The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report







Community spirit worth preserving

by Alexandra Edwards

Living in rural Bradley County has many great advantages. Not only is there breathtakingly beautiful views of the mountains and countryside, there is  peace and tranquillity, privacy, seclusion and all the glorious sights and sounds that nature has to offer.  Country life creates a sense of laid-back freedom that is often not experienced in urban environments. The "quiet life" is what motivates thousands of city folk to give up the luxury of urban services and amenities and head for the country. Lifelong county residents usually welcome their new city neighbors as best they can, with the understanding that they have just as much right to experience and share the pleasures of God's bounty.  Adapting to country life though is not as simple as just enjoying the rooster crow, it is  necessary to understand that county folk have different customs and ways of doing business to those in the city.  Many of our lifelong county residents remember the time when everyone knew the names of every family in their community. Small country communities were once like one big family, where families and small businesses supported each other, helping out in times of need. There was a built-in trust between the residents of these communities. When trading and doing business it was enough to honor a man's word  rather than go through costly legal formalities. The bond ran deep

Alexandra Edwards

and is still prevalent today. It is sometimes difficult for an outsider to fully comprehend and respect the rural ethic, with today's need for stricter regulations and tighter security and sadly, this kind of community trust may become a relic of the past.

Bradley county is fortunate to have retained many examples of old fashioned community spirit. The Taylor community located in the north east of Bradley County just off Waterlevel Highway is one of these.

Known locally as 'Taylors," this

Taylor's 1894.
The picture of Taylor's School was made in the fall of 1984. This school, located seven miles east of Cleveland on Bates Pike, is still an important unit in the county school system.
Front row from the left, Alvin Taylor, Isaac Kinser, Spurgeon Parsons, Edd Swartz, Bill Osment, T.C. (Cook) Thompson, Theron Horton, Charlie Randolph, Frand Stevens, Judge Lawson and Ben Watson.
Second row. Lizzie Link, Katie Leach, Georgia Leach, Rosa Randolph, Miss Lela Taylor, teacher, Essie Leach, Alice White, Stevens, Cordia Link, Ethel Lawson, Bertha Kimsey, Florence Lawson and Lillie Kinser.
Third Row, Luther Wright, Charley Gray, Arlie Taylor, Walter Thompson, Minnie White, Phoebe Gray, Elsie Randolph,  Docia Lawson, Edna Osment, Liza Link, Luther Randolph, Ben Lawson, Alvin Lacewell, Jackson Osment, Howard Lacewell, Ada Parsons, 
Back row,  Ora Horton, Nannie Taylor, Cordia Wright, Delsie Kimsey, Maude Kinser, Fannie Webb, Stevens, Daisy Randolph, Carrie Randolph and Dec Kinser

usually quiet part of the county has exhibited an unusually united community spirit several times in the past few years. Almost the entire community congregated at Taylor School to object to a landfill being planned for the area. A few years later they were back again in numbers to reject the proposal of a new Cleveland airport located on the nearby Finnell property. Many concerned citizens also turned out to a town meeting to express disapproval of state plans to make wasteful  road improvements to Waterlevel Highway.

More recently, the community came together for another cause dear to their hearts.  Paul Elrod, member of the Taylor Community Improvement Club, addressed the Bradley County Board of Education on behalf of community residents to try to preserve a local tradition. At stake was a 33 year old "joint venture agreement" between the Bradley Board of Education and Taylor Community Improvement Club, over the use of a gymnasium/ recreational

building at Taylor Elementary School.

The original agreement signed on October 19, 1971 by the superintendent of schools, the late William Walker, stated that the said parties agreed to a 50/50 share in the cost of construction of a recreational building on Taylor School property with the Board of Education paying no more than $11,000 of the total cost.  The agreement gave the Taylor Community Improvement Club the right of access to the facility when not in use for school functions. In the event of the Taylor school property being sold, the

Note burned - Taylors Community Improvement Club board of director members: Neil Parks, Jimmie Haney, James Williams and president Paul Elrod Jr. watched the note go up in flames after paying off the loan of $7,500 for the construction of the Taylor School gymnasium. Photo Nov 17, 1973

recreational building and access to it shall be retained by the Taylor Community Improvement Club. Elrod said this was an example "where the Board of Education and some caring and progressive minded community leaders had the courage to step-out-of-the-box in the spirit of commitment, cooperation, and trust, to enhance and expand physical education, recreational and social

opportunities for the children of Taylor School, and provide a facility in which to promote and foster better citizenship among the youth and adults of Taylor community through recreational and social activities."

Elrod said that up until recently, the agreement had been honored and the club had been using the gym for community functions, but a  few months ago locks were changed on the doors and he was informed that the agreement had been changed to require that the use of the gymnasium be coordinated by school

administration.  The change in policy was the decision of Taylor School's new principal Charlene Coffer, with the full support of Director of Schools Bob Taylor and the majority of the Bradley County School Board members.  Elrod explained that the Taylor Community Improvement Club may still have access to the gym but not without prior permission of Ms. Coffer, even though the original agreement had served the school well  for over 30 years.

The sentiment of  Taylor community residents is that  the agreement should

continue to be honored in the same spirit and goodwill that has always existed.
Looking back at the history of the Taylor community, the first school was built  in the 1800's. It was a one room structure fondly referred to as the "sheephouse" because sheep were allowed to roam in and around the building at night. The land for this first school was donated by the Taylor family in 1884. Over the years, as the community grew, so did the school.  Taylor Community Improvement Club, chartered in 1970, currently has twenty members and was originally organized to meet the needs of the growing  community. They raised money through local fund raisers and solicited donations from local businesses to help build a much needed gymnasium for Taylor School. The club initially secured a bank loan to pay for their share of construction costs and the gymnasium was completed in April 1972. The occasion was an important local event that was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony performed by Judge Nelcom Jackson. Amazingly, reflecting true community spirit, donations, auctions and various fund raisers including a "pie supper" where one pie sold for $300,  the note was paid off  in just two years. The event was celebrated by a "note burning ceremony."

Because of new Homeland Security regulations, the Bradley County School system have a heightened obligation to rigorously protect school property, so the new change in policy at Taylor could be considered prudent, but in the rush for better security maybe the people it is meant to protect are being forgotten. It is sad that close knit communities in Bradley county  are having to readjust to the urban way of doing things. Let's hope our elected leaders recognize the advantage of  promoting civic support and involvement for the common good, especially in rural communities like Taylor.