Rocky Top, Tennessee
That’s right, Rocky Top, Tennessee, it isn’t just a song, it really does exist; well it does now anyway. Formally Lake City, and before that Coal Creek, it is town with many names and amazing history.
However, no matter what you call us, we are a town in need of help. A town that the interstate bypassed and time has forgotten.
In today’s ramblings, I’ll talk about our town, what happened, and at the end give you 15 or more ways you can help. It will be long, but PLEASE stay with me, or at least scroll to the end. 😉
Our small town: Rocky Top, Tennessee
We are a small town, a proud Appalachian people that wouldn’t normally ask for help, but now, now we need help, and we need it from our citizens and neighbors.
We are a town with a strong history of battles fought and won by a sense of community pride and a strong bond. Our history included horrific mining disasters, battles for work, struggling during the Great Depression, and so much more, but our community was strong and pulled through together. A TVA project building Norris Dam, not only brought electricity to the entire area, but brought JOBS in a time when so many were suffering, it brought light in so many ways, and again, our town prevailed. As the building of the dam ended, the Manhattan Project came along, bringing in more jobs and an even bigger sense of pride and community. This was a turning point for many years. Plenty of work, more industry, booming small town businesses. This was the way of life for the next 40 years.
Our ancestors were a proud people; dirt poor most of them, but proud and hard working. They worked their way out of poverty and they raised my parent’s generation. People who knew how to plant a garden, can the food, and were engineers and electricians at the same time. This was our past, it is something to be proud of, something to look back on and smile. The grandparents of my generation brought this town out of poverty and into something to be proud of. The parents of my generation worked to maintain that, UNTIL:
First, the interstate took the traffic away. At one time Main Street, aka Highway 25W, wound its way through our little town. People traveling from north of Kentucky all the way to Georgia and back would travel that road. They would stop in, eat at our restaurants, visit our stores, stay in our hotels. It was a pretty booming little place. Being one of the few towns between Kentucky and Knoxville, there was much to offer. Norris Dam State Park became a major attraction in the summer, those were GREAT days… but then…
THE INTERSTATE!! Gone was the traffic, the extra business, the tourists… We became Radiator Springs, from the movie “Cars”, and slowly, we watched our town begin to die.
This didn’t happen 100 years ago, not even 50. No, this was the late 70’s, early 80’s, when my generation was just a bunch of kids. We don’t remember much about a booming town, but we do remember when it was different, busier, more community driven. We also remember it dying, by the time we were teens, it was almost gone. So….
That simple, we simply left. We were young, we vaguely remember shopping in town at the local stores, so many were gone by then. The booming town our parents grew up in as teens, we never witnessed. Before us, there was a theater, stores, drive in, and other amazing things to do. We grew up with stores shutting down or already gone. We grew up going to Knoxville, we had the interstate after all, East Town Mall was a happening place back then. Sure we cruised town, McDonald’s to the Car Wash and back again, but that was because we were young and socializing.
Then it happened, we grew up and limited by lack of opportunities, confined by the smallness and emptiness of our town, WE LEFT! Bigger, better, faster, growing, jobs, college, whatever the reason, WE LEFT!! But now….
Our dreams carried us elsewhere, but in our minds, we knew where home was, where our parents were, and where we wanted our children raised. We remembered the friendships, the closeness, the caring hearts of our neighbors, teachers, pastors, and friends, the honesty and hardworking generation of our parents. We forgot the dead, lifeless streets and closed storefronts, we just wanted “small town” for our children. So…WE RETURNED!!
But to what? Still empty buildings? More dilapidated than ever before? Chain stores moving in just a few miles up the road, and our few stores that had been hanging on all those years, shutting down! Depression had taken over the town, and with it drugs, poverty, and a deep sense of loss and loneliness prevailed. BUT…
All is not lost:
Our parents were still here, living just on the outskirts of town, happily retired, houses paid for, large well groomed yards for the grands to play in. Our school was bigger and better than ever, some of our favorite teachers still teaching, and many of our friends returning to rear their own here. Hope was here, our kids would get teachers who knew their families, knew their stories, and didn’t judge them regardless of that story. We all returned, or stayed, longing for what we knew had been lost, hoping all was not lost. We sense that there is still something here, something that pulls us back, something that can be fixed, but we don’t know what to do. SO….
Here we are:
Here we are, a few of us, maybe more, still hoping, wanting our town back, wanting that picturesque Mayberry we know existed at some point.
What are we doing? Well, being scoffed at by some, saying this town is lost, dead, nothing but a drug haven. We are laughed at by others, because we embraced the name change when it came. Did we love the new name? No, not really; we are LAKERS, through and through after all. Yet, we hold out hope, that just maybe, a new name will revive our old town.
We want it. We need it. Our children need it.
Basically, we are doing nothing, waiting on someone else to do it. All of us waiting, hoping, but not ACTING!!
Do we not want something better? Do we not want to see a clean, upbeat town for our children? What are we scared of?
Are we afraid of being laughed at? Scoffed at? Told NO? Are we afraid of the town becoming too big and too busy? Or are we just part of the problem? Has the depression gotten to us? Infected us? Making us feel beat down, overwhelmed and hopeless? Where is our hope? Where is our pride? Where is the pride of our ancestors? They lived in much tougher times, with so much less than we have now yet they prevailed and built a great town. Are we just too busy to care or are we just too scared?
Rocky Top will always be a small town, and that’s not a bad thing. But what’s wrong with bringing back local businesses, local attractions, maybe something that will pull in tourists again. It’s still a LONG drive up I-75 from Knoxville to Lexington, or vice versa; why not make ours the town the weary travelers want to rest in?
However, progress is slow, and too many of us, myself included, have been sitting around waiting on someone else to do something. To PROVE to us, that the town is going to be revived. That it can be pulled from the ashes. Scared to put our time, effort or money into it before we know it is a guaranteed success.
So now what?
Well, we give back. We quit waiting for someone else to do it. We quit nay-saying and waiting on some rich stranger to revive our town. No strangers are going to come in and make this town what it use to be. No strangers have the connections we have, no strangers have a vested interest in our town.
It’s our turn. Our parents, the ones still living, they are retired, they paid their dues and they did what they could. No, we pick up the reigns.
You don’t have to be rich, powerful, or “from the right family” to make a difference. You have to be dedicated, loving, and willing to work a little bit. Nothing big, a few hours here, a few hours there, $5 here, $5 there. ANYTHING is better than NOTHING and EVERYTHING makes a difference.
Look at it this way, if 100 people, volunteered a measly 3 hours per month in clean up and community outreach, that would be 300 hours of work completed every month. 3,600 hours per year. THAT’S HUGE!!
If 100 people, gave $10 each, every month that is $1,000 every month, $12,000 per year!!! No it isn’t much, but it could go a long way toward painting something, making a picnic area, landscaping, taking care of seniors, etc.
So in an effort to make it easy for you to help, I’ve gathered a list. Below you will find a list of things our town needs and ways you can help. Most require very little or NO money. What they do require is a little time and dedication to ROCKY TOP, TN.
How can YOU help? How can YOU give back?
The first thing you do is JOIN the Facebook Group “ROCKY TALK: Rocky Top Community Chat Page” to keep up with ALL the events going on in town and to make suggestions about things the town could use. City councilmen, county commissioners, etc are all there and interacting with the citizens.
- DECORATE FOR CHRISTMAS: Contact Joe Paris by EMAIL: Here is a list of things he needs:
- New or used but decent Christmas decorations. As you clean out your stash please contact him or drop them off at the Rocky Top Police Department.
- Workers to help put up the decorations on Saturday mornings. Contact Joe for times and dates.
- Main Street Baptist Church Community Projects: Call the church at 865-426-2184 for more information.
- Clean up Main Street: Happens regularly, they need help picking up trash and cleaning the streets through town.
- A food pantry: You can drop off food for them to give to the less fortunate in the community.
- A craft fair: Rocky Top Crafters is having a Christmas craft sale at MSBC on December 3rd! We are gonna be collecting foodstuff for there pantry at the door & the choir is having a bake sale to raise money for their trip next year! You can help by showing up and supporting local business, the food pantry, and the church.
- Candy & Cards for Veterans is being collected: Contact Lisa Hunley-Pebley on the Rocky Talkpage for more information.
- Drop off donations of candy and cards at Corner Drug in Rocky Top.
- Christ-Centered Addiction Recovery Meet Ups: These are hosted by different places throughout the town. Angie Gilliam is the contact person. Tonight: November 18th it will be held at Pine Hill Baptist Church in Beech Grove. How you can help:
- Pastors, counselors, teachers, families, and friends are all encouraged to attend and learn more about addiction and beating addiction.
- Contact Angie and see if she could use snacks or refreshments for the meetings then donate them.
- Make flyers with meeting times and post them around town so that addicts can find help.
- Coal Creek Miner’s Museum: Contact them by following the link or by phone at 865-340-3269:
This amazing museum tells the story of our proud past and reflects the struggles it took to get this town started. They could use support in the following ways:
- Donations of old mining items.
- Volunteer workers to keep the museum open and running and to extend the museum hours. I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already been.
- Rocky Top Community Center, Ball-field & Splash Pad: Contact the community center at 865-426-7914: Ideas for helping there:
- Painting or donating paint to spiff up the community center.
- Donations of folding tables and chairs for when the building is rented.
- Cleaning up around the ball-field.
- Donations of picnic tables, benches, etc for the splash pad.
- Wilson Cemetery and other cemetery clean-ups: Here is a LINK to an upcoming CLEAN UP at Wilson Cemetery!! Or contact Robert Griffith Feel free to coordinate your own and let me know about them.
- Build or donate bat boxes: Bats keep down mosquitoes, flies and other pests: Anyone willing to build or donate bat boxes please contact Robert Griffith.
- LOCAL FARMERS / CRAFTERS MARKET: A regular weekly market could draw tons of vendors and shoppers from all over the greater Rocky Top area. We need a coordinator for this project. If interested in leading this or forming a committee to work on making this happen before spring. Please contact Robert Griffith.
- HELP OUR NEIGHBORS: We have many disabled and elderly in our community. We would love to see a “Helping Hands” team of volunteers who could do things like mow grass, rake leaves, build ramps, pain houses, sweep driveways, grocery shop, etc. We need a volunteer or set of volunteers to coordinate this effort and gather names and needs.
- Contact other businesses and invite them to Rocky Top! ANYONE and EVERYONE can and SHOULD do this. When you are in an establishment or business you really like and that you think could make an impact on Rocky Top and surrounding areas, invite them to come look at all the vacancies in our town.
- SHOP LOCAL: NO EXCUSES: There are many GREAT businesses in our town that need our support. I realize you can’t do ALL of your shopping in town, but every single bit helps. The more we shop locally, the lower the local prices will become. Local stores can’t compete with big box stores, but the more we demand from them, the more they will have to buy and the lower the price to them will be.
Here are some of the shops I LOVE. Not only is the service superb but the small town atmosphere is comforting.
- Corner Drug: Why wait at the big stores when David and family are more than happy to help. If they don’t have it that day they can get it by the next day. They know you by name and you never have to wait more than a few minutes. Prices are the same because insurance pays. #SHOP LOCAL
- Shop-Rite Grocery: Have you been there lately? The store is AWESOME! They have really cleaned it up and they now stock an awesome selection of produce. Joe, the butcher is well informed and will help you find the right meats. The store will order things you can’t find. If you shop the weekly ads you will beat the big chain store prices.
- Ace Hardware: We often find things here to be much cheaper than your big box home improvement stores. The service is fast and friendly.
- Restaurants: I won’t even try to list them, we have some of the best around.
- Rocky Top Outdoors: Why bother going all the way to Knoxville. If they don’t have it here, they’ll get it for you.
- Huck Braden, Tim Wilson, Lake City Tire: ALL your car care needs are right here in town, they are HONEST, FAIR and their prices SURE as heck beat everyone else
- There are so many more, Thrift Shops, Furniture Stores, etc.. I can’t list them all. I will eventually do a local business post, but for now.
- SHOP LOCAL FIRST! Every DOLLAR you give a local store is a DOLLAR back into our town.
- Rocky Top Public Library: I have no idea what help they need, but I am sure book donations and people to read to the kids are ALWAYS needed. Call them at 865-426-6762
- Town Beautification Committee: We need someone to head up projects making our town beautiful again. This committee could meet with City Council to coordinate efforts. Ideas for this committee:
- Gather donations of plants, trees, and shrubs to donate to businesses and churches in town for their landscaping.
- Cleaning up and beautifying vacant lots and abandoned buildings and houses.
- Set up a regular Arbor Day tradition and get the local school kids involved.
- Sweep and shovel parking lots and yards.
- SO MUCH TO BE DONE!!
- Senior Citizens Awareness Network: We need someone to head this up and get things happening. Responsibilities of this group would be :
- Checking on the elderly in our community to make sure they have food, water, heat, etc
- Getting donations for those in need.
- Helping seniors get in touch with the right agencies to meet their needs
- Delivering groceries or taking them shopping
- Visiting the nursing homes and homes to just be a friendly presence
- Organizing senior activities such as games or socials at the community center
- Jim Ed Lawson/J W Prewitt Memorial Christmas Basket Fund: CLICK HERE
Yes I know I said 15, but this one came in last minute and REALLY needs our help. Here is a little about the Fund, taken from the page listed above.
” Our Hometown Christmas Story: It all began in the late 1940’s. Jim Ed Lawson and several other men saw a need in the town. They began what is today called the “Jim Ed Lawson/J W Prewitt Memorial Christmas Basket Fund”. The ONLY FUNDING was and still is a caring community of people.
Throughout the year, various community services are held and donations are collected for the Christmas Basket Fund. It takes the whole town working together to make this project a success year after year.
About 325 families are helped in and around Rocky Top each year. J W (Bill) Pruitt, having worked with the program for more than 50 years, was the chairman of the Christmas Basket Fund Committee until 2013. His son, Marvin Prewitt is the current chairman. Note: In the beginning, bushel baskets were used and the baskets were all delivered.
Sign-ups begin in mid-October-November. Each eligible family receives a letter which they bring with them to pick up a food basket.
In the early stages, there were no extra funds for children’s toys or presents. The Lions Club stepped in to help with Toys for Tots, taking used toys and new ones, putting them together to make a child’s Christmas a little brighter.
In 1995, we began the “Angel Tree”. Names and needs of area children are collected and given to Suntrust Bank and other sponsors. Their employees record the names taken and also check the names as the gifts are returned to make sure every child is accounted for. Also, Lake City schools help with getting presents for children from companies, businesses, etc.
A FEW DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE REAL WORK BEGINS!
The Masonic Lodge in Rocky Top donates the use of the building and the boxes and food are brought in. The committee and all the volunteers meet there, assembling the boxes and filling them with flour, sugar, potatoes, canned food, canned ham, fruit and more.
The Angel Tree gifts are picked up from the banks and schools and taken to the community center, where they are sorted and prepared for pick up. The Lake City Men’s Club (formerly Lake City Lions Club) donates money for toys to go along with the gifts for all the children.
On Christmas Eve (9:00 am – 11:00 am), food baskets are handed out at the Masonic Lodge, while presents and toys are handed out at the Community Center.
We see many happy faces. Faces we know would not have had Christmas, if not for all the good people who come together to make this happen. Many have cried because they were so grateful. Having lost a job or facing a circumstance beyond their control, left them without. At the end of the day, we know we have made a difference in the life of a family, which is what Christmas is all about.”
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!
If you have other ideas or projects that need help, please feel free to email me and I’ll add them to the next #SimplyLocal post.