on this story
Unstuck in Time with Kurt Vonnegut, Vol
Transfixed by the Drive to Work
A Safe, Well-Lighted Place
I-Sore on I-40
The Good Points
With the TN Department of Transportation always working on some major road, Knoxville means heavy, slow, constant traffic. The ever-increasing demand for malls, convenience shopping, and neighborhoods with wall-to-wall houses means Knoxville is expanding. Literally, the westward push of businesses is threatening to take over what little remains of the country in this area.
The University of Tennessee is a headache all its own. With enrollment on the increase and funding on the decrease, UT is focusing less on academics and more on athletics. Professors are scarce, parking is non-existent, books are too expensive, and the bridge to the Ag. Campus is a terrible idea.
What is Knoxville's view on history? Apparently it's not too favorable, since their answer of where to put the next building means tearing down an old one. Fort Sanders is being torn down house by house to make way for efficient apartment buildings. Old structures downtown get pushed aside for new ones. Even the Turner House on UT's "Hill" was demolished to build new facilities.
So why, through all these headaches, do we stay? Some of us have to because of school, work, or some other unchangeable condition. The rest of us want to because, somehow, we've become attached to Knoxville.
On a clear day you can see the Smokies from downtown and the First American Bank Building from West Knoxville. When you drive up Alcoa Highway and the UT Farm comes into view, just as the sun is setting behind the fields and the lake, you can almost sense our inherent love of country. On a game day, there is a sense of community and excitement as 100,000 people gather in orange for tailgate parties and pre-game fun. Take a walk on UT's Agriculture Campus and everyone smiles at you, it's a given. Friday and Saturday nights bring friends together at local hot spots, a chance for the girls to get dressed up and the guys to work on their charm. Boomsday, the Vol Navy, Girl Scout cookies being sold outside Kroger, high school football, the old Rubber Duck Race, all of these things somehow combine to overcome the headaches we suffer every day from our growing city.
So maybe it's got its bad points, but Knoxville has a lot of good ones, too. If you don't believe me, I'll take you to this certain hill on a summer evening, and you'll see the sun melt down over the hills and shower passing cars in an amber light. And then maybe, as twilight games of ball are played and a skier sends a shower of water over a river as smooth as glass, y'all will start to see what Knoxville means to me.
Knoxville Yadda Yadda
Aw, now isn't that a warm and fuzzy title to a contest? My heart already goes out to you for having to read all the sentimental garbage you will get (you asked for it) and grandiose tributes to UT football. I advise you to be brave and have a bottle of liquor handy. What the hell. I might just take you out for a drink if you'll let me read the worst ones for laughs.
Now, with that kind of opening you're probably expecting a nasty letter about constipated construction, beer-swilling rednecks, or nasal-swelling pollen. But I won't dust off my soapbox for that. Honestly, Knoxville doesn't mean anything to me.
Knoxville is the place where I happen to live, breathe, work, cry, laugh, yadda, yadda, ya. A geographical coincidence, if you will. What makes a place good or bad to live in is the people that are breathing the same air. Now on some days, I might tell you "it's great." When you have a friend invite you to dinner because you don't have any family nearby. And then there are days when I couldn't say anything nice like when some jerk decides a big ding in my car will add to its appeal.
But I gotta' tell you...I'm not a born and bred Knoxvillian. I've lived in four other places in my life. And there are good people everywhere. Yes, even in Gainesville, Florida. Just a guess. I've never been there. And I know some of you out there will swear that the devil himself spawned the town. But I digress. Knoxville is only as good as you, me, and the next guy. So, smile, wave, don't litter, don't shoot your neighbors, be nice to children and old folks and all that Hallmark stuff. We make Knoxville what it is.
The Dark Ages
Do you remember the "dark ages," you know, the '50s and '60s, before interstates, malls, cable TV, and the demise of Gay Street? I dono matter how many years pass or things change, this is my image of Knoxville.
I didn't live in Knoxville then, but my grandmother did. Our Sunday sojourn took two paths. We came through Oliver Springs, Oak Ridge and Clinton Highway or Kingston, Dixie Lee Junction and Kingston Pike. From either direction we made it to her house in North Knoxville. The back yard was a refuge of flowers bordering the seldom used alley. The front porch was where I learned to "sit quietly, listen and watch the world go by." If you listened hard enough, you could hear an occasional car or siren above the chirp of the cricket that lived behind the kitchen sink.
My grandmother didn't drive. She walked to work at Sears (on Central). I walked with her to Cas Walker's on Central or Kroger's on Broadway. Get your map out and lookeither direction was a goodly stroll! On special trips "up town" we took the bus, ate at the S&W, and rode the elevator at J.C. Penney! Wondrous, awesome images ingrained in the mind of an elementary-aged child one step and block at a time.
When I read vignettes or stories on the history and happenings of Knoxville, I use my childhood memories and my adult sense of direction and I am transported to the site. I see it and think if my fingers will reach just a little farther, I can touch the building and open the door into a specific room. Or, if I listen just a little harder, (above the sound of the cricket) I can hear voices, and music of generations past waft through the air.
What does Knoxville mean to me? Knoxville means a way of life, a history that bears remembering and a future that will be a way of life for our children. Every time we tear down a building or section of town in the name of progress, we obliterate a chapter of history. There aren't too many of my memories left to actually reach out and touch. What will our children remember? If they listen just a little harder, what sounds will they remember above the rumble of bulldozers and the crack of the wrecking ball?
Cindy McSween Sheldon
(Cindy McSween Sheldon, 46, is a married and has one child. She enjoys gardening and genealogy, was raised in Harriman, and has lived in Knoxville for six years and has always considered it her home.)
A New Beginning
It meant a new beginningas a bride, a mother and part of the community.
We lived in the Burlington area in those early years, next to Chilhowee Park where I took my children to visit "Romeo & Juliet"the only animals at the zoo. I rode the trolley on Magnolia to town before it was retired; walked my children to Burlington to shop, the youngest in a carriage, then stroller, where we knew the store owners and the locals. Mr. & Mrs. Pass of Pass 5 & 10Brown's Drug StoreFrank Brown went to Knox High with my husband; Dr. Greenblatt's grandfather was there to talk to my children.
I walked to Park City to visit friends and my children played with their children.
When we got a second car, I took to driving and we moved out West to an almost new neighborhood. Friends thought we were moving to Chattanooga, it seemed so far awaythough only across town.
The City of Knoxville grew around us and now we are in the middle of all the growth and traffic around West Town.
Yes, I've seen changes in these past 52 years, but I wouldn't have changed moving to Knoxville; raising and educating my children here; seeing them all grow up, and leave Knoxville to seek out their own rainbows.
Sybil L. Joffe
(Sybil L. Joffe has three children who were all born and raised in Knoxville. Her husband owned the SLOC Store in the Old City from 1945 to 1980.)