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Beginning My Jonesborough Commission January 27, 2010

Posted by jayocallahan in Jonesborough.

Downtown Jonesborough

I began the New Year in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It was fourteen degrees one morning, the snow was falling lightly and yet the main street was quite beautiful. The town of Jonesborough, home of the International Storytelling Center, has commissioned me to create a story about Jonesborough. The moon was full the night I arrived and Dr. Bill Kennedy, my host, said it was a blue moon. Evidently a blue moon is a term that refers to a moon that’s full twice in a month.

Jimmy Neil Smith, Director International Storytelling Center

Bill and Virginia Kennedy have long been friends. Bill Kennedy has been chairman of the Historic Zoning Commission for about a quarter of a century and he’s played a crucial role in preserving the beauty of the town.

There’s a mystery about Jonesborough. Limestone, Tennessee is just down the road from Jonesborough and that’s the birthplace of Davy Crockett. In the 1940s and 50s the main street of Limestone was busy. You could go to the grocery store or hardware store the gas stations and the beauty parlor, but now it’s silent. It’s dead.


The main street in Jonesborough was dying in the late 1950s and 60s. No longer could you get a slice of Pearl Jackson’s pie at Rush’s Restaurant. No longer was Fred Chase cutting hair in the barbershop. Shops along the main street were closing and in some of the empty brick buildings there was more water inside than out. Jonesborough rebounded. It’s flourishing and continues to grow. It’s a mystery story in reverse; instead of who killed somebody I want to know how the town came roaring back to life.



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