March 2008

A yellowed-with-age April 15, 1960 12-page Boones Creek High School publication, “Bar Tracks,” offers an interesting peek into student life of almost a half century ago.

The newspaper staff included Ronnie Hale (Editor), Charlotte Fitzgerald (Co-Editor), Bob Qualls (Art), Johnny Utsman (Sports) and Geraldine Hawkins (Business Manager). Richard Nixon won a student poll for the upcoming presidential election with 251 votes compared to John Kennedy’s 38 votes.

A student calendar showed future events for the school: April 23- “Chili Feed” sponsored by the Ruritan Club; April 29- Glee Club Operetta, “Stephen Foster,” comprised of 50 students; May 9, Senior Trip to Washington and New York; May 19, Glee Club Concert; May 20, Band Concert; May 27, Junior-Senior Banquet; June 5, Baccalaureate Service; and June 6, Graduation.

The forthcoming Easter holiday season was noted with a hand-drawn sketch of a cross containing the first six verses of Luke 24. Bobby Rowe received a plaque and gold pin for winning an essay contest with a spiritual entry titled “My True Security.”

Under the heading, “Seniors Are Strange Creatures,” a senior was defined as “that enviable person who, after 11 years of carrying textbooks back and forth between home and school, still hasn’t learned how to open one.”

The Honor Roll was announced with 47 students receiving first honors and 55 with second. The student government held a meeting on April 20, 1960 in county offices at Jonesboro.

Martha Lee Cash previewed the approaching senior bus trip and concluded with a plea to teachers: “The tired but happy vagabonds will return home after a very full five days and four nights. So teachers, please be considerate of the sleeping seniors on Monday who are present only in body, not in spirit.”

A tally of seniors revealed 29 of them planning to attend college after graduation: East Tennessee State College, 19; Milligan College, 3; University of Tennessee, 3; and (Johnson City) Business College, 4. Four students had plans to enter military service.

Fourteen students applied for positions within the FBI after a representative spoke at the school. Annual starting salaries were $3400 for clerical work, $3500 for typists and $3600 for secretaries. 

The Editorial Club visited the Johnson City Press-Chronicle on March 18 and toured three departments – Presto Engraving, News and Advertising. Students observed type being set on plates from which the first impression was obtained. They also saw messages being received on Teletype machines.

Larry Reid returned from Nashville from the 4-H Club Congress comprised of about 600 representatives. The clubber showed an 883-pound grand champion Angus steer in the East Tennessee Fat Cattle Show.

The Bars’ 12-game baseball schedule included games with Unaka, Jonesboro, Fall Branch, Hampton, Washington College, Training School, Happy Valley, Sulphur Springs and Lamar.

Phyllis Bledsoe expressed her feelings about graduation in a moving six-verse poem, “Within These Walls,” that concluded with these words: “Within these walls, I learned to laugh, Within these walls, to cry. I was happier here that I’ve ever been. I have to say goodbye. As I go out to lead my life, With all its bumps and falls, I’ll ne’re forget the things I’ve learned, Within these hallowed halls.”

Thank you, Boones Creek seniors of 1960, for leaving some of your “Bar Tracks” behind for us to read almost 50 years later. 

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Bobby Funk, professor of theater at ETSU, has the noble mission of restoring VA Center’s beautiful Memorial Hall to that of its heyday. When the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established in 1901, it was the fulfillment of a dream that President Abraham Lincoln once had.

Many Civil War soldiers had lost an arm or leg by amputation, the commonest and cruelest form of battleground surgery. The veterans required entertainment to take their minds off their physical and mental afflictions. The 600-seat Memorial Hall was built in 1906 to address that need. It was modeled after the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The edifice has three massive arched windows that open onto a huge stone balcony with carved stone balustrade railing at the second floor foyer level. Below them are three deeply recessed wood and glass doors. Visitors to the Home once arrived by buggy, automobile, flivver (small inexpensive older car) or trolley. Events had to be concluded by 9:30 p.m.; that is when the facility gates were closed and the trolley ceased operation.

Vaudeville acts, light opera and plays were quite common. In 1912, George M. Cohan's “45 Minutes From Broadway” opened the season. Later, Bud Fisher's original “Mutt and Jeff” played there with a cast of 50 people. The June 13, 1912 musical production, “American Girl,” is purported to be the first production by a local dramatic group. Johnson City Dramatic Club participants included Angeline Ward, Leone Wagoner, Robert Lyle and T.B. Cook.

A popular showing between 1912 and 1917 was the Mark Sennett production of Keystone Cops, a slapstick police department spoof that featured distinguished actors Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. Tuesday and Thursday nights became movie nights, projecting such silent black and white films as “His Picture In The Papers” (1916, Douglas Fairbanks), “Hell’s Hinges” (1916, William S. Hart) and “Hearts of the World” (1918, Lillian Gish and Robert Harron).

Preceding each motion picture, the National Soldier’s Home band performed an overture for attendees and then supplied accompaniment for the silent film. Resident veterans were admitted free; family members were charged a nickel. In addition, the band gave a concert at the gazebo bandstand in the park overlooking beautiful Buffalo Mountain every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening and another one at Memorial Hall on Sunday night.

According to Funk: “About eight years ago, I discovered Memorial Hall. I thought it was beautiful and wanted to do something with it. A contract allows ETSU to lease and maintain the theatre for 35 years at no charge. 

“New curtains were purchased, interior painted, roof repaired and carpet replaced. We are in the process of redoing the dressing rooms. We hope to install heating and air-conditioning in the building to prevent further deterioration resulting from paint peeling and plaster cracking. We sell regular and box seats as part of a fund raising effort called “Remember our Vets.” Bobby said they currently rent the theatre to various groups to accumulate money for further restoration. Two years ago, they celebrated the 100thanniversary of the theatre.”

The university professor commented that the local city newspaper once reviewed performances at Memorial Hall, often quoting the older veterans such as this one known only as “Old Shorty”: “This play was mighty fine. The girls sang great, but they weren’t as pretty as the girls last time.”   

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There was a time when people suffered from “consumption,” now known as tuberculosis, a debilitating disease that often resulted in certain death for those afflicted.

I vividly recall when one of my childhood friend’s father was diagnosed with TB and was sent to a hospital in Greeneville, TN for a prolonged stay and treatment of the dreaded disease. Sadly, he never returned to his family. Affected people were once sequestered in stuffy rooms with closed windows and given cod-liver oil and cough medicine until death finally offered its relief.

It was not until 1873 that tuberculosis victims had any hope of surviving the malady. Dr. Edward Trudeau was cured of the illness by isolating himself in the remote Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The doctor subsequently developed the first sanitariums that promoted a lifestyle change treatment. These special hospitals provided patients with a regimented treatment of fresh air, cold-water bathing, nourishing food, proper exercise and rest.

The facilities prescribed rigorous edicts for their patients to follow. Sufferers were kept outdoors all day and not permitted to sleep or sit in a hot room even for a few minutes. Sleeping quarters consisted of open porches, tents in the yard or indoor rooms with the windows fully open. This was enforced in both the sweltering heat of summer and the chilly air of winter. Patients were given extra layers of blankets, fur coats and woolen hoods to stay warm.

Thirty minutes of gentle exercise was administered twice daily; equally important was the need to get plenty of rest. Three full meals per day were served along with a supplemental snack of two raw eggs and two pints of milk served 2-3 hours after each meal. Wine, whisky, beer or tobacco products were absolutely forbidden.

Bathing was in the form of cold sponge baths or a plunge in a frigid body of water. TB sufferers were warned to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing and to burn the tainted cloths afterward to prevent the spread of bacteria. A positive outlook on life was stressed, which was believed to help strengthen the body. Those inflicted were to look pleasant, act confidently and be cheerful.

Sanitarium treatments, while painfully slow and monotonous, seemed to work. Many patients began to exchange detrimental health for renewed vitality in their bodies. Of 1000 patients in the early stages of TB who sought treatment in a sanitarium, over 600 were cured, 200 others had their disease arrested and some of the remaining 200 were able to do light work. Revitalized patients began giving testimonials about the advantage of enduring the rigors of a sanitarium. Applicants for admission became so numerous that only about one person in 20 was able to secure a room.

Between 1890 and 1910, sanitariums were built in nearly all parts of the civilized world; in the United States alone, some $1.9 billion dollars were spent in erecting them. By 1910, the country had more than a half million people with tuberculosis and fewer than 200 sanitariums to handle them. This statistic forced patients to provide for their treatment at home, which was often not as effective unless they endured the same rigors required of them at a sanitarium.

Today, thanks to advances in medicine, tuberculosis can be cured using a battery of drugs specified by the treating physician. The once plentiful sprawling specialized TB hospitals around the country have mercifully long vanished from the scene. 

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The late Otto Burgner opened a memorable eatery about 1954 at 925 W. Market that he dubbed the Dutch Maid Drive-In. It quickly became a favorite of locals and handled the culinary needs of the area for 31 years.


I became a regular of the popular spot, driving my dad’s 1954 blue and white Chevy there. A cruise through its parking lot on Friday or Saturday evenings revealed a crowded parking lot full of 50s cars of every make and price. Those were the days of thirty-five cent hamburgers, dime soft drinks and dollar fried shrimp platters.

One notable food item on the menu was “Pizza Pie,” which Burgner is credited for pioneering for area restaurants. His “pie,” which he alleged to be the best tasting in the area, contained seven different cheeses. He also introduced the “Jumbo Burger,” while other restaurants were still dispensing small hamburgers.

Over time, the Dutch Maid ran the gamut from a popular teenage hangout to a well-liked senior adult morning gathering place. The end came at precisely 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 24, 1985. Demolition crews soon began methodically razing the once popular hangout to make room for another business.

Johnson City Press-Chronicle writers, Brad Jolly and Tina Hilton Chudina, covered in two separate articles the demise and destruction of the long-standing restaurant. The closing was a solemn occasion for Otto that brought back 31 years of mostly pleasant memories, which he related to Ms. Hilton in an interview shortly before the restaurant closed:

“Boys used to come and sit to watch girls and girls used to come and sit to watch boys. I’ve made a lot of friends here; it’s like losing part of the family. You just don’t walk out of a place like this without fond memories. Many married couples that come here today met here years ago. A lot of local doctors and lawyers that used to come here when they were kids now bring their families here. Times have certainly changed haven’t they? Competition was tough back then when there were several area restaurants that offered similar food such as the Dixie Drive-In, the Spot No. 1 and the Texas Steer Drive-In. I can remember when kids used to circle those three places. They had traffic blocked from here to the light at Market and Hillcrest streets. Business is still good, but the time has come for me to close.”

In latter years, the Dutch Maid’s hours were reduced to only breakfast and lunch. One of the trademarks of the place was the relaxed friendly atmosphere; people would eat breakfast there or just drink coffee and end up staying all morning.


Brad Jolly experienced the shock of seeing the rubble of the old restaurant: “I should have been prepared for it since we ran an article that it was going to happen. I just didn’t think it was going to be so soon. But Monday as I rode with a couple of colleagues to lunch, I saw the partially decimated Dutch Maid building. Bricks were scattered in the parking lot and gaping holes in the walls let harsh sunlight into the former dining room, the site of countless biscuit and gravy breakfasts and leisurely conversations. The unique décor with its wall-mounted stuffed fish and animals was now a mere memory. The loafers who used to kill time there over multiple cups of coffee were elsewhere, presumably wandering the city in a daze, cut loose from their familiar morning meeting ground.”

The Dutch Maid Drive-In became yet another trendy relic of yesteryear that appeared on the local scene, performed its job admirably and then quietly vanished, leaving behind only warm reminiscences. 

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I received correspondence from seven readers over the past several months whose cherished recollections of West Side School just keep flowing from their memories. Jim Crumley attended classes there in 1958-59 when Ms. Ewall was principal. His father also went there and had Mildred Taylor for his first grade teacher.

Jim recalled Miss Taylor's unique disciplinary techniques: “She would draw a circle with chalk in the corner of the room and place your nose close to the circle and advise you not to move your nose from the area. “She would grab you by the chin and shake it rapidly or take you by the lobe of the ear and lead you to wherever she thought you needed to be.”

Jim recalled that he had just completed the second grade when the school closed its doors. He feels the old structure’s demise was hastened by Ms. Thompson, the third grade teacher, who fell through the floor outside her classroom and broke her ankle. According to Jim, not all West Side School students were shipped to Henry Johnson; those who lived south of Lamont Street were dispatched to South Side.

Mildred Taylor lived in Jonesborough and rode the bus each school day to Johnson City. Jim remembers seeing her walk past his house on her way downtown to catch the bus. Carolyn Byrd Wilcox, who attended West Side School in 1953-59, also commented on Miss Taylor’s unusual punitive practices, saying that her discipline “took on a more ‘hands on’ approach.”

Jim Rhein wrote that his aunt, Maude Meek, and her daughter, Evelyn Ford, taught school at West Side for many years. Maude spoke favorably of the principal, Mr. Mahoney.  John Hughes spoke of Miss Meek, music teacher; Miss Tomlinson, third grade teacher who taught him to write in longhand (cursive); and Mrs. Sisk, fourth grade teacher who introduced him to Scripto blue ink and fountain pens. He said that Mrs. Martin served in the twofold role of sixth grade teacher and librarian, her library being situated in the back of her classroom.

Glenn Stroup related that his family moved to the Holston Apartments in 1940, and that he started attending West Side that fall in the second grade. He remembers Mr. Mahoney and three teachers: Martha Prator, Georgia Tomlinson and Carrie Lee Yoakley. “For those of us living in the Holston and other apartments along Main Street,” said Glenn, “it was easy to get to school – just dart across the street.”

He once was told to report to the principal's office immediately after school, causing him to worry all day about what he had done: “I was relieved to discover that Mr. Mahoney just wanted to know if my mother wanted to keep her large ferns in the school over the winter. Whew!” Glenn recalled classmate, Joe McClain, who later became a major league baseball player: “Almost every time he came up to bat, he knocked the ball across the street, leaving no doubt it was a home run.”

Terry Parsons was at the school between 1951 and 1957 and recollects when Mr. Mahoney rang the old bell in the mornings, signaling that it was time to get to school: “He let a few of us pull the big rope extending from the ceiling just outside the auditorium to ring the bell.”

An unidentified reader alleged that his father participated in a Halloween ritual at West Side by mischievously wrapping the school's bell clapper with rags to thwart the bell ringer. West Side School may have been deceased since 1961, but it still has a special place etched in the hearts of those who once walked its hallowed halls.   

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