Morristown Mafia, part two
Charley Dickey (Chum), a nationally known hunting and fishing writer, did grow up a few miles from Morristown in a place called Bulls Gap, where he was a schoolmate of Archie Campbell, who in the 1960s-1970s appeared in the television show HeeHaw. By the late 1930s, Chum was a young man living in Morristown, with along with his younger brother, Dave, and his sidekicks, H.Lea Lawrence and Bones Atchley. They grew up in the riotous days of Jim Burke’s control of Morristown, when boys were boys and got away with a lot.
Chum was invited to serve in the military prior to Pearl Harbor. He distinguished himself as a carrier-borne bomber pilot on the USS Enterprise, returning to Morristown idolized by his younger brother and Lawrence. By their own accounts, when they were not fishing local rivers, streams, and lakes, they were hunting small game, especially the then-abundant bobwhite quail.
As I presumed he was born to do so, it never occurred to me ask Chum why he decided to make a career of writing about hunting and fishing. The 1950s was the era of the so-called Big Three magazines; Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and Sports Afield, which predated other vertical sporting publications by two decades and televised outdoor sports by even longer. An extraordinarily articulate old-schooler, Chum combined an excellent sense of prose with eye for taking photographs. He had few equals during his heyday years of 1950 to 1980. During those days, rarely a month passed that Chum did not have at least one or two articles in the Big Three, plus features in mainstream publications such as Esquire, Playboy, and the Saturday Evening Post.
Inspired or, in Lawrence’s words, “challenged to be better,” by the late 1950s he and David Dickey were out of the blocks with highly successful rates of acceptance among the Big Three and other magazines. Throughout the 1960s these three East Tennesseans were dominant forces in the world of outdoor writing. About this time, Chum departed the fold to hook up with Olin Winchester. A little more than a decade later, he became the first executive director of the prestigious National Sports Shooting Foundation. Chum also evolved from what he told me was “meat and tater writing,” i.e. the staple of magazines then and now—the so-called “where-to, how-to” articles. At this point in his writing career, Chum was writing and selling the sort of articles he is best remembered for today; humor and nostalgia. Not a lot of people knew that the Petersen’s Hunting back page column, “Back Tracking,” was written by Chum under the byline Sam Cole, his pseudonym.