In early 2005, I wrote two articles concerning Johnson City’s charming “Lady of the Fountain.” This bronze statue stood in Fountain Square atop a water fountain between 1909 and 1937 and at Roosevelt (Memorial) Stadium for about six additional years.
Response to my March 7 History/Heritage page article concerning the “Lady of the Fountain,” has been overwhelming, to say the least. Most respondents support restoration and relocation of the statue to make her a more prominent fixture in the city’s future.
Few area residents can remember Johnson City’s grand “Lady of the Fountain,” who once adorned the downtown area along the east side of the railroad tracks. Over time, she became an icon, overlooking the very vicinity that would later bear her name, Fountain Square.
Mildred Kozsuch, local author of “Historical Reminiscences of Carter County Tennessee,” The Overmountain Press, sent me an informative clipping from the July 9, 1937 edition of the Johnson City Beacon titled “Only One Building Linking City with Stage-Road Days.”
A 28-page city progress report addressed to the people of Johnson City from the Mayor and Board of Commissioners was issued in 1965. D.A. Burkhalter, then City Manager, produced the booklet for the citizens of Johnson City to inform them of community progress that had been made over the previous two years.
On August 9, Johnson City lost one its crown jewels, 79-year-old Chester “Chet” Willis, who was born in Washington County and moved away for several years before returning to the city. He retired from the City of Johnson City’s Department of Services and Water Department, became a member of the Cemetery Survey Team of Northeast Tennessee and had recently worked for the Oak Hill Cemetery Friends and Volunteers.
Paul Gill, a former resident of Johnson City, sent me a package chocked full of documentation about his family history that has numerous links to the city’s past. One story in particular caught my attention; it deals with the 93rdbirthday of Tenna Sherfey Leighton, Paul’s aunt, on August 17, 1957. She was born on August 17, 1864, eight months before the Civil War ended.
Johnson City has been blessed over time with a cornucopia of historians, some celebrated and others obscure, but all equally important by preserving valuable facts from the past. A case in point is a Johnson City Press-Chronicle column written by the popular late Tom Hodge containing family information presented to him by Sarah Jackson.
Old newspapers are a treasure trove of history ranging from significant unforgettable happenings to interesting trivial tidbits. Such was the case of a Saturday, August 14, 1937 Johnson City Chronicle.
As was common then, the front page was reserved for mostly world news and events. The chief story dealt with U.S. battleships speeding to Shanghai where 4,000 Americans were endangered by fighting between the Japanese and Chinese.
An examination of the newspaper’s “funny page” is a journey back to the golden age of comic strips: “Blondie,” still looking as youthful today in the Johnson City Press as when she was a flapper girl, was married to Dagwood Bumstead, a man with a predilection for overeating, couch sleeping, colliding with the mailman, feuding with his boss and leaping for the moving trolley to catch a ride to work.
Press readers regularly tell me that they save Monday’s History/Heritage page. That is encouraging to those of us who inscribe these weekly articles because it indicates people’s love of olden times and their desire to personally archive it.