A Citizen-Built Bus Shelter

Chris "Bo" Hiscock flagged me down on my bike on Island Home Avenue.

"Did my bus stop pass your inspection?" he asked.

I had been by earlier taking pictures of a hand-built wooden bench sheltered by a yellow beach umbrella. A small sign reads: "Noonie's Stop." Hiscock figured out I wasn't from codes enforcement.

"Well, the city came by and looked at it. I saw them," he said glumly. "I think it will be gone by next week."

Hiscock lives within sight of Noonie's Stop in a trim little house with marigolds in the front yard. The Bluegrass Theater, Noonie calls it.

Noonie is Willard "Noonie" Joiner, Hiscock's friend since childhood. Joiner, a 56-year-old stroke survivor, rides the bus every day but Sunday. He likes to have a few beers at Kat's on the River, then catch the bus home. The bus stop Joiner uses most often is located along a weedy stretch of road between Kat's and the Bluegrass Theater. It was just a sign nailed to a pole. There was no shade, no shelter from the rain, no place to sit.

That was a problem. Since his stroke, Joiner can't stand for a long period of time.

"Well, Noonie, I have some wood in the basement,'" Hiscock said. "I can build you what you need."

"What I'd really like to have is an umbrella," Joiner said.

"You find the umbrella, and I'll fix it up for you."

Joiner found an umbrella and Hiscock fixed him up. Hiscock thinks Joiner may be the only person who uses the stop.

"If they do tear it down," he said, "I reckon I'll just built it up again. But I don't know where we are going to find another umbrella."

Noonie's Stop probably does violate codes. There are set-back requirements and laws against blocking the sidewalk. But the area doesn't get much foot traffic.

An official from codes enforcement was familiar with Noonie's Stop when I reached him on the phone. He assured me his department is not going to tear it down.

"We are not going to attack someone trying to protect themselves from the rain waiting for the bus," he said. "Now, if someone builds a plywood structure in the median in Sequoyah Hills—that's going to get torn down."

"So it depends on where you live?" I asked.

"That sounds bad," he said, "But I seriously doubt anyone is going to tear down the thing in Old Sevier."

Joiner grew up in Vestal, and Hiscock grew up in Island Home. They call South Knox "the safe zone," and harbor grudges against other parts of town.

"So what's the best part about living in South Knoxville?" I ask.

Hiscock laughs. "Can't afford to live anywhere else!"

Maybe you are standing in the cold rain next to a KAT sign nailed to a pole, scheming to take matters into your own hands and build yourself a proper bus shelter. First consider what part of town you live in. Also, Noonie's Stop is well-built and fulfills a need, but it survives because no one can bring themselves to tear it down. Any passerby can read it on the hand-lettered sign—Noonie's Stop belongs to somebody.