February 2009

One piece of exciting news in 1912 was the opening of Jones-Vance Drug Company at 121 Buffalo at Tipton. There were just four doctors in town then – Dr. Elmore Estes, Dr. J.H. Johnson, Dr. W.G. Matthews and Dr. J.H. Preas.

Owners H. Raymond Jones and T. Beauregard Vance took over the site formerly occupied by the Abraham Heller Cigar Shop. This was in the era of Model T cars, brick streets and trolley cars. Jones had ten sons and over the years employed them as they became old enough to work.

A 1915 Chamber of Commerce booklet described the business as “a beautifully fitted up store, which reflects credit alike to the city as well as to the proprietors.” The publication further stated, “It may be said that there is no branch of business, which, for its successful operation, calls for such a high standard of character, combined with sound knowledge and ripe experience, as the modern drug business. This store is thoroughly stocked throughout with every variety of drugs, sundries, medicines, toilet articles, perfumes, cigars and all other such articles usually found in first class enterprises of this character.”

In 1969, the late Dorothy Hamill, former Johnson City Press-Chronicle writer, interviewed Lloyd Jones, the only surviving son. He noted that although his family’s trade changed hands several times during its 68-year operation, it always carried the original name. His store duties included helping prepare medicine, working at the soda fountain and dispensing a wide variety of patent medicines. Jones recalled that the hours of operation were from about six a.m. until nine p.m., seven days a week.

On the left side of the store as you entered was a counter that displayed boxes of candy, stationery, chewing tobacco, cameras, perfume, postcards, cosmetics and the like. On the right side was a beautiful soda fountain fabricated of marble and onyx. “There wasn’t any refrigeration then,” Jones said, “We kept the ice cream in ice and rock salt and made our own chocolate syrup. Customers could buy chocolate milk for five cents. It consisted of ice cream, chocolate syrup and milk, all mashed up together. You could get a banana split for ten cents. At the end of the fountain was one of those decorated china lamps that looked like stained glass.”

Lloyd indicated that fountain customers were served at one of three round wrought iron tables at the far end of the store. Notably absent were counter stools, considered to be out-of-place for a quality drug store. Ironically, not considered rudimentary was a brass spittoon (or cuspidor) sitting on the floor just inside the door to the right, adjacent to the soda fountain counter.

Air conditioning consisted of an overhead fan for summer months and a coal burning stove in the back during cold weather. Hot pipes from the stove ran under the ceiling and had to be cleaned periodically. The remedy was to wrap sulphur and nitrate of soda together and burn them in the stove to eliminate the residue in the pipes.

Getting a license then meant serving as an apprentice to another druggist for a prescribed period of time. Medicines were prepared in a back room by the pharmacist. He charged 50 cents to fill a prescription plus the price of the drugs. If people wanted pills, the attendant would mix and grind the powders and place them in capsules or small paper folders. The store’s original mortar and pestle were eventually donated to ETSU’s Reece Museum.

Jones-Vance made some of its own remedies such as tincture of iron and iodine, a cough medicine containing mostly honey and laudanum (opium), a blood tonic called IQS (iron, quinine and strychnine), a liniment rub comprised of mostly grease and cayenne peppers and another tonic known as VVP (vim, vigor and pep). The drug store also sold several patent medicines such as Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and Cardui, “The Woman’s Tonic.”

The close proximity of the business to the railroad resulted in customers arriving in Johnson City by train from Virginia and North Carolina and patronizing the store, often bringing with them orders from the train conductors. These would be filled and taken back to the depot the same day.

Hungry customers desiring more than fountain fare usually went across the street to the Buffalo Café that was operated by an older lady. The eatery’s placard consisted of a single board containing the menu. In addition to short order items, regular dinners cost 35 cents and Sunday ones sold for 50 cents.

City directories reveal that Jones-Vance moved to 110 E. Main between 1928 and 1935 on the site formerly occupied by Gump’s clothing emporium (downstairs) and Jobe’s Opera House (upstairs) and later the Tennessee National Bank.

While few residents can remember the Buffalo Street store, many can recall the impressive Main Street one. The business remained in that location until its demise in 1960.  

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Memories of old West Side School continue to flow from J.C. Press readers, this being my fifth column on the subject. Terry Parsons, who attended the school between 1951 and 1957, offered his own personal reflections. 

“I waited with great anticipation for going into the first grade,” said Terry, “because my sister, Betty, and my brother, Roger, were already in school. I wanted to carry books, notebooks, pencils and papers back and forth to school each day. I craved it.

John Mahoney and Terry Parsons

“Mr. John Mahoney, the principal, rang the old bell in the mornings signaling that it was time to get to school. I recollect his letting a few of us pull the big rope that extended from the ceiling just outside the auditorium.” Terry offered comments about his seven teachers:

1st Grade, Mrs. Mildred Taylor: “I remember her class” said Terry, “and setting at those little rectangular tables with about four or five kids to a table. Her reading circle was at the back of the room where she read from a large book. The students read back to her and chanted, ‘See Tom run, See Spot run.’”

2nd Grade, Miss McCloud: “She was the first teacher that I had a crush on. She was a pretty dark haired woman who was single. Her boyfriend occasionally came into our class, which brought giggles from the students.”

3rd Grade, Mrs. Georgia Tomlinson: Terry described her as a robust woman and a stereotypical teacher. He said she had impressive chalk calendars on her blackboard that were really a work of art. He recalls being in a play in the auditorium as a policeman dressed in his Cub Scout shirt and pants and wearing his Safety Patrol hat and plastic white belt.

4th Grade, Mrs. Alberta Sisk: Terry depicted her as looking much like Aunt Bee of the Mayberry television series. He said the little kids were downstairs and his class finally made it upstairs. It was in the 4thgrade that he was introduced to ink pens. Learning to use this device was part of becoming a grown up – a right of passage.

5th Grade, Mrs. Mildred Adams: The 5thgrade was upstairs on the south side of the building. The teacher was a small slender woman with gray hair. He learned fractions in math, which he said began to get more complicated.

6th Grade, Mrs. Ruth Martin and Mrs. Maude Meek: Mrs. Martin taught him all courses except math, which was presented by Mrs. Meek. “We received the famous Weekly Readers, which we read and answered questions in the back of the little paper,” said Parsons. “The 6th grade was the boys’ first experience with organized football. The city had a P.E. teacher assigned to each school that organized each school’s football team. Ours was Coach Bob “Mohawk” Mays.”

Terry has vivid memories of the trees that surrounded the school and how they would turn each year into the most beautiful fall colors imaginable – rich golds, yellows and reds. His class went outside and collected leaves, brought them inside, traced them and colored the tracings. Each year, the school held a ‘’The Fall Festival,” marking the beginning of the holiday season – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The entire school was heavily decorated in vivid fall colors.

Terry concluded by saying, “A lot of parents baked cakes and brought them for the ‘cake walks,’ which were held in front of the office in the great hall. One game was held at Miss Taylor’s class doorway. Curtains were strung across the door and kids took a long cane pole and fished over the curtain to catch a prize.” Ah, such memories of yesteryear. 

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“Young Johnnie Steele has an Oldsmobile, He loves a dear little girl, She is the queen of his gas machine, She has his heart in a whirl.” Few songs capture the nostalgia of the birth of the “horseless carriage” than the 1905 musical composition, “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” written by Gus Edwards and Vincent P. Bryan and published by M. Witmark & Sons. Ransome Eli’s Olds Motor Vehicle Company came into existence in 1897.

An excerpt from Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbit,” (1922) further states: “It was a night of lovers. All along the highway into Zenith, under the low and gentle moon, motors were parked and dim figures were clasped in revelry.” An examination of some old Johnson City directories between 1911 and 1921 reveals some early and virtually forgotten automobile businesses:

A.J. Hurlbut & Co. (121 Spring), A.J. Wakefield (200 W. Main), Burrow Motor Co. (339 E. Main), Dahl & Johnson (320 E. Main/227 W. Main), E.D. Hanks Motor Co. (119-121 E. Market), East Tennessee Motor Co. (320 E. Main), H.R. Parrott Motor Co. (Ash Street), Johnson Auto Co. (320 /339 E. Main), Johnson City Automobile & Machine Works (corner of Roan and Millard), Johnson City Buick Co. (339 E. Main), Lewis-Brown Sales Agency (123 E. Market), Model Motor Co. (117 E. Market), Morris Motor Co. (115 S. Roan), Southern Auto & Welding Co. (206 W. Market), Standard Auto Repair Co. (207 Boone), Summers-Parrott Hardware Co. (Buffalo at Ash) and Wood Motor Company (308 E. Main).  

An interesting article in an October 1960 Hobbies Magazine told of an antique automobile display called “Come Away with Me Lucille – The Gay Days of Motoring, 1897-1912.” It featured 12 antique cars from the late 1800s. The hazards and hardships seen in the display vividly illustrated the safety concerns and lack of comforts of those beautiful but experimental relics of yesteryear. 

Several “dangerous” vehicles were identified that included a 1906 Cadillac, one cylinder, ten H.P., selling price $1050; a 1900 Columbia Electric Surrey (with the fringe on top); and a child’s Electric Runabout of 1907.

Others on display were the 1898 Leon Bollee Tricar, 1899 Locomotive Steamer, 1903 Pierce Motorette, 1903 Autocar Tonneau, 1904 Knox Surrey, 1904 Franklin Touring Car, 1906 Success Auto Buggy, 1911 Buick Runabout and a 1912 Spache Cyclecar. Their attractive finishes, plush upholstery and shiny brass made it difficult to believe that the future of the automobile industry was so uncertain. One man reportedly had his car fabricated in the shape of a horse. Also, Henry Ford twice considered selling his company.

The display also included a wide array of motoring artifacts and parts of early automobiles, ranging from a compilation of horns and headlamps to milady’s vanity case. The article humorously said “this luxurious case, equipped with every conceivable necessity for repairing the effects of the journey, is significant for it was not until nearly 1912 that primping and powering ever took place outside the sanctity of the boudoir.”

“Come away with me Lucille, In my merry Oldsmobile, Down the road of life we'll fly, Auto-mo-bubbling, you and I.”

The “Johnny Steeles” of today must find alternative “merry automobiles” for going “auto-mo-bubbling” with their favorite “Lucilles.” Sadly, the Oldsmobile motored off into the sunset on April 29, 2004 after 106 years of operation. 

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Last February, I wrote about the tri-city Preaching Mission that faithfully came to Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol annually in February for an 8-day convention between 1955 and 1986. Recently, I located supplementary material about it.

Feb. 13, 1955, the inaugural day of the Mission, was typical East Tennessee mid-winter weather. In spite of this, a large number of folks turned out in all three cities. Johnson City led the pack with an attendance of 3,000 participants that night at ETSC’s (later ETSU) Memorial Gymnasium and 1000 at noon the next day at the Tennessee Theatre. This outpouring of excitement set the tone for the week.

Highly recognized speakers on the agenda included Dr. Dan Poling, editor of Christian Herald magazine; Dr. Walter Judd, Minnesota congressman and a former medical missionary; Congressman Brooks Hays of Arkansas, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Dr. Charles Allen, Grace Methodist Church in Atlanta. A newspaper write-up said the meetings produced inspired and challenging messages. Dr. Allen became a crowd favorite and consequently was invited to future missions.

A year later, several Elizabethton church leaders asked that their town be added as well, prompting a name change to Appalachian Preaching Mission. In addition, three other cities jumped on the bandwagon – Erwin, Jonesboro and Greeneville. Erwin eventually formed a Mission of its own.

By 1957, the four cities had a combined weekly attendance of 79,927, with Johnson City leading at 36,850. A year later, the total topped 85,000. Johnson City continued to lead with 38,102.

The Johnson City Press-Chronicle offered continuous editorial support, citing the potential for spiritual as well as civic and social growth. George Kelly of the Press-Chronicle once wrote, “People truly drawn together by spiritual bonds are likely to be drawn together in other ways that count.”

The annual mid-winter services became a habit regardless of weather conditions. The ETSU gym was often filled to capacity. At noon, it seemed as if the whole town had closed and flocked to the Tennessee Theatre. The Preaching Mission became a high priority event, often taking precedence over other city happenings. It was advertised well in advance with the admonition, “Clear your calendar.”

Over the years, other recognized speakers traveled the four-city circuit, some accepting little or no pay: Gov. Theodore McKeldin of Maryland; Dr. Louis Evans, First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood; Dr. Duke McCall, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville; Dr. Harold C. Ockenga, Park Street Church, Boston; Dr. Charles Ray Goff, Chicago Temple; Dr. C. Oscar Johnson, former president of Baptist World Alliance; Dr. Pierce Harris, First Methodist Church, Atlanta; Dr. James DeForest Murch, editor of Christianity Today; Dr. Andy Holt, president of the University of Tennessee; Dr. Theodore Adams, president of the Baptist World Alliance; Dr. Robert C. Shannon, First Christian Church, Largo, Florida; and Rev. Bob Richards, San Diego Church of the Brethren.

In 1961, the Mission moved to April to address the concerns of ice and snow. Initially, all seemed to go well with the first night’s attendance at 3600 and the second one at 4000.

Nevertheless, the date was moved back to February at a new venue – the recently built Science Hill High School gymnasium. From there, it was relocated to Freedom Hall in the 1970s where it remained until its demise in 1986.   

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Recently, I received four pages of an undated newspaper known as The Monday Wash, distributed by “The Young Woman’s Auxiliary of the Monday Club,” and advertised as “A Newspaper of No Character.”

Solomon New was editor of the paper that appeared to date back to about 1940. The paper’s serious aim was noted in an editorial: “For several years now, we’ve had no Monday Wash. The depression took most of the laughter from us and gave us so much to worry about that we lost, at least temporarily, our sense of humor. This year we have attempted to give you a few laughs in a paper, which is designed not for the purpose of making fun of people or hurting anybody’s feelings. The proceeds of the sale will be used for civic work.”

The newspaper’s rates were $.25 daily, $.25 weekly and $.25 yearly.” The paper did not print communications whose authors were revealed to the publishers. They claimed to have three libel suits and desired more. Submitted manuscripts had to be accompanied by a deputy sheriff.

A lengthy article titled “Knights of Bantam Chanticleer” spoke of an organization for the prevention of cruelty to bachelors. Part of the 379-word oath stated: “I being of sound mind and having an inordinate indisposition to bestow my worldly goods upon any woman of the female sex, realizing the uncertainty of married life, which I believe to be a scheme upon the part of woman to inveigle man into paying her board bill for life and recognizing the certainty of the joyous and untrammeled life of the bachelor, do by those presents, in the presence of these assembled Knights, herby …”

Another article mentioned a trek of the “Hick, Hack, Hike Club.” The group left Johnson City, hiked to Alta Pass (NC), trekked to Greeneville (TN) where a light lunch was enjoyed, took a 20-minute rest break, journeyed on foot to Gatlinburg, to Erwin and thence to the foot of Buffalo Mountain. The group then walked an hour, skipped an hour, trotted the next 30 minutes and ended the third hour with “a decided gallop.”

Another story was of a stranger stopping at Central Baptist Church in the middle of the Sunday morning worship services while Dr. William Rigell was preaching. The visitor slipped into a back seat alongside a member and whispered to him, “How long has your minister been preaching?” He was told “about ten years.” “Well,” said the stranger, “I think I’ll stay; he must be nearly through.”

A testimonial was sent from George Barnes, City Judge, to Mr. Stevedore Smith of Jones-Vance Drug Store, whose occupation was listed as “Pharmaceutilist and Mortician”: Gents, I suffered from tendium, languor of spirits and a disinclination for work for nigh on to 40 years. I tried 38 and a half bottles of your ‘Git Up and Go Prophylactic,’ and got up the next morning feeling fine. Since then, I have ‘worked’ over 30 men with good results.”

About the only earnestness in the paper were advertisements: Masengill’s, Zimmerman’s News Stand. Office Supply Company, Remine Monuments, Windsor Hotel, George E. Treadway & Sons, Free Service Tire Company, Vee Bee Grocery, Central Coal Company, Mrs. Lyons Taylor Fruit Cakes, Snyder-Jones Pharmacy, Mrs. W.W. Belew Cakes, Bobie’s Chili Parlor, The Hat Box Millinery, The Marguerite Hyatt School of the Dance, Beckner’s Jewelers, Dosser’s, Mecca Restaurant, Appalachian Funeral Home, King’s, The Floral Shoppe, The Charlie Cargille Studio, Bonnie Kate Beautify Salon and H.E. Hart Jewelers.

And then there was this clever news bit: “At a recent Rotary Club meeting, Doc. Wheeler had a congestion of traffic on the Esophagus Road to his stomach. He tried to run a load of hotdogs through a red light.” 

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