Honoring Talley Ho

Talley family receives Excellence in Tourism Award at Blount Chamber dinner

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The late Tom Talley Sr. and Helen Talley, who established the Talley Ho Motel in Townsend in 1952 and were instrumental in developing the tourism industry in Blount County, were the second recipients of the Dean Stone Excellence in Tourism Award.

Last year, Dean Stone, a pioneer in Blount County tourism, received the first Dean Stone Excellence in Tourism Award. This award was created and awarded by the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau to honor Stone’s excellence and devotion to Blount County’s tourism efforts for more than 40 years, and each year it will be presented to someone who made an impact in the tourism industry in Blount County.

"Both Helen and Tom where pioneers in the early stages of developing an industry that accounts for $229 million visitor’s expenditures in Blount County today," said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a press release.

"In addition to working hard to develop a business that continues to support the family and provides a quality lodging facility for Blount County visitors, they helped Townsend develop the infrastructure it needed to support the tourism industry."

The Talley’s developed and operated the Townsend landmark until 1995 when Tom passed away. Then, his son and daughter-in-law, Tom Jr. and Dianne, took over operations.

Tom Jr. said his parents built the first eight units of the Smokey Traveler Motel in 1952, which became the Talley Ho Motel about two years later.

"Subsequent expansions occurred in 1956, 1962, 1972 and 1982," said Tom Jr. "Additionally, along with his siblings and in-laws, he built the Carriage House Restaurant in 1970."

In addition to founding two prosperous tourism businesses, the Talley’s helped establish the Townsend Chamber and the area’s first visitors center. Along with other community members, Talley purchased the property where the current Smoky Mountain Visitors Center is located, which they held until Blount County was able to purchase it.

"The Talley’s are responsible for the first efforts to promote Townsend as a destination, rather than just promoting individual businesses," said Handly. "It was an important turning point for tourism in our community."

In the early 1960s, Tom helped organize the Tuckaleechee Utility District to get utility water into Tuckaleechee Cove, Walland, Cole Springs, and Ellijoy-Prospect communities. He served as a commissioner of the utility district from its founding until his death in 1995. Helen served as the utilities bookkeeper in the founding years.

Talley was also instrumental in obtaining the right-of-way improvements to State Route 73, which later allowed for four-lane improvement at a much-reduced cost and in getting Sevier Electric Cooperative to expand its electric distribution into Tuckaleechee Cove, thus providing electricity to all residents. Additionally, Talley and Fred Lawson were instrumental in obtaining funding and construction of the Townsend Bike Path.

"Tom and Helen made such an impact on the tourism industry in our community, and we are proud to honor him with this award," said Handly.

Victor A. (Tom) Talley (1913-1995) was born in Ducktown, Tenn., and came to Townsend as a truck driver with CCC Cades Cove in 1930. He married Martha Helen Wear of Townsend in 1937, and he was employed at ALCOA from 1939 until 1975. Talley served in US Navy Pacific Fleet from1944 to 1946 and as a Blount County Commissioner from 1948 to 1950.

The Dean Stone Excellence in Tourism Award will be presented annually to a Blount Countian who has outstanding commitment and achievement within the Blount County tourism industry. Recipients will be respected leaders with
outstanding accomplishments within the Blount County tourism industry.

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