April 2010

Charles W. Marshall, who worked for the Johnson City Police Department between December 1957 and October 1982, shared some prized photos and a Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police Magazine dated April 1966. 

The 118-page publication focused on police departments in six Tennessee cities: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Elizabethton, Cookeville, Murfreesboro and Johnson City. The JC section occupied 23 pages that included five locally written articles and 220 advertisements of businesses from that era.

The most striking item was titled, “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes for the Unwary and the Policeman.” Former Johnson City Press-Chronicle staffer, Jim Turner, teamed up with on-duty police officers working the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift for a research project to gain firsthand experience of after-dark city crime.

Turner quickly learned that protection of approximately 35,000 city residents from attack, intrusion and other serious crimes rested that night with just nine officers. Lt. Tom Helton (future chief) commanded the night unit assisted by Sgt. George Adams, second-in-command and Sgt. Mickey Auer, desk sergeant and radio dispatcher. Jim recalled one incident on the first night of his assignment that was typical of the life of a police officer.

“My right hand grabbed for support,” said Jim, “as the police cruiser jumped from 20 to 50 miles an hour, then 60 and 70. As the driver jammed the accelerator to the floorboard, he thrust his left hand toward a toggle switch and the light atop the cruiser slashed its red warning signal through the after-midnight darkness. ‘Ten–four,’ he uttered into the microphone, acknowledging the radio call to rush to the aid of a gas station attendant who was in danger of being beaten by four toughs”

The news reporter, after realizing that he and the officer beside him were the only ones being dispatched to the scene, nervously began to contemplate what role, if any, he would play when they arrived at their destination. He knew that if the circumstances became combative he would have to offer his assistance. Fortunately, when they arrived only the attendant was present. After getting a description of the car and the suspects, the office and Jim attempted to locate them but to no avail.

Most police calls are centered on a troublesome situation that quickly spreads to one or more officers. A common dilemma for the dispatch is when someone reports another person’s actions to the police. Sometimes the desk sergeant has to wade through a barrage of irate verbiage before determining and courteously informing the person that no law had been broken.

 Turner learned that occasionally an officer found himself the target of vengeful acts by the person being arrested or by his family or friends. Another ploy was for influential individuals to contact the arresting officer to persuade or intimidate him into lowering or dropping the charge before the case reached court. Some influential violators threatened to have the officer fired for doing his job.

Jim related another difficult situation for police. “An officer stops a car in connection with a traffic violation or because it resembles an auto for which the police are searching, even if it is a partial description. As the officer approaches the seated driver of the car, he seldom has any hint of the driver’s identity or situation. He may be an innocent citizen who has unintentionally exceeded the speed limit or he may be a wanted man who knows his best chance for freedom is to shoot or disarm the officer making him especially vulnerable as he approaches the stopped vehicle.

The staff writer noted how one officer reduced the risk of a potentially dangerous situation after pulling a car over to the side of the road. “He focused the cruiser’s spotlight on the driver before getting out,” said Jim, “and he kept close to the side of the stopped car as he walked up to check the driver. The spotlight momentarily blinded him should he try to fire at the officer, but did not hinder him during the moment the officer stood beside the door.

One of the greatest disadvantages in police work was said to be the nervous strain to which policemen are subjected. The article indicated that three city policemen had undergone stomach surgery attributed to job strain within the past two to three years. The malady was not confined to those who walked beats or patrolled in cruisers; it even applied to what appeared to be a stress-free job – the desk sergeant and radio dispatcher. A man promoted to this job soon asked to return to his former job that caused him to incur a reduction in rank from sergeant to patrolman.

The newsman summarized his experience with the Police Department by saying, “Before beginning this project, I had thought of day-to-day police work as requiring no special attributes other than an unusual amount of physical courage. In addition to possessing an abundance of courage and strength, the good officer must have a sharp knowledge of psychology, skill in diplomacy, infinite patience and a devotion to duty. And, if he is to retain his sanity in the face of all the frustrations that police work entails, he must also have a well-developed sense of humor.”

The ten-photo collage of the Johnson City Police Department taken in November 1962 shows (left to right, top to bottom):

Top Left: (front) John Senn, Wanda Lewis, Paul Odom, Judy Barnett, (back) Carroll Tranbarger, Johnny Howell, Earl Byrd, L.P. Auer, Bill Collins.

 Top Right: (front) Ben Treadway, Paul Laws, D.C. Laws, Cecil Clark, George Murray, (back) Tom Helton, Fleenor Masengill, Albert Wood, Ed Friesland, George Adams.

Middle: Bufford Tunnel, Louis Auer, Allen Chandler, Chief C.E. Mullenix, Imogene Bright, Catherine Laughren.

Bottom Left: (front) Wendell Snapp, John Robinson, Charles Miller, Charles Marshall, (back) Garland Musick, Wayne McKeeham, Bobby Greer, D.H. Byrd, Leland Dalton.

Bottom Right: (front) Rodney Rowlett, Harry Reed, Bill Butler, Raymond Conner, Sheelor Norris, (back) Frank Hicks, John Hughes, David Yates, Euel Painter, George Hicks. 

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During my years at Henry Johnson School in the early to mid 1950s, I played numerous outdoor games at recess and at home, several of which would be deemed too rough for schools to engage in today.

Let me escort us down memory lane by recalling a few of my favorites. As with most childhood activities, the rules varied considerably.

Dodgeball: This was my favorite. We divided into two teams of equal number of players. Team A formed two parallel lines several feet apart. Team B positioned themselves inside the two lines. The contest began when alternately each side of Team A began throwing a large ball toward Team B players. If the ball struck a person below the shoulders (a requirement), he or she came out of the contest. The last person standing was declared the winner of that team. The circumstances were then reversed with Team B forming two lines and Team A moving to the middle. This was good exercise and a lot of fun.

Red Rover: Two teams were selected and formed parallel lines a few feet apart facing one another and holding hands firmly. One side selected a person on the opposing team and shouted: “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (Bobby Cox) right over.” Bobby then left his post and ran as hard as he could toward some perceived weak spot in the opposing team’s line. If he succeeded in breaking through the human chain, he picked one person from that team to go back with him to his team. If he failed to break through the line, he joined that squad. This pastime had no losers because ultimately everyone ended up on the same team or they quit.  

Red Light, Green Light: One individual served as a human traffic light. Game players stood side by side about 25 feet away. The challenge began when the “light” shouted “green light” and immediately turned his/her back to the others. Everyone ran toward the “light.” Then, the “light” shouted “red light” and immediately wheeled around toward the challengers. Anyone caught moving even slightly after the “light” turned red was ejected. The signaler alternately said “green light” and “red light” allowing the pursuers to advance. Players had to pace themselves in order to freeze when the light changed. The first player to touch the “light” while it was green became the “light” for the next game. The “red light” was declared the winner if all pursuers were ejected. 

Crack the Whip: Six or more people formed a straight line by holding hands. The head person was the leader and the rear person was the caboose. The game commenced when the leader began running like crazy pulling his/her human train first in one direction and then in another. The leader and caboose were the only ones permitted to use both hands. The leader’s goal was to sling people off the train. Those who lost their grip were evicted from the train and the others then regrouped and continued their wild journey. The game’s fun was two-fold: trying to hold on to the train and making a noticeable spectacle of yourself when you were slung off.

King of the Hill: This was typically a boy’s game that was played on a mound of dirt or on a small hill. One person was chosen to be “king of the hill” by utilizing the “one potato, two-potato” method of selection. Then, one at a time, each player climbed the mound to physically dethrone the ruler by hurling him off the hill within a prescribed amount of time. If the attacker was successful, he became the new ruler. If not, the game continued until someone claimed the honor. There was no ultimate winner in this game, just a bunch of dirty, fatigued youngsters trying to demonstrate their wrestling might.

Today, we aging “youngsters” of yesteryear can only lament about those carefree days of our youth when we engaged in robust outdoor pastimes, rarely getting hurt.  

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Many area residents fondly recall shopping at Dosser’s Department Store that once stood at 228-230 E. Main Street, sandwiched between Sterchi Brothers on the west, Beckner’s Jewelers on the east.

 According to an unidentified 1924 newspaper clipping (from the John Fain Anderson Collection, ETSU’s Archives of Appalachia), James H. Dosser came to Jonesboro about 1836. He gained business experience working as a store clerk.

In the 1850s, Dosser and a Mr. McEwen of Philadelphia erected a three-story brick building diagonally opposite the Washington County Courthouse and offered an extensive line of men’s wear and ladies’ yard goods. During the same decade, he formed another partnership known as Dosser and Stevenson. The businessman ultimately became an active builder with two large storehouses and several excellent dwellings as evidence of his prowess.

James Dosser had four sons: Robert N., Albert T., Frank F. and J. Harry. In 1907, Robert established a mercantile establishment in Morristown. Two years later, he and his brothers opened a store in Johnson City, known aptly as Dosser Brothers. Robert was president and principal owner of the business. He lived in Johnson City while his three siblings resided in Bristol, Morristown and Knoxville. 

A 1915 Chamber of Commerce publication had glowing remarks about Dosser Brothers: “This is one of the big and successful department store enterprises of Johnson City. The location is at 228-230 E. Main Street. The firm deals extensively in dry goods and notions, millinery and shoes and high-grade ladies’ ready-to-wear suits. The business has been established at this point for the past five and a half years and during this time has become recognized as one of their real leaders in the trade and the patronage is largely with the leading and representative families of Johnson City and vicinity. The family also operates stores in Bristol and Morristown.”


The Johnson City business experienced steady growth since its conception. The amount of trade during 1923 was said to be the largest in the history of the store up to that time. Sales were encouraging during those early years with the exception of one year just after the war.

The company began making plans in early 1924 for an even bigger and better Dosser Brothers Store. With this determined vision in mind, they installed new equipment on the first and second stories and acquired additional space by acquiring and connecting an archway with the second story of the adjoining Crumley Building. This gave the facility about 75 x 100 feet in the ready-to-wear department. Their strategy for ongoing business success was to keep pace with Johnson City’s growth and to ensure the capability to meet its demands.

A 1915 advertisement in the Johnson City Staff further offers an idea of the nature of the business: “The Millinery Department is showing a wonderful number of beautiful hats, adding new shapes, new trimmings and new ideas daily. Suits coats and dresses still are arriving in the latest and most approved models. Silk sweaters are attractively priced at $5.00, $5.50 and $6.00. The Billiken shoe is the most satisfactory selling shoe sold in Johnson City.”

During his life, Robert was affiliated with the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Country Club. He was an active member for many years of Munsey Memorial M.E. Church, South. He died on March 22, 1927 of pneumonia after being struck by a passing car.

Dosser’s Department Store, as it later became known, closed its doors in downtown Johnson City sometime after 1972 after a successful run of over 63 years. 

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Two years ago, Mrs. Joann Conner sent me a copy of an invitation that was mailed to her grandfather, Dave Oliver, on March 28, 1928. It came from the Elizabethton Hunt Club, inviting him to a special foxhunt on April 13 to honor 80-year-old former Tennessee governor Alf Taylor.


Tomorrow is the 82ndanniversary of the storied event. Research reveals that 750 guests were invited to Bogart Knob (highest point between Buffalo and Unaka mountains) at the famous camp owned by the Taylor family. Local passenger trains brought in scores of people, including a Pullman carload from Nashville on Southern Railway train No. 26.

Preparation for the occasion included grading and surfacing the dirt road leading to the knob, erecting a large circus tent capable of holding 1000 guests, piping in water, installing electric lights, stringing telephone lines and delivering a piano. One newspaper article proclaimed, “Bogart Knob will be the center of the world on Friday.”

The hunt was strictly a stag affair. One group of disappointed ladies toured the camp the day before and humorously informed officials that they planned to don breeches and a moustache and sneak in the next day. Pre-festivities kicked off at 10 a.m. that day when several guests took part in a program for Elizabethton schools. Two hours later, event organizer, Alex Shell, hosted a luncheon for other notables.

At three p.m., a number of non-political speeches were delivered from the likes of Governor Horton of Tennessee, Hon. Ben H. Taylor (son of “Uncle Alf”), Hill McAlister (former state treasurer and future governor of Tennessee) and Judge W.R. Allen of Elizabethton (former judge of Tennessee courts).

Afterward, a program described as “pure Southern merriment” was held with four songs about Uncle Alf performed by the Ole Limber Quartet (often spelled “Quartette,” the same male group that made his race for governor in 1920 so memorable); the John Sevier Bell Hop Quartet;the Dixie Serenaders; Sydney M. Rowe (famous entertainer of Chuckey River, Tennessee); R.D. Wood’s String Band; and several others.

At six p.m., waiters who were decked out in spotless white uniforms, carrying plates to delight the hearts and stomachs of the most fastidious southerner, served the long awaited meal. It consisted of Tennessee Spring Lamb (proclaimed to be the tastiest dish in Dixie) with corn sticks, barbecued pork and other delightful southern dishes. The banquet consumed 10 sheep, 10 pigs and 500 pounds of beef barbecued in traditional Southern style and consumed with a truckload of fresh bread. It was the feast of feasts.

The much-anticipated fox chase began at nightfall. Although many “blooded” foxhounds (having ancestors of good blood) were present, only about 100 of them participated in the actual chase. Packs of about 20 dogs were released every few minutes until all them were active in the hunt. Old Limber, the now 12-year-old famed hound of Gov. Taylor, reportedly assumed his customary lead.

While the pursuit was in progress, movie cameras clicked off hunt scenes and telegraph wires carried the event to every part of the nation. All the while, Uncle Alf sat placidly in a camp chair with friends who tracked the general location of the foxes by listening to the music of the melodious baying hounds. He delighted his guests by musing over his favorite past foxhunts. The famed occasion continued unrelentingly all night until the first rays of sunlight appeared on the following morning, giving the much-fatigued dogs (and foxes) some needed rest.

“The South’s Greatest Foxhunt” was a fitting tribute to the man who had given so much of himself to his beloved volunteer state. He would depart this life 3.5 years later. 

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