Author: Mike Aday

  1. Can you hear me now? Telephones in the Smokies

    Can you hear me now? Telephones in the Smokies

    If you’ve ever tried to make a call from your cell phone in the Smokies, you know how nearly impossible it can be. If you don’t have the right service provider or if you’re not standing in exactly the right magical spot, you can’t get a signal for love or money. What if I told you that in the 1890s, if you were in Cades Cove at least, you could have made a phone call as simply as picking up a telephone receiver and turning a hand crank?

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  2. The Road that Led Around the World

    Newfound Gap Road

    By Mike Aday

    What do Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ethiopia, Panama and Alaska have in common? They can all boast major roads built by one man, Knoxville native John L. Humbard. Well, technically, a lot of men were involved, but Humbard supervised them all.

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  3. The Civilian Conservation Corps Art Program in the Smokies

    Many visitors to the Smokies are familiar with the Civilian Conservation Corps. This Depression-era government program was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s most popular and successful relief programs. Millions of young men were fed, clothed and housed, and in return, they planted more than 3 billion trees, worked on soil conservation projects in the western United States, and helped construct hiking trails and other infrastructure in state and national parks. Their toil helped shape the modern state and national park system we enjoy today. The Smokies are no exception.

    To find evidence of CCC handiwork, visitors today need to look no further than the park headquarters building in Gatlinburg, numerous features along Highway 441, including various bridges, tunnels and the Rockefeller Memorial, not to mention the hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the park.

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  4. The most important Smokies author you’ve probably never heard of

    Mary Noailles Murfree

    You may be familiar with Ron Rash, the author of the novels Serena and The Risen, as well as Charles Frazier who wrote Cold Mountain. But have you heard of Mary Noailles Murfree? How about Charles Egbert Craddock? The last was a trick question since Charles Egbert Craddock was actually the pseudonym used by Murfreesboro, Tennessee native Mary Noailles Murfree (1850-1922).

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  5. Presidential Pets & the Great Smoky Mountains

    Presidential Pets

    The White House has been home to more pets than people over its long history. First Pets have ranged from the commonplace, like Bo, President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, to the Scottish terriers, English springer spaniel, and cat that President George W. Bush. Others have included the bizarre and downright dangerous, such as the zebra kept by Theodore Roosevelt and the alligator, a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, that John Quincy Adams kept in a White House bathroom.

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  6. A swinging railroad bridge in Elkmont? I had no idea!

    Anyone who has spent time in the Great Smoky Mountains can appreciate the rugged beauty of this Southern Appalachian range. Steep mountainsides, craggy gorges and boulder-strewn waterways are part and parcel of the landscape.

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  7. Country store ledgers provide an intimate look at lives from the past

    Deborah McGee Ledger

    Long before the rise and decline of Piggly Wiggly and the A&P, before electronic cash registers and barcode scanners, and before the cash and carry business model, the country store was where people in Southern Appalachia bought their dry goods and sundries. Customers brought in their “greenbacks” (if they had them) and traded with the proprietor for needed items.

    If they didn’t have ready cash, they were often given credit and allowed to take what they needed. At some date in the future, the customer would pay off the debt with currency or goods the proprietor could sell to other customers: eggs, butter, bacon, mutton, firewood or whiskey. These transactions were usually recorded in the store keeper’s ledger book. Sometimes arranged by name, the entries recorded the date of the transaction, items purchased and their cost, and whether the payment was received in cash, credit or kind. Not only did the store ledger serve as the store keeper’s accounting system, but surviving volumes also provide a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of ordinary people.

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  8. Food, Family, and Community: Celebrating Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains

    Celebrating Christmas in the Great Smoky Mountains

    With the Christmas holiday approaching, I thought it only fitting to delve into the history of Christmas celebrations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Rather than consult our traditional archival collections, I decided to plumb the depths of the parks extensive oral history collection to learn how these mountain folk celebrated Christmas in the decades immediately before the establishment of the park. While some of these reminiscences reminded me of stories I’d heard growing up in Texas, others were certainly unique to Southern Appalachia, and some even prompted me to say “I had no idea.”

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  9. Where People Loved and Cared

    Great Smoky Mountains of Southern Appalachia Cemetery

    Life in the Great Smoky Mountains of Southern Appalachia was never easy. Before the establishment of the park, many families lived a hard scrabble existence, working close to the land to make a life. In times of plenty and in times of want the specter of death was ever present. Disease and accident claimed the lives of mountaineers regularly. Limited medical knowledge and access to doctors resulted in stillborn babies or mother and child perishing during childbirth. While these losses were devastating for the families, the communities where these families lived suffered as well. In communal suffering, families, friends, and neighbors came together in order to help and heal.

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