky HeadHunters and Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum takes visitors on a historical tour of this uniquely American art form.

Click or Call for more info... Alabama


Alabama Music Hall of Fame 800-239-2643

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum 615-416-2001

The Alabama Fan Club & Museum 256-845-1646

Ryman Auditorium 615-889-3060


South Carolina

International Bluegrass Music Museum 888-692-2656

Alabama Theatre 800-342-2262

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame & Museum 877-356-3263

Carolina Opry Theater 800-843-6779 January/February 2013 | 11

Need for Speed:

Ardmore working to improve Internet speeds

12 | January/February 2013

Photos by Nathan Morgan Photography


rdmore Telephone Company already offers high-speed Internet service across the area. But sometimes, fast just isn’t fast enough. Now we are finding ways to make our fastest connections even faster. “People are needing more and more speed and we’re working to make it happen for them,” says Ray Widner, operations manager at Ardmore Telephone. Two projects in particular promise to dramatically increase connection speeds The first effort, called the bonded modem project, allows members to increase their speed by connecting a new modem with a second line.“Whatever speed they are accustomed to, they will notice a big difference with the bonded modem” Widner says. “In some cases, that will allow our customers to do new things and bring new technology to our communities.” Most customers with these connections are doctors’ offices, including businesses in New Market, Ardmore and Elkmont. “They needed to pass data at a faster rate,” Widner says. “This project is all about trying to meet our members’ needs.” The doctors use the high-speed connection to send and receive data from hospitals, including prescriptions, test results and other patient information. To enroll in this program, installers must add a new modem to your network. The service is not available in all areas. Ardmore Telephone is also testing a new technology known as VDSL, which could offer a dramatic boost to certain areas of the network. VDSL is a new way to use the copper lines running to members’ homes and businesses. So far, the connections are still being tested and, even once it is installed, it will only be available in some areas. These two projects illustrate Ardmore’s commitment to the most important part of its business. “Customer demands are

changing and we are changing to meet those needs,” Widner says. “Both the bonded modem project and our VDSL tests are ways we hope to serve our customers today and in the future.” To see if either technology is available in your area, please contact our office at 256-423-2131 or 800-830-9946. 

Top: Technician Roger Bailey, left, and contractor Mike Stubblefield work on connections. Bottom: Technician Tim McConnell makes adjustments in a remote cabinet.

Ardmore Telephone Company

Mayor has long history with Ardmore Telephone Company


Ardmore Telephone Company

WEARING MANY HATS—Tim McConnell feels like “the luckiest fellow alive” working at Ardmore Telephone Company and serving as mayor of Ardmore, Tenn. and quit, I’ll get stiff as a two-by-four!” McConnell plans to continue working at Ardmore Telephone long after he retires from his other job. He says he’ll run for re-election one more time in 2014, but then make way for a new candidate. “You get to an age and you think some fresher, newer ideas might be best,” he says. In the meantime, he’s happy with the balance he’s been able to strike between his two callings — one serving the community he loves and one serving the company he loves. Add to that the support he receives from Joyce, his beloved wife of 33 years, and McConnell says he has it pretty good. “I say without a doubt that I feel like the luckiest fellow alive.” 

I love providing a service for people, and when you work a job like this, you always feel like you’re

im McConnell has worked as an installer/repairman for Ardmore Telephone Company for close to 20 years. But he is not your average company employee. He is also the mayor of Ardmore, Tenn. In 2009, after serving eight years as a city alderman, McConnell decided to make a bid for the top spot. “You know how you live in a place for your whole life, and you get to a point where you feel like you want to give something back?” asks McConnell. “I decided I wanted to try for mayor because the incumbent mayor decided he didn’t want to run. So I ran against another alderman and I won.” His only concern was that his mayoral duties would interfere with his day job. “When I ran, I asked the managers here if they thought it would be a problem,” says McConnell. “But they were all for me doing it. I’ve tried not to let it interfere with my work.” As honored as he is to represent the community as Ardmore’s mayor, his job at the telephone company comes first, as it has for three generations in his family. “I’d wanted to work here since I was little,” he says. “My granddaddy used to own the company back in the 1950s, my daddy worked here until 1968, and my mother used to be switchboard operator.” Despite the family connections, getting that job was easier said than done. “I tried to get a job on and off for years here!” says McConnell. It wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he received the opportunity. “I didn’t think they’d want me, but the timing was right, and I’ve been happy ever since,” he says. “I love providing a service for people. And when you work a job like this, you always feel like you’re accomplishing something.” At 53, there’s still plenty more he’d like to accomplish. “I’m here as long as they’ll have me,” he says. “I don’t think about retiring. I’ve always been scared if I retire

accomplishing something.

–Tim McConnell

January/February 2013 | 13

Photos by Nathan Morgan Photography

Southern Kitchens Grits have gone gourmet Grits are as true to the South as sweet tea in summertime. They’re a patch on our culinary quilt. And in these parts, you’ll find the once-thought-of lowly grain in the fanciest of restaurants. I remember my first taste of grits. “No bigger than a junebug” my granddaddy would say about me, as he carried me into our neighborhood diner and put me down on a big round stool. Then he would belly up to the counter and order a platter of pancakes and a big bowl of grits for us to share. Back then, the grits were pretty watery. Nothing that a little butter or gravy couldn’t cure, but for the life of me I really don’t know why I liked them. Then something happened in my adult years. Grits went gourmet, and now they’re showing up on the fanciest of menus. So get your grits going and enjoy them however you want. They’re back in vogue. But really, they never left. Email your recipe and story ideas to Anne Braly at

Anne P. Braly Food Editor

14 | January/February 2013

 The Chow 45 roadside sign welcomes visitors. Chef Mark Madrey has put Mayfield, Ky., on the culinary map with Chow 45.

Chow down on grits


ith the twist of a spoon or the flip of a spatula, Mark Madrey turns simple grains into culinary creations that smack with a complexity of flavors that only grits can bring. Madrey, chef and owner of Chow 45 in Mayfield, Ky., relishes the glory of grits — particularly their versatility. “You can do just about anything with them,” he says. “You just need to be adventurous. Get them off the breakfast table and eat them for lunch and dinner, too.” Chow 45 keeps grits on the menu with one steadfast, signature item: Cheesy Grit Cakes (crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside). Other grit specials range from lowcountry shrimp and grits — one of Madry’s favorite dishes to make — to gritsstuffed portobellos. Chow 45 opened in an 80-year-old building in May 2010. It’s small, with just 16 tables, but that’s all Madrey wanted after retiring from a lifetime of managing restaurants and moving home to open his own place. During his career, he’s worked with numerous trained chefs and learned from them. “They were all very creative people who were not afraid to think outside the box,” he says. “That’s the whole key. I

like to mix flavors that don’t traditionally go together.” And that’s where grits come into play, enticing customers who might not have liked grits in the past. “I have never been a huge fan of grits,” admits Erin Carrico, executive director of the Murray County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Now she eats at Chow 45 a couple of times a month. “What grabbed me the first time were the shrimp alongside the grits,” she says. “So when my plate arrived, I took the chance and tasted the grits. Bam! I had never tasted grits with such awesome flavor.” “I’m particular about every dish,” Madrey says. “I want every dish that goes out of the kitchen to be special.” He keeps his recipes a closely guarded secret, but was willing to share one of his favorites. “Our grits-stuffed portobellos are really simple, but they’re excellent,” he says. 

If you go...

here: Chow 45, 1102 Highway 45 N. W Phone: 270-247-4545 Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Mon. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tues. – Sat.

Grits: New twist on a Southern tradition 4-5 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 cups chicken broth Black pepper, to taste 1/2 teaspoon dried sage 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary 1/2 cup grits 1/3 cup English peas (You may substitute another type of pea or corn.) 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until they begin to brown; add the chicken stock, pepper, sage and rosemary; bring to a boil. Gradually add grits, stirring constantly. Turn heat down, cover and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas during last five minutes of cooking. Remove mixture from heat and stir in the parsley. Lightly brush mushrooms with butter or olive oil. Stuff each mushroom with the grits mixture, then top with cheddar or Swiss cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or shrimp. Source: Mark Madrey, Chow 45

Grits-stuffed portobellos make a great appetizer or side dish.

Grits and Greens 1 pound young collard greens, beet greens, chard or kale 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt Good-quality cider vinegar or red wine vinegar 1 recipe hot stone ground grits

Remove tough stems, wash greens and drain in a colander. Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Add garlic and cook slowly, stirring constantly, until golden brown — about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a small dish; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add greens to the pan and cook, tossing frequently with tongs, just until the leaves wilt, about 2 minutes for collards, beet greens, chard or spinach, and about 3 minutes for kale. Stir in red pepper flakes and salt, return the garlic slices to the pan and toss well. Season

Grits are a simple dish, but it’s important they be made correctly. Mark Madrey prefers using stone-ground grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina or Falls Mill in Tennessee. Stone-ground grits have more flavor and texture, he says. Also: Use half-and-half instead of water for a creamy, rich texture. Use more liquid than the recipe calls for. Again, this will make them creamier. Do not overcook your grits.

Photo by Nathan Morgan Photography

Grits-Stuffed Portobellos

to taste with vinegar. To serve, spoon hot grits into a warmed serving bowl or plate and surround with greens. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and potlikker. Serve immediately. Source: Anson Mills 15

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Ardmore Jan Feb 2013 Connection  

Ardmore Jan Feb 2013 Connection