March 19, 2016 -Danny Hale HALO Realty, Nashville-Hendersonville
honky-tonk: A cheap night club; As a type of music played in that low saloon.
Stories of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are conversations that for those of us who grew up in Nashville and still live here have on a regular basis.
We talk about the old times and what it was like before Nashville became the “It City”. For those who are not part of that conversation, the stories go something like this: I remember when the Grand Ole Opry was still at the Ryman and you could walk right up and get a ticket. I remember when we would see country music stars around town and nobody would bother them. We remember when some of the legends of country music still played in the honky-tonks from time to time and we recall Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop on lower Broad. I remember seeing them at one of the honky-tonks before anyone knew who they were.
We talk about having been able to get anywhere in downtown in 30 minutes or less, even if it was rush hour and how the truck drivers would all move to the right lane to keep from slowing down traffic. We remember the old airport on Briley Parkway and how proud the business leaders were when the new airport added “International” to its banner. We remember the industrial park on the East Bank where the Tennessee Titans now play. We admire the tradition of a highway full of cars pulling over when a funeral procession passed in order to show respect for people we never knew.
We talk about how great it was to grow up in Nashville and how we wish that we had understood just how special those old honky-tonks were.
We reminisce of a somewhat bygone era.
When we talk about today, we speak of the Titans, the Predators, the Gulch, Germantown, the renewal of East Nashville and the new economy across the mid-state. We make note of the vibrant tourist business, the new hotels and condos, the auto and health care industries, the growing population and that we have become a multi-cultural city. We wonder where the nearly 100 people a day that are moving here are coming from and how downtown is still alive at midnight. We talk of the vibrant real estate market and how it looks like there is no end in sight. We are excited about the great restaurants and how trying to eat at all of them is the new hobby for many. We talk about how great it is to be in Nashville.
As we look to the future, we all know that change is the one certainty we face. We know that if the projections are correct, we will have over 1,000,000 new neighbors within the next 20 years. Nashville is going to be different and, we wonder, just how different.
As a child, I spent my summers in the mountains of East Tennessee. It seemed like a rite of passage to jump in the cold water that filled the creeks that ran down from the top of the mountains as the melting snow made its way to the valleys below. And oh how cold it was! We would drive to the top of the mountain and pass perhaps a dozen cars going and coming. At the base of mountain, you had to pass through a small town called Gatlinburg. If you have never visited, it is at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and resembles a traditional 1700’s European village. The Great Smoky Mountains became the most visited National Park in the United States.
When I last visited Gatlinburg, I realized that this was no longer the town that I remembered from my childhood. Today, the cars are bumper to bumper on main street as well as up and down the mountain. While many of the buildings in Gatlinburg are still there, tattoo shops, souvenir shops, and chain restaurants have replaced the Appalachian craftsmen who would blow glass or carve wood sculptures right in front of you. The very characteristics that made it so special were destined to change it forever. While it is still enjoyable to visit, it is not the same.
I am sure this same scenario has played out in dozens of cities and towns across the country. I also know that Nashville, as a city, is either growing and changing or it is dying.
As Nashville grows, we will continue to welcome new-comers and visitors to our great city, as is our custom. However, it is my hope that we will not lose that certain panache and characteristics that transformed Nashville into Music City, USA.
I hope that in the future, we can still interact with the country music singers, the songwriters, and the musicians. I hope that we will still run into someone we know when we are out to dinner. I hope that the flavor of the locals still shows through the new and shiny Nashville. I hope we can still hear a southern drawl from time to time. I hope that what made us a great city will continue to survive the challenges that come along with the new-found spotlight.
A honky-tonk does not have a sign out front declaring it a Honky-Tonk. If you have to advertise that this is a Honky-Tonk, then it probably isn’t. We need to preserve not only the historical buildings in Nashville but we need to try to preserve at least some of the local culture too.
I hope the honky-tonks will remain as they are and do not become Honky-Tonks with a big sign out front.