The 1949 Chamber of Commerce Received Numerous, Varied Requests
I ran across an article from a 1949 Johnson City-Press Chronicle newspaper that caught my eye. It dealt with the importance of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s office secretary was Mrs. Edith Talbert (mother of Johnson City Press Photo Editor, Lee Talbert). Our families routinely socialized together during my youth.
The Chamber of Commerce Building When It Was Located at 359 E. Main Street
The Chamber then was located at 208 S. Roan Street across from Mayne Williams Library. The previous year, the agency answered over 3,000 letters of inquiry and assisted with 6,000 personal visitors at their office at no cost. Based on correspondence received, the inquiries were quite diverse:
A man from a small mountain village wanted to see a super highway built across a few hundred miles of the United States. He asked the Chamber to join him in a motorcade campaign to “roar off” to Canada to generate enthusiasm for the project along the way.
The Nashville Chamber of Commerce wanted to know how many television sets were in service in Johnson City and what kind of services existed in the area. That was five years before WJHL-TV signed on the air and most people listened to WBTV in Charlotte.
A letter from California requested a list of railroad white oak and red oak crosstie producers in the area. Another correspondent in Michigan desired a list of wholesalers in the area who handled cotton hand-made hooked rugs.
A couple traveling through Johnson City left their blonde-red cocker spaniel, Rascal, at a nearby pet shelter while they made a short trip to Washington, DC. When the trip lasted much longer than expected, they, being concerned about their dog, phoned the Chamber and had them notify the vet that they would soon pick up the animal and pay their bill.
Frequent Chamber questions related to summer resorts, natural attractions, scenic highways, mountains, rivers and gorges. Sportsmen inquired about hunting seasons, ideal fishing locations and even what bait worked best for various species of fish.
An Oregon man wrote asking if Johnson City had electricity and running water in their houses and if dwellings had basements. A frequent query was “Is your climate suitable for sinus trouble and hay fever?” A teacher, who had been assigned to teach in the city, wanted to ensure there was an institute of higher learning in the area.
Prospective residents of Johnson City inquired more about living conditions, churches, schools, factories and employment prospects. Examples include a man considering the purchase of a drug store, a steam engineer seeking work, a “fire boss” marketing himself as an experienced miner, a businessman interested in operating a merchant’s delivery service and someone in search of a retail nut shop in the city.
An out-of-state man, who was a mechanic for midget racers performing in Johnson City, was summonsed to fly home because his wife was seriously ill. The only clothes he had were the ones he was wearing and they were oily. Since all businesses closed at noon on Wednesdays then, he was faced with waiting until the next morning when the stores opened. Out of desperation, he contacted the Chamber. They quickly located a clothing storeowner in Jonesboro, who sent him new garments by cab, thereby allowing him to return home on the next plane.
Other requests included information about local hotels, a copy of the Johnson City-Press Chronicle, a bus schedule from Johnson City to Boone, facts about private sanatoriums for tuberculosis patients, rent control information, a list of churches of all denominations along with the pastors’ names, the possibility of a fully equipped housekeeping cottage for two weeks during the summer months and postcards of interesting scenes for a picture postcard collection.
And finally, one letter from a DAR member asked for dining facilities for a group of 50 ladies, all national officers.