published Monday, March 18th, 2013

History on film: Caney Creek Village documentary premieres Sunday

  • photo
    In this 2012 photo, John "Doc" German, center, walks the path to Caney Creek in Polk County where he was born in 1931. The old historic home sites are on TVA land on the banks of the Ocoee River in Polk County.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

IF YOU GO

* What: "Going Home" film on Caney Creek Village

* When: Sunday at 3 p.m.

* Cost: Free

* Where: Walker Valley High School, 750 Lauderdale Memorial Highway, Cleveland, Tenn.

* For more information: www.oldtowncleveland.com

Scattered cement foundations were all that remained of Caney Creek Village until the documentary "Going Home" was created to tell its story.

The village was established in Polk County, Tenn., on the south side of the Ocoee River in 1912 immediately after construction of Ocoee Dam No. 1. It was built to house Tennessee Power Co. employees who would begin working on Dam No. 2.

The houses had indoor plumbing and electricity, which were rare in East Tennessee at the time. The village also had a one-room schoolhouse, a two-story hotel, a tennis court, a train engine, a trolley and concrete sidewalks. Residents could not drive to the village but parked their cars beside U.S. Highway 64 and walked to their homes across a 150-foot suspension bridge.

When the Tennessee Valley Authority took over in 1943, it closed the village and the residents moved into neighboring communities that did not have the same amenities.

John "Doc" German, 82, was born in Caney Creek and is featured in the 47-minute documentary, which took 18 months to finish and will be premiered Sunday at Walker Valley High School.

His was the last family to leave, and the filmmakers said he served as their inspiration.

German said in an interview that his family remained at the village a year and half after everyone else left.

"Living there with just us was peaceful ... sure do wish we could have stayed," he said.

German's father, a switchboard officer at TVA, eventually was told that if his family did not move he would lose his job, so the family relocated to Benton, Tenn.

German said that while being interviewed for the documentary, he was surprised by how much he could remember about former residents as he walked around Caney Creek.

"I go and look around and see who lived where, and it refreshes my mind," he said. "When they interviewed me, I remembered them all."

German said he was eager to help with the documentary as a way of "reliving old times and memories."

Hearing German's stories gave Bradley County resident Debbie Moore the idea for the documentary. She co-hosts a local history radio show, "Old Town Cleveland," and one week she interviewed German about growing up in Caney Creek.

"The phones kept ringing with callers interested in his stories," she said in an interview.

"Going Home" became a Moore family project. Debbie Moore wrote and narrated the film. Her son Will, 21, a student at Chattanooga State Community College, produced and shot the video, and Ron Moore, her husband, did the editing. John Cook, a family friend, wrote, performed and recorded the original songs for the project.

Debbie Moore said they wanted to preserve the story while the people who had lived at Caney Creek Village were alive to tell it.

"The more I worked on this, the more I believed in it," she said.

The Bradley County Historical and Genealogical Society gave $1,250 toward the project, which allowed the family to buy some specialized equipment they said improved the film's overall quality.

The remaining funding for the film came from "the bank of Mom and Dad," Moore said, laughing.

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