1939 SHHS Student Publication Announces Opening of New Gym

I fondly recall going to basketball games in the old Science Hill High School gymnasium that stood atop “The Hill” in downtown Johnson City. I attended the last games held at that site before the school moved to the John Exum Parkway location. Coach Bill Wilkins’ starters were Steve Wilson, Gary Scheuerman, Finley Cook, Graham Spurrier and Bobby France.

A Nov. 22, 1939 issue of the school’s monthly student newspaper, The Hilltop, had some exciting news for faculty and staff. A new gym had been built on the east side of the school and plans were underway for its use. Under the heading “Grads to Return for Dedication,” the publication noted that the new addition was ready for its very first official event by alumni.

Former living graduates were invited to the special homecoming and urged to “come with bells on.” The invitation humorously said that “old-timers of multitudinous descriptions – tall, short, fat, skinny, cross-eyed, bowlegged, pigeon-toed, freckled, pretty, ugly, baldheaded, smart and many dumb – would overrun the facility on December 15.”

The Toppers were scheduled to play their first home basketball game against Bristol. Prior to the tip-off, a dedication ceremony was planned. The paper assured both current seniors and former graduates that they would find the occasion to be one of much enjoyment. “So students, take heed”, it said, “and be sure and come to the ballgame, but don’t believe all the stories that those alumni are sure to tell.”

A group of class representatives and PTA members served on the committee and were charged with planning the festivities to insure that the interests of all parties were represented. They stressed the fact that the event would be entirely a school affair and therefore would feature games that everyone enjoyed.

A decision was made to use both the school cafeteria and the gym in order to provide table games such as ping-pong. Refreshments were described as “simple yet plentiful, which is, after all, what counts.”

The student body stressed again, as it had many times before, that it wanted an active social program at the school. The students were reassured to know that the committee was composed of students, parents and teachers, all working toward the goal of producing a social program of merit comparable to the educational and athletic excellency that marked their school.

Football season was over and basketball was about to begin. Coach Denver Dyer was back at the helm after an absence of a year. Dyer had wrestled with the huge task of shaping a group of promising yet inexperienced athletes into an effective team. He had only one letterman, Allen Chandler, returning from the previous year. The Topper fans looked on the bright side and saw plenty of promising material on the current squad.

Joe Summers and Charles Roller returned from the previous year’s squad and a new group of players had entered the school from Junior High School. Adding to this group were performers from the Training School, giving the team a fighting chance to show up favorably that year.

 The schedule through Christmas was Happy Valley, Dec. 5 (away); Mountain City, Dec. 8 (away); Blountville, Dec. 12 (away); Bristol, Dec. 15 (home); and Blountville, Dec. 19 (home).

When the old school was demolished in early 1979, the gym complex was spared the same fate. But after standing idle for several years, it sadly met its fate in 2000 after an encounter with a wrecking ball.