A 60-Year Glance Back to the Johnson City Red Shield Boys’ Club

In April 1954, the Johnson City Press-Chronicle offered information about the Red Shield Boys' Club. In part it said: “The next time you hear someone say, 'What's this younger generation coming to anyway?,' tell him that the younger generation is probably growing up to be just as good, if not better, citizens than their forebears, thanks to, among other things, the efforts of the Red Shield Boys' Club.”

That year, the club was a relatively young one, having been organized in 1944 by the Salvation Army, with Nathan Holley as its first director. The Club, initially located at 132.5 W. Market, was established on a small scale.  However, since its founding, it quickly grew into an organization that all boys under the age of 18 could very well call their second residence; they often spent more time at the club than they did at home.

Officers of the club were Salvation Army Captain, W.W. Pryor, executive director; Lawrence Hahn, managing director; Jim McKinney, recreation coach; Robert Pryor, woodworking shop instructor; and Thora Bean, crafts instructor.

According to Hahn, the club was open from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Hahn, a sophomore at East Tennessee State College who hailed from Sunbright, Tennessee, was a tall young man with a very apparent love and understanding of youngsters. He noted that the boys who came to the club were from all walks of life. Everyone was entitled to the same privileges at the club, although disadvantaged boys and those with home difficulties were given special attention.

The club afforded facilities for boys who were interested in all types of sports, woodworking crafts, reading at a well-stocked library, television from a beautiful table model set, and other offerings.

In the sports field, the club organized teams in baseball, basketball, and softball. Other sports for which facilities were provided were boxing, track, volleyball, fencing, ping pong, weight lifting and tumbling.

About 507 boys were members of the club, although others who had not as yet become members could still enjoy the facilities. The youngsters were divided into two age groups, those under six and those 6-18. The latter group was further divided into four divisions: midgets, juniors, intermediates and seniors.

An inspection tour of the premises gave the following results: well-kept office, reading room; television and movie room; canteen, with a soda pop and candy stand; basketball court; heavy and light punching bags; a well padded boxing ring; weights; woodworking shop; arts and crafts room; equipment room; and tiled showers.

About 25 trophies were won by boys of the club that year in competition with other local clubs and organizations. They were very proud of their awards and had a right to be, because a lot of good sportsmanship and hard work went into winning each of them. Good sportsmanship was the emphasized theme of the club's operations.

This photo shows the boys who walked off with the East Tennessee Senior Crown by beating Knoxville 54 to 51. Left to right, front row were Joe Depew, Freddie Shoun, Jim McKinney, Pappy Crowe, Marion White and Ray Shipley. Back row: Captain Pryor, Buddy Steward and Coach Lawrence Hawn.

This photo lists those boys who won the East Tennessee Junior Crown by whipping the Bristol Boys' Club by a score of 49 to 38. Left to right, front row are Wayne Evans, Tom Riddle, Charlie Bowman, Jack Frost and Bill Jackson. Back row: Captain Pryor, Tommy Hord, Gene Landers, Eddie Arnett and Coach Lawrence Hawn.

I plan to do a follow-up article to this one and would like to hear from anyone who was a member of this club.