A portrait of community service and conviction

August 26th, 2010

Jesse Shwayder

Every step we take to bring jobs and tourism to Cannon County we’re reminded of some very big shoes we have to fill.

The reminders come as fond memories folks share with us of working for Billy Kaufman’s grandfather and great-grandfather at Samsonite in Murfreesboro, TN.

The stories come from local officials, shop owners and farmers. They’re our neighbors, people we know and trust. If you ask around you are bound to know someone who made the daily trip to Murfreesboro to make a living for their family.

One of those neighbors is Harold Stembridge. When he heard Billy wanted to build a distillery on his Short Mountain farm, Harold put the word out through friends that he had something very special to share with Billy.

Harold has lived here all his life. He’s a farmer who now keeps bees, chickens and reindeer. When Harold was younger he worked in a t-shirt factory and wanted something better. His co-workers laughed when he left and told him he’d be back. Harold landed at Samsonite and ended up working for Billy’s grandfather for 34 years.

Harold remembers Samsonite like it was yesterday. For years he tried get the Cracker Barrel in Murfreesboro to hang a portrait of Samsonite founder Jesse Shwayder telling them this was the man who made Murfreesboro. The portrait hung in the lobby of the Samsonite factory greeting employees and visitors for years.

Harold told Billy when his great-grandfather would visit that he’d ask folks if they had their Golden Rule marble on them. If they did, he let them take a paid hour off work. Harold still has his Golden Rule marble to this day among some of his valuable treasures, a blue one with the Golden Rule inscribed on a golden band.

But Harold had one more treasured item he wanted to give to Billy. It’s the portrait of his great-grandfather Jesse, conservatively dressed with the Holy Bible firmly griped in his right hand.

An engraved brass plate at the bottom reads: “Jesse Shwayder, Founder and Chairman of the Board, Shwayder Bros., Inc., Taken on his 80th birthday March 26, 1962.” It’s a portrait of conviction, service and respect that reminds us what good people can do when we expect the very best from each other.

  1. Tina Campbell
    August 26th, 2010 at 09:50 | #1

    Harold Stembridge is one of the finest people that I have ever been privileged to be acquainted with since I came to Cannon County in 1994. What a very nice thing that he has done here.

  2. mom
    August 26th, 2010 at 16:56 | #2

    Jesse did not rely on doctors much. When he had a broken leg he sawed off the cast. He was a strong and religious man.

  1. January 24th, 2011 at 10:42 | #1
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