Paul Gill sent me some material from his Weaver family genealogy that offered an insight into early Johnson City. His great grandfather, James David Weaver, was an influential builder in Johnson City. David, as he was known, was born on May 23, 1854 in Kingsport, Tennessee and later became an important businessman in Johnson City.
My April 2007 article, concerning the J.J. Page Carnival that visited Johnson City each April between about 1930 and 1949, prompted a letter from a reader: “My name is Charles Howell. I now own the J.J. Page home place just off Watauga Ave. where Mr. and Mrs. Page lived when they operated the carnival in the 30s and 40s.”
Each April between about 1928 and 1949, an eagerly awaited event transpired in Johnson City; the J.J. Page Carnival had come to town. This popular mobile enterprise of exciting rides, exotic sideshows, tasty food and enticing games generated masses of people, as the show migrated to towns and communities throughout nine southern states.
Area youngsters who watched WJHL-TV in late 1953 should readily recall a handsome and immaculately dressed cowboy named Pecos Ben, the host of a 2-hour action-packed “shoot em up” western show each weekday at 4 pm.
A significant event occurred in Johnson City at 7 pm on October 26, 1953. On that day, home-based television arrived in Johnson City. Prior to that historic occasion, televiewers had to rely on sprawling antennas towering above their rooftops to capture faint image signals from distant stations such as WBTV in Charlotte.
On Halloween night, October 30, 1938, noted actor, Orson Wells, terrified the nation with his Mercury Theatre on the Air’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast, recounting a purported Martian invasion of earth. Popular WCYB radio personality, Eddie Cowell, displayed similar chicanery on January 23, 1954 by telling his listening audience that an enormous monster was on the loose reaping havoc in downtown Bristol.
The Liberty Theatre was the smallest and least pretentious motion picture theatre in Johnson City, yet the most evocative to area B-western movie fans. In the early to mid 1950s, patrons could enter the establishment at an affordable price (nine cents for children, fifteen cents for adults), consume a soft drink for a nickel, and munch on a big box of the best tasting popcorn on the planet for a dime, all the while being treated to a suspenseful cliffhanger serial, animated cartoon, newsreel, and an action-packed cowboy flick.
Several months ago, I wrote a column about a delightful early Saturday morning children’s program over WJHL radio from about 1951 to 1953 titled, “The Adventures of Princess Pet.” The sponsor of the 111 episode series was Pet Dairy Products.