Today in Johnson City History: November 25

Nov. 25, 1886: Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Reeves had lost two of their children within the past few days, Emma, 2, and John, 4, died from diphtheria. A third child was very low and another had just recovered from this terrible disease.

Nov. 25, 1931: Alf Taylor died in Johnson City at age 83. He was governor of Tennessee from Jan. 15, 1921, until Jan. 16, 1923.

Nov. 25, 1951: George Stevens’ classic “A Place in the Sun,” which starred Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters, began a four-day run at the Majestic in downtown Johnson City.

Nov. 25, 1994: The Pop Warner Cheerleading Competition was held at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

Nov. 25, 2010: An estimated 3,100 people turned out to run or walk in the 5th annual Up & At ’Em Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning in Johnson City.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Chronicle; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Ted Bowers/Johnson City, Tennessee, Memories; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall; Johnson City Press

Today in Johnson City History: November 24

Nov. 24, 1887: Merchants were asked to close their doors during the Union Thanksgiving service at the Baptist Church.

Nov. 24, 1910: The Comet reported that someone anxious for guns had broken a plate glass window at the store of Edward Blake & Son the prior morning and helped themselves to the store’s shotguns and some shells.

Nov. 24, 1953: Johnson City Cardinals President Carl A. Jones announced that the ball club might pull out of the Appalachian League because of Bristol’s likely departure. Jones said there might not be baseball in Johnson City in 1954. The Cards did stay in the league that year and the next but did not field a team in 1956.

Nov. 24, 1961: Milligan College opened the P.H. Welshimer Memorial Library.

Nov. 24, 1967: Seeger Memorial Chapel at Milligan College was dedicated. The seating capacity was 1,300.

Nov. 24, 2006: More than 2,000 meals were served and $20,000 worth of grocery certificates were handed out at the annual day-after-Thanksgiving brunch for the needy at Best Western Hotel.

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

Today in Johnson City History: November 23

Nov. 23, 1893: Morton & Arnold’s celebrities appeared at Jobe’s Opera House in the most laughable thrilling and sensational comedy drama of the day entitled “The California Detective.”

Nov. 23, 1936: “The Monday Wash,” a fun and fund raising publication put out by The Monday Club, was printed. Their tag line was “The Monday Wash. All the News That’s Not Fit to Print.” Among other businesses, Parks-Belk, King’s and the Tennessee Motor Company ran ads in the publication.

Nov. 23, 1950: Emory & Henry’s Wasps defeated Appalachian State 26-6 in the sixth annual Burley Bowl in Johnson City.

Nov. 23, 1969: An article in the Johnson City Press-Chronicle asked readers to contribute ideas for items to go in the time capsule that would be buried on Dec. 1, 1969.

Nov. 23, 1982: REO Speedwagon and Survivor played to more than 8,500 fans at Freedom Hall Civic Center.

Sources: The Comet; Achieves of Appalachia, Mary Beth Spina Family Papers; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Bobbie H. Shirley, Freedom Hall

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

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