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
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Great post! I still call that mall in the east East Town Mall. Also grew up around a bunch of guys that would give directions by describing where businesses used to be. “Go on down to where the Cas Walker used to be, hang a left, pass by where the White Stores used to be…” and on and on and on. I find myself doing the same thing with people not from around here, namely UT students. I don’t mean any harm. Its just, that’s the way it was when I was growing up. East Town Mall will forever be East Town Mall.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to refer to the James White Parkway exit as anything but the Business Loop. I can’t help it.
Last night I was trying to describe to our scouts where we’ll be meeting at the airport and I could not come up with TAC to save my life. I resorted to “You’re folks will know it as the old Cherokee terminal.”
I’ve been here two years and already call things by their old names. Before Earth Faire was there, everyone called it the “Bi-lo” plaza referenced because it’s the end of the greenway.
I’ve also inherited calling the mall “East Town Mall” despite it being called Knoxville Center long before I got here.
East Town Mall has another name?!! huh…
A bit off-subject, but I always love hearing out-of-towners try to pronounce “Weigel’s”. hahaha
here’s a test- what does it mean when someone says “THE LIGHT IS ON!”?
My favorite? Chez Guevara will always and forever be, to me (and so many others), La Paz.
Oh my! I hadn’t heard anyone mention Pennyrile in a LONG time. Is that how you spell it?
And La Paz is forever!
Yup, that’s how you spell it. I stole my screen name from a Blue Mother Tupelo song “Back to Pennyrile”. I heard them sing it in concert last year, and just has to ask about it. It turns out Ricky of BMT grew up just a few mile from where I did, and he had also heard the old timers call it that. Which inspired the song.