In 1965, songwriter and recording artist, Billy Edd Wheeler, hit the pop charts with the novelty tune, “Ode To The Little Brown Shack Out Back," referring to outhouses. In the amusing song lyrics, Wheeler begs for the traditional little brown building to be spared its rapidly approaching demise.
During the cold weather months of 1942 to 1950, my family regularly awoke each morning to a clanging sound vastly different from that of an alarm clock. Our small rented Watauga Avenue apartment contained steam heat and the noise was emanating from one or more of the radiators.
Although the racket was a bit bothersome, it was comforting to know that the atmosphere would soon be toasty warm. Steam heat was wonderful. Ernest Green, the apartment custodian, made his early morning excursion into the cold, damp and dimly lit rodent-infested basement long before residents crawled out of their cozy beds. The caretaker’s mission was to get heat flowing from the coal-fired furnace to the large apartment complex. As steam circulated to the building, some radiators began making a “hammering” or “knocking” noise, sometimes being quite loud.
Louis Feathers grew up in North Johnson City in the 1920s and 30s, first on Lowell Street and then at four different addresses on nearby Baxter Street. During part of that time, the area was outside the city limits.
It was a bird that only a mother could love, with its blue top hat; red felt face and beak; big white eyes; clear glass tube neck; white shapely hips and legs; bright red feet; and a light green feather attached to its large bulb shaped see-thru posterior containing red or blue colored liquid.
Former city resident, Louis Feathers, sent me a copy of his beautifully written 193-page bound autobiography that chronicles his growing up in Johnson City from the 1920s to the early 1940s. One section contains a five-page handwritten letter written in 1995 by his 93-year old uncle, Omer Feathers, who grew up in the Cherokee section of town about six miles southwest of Johnson City.