Fontana is a beautiful remote spot tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains. It's known for the huge TVA dam on site, a relaxing getaway for families, but it has a rich history that goes beyond the dam and the cozy resort.
For the first time, the faces of families who lived through the building of Fontana Dam are seeing an exhibit built just for them. The pictures, the memories, the ones who lived it, teaching their children about their history.
"What's special is that you have kids who went to school here and they've stayed in touch all these years and they come back, they come back for reunions, they come back to catch up with each other, there's a bond that was formed during that time," says TVA Historian Pat Ezzell.
Welcome to Fontana circa 1942, a desolate spot in the mountains that was home to a small village of 5,000 people.
"The camp is built with hospitals, schools, I think there were three schools, cafeterias, dormitories, just had a whole village. They had a post office, they had a community building, you know it was war time, they had recreational activities such as dancing," says Ezzell.
This village was built for people working on the Fontana Dam. It was needed to generate electricity for those working on behalf of our national defense during World War II.
Families flocked to Fontana after the attack on Pearl Harbor and that included a young 5-year-old girl named Mary Grace McCarley.
"My family decided with the war effort we had to give everything, our whole energies, so we went to Nashville in a 41' Ford and we bought a trailer," says McCarley. "The road was so twisty that all of my mother's new Fiesta dishes piled out on the floor and broke, of course. She was not a happy camper."
That trailer became their home. "We came up here and parked at the very the top of the hill and daddy built a deck on our trailer," says McCarley.
Mary remembers playing in the mountains with a lot of other kids her age. "We had bingo, a lot of things going on. We had square dancing, there was a grocery store that was quite exciting," says McCarley.
Dwight Morrow was born at Fontana.
"It's a real thrill to go back through the old building and see where you first saw the light of day," says Dwight Morrow.
Coming back and remembering the fun, the hard work, and the community is special for this group, the Dam Kids as they call themselves.
"We come two times a year for the Dam Kids reunion. We have a spring fling in April, we have a Dam Kids reunion in October and then we come up periodically other times of the year," says Morrow.
Fontana Dam, still going strong thanks to hardworking people and their families with a special lifelong bond.
"You have war time, you are building this dam for the national defense, you have a real clear goal in mind, and you are working with people day and night. You are living with them, it is a remote area," says Ezzell.
One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.