Town of Smyrna launches living history video series

Posted at 2:00 AM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 10:30:36-05

SMYRNA, Tenn. (WTVF) — In an effort to preserve the history of the town of Smyrna, Tennessee, before its significant growth, long-time residents set out to tell their town's story through an eight-part video series with the latest episode releasing Friday morning.

"A lot of people move out here from Nashville and other places to get away from traffic and taxes and everything. They live here. They work in Nashville, and they come home and they don't know what this town is about, or has been about. And I think when they do, they just get a better feel. And hopefully, a more at-home feeling," said 61+ year Smyrna resident Patsy Brown, who contributed stories and historical background to the project.

She and dozens of other residents spent months speaking to long-time Smyrna residents about their experience in the town they love.

"I just want people to be proud of where we've come how far we've come," explained 56+ year Smyrna resident Marion Appleton. "There are still some towns it's not as far advanced as we are. So unless you know where we came from, you don't know how far we've come. So that's why... being one of the oldest citizens of Smyrna, I like to tell my story."

The series focused on landmarks throughout the town drawing on the resident's experiences who watching those areas transform as the town grew.

"We did downtown Smyrna, about three or four segments on that. We had one on education. We had one, a small community but outside of Smyrna was called Ole Jefferson. And we did one on Hilltop-what we call the Hilltop area. And we did one on a Smyrna airport," explained life-long Smyrna resident Kenneth "Coon" Victory, who led the video series project.

Smyrna long-time residents [from left to right] Marion Appleton, Kenneth 'Coon' Victory, Donny Holland and Patsy Brown meet to discuss their 8-episode video series about the history of Smyrna in February 2022.

Appleton shared much of her experience about how much change happened for Black residents during her 80 years forcing her to move to another town before she returned.

"When I look at the schools, and the things that I went through with my kids enrolling in school, now see parents just go in and enroll their kids and come on out. But when I went, they grabbed the kids, they were scared like we were animals or something to that effect. You don't see that today," recounted Appleton. "People don't know that one time Smyrna was like that. I tried to buy a house in Smyrna and was refused it... So when I see them, Blacks live all over town, I'm proud of that."

The video series participants reminisced on how much the town went through during their life thus far.

"Everybody thought Smyrna would be a ghost town when the Air Force left. But then the politicians of the city, people of—city fathers had thought things, you know, saw what was coming. And they got the wheels in motion to bring Nissan here. Nissan, then come all these satellite companies, so job opportunities for people that they wouldn't have had otherwise," explained Brown.

That progress changed the town.

"Everywhere you go by where I used to bird hunt and rabbit hunt is all subdivisions now," said Donny Holland, another life-long Smyrna resident.

"Back in the day you knew everybody and like say, ‘Donnie and get home your mom be worried about you,'" recounted Holland. "The police and all them —everybody in town were well, they knew everybody! And now you're lucky if one out of 1000 people you go in the grocery store now you might say one person that you grew up with."

"It all just melds together, you know, to form the community," said Brown about each person's story of Smyrna. "And so I just think it's so important that we record these people. We've lost so many that in the last two years that were older age, COVID, whatever, that were vital to Smyrna and knew so much. And when those people are gone, you lose that connection to the past."

In an effort to preserve the history of the town of Smyrna, Tennessee, before its significant growth, long-time residents set out to tell their town's story through an eight-part video series.

The following are ways to watch the eight episodes of the History of Smyrna series as they release monthly:

  • Smyrna’s YouTube Channel
  • Smyrna TV on Comcast Channel 3, U-Verse Channel 99, airing at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily
  • Smyrna TV through the Cablecast Screenweave App on Roku or AppleTV
  • Streaming from the town’s website

To read more of Smyrna's history, click here.

Series organizer Victory said he hopes other towns take the time to preserve their history too.

"I think that it would be very important for them, just like it was important to us to pass on to their ancestors, or grandkids, about the way that it used to be and the way it is today, and possibly the way it's gonna be in the future," he said.

Smyrna, Tennessee, sits about 30 minutes Southeast of downtown Nashville.