Son takes mother to Rock City for then and now photos 50 years later

Maxine Cox, then and now

Maxine Cox at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Ga., then and now (late-1950s, left; 2011, right) (images courtesy of Gary and Carol Cox)

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Gary and Carol Cox will travel anywhere they can get a good photo. So when Gary came across old photos of his mother, Maxine Cox, in Rock City from the late-1950s, he saw a unique opportunity to do a then and now recreation. 

The family packed their bags and traveled from their home in Horn Lake, Miss., to Lookout Mountain, Ga. 

“If you look at Rock City today, everything pretty much looks just the same as it did back in the 50s,” says Gary. “Same site, same cliffs — but of course, the city is a bit different.” 

Rock City then and now
Maxine Cox at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Ga., then and now (late-1950s, left; 2011, right) (images courtesy of Gary and Carol Cox) 

Rock City is on the outskirts of Chattanooga, Tenn., a little over 100 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Located on top of Lookout Mountain, Rock City is known for its ancient rock formations, gardens and the famous “See 7 States” panoramic view. 

“We thought, this is a great idea to go back and do a then and now photo, because, you don’t think about it back then that 50 years later you might go back and retake the same picture,” says Gary. “With her in it, it makes it more special.” 

The recreation photos were taken in 2011. Today, Maxine is 92 years old.

Then and Now, Rock City
Maxine Cox at the “Fat Man Squeeze” in Rock City, then and now (late-1950s, left; 2011, right) (images courtesy of Gary and Carol Cox) 

Gary and Carol enjoy traveling places they can hone their craft. 

“We don’t do it for a living, but we’re serious photographers,” says Gary. “Everything is about photography. If we can’t take a picture of it, we don’t go.”

Their favorite places to travel include Alaska, Branson, Mo., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. 

Gary says his mother didn’t really understand why he wanted to go back and retake the photos, but she was happy to go along for the journey. 

Maxine grew up in Humboldt, Tenn., and worked as a secretary at a bank and then at a high school, only just retiring roughly eight years ago, her son estimates. 

Today she lives with Gary and Carol just outside of Memphis and still enjoys traveling, but Gary noted they haven’t been doing as much lately because of the pandemic. 

During normal times, Maxine, Gary and Carol enjoy coming to Chattanooga and the Smokies area a couple of times per year. 

“Mom likes to shop,” Gary says. “We take her to the shows, too. Comedy Barn, Hatfield and McCoy, Smoky Mountain Opry, stuff like that.”

Read more: Smoky Mountain Opry to remain closed for the remainder of 2020

Rock City
Rock City, circa late-1950s (photo courtesy of Gary and Carol Cox)

Gary also noted he does some photography for the local dinner shows as well. He enjoys documenting all the little moments so he can go back and look at how much has changed.

“I’m always looking for taking a photo that no one else has,” he says. 

Read more: There’s a real ‘ghost town’ on top of a mountain in Maggie Valley, NC 

In the case of these photos, it’s more about how much has remained the same. 

He notes that Rock City has not changed much over the years, besides a rail or two for added safety measures. 

Gary also mused that people would dress up a lot more back then compared to present day. 

“Back then, people would dress up,” says Gary. “Back in the day, people would be in suits even if they’re at the beach.” 

Gary's Dad
The late Troy Cox, Maxine’s husband, at Rock City in the late 1950s.

Today, Maxine enjoys spending time with her family and watching RFD-TV, specifically the classic shows such as Hee Haw.  

For more information about Rock City, visit

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