In 1896, the area where Oak Hill Cemetery would later be built was a wilderness of unkempt weeds and briers. A number of small animal pens were located there, along with barbwire that served as a perimeter fence.

The property was anything but attractive; it was also, in fact, untidy pasture land for the town cow and was a “disgrace” to the city. Soon, a committee of ladies from each of the city churches met in the home of Mrs. C.K. Lide and planned how to raise money for a nice cemetery fence.

With an oyster supper, a lecture from Senator Robert L. Taylor and another from Honorable Alfred A. Taylor, enough money was raised to build a substantial fence around the burial ground. “Oak Hill Cemetery Association” was organized November, 1896, with Mr. C.K. Lide as president.

A monthly meeting was held in the homes of different members, offering an occasional ice cream and strawberry festival, musical concert or the like. Unfortunately, it raised barely enough money to handle the weeds and briers and pave a narrow driveway through it.

The president moved away and the meetings were discontinued until Oct. 28, 1904. At that time, the ladies were called together in the home of Mrs. C.E. Faw and the association was reorganized with Mrs. W.J. Exum as president.

The group met with discouragement, criticism and was faulted for their lack of progress, but they persevered until they began to feel pride in their work. Their efforts inspired J.C. Mumpower, their sexton who bore his share of the censure, to agreed to serve another season.

The public apparently never realized that during the summer,  the sexton couldn't mow the entire cemetery in a day, get on his knees and clip grass from around graves, trim around corner stones and cut in such places as could not be reached with the mower.

All of this was in addition to possibly having to dig three or four graves in the same timeframe. By the time the poor worker mowed the entire ground, the cemetery was needing mowing again and sometimes needing it badly, especially if the weather was prohibitive.


Oak Hill Cemetery Advertisement from June 4, 1908

Often, a visitor would visit the cemetery only to find his or her departed loved ones resting in a particular spot that needed attention. He or she would go away with hurt feelings, believing that their cemetery space was not being mowed regularly while other parts of the cemetery looked nicely groomed.

The individual often made an appointment to see the president or another officer of the association and tell them their square was not being kept up as it should. They argued that they paid their $1.20 annual fee the same as others, but lacked proper service. Sometimes, in a fit of anger, they would ask that their name be taken off the book, electing to either take care of the unkempt plot themselves or hire someone to do it.

It was noted that such individuals needed  to visit the cemetery more often in order to get a truer picture that their plot of land received the same good care as all of the others. The visitor would, in turn, go away feeling much better that proper work was indeed being done.

Saturday, May 30, 1908 was decoration day. The sexton was especially anxious to have people travel to the cemetery on that day, expecting to do his best to have the grounds in tip top condition. The cemetery team asked those who attended that day to offer encouraging words to the sexton and others, thus making them feel their efforts were appreciated.

The officers that year were Mrs. J.A. Martin, president; Mrs. Frank McNeese, vice-president; Miss Sallie Faw, Treasurer; and Miss Nellie Kitzmiller, secretary.

I would be amiss if I failed to mention the late Chet Willis who selflessly volunteered his services at the cemetery for several years that included opening and closing the gates daily. Alan Bridwell and I have not forgotten this steadfast gentle giant who left us in the summer of 2008. 

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I appreciate Harold “Hal” J. Hunter's Jan. 14 letter to the editor titled, “Preserving History Should Be a Priority of the City.” I wholeheartedly agree. Today's column contains the first of several articles I will feature over time involving a landmark that is no longer a part of the East Tennessee scene. There have been so many in recent years.

In 1971, Paul R. Smith, former writer for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle called attention to the demise of the old 3-story Dixie Hotel that occupied 109 W. Market Street. Some of us will recall when it was located across the street from London Hardware Co.

Building Along the 100 Block of W. Market Street, including the Dixie Hotel,Being Razed in 1971

The vacant, outdated and nearly forgotten hostelry was leveled that year in connection with Johnson City's Urban Renewal Program. It was only a short time later that the building at 105 W. Main, was razed. This was according to Robert Sliger, executive director of the Johnson City Housing Authority, who further noted that other downtown structures were targeted for demolition in the near future.

Two other hotels conducted business at 109 E. Market: the Palace (c1930) and the Grand (c1935). Two hospitals also operated there – Jones Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital (c1923) and Goss Hospital (c1928).

The picture shows the building about halfway destroyed. Weather conditions prevented a speedy clearance of the entire building which occupied the 100 block. This property was in close proximity to the plot of land between W. Market and W. Main that was used by Henry Johnson, founder of the city. He build a combination residence and merchant store near that spot.

The Dixie Hotel was erected in 1922 by the late Dr. James H. Preas, Sr., physician and surgeon, who died there during the time he maintained an office on the ground level. His beautiful residence was at 1300 Buffalo Street on Rome Hill.

The Market Street building fronted 60 feet and extended back 92 feet to an alley that adjoined the old Hoss property, the former Dyer boundary and what was formerly known as the W. Worley property. 

The upstairs hotel portion of the facility contained 19 rooms. Four businesses were located at street level. The hotel portion of the property had not been used as a hotel for several years. It's abandonment was attributed partly to a damaging fire that occurred there.

In 1963, the city's appraisal for tax purposes was lowered drastically because of what official city records showed to be “economic obsolescence due to low income.” The old hotel formerly was patronized to a large extent by tobacco growers of outlying areas and by transients at burley tobacco marketing time.

Also, the hotel and other structures along that block were part of a changing scene that called for connecting Commerce and Lamont streets. There was also be an economic adjustment in the vicinity, seeing the shift of old established nearby businesses, some closing entirely.

Check out the companies that operated from that site from 1911 through 1972.

1911: 109 (vacant).

1913: 107-09 C.G. Hannah & Co., wholesale dry goods.

1915: 107-09 C.G. Hannah & Co.

1917: 107-09 C.G. Hannah & Co., 109 Burbage Produce Co. (Henry I. Burbage).

1922: 109 (vacant).

1923: 109 Preas Building; Jones Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital, U.G. Jones, physician; E.C. Campbell, Mrs. Pearl Campbell; 111 J.H. Preas, Physician.

1926: 109 Preas Building; Jones Hospital.

1928: 109 Goss Hospital; 111 Preas Building, James H. Preas, physician.

1930: 109 Palace Hotel; 111 Preas Building.

1935: 109 Grand Hotel.

1939: 109 Dixie Hotel; single residence.

1941: 109 Dixie Hotel.

1948: 109 Dixie Hotel; 109.5 Cameron's Jewelry.

1953: 109 Dixie Hotel, W.A. Payne, manager.

1955: 109 Dixie Hotel; J.C. Krouse Jeweler; R.L. Cochran Jeweler.

1958: 109 Dixie Hotel; J.C. Krouse Jeweler; R.L. Cochran Jeweler.

1960: 109 Dixie Hotel; J.C. Krouse Jeweler.

1964: 109 Dixie Hotel; J.C. Krouse Jeweler.

1970: J.C. Krouse Jeweler.

1972: (vacant, building razed).

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On February 23, 1947, a full page ad in the Johnson City Press-Chronicle was dedicated to a newly organized business in town, Dinty Moore's Restaurant. The eatery had been around for several years with essentially the same name but at four separate downtown locations.

The first one, known as Dinty Moore Cafe, was at 249 E. Main Street about 1935s. Last July, the Johnson City Press reported that the old cafe sign was uncovered when workers were remodeling the second floor facade. The managers were Olin O. Point and W. Jack Moore. Older residents will likely recall The Chocolate Bar that resided in that same site in the 1940s.

First Dinty Moore Cafe Sign from about 1935 Uncovered in Summer 2014

The second Dinty Moore Cafe, managed by J.R. Moore, was at 236 E. Main in the early 1940s, that location having been in prior years the site of the Edisonian, Criterion and State movie theatres. Sandy Green, who helped me compose an article about Christiansen's Cafe in Aug. 2012, told me that about 1942 the new restaurant acquired the property vacated by Dinty Moore's Cafe.

The third restaurant was located at 115 E. Market, managed by Pinckney Moore and later Hunter R. Moore. It acquired a name change from “Cafe” to “Restaurant.”

The establishment was sandwiched between Quality Bakery on the west side, Gregg Electric Co. on the east and directly across the street from the rear entrance of Betty Gay Shop, a fashionable ladies' clothing store.

Other names that were associated with the establishment included Raymond Moore, P.R. Moore, Lena R. Moore and Lela O. Moore.

The Press-Chronicle February ad stated: “Opens Monday, Feb. 24, 1947. Open Daily and Sunday. Regular Dinners and Short Orders. Featuring Cleanliness and Courtesy.”

“Congratulations to Dinty Moore. Sure! He'll Serve Enriched Honey-Krust.”

“The Hackney Co., Inc., 101 N. Roan Street, extends congratulations to Dinty Moore and his organization on the day their formal opening.”

“Best Wishes to Dinty Moore and his modern restaurant. We are proud of the job we have completed on your building: Electrical, Ventilation. Gregg Electric Co., 117 E. Market.”

“Congratulations Dinty. We wish you every good thing in your business venture and we are sure your customers and employees will enjoy your Kentile floor installed by E.N. Campbell Co., 303 W. Walnut, Phone 715.”

“Best Wishes, Dinty. Here's wishing you lots of good luck and success in your new restaurant. The Little Store Super Market (112-14 W. Market, Thomas Deaderick, manager).”

“Congratulations Dinty Moore. We feel that your new restaurant is a definite asset to our town and wish you much success. Whitlow Sign Co. (Joe B. Whitlow), Neon Manufacturing Sales and Service, 108 Tipton Street.”

“Marshall Brothers Lumber Co. (Carl L. and Olin R. Marshall) wishes to express sincere wishes of assured success to the new and modern Dinty Moore's Restaurant. We are proud to have had a part in its construction.”

“Best wishes Dinty Moore's Restaurant for a most prosperous business. The perfection of an-all gas equipped, most modern kitchen makes prosperity evident through satisfied customers. Watauga Valley Gas Company (329 E. Main, Howard W. Gee, phones 260 and 1349).”

“Congratulations to the new Dinty Moore's Restaurant, 115 W. Market. The new, modern equipment and fixture furnished by Scruggs Equipment Co., Inc., Scruggs Building, Broadway at Jackson, Knoxville, Tennessee, Local Representative, W.D. Chadwick, Johnson City, Tenn.”

The restaurant made one final relocation about 1961 when it moved up the street to the more spacious 121-23 E. Market site. It was a bit more upscale than most of the downtown restaurants of that era.

Dinty Moore's unusual slogan was “Dinty Moore's No Better Than The Best, But Better Than The Rest.” If you recall the downtown diner, drop me a line.   

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Jan. 1, 1890 was a busy day for Johnson City. During all the hard times of the late 1800s, Johnson City had more desirable and more permanent work than any other town, large or small, in the South. Notwithstanding the bad weather, work steadily advanced on all the plants and factories, until they were on the threshold of prosperity’s open door.

In the next sixty days, the builders promised to complete one of the most magnificent and capacious hotels in the state. It would be known as the Carnegie Hotel, which was being erected by the Carnegie Land Company in their addition to Johnson City.

The company sold $50,000 worth of property in their addition along the east side of the city. One section of land was block No. 70 sold to A.B. Harris, president of the Southern Construction Company.

The block was initially described as being the ugliest allotment in the addition, fronting on North Main Street (Carnegie street, not the one in the downtown district) and 7th Avenue (later renamed Chilhowie Avenue).

Mr. Harris began building a hotel there that was said to have no equal in the South with respect to beauty. It was so situated where it could be seen for miles in every direction and overlooked all parts of the county.

Mr. Harris's intention was to have the hotel open by the time the ill-fated Three C's Railroad was built to the coal fields the upcoming fall. The building was to be the showiest and most conveniently arranged one that could be designed by architects and built regardless of expense and with the sole purpose of making it a summer and winter resort of high grade.

A Chicago company bought 40 lots in the Carnegie Addition that New Years' Day with plans to put up 12 business houses in the upcoming spring. A large force was put to work excavating for the $100,000 hotel, which was located at the corner of Broad Way (Broadway) and 2nd Avenue (Fairview).

Specifications called for the building to be brick, 150×140 feet and four stories high. The materials were already contracted for and were to be delivered immediately to the site. A decision was made to expedite the building of the hotel so as to get it fully operational as speedy as possible. It opened for business six months later on July 8, 1889.

General J.T. Wilder left town that week traveling to Birmingham to contract for the erection of the furnace and ordered a Mr. Cantwell to put a force of men at work that very week grading 40 acres of land on which to place the furnace.

Within 30 days the furnace was to be well underway providing they received the brick they needed. Engine No. 31, the first 3Cs locomotive ever sent to the city arrived that week and was fired up and run down to the track. John Bonan, an engineer formerly employed by the ETV&G Railroad, was put in charge of it and James Watson was assigned fireman.

A number of flat cars were ordered and as soon as they arrived, N.G. Scott & Co. begin the arduous task of laying track, which was needed because the rails had been ordered in advance.

Will M. Patton commenced building a dwelling in the Jonesboro addition. W.J. Palmer started a residence on Myrtle Avenue with plans to expedite it to completion. R.J. Lusk had his property laid off with plans to open Myrtle and Fairview avenues through it.

Will Harr tore down the old tobacco warehouse located at the corner of Buffalo and Jobe streets, which greatly improved the looks of things in the downtown area.

Indeed, early January 1890 was an eventful one for Johnson City.

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Bob Taylor used to be the editor of Johnson City's The  Comet newspaper. An old saying that pertains to gifted writers urges these folks to keep their files wet continually for the specific purpose of preventing spontaneous combustion from their “lightning streaks of rhetoric.”

The name “Comet” came about by accident. A group of men consisting of Cy Lyle, Bob Burrow and Bob Taylor along with a half-dozen country squires, utilized because of their high social standing in the city, was organized to found a newspaper. In their initial meeting, they established a list of preliminaries, such as determining an appropriate name for the new publication.

One of the squires immediately suggested that the name be “The Hurrold.” It was adopted by acclamation, after which all of the squires were put to work on a committee to draft a prospectus.

The squires began work on it on it as a matter of policy. They were instructed to comb out any unbecoming kinks in it and protect the English language from insult.

The committee finally submitted a wonderful, yet fearful document, using the odd spelling, “Hurrold,” so named because that was exactly how nearby mountain people pronounced it.

The syndicate then met to consider it, at which time it was passed around, admired and corrected with a few frills. However, one of the committee members startled the syndicate by recycling the issue saying: “Boys, danged if I b'leeve that 'ar goldurned name's spelt right. She looks kinder unnatural-like somehow.”

They passed the prospectus around, shook their heads over it and concurred that indeed something was wrong with it, but they could not see eye-to-eye just what it was. Soon it flashed in like a revelation on Squire Huffaker's mind: “I've got her, boys. There's just too many durned r's in it.”

The assemblage immediately saw it and were puzzled that it too so long for them to spot it. However, when it came to correcting their error, Squire Hullaker paused, bit his pencil contemplatively and muddied the water by uttering: “Lookee here, fellers. Which one of these dodbusted “r's” ought to come out, the first one or the second? I'll be grab-snatched if I can tell.”

The syndicate bumped their heads together again and a vexed and troubled look crept in and settled on their assembled countenance. Some fervently demanded that the first “r” be stricken out while others insisted on the second one. Soon the discussion waxed hot and ended in a tie that busted up the syndicate; they were at an impasse.

Bob Burrow and Bob Taylor, not to show defeat,  regrouped and quickly came up with a new name for the publication. The problem of one or two “r's” was abruptly put to rest when they chose another designation, “The Comet.” Although it appeared that they had resolved the issue, success did not arrive immediately. It seems that the two men soon got into an argument as to whether the new name should be spelled with one “m” (Comet) or two (Commet). If it were two, that lead into a deeper discussion as to whether to add the second “m” before of after the first “m.” The silence of impasse again arrived.

Fortunately, the problem was adjusted by the two men without unkind words or bloodshed. When the syndicate met, Gov. Taylor abruptly excused himself from the meeting and Bob Burrow managed to feel a little bit under the weather. Without fuss or fanfare, the newspaper was named “The Comet.” No mention was made of the “mm” option.

What else would we expect coming from a man with such exhaustive humor as Bob Taylor. I hope Bob kept his files continually wet while writing that expose. 

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One of the most persistent advertisers in fictional history was Robinson Crusoe, a character penned by Daniel Defoe in a book by the same name. The castaway believed in the power of advertising and knew exactly what he wanted – a ship, not to own but to rescue him from a desert island filled with a host of unsavory residents.

Therefore, he put up an “ad” for one that consisted of a shirt attached to a pole at the top of the island that, in the language of the sea, “was plain to every seafaring man.”

Although the circulation was small, there was no other medium available to him. Therefore, he kept it in plain view despite the fact that he received no immediate inquiries. However, he had to change his “copy” frequently, as one garment after another gave way to the elements. According to the storyline, a ship finally came to his rescue after four years. Crusoe's plan, while painfully slow, finally worked.

The present day merchant living in Johnson City in 1917 was said to be much better off than Crusoe because he possessed a City Directory, published by Commercial Service Company, Inc. of Asheville, NC. “Your chances of success are thousands to his one,” it said, “but your chances of failure are the same as his.”

The directory supposed that if Robinson Crusoe had taken down his garment ad after a year and declared that advertising doesn't pay, we likely would never have heard of the famous fictional novel.

The book urged advertisers to put up their “signal” and keep it there through fair and foul weather. It suggested that a number of ships cruising around during 1917 would be glad to call on sellers and remove them from the “Island of Dull Business.” It further stated: “Crusoe advertised under discouraging circumstances, but you have got a sure thing – the City Directory.”

The publication boasted that no other publication in the world so thoroughly represented the commercial, social and private interests of the targeted city as the City Directory. It represented every private citizen from the shack to the mansion, including commercial, social, religious and educational institution.

The Directory became the dictionary to the city. The publishing company intended for the 1917 one to be an unabridged edition. It offered first aid to strangers and a standard remedy for homefolks that was accurate, complete and up-to date in every respect. Unusual prospects of profit, direct and indirect, and civic pride influenced every manufacturer and business man to have full representation in the directory.

The publisher intended for every well-governed home to have a copy of it for the use and convenience of strangers and visitors. Residents consulted the directory when they wanted to buy or sell and were rewarded by getting the best of everything at the lowest price.

“Mr. Manufacture and Mr. Business man,” said the directory, “it's a fact that the directory is your city's only standing representative to the world beyond your own gates and the only index to your city's growth and prosperity. Future directories by the exchange system, now in general use, will be place in the directory libraries of the principal cities of the United States for the use of all who wish to consult its pages. A well-patronized city directory indicates a good city to acquire residence.

In addition to Johnson City, the company distributed directories in 1917 to five other Tennessee towns: Clarksville, Cleveland, Jackson, Knoxville and Morristown. Eighteen states participated in the program; North Carolina boasted of having the most cities under the directory umbrella with 20.

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On June 10, 1984, Mary Alice Basconi, Johnson City Press-Chronicle business writer, composed an article titled, “Circulation Departments Have Their Own 'War Stories.'” It concerned the 50th anniversary of the newspaper, which began publication on June 12, 1934. According to Jesse Curtis, former Press circulation manager, this department of workers produced their own brand of war stories.

The wife of a prominent local citizen called Curtis late one night during a thunderstorm demanding that he deliver her paper. Curtis obliged, honking his horn to alert her as he pulled up in front of her home. This further offended the lady who shouted: “Were you honking at me?”

Another tale occurred in 1943 on the newspaperman's first day on the job. A foot of snow had fallen resulting in three route carriers not showing up. Substitutes were promptly enlisted to deliver papers that day: the circulation manager, Curtis (who was hired then as a mailroom clerk) and publisher Carl Jones.

Jesse Curtis. Rural Route Motor Carriers Between E. Main and E. Market Streets in the Mid 1930s

In earlier times, a small newspaper could accommodate customers' late-night requests for papers that didn't arrive that afternoon. Curtis, as manager back then, knew all his carriers' routes. Drivers had to steer their way along mountain roads and foot carriers sometimes had to penetrate wooded areas to make their rounds.

In those days, first-rate carriers were rewarded with a trip on the “Tweetsie” Railroad and a steak dinner. The newspaper was much thinner then with inserts and could easily be folded into a neat square packet and hurled at a customer's porch. The paperboy quickly learned to heave the paper to a precise spot on the porch. That was important to the owner.

Shirley Hayes, who started her 22-year career at the Press-Chronicle in the circulation department, recalled Saturdays as being “money counting days.” Carriers brought in their collections and receipts. “We all had to pitch in and count all those nickels and dimes.” she said.

Curtis remembered when trains had mail cars and papers were distributed by postal service to parts of Western North Carolina. “The paper carrier would get the first papers that came off the press, he said, “and take them to small post offices along his route.” Subscribers would get their paper the same day it was printed, even readers as far away as Chattanooga and as close by as Newland. All of that effort occurred for just 10 subscribers and only one newsstand that sold the Press-Chronicle.

Folks in far-flung communities often asked their carrier to fill a drug prescription in town for them. That luxury evaporated as did same-day home delivery if the patron lived farther than Elk Park, NC.

Curtis blamed television for taking away another bit of newspaper history – the “Extra, Extra” edition hawked on street corners all over the city.

“We used to get these newspapers out,” Curtis said, “when some major event happened, such as President F.D. Roosevelt's passing.” Over time, friendly street-side salesmen were replaced by stoic coin-operated vending racks.

According to C.J. Cody, another circulation manager for the paper in 1984: “Here in the city, we've always had kids making deliveries. Youngsters still make up the bulk of the paper's carriers. Papers were counted in the mailroom, distributed to delivery drivers and taken to drop locations or homes of carriers. The first edition, published at 11:35 a.m., reached carriers by 2 p.m. and customers by 5 p.m. The second edition, published at 2:10 p.m. reached carriers at 4 p.m. and city customers by 5 or 5:30 p.m.”

Cody noted that it was the primary aim of the newspaper to keep pace with the growth of Johnson City and surrounding areas and be positioned to take advantage of what the market was going to do.

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On June 10, 1984, Scott Pratt, Johnson City Press-Chronicle staff writer, composed an article titled, “The Process Has Changed.” It concerned the 50th anniversary of the newspaper, which began publication on June 12, 1934.”

“If Walter Winchell, H.L. Mencken or William Randolph Hearst were to return from the grave today,” Paul said, “they would no doubt be astounded by the transformation of the journalistic world they once roamed.”

Many of the methods these great “purveyors of prose” applied remain basically unchanged, with editors still assigning reporters to cover events and then writing their impressions of them.

Pratt further noted: “Comparing the mechanics involved in the actual printing of news in 1934 and what took place in 1984 was much like comparing the first Gemini space capsule with the sleek ships of Star Wars fame.” If Scott was writing this article today (2014) instead of 1984, the comparison would be markedly more dramatic.

The Newsroom Where Editors Process News Copy Written By Reporters

At the Johnson City Press-Chronicle in 1934, a news story was ushered into the newsroom by a reporter and typed using a manual typewriter onto a sheet of paper. When he or she finished, the reporter hand carried the story to an editor, who glanced looked it in much the same fashion as an elementary school teacher grades an English paper.

The editor would then mark the type-written story with a pencil, correcting grammar and spelling errors and making sure the reporter had his facts straight. Once the editor had finished, he sent the final draft of the story to the composing room, located on the same floor as the newsroom.

It was here that the news story followed a cumbersome process from paper to hot lead via a Linotype machine. This device, now a dinosaur of the printing business, fashioned a solid line of printing type (hence the name, “linotype”) on “slugs” of lead. It became standard operating equipment in the newspaper business for nearly a century, spitting out type at the “lightening-fast” rate of four lines per minute.

Once the story had been cast in lead, it was laid out on a rolling cart with a framed metal table top, appropriately dubbed a “turtle” because of its cumbersome size and awkwardness. The frame on top of the turtle was the size of a newspaper page and it was into this frame that the lead slugs were fitted to form the rough draft of the page.

By the time the pages were fitted, they weighed 30-40 pounds. The lead pages were then rolled via the turtle to a device called a mat press, where a thick fiber mat was laid over the page and compressed by a large roller. By this time, the story had gone from paper to lead to fiber mat, but the process was not yet finished.

The story had to return to hot lead. The mat, now transformed into a “dummy” or page model, was placed on a cylindrical mold called a plate marker. It was here that the molten lead was poured on the dummy.

When the metal hardened, a semi-circular lead plate was formed, which was locked onto a rotary press, inked and used to convert the page onto newspaper print. Those were the days of “hot” type. Computers and photography replaced molten metal and plastic sheets were used in place of the old lead plates.

A Simplified Sketch from 1984 of the Newspaper Process From Newsroom to Delivery

When a reporter brought a story into the newsroom in 1984, he or she typed directly into a video display terminal (VDT), consisting of a typewriter-like keyboard with an electronic screen attached. It was a link with the main computer. Typewriters began to gather dust and were only used to write letters, memos or in case of an emergency.

As the reporter typed the story, it appears on the screen. Corrections are made by using special keys that allowed the reporter to rearrange sentences and paragraphs.

The computer placed the story in a file until an editor was ready to review it. At the touch of a button, the editor could recall the story on a VDT and examine it while it was still in the computer.

When the editor was finished, he or she simply inputted a few commands and the story was zipped back into the composing room to be stored in yet another computer file. More VDTs in the composing room allowed the employees there to pull the story out of the computer file when they were ready and from there it was sent it through a computerized, digital Linotype.

The Star Wars version of the Linotype produced print on photographic paper, complete with spaces and hyphens. Rather than the four lines per minute of the hot lead Linotype, the new one was capable of 450 lines per minute, a dramatic improvement.

Once the story had been proofread, it was pasted on a paper sheet according to a layout showing where the stories and pictures should appear in the paper.

The layout, somewhat like a map of the page, was drawn by a news editor and sent back to the composing room via a vacuum tube in the ceiling.

The pasted-up page, when completed and approved by the editors, was photographed and a negative of the entire page was produced.

The negative was placed on a sheet of paper coated with liquid plastic and exposed to a bright light. The light passed through the transparent parts of the negative and hardened the liquid plastic. The other parts of the negative blocked the light and the coating under them remained soft.

The soft plastic was removed from the sheet, leaving the hardened images, which then went through an etching process to raise the hardened areas. The plates were then mounted on the press and the press went into action. O-tone rolls of paper were mounted on the press and drawn through, receiving the print of all the plates. The press also cut the sheets and folded them into pages.

The 3-story printing press at the Johnson City Press was capable of printing a 96-page paper. Larger editions were printed in separate press runs. The papers were then transported on conveyor belts into the mailroom where they were bundled for distribution or addressed for mailing. The bundles were placed on the loading dock where they were gathered, loaded on trucks or in cars and hauled away to newsstands or distribution centers and dispersed to contract carriers who delivered the paper to a box or a rosebush.

Pratt noted that the life of the news story changed dramatically during the past 50 years and many of the changes also affected the lives of people who devotedly read the news. Tremendous technological gains in the news media time and again proved that insurmountable challenges could be met through ingenuity and resourcefulness.

The old adage “They just don't make 'em like they used to” definitely applies to ongoing technology improvements in the newspaper business.     

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On June 10, 1984, Alice Torbett, Johnson City Press-Chronicle feature writer, composed an article titled, “Five Decades of Newspaper Carriers.” It concerned the 50th anniversary of the newspaper, which began publication on June 12, 1934.

Independent businessmen at an early age  may or may not have saved all the money they earned as paperboys, but they stored up something more important – memories and attitudes that spanned a lifetime.

Bill Spain, a former city recorder, started out in the 1930s at about 10 years of age as one of a half-dozen street salesman. “I would check out a number of papers,” he said, “and sell them around town. Around 1:30 or 2 p.m., there was a train that came into the old Clinchfield Depot and I went through it selling newspapers. I also did this on the Southern Depot.

“Workers at the old Appalachian Hospital let some of us go room-to-room selling papers. A couple of years later, I acquired a morning route, first in the Keystone section and then in the Southwest area. My newsboy career ultimately covered 10-12 years.”

Dr. Bob Bagby, a local dentist, started carrying papers in the Gump Addition in 1938. The paper cost 18 cents a week then and he said he could still accurately multiply by 18. He remembers getting tips and gifts at Christmas, as well as an annual handkerchief from the Millers on Holston Avenue.

Bob's twin brother, Bill, also had a route. It included many stores where he accepted food, namely Hershey candy bars and bananas in exchange for paper money. Bob remembers that their father teased Bill about literally “eating all the profits.”


Former Newsboys Remember Their Paper-Folding Techniques

From left are J.T. McPherson, Bill McPherson, Dr. Bob Bagby, Lee Talbert and Don Trevathan. George Langford is shown in the upper left corner insert. 

J.T. McPherson collected money from his customers on Pine Street from the time he took the route in 1948. When he and Lucy Repass married, he started accepting Betty Crocker coupons that the couple saved to acquire silverware. The paper route was a staple in their courtship. If they needed money for a movie date, J.T. usually found a customer who was in arrears and collected enough cash to pay for the tickets.

Carrying papers also became a family tradition for the four McPherson offspring. Once they received a $100 bill, a sizable amount of money in those days. Not having enough change, three of them “ran around like lightening” to round up enough money from customers so they could keep the bill, at least for a few hours.

In 1953, George Langford took “Route #1,” which was the downtown beat that included several apartments as well as many stores. It began at the newspaper building on W. Main and ended at the Dixie Restaurant on E. Main. He used his profits to buy a collie puppy that lived with the family for 17 years.

Don Trevathan loaded up the basket of his bike with so many papers that he could barely steer it. His route starting point was Bailey & Son Grocery on Earnest Street where he began his route. He earned enough money to buy a 35mm camera, and, at the same time, gained some first-rate business experience.

Lee Talbert, current Press Photo Editor, was a skinny 13- year-old when he got his first route. It was a challenging one, mainly because his delivery area was around Knob Creek Road, where subdivisions were just beginning to develop with many vacant lots. “I didn't mind getting up in the morning,” he said, “and I didn't mind bad weather. Delivering papers on Christmas night offered an exciting change of routine. However, the two things I didn't like were dogs and collecting.”

Traffic was not a problem for Paige and David Preston, who shared a northern Johnson City route. Their papers were delivered right to their home on Quail Drive, thus keeping them off traffic-congested Mountcastle Drive.

Newspaper delivery boys represented the kind of energetic, ambitious youngsters that made the daily paper one of the few remaining home-delivered products and a proud American institution. 

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On June 10, 1984, Elaine Cloud Goller, Johnson City Press-Chronicle staff writer, composed an article titled, “Photographs and Memories.” It concerned the 50th anniversary of the newspaper, which began publication on June 12, 1934.

Herchel Ornduff, a 31 year veteran of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle, related to Elaine that it took perseverance to be a good photographer.

Ornduff Looks Over Kennedy Assassination Edition. An Array of Photographic Equipment. 

Ornduff, who retired in January 1983, began working for the paper in 1952, following a stint as a photographer in the Army and some freelance work. For years, there were only two day photographers  and one at night. A quiet man, Ornduff shared some of the more memorable events of his newspaper days.

In 1955, he stood vigil as prisoners dug in search of the remains of a woman, Josie Fair, who had been murdered and buried under the floor of the Interstate Foundry by Orville “Rooster” Warren many years prior.

Another extensive assignment was covering the Southeast Airlines wreck of January 1957. Tom Hodge, then covering the political beat for the paper, had been booked to return from Nashville on the ill-fated flight, but fortunately canceled at the last minute because it was the first week the state Legislature was in session.

“(The accident) happened on a late Thursday night,” said Ornduff. “We drove out to the airport because there was a  report that a plane was down. The temperature was zero degrees as we drove up the Sullivan County side of Holston Mountain, where the crash occurred. We drove  Jeeps as far as we could, but had to hike the rest of the way on foot.”

The veteran photographer recalled the coldest day he could remember was when the mercury dropped to 17 degrees below zero, freezing the Doe River in Elizabethton solid. Even with snapped trees and power lines down, it was as pretty as a picture, something foremost on any good photographer's mind.

Ornduff recalled being chased away from the scene while covering the 1960 Tennessee Eastman Co. explosion that killed 12 people. Undaunted by this hindrance, he found other angles from which to shoot and be of service.

During another dark night's raid, Ornduff remembered being led by the local sheriff by flashlight and walking across a foot log. “When I saw it the next day in the light,” he said, “I wouldn't dare cross it. I looked down and it must have been a 100-foot drop.”

Herchel captured on film the area appearances of such notables as Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater, John Kennedy, Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver.

Some of the stars to have graced Ornduff's lenses included Robert Mitchum, Patricia Neal, Carroll Baker, George C. Scott and John Saxon. He also recalled the current Miss America coming through Johnson City about every year.”

“I loved to work with Dorothy Hamill, the veteran feature writer for the Press. We went on hundreds of assignments together. I fondly recall the time when Dot was in a sled being pulled by a mule but couldn't get the animal  stopped. I've got a picture of her in 'jail,' a gag arranged with the cooperation of a local jailer. She was the best sport, doing anything you'd ask her to do.”

The photographer won second place in a national contest for a series of photographs about a child locked in a car. Several people tried to get the petite girl to pull the door lock knob up, but she would just laugh at them and wave. A man with a set of master keys from the local Chevrolet dealer tried every one to no avail. Finally, a guy came along and said, “Let me try my key.” It fit like he owned it.

During the interview, Ornduff was careful to make honorable mention of his old co-worker and good friend at the Press, Jimmy Ellis. They were like brothers. Herchel had lasting memories of his friend's inclination to pull practical jokes on his co-workers.  

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