I always say that I’m from Nashville, home of the Titans, country music, Al Gore, and big hair. There’s a lot to write about when you’re from Nashville. However, I’m actually from a small satellite community called Smyrna, where column material is pretty thin.
The first problem is that no one can pronounce it. People always stumble over the name when reading it. “Smear-na?” They ask. “No, S-M-Y-R-N-A, Smur-na.” “It’s a town in the Bible,” I explain, hoping they have heard of the Bible. “Oh, I thought it was in Georgia,” they usually reply. I give up.
Smyrna is one of those small communities that people drive through as fast as possible on the way to someplace else. For a long time, this rush enabled Smyrna to become known far and wide for the radar speed traps that enriched the local economy. But the Interstate by-passed Smyrna and local cops were not allowed to trap cars on the Interstate, or so the story goes. So, the speed trap image sort of fizzled, but you still have to be careful about driving fast in Smyrna – just in case..
Smyrna has other ways of raising revenue now — taxes. Some years ago the Japanese automotive industry took a liking to the area and located a large plant in Smyrna. Strangers moved in and darn near took over the place. The economy boomed and the city and was never quite the same after that. The automobile plant pretty much dominates the city now. What’s good for Nissan USA is what’s good for Smyrna too.
Back in the good old days, Smyrna didn’t allow sinful influences like selling liquor in city limits. But the first thing you know, all those wicked new people voted it in. After that, it wasn’t long until the restaurant industry noticed how conveniently close to the Interstate Smyrna was, and chain restaurants with liquor licenses started springing up like mushrooms.
Grocery stores and banks moved away from the old business district in town to be closer to the Interstate, and other businesses followed. People didn’t have to drive all the way to Nashville to buy hardware or to have their prescription filled any more. Traffic on Sam Ridley Parkway became worse than Nashville during rush hour. And, whatever you do, don’t ever be near the plant when the shifts change unless you like stampedes.
These days, everywhere you look there is a bulldozer digging red clay to make room for new construction. We are looking at a new shopping center, a movie, a strip mall, another big hardware store, and, of course, more restaurants. I don’t know where everyone ate before we had all those restaurants.
But in spite of all the growth, there is still a small-town mentality. The major place to see and be seen, other than our new and improved First Baptist Church, is at the Wal-Mart Super Center. On Saturday, you can hardly find a parking spot.
There are attempts to bring back Smyrna’s old business district, a small area of tired storefronts with no place to park. The railroad tracks run through the center of town, but the trains haven’t stopped in years. They want to turn the old train depot into something, but nobody seems sure of exactly what. There is a new hospital, a YMCA and a Junior College. People like the new image and don’t seem to care much about history, especially history without convenient parking and history that will require more taxes to fund.
I first moved to Smyrna to get out of the city, to find a home with a big lot where we could have a garden. Homes were cheaper outside the city and you could get more for your money in Rutherford County. A lot of other people figured the same way making us one of the fastest growing counties in Tennessee. I might as well have stayed in Nashville.
So, I’m out of the closet now. If anyone asks what part of Nashville I’m from, it’s Smyrna, home of Nissan USA, a new industrial park, a Wal-Mart Super Store, red dirt, and a whole bunch of traffic.
It’s Smyrna, S-M-Y-R-N-A. I know, you’ve never heard of it. I think I’ll just continue to say I’m from Nashville and let it go at that.