I receive immense satisfaction when readers share their Johnson City memories of yesteryear, especially if it’s an acquaintance from my past.
I received a handwritten letter from the Honorable Stewart Cannon, retired Washington County Sessions Judge, responding to my May 16 column: “I was fascinated by your article on the historic Carlistle/Franklin Hotel. It brought back some wonderful memories of a special time in my life in that building.”
I stated in my column that by 1912, Dr. W.A. Wright was operating a private school in the building, and that his two daughters later maintained a music studio there from 1938 to 1948. Judge Cannon continued: “During the time that it was known as the Franklin Apartments, I studied piano with Mary Luter and Margaret Wright in their impressive studio on the first floor of the Franklin Apartments in 1943-1944. I had been studying piano with Mrs. Floy Chase in her home on W. Watauga. [When she left town], she chose teachers for her students, and that is how I was privileged to have the Wright sisters as my piano teachers. They were simply in a class by themselves.”
The retired justice went on to describe the beautiful interior of the facility: “They operated their studio in a huge room with a high ceiling to the right of the hallway. It was very impressive with a big upright piano in the center of the room and a harp against one wall. Mary Luter was the harpist. There was a cello and violin in one corner. The walls were lined with large pictures of musicians whom they had heard or knew personally, like Caruso.”
Mr. Cannon was obviously impressed with the Wright sisters’ strict requirements imposed on their students: “They were superb teachers of the old schools with lots of attention given to scales and cadences. They were anxious for their students to perform in public, not just in their studio recitals (held in the basement of the Mayne Williams Public Library), but for churches and civic clubs as well.”
“They required everything their students played publicly to be committed to memory before performance. The end result was that their students built up a repertory of classical music, which could be performed years later. I have fond memories of this time in my life when I walked over from the old [downtown] Science Hill High School between classes to study with the Wrights.”
In addition to the Wrights, the Franklin Apartments served as the abode of other notables from our city’s past including: Clyde Hodge (former editor of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle); two well-known schoolteachers, Louise Huddle and sister, Dora Huddle (unforgettable seventh grade Tennessee History teacher at the old Junior High School); Henry C. Black (retired banker), his wife, and daughter; Dorothy Hamill (former staff writer for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle); Charlie Swatzell, general superintendent of J.E. Green Company; and E.D. LeSueur (who once owned and operated Cargille Studio).
An unknown resident of days gone once remarked about the old structure: “It was so swank, going inside always gave me an inferiority complex.”