This is a guest post by Chad Huskey.
As a kid, riding up and down Chapman Highway with my folks, we would stop in for gas at a gas station/pawn shop/jewelry store/restaurant. The sign at the road says “Thrifty Center”, but I had always heard it called Taul Town. When I was a teenager I finally thought to ask one day, what exactly a Taul Town was. Turns out I had just heard it pronounced with a Tennessean southern drawl for all those years, and it was actually Towel Town. When the shop first opened it was a gas station/pawn shop/jewelry store/restaurant/towel emporium. You could fill up with gas, eat a waffle, buy a necklace, pawn your stereo, and purchase a hand towel in one convenient stop.
It seems people take great pride in calling it a name no one remembers, and I admit I’ve been guilty of it myself. The scene usually plays out something like this. “Meet me at Towel Town…Where?!…Towel Town! Where the heck is Towel Town?!…You know, the Thrifty Center…Yea I know the Thrifty Center, why did you call it Towel Town!?…What!?! You mean you’ve never heard it called Towel Town, that’s all I ever heard it called growing up?” We take offense to those outsiders who haven’t heard the secret code names, of local establishments from days gone by. At the same time we delight in filling them in on the often colorful history of the old names, and places and how they became what they are today.
Think you’re not guilty? Do you go to East Town Mall or Knoxville Center? I hear older folks still call the shopping center where the Disc Exchange is, Cas Walker’s. Whole communities’ names have come and gone. Ever hear of Happy Holler near downtown or maybe Pennyrile in South Knoxville? We get a kick out of the ignorance about our local stories and legends that make up these lost names. We feel it’s our civic duty, as native Knoxvillians, to fill in the out-of-towners and newly relocated to our “inside info”.
In truth, it’s all done in good fun, with a sense of pride about the silly little tidbits we are privy to about our home town. We enjoy educating folks about things we hold onto that take us back to years ago, when these secrets were common knowledge. When things where a bit slower, and life seemed to be a little bit more relaxed.
Makes me wonder if sometime in the early 1800s a conversation ever went something like this, “Meet me at James White Fort…Where?!…James White Fort! Where the heck is James White Fort?!…You know, Knoxville!”
Photo by: striatic