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Signal Stories: Reflections on a Chattanooga mountain article, September 18, 2017

By Todd Henon, Broker, TN, GA, AL






Chattanooga’s Signal Mountain has a rich history. As a kid, I remember finding Native American arrowheads and looking for Civil War mini-balls from battles that took place on the mountaintop.

Today, Signal Mountain is one of the most desirable places for locals and transplants alike who want clean air and wide-open spaces within minutes of the city. Bloomberg Businessweek named Signal Mountain one of the best places to raise kids a few years back.

I can attest to that, having grown up and raised my kids on Signal, which has a population of just under 8,600. The reasons are plentiful: stunning views, hiking trails and swimming holes, a slower pace, activities and adventures for young and old, and a truly connected community.

I have endless tales (tall and small) about great people and places—past and present—in our community. I thought you might want to check out a few of my favorite Signal Stories.

“Our Mountain”

My family recently welcomed a fourth-generation Signal Mountain resident, my granddaughter.

My parents came here in the ’60s, looking for a beautiful, safe, friendly place to raise my siblings and me. I stayed and raised my own children here, and now, my grandchildren will experience the same upbringing.

Signal Mountain is home to amazing schools and is one of the country’s safest communities. The views and the wildlife presence lend an air of country living to the mountain’s convenient location, which is less than 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Sure, a lot has changed on Signal through the years, but the most important things haven’t: the values, friendships, scenery and irreplaceable small-town feel. I couldn’t want anything more for my family. Read more.

“The Dinner Bell”

About this time every year, I begin to grieve the loss of summer and long for the golden days of my years growing up on Signal, when my buddies and I knew how to pack 28 hours of activity into every day remaining before school started. I didn’t dislike school, but I didn’t love it the way I loved spending days with my friends exploring caves, swimming in Rainbow Lake, hiking the paths of the Cumberland Trail and rappelling off rocks. We fancied ourselves Signal’s very own Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns. It was the 1970s, and we felt completely safe. Our parents felt safe, too. Their only rule was to stay within earshot of the dinner bell.

My summers are spent a little differently now, but it thrills me to see the next generation exploring all Signal Mountain has to offer the way we used to … and I hope their parents still occasionally ring a dinner bell. Read more.

“‘Bee-ing’ Neighborly”

Like clockwork, since the 1960s, a small bear with fresh Signal Mountain honey has “magically” appeared in my neighborhood’s mailboxes. No note. No signature. But I know who put it there … and why.

My neighbor Joe Lockhart has been a master beekeeper on Signal for 50-plus years. He’s also a 7-foot-tall, legendary connection to the history and spirit of our mountain. He remembers driving the winding and steep Roberts Mill Road in the snow before it was paved; he served in the Army and played “All World” softball in Chattanooga’s Textile League. He turned down a pro ball offer to raise his family, then skillfully coached me and countless Signal kids in Dixie League. As a coach, he taught me a lot. As a man, he has taught me even more.

For more than five decades, Lockhart and his wife have left the little unmarked honey bottles in their neighbors’ mailboxes. When their children were little, they’d load up in the car to complete this secret ritual on Christmas Eve. Today, his children and grandchildren carry on Joe’s tradition in their own neighborhoods in Tennessee and Georgia.

Joe’s annual honey bear is a symbol of one of the things I love most about our mountain: selfless investment in a neighbor’s well-being. While there’s never a note with the honey, the small gift delivers a big message: “I’m here for you if you need me; thanks for being a good neighbor. I care about you, and I hope all is well.” Joe and his family have helped teach me, and others, the art of “bee-ing” neighborly … Signal Mountain neighborly. Read more.

For more Signal Stories, visit

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