July 2016

The May 27, 1957 edition of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle occupied an entire page in the newspaper with the words: “WETB proudly announces affiliation with the Mutual Broadcasting System.” It went into effect on June 2 of that year.

WETB Radio As It Once Appeared on the Johnson City-Erwin Highway

Included was correspondence from Charles A. King, the network's Director of Station Relations, addressed to Mr. Arthur “Bud” Kelsey of radio station WETB in Johnson City. The small station was situated on the Erwin Highway for many years.

The letter stated: “Dear Arthur: I am happy to advise that the Mutual Planning Committee has recommended that we add radio station WETB as an affiliated Station.

“Your very favorable frequency and power will provide for Mutual a vast audience for the many fine news, music, variety and sports programs planned for our June 2 (sign on). As you know, many of the fine commentators and news reporters in the country will soon be broadcast on a stream-lined news schedule, which will be second to none in the broadcasting industry. Sports features, such as “Game of the Day,” will also be available to your listeners.

“Fellow broadcasters in Tennessee have pointed you out as an exceptional radio man and we are very proud that your station will soon be affiliated with the world's largest network. Best personal regard. Cordially, (signed) Charles A. King.”

The Mutual Broadcasting System, commonly referred to as Mutual; was an American radio network in operation from 1934 to 1999. In the golden age of radio, Mutual was best known as the original network home of several radio shows:

“Queen for a Day” featured women selected from the studio audience explaining why they needed a specific item. The winner was picked using a studio applause meter, crowned “Queen for a Day” and given the desired gift and plus additional goodies.

“Bob (Elliott) and Ray (Goulding)” satirized the medium in which they were performing, by conducting radio or television interviews, with unconventional dialogue, presented in a generally deadpan style as though it was a serious broadcast.”

“The Lone Ranger” opened with Rossini's William Tell Overture” (“With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”)

“The Adventures of Superman” (Superman, alias Clark Kent, was a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet. “Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!”)

“The Shadow's” opening theme proclaimed, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. The dialog was followed by a sinister laugh.” “Once again your neighborhood Blue Coal dealer brings you the thrilling adventures of “The Shadow,” the hard and relentless fight of one man against the forces of evil.”

Sports programming included baseball, “Game of the Day,” Harry Wismer, and Frank Frish, named the “Fordham Flash” and “the Old Flash.”

For many years, Mutual was a national broadcaster for Major League Baseball (including the All-Star Game and the World Series), the National Football League and Notre Dame football. From the mid-1930s and for decades after, Mutual ran a highly respected news service accompanied by a variety of popular commentary shows.

Well-known sports commentators included Gabriel Heatter (American radio commentator whose World War II era sign-on, “There's good news tonight,” which became both his catchphrase and his caricature), Fulton Lewis (prominent conservative American radio broadcaster), Cedrick Foster (the first daytime commentator to be heard nationally on a daily basis), Sam Hayes (sports commentator) and numerous others.

The Mutual Broadcasting System also included a wide variety of favorite local shows and news, Town Talk, popular and country record shows, official weather forecasts, local sports news and Little League baseball. 

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In May 1910, Harry W. Brimer, a reader of the Washington (DC) Herald, wrote an editorial to the newspaper commencing with these words: “I would like to say a word about the State of Tennessee that, while great and prosperous, has not received the public recognition to which she is dually entitled.”

Harry went on to provide interesting facts about the Volunteer State, which I paraphrased and quoted:

The Tennessee State Flag with Three Stars Representing the Three Main Sections of the State

According to Brimer, the east portion of what once belonged to North Carolina briefly became known as the State of Franklin. “An old-time log cabin now standing at Greeneville, Tennessee,” he said, “was used as the first capitol of the State of Franklin. The last session of the Franklin assembly met here in September 1787.”

Brimer noted that Tennessee is 432 miles in length, 109 miles in breadth and covers an area 45,050 square miles. She is bounded on the north by Kentucky and Virginia; on the east by North Carolina; on the south by Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi; and on the west by Arkansas and Missouri.

Thus, she touches eight other states and with the exception of Missouri, no other state has so many on her borders. She has had four capitals, which are Knoxville, Murfreesboro, Kingston and Nashville, the present one.

In Middle Tennessee, beyond the river valley lies a magnificent plain of some 5450 square miles which is filled with grain cotton and tobacco fields

Tennessee also contains the largest red cedar forests in America. East of this rich garden is the great Cumberland Plateau, which rises to the stately height of 1000 feet above the Tennessee, a river which twice crosses the State of the name she gloriously bears.

The Cumberland Plateau displays wealth in coal and limestone. Among the Cumberland Mountains are caverns, which are many miles long, through which flow powerful underground streams. The bones of extinct animals are to be found here also.

The highest peak to be found in the State is Clingmans Dome, which is 6,660 feet high. The leading rivers of the State, besides the Tennessee, are the Cumberland, the Holston, the French Broad and the Hatchie (also referred to as the Big Hatchie River and Arteguet River).

The leading products are corn, tobacco, hay, wheat, cotton, oats and potatoes. In 1889, Tennessee stood fifth among the states in tobacco, which manufactures amounts of over $75 million yearly. Cotton, wool, iron and steel, cottonseed, oil, lumber and leather are also present.

Harry further avowed: “The first railroad was the Memphis Railroad chartered in 1831 when there was only 50 miles in the country. Hernando de Soto was probably the first white man to tread upon the soil of this my native state. Tennessee seceded from the Union on June 8, 1861 and was readmitted in l866.”

Many of the hardest fought engagements of the Civil War took place on her rich soil. In 1900, the attendance at public schools was 485,393, of which 383,643 were white children and 100,750 were black.

“The population of the territory separated from North Carolina and which now forms a large part of the State of Tennessee. In July 1791, it was 36,043. In the last census taken, her population was 2,020,616.

“The census that is being taken shows an enormous increase. Tennessee is wealthy and thriving. She now stands among the foremost of her sister States.”

A 1905 SHHS Student Sketched the State Flag for the Student Annual, The Echo

 A hardy “Thank You” to the memory of Mr. Brimer for sharing with us some interesting facts from 1910 about our favorite state- Tennessee. 

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I occasionally come across school plays that were performed by area students. My recent one is dated Feb. 22, 1930 for Sulphur Springs School. Three dramatic productions were given as chapel programs at Sulphur Springs on Jan. 14, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5.

Third Grade

Third grade presents “Pandora” (dramatized): Eplmetheus (Ruth Brabson), Pandora (Florence Keefauver), Hope (Lorene Barry), Reader (Blanche Murray), Troubles (G.C. Armentrout, Anna Dale Deakins, Junior Hunt, Maz Williams).

Fifth and Sixth Grades

Fifth and sixth grades presented “Little February”: January (Edith Price), February (James Ferguson), March (Otis Combs), April (Edna Green), May (Dorothy Gray), June (Willie Jordan), July (Viola Barry), August (Nola Jenkins), September (Harry Keys), October (Stella Stafford), November (Ruth Luster), December (Elmer Moore)…

Father Time (Fern Cox), Love (Mae Black), Peace (Little Jordan), Culture (Ida Payne), Freedom (Louise Cox), Courage (Frances Williams)…

George Washington (Richard Deakins), Abraham Lincoln (Reamer Bacon), Daniel Boone (Horace Gray), Emma Hart Willard (Olivene Murray), Mary Lynn (Bertie Hale), Mark Hopkins (Hal Sherfey), Henry W. Longfellow (Robert White); James Russell Lowell (Lester Jones), William Tecumseh Sherman (Dean Hunt), Susan Anthony (Ruth Walker), Charles A. Lindberg (Howard ?), Thomas A. Edison (Hugh Price), Alice Freeman Palmer (Helen Walker), Valentine (Elizabeth Barnes), Honor (Beryl Stafford).

Eight Grade

Eight Grade Presents “Rip Van Winkle” (Dramatized): Rip Van Winkle (Ralph Moore), Mrs. Rip Van Winkle (Kate Jenkins), Their Son (J.B.O. Ferguson), The baby (Mae Williams), Nicholas Vedder (Mack Armentrout), Derrick Van Bummel (C.D. Williams), The Dutchman (Gilbert Ingle). An Old Woman (Lela Hartman), Judith Gardenier (Rip's daughter, Lula Hartman), Her baby (Blanche Murray), Young Rip Van Winkle (J.W. Ford).

Summary: Act 1 takes place in Rip Van Winkle's home. Act 2 takes place in the village Inn. Act 3 takes place on the mountain. Act 4 takes place on the mountain. Rip returns.

Act 1 was dramatized by Gilbert Ingle, Act 2 by Ralph Moore and Act 3 by C.D. Williams. Acts 4 and 5 were dramatized by Kate Jenkins.

These three numbers were chapel programs presented in the Sulphur Springs School on Jan. 14, Jan 23, and Feb. 5.

Papers and discussions on the program included departmental sessions, High School address, “What I Would Do as a History Teacher” (Miss Maxine Mathew), ETSTC.

Elementary reading (Mrs. Orville Martin), Joint session address (Dean W.W. Boyd) of Milligan College.

The meeting was held in the auditorium of Jonesboro (Jonesborough) High School.

 If you recognize a name in the list, please drop me a note to my e-mail address listed below. Many of us can readily recognize the name, Mrs. Orville Martin, who taught us “Occupations: at (North) Junior High School. The name “Stafford” appears twice. Perhaps my friend, Allen Stafford, who is from that community, can identify them.

If any of the individuals in this article had wished to take in a movie in downtown Johnson City, two offerings included cowboy star, Tom Tyler at the Criterion Theatre (second rate) and Bebe Daniels, an American actress, singer and dancer at the Majestic Theatre (first rate). During this time frame, both theatres faced each other across E. Main Street.  

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