Today in Johnson City History: November 22

Nov. 22, 1888: The building boom in Johnson City seemed to be increasing notwithstanding the bad weather.

Nov. 22, 1927: Mr. Olaf Wexler was visiting Johnson City on business from Kingsport.

Nov. 22, 1934: A series of “good will” tobacco tours was sponsored by Johnson City’s tobacco warehouses ahead of the Dec. 4 market opening.

Nov. 22, 1938: Nehi Bottling Co., distributors in Johnson City, advertised Red Top Ale for 15 cents as “America’s greatest value” for a real old time Thanksgiving. That’s about $2.74 in 2019.

Nov. 22, 1941: Judge Samuel Williams delivered the address at the unveiling of a mural behind the judge’s bench in the Law Court Room in the Johnson City Courthouse.

Nov. 22, 1963: Johnson City residents, like everyone in the United States, were shocked at the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Nov. 22, 1966: Steve Spurrier, a Johnson City native, won the Heisman Trophy.

Nov. 22, 1969: A sign at the Division Street Church of God welcomed everyone to the Centennial Day Services on Sunday, November 23, 1969.

Nov. 22, 2011: Jarvis Jones swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the East Tennessee State basketball team rallied for a dramatic 70-69 victory over Charlotte.

Sources: The Comet; Kingsport Times; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; “History of Johnson City and its Environs” by Samuel Cole Williams; Johnson City Press

Today in Johnson City History: November 21

Nov. 21, 1889: A new sidewalk was being laid on Spring Street. The Comet predicted it would be among the best in town.

Nov. 21, 1947: Science Hill’s Hilltoppers closed out the regular football season in Jacksonville, Florida, with a 13-7 loss to Landon High School. The ’Toppers only score followed a blocked punt at the Landon 25 in the second quarter. Left end John Mackley took a pass in the end zone from Carroll Willis. Doug Kelley kicked the extra point.

Nov. 21, 1951: The double feature at the Liberty Theater in downtown Johnson City was “Frances the Talking Mule” and “Ma and Pa Kettle.”

Nov. 21, 1986: The Johnson City Press reported that the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra had recently received a challenge grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission.

Nov. 21, 2011: Brian Noland was named East Tennessee State University’s president, becoming the ninth man to occupy the office the following January.

Nov. 21, 2011: One of Johnson City’s oldest chain restaurants, Bennigan’s, was demolished.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Ted Bowers/Johnson City, Tennessee Memories; Johnson City Press.

Today in Johnson City History: November 20

Nov. 20, 1890: Workmen were busy digging a ditch to drain the lake on Roan Street.

Nov. 20, 1902: A man named Stinson was at the Hotel Carlisle in Johnson City for medical treatment. Several workmen had been returning to camp near Pagan’s on the South and Western Railway (later the Clinchfield) the previous Saturday when the lever car on which they were riding was derailed. Stinson was seriously injured.

Nov. 20, 1934: A round trip fare on the Washington County bus line between Johnson City and Kingsport was 75 cents. That’s about about $14.40 in 2019 money. Buses departed from Johnson City at 6 a.m., 7:15 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

Nov. 20, 1954: The ETSC Buccaneers lost to Florence State (Alabama) Lions 27-14 in Johnson City. Buddy Saulsbury and Bob Merritt scored touchdowns for ETSC.

Nov. 20, 1981: The Jimmy Swaggart Ministries team began the first of a three-day crusade at Freedom Hall Civic Center. More than 13,500 people heard the message.

Nov. 20, 1993: The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies accredited the Johnson City Police Bureau.

Nov. 20, 2005: The new Carver Recreation Center, an 18,000-square-foot facility, was dedicated. It replaced the original recreation center in the same park.

Sources: The Comet; Kingsport Times; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall; City of Johnson City; Johnson City Press

Sesquicentennial celebration to wrap up Dec. 1

Johnson City officials plan to wrap up its yearlong sesquicentennial celebration with a community party at Legacy Plaza in King Commons on Dec. 1.

The public event, which will be held from 2-4 p.m. on the actual date of the 150th anniversary of the city receiving its current municipal charter, will include the burial of a time capsule and the official lighting of a commissioned sculpture of three passion flowers in the center of History Circle.

City crews were working Wednesday to install the art centerpiece — which includes illuminated filaments and moving petals — in Legacy Plaza. The $147,000 art installation was approved by the Johnson City Commission on July 18.

The sculpture was created by artists Jeffrey Reed and Jennifer Madden of Reed Madden Designs in California.

The three passion flowers each represent a star on Tennessee’s Tri-Star flag, and the 150 total filaments are a tribute to the city’s 150th anniversary celebration. The passion flower is the official state wildflower of Tennessee.

Legacy Plaza includes a history circle with four concentric rings featuring engraved blocks that list key dates and information about Johnson City’s history. The “Tri-Star” area pays tribute to the Tennessee flag, which was designed by Johnson City resident Col. LeRoy Reeves.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said the Sesquicentennial Commission’s signature project is more than 75% complete. She said the Dec. 1 finale will be a continuation of a yearlong effort to educate the public on Johnson City’s past, as well as to preserve its history for future generations.

Brock said the work of the Sesquicentennial Commission, city staff and the community on the 150th celebration has “exceeded expectations,” and she hopes Legacy Plaza will become “a special place” where parents and grandparents can take their children and grandchildren to learn more about the city’s history.

“I’m very proud of how we have captured the spirit of who we are, and have built a strong foundation to pass that torch on to the next generation,” Brock said.

The mayor said she has been working on a letter to her counterpart in 2069 that will be buried in a time capsule at the closing ceremony. Brock said she hopes city residents who open the capsule in 50 years “will see how much our families and children meant to us.”

As part of the Dec. 1 celebration, children will be invited to make and take home their own personal time capsules at a crafts table. Boxes, decorations and a fill-in-the-blank list of favorite things of 2019 will be provided at the event.

Today in Johnson City History: November 19

Nov. 19, 1885: Some unknown person had circulated the news at and around Elk Park, North Carolina, that Capt. Gus Darden, ET&WNC Railroad’s superintendent, was a married man, according to a letter published in The Comet. “The captain is silent on the subject, but I step forward to deny the allegations and defy the aligator (sic). Supper promptly at six Capt.” — Respectfully, Ed Hodge.

Nov. 19, 1919: General Shale began operations. It began as the Johnson City Brick Corporation, and was located on Millard and Elm streets.

Nov. 19, 1954: The Training School Buccaneers whipped Sullivan County’s Ketron High School in the basketball season opener, 67-54.

Nov. 19, 1989: The Johnson City Press reported the recollections of a group of “PKs” — preachers’ kids — who grew up having to worry about how their behavior would reflect on their fathers. More than 30 PKs attended Johnson City’s Heritage Baptist Church at the time. They included Denny Bowman, who recalled raising his father’s ire by cutting up a tent revival. His father excused himself from the pulpit to take care of a “domestic problem.” “Then he took me around behind … and I was quiet the rest of the time.”

Nov. 19, 1996: The Tennessee Board of Regents selected Dr. Paul Stanton as East Tennessee State University’s next president. Stanton had been the university’s vice president for health affairs and dean of the Quillen College of Medicine.

Nov. 19, 2010: A homemade bottle bomb similar to four other devices found around Johnson City that week was discovered at East Tennessee State University. The device was found by a custodian near Lucille Clement Hall, a dormitory. The bomb did not explode, and no one was injured.

Sources: The Comet; History of Washington County, Tennessee; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Johnson City Press

Today in Johnson City History: November 18

Nov. 18, 1886: The young men of Johnson City were organizing a rollerskating club. They had leased the first floor of the old Austin factory building and were refitted it for rink purposes.

Nov. 18, 1909: The Comet reported that six passengers barely escaped with their lives when an accommodation train collided with a work train on the Virginia and Southwestern Railway in Bluff City. Having brief warning, the passengers jumped and a moment later the engine pulling the work train was torn to splinters.

Nov. 18, 1948: Mrs. Carrie M. Pace, a secretary with the law firm of Cox, Taylor, Epps and Miller, corresponded with the Harman Fur Farms in Christiansburg, Virginia, regarding the mink scarves that she had recently ordered.

Nov. 18, 1980: The Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice began the first day of a six-day run at Freedom Hall Civic Center. More than 17,000 fans enjoyed the performances.

Nov. 18, 1993: Construction bids for the city’s new Mountain View Elementary School came in higher than expected, as the city had budgeted $6 million for the project and furnishings. The bid placed the total estimate at $8.4 million. That’s the equivalent of about $15 million in 2019.

Nov. 18, 2010: Ground was ceremoniously broken on a new 4,800-square-foot student study center adjacent to the Quillen College of Medicine’s Stanton-Gerber Hall on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus. The $1.5 million building was largely funded by fees medical students imposed upon themselves. Alumni had donated money, too.

Sources: The Comet; Archives of Appalachia, Cox-Painter-Adams Family Papers; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall; Johnson City Press.

Young soldier left his mark before graduating high school

People who who knew him recall Homer L. Pease as a man of grit and determination. The Johnson City native showed those qualities in 1942 when he joined the Army at age 13.

He did so by lying about his true age with the help of a stranger who pretended to be his father when Pease appeared at the Johnson City recruiting office.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, wrote recently in a column for Veterans Day that Pease’s “story is one of dedication and valor, and it reminds me of so many others in East Tennessee whose stories should be shared.”

After enlisting, Pease traded his school books for Army field manuals. He completed basic training and volunteered as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne.

Pease first saw combat when he jumped into Normandy, France, on D-Day — June 6, 1944. He was wounded while fighting the Germans, for which he received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He was promoted to sergeant, and after recovering from his wounds, Pease rejoined his unit to fight in Ardennes Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and at Berchtesgaden in Germany.

Pease was again wounded in combat, receiving his second Purple Heart, but this time the Army discovered he was only 15 years old. He was reduced to private and sent back to the United States.

Pease returned home where he attended Science Hill High School until he turned 16. He then managed to sign on for a two-year hitch — getting as far as Fort Bragg, North Carolina — before being sent home again.

Even his time in high school was filled with adventure. One classmate told the Press that Pease was a 6-foot-2, 200-plus pound legend on campus who once stood up to an angry man who pulled a gun on Science Hill football players at a game in 1949.

According to another story, Pease wrestled a bear at a local carnival — and won.

After graduating high school in 1950, Pease joined the Tennessee Army National Guard and attended both East Tennessee State University and Milligan College. Pease later returned to the military after 12 years in civilian life.

In 1965, he volunteered to be a military adviser in Vietnam and completed the U.S. Army Ranger course. Pease was 36 when he was killed in action at Ba Tri in Kien Hoa Province of South Vietnam on Nov. 19, 1966, while leading a ground combat operation.

“He lost his life on the battlefield, but saved many lives that day by locating enemy positions,” Roe noted earlier this month. “For the bravery he displayed, he was awarded the Silver Star and was promoted to major.”

His life and service are still remembered today. In 2016, Pease was inducted into the ETSU’s ROTC Hall of Fame. He was also one of 20 people inducted into the Johnson City Schools Hall of Fame earlier this year.

And Congress has renamed the Johnson City Post Office to honor Pease.

Today in Johnson City History: November 17

Nov. 17, 1877: W.G. Barker was elected secretary of the Science Hill Literary Society.

Nov. 17, 1887: F.M. Chritzmau, one of Johnson City ‘s leading jewelers, had furnished First Presbyterian Church with a beautifully carved silver communion service. It cost $13 at the factory. That’s about $352 in today’s money.

Nov. 17, 1898: Local attorney Thad A. Cox had  purchased the McFarland residence on Watauga Avenue and was having a roof put on it. The house was to be remodeled, repaired, repainted and repapered throughout.

Nov. 17, 1910: Johnson City was shocked by the death of popular Unaka National Bank cashier Tate L. Earnest earlier in the week. After closing the bank for the day, Earnest was training a setter pup on the old Hunt farm in the eastern suburbs. His trousers caught on a barb as he was crossing a fence and he fell, discharging his double-barrel into his chest. He left behind an aged mother and five children, his wife having died several years earlier.

Nov. 17, 1997: Johnson City Board of Education members struggled with zone lines more than four hours in the first of two sessions intended to remap the school district. The changes were necessitated in part because of the upcoming opening of the new Lake Ridge Elementary School in Boones Creek and the closing of Stratton Elementary School in east Johnson City.

Nov. 17, 2009: Volunteers were helping survey and catalog the graves at historic Oak Hill Cemetery in downtown Johnson City for a directory of those interred there. 

Sources: Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown Collection; The Comet; Johnson City Press

Today in Johnson City History: November 16

Nov. 16, 1893: The Watauga Tannery, one of Johnson City’s oldest and largest businesses, was building an addition to its beam house. The business was located at the base of the Tannery Knob, possibly on the current site of the City Garage. It was owned by G.B. and E. Horton of New York and S.H. Yokum and H. Gildersleeve of Johnson City.

Nov. 16, 1911: The McClain ice cream parlor recently had been sold to Charlie Mallicote, who changed the name to “The Garden.” The Comet declared, “When a young man now invites his Eve into the Garden to have ice cream she may be heard to exclaim. ‘I don’t care Adam if I do.’”

Nov. 16, 1951: The science fiction classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was playing at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Johnson City.

Nov. 16, 1977: The University of Tennessee played its Orange and White Basketball Game at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

Nov. 16, 2007: The George L. Carter Railroad Museum was dedicated on the campus of East Tennessee State University. A railroad magnate, Carter donated 120 acres of land to create what is now known as East Tennessee State University.

Sources: The Comet; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall; Ted Bowers/Johnson City, Tennessee, Memories; East Tennessee State University.

Today in Johnson City History: November 14

Nov. 14, 1889: Work was progressing on several new homes and stores in Johnson City, including John E. Harris residence on Myrtle Street, J.A. Wilson’s home on Watauga Avenue, Mr. Elmondorf’s dwelling on 2nd Avenue in Carnegie (East Fairview today), H. Gildersleeve’s handsome new residence on Market Street, W.J. Thomas’ residence at Boone and Watauga, A.R. Johnson’s house on Holston Avenue, James A. Martin’s house on Poplar Street, Judge Chandler’s house on Watauga, C.B. Hamilton’s residence at Watauga and Inman, G.A. Reeves’ store on Main Street and W.W. Faw’s store on Market.

Nov. 14, 1916: The Johnson City Rotary Club was organized.

Nov. 14, 1957: F.W. Woolworth Co. moved into a new building at 315 E. Main St.

Nov. 14, 1980: Loretta Lynn performed at Freedom Hall Civic Center. More than 3,300 fans were in attendance.

Nov. 14, 1998: Ray Boltz performed for more than 4,300 fans at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

Sources: The Comet; Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown Collection; Ted Bowers/Johnson City, Tennessee, Memories; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall