Cruising Cardinal Point at 28th and H.C. Mathis Drive was ‘the big thing’ to do as a teenager before smartphones and social media. It was a combination of the ride, the flirt, and warm summer nights. If you watched the classic movie, American Graffiti with Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard, and a host of big name celebrities, it wasn’t too far off point. It was a small town in the USA, tunes on the radio, and the reality that life was just getting started.
Though the movie was set in 1962, not much had changed in 20 years. There was the introduction of MTV. The 80's proved itself to be quite the fashion statement with parachute pants and mullets. Music artists included Madonna, U2, and the Rolling Stones. And a new form of dance called Hip Hop popped on the scene.
As the story goes, two best friends, Tammy Waggoner McKinney and Keri Gill McKinney were circling the parking lot at ‘the point’ when they stopped to introduce themselves to a group of guys. The two Paducah Community College (PCC) students were very interested in two particular young men. In fact, it was twin brothers Scott and Todd McKinney. Later, this flirtatious impromptu drive-by would result in two long-time best friends marrying identical twins and becoming forever sister-in-laws.
Tammy moved to Lone Oak when she was five years old. Most people in this tight knit community grew up together attending the same elementary, junior high, and high school. One might say, these are the ties that bind.
At Lone Oak High School, Tammy played the trumpet in the marching band. “The band director, Gary Crisp, sure knew how to teach and write winning competition pieces,” said Tammy. Much of her love for the marching band could be attributed to the unique opportunity to travel and the over-the-top performances. While Tammy was in high school, they marched in the Disney World Parade, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., and attended several competitions in Florida. She also participated in the Annual Staff and the Beta Club.
After graduating from high school in 1982, Tammy spent her first two years of college at PCC, now West Kentucky Community & Technical College. During this time she worked part-time at J.C. Penney and spent summers at Paducah Bank. It was her sophomore year that she met Scott.
Once Tammy received her associates degree, she transferred to Murray State University. After graduating with a marketing degree, Scott and Tammy got engaged.
Scott didn’t propose by having a plane skywrite ‘will you marry me’ or display a banner from its tail. It was a simple proposal with a lot of heart. Scott got down on one knee at Tammy’s home. The two went for a quiet dinner. Then followed-up with a glass of champagne at Scott’s parents house for a final toast. Family is everything to the McKinneys.
Wedding bells rang December 26, 1987. “Yes, we were crazy for choosing the day after Christmas to get married,” said Tammy. Crazy or not, it was a honeymoon in Vegas! How perfect is that. Tammy said she likes life big, loud, and full of excitement.
Shortly after being married, the family started to grow. The first of three sons was Ryan, now 31. After Ryan was born, Tammy stayed home until he turned one. After his first birthday, she went to work for Page Enterprise.
Everyone in Paducah remembers the royals of the local fast food chains, Jim and Dorothy Page and son Tony. They owned seven restaurants; Noble Park Dairy Queen, Griff’s Burger Bar, Church’s Chicken, Pizza Inn, two Ponderosas, and El Chico. Tammy was the office manager and bookkeeper for four of the seven.
While working for the Pages, Tammy and Scott welcomed two more sons into the world, Blake, now 28 and Zach, 26. The couple decided Tammy should stay-at-home with the kids until Zach entered kindergarten. After which, Tammy worked for the McCracken County Schools as a substitute teacher. She was later hired as an assistant kindergarten teacher and remained in that role for eleven years.
In 2014, Scott was offered a position at USEC’s Portsmouth, Ohio plant. It was the second time he had been courted by the corporation to help run the operation. Since their youngest Zach was graduating high school, the time was right. In 2016, the government shutdown the Ohio plant, so it was off to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The nuclear power plant in Tennessee is located in the far eastern part of the state, 25 miles from Knoxville, and at the base of the Appalachian mountains.
“We’ve settled into our Knoxville life,” said Tammy. “We find ourselves loving the mountains, our church family, and new friendships. We’ll always be Kentucky Wildcat fans and will always love Paducah.”
Tammy said, “It hasn't been easy making friends after 40. The boys kept us busy all the time with school, activities, and friends." The McKinneys were always involved with the boy's friend's parents in some form or fashion. It’s the empty nest syndrome times three. No kids. No church family. New town. The transfer was rocky at first but now its home.
The boys have their careers and two of three are married. Tammy said, “Our boys got married in reverse order.” Zach, the youngest is a mechanical engineer living in Lexington, Kentucky and married to Alex. Blake is married to Kierstyn, lives in Lexington, and is a computer engineer. Ryan, the oldest, is a chemical engineer at Westlake Chemical in Calvert City and is in a relationship with girlfriend Lizzie.
The McKinneys love to get together as one big family and travel. Their last ‘big’ family trip was to Banff Canada. “What a beautiful place,” said Tammy. “We hiked, white water rafted, visited the Glacier Ice Fields…it had the most beautiful lakes and the bluest water ever.”
The family gets together every year and rents a house for the CMA (Country Music Association) Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. They spend four nights and four days in the Music City listening to live country music performances, meet and greets, and exclusive artists experiences. The 2020 event was canceled, however, this year it looks like a go! “The best part of these trips is being with the boys and their girls,” said Tammy.
Tammy and Scott do find time to vacation, just the two of them. Their favorite trip of all time was visiting Israel. “To walk where Jesus walked and see historical places in the Bible was eye opening.” said Tammy. There have always been regular trips to Destin, Florida. Now, that they’re around the mountains, lakes, and hiking trails, they’ve found a new place to explore. “We’ve always been an ‘on the go’ couple,” said Tammy. So, why stop now?
They’re in the beginning stages of building a place of refuge. Nestled away in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, Tammy and Scott are building a cabin. It will be used for vacationing and as a rental. In addition to the cabin, they bought a Jeep. “We bought it so during COVID we could drive through the creeks and trails in the mountains of Knoxville.” said Tammy.
Since COVID, things have been different. There’s not as much travel and Tammy hasn’t been home to Paducah to see her parents in a while. “Both of my parents are immunocompromised and they don’t get out and go anywhere,” said Tammy. “They haven’t gotten out for family events either.” She’s looking forward to coming home soon to give them a big hug.
The family hasn’t been untouched by COVID. Tammy’s sister, Stephanie was one of the first to be sick during the pandemic and was on a respirator for eight days. “It was the scariest eight days. Stephanie was in the ICU with COVID in Indianapolis. She does have some lasting effects from the virus but not too serious.”
When asked what Tammy’s ideal day would be she said, “I’d start with a dose of God and Jesus, read the Bible, and have a daily devotional. If it was a Tuesday, I’d be volunteering at Random Acts of Flowers. It’s where volunteers arrange flowers and distribute them to nursing homes and hospitals to patients that don’t get visitors. Then, I’d go to lunch with my girlfriends, work in the afternoon at my little part-time job at the golf course, and spend the evening with Scott.”
Tammy has a smile a mile wide and a strong faith that gets her through the tough times. As long as she has Jesus, family, and travel time...she’s good to go!