December 2015

On April 18, 1889, a newspaper writer for the Nashville Herald expressed his blatant opinion that his generation was certainly living in a mercenary age because everything appeared to have had a commercial value placed upon it. The choicest products of the human mind were said to be “laid upon the alter of Mammon, along with the treasures of the heart whose incense ennobled humanity.”

The journalist went on to say that the great, iron monger, Andrew Carnegie, was negotiating a slick deal with Johnson City, which meant that a significant portion of Johnson City would acquire his name. In exchange with his offer, the industrialist would, in turn, endow them with a $10,000 library.

During the economic boom of the early 1890s, everything was going “Carnegie.” An impressive hotel was built, old cow pastures were subdivided into lots that sold for as high as $1,500 and $2,000 each. Streets were renamed. The Three-Cs railroad commenced its line through this section, being built through Cash Hollow with a depot in Carnegie.

The paper erroneously made this statement: “Andrew Johnson, for whom Johnson City was named, was not universally admired. Although he had some grievous faults, he  was immeasurably more worthy of having his name perpetuated by Tennesseans than that of Andrew Carnegie.”

Andrew Johnson was a better model of true American characteristics to place upon a pedestal for the emulation of the rising generation than Carnegie with all his massive affluence. In East Tennessee, where he was most idolized, to dethrone his name and debauch his fame for that of a man who had his antipode in those characteristics was what won for Andrew Johnson the name of “The Great Commoner.”

Johnson City Founder, Henry Johnson (left, photo courtesy of Betty Hylton)

President of the United States from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson

As noted by The Comet, the Nashville Herald was completely uneducated with regard to the origins of Johnson City. The modest town, for which most residents were well-informed, understood that the village was formerly referred to as “Johnson's Tank” in honor of Henry Johnson, not Andrew Johnson. It acquired the railroad name because a rail company built a water tank here.

In spite of what today would be of historic importance, the big container was still standing in the center of the town, which residents described as an eyesore, adding nothing to the beauty of the city. Henry Johnson was a farmer who owned most of the surrounding land on which the city stood and also had possession of numerous buildings close to it. The modest little town certainly had a bright future ahead of it.

Mr. Johnson was the only merchant the town had for several years. When the settlement began to grow, it was called “Johnson's Depot” but soon outgrew that simplistic nomenclature, and when it was incorporated, it acquired the name of Johnson City. Although for a brief period of time, it took on a different name, Haynesville, but before long officially became Johnson City again, a designation that would be permanent.

It is easy to see why a stranger should fall into the error of supposing that Johnson City was named for the ex-president for he was a man whom Tennesseeans loved to honor. Johnson City became the most thriving town in the state and would be a fitting monument to the former president's memory, but… Johnson City had no connection with Andrew Johnson.

The Nashville Herald concluded its perplexing comments, wondering if the city would exercise its own judgment in the matter to enter into an agreement with Mr. Carnegie. For most residents of that era, it appeared that there were far bigger things than a $10,000 library at stake.

Almost overnight, the Carnegie issue dwindled dramatically, due to an economic downturn, causing the Carnegie efforts to be literally stopped in their tracks. Construction of the proposed new city was hastily abandoned, which soon became burrows for rodents, and over time, some of them burned while others decayed and collapsed. The once ballyhooed library and Carnegie development became a folk tale in the annals of yesteryear.

When the Veterans Affairs National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers opened in 1903, Walter Brownlow obtained funds from Andrew Carnegie and others to establish a library at the facility; he also started a streetcar line to transport veterans and visitors from the branch to Johnson City.

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Bill Durham, a frequent contributor to my articles, recently had occasion to visit with our longtime friend and schoolmate, Joe Arrowood. He came away with a profound reminder of the positive influence the Red Shield Boys' Club had on our young lives and submitted the following text:

Red Shield's Boys' Club Patch

“Throughout our formative years, one’s life choices are influenced, however slight, by virtually everyone with whom we come into contact. Among the most prominent of those who contribute to molding our individual traits are, of course, family members, clergy, teachers and peers.

“Many of us participate in youth contact sports, be it in our backyard, school or community playground. Organized sports activities afford coaches and leaders an ideal opportunity to teach by example, to encourage constructive thoughts into young, inquisitive minds.

“Regrettably, far too many youngsters of impressionable age are caught up in circumstances beyond their control; consequently, children in search of acceptance, and often from broken homes, may be drawn toward an authority figure whom they will choose to serve as a surrogate parent or sibling, someone they will strive to emulate.

“Johnson City today is not that far removed from the structured community activities we recall from the middle of the last century. In those days, adolescent boys and girls in our sphere of friends had great respect and admiration for youth leaders, those who unselfishly made it their mission to help steer us in the right direction as we were beginning to envision an uncharted future.

“Kiwanis Park, located on the west end of the city, was a popular playground that offered a host of outdoor activities for participants of all ages. It featured two baseball diamonds, providing a venue for organized games that ran the gamut from little league to business-sponsored adult teams.

Kiwanis Park, located on the west end of the city, was a popular playground that offered a host of outdoor activities for participants of all ages. It featured two baseball diamonds, providing a venue for organized games that ran the gamut from little league to business-sponsored adult teams.

“It was in this environment that many of us were first exposed to team sports, where we learned not only the basic rules of playing the game but the important lesson of living and working together for a common cause.

“In our immediate neighborhood, nearly all of us attended West Side Elementary, Junior High and Science Hill High schools, each of which was within walking distance of our homes. Looking back, I recall that we walked practically everywhere we went, in groups, and savored the camaraderie.

“We regularly played sandlot baseball and football on West Side’s playground, but the central gathering place that seemed to draw all of us together was the Red Shield Boys’ Club, then located in a one-story structure at 228-30 W. Market St. (The Red Shield symbolized the Salvation Army, of which Boys’ Club was an affiliate.)

“The Boys’ Club Executive Directors during that period were Lawrence Hahn, Ken Lawyer, Herbert Lawson, Jr. and Douglas Killian and for the Club members of our generation, these were the gentlemen who were committed to help mentor us as we prepared to take our places in society.

“It seemed only fitting that one of the young men within our circle of friends should be inspired to “pass along” the values and knowledge he had absorbed from these Boys’ Club leaders. In 1962, Joe Arrowood, after spending his teen years as a card-carrying member of the organization, applied and was hired for the position of Johnson City Boys’ Club Physical Director.


Herbert Lawson, Joe Arrowood, Herbert Lawson, Jr., Eddie Baldwin

“This marked the beginning of Joe’s distinguished, 30-year professional career with Boys' and Girls’ Clubs of America. From the seed that had been planted in the 1950s, his calling would culminate with Joe being recognized by his colleagues across the United States for his organizational and leadership abilities, personal commitment and profound dedication to the Boys’ & Girls’ Club movement.

“From Johnson City, Joe married, reared their children and served the Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs of Indianapolis, Indiana as Program Director, Unit Director and Associate Executive Director.

“Though he had relocated to the Hoosier state, his ties with Tennessee and steadfast friendships remained intact, as evidenced by an incident that took place in the late ‘60s. Joe had treated a group of his Boys’ Club members to a baseball game, whereupon he recognized and casually mentioned to his young charges that he was a friend of the fellow playing shortstop, a gentleman who had, as a member of the San Francisco Giants, earned the distinction of competing against the New York Yankees in the 1962 World Series. The skeptical adolescents offered predictable, disbelieving comments in response to Joe's claim.

“When Joe had occasion to attract the infielder's attention, he and the boys were soon joined in the stands by yet another Johnson City native, Ferrell Bowman, who had made his mark locally as an all-star, multi-sports athlete at Science Hill and East Tennessee State College. Ferrell graciously signed autographs for the wide-eyed, crow-eating youngsters as he and Joe caught up on family and friends.

“In 1974, Joe accepted the appointment to serve as Executive Director of the Boys’ & Girls' Club of Noblesville, Indiana. As a result of his benevolent service on behalf of America‘s youth, he received many accolades for his dedication to share the same deep personal commitment and leadership qualities he had found in Johnson City’s character-building leaders years before.


Herman Guinn and Joe Arrowood (right)

“Among Joe’s many Club-related honors are: Alumni of the Year, Indianapolis Boys’ & Girls' Club, 1979; Boys’ & Girls’ Club of America “Bronze Keystone,” 1979; Administrator of the Year, Indiana Boys’ & Girls’ Club, 1981; Administrator of the Year, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Assoc. of Boys & Girls Club Professionals, 1992; Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs of America Professional of the Year, Indiana Area Council, 1993; Community Service Award, Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, 1982; Youth Service Award, 1988.

“In 1994, he was the recipient of the prestigious “Heart & Soul Award,” presented to a Boys’ & Girls’ Club professional who exemplifies the true spirit of a professional Club worker, one who demonstrates unusual initiative, imagination and creativeness in the performance of duties and responsibilities to the community.

“Johnson City is, indeed, justifiably proud of Joe Arrowood, not just for these publicly acknowledged accomplishments, but for each, what may be seemingly insignificant to him, hand up that he has offered to countless youngsters throughout the years. Though he will likely be unaware of it, his example will live on in the memories of the beneficiaries of his caring deeds and words.”

I for one remember Joe and am certain scores of readers recall him and his affiliation with the Red Shield Boys' Club. I extend my appreciation to Mr. Durham for his resulting composition. Sadly, the building at 228-30 W. Market was razed recently, but its memories live on in the hearts of those who spent much of their youth in that building.

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On Dec. 25, 1951, Bob Thomas, writer for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle posted an article in the paper titled, “Christmas Brings Film Rundown.” “Another year in Hollywood is drawing to a close,” he noted, “so it's time for me to sit down at my desk and pick the highs and lows of the year.” He went on to list his choices:

comic, zany actor and writer, best known for pioneering the 1950s live television series, “Your Show of Shows,” a 90-minute weekly production watched each week by 60 million people).

Best new television star: Red Skelton (American entertainer, movie actor, best identified for his national radio and television acts between 1937 and 1971 and as host of the syndicated television program, “The Red Skelton Show.”

Brightest new box office stars: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, known as “Martin and Lewis.” Also identified was Mario Lanza (American tenor, actor and Hollywood film star).

Biggest industry news: Louis B. Mayer's exit from MGM.

Almost the biggest industry news: Warner Brothers' offer to sell their interest, which was later retracted.

Movie stars who passed away that year were Robert Walker (American actor), Fannie Brice (American illustrated song model, comedian, singer and theater and film actress, known as the star of the top-rated radio comedy series, “The Baby Snooks Show”), Maria Montez (a Dominican motion picture actress who gained fame and popularity in the 1940s) and Leon Errol (Australian-born American comedian, and performer, who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway and in films).

Biggest blow to the bobby sox set: Elizabeth Taylor's divorce.

Biggest blow to the dowager set: Clark Gable's divorce.

Freak news event of the year: A Vancouver hotel refused to room crooner, Bing Crosby, because he looked like a bum.

Most recurring news item: Hedy Lamarr's recurrent announcement that she'll retire.

“When I Grow Up” Was Playing at the Sevier Theatre in 1951

Most notable return to Hollywood after a lapse of several years: Rita Hayworth.

Worst public relations actor: singer Frank Sinatra (Ol' Blue Eyes).

Best musical film: “American in Paris” (a jazz-influenced symphonic film by the American composer, George Gershwin).

Best drama: “A Place in the Sun.” (starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters).

Father of the year: James Stewart (American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive drawl and down-to-earth persona) after becoming the father of twins.

Best male performances: Humphrey Bogart, “African Queen”; Marlon Brando, “Streetcar Named Desire”; Gene Kelly, “American in Paris”; Fredric March, “Death of a Salesman”; and Gregory Peck, “David and Bathsheba.”

Best female performances: Bette Davis, “Payment on Demand”; Katherine Hepburn, “African Queen”; Vivien Leigh, “Streetcar Named Desire”; Shelley Winters, “A Place in the Sun”; and Jane Wyman, “The Blue Veil.”

Most promising newcomers: Debbie Reynolds, Mitzi Gaynor, Dale Robertson, and Aldo Ray.

Yawn of the year: Shelley Winters' “Romance.”

Best low-budget picture: “The Well,” (nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.)

And finally … Runner-up news: Arrest of actor Charles Coburn (an American film and theatre actor, best known for his work in comedies). Also incarcerated were his poker pals.

That's all folks!

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In December of 1957, the Johnson City Press-Chronicle created something enjoyable aimed at youngsters 10 years old and younger, which they titled “The Little People's Coloring Contest.” Four pictures, depicting the Christmas holiday, one per day, were posted in the newspaper, beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 3 and ending on Friday, Dec. 6.

One of Four Drawings for the Christmas Photo Contest

Christmas Coloring Contest.' After you finishing coloring this one, put it with the other three that you have colored, and you're ready to send or bring them downtown to the 'Little People's Christmas Coloring Contest' editor of the Press-Chronicle.

“Just in case you missed the first three drawings, you will find them in the past three issues of this newspaper if you still have them. Don't forget; the deadline for entries is Saturday midnight. All entries must be in our office or postmarked by that time. Each of the four sketches must have your name, age and address on it.

“Remember, if your colored drawings are judged the best, you have a chance to win $5, $3, $2 for first, second, third place winners in the two age divisions: up to six years old and from seven to ten. But that's only the beginning.

“The two sets of drawings, judged the best in the local contest, will be sent to Cleveland, Ohio and entered in the big national contest. These luck boys and girls will have a chance of sharing in the grandest list of prizes ever offered.

“The grand prize will be a $500 United States Savings Bond and a set of Britannica Junior Encyclopedia. There are also walking dolls, flash cameras, a beautiful bicycle, record players, table radios and other encyclopedia sets among the big list of national awards.

“So get those entries in early and remember to follow the attached 9 rules carefully to avoid being disqualified.”

The color contest had some basic rules to follow:

“1. Every boy and girl up to and including 10 years old is eligible, except relatives of employees of this newspaper.

“2. Clip out each of the four drawing in the contest as they appear this week in the Johnson City Press Chronicle.

“3. Color these drawings or reasonable facsimiles, without any assistance from others.

“4. Colored pencils, paints, crayons or any other coloring materials of your choice may be used.

“5. All four drawings must be submitted at one time. Save them until you have colored and signed each one. “Then mail or bring them to “The Little People's Coloring Contest” editor at the Press-Chronicle office on W. Main Street at Boone Street (adjacent to City Hall. Any number of sets may be entered by each child.

“6. All entries must be received by Midnight Saturday.

“7. Judging will be on the basis of beauty, imagination, coloring, neatness and originality. Decisions of the judges will be final. The Press-Chronicle will not be responsible for entries lost or damaged in the mail so package them carefully or deliver them in person. Drawings will become the property of the Press-Chronicle and cannot be returned.

“8. Local contest winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded at that time.

“9. The two best entries in the contest will be entered in The Little People's National Coloring Contest and will be eligible for additional prizes. Results of the contest will be announced on or before January 1, 1958.”

I attempted to locate the names of the winners but came up short. I would have been 15 years old at the time, making me too old to participate.

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During Christmas 1899, the Comet newspaper had for some time made an observation that Northern publishers dominated the field for magazines, leaving potential Southern ones “sitting on the side of the dirt road.” The news publication felt there was a bona fide need for a first class Southern magazine, reflecting the best literary talents of the South.

The answer, they surmised, was to convert the existing “Sunny South” weekly magazine, which had been in publication in the Southern states for 80 years, into a high-class literary monthly one. The first monthly edition, dated December 1899, had a Christmas theme, consisting of an 86-page book printed in color and handsomely illustrated. It contained the beginning of a new story, “The Professor's Secret,” by Mrs. Mary E. Bryan, “Little Davie,” a short story by Joel Chandler Harris and many other good articles.

From beginning to end, it was filled with splendid, original matter. The cover page carried a poem, beautifully illustrated, from Frank L. Stanton. The magazine's annual cost was one dollar, which included a bonus to those who subscribed at once – Readers received a Christmas present free and post paid of Shakespeare's complete works.

The bonus book was described as being an immense and beautiful edition, containing 487 pages and over 50 elegant engravings. It measured 8×12 inches and weighed over 2 pounds. It was printed on high quality white paper and bound in leatherette, a flexible binding.

Surprisingly, the publisher made another offer. Anyone desiring to view sample pages of the book, revealing a portion of its reading matter, could drop a line to the publisher and receive sample pages to examine. Anyone displeased with the magazine would be promptly refunded.

Newspaper Advertisement from 1899

In that same issue, The Comet featured a clever, humorous and educational poem, not about Christmas but  about how many bones are in the human body:

“How many bones in the human face? Fourteen, when they're all in place.

“How many bones in the human head? Eight, my child, as I've often said.

“How many bones In the human ear? Four in each, and they help to hear.

“How many bones in the human spine? Twenty-four, like a climbing vine.

“How many bones in the human chest? Twenty-four ribs and two of the rest.

“How many bones the shoulders bind? Two in each-one before, one behind.

“How many bones in the human arm? In each arm one, two in each forearm.

“How many bones in the human wrist? Eight in each if none are missed

“How many bones in the palm of the hand? Five in each with many a band.

“How many bones in the fingers ten? Twenty-eight and by joints they bend.

“How many bones in the human hip? One in each, like a dish they dip.

“How many bones in the human thigh? One in each and deep they lie.

“How many bones in the human knee? Two in each, we can plainly see.

“How many bones in the ankle strong? Seven in each, but none are long.

“How many bones in the human foot? Five in each as the palms are put.

“How many bones in the toes half score? Twenty-eight, and there are no more.

“And now altogether these bones wait.” 

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