Going Home was a family affair
Article Author: by Dorothy Foster
Caney Creek documentary makes impact
by Dorothy Foster
When Will Moore decided to make a documentary on Caney Creek, the remote Polk County village The Tennessee Power Company established for its employees in 1912, it made quite an impact, with the news even landing on the front page of a Chattanooga newspaper. “I received almost 200 calls from that article,” Will said, “including one from Texas.”
That caller was Grammy winning musician Jules Alexander of The Association (famed for such songs as Windy and Along Comes Mary), who saw the article on the internet. His father had lived in Caney Creek. News of the documentary also reached some of the former residents of Caney Creek themselves. When Will went to interview one, she remarked, “I’m so glad about all the newfound popularity of Caney Creek. Did you know someone’s making a documentary about this, too?” Will explained that he was the filmmaker and they had a good laugh.
The whole idea for the documentary developed several years previously. Will’s mother, Debbie, along with her husband Ron, has a radio show on WOOP 99.9 called Old Time Cleveland. Debbie was interviewing John “Doc” German for the show.
“We were talking about his racing days,” Debbie said, “and Doc kept referring to Caney Creek, this totally unique place with a swinging bridge as the gate to the outside world, the electricity and indoor plumbing that was unprecedented for a remote mountain outpost, his exploits riding his bike through the river. It was even featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the only town without automobiles. I thought, somebody ought to do a story on this!”
The idea snowballed when Will, a media technology student at Chattanooga State, recorded a short interview with Doc for an internship. From there, the whole family got involved as they forged ahead with making the documentary. They even received a grant from the Bradley County Genealogical Society to help fund the equipment. “After that, there was no turning back,” Debbie said.
But the task proved daunting, to say the least. There were interviews and hundreds of photos and editing and narration that needed to be done.
Debbie commented, “I didn’t know who would do the narration and Ron told me I would because I sound like the mountains, and I said back to him, ‘thank you?’”
Some of the work was tedious. “We literally made dates on Tuesday and Thursday nights to work on the film,” laughed Debbie, while Ron added, “I thought I could learn editing. I’d worked in the cable TV business. How hard could it be? But it got so hard, I’d say, ‘I ain’t doing it no more.’ Then I’d turn the equipment off and just sit there until I decided to do it again.”
That perseverance, along with the stories of the former residents, kept them going - working on the film from June 2012 until this past January. They knew they had to get it recorded sooner rather than later.
“I’ve got a story to tell, and I don’t have long to live,” Margaret Poe Trotter (pictured at left) of Blue Ridge, GA told them. She died twenty days after the interview. Besides her and Doc German of Cleveland, other former residents interviewed were Anna Ruth Lillard of Benton, Troye Moore Linginfelter of Alcoa, and Marilyn Lowe Kirkland and Geraldine Lowe King of Cleveland. The Moore’s friend John Cook recorded original music for the film. John Disney helped as sound assistant.
“These people got to tell their stories,” said Debbie. “ But we didn’t know what the reaction would be.” It proved to be phenomenal. When they showed the documentary at Walker Valley High School in March, around 600 people showed up. All the books and DVDS about the documentary sold out that day and they had to reorder. The East Tennessee Historical Society has also honored them with the Award of Distinction for the documentary, which is available at the Polk County News.
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