December 2012

While examining my late Grandma Cox’s scrapbook and photo collection, I stumbled upon a picture and an obituary notice for Charles Haven Liebe. According to her compilation, their great grandfathers were brothers.

Charles was born in 1880 on Lick Creek in Greene County. After serving in the Spanish-American War in 1898, he married Harriet “Hattie” Lee White. The couple moved to Johnson City about 1916, residing for about two years at 915 E. Sixth Avenue (Carnegie designed street later renamed Holston Avenue). Charles’s writing career began in 1910 and kept him gainfully employed until 1953, yielding one fiction novel and an estimated 321 short stories for pulp magazines and newspapers. He used “Hapsburg Liebe” as his pen name, but occasionally utilized two additional ones, “Charles Haven” and “John Bennett.” The Liebe family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida where he purchased a movie studio by the name of Tropical Pictures.

Pulp magazines were very popular from 1896 through the 1950s because of their low cost (about 10 cents) and entertaining action packed stories. They were so-named because they were printed on cheap wood pulp paper often with untrimmed edges. However, the covers were eye grabbers, featuring bold multihued colorful art and bold action scenes. Hapsburg focused mainly on westerns, but occasionally ventured into stories about the mountaineer clan that he knew so well. Some of the magazines (and years) that Liebe wrote for include the following:

Ace-High Magazine (1928-41), Adventure (1916), All Western Magazine (1935-38), Argosy (1918-36), Big-Book Western Magazine (1940-41), Blue Book (1913-27), Colliers (1919), Complete Story Magazine (1925), Double Action Western (1936-39), Double-Action Gang Magazine (1938), Exciting Western (1941-42), Fiction Quarterly (1944), Frontier Stories (1927), Good Stories (1921-31), Grit Magazine(1929), Gun-Swift Western (1938), Jester’s Luck (1936), Master Thriller Series (1937), Mellifont All Western Library (1940s), North West Stories (1927), People’s Home Journal (1912-13), Popular Western (1936-42), Range Riders Western (1942-49), Romance (1915-29), Romantic West Annual (1952), Short Stories (1920-59), Street & Smith’s Western Story (1942-47), Texas Rangers (1937-57), The Danger Trail (1928), The Golden West Magazine (1927), The Phantom Detective (1935), The Rio Kid Western (1940-41), Thrilling Western (1934-40), Top-Notch, (1925-36), Triple-X Western (1928-31), West (1927-51), Western Action (1938-39), Western Magazine (1936-45), Western Romances (1937), Western Short Stories (1942), Western Yarns (1938), Wild West Stories (1936), Wild West Weekly (1940-43) and World Wide Adventure (1967, published after his death).

Seven silent black and white movies were made from Hapsburg Liebe’s stories. Shown below (if known) are film titles, date, genre, run times, recognizable movie stars and production companies: Circumstantial Evidence (1912, 10 minutes, Selig Polyscope Co.), Weapons of Love (1916, Big U Co.), The Last Rebel (1918, drama, Triangle Film Corp.), Bill Apperson’s Boy (1919, drama, Jack Pickford Film Co.), Trimmed (1922, drama/western, five 10-minute 35-mm reels, starring Hoot Gibson, Universal Film Manufacturing Co.), The Broad Road (1923, melodrama, Associated Authors) and Down Upon the Suwanee River (1925, melodrama, Royal Palm Productions). Perhaps this inspired Hapsburg to purchase his own movie production company.

Surprising, Hapsburg wrote only one fiction novel, a 239-page mountaineer story titled Clan Call (Doubleday, Page and Co., 1920), which makes references to several East Tennessee landmarks. It deals with a mountain clan.

In 1957, Hapsburg passed away in St. Petersburg and was given a military funeral. William Johnson of Houston Texas, who amassed a large collection of his writings, donated it to the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. Perhaps it is time for my wife and me to visit Colonial Williamsburg and learn more about my relative. 

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During Christmas 1928, Johnson City was merrily clad in holiday yuletide adornment as the holiday spirit prevailed throughout this area where hundreds of enthusiastic people had arrived to shop. The much-awaited day fell on Tuesday that year.

Because Johnson City merchants knew that shopping would occur on a far greater scale that year, they secured additional stocks of goods several months prior in order to take care of shoppers’ expectations. Store windows throughout the downtown area were elaborately and colorfully decorated, enhancing the excitement in the air. Many people shopped early to beat the ever-growing crowds.

Special programs were given in local churches and schools as the big day neared. Attendance was so good that some houses of worship had to schedule additional services. The “white gift service” that had become an annual tradition in many area churches resulted in churchgoers placing gifts wrapped in solid white paper under a selected tree for distribution to the city’s needy folks.

Steam driven trains that were crowded to capacity chugged along on all railroads tracks passing through Johnson City as the festive season approached. College students and people from all sections of the country were en-route to their homes to spend the holidays with friends and loved ones. It was truly a joyful time of the year.

Typical chilly weather prevailed that year in East Tennessee, although little snow had covered the ground. Weather forecasters offered news of the possibility that the North and Middle Atlantic States might enjoy a white Christmas. However, fair weather with temperatures somewhat below normal was predicted for the South Atlantic and East Gulf states. Rain or snow was anticipated for the Ohio Valley and parts of Tennessee.

Christmas trees were available in abundance. In the downtown section, large numbers of them lined the sidewalks and in vacant lots all across the city, hundreds of well-shaped trees were being sold at below normal prices. Area markets were stocked with plenty of turkeys and chickens while local stores carried an abundance of cranberries, nuts, celery and other food items considered essential for a delectable Christmas dinner.

As had been present in previous years, large Christmas shopping crowds were jamming city streets on that Saturday afternoon before Christmas. A majority of those seen on city streets were out-of-towners making Johnson City their shopping headquarters. Many residents can recall when Main Street was so jam packed with people on Saturdays that it was an effort to maneuver through the downtown district. Automobiles, buses, cabs, trains, streetcars and other means of conveyance were everywhere. Shoppers swarmed the city on the Saturday before Christmas, visiting the various stores until late at night making purchases. Christmas Eve also brought a frenzied swarm with late shoppers buying last minute gifts.

King’s Department Store advertised a “Half Million Dollar Holiday Campaign” that year, which included a family night dinner on its fourth floor from 5:30 to 7:30 on the Tuesday evening before Christmas. The menu included fried chicken, creamed potatoes, creamed asparagus, fruit salad, hot rolls, chocolate pie and a choice of coffee, tea or milk. The cost was fifty cents. Since the downtown was nearly filled to capacity as Christmas approached, many businesses extended their store hours to accommodate late minute purchases.

Times were happy that Christmas of 1928, but unknown to the masses, within ten months the dark ominous clouds of the Great Depression would abruptly descend on the economy adversely affecting Christmas shopping for several years to come.  

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When I graduated from Science Hill in 1961, the high school sold one annual, “The Wataugan,” that year for those seniors graduating in May. During 1927-34, the school discontinued the popular publication, later reestablishing it as two separate editions, one in January and the other in May.

The change was prompted by the advent of two separate graduations within the school year, allowing students who successfully completed graduation requirements to receive their sheepskin early. Each one had a commencement exercise and baccalaureate observance. Although my father, Robert Earl Cox, graduated from “The Hill” in May 1934, he left behind both editions from that year. 

The January Wataugan comprised 34 pages with 26 graduates while the May edition was 60 pages and had 101 seniors. The Wataugan explained the new concept of mid-year graduations: “For the first time in its history, Science Hill High School is graduating 26 seniors at the close of the first semester. This is of decided advantage both to the seniors and to the school. Heretofore, those students who completed in January the amount of work required for a diploma were forced to return to school in May in order to graduate. Now, by receiving diplomas in January, seniors may enter college for the winter quarter’s work, and the school can make room for sophomores sent from the Junior High.”

Roy Bigelow, Supervising Principal, offered his greeting: “May I offer my congratulations to you as you complete the requirements for graduation from Science Hill High School. I extend them to you first of all because you are inaugurating the plan of a mid-term commencement. Although your group is small, we shall probably see our mid-year graduating classes representing about half of the senior groups. I congratulate you also because you have undertaken to revive the school publication, The Wataugan. May these, along with the joyous experiences of your school career, be cherished memories to you.”

Mary Lee Taylor, a faculty member, provided an explanation of how the school publication received its name: “The name ‘Wataugan’ was officially given to the student publication of Science Hill High on February 9, 1921. Perhaps some word of explanation is necessary as to the reason for the selection of such a title.

“The word is an Indian Name and, early in the history of this section, was applied to a beautiful stream, which flows from mighty gorges, cutting its way through mountain ranges and uniting finally, with the Doe River at the head of Happy Valley. This river quite naturally gave its name to the lovely valley forming the heart of East Tennessee. At this spot, the mountain boys met, proceeding thence to King’s Mountain where they defeated the British regulars in a memorable battle.

“In this same Valley was located Fort Watauga, made famous by Bonnie Kate Sherrill’s thrilling escape from the Indians. The first home on Tennessee soil was erected on Boones’ Creek at the place where it empties into the Watauga River. Still another place of interest is that designated with a bronze tablet, making the famous trail of the pioneer, Daniel Boone.

“From the Watauga Valley came the beloved Bob and Alf Taylor who, in other years, figured largely in the life of the state and nation. In more recent times, the renowned valley of the Watauga sent to the front its quota of men who gave their lives gloriously with the famous Thirtieth Division during the World War.

“Wataugan, then, is a name replete with memories of the past and is a most dignified and appropriate title for the publication of a school, which occupies so prominently in the present life of this section.” 

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