The Cedar View Inn

The building the younger generation knows now as Cowboy Country, and prior to that, J’s Shoes, was originally owned by Ralph and Hester Oakes and used for their restaurant, Cedar View Inn.


    If anyone who lived in Livingston during the ‘50s was asked to recall something about the Cedar View Inn, one answer from those familiar with the restaurant would more than likely be the pitch games. The good home cooking that was served very generously to everyone who ate there would probably be another answer as well. The Cedar View Inn was well known, not only for their appetizing meals, but for the nightly pitch games played there.

The restaurant was owned and operated by Ralph Oakes and his wife, Hester Jane (Riddle) Oakes, and was in the building that now houses Cowboy Country on West Main Street in Livingston.  Many, many people of this and the surrounding area have passed through the doorway of that building when the restaurant was in operation. Many, many people of this and the surrounding area have passed through the doorway of that building when the restaurant was in operation.


Ralph Oakes and Hester Jane (Riddle) Oakes, both from the Crossville area, were married in the late 1920s.










Ralph and Hester Oakes were both originally from the Crossville area of Cumberland County. The couple married around 1928, and for a period of time, Ralph worked with the state highway department. They moved to Dayton, OH, where they both found work in the General Electric plant. After living and working there for a couple of years, they settled in Livingston. Their family included two daughters, Helen and Anna Mae.

In the mid-1940s, the Oakes owned a half-interest with Gene Massey in the Standing Stone Grill on the square in Livingston, where their career in the restaurant business started. Then in 1947, Claude Roberts was hired to build the block building that became known as the Cedar View Inn. Hester and the Oakes’ oldest daughter, Helen, helped by carrying blocks as the construction went on. The Oakes’ home was located just next door to the restaurant, and the house is still there today.


These photos were taken long ago of Hester Oakes, former owner of Cedar View Inn.



The term “fast food” was something that had not been invented during the years the Cedar View Inn was in operation. Most everything was prepared from scratch, and about the only food items that would even fit into a category of being convenient were the canned goods such as green beans that were bought from produce companies.  Friday mornings, live chickens were delivered in coops to the restaurant from Stakely’s in Cookeville and placed in a small building behind the restaurant. That same afternoon, those unlucky birds that were to be served to the customers for Sunday dinner would meet up with Hester who had the job of wringing their necks and scalding and plucking the feathers from each one. The special every Sunday was a choice of either fried chicken or cube steak, and one thing was certain: the chicken couldn’t be much fresher. Even KFC couldn’t make a claim even similar to that.

Caroline Myers was one of those who helped in the kitchen in the early days of the restaurant, along with Edna Hawkins, Allie Hawkins, Audie Allred, and Mrs. Charlie Webb. My father, Chapin McCormick, also helped with cooking during the early years of the business. Some of the local girls who worked as waitresses were Sue Allred, Maxine Maynord, Jean Garrett Rose, Jewell Reagan, Mary Jo Ray, Sarah Nell Cooper, Liz McCormick, Irene Brown, Neda Rose Copeland, and Mary Belle Jolly. Buddy Ogletree worked as the night cook.

Mary Jo Ray was not only a good friend of Helen’s, but she was someone Hester knew she could count on anytime she needed her help. By the way, I’ve been told Mary Jo has a wonderful recipe for oyster stew that she will gladly share with anyone who might want to try it. Helen and Anna Mae also helped out and worked even after each one was married and had started a family of their own.

A playpen was kept at the restaurant for the purpose of putting their daughters in while working in the restaurant. Charles and Keeton Cooper liked to pick at Hester’s granddaughters anytime they were brought to the restaurant while their moms were working.

Irene Brown was working when a song called “Good Night, Irene” was on the jukebox, and it was often played by some of the guys that hung out there just to aggravate her.

Plate lunches were served every day for the total cost of 50¢, which included a drink. A hamburger cost 25¢, cokes or coffee 5¢, and a piece of homemade pie was a dime.

Curb service was also offered to customers who wanted to eat in the car. Just park in front of the restaurant, blow the horn, and a waitress would come out and take your order. Metal trays that fit on the windows of cars were used to serve curb service food. Anna Mae told me that the first time she took an order out on curb service, the coke bottle she had placed on the metal tray tipped over and spilled in a lady’s lap. She said she was so embarrassed, but the lady couldn’t have been nicer about it.

Hester was a very good person to work for, and she even provided transportation for the younger girls who worked as waitresses. She came to their homes to pick them up, and drove them back home each night after closing. Hester extended credit to lots of shirt factory workers for lunches that were eaten during the work week, and when payday rolled around, most would come in and pay up what was due. This kind of arrangement is unheard of today.

I was told that Jack Pigg had the reputation of being at the top of the list when it came to those who were known as troublemakers at the restaurant. One of Jack’s schemes got Ernest West into big trouble with Hester’s father who was known as “Gramps”. It seems that Gramps had a little dog that came to the restaurant with him and sat by the door and waited for Gramps until time to go home again. One day as Jack was going in and Ernest West was leaving, Jack came in and told Gramps that it was a shame how Ernest had kicked his dog as he left the restaurant. The next time Ernest came in, Gramps jumped on Ernest about his dog, and Ernest had a terrible time convincing him he didn’t do it.

Hester had to put up with lots of teasing as well as many pranks being pulled on her by some of the guys who hung out there. One of the fellows who was a regular customer went next door to John Hunter’s garage one day during a very busy lunch hour and called Hester on the phone pretending to be with the telephone company. His instructions to her were that the phone company needed to blow out the telephone lines, and she was asked to put her telephone receiver into a paper bag for a few minutes. The bar stools in the restaurant were filled with the guys who were in on the joke, and just as Hester began to do as she was instructed, it dawned on her what was going on, and she hung up the phone. She also received lots of prank calls asking if she had Prince Albert in a can, or if her refrigerator was running.

The night cook, Buddy Ogletree, was in on most of the pranks that were played on Hester, as well as the other ladies who worked in the kitchen. He gave all the ladies who worked there a very hard time, but they all took his kidding and teasing in stride. One thing he didn’t like about his job, though, was the preparation of oysters. He always hated fixing those. Oysters were only available during certain months, and came in gallon containers. The procedure to get them ready to be cooked was one that took quite a bit of time and effort to do, and this was not something Buddy enjoyed.

Anna Mae also caused him grief when she would inspect glasses for water spots and bring them back to the kitchen to be rewashed. Buddy didn’t like that either, and didn’t hesitate to tell her about it either.

The Cedar View Inn served many families over the years. Some of those who were considered regulars were A.B. and Catherine Qualls, John and Jean Hunter, Larry and Mary Jean Stephens, Ray and Olene Maxwell, Herbert and Dallas Smith and their two sons, and Dr. H.B. Nevans, who usually brought along his younger son, John Lee.

On one occasion Dr. Nevans and John Lee stopped by, and after being there a while, John Lee could not be found anywhere. After looking the place over, someone went outside, and there on top of the building was John Lee. Anyone who knows John Lee wouldn’t be surprised at all by this.

U.L. Ledbetter and his wife, Emogene, always stopped by on Sunday afternoons during the time they were courting. Anna Mae told me these were only a few of the families and friends who were always stopping by to eat a meal or just to have a cup of coffee. But over the years, it’s hard to remember the names of everyone who was part of their large extended family who were regular patrons.

The restaurant was a favorite of fellows such as Bill Thomas, Charles and Keeton Cooper, Gabe Sells, Kent Matthews, Shannon Ledbetter, Doug Copeland, and Jack Pigg. Hamp McCormick, Dempsey Webb, and W.C. Poston were also seen there quite frequently.

A story is told about how Hester’s father, Joe Riddle, came to live with her after Ralph passed away. He loved to play cards at the restaurant, but losing was something he didn’t tolerate very well. It seems there was a ball game that was to be broadcast on television, and it so happened that it was scheduled to be played during a time the nightly card game usually went on. Gabe Sells came up with the idea that he would borrow a television from Puckett’s Furniture and bring to the restaurant so the game could be watched there. This was long before cable TV was even thought of, and everyone had antennas on the roofs of their homes for television reception. The men decided that they would run a long lead line from the Oakes’ home to the television set that would be hooked up in the restaurant, and that way, they could all view the game together. When Gramps learned there would be no card game that night, but watching a ball game was planned instead, he took matters into his own hands. He got out his gun, went out in the yard and shot the lead line in two. Much to the dismay of Gabe and the others who had planned to watch the ball game, the evening card game went on as usual.

The room in the back of the restaurant could be used for meetings or banquets, but its most frequent use was for the nightly pitch games. Among the names of those who were present most nights were Tootie Wolfe, Claude and Zelda Poston, Ernest West, Chapin McCormick, Will West, Oather and Irene Savage, who always brought with them their daughter, Venita, Harris Windle, Jessie Bill West, Bob Hill, Beland White, Jack Pigg, and Domer Copeland and his son, Doug Copeland. The restaurant closed every night around 9 p.m., and the pitch players were usually locked in. Ralph Oakes played with the regulars most nights, and sometimes the games stretched into the late hours of the night. Venita Savage Lightsey told me that she fell asleep many a night in one of the booths at the Cedar View Inn while the pitch games were being played.

She recalled how she got her parents into trouble with their preacher after missing church service one Sunday due to a late Saturday night pitch game. The preacher came to eat Sunday dinner at one of the grandparents’ homes where Irene and Oather had gone to eat also. The preacher inquired as to their whereabouts that morning in church, and told them he had missed seeing them there. But neither of Venita’s parents got the chance to answer because she spoke up and told the preacher, “They were up all night playing cards at the Cedar View Inn, and that’s why they weren’t in church that day.” I can just imagine their faces as well as the preacher’s!

McCormick Motor Company, owned by Aubrey McCormick of Livingston, always had a Christmas supper for employees and others who would be included each year at the Cedar View Inn. Anna Mae has a couple of pictures that were made at these events, and in one of the pictures, those who were sitting around the table were Aubrey and his wife, Lou McCormick, Johnnie West Little, John Sadler, along with his son, John, Claude Watkins, Emmit Bilbrey, Carl Watkins, Clois McCormick, John Tom Poindexter, Harlan Copeland, Gerald Hogue, Bob Hunter, Glenard Hogue, Roland Vaughn, Iwron Hunter, J.C. Ledbetter, Clark Stockton, Shorty Coffman, and Dewey Coffman, who was dressed up like Santa Claus. A large cedar Christmas tree covered with angel hair stands in the background.

Ralph Oakes died of lung cancer in 1957. During the time he was sick, the restaurant was leased to Ray Maxwell. After Ralph’s death, Hester returned to the restaurant for a time, and it was then that her father came to live with her.

Other jobs Hester had after the restaurant business included working for Maurice and Marie Looper at Church Street Grocery. Even in her 70s, she worked at J’s Shoes, which operated out of the same building she and Ralph opened together as the Cedar View Inn.

Hester died in 1998, and most of those who teased her and played pranks on her were there to pay their sincere respects and to say goodbye to her. They all loved and respected Hester as well as her husband, Ralph, and even today enjoy looking back on the days when good food as well as good times were shared at the Cedar View Inn.


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