COOKEVILLE, TN (WSMV) - In neighborhoods devastated by the March tornado, many of the homes have now been cleared away.
The work there is a constant.
It’s been nearly five months since the tornadoes. News4 returned to Putnam County to revisit a person and place remembered so well from March.
The value of nickels and dimes have changed a lot over 70 or 80 years. In the 1940s, a Coke would cost about a nickel. A gallon of gas would be about two dimes.
Those were the years the Dipsy Doodle Drive Inn arrived in Cookeville.
“We’re home of the giant cheeseburger and the mile-high pies,” Debi Daniels told News4 in March.
You ring the bell at Dipsy Doodle Drive Inn when you're leaving happy. Debi Daniels will make sure you're not leaving her place hungry.
She’s keeping that Dipsy Doodle tradition going for a community close to her heart.
“This is the bar area where people sit and enjoy, and watch the TV,” she said, giving a tour of the restaurant.
In March, the Dipsy Doodle had been part of Cookeville for a long time, but had never seen a week so tragic.
A tornado had just destroyed neighborhoods and took the lives of people who walked through Debi’s door.
“The worst part about this is these poor, little children,” Daniels said. “Their life was just beginning.”
There was reason for hope. That day the clean-up began as the Dipsy Doodle became a refuge to workers.
It’s now been nearly five months since those first days of work.
Cookeville looks like a very different place now. The debris is mostly gone. Crosses and flowers on properties honor the people who died.
Then there’s the Dipsy Doodle, here after being hit by the tornado and then hit by the pandemic.
“People couldn’t come work. They were afraid,” said Debi.
Debi said that for a long time things looked bleak.
“I’m a fighter,” she said.
After long months being closed with a quiet kitchen, the Dipsy Doodle is back.
“Cheeseburgers. Everybody’s missed them,” Debi said between flipping burgers on the grill.
A picture printed on an old clock in the restaurant shows the early days of the Dipsy Doodle.
While nickels and dimes won’t pay for much today, what hasn’t changed is that sense of community. No matter what Cookeville is facing, Debi wants this place to be here for these people.
“I’m a strong person. You can ask anybody. I don’t give up. I will never give up,” she said.