Well, now that I've spent just about a week here in Maryville I can offer my first-glimpse perspective on things I like and dislike about the area. I'll start with the dislikes. Fortunately, none of them have been "surprises." In fact, all of them have been thoroughly discussed right here on Knoxviews many times. They are:

1) Politics. The place is just too Republican. We all know that and folks here on Knoxviews and elsewhere are trying to change that, bit by bit. But there are some important caveats that I've discovered. First, liberals and Democrats aren't scared to speak up here. There's a dude with a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker on his Camaro just four houses down. And two blocks away, next to a car with a W sticker on it (the only one I've seen here this week except for one in front of Home Depot in Alcoa) is a guy with a huge Peace on Earth bumper sticker. Based on anecdotal evidence, the place is no more Republican than south central Michigan where I used to live. Oh, and Knoxviews is probably the highest profile East Tennessee political blog, and it ain't exactly reactionary:)

2) Religion. There are an unbelievable number of churches down here, most of them deeply conservative denominations (Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal). But again, there's a caveat. Some of the biggest churches here are theologically moderate or liberal, including the Methodist, Presbyterian and even First Baptist, which is a Cooperative Baptist Church (Jimmy Carter's creation) that broke away from the SBC in the 1990s. People speak often about church here, but I've found their motives to be much less conservative than I had originally imagined.

3) Maryville Rebels. The school system is a point of pride for folks here, and justifiably so. That Maryville High School can excel both academically and athletically is something that everybody should celebrate. Unfortunately, the team is stuck with a name that divides the community in half. I've found many people here hate the name precisely because it is so divisive; here again I thought support for the team name would be more widespread but it seems mostly to get support from a minority. Everybody from the school board to the football coach to the school administration despises all the Confederate flag crap surrounding the school. Why don't they just change the name? It'll cause a big stir but so what? In two or three years it will all be history.

1) The people: I've never encountered more friendly, hospitable, helpful, empathetic people in my entire life than the people here in Maryville. This goes for people from all walks of life, from neighbors to store workers, to teachers to just general strangers.

2) The scenery: Stunningly beautiful. I drove the Cherohala Skyway today and was in heaven the whole time. The Smokies are a treasure, of course, but the surrounding forests are just as good and a quarter as crowded.

3) Schools: Flip-side to the "Rebels" issue, Maryville city schools seem to be as good as advertised. The pedagogy at Fort Craig Elementary is the most progressive I've ever seen in any part of the country. That it's free is just amazing.

4) Maryville College: The college is what drew me here in the first place, of course, and I've found that it garners a lot of respect in the community. There seems to be very little town-gown trouble. Quite the opposite, it seems.

5) Music: This morning I got into my car and turned on my radio and heard John Prine, Gillian Welch, Neko Case and Junior Brown in succession. Yes, I'm already a WDVX junkie. The live music scene is just as impressive, and in Maryville it's getting better with the Shed, Brackin's, the future Civic Arts Center, and the Palace.

6) The vibe: It's hard to nail this intangible thing but I just get a very good feeling being here. The things I dislike have already faded into the background and the things I like are front and center all the time. If anything, this area is too good and will become inundated by people moving in from Florida, the Midwest and the Northeast. It reminds me of northern Virginia in the mid-1980s in a way, just before the population exploded. I might be just a bit too up on the place what with all the problems we discuss here on a daily basis. But at the end of the day, Maryville and East Tennessee in general is one of the nicest places you can live.

Carole Borges's picture

A very fair and balanced view Elrod...

As a transplant myself I've had some of the same thoughts and impressions. The art, literary, and music scene here has really impressed me. So much of it is innovative and individualistic compared to other places. Even my NY friends enjoy tripping through all our galleries here. And WDVX is the bomb.

You're right too about the inevitable future migration. It is bound to happen. I've lived through that in Key West and in Nantasket Beach on Boston's South Shore, small towns that at one time were just local places with a few misfits, but are now the epicenter of million dollar homes.

I guess all we can do is be glad that we came before the wave hits the shore. I love Knoxville like it is now. As a visiting friend recently murmured, "Knoxville is so...well...real. It still has working class people and neighborhoods that feel like neighborhoods."

I took that as a compliment.

Rachel's picture

Knoxviews is probably the

Knoxviews is probably the highest profile East Tennessee political blog

Hear that, R. Neal - you're bigger than Instapundit!

Elrod's picture

Instapundit is a joke

Instapundit used to be very influential because Glenn Reynolds was a pioneer in the blogging world. But now he's just a linkathon, offering very little in the way of his own commentary. If I want a though-provoking conservative TN blogger I'll read David Oatney or Terry Frank or AC Kleinheider, but not Instapundit. What makes Knoxviews so high-profile is its Kos-like "blogger community" where anybody can get front page access as long as they don't act like that Number 9 dude.

Wayne's picture


I'm glad you like it. We like it to. What we hate are people telling us how they did things where they came from and how much better it was. If it was so great why did they leave? Also, maybe all the churches have something to do with all the nice people.

Elrod's picture


You may be right about the churches. But I think it's more that churches have always been the center of social life for rural people, North and South. I don't think it's the churches or Christianity that makes people friendly - though it can certainly help. I've found folks here who I know to be either non-religious or non-Christian who are just as friendly as those who are devoutly Christian. It's more of an overall ethic of hospitality that has its roots either in the South, Appalachia or rural America. Whatever its origins, I like it.

I agree on complaining about things being better elsewhere. Some people didn't have a choice when they moved. But it's incumbent upon you to find your niche.

Brian A.'s picture


(1) Likes: I like to go bike riding down there (quiet roads, aforementioned scenery).

(2) Dislikes: I dislike the half hour drive from West Knoxville to get there.

Brian A.
I'd rather be cycling.

ultron's picture

"What we hate are people

"What we hate are people telling us how they did things where they came from and how much better it was."

Yep, must be a hard life you've got there, Yankees pounding on your door day and night, telling you how to do things like them and how much better things are up North.

Elrod's picture

I was wantin'

My favorite East Tennesseism so far is the phrase, "I was wantin' to go to the store." It's never "I wanted to go to the store." I've never heard that anywhere else in the South either.

One of my favorite games is to identify non-natives to the area by noticing the incredible disappearing Southern accent after they talk to me for a minute or two. Of course, that'll be me soon enough.

Wayne's picture

A hard life

Ultron? I am blessed to live in God's country where I can open a door for a lady and say god bless you to a stranger without wondering if I have offended someone. I like our lack of a state income tax no matter how many yankees get on the radio and decry how we must have one or we will implode. For those that view this area or our country as horrible: There are cars, trains, buses and planes leaving to places all over the world just waiting to provide you with the bliss you could not find here.

Elrod's picture

Love it or leave it?

That's a pretty ignorant thing to say, don't you think? People who have problems with this country have to leave it? You mean we're perfect and we should never try to improve ourselves? I suppose all those folks who think abortion should be outlawed should move to a country where abortion is outlawed, right? I suppose all those people who want prayer in school should just move to Saudi Arabia or Iran where religion and state go quite well together, right?

As for the income tax, the last prominent Tennessean to push for it was Don Sundquist. He was no Yankee. Phil Bredesen, on the other hand, IS a real Yankee and has not pushed for an income tax. His cigarette tax proposal is, by all accounts, minor. Republicans only want it to be less than 40 cents or offset by a cut in the grocery tax (a progressive position, actually).

Tennessee is a beautiful place with wonderful people. But like every other state, it has real problems and real challenges. Pointing them out doesn't mean you think the place is horrible. Quite the contrary.

Bbeanster's picture

Elrod, as you have already

Elrod, as you have already figured out, Wayne is here to pick fights. Not much else.

R. Neal's picture

And speaking of income tax,

And speaking of income tax, some of us do pay an income tax. Look in to the Hall Tax.

D Mac's picture

Talk like an East Tennessian

Being from Texas, but the child of a displaced New York City jew, I love listening to accents. What I have learned here is that the emphasis is usually placed on the first syllable. Tennessee, for example, is TENN-essee. That is how you can tell a true native.

Elrod's picture

Except the-ATRE

The first syllable accent rule falls apart on the word thee-ATRE.

redmondkr's picture

You Got Me

I sat here in front of the monitor saying, "Tennessee, Tennessee". Yep, you're right. I was born and raised in Knox County.

I heard a great one on NPR the other day, a Brit talking about persimmons, accent on the "per". My relatives always called them "simmons" or "pasimmons", accent on the "sim".

In my youth we had a serviceberry tree in the woods behind the house. Until I was an adult I heard their wonderful fruit called "sarvices". My great grandmother in Cocke County referred to Sunday church services as "sarvices".

Welcome home, Elrod. Take your shoes off and have some sweet tea, the house wine of the South.

Check out The Heartland Series on Channel 10 from time to time to get a bit more of our quirky history.

Come See Us at

The Hill Online

R. Neal's picture

Yes, great writeup Elrod.

Yes, great writeup Elrod. Welcome to East Tennessee! The Chamber of Commerce says your check is in the mail.

Factchecker's picture

East Tennessee's Own

Thanks for the good report, Elrod. For everyone who loves WDVX radio, don't forget to send 'em a little cash every now and again. They can't survive without it. The Blue Plate, 'DVX's free live music show, is the best thing about downtown around lunch time each weekday. And WDVX helps draw artists who play other concert venues in the area, such as The Palace, The Laurel, the Bijou, etc.

Also, maybe all the churches have something to do with all the nice people.

Not one damn thing. IMHO.

jbarker's picture

murville, blount county & etn

alright then, we will get rid of the religion, the rebel, and the politics...but then we would soon be just like nova...but then u would have to go off and find some other place to shit up, but then...etc., etc., ad infinitim, ad nauseum. oh my aching head.

Elrod's picture

Not exactly

Nova was Republican until very recently. There's more Confederate place names in Nova than anywhere in East Tennessee, including the Fairfax (HS) Rebels. And there are plenty of churches up there. The difference is that Nova is now 2 million strong by itself and it draws virtually nothing from its local past. Nova is Nova not because it doesn't solute the Confederate Republican Jesus. Nova is Nova because it's gigantic and clogged up.

S Carpenter's picture

my 02

Fact is Blount County people can't lay any claim to the beauty of the place. Dr's and lawyers made up the Maryville system to perpetuate elites and the once strong, now dying agrarian communities explains most of the rest.

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