Photo by: ZenOptic
This is a guest post by Chad Huskey.
I’ve lived in Knoxville all my life. I grew up in South Knoxville close to Seymour. So as a kid that’s all I knew of our little town. I went to a small elementary school, and an even smaller Pentecostal church. Needless to say, my view of Knoxville, and the world in general, were not exactly “diverse”. I assumed everyone, played with their Papaw’s hunting dogs, and had a creek running through their front yard. My brother and I romped up and down the side of the mountain behind our house, rode bikes down the road for miles, and roamed all over our neighbor’s yards with out anyone giving it a second thought. All my friends all lived pretty much the same way. To me, Knoxville was no bigger than a few county roads with no lines painted on them, and going to town meant going to the Kmart and Kroger on Chapman Highway.
Then one day, just out of the blue, I was smacked upside the head with…middle school. The Knox County School Board decided it was time to combine South-Young Middle & High with Doyle Middle & High. So now I was being shipped on a bus from my little world, to a great big huge melting pot of a school. I was amazed by the some of the kids I met. We had kids, in Knoxville, who lived in housing projects? Kids who lived in high dollar subdivisions? Kids who have only played games on concrete? Kids who believe in different religions? My mind was officially blown.
Looking back, I was apprehensive, angry, mystified, and just upset in general that I had to learn to deal with all these things. I was supposed to be going to “Doyle Middle” another rural country school, not “South-Doyle Middle”. For all its flaws and all the times I got angry with this new place, and new people, I am glad that I had to have all those new experiences. It was an eye opener. My parents had always taught me not to judge people, and that all people are the same, but up to that point that was pretty easy to accept because everyone I knew, up to that point, really was the same. They had the same life style, skin color, religion, accent, and income. I was able to learn, not just to tolerate, but to accept people’s differences, and to appreciate them for who they are.
So, you might ask, “What they heck does any of this have to do with Knoxville as a whole, and what is this yahoo rambling on about his middle school and hunting dogs for!?”. I’m getting there! Jeez…
As I get older I am continually amazed how much Knoxville, much like my first day at middle school, surprises me. Our scruffy little city has turned into quite the diverse little town. We have something for everyone. We have our high dollar sub divisions, historic neighborhoods, log cabins way back in the hills, groovy downtown lofts, trailer parks, and public housing; we’ve got our art districts, country clubs, museums, historic theaters, and various music venues; we’ve got line dancing, gay bars, smoke filled pubs, dance clubs, redneck bars, and gentlemen’s clubs; we’ve got mom and pop delis, five star dining, buffets, fast food out the wazoo, country kitchens, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Greek, Cuban, and any other ethnic food you can shake a stick at; also we have designer clothing, giant malls, antiques, collectibles, Wal-Marts, and Targets, we’ve got rich folks, poor folks, middle class, and the unfortunate homeless; there’s blue collar, white collar, senators, statesmen, republicans, democrats, libertarians, and independents; we’ve got Baptist, Catholics, Universalists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and all points in between; we have public schools, private schools, community colleges, and the gal’ dang Tennesse Vols!…Phew!
I drive around Knoxville, and realize how truly blessed we are. We have some of the very best of all worlds, and I’m just thankful for it. Especially to have it all wrapped up in our cozy little town. I hope we can all open our eyes and embrace the diversity we are so lucky to be a part of.
This January, I moved here by chance from New York City. I’ve lived all over- I’m originally from St. Louis but have lived in Arizona, Connecticut, Key West, and Brooklyn as well.
I came here because I had to get out of NY and I looked at 20 or 30 states on Craigslist to see what I could find the fastest and the cheapest. I wasn’t looking for culture, nature, individuality.
Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found here. I was amazed that I’d never really thought or heard much about Knoxville, which is truly a gem. It’s rare to find such a cornucopia of culture packaged into a small city – which is now surrounded by gorgeous waves of autumn color. It’s not hard to get out of the city and find nature, and the weather isn’t too cold to enjoy it.
I came here with no real plans to stay, but since have fallen in love with this town and do not see myself leaving anytime soon. Keep it up, Knoxville.
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I had kind of the exact opposite experience growing up, and find it somewhat fascinating [and frustrating] seeing how much of a “big city” Knoxville is to my friends that grew up in the outlaying counties. Also have to explain to friends that live up north and out west how we’re not some podunk little town.
Good write up sir.