Town Missing An 'Other Side'

"Dear Early Show," read the letter from Rick Gabriel. "I live in a small Tennessee town called Mount Carmel."

That letter was deemed a winner, and Dave Price as The Early Show continued its "Tour My Town" series.

"It's the kind of place," Gabriel's letter continued, "where you can still leave the house unlocked and get the local gossip at the one-chair barber shop."

Barber D.K. Crawford agreed, telling Price, "Mount Carmel's one of these towns where it's a good place to raise kids."

"Most people know each other," local businessman Skip Smith says, "or they know somebody who knows that person that you don't know."

"There's not a lot that goes on here, and we like it. We like that," Mayor Gary Lawson observes.

Price says Lawson loves his town so much, he runs it for pretty much nothing — $50 a month, and he only gets that if he attends the aldermen meeting.

"Yep," Price says, "this place isn't like any other. But the main reason we came here? This is a town built entirely on one side of a road."

"Mount Carmel is just a nice American small town, all on one side of the road," says Smith, the businessman.

"Somewhere along the line, we never developed," says Crawford, the barber. "I mean, we're all on one side of the road!"

"It's all on one side of the road," Gabriel, the letter-writer, chimed in.

"So you know the riddle, why didn't the people cross the road?" Price asks. "Well, in Mt. Carmel's case, some of them did. They're just not doing a lot right now. You see, after 1966, when they expanded the main highway running past the city, it left all of the living townspeople on one side."

A cemetery was on the other.

"During World War II," Mayor Lawson explained, "they built a huge Army ammunition plant on the other side of the road. And they actually confiscated all that land, or the government took it."

Because the government stills owns and leases the land on the other side, Price says, it's off-limits to Mount Carmel.

But the mayor is working to get some of it back.

"I annexed the graveyard. Before that, it wasn't inside the city limits of Mount Carmel."

  • Brian Dakss

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