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Road to Rocky Top

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Woman reflects on town’s roots on verge of another name change

By Dwane Wilder

LAKE CITY—Marjorie Adkins enjoys sitting on the front porch of her modest Summitt Lane home and watching the traffic pass by on nearby Interstate 75.

Adkins, who will turn 87 in December, has lived most of her life in the house her father, H.M. White, and one of his friends built in 1950. During the past eight decades, she has witnessed many changes in Lake City, including the construction of the interstate.

As a young girl growing up on the mountain in the mining community of Briceville, she remembers moving with her family to the bustling town of Coal Creek 4 miles away.

In the years following the completion of Norris Dam, she remembers when the town was reborn as Lake City in the late 1930s.

And she expects to witness yet another major transition today (Thursday) when Lake City’s council convenes at 5 p.m. to vote on changing the town’s name to Rocky Top. A capacity crowd is expected for the historic vote at the Lake City Middle School auditorium.

“At first, I didn’t want them to change it,” Adkins said. “I wanted it to stay Lake City. But, it’s OK now. I have just resigned myself that it’s going to happen. I just hope it’s for the best.”

Adkins was 10 when her father took a job at the Red Ash mine in Caryville and moved the family to Coal Creek two years before the name was changed to Lake City. Her two older sisters were among the last to graduate from Coal Creek High School. She graduated from Lake City High School in 1945.

“At that age, (changing the name) wasn’t that important to us,” Adkins said. “It was just a change, and life goes on. I can remember when Norris Dam was built and (President Franklin Delano) Roosevelt came to town. My older sisters were in high school at the time, and they got to see the president.”

Although Lake City was named for nearby Norris Lake, Adkins said she had heard a rumor over the years that the girlfriend of Tennessee Sen. Robert Lindsay prompted him to sponsor legislation to change the name of his hometown because she thought Lake City sounded more sophisticated than Coal Creek.

Now, Adkins is preparing to change part of her address if the town council decides in favor of the Rocky Top moniker. She was told her house number and ZIP code will stay the same.

Adkins, who worked at Knight’s Florist in Lake City for 20 years and 13 years for the public library before retiring at the age of 80, said change might be for the best after the decline she has seen in her town over the past several years.

“We only have one bank, we only have one hardware store, we only have one funeral home downtown, and we only have one furniture store,” she said. “I hope that whoever is coming in to build these things can help our community grow. That’s what I’m hoping for.”