Dunbar Cave, Celebrities and Musicians: Trivia about Clarksville, Tennessee

Dunbar Cave Sign

Dunbar Cave is a historical artifact that's home to one of the most interesting Native American drawings ever discovered. Tennesseans are proud of many things, but their storied past is definitely high on the list. (photo: Brittany Hickey/The Leaf Chronicle)

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around Tennessee in search of the best daily deals. So it’s no surprise in an area rife with history and celebrities he’s come across his fair share of Clarksville facts and trivia. Here’s a bit of local lore about Dunbar Cave and much more that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

You likely know that The Roxy caught fire twice under its original name, The Lillian, but have you heard the title of the movie on the marquee when the first fire broke out in 1913? “Playing With Fire” was a drama about the dangers of flirting. It starred Dorothy Kelly, a Clarksville native herself, as a society belle turned housewife whose flirtation with a man that’s not her husband lands her in an uncomfortable situation. That’s quite the coincidence.

Women gained the right to vote in Tennessee in 1920, but Brenda Vinyard Runyon ensured they had access to banking independent of their husbands and fathers the year before when she organized the First Woman’s Bank of Tennessee. Located in the Arlington Hotel, it was the first banking institution in the U.S. to be established and operated entirely by women. Deposits on opening day totaled more than $20,000! That’s the equivalent of more than $250,000 today.  

Each week on “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” the blustering Sgt. Vince Carter used devious means to get the title character transferred out of his unit. He never succeeded, and interestingly enough, the actor who played Carter, Frank Sutton, also had a significant setback. Sutton, another Clarksville native, could not pass the Marine Corps. physical during World War II. He instead served—and distinguished himself—in the Army.

When a tornado in 1999 severely damaged main offices of “The Leaf-Chronicle,” publisher F. Gene Washer turned his home into a newsroom. Editors and reporters put together eight pages of content, which was printed at the “Kentucky New Era’s” printing press in Hopkinsville for release the next day. Staff next moved to an empty grocery store and stayed there for eight months until the main offices reopened. Not even Mother Nature could stop the presses of the venerable newspaper.

Bowlers take to the alleys at The Pinnacle Family Entertainment Center daily, but in December of 2006, one in particular made history. James Cripps set the Guinness World Record for the highest score in a single game of backwards tenpin bowling: 278. Bowling backwards started as a bet years ago, but since then Cripps has honed the skill, even adding an extra hole to his ball for better control, and he now gets higher scores with his back to the pins than the traditional way. Congrats, Cripps!

In 2005, a group studying graffiti inside Dunbar Cave discovered ancient Native American cave art. Concentric circles, stars, the sun and the moon are among the drawings, as is an anthropomorph: a Mississippian supernatural male warrior figure with an axe rising from his head. Those who oversee the cave waited more than a year to make the discovery public, so that they could install a bat-friendly gate to protect the cave when it was not open to the public.

James Marshall Hendrixaka Jimi Hendrix—certainly qualifies as one of the more famous soldiers to receive training at Fort Campbell, and it was there that his military career ended, allowing his music career to thrive. After earning his “Screaming Eagles” paratrooper patch in 1962 at the base, he suffered an injury during a jump. He received an honorable discharge and began working as a session guitarist playing with the likes of Little Richard, The Isley Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner before forming the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966.

Done exploring Dunbar Cave and other bits of Clarksville history? Move on down the road to Nashville.