September 2011

Glenn Stroup, an occasional contributor to Johnson City Press’s History/Heritage page, commented on the George Buda feature article. Glenn played with a local band, the Blue Notes, that later became known as The Collegians. He sent me two photographs of the group. “It was a great experience,” he said, “playing in this band because, as valuable as the money was, it was truly enjoyable performing with different musicians and playing a wide variety of popular music.

“The article mentioned the very talented Butch Swaney who played trumpet when we could get him. He usually brought Teresa Alley, a superb pianist, with him. Ivan Tipton, a gifted classical pianist (trained in the classics), often complained about having to play popular music.

“The Collegians specialized in ‘Big Band’ numbers and used sheet music with typical arrangements. Whenever possible, because of the higher fees paid, we attempted to utilize a full set of players that included five saxophones (two alto, two tenor and a baritone) plus at least three trumpets and two trombones. It became my lot to play baritone sax whenever we employed a full complement of instruments.”

Stroup said that regardless what music they played, they tried to emulate the band that originally performed the number. Glenn Miller arrangements were the hardest to follow, at least for the saxophone and clarinet players, because the arrangements often had the latter instruments playing at the highest part of their range.

Glenn commented that with such a variety of talented piano players, they were able to play current popular tunes using only a piano, bass and drums. This allowed the other musicians to take a short break.

According to Stroup: “George mentioned Warren Weddle, who is fondly remembered by a host of Science Hill High School graduates. During our 60th reunion of the Class of 1951, many people talked about their memories of playing in the band or orchestra. Our bandleader’s philosophy was to accept all students and play a wide selection of music throughout the year rather than concentrate on a few members that the band could play in competitions.

“Mr. Weddle also worked with the Red Shield’s Boy's Club, when it was located at 228 W. W. Market, and formed a “dance band” there as well. I was fortunate enough to participate in that group.  The club’s director got us on the program for the National Boy's Club convention in Washington DC one year. Bob Byrd was the drummer.

“It was also very nostalgic to see Don Shannon's name mentioned by George. Don lived next to me in the Holston Apartments on W. Main. Mr. Weddle assigned me the task of getting him to band parades on time. For several years, Don was the drum major and it was essential for him to be prompt. He was tremendously talented but had absolutely no sense of time. He was very good on alto sax. Incidentally, Don's mother, Nell, was a niece of J.J. Paige, the carnival owner who wintered in Johnson City.”

The “Mountain Mischief” brochure is from a performance presented by the Junior Service League at Science Hill’s auditorium on April 10-11, 1964. This was three years after the relocated school opened its doors. Information on the front cover of the publication gives specifics of the production crew: Choreography and Direction by Joe Landis; Produced by Jerome N. Cargille, 140 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York; Orchestra by “Butch” Swaney Orchestra; Rehearsal Pianists, Mrs. Edwin L. Pace and Mr. Cecil Gray; Professional Photography, Clifford Maxwell Studio; Cover design and Art Work, Frank Webb; and Makeup, Deeya Cosmetic Studio.  

Identification of individuals in the top photo (left to right): Front row: 1. Glenn Stroup, 2, Buddy Beasley, 3. Don Shannon and 4. (unknown). Second row: 5. Earle Guffey, 6. Gordon Vest, 7. Joe Goolsby and 8. Larry Burleson. Third row: 9. Teresa Alley, 10. Don Barnett and 11. George Buda.

Personnel in the bottom photo: Front row: 1. (unknown), 2. (unknown), 3. Buddy Beasley and 4. Glenn Stroup. Second row: 5. Larry Burleson, 6. Bill Green, 7. Earle Guffey, 8. George Buda, 9. Ambers Wilson and 10. (unknown).

Glenn noted that many of the people in the photos went into military service bands. George Buda and Earle Guffey were in Army bands and Larry Burleson left college to join the Navy and played in a Navy band. Buddy Beasley joined the Air Force after college, became a fighter pilot and was killed in a non-combat flight accident.

It is sad to see several unknowns in the photograph. If Press readers can identify any of them or have addition info to share about the once popular band, please share it with us. We appreciate George Buda, Ambers Wilson, Sarah Booher and Joe Henley (who started his own band in 1955 and played music for 40 years) for assisting with this article. 

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A few months ago, my “yesteryear” e-mail abruptly stopped showing in my electronic mailbox. I began to realize something was wrong. Fortunately, after the problem was corrected, I received all of my undelivered mail. I apologize to my readers for not responding to your much-appreciated notes. Today’s column excerpts some of this correspondence.

1. Glenn Stroup – Carl “Cocky” Cox Wreck: “Carl was my first cousin – son of my Mom's sister, Narcissus Adams. I was in high school when the horrible accident happened and I remember looking at the remains of the car after it was picked up for storage. It is amazing that the driver lived for even a few hours. Carl was very popular in Johnson City and was a big contributor to charities. There was a large crowd at his funeral.”

2. Louise Odom – Authors Card Game: “You mentioned Ray Reaves. I called him several times about two or three years ago. My grandfather, Frank Davis, was married (second wife) to Delia Sneed. When he passed away, Delia married Ferd Reaves. They had a small neighborhood store and raised rabbits. Mr. Reaves passed away in 1963 and was buried in Highland Cemetery in Elizabethton. When Delia remarried, the Reaves children had their father's grave moved beside their mother. I always enjoyed talking to Ray Reaves. He was very alert and I considered him a friend.” (Sadly, Ray passed away in July 2011.)

3. Jimmy Staten – Tip Top Restaurant: “I saw your article about Earl Brown. Earl and my daddy worked for years at the Railroad Express. Jim and I would spent Sundays at the depot playing ball along the tracks. I spent a lot of time at their house on E. Fairview. They lived right by the tracks.”

4. Doyle Ollis – Local Orphanage Fire: “Do you know of an orphanage burning in the Johnson City area around 1940? I would like to know the name of the orphanage, the date it burned and where the children were sent?” (Doyle, this one also stumps me. Hopefully, a reader will know.)

5. Theresa Billings – SHHS Memorial: “Bob, I am in the early stages of planning a memorial at SHHS to honor those students there who gave their lives in the major conflicts.  Jenny Brock and I are working together on it and have gotten the approval of Science Hill and the School Board.  Since so many people read your articles in the JC Press, I would really appreciate your including this on the heritage page.”

6. Katy Rosolowski – Munsey Swimming Pool: “By the 1940's, Munsey needed more room for its growing congregation and expanding programs. World War II delayed construction of the education building, but it was finally realized in 1949, also containing a swimming pool. The church was forced to close the pool in 2001 because of structural issues. In the fall of 2007, a renovation to the pool floor occurred to provide additional meeting space.”

7. Fred Waage – Munsey Swimming Pool: “I don’t know if it’s the same space as in your article today, but in the early 1980’s I was the only ‘daddy’ in a swimming program called ‘Mommy and Me’ for extremely little kids at Munsey pool.  In fact, there was a picture in the Press of me with my daughter Melissa (1981, I think) in the pool.”

 8. Jane Doe – Bluff City Pioneer Plant: “One error in your article caught my eye. As far as I know, B.L. Dulaney was not a forefather of Mrs. Jay Gump (Sara Adelaide (Miller) Gump). I suspect your source had this wrong.”

9. Bridget D. Forrester – The Busy Bee Restaurant: “I was so surprised to open the paper and find a photo of my Uncle Mike Dimma, the owner of the Busy Bee. It was open 24 hours a day and was a very popular destination. My Uncle Mike and Aunt Stella Dimma lived at 200 East Eighth Ave. in a house built by my great grandfather's construction company, J.K. Jaynes and Company. Mike loved the restaurant business and after The Busy Bee closed he went on to own and operate The Varsity Grill.”

10. Becky Lewis – Busy Bee Restaurant: “I was so excited to see your article in Sunday’s JC Press. My mother has been looking for a picture of the Busy Bee for years. My grandmother, Pauline Young Cox, worked there as a cashier. Thanks for the article.”

 11. Kathleen Belew – Belew-Carr Wedding: “You wrote an article on April 25 about my great-grandmother's (and namesake's) engagement and wedding. It was a pleasure to read.” 


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In November 1901, newspapers across the country touted the beautiful new National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (N.H.D.V.S.). The heading of one newspaper was “A Great Soldiers’ Home.” The facility was also commonly referred to as Mountain Home.

Another publication stated that when it was finished, it would be one of the most notable groups of buildings in the state. The existing homes and soldiers' retreats that had been built across the country were exclusively for Union or Confederate veterans, but not both. The Johnson City one provided a shelter for men who volunteered in Union or Confederate Civil War service and in the war with Spain. However, Confederate soldiers were required to sign papers of allegiance back to the United States.

After fierce competition with six architects, the lucrative contract for erecting buildings and laying out grounds was awarded to J.H. Freedlander, whose design scheme encompassed 37 buildings. The plan called for eight barracks, theatre, mess hall, chapel, canteen, powerhouse, infirmary, jail, administration building, laundry, icehouse, morgue and even a fine hotel. Other structures were added later that included a library, zoo and baseball recreational area.

The site that comprised a tract of land 1.75 miles long and 0.75 miles wide was situated with a stunning view to the south of the Tennessee Mountains. The grounds were laid out in parks, groves and driveways and the landscape features added to the picturesque appearance of the home. The place was so delightfully situated it was believed that it would eventually become a popular health resort attracting people from all over the world.

General John T. Richards of Maine was appointed superintendent of construction. The plan included a large parade ground and a group of 12 barrack buildings. These structures were in a semi-ellipse arrangement and were within easy walking distance of the mess hall. Each barrack building had its own park and everything about the place was arranged so residents could spend their days in perfect comfort amid surroundings that were naturally beautiful.

The new home was obviously impressive to the masses, but what did the veterans who lived there think about it? One opinion came from Francis McClendon, a disabled veteran of the Spanish-American War from Florida who spent time there and penned a letter on Jan. 28, 1905 that summarized his feelings about the place:

“I send these lines to you to state that I am at present a member of the mountain branch of the National Mountain Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Johnson City, Tennessee. Will you have the kindness to send my paper to the above address? I am at present in the hospital receiving every attention I could reasonably ask for. We are having some extremely cold weather – four degrees below zero this morning. At the present writing, it has moderated considerably. This is something unusual for this section as it very seldom reaches zero.

“Well, this is a beautiful place costing in the vicinity of about $5,000,000. All the buildings are constructed on the most modern plans fitted up with every convenience. As for the hospital department, it can’t be beat. The capacity of this home is 2500. It now contains about 1150 or 1200. Some future time I will give you a more detailed account of it. With kind regards and best wishes I remain, yours truly, Francis McClendon.”

While the note speaks well for the expansive military facility, we can only wish that Mr. McClendon had given us a more detailed account of what it was like to reside there soon after the turn-of-the-century. Perhaps he did and we just need to locate the information. 

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The completion of the Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio (CC&O) Railroad from Dante, Virginia to Spartanburg, South Carolina occurred on Friday, October 29, 1909. Festive celebrations were observed in Johnson City and Spartanburg.

The excitement was the fulfillment of a new railroad that would transport coal from a rich coalfield. It was built at an enormous cost brought about by engineering challenges associated with the rough terrain. The CC&O became known as “one of the greatest little railroads in the United States.”

The Virginian railroad that was built under similar difficulties and with a comparable stated purpose was the pet project of H. H. Rogers. The new line was the favorite enterprise of Thomas Fortune Ryan. The road was built over and through the Blue Ridge Mountains, rising from 1,500 feet to more than 3,000 feet above sea level within a few miles and still maintaining a maximum grade of one-half of one per cent. A single engine could pull a train of 60 heavily loaded freight cars across a rarely seen beautiful mountain region.

Numerous tunnels were built, including two that were almost a mile each in length; one of them cost $500,000. Across a difficult stretch of many miles in the mountains, the road cost totaled as much as $200,000 a mile.

When the economic panic came along two years prior to completion, work was suspended almost everywhere with two exceptions – the CC&O Railroad and the Panama Canal. Uncle Sam continued to dig the canal while Mr. Carter methodically drilled through a great chain of tunnels, which included 17 within a distance of 18 miles. A low grade was arbitrarily maintained regardless of cost. Occasionally, money was wasted when afterward if was determined that the work did not achieve the required grade. That section of track was abruptly abandoned.

Not far from the CC&O road was George W. Vanderbilt’s immense Biltmore estate built at the unheard of cost of $1,000,000. It was said that the altitude of the region was the greatest in the East and the scenery was unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Ultimately the new railroad became a link in a trunk line from the Great Lakes to the south Atlantic seaboard.

The Johnson City celebration, one of the most elaborate gatherings in the City's history, took place at Hotel Carnegie on E. Fairview with the presidents of Johnson City's three railroads attending. Congressman Walter P. Brownlow served as master of ceremonies with speeches, toasts, a banquet meal and fine cigars smoked long into the night. The city’s most prominent business leaders attended as well as one special guest, General John T. Wilder, who started the great railroad but failed to complete it. He fittingly was honored and then given the floor for a speech.

In Spartanburg, thousands of people attended the event with over 1,500 persons treated to a barbecue celebrating the first train to arrive on the CC&O Railway.

My column photo shows Thomas F. Ryan and a party of associates in the mountains, not far from Bristol, Tennessee, preparing for a ride through the wilderness along the route of the new railroad.

Left to right are George L. Carter (president, CC&O Railway), Isaac T. Mann (mineral operator, owner of many Southern banks), George A. Kent (former chief engineer, CC&O), John B. Dennis (Blair & Co.), W. M. Ritter (one of the wealthiest operating lumbermen in the country), Norman B. Ream (director in many American railways, trust concerns and insurance companies), Thomas F. Ryan, James A. Blair (senior member of Blair & Co.), H. R. Dennis (Blair & Co.) and James Hammill (chief counsel for W. M. Ritter interests).  

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