Land of the Smokies: a review

December 27, 2007

Tim Hollis has written a wonderful book on the various–and mostly long gone–roadside attractions of Tennessee and North Carolina. His Land of the Smokies covers territory from Boone, North Carolina through the towns around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain. The book, published by the University of Memphis Press, is filled with a delightful collection of color photos, postcards, and various brochures from places such as Ghost Town in the Sky, Frontier Land, and Silver Dollar City.

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StoryCorps in Nashville

December 20, 2007

Today’s Nashville Scene tells the tale of StoryCorps, a project that encourages everyday folks to interview each other, with the resulting conversations being recorded for the Library of Congress.

The better tales are played on National Public Radio stations. StoryCorps has a couple of Airstream trailers that move around the country, and booths in three long-term locations: New York, Milwaukee, and Nashville. The latter is in the downtown Public Library on Church Street, and will be there until September of 2008.

The Nashville Scene’s Maria Brown writes an account of interviewing her mother for StoryCorps, and of the experience says the following:

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Bottle museum collection is liquidated

December 19, 2007

The Tennessean has a great piece today about the end of the famous Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising. This was the institution just outside of Nashville that contained hundreds of thousands of pop bottles and beer cans. Remember Billy Beer, from President Jimmy Carter’s ne’er-do-well brother? It was there.

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Running short of George Dickel

December 17, 2007

The Tennessean has an interesting piece on how retailers are running short of Tennessee’s other whiskey. George Dickel, distilled outside of Normandy, Tennessee, uses the same Lincoln County Process that has made Jack Daniel’s whiskey so famous. The process consists of filtering newly distilled whiskey through sugar maple charcoal.

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Is Cormac McCarthy the Faulkner of Tennessee?

December 16, 2007

Fred Brown has a good piece in the Knoxville News Sentinel exploring the East Tennessee influences on Cormac McCarthy. I found his early books tough sledding; unconventional punctuation and the like always conjures up a kid jumping up and down and yelling “Look at me!” He’s in the high cotton now, however.

Brown quotes Anne de Lisle, McCarthy’s second and now former wife, who described living with him in a house in Rockford, just outside of Knoxville, where the writer “salvaged bricks from the Fort Sanders boyhood home of writer James Agee and made them into a fireplace.”

Someone ought to write a book about the ex-spouses who lived with writers while they were struggling but were out of the picture when the gravy train pulled in. The working title could be All the Pretty Attorneys.

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NT Times spotlights Copperhill

December 14, 2007

The lead article in today’s New York Times “Escapes” section features Copperhill, the southeasternmost town in Tennessee. People from Atlanta and other places are discovering the charms of the town, the low prices of housing, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

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It wasn’t always like that. Copperhill and nearby Ducktown occupied the worst environmental disaster in Tennessee, a blighted landscape visible from outer space. More details here.

Copperhill was also the scene of the “Hicks baby” scandal of 1997, wherein a departed physician of the town–and great uncle of yours truly–was revealed as the the family planning expert of choice for prominent Chattanooga and Atlanta families. He performed abortions or, if the mother wanted to deliver the child, arranged for adoptions. He charged adoptive parents for his services, which led to lurid articles ten years ago of “baby selling.”


Fort Negley visitor center opens

December 14, 2007

According to the Tennessean, the long overdue visitors center for Nashville’s Fort Negley opens on Saturday. Located south of downtown–Map of 534 Chestnut St Nashville, TN 37203-4803, US–and the largest Civil War site in the city, the name Fort Negley might as well be short for Fort Neglected.

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Ike Turner: 1931-2007

December 13, 2007

Ike Turner, whose role as a founding father of rock ‘n roll became overlaid with his image as all-time abusive husband to Tina Turner, died yesterday at age 76. Ike played piano on “Rocket 88,” recorded in Memphis by Sam Phillips and now deemed the first rock ‘n roll record. The New York Times has the best obit I’ve seen so far.

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Touring the East Tennessee Backroads: second edition

December 11, 2007

Travel books about Tennessee have come and gone, but a perennial seller is Carolyn Sakowski’s Touring the East Tennessee Back Roads, which has now come out in a second edition. Like her first edition, which was published in 1993, about the time I began writing Moon Handbooks: Tennessee, Carolyn has driven the byways of the eastern part of the state and woven history into a set of tours.

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Artisinal cheese maker goes underground in Hartsville

December 9, 2007

Perhaps the most elaborate underground marijuana-growing facility–make that the former weed-growing facility in Tennessee–has been auctioned to Roth Käse USA LTD, an artisinal cheesemaker based in Wisconsin.

As detailed in the Nashville Tennessean, the company bought seven acres of land near Hartsville. The real prize, however, was an “improved cave” some 90 feet down containing rooms as long as a football field. While this hall of the marijuana king didn’t exactly work out for him, it should prove ideal to age the kinds of cheeses made by Roth Käse.

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