Monday, March 20, 2006


We spent this past weekend in Nashville with our friends Steve and Sue from northern Virginia.

Not everyone can say they spent a Saturday that started in a synagogue and ended up at the Grand Ole Opry...but that’s exactly what we did.

Saturday morning, Steve and I ran off to the West End Synagogue for Shabbat services. Over the years, whenever we’ve spent the weekend with Steve and Sue, that’s been a standard part of the itinerary, whether it be in Naples, New Orleans, or Savannah. This time the girls elected to stay in the hotel while Steve and I handled the davening chores.

Thanks to several years of attending weekend retreats in the North Georgia mountains with Men’s Club members from throughout the Southeast, Steve and I already knew quite a few of the folks at the West End Synagogue. We felt right at home.

There was a Bar Mitzvah there that day, not an unusual occurrence. But by sheer coincidence, I knew the young man’s family.

Between twenty and twenty-five years ago, as a young(er) Account Representative for the Great Corporate Salt Mine, I used to visit Nashville regularly, there to make sales calls at a certain Plastic Bag Manufactory. The Plastic Bag Manufactory was owned at the time by a prominent Nashville family, a family that had been in the bag business since the late nineteenth century. In the early years, their bags were made of burlap and other textiles, eventually displaced by multiwall paper bags. Inevitably, plastic bags became part of their repertoire, and that’s where we came in.

[I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.]

Most of my sales calls were with the purchasing manager of the Plastic Bag Manufactory, but every so often I would visit with Morris, one of the company’s owners. And here, twenty years later, it was Morris’s grandson Max who was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. Talk about synchronicity!

After services, I had a chance to say hello to Morris and offer my congratulations. He’s now the chairman of the family business; his brother Bernard is the CEO.

And you may have heard of them.

For, back in the 1980’s, a gentleman known as Alfred Uhry wrote a play, a play that was later made into an Academy Award-winning Hollywood film, based on his memories of his grandmother and her chauffeur. The setting was Atlanta, the period ranging from the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s. But the names of the characters were pure Nashville, as was the name of the family business: the Werthan Bag Company.

The movie? Driving Miss Daisy, in which the character of one Daisy Werthan was played by Jessica Tandy in an Oscar-winning acting turn.

And “Daisy” Werthan would have been young Max Werthan’s great-great-grandmother Sadie.

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