January 2009

A 1902 edition of the Comet newspaper spoke of the upcoming election that year. The Democratic ticket consisted of James B. Frazier, Hamilton County, Governor; Cy H. Lyle, Washington County, Congress, First District; J.N. McKenzie, Wilson County, Railroad Commissioner; A. H. Tipton, Greene County, State Senator; J.L. Clark, Washington County, Representative; and R.M. Barry, Unicoi County, Floater. The Republican ticket was noticeably absent.

The U.S. Representative race grabbed much newspaper space by duly noting why voters should elect Lyle to the position and why they should not elect the incumbent Republican contender, Walter Brownlow. You may recall that it was Brownlow who got Soldiers Home approved for Johnson City on January 28, 1901.

At first the contest was considered a joke, but the underdog Lyle turned up the heat on his popular rival. The harsh tone of the campaign was much like those of today. A partial listing of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” reveal the torrid debates that ensued:

“Don’t vote for Brownlow because he is a petty tyrant, for he has threatened those holding official positions under the government with loss of their positions if they do not work and contribute to his campaign. He is a spoilsman. His doctrine is that positions in his district shall be given to those only who help him get in office. His practice is to buy votes and influence with governmental appoints regardless of merit.

“Don’t vote for Brownlow if you have any regard for the purity of your election. His motto is that anything is fair in politics and resorts to intimidations, misrepresentations, vote buying and corruption, thus debauching your citizens and imperiling your institutions.

“Don’t vote for Brownlow if you are a union veteran and pensioner. You fought for principle, risked your life and all to preserve your government and are entitled to your pension as a matter of right and law. If you are a confederate veteran, you sacrificed all for what you believed to be right. With your record, you can’t afford to vote for a man whose practices are all wrong and who measures your manhood by the standard of money and the political pie. He is a demagogue, spoilsman, violator of the civil service laws, corruptionist and a disturbing factor in his own part.

The paper then offered reasons for voting for Cy Lyle.

“Vote for Lyle because he will strive to advance the best interests of the people of this district without asking them to be his slaves for so doing. He is opposed to the prostitution of the ballot box and is in favor of upholding, not trampling upon, the manhood of our people. He proposed to act upon the principle that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people and not a government of Lyle and his appointees, by Lyle and his appointees, and for Lyle and his appointees.

“Vote for Lyle because he is opposed to the trusts which put from 50 to 75 percent advance on your food and clothing and from 10 to 20 percent advance on your wages, which sell you articles at 100 percent and sell the same articles in Europe at 25 and 50 percent less.

“Vote for Lyle in order to purge your district of politics in which bribery, intimidation, corruption and demagoguery take the place of statesmanship and disgrace your honor, integrity and manhood.”

When the votes were counted, Lyle had lost to Brownlow and Frazier was elected to the governorship. Cy Lyle, as editor of the Comet newspaper, had the liberty, money and position to say what and how much he pleased about his own candidacy and that of Brownlow’s … and he did.   

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In mid 1973, Dorothy Hamill conducted an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Jones to reminisce with them about Mrs. Jones’ 30 years service as ticket agent at the Southern Railway Station, once located between Market and Roan streets.

The city dismantled it in mid 1973 to improve traffic flow in the downtown area. Mrs. Jones said, “It was a gathering place for the town and also for people in the mountains since the railway served a number of North Carolina points. Business people brought lunches and ate in the waiting room. They asked when a train might be coming through and often remarked that the sound of a train was music to their ears.”

Mr. Jones, a clerk of the city’s Clinchfield Railway office and later rate clerk in Erwin, remembered that he met his wife in the Southern station. When the two eventually tied the matrimonial knot, friends amusingly referred to their wedding as the merger of the Southern and Clinchfield.

Mr. Jones remembered that the new station was already built when he came to Johnson City in 1911; he understood that it had been there about a year. The old terminal was operating at the site that became Free Service Tire Company. The new one became a center of attraction.

Mrs. Jones related the words of a soldier from North Carolina who had been in Mexico and was glad to be home: “I wouldn’t take a thousand dollars for the trip, nor give one cent for another.”

During WWII, a Japanese student at Lees-McRae College planned to spend Christmas holidays with her parents in Cairo, Illinois. With a war raging, she needed special permission from the government to make the trip. Hale Williams, special agent, secured authorization and escorted her to her final destination. Mrs. Jones assisted her with hotel accommodations while she was in Johnson City.

Another war trip that was difficult to handle concerned a slight-of-build young woman and six children under five years of age who were traveling to Seattle to join her husband in military service. The depot staff courteously rallied around her and wired the three train stops ahead to give her special attention.

During the war years, about every two weeks there was an embarkation of soldiers on their way to join the armed forces. People were jammed in the waiting room that was permeated with both laughter and weeping. Frequently, a mother or sweetheart fainted.

On June 18, 1932, the railway advertised a special one-day rate of one cent per mile; the usual fare was 3.5 cents a mile. Hundreds of people took advantage of the reduced fee, producing a constant stream of passengers in and out of the depot from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. After WWII ended, special cars routinely took kindergarten and primary children on their first train ride.

The Tennessean was a popular train that drew a crowd anytime it rolled into town. A baggage and a coach car were appropriately named “Johnson City.”

Several notables stopped off in Johnson City over the years: John J. Pershing, Army general; William Jennings Bryan, attorney in the famous Scopes Trial in 1925; Herbert Hoover, president of the United States; and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones concluded the interview by lamenting that, although the old train station was sadly going away forever, the memories of it would not die in the hearts of area residents. Thankfully, thirty-six years later, those memories are still very much alive. 

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Earl “Bucky” Buchanan sent me a letter containing a March 26, 1914 program from The W.A. Wright Private School, Department of Instructional Music and his father’s “Student’s Monthly Report.”

The concert was held in the Grand (renamed Majestic) Theatre. The director was Margaret Haynes Wright. The instructional facility was located in the Carlisle (renamed Franklin) Hotel.

The recital was divided into two parts. Students’ names are shown in parentheses. Part I consisted of eight selections:

·         March and Chorus from “Tannhauser”: Wagner, first piano (Miss Wright and Edith Baxter) and second piano (Mary Luter Wright and Elizabeth Cass).

·         Violin, Marche Militaire: Conte (Adalaide Miller).

·         Piano, The Joyful Peasant: Schumann-Hartl (Mildred Wade).

·         Violin Trio: Dancla: (Edith Miller, Adalaide Miller and Victor Crouch).

·         Piano Le Chasse de Gazelles: Calvini (Mildred Nicholson and Mary Gump).

·         Violin, 6th Air Varie: Dancla (Edith Miller).

·         Stars and Stripes Forever: (Sousa), Miniature Orchestra consisting of first violins (Edith Miller, Adalaide Miller and Victor Crouch), second violins (Ilo Burchfield and Perry Hunter), cornet (Charlie Crouch), clarinet (Edwin Crouch), triangle (Dorothy Black), bass (Lee Johnson) drums (Schuyler Aldrich), piano (Edith Baxter) and director (William Wright, Jr.).

Part II also contain eight numbers and had a Japanese Drill at the finale:

·         Violin, Marche Nuptiale: Papini (Hazel Bramm, Mary Luter Wright and Christine Burleson).

·         Piano, Spring Song: Mendelssohn (Mildred Exum).

·         Violin, Serenade: Braga (Mabel Van Hook).

·         Piano, Scherzo: Chopin (Mary Luter Wright).

·         Piano, Mazurka: Mlynarski (Hazel Bramm).

·         Ensemble, Overture from “Die Freischutz”: Weber, first piano (Miss Wright), second piano (Mary Luter Wright), first violin (Hazel Bramm), second violin (Christine Burleson), third violin (Mabel Van Hook) and fourth violin (Mildred Exum).

The Japanese Drill was comprised of 25 ladies (Mary Gump, Edith Baxter, Margaret Campbell, Gladys Davis, Clara Lou Burchfield, Beatrice Mercereau, Louise Cox, Kathleen Steele, Lela Rumbley, Mildred Buchanan, Helen Johnson, Xola Denton, Mildred Nicholson, Frances Miller, Margie Hunt, Lela Hart, Gertrude McCorkle, Elmira McNeil, Mildred Wade, Edith Bolton, Hattie Remine, Hattie Cox, Bess Remine and Gwendolyn Wallace (Soloist)).

At the bottom of the program in small print were these words: “Pianos Furnished by Sterchi Furniture Company, H.W. Lyle Printing Company, Johnson City.”

Earl commented: “Christine Burleson, who played second violin in the program, was the daughter of David and Mary Burleson. Like her father, she was an English professor at East Tennessee State College and an authority on Shakespeare. Her untimely death saddened her students and fellow teachers.”

Earl said the items he shared with me were found in his grandparents’ old house nearly 50 years after their death. He identified two ladies in the Japanese Drill as Mildred Buchanan, daughter of Attorney Stokes and Nola Buchanan, and Gwendolyn Wallace, sister of Fitzhugh Wallace, the aunt of Lee Wallace.

A note at the bottom of Mr. Buchanan’s “Student’s Monthly Report” stated, “Our school seeks to develop high ideals as well as thorough scholarship. Punctuality in attendance will be an important factor in determining each student’s record.”  

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The late Tom Hodge of the Johnson City Press introduced his readers to early businessman, Fred Hoss, numerous times over the years. Fred wrote an article for the Johnson City Chronicle on Sunday, May 21, 1922 titled “Henry Johnson Realized His Dream.” Since the city founder married Mary Ann Hoss, daughter of John Hoss, perhaps Fred was a descendant of that early family.

An advertisement in a 1913 City Directory shows “Hoss & Hoss, Shorthand Reporters; Specialists, Law and General Reporting, Stenography and Typewriting; 15 years experience. Additionally, the business is listed in the Business Directory under “Shorthand Reporters.”

Another ad from that directory reads “Fred Wesley Hoss; Eight Songs, Four With Words and Four Without; located in the Burrow Building at 240.5 E. Main.” Oldsters will identify the address as being the Nettie Lee Ladies Shop.

A 1915 Chamber of Commerce publication classifies the business as “Shorthand Reporter, Stenographic Artist” saying, “Mr. Hoss is a young man, a native of East Tennessee, of good standing and enjoying the most enviable reputation in his line of work throughout East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. He has been engaged in stenographic work for 17 years, becoming a member of the International Shorthand Reporters’ Association in 1904.”

In a 1986 article, Tom Hodge made some comments about Fred: “You’ve got to be an older Johnson Citian to know about Fred W. Hoss. He died in the early 1950s after a long life in Johnson City in which he served, among other things, as newspaper reporter, editor and historian.” When Tom started working at the Johnson City Press-Chronicle as a nightside sportswriter, “Pappy” Hoss, as he was known, was night editor. He ruled the newsroom from his desk, sitting there erect wearing a bowtie. Everything on his desk was neatly arranged  – pencils, rulers, scissors, paste pot and stacks of state, national and international printouts taken from the clacking Teletype machine.

At the annual newspaper Christmas party, “Pappy” demonstrated his mastery of the piano by playing a variety of diverse compositions. Frank Tannewitz once brought Tom a songbook that he had purchased from Henry Frick at the Music Mart. It was one with eight songs, four with words and four without, published in 1912 by Hoss and Hoss and copyrighted by Fred Wesley Hoss.

The instrumentals were “The Victor’s Return,” “Dream Song,” “Bridal Song” and “December Morning.” The vocals were “The Memory Rose,” “The Year and You,” “My Fairy” and “Crossing the Bar” (solo and male quartet). “Pappy” dedicated each selection to a different person. Tom’s wife served as a critic, playing the eight pieces and offering an objective and favorable evaluation of them.”

The Press had a Coke machine in the newsroom that accepted only nickels. If someone needed a nickel, “Pappy” would make change for them by charging them a dime and a penny in exchanged for two nickels. The staff reciprocated the favor by assessing Fred a fee for special favors. On a cold night, “Pappy” would ask someone to fetch his LaSalle car that was parked a block away. That person subsequently charged him a penny for the service.

Hoss had the curious habit of shutting down the front page of the upcoming morning paper around 9:00 at night and it took an earth-shaking news event to convince him to revise the page after that hour.

 “You just don’t find “Pappy” Hosses in our business anymore,” said Hodge. “When he died, Johnson City lost not only a fine old-fashioned newspaperman but also one of the city’s top historians, too.” The same can be said of Tom Hodge. 

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