Gene Goodloe loves to tell
folks about his bell collection.
Sun Photo by Mark Humphrey
cherish charming chimers
By: GAIL BOYD
The Jackson Sun
Monday, March 24, 1950
On a windy day in Dancyville, a small community in Haywood County, you can follow the sounds of pealing bells and chimes right up to the yard of Gene and Lola Goodloe.
Gene may be out in his workshop restoring a pipe organ – his latest project. And Lola may be cutting buttercups for a dining table centerpiece. But you can bet they'll take a moment to shut their eyes, lean back, and listen, too.
This white-haired couple loves bells, and they have a collection of more than 400 bells scattered throughout their neat white frame house and yard.
With a bit of encouragement, they'll take you inside, offer you strawberry cake and coffee, and tell you all about their collection.
It began in 1950; Goodloe was touring a Woolworth's store in Cleveland, Ohio, where his son-in-law was the manager, when three small bells from India caught his eye. He was fascinated by them, so his son-in-law said, "take then; they're yours."
"I offered to pay for them, but he wouldn't have it," Goodloe recalls with a smile.
"From then on, I started receiving bells as gifts. "I was hard to buy for, you see. My family just thought they'd get me started on bells."
As the collection grew, Mrs. Goodloe became as interested in the hobby as her husband.
"She helps me. She's as much in it as I am", Goodloe says.
Together, they enjoy searching out unusual bells – like sleigh bells, or saddle bells from private coach horses, musical bells, hotel call bells, and doughnut-shaped bells that fit on a stick.
"Wherever we go, when we get tired of riding, we stop and look for bells in whatever little town we come to," Mrs. Goodloe says.
A signal bell from a Memphis steamboat, a streetcar bell from New Orleans, and a cast iron bell from a Southern plantation are some of the largest bells in the Goodloe collection.
The biggest is a 500-pound bronze bell that belonged to the Baptist Church at Dancyville before the Civil War. After the war, it was moved to the church at Stanton. When the church stopped using the bell, Goodloe bought it.
The tiniest bells in the collection are miniatures from Copenhagen and London. Goodloe also has a pair of sterling silver bell earrings.
Although the Goodloes have never traveled outside the United States, they have several foreign bells in their collection that were gifts from family members and friends.
They have a bell from England shaped like a bobby's hat. A bell from Holland shaped like a Dutch woman. An elephant bell from India. And a wooden bell from Indonesia.
There's a camel bell from Iran. A sheep bell from Spain. A cow bell from Sweden. And a horse's saddle bell from Russia.
The Goodloes have Catholic ceremonial bells from Mexico and Spain. And bells for wrists and ankles used by African tribes in dances.
Goodloe says tin and copper make the best bells, but he has several bells fashioned from other materials in his collection.
There's a flower-shaped bell from Italy carved from a piece of olive wood. A bell from Mexico made of volcanic ash. And one from Hawaii made of straw. Goodloe has cut glass bells from Portugal, Belgium and Japan. Some wind chimes from Java are made from bamboo; some from the Philippines are made of fish bones.
Some of the bells were made for unusual purposes. For example, Mrs. Goodloe's favorite is a mother-in-law bell from the Navajo Indian tribe. "It's worn by the mother-in-law, so that the young couple can always tell when she's coming," she says.
A bell from Israel made of olive wood has a double purpose; "It's used as a container to grind spices in, and to call the family to dinner."
Another bell in the collection doubles as a candleholder. A drinking bell doubles as a mug. "When it's empty, just ring for another round," Goodloe says.
Goodloe treasures a bell in his collection which comes from a California mission. "Bells like these were placed at missions or along the road from Mexico to California. They were about a day's journey apart, for the travelers," he said.
The old bells, Goodloe says, are the best. They're usually made from heavier material, and get better sounds than modern-day bells. "The ring is the most important part of a bell, not the decoration," Goodloe says.
Mrs. Goodloe has contributed an old bell from her family to the collection. It was brought by wagon from North Carolina to Tennessee. "When that bell rang to call the children to dinner, you could hear it for a mile," Mrs. Goodloe says.
Until a few years ago, the Goodloes broadcast bell music during Christmas through a public address system atop their backyard storage house. They would still share their bells this way, they say, except their amplifier is broken and parts are obsolete.
Still, they love to play the bells in their collection. There's only one drawback to owning so many bells, Goodloe says – polishing them. He spends three full days each year doing nothing but polishing bells.
Article added by Mary Kay Dancy Smith
From the Corner of the Cotton Gin Lot
|Gene Goodloe standing at the corner of his
cotton gin property in Dancyville.
In the background are: left to right; The Moore Grocery (dark building with white window framing) The Assembly of God Church (in the center of the photo) and the Crawford Grocery (white sided building.)
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