Johnson City was once recognized as one of the outstanding burley tobacco centers of the Appalachian region. It contained approximately 40 million pounds of the product stored in seven spacious tobacco warehouses with combined floor space of 450 thousand square feet. Sadly, all seven structures have vanished into yesteryear. I recall two of them went up in smoke, while others were razed.

In 1887, at the request of many tobacco planters, J.H. Winston, a Bristol businessman, submitted an article in the local newspaper that addressed the subject of the proper handling of tobacco for market in order to secure a good price for it. I found his comments very interesting.

“Supposing that your tobacco is cured,” he said, “let it hang in the barn until after a hard freeze. It may then he taken down and put into bulk. It should be bulked with the tails lapped, the stalk end out. Then cover it with straw, sides and top, so as to preserve the order and prevent it from drying.”

Winston said it could at that point be stripped at leisure regardless of weather conditions. If stripped before a freeze, it should either be marketed immediately or replaced on the sticks and hung up until it is subjected to a spell of cold weather. It is always a safe practice to hang tobacco as fast as it is stripped in a closed house and then hung there as long as may be necessary. Many planters favor this plan.

The businessman further advised during the stripping phase to let one person do all the sorting. The sorter had to be a good judge of tobacco, both as to quality and color. Leaves of the same color, size, and quality were to be placed together. However, all racked and worm-eaten loaves were to go with the lugs. The hands of leaf tobacco should contain from six to eight leaves. Lug bundles may be a little larger. All must be neatly tied up.

“The small leaves that grow at the end of the rows and especially next to the woods make the best bands,” he said. “In every hand, let all the leaves be about the same length. Wrap to about one and a half inches from the head, but don't cover the top of the head with the band. The ends of the stems must always be visible.”

J.H. further advised that when marketing tobacco, it would sell better loose than if tightly pressed together. Therefore when possible, it was best to haul tobacco to market neatly packed in a wagon bed. If this was not feasible, he further advised to force it in large packages but not so hard as to bruise the leaves and cause them to stick together. Fine yellow tobacco should be put in large metal drums and handled as delicately as a silk dress. Every bundle was to be spread out smooth and straight, being subjected to no more pressure than the weight of one’s hand.

The tobacco man advised that when stripping tobacco to grade it accordingly: lugs, short leaf and long leaf. It was again subdivided into dark, bright, red, mahogany and yellow, with the different shades of each color. He noted that all of these grades and colors were not usually found in the same crop. As to its uses, tobacco was divided into manufacturing, shipping and non-descript. 

Tobacco that was not distinctively manufacturing and shipping, was deemed non-descript, being a less desirable sort and always sold at lower prices in comparison with other grades. Unfortunately for our region of the country, a large portion of the tobacco raised was of the nondescript character. The owners of such tobacco crops were always disappointed in the price they received.

Winston concluded by saying, “Tobacco carefully handled will always sell for more than the same tobacco roughly handled. It is hard to say whether the early or the late market will be best. Last season, the early market was the best. However, we are inclined to believe that there will not be much change in prices for some time.”

The businessman was cautious in formulating an opinion as to the quality of the crop of 1877. He invited inquiries from tobacco growers. 

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I received a letter from Tommy Thomas of Johnson City, containing two high quality photographs of Johnson City as it appeared in 1949. “As an avid reader of your column in the Monday edition of the Press,” said Tommy, “I thought you might be interested in the two photos I have enclosed.

 “I was a Gulf Oil distributor in the 1970s and 80s. I sold to Appalachian Oil Company but have since retired from the business. My grandfather and father were also distributors of the company. The Gulf service station in the smaller photo was located at the corner of Fairview Avenue and N. Roan Street. The old Junior High School building can be seen to the right in the background. The operator of the business was a gentleman named Roy Trivette. I think he is the person on the left in the photo. He operated the station for many years in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s. The Gulf Oil Company razed the building in the 1970s.”

The other photo reveals a parade in the downtown district that, according to the license plate of the front truck, occurred in 1949. According to Thomas: “Note that the front gasoline truck belonged to R.Y. Foster. He sold Esso products at that time and ceased operating his business, I think, about 1970.”

Based on an examination of both photos and the additional use of a 1948 City Directory, I made some observations:

The service station photo shows Trivett Service Station, as Tommy pointed out, located at 405 N. Roan Street. Kiser Funeral Home was directly across the street from it. Tommy’s father was a distributor for Gulf Refining Co. The bulk plant was situated at 940 W. Walnut Street. To call them, a person picked up the phone receiver, listened for the operator to say “number please” and gave her the number “80,” after which she would say, “Thank You.” Can you imagine a telephone number that low?

The small sign on the back fence to the left reads, “Drain Your Oil. Change to Gulfpride.” A display rack containing several cans of oil is positioned between the two front gas pumps making it convenient for service attendants to add oil to a customer’s vehicle. This was when these stations offered free service (oil, water and tire pressure checks plus cleaning the windshield). Two additional gas pumps are adjacent to the door leading into the building. A shared outside restroom on the left side of the building contains these words: “Ladies and Men’s Room.” Note the decorative light globes mounted on the brick pillars and a free standing one to the right.


Thomas’s other photo looking east on of E. Main Street is a heart tugging nostalgic journey back to the downtown area. This was the Johnson City that many of us remember.

The license plate is in the shape of the state of Tennessee. The sign on the bumper of the two front trucks reads, “This is Oil Progress Week!” This was a time of celebration when the city paid its respect to the petroleum industry for the significant part it played in past, present and future economic welfare. Although the crowd is modest, a line of trucks can be seen extending up the hill, past the Post Office on the right and out of sight.

Does anyone recognize the police officer standing in the middle of the photo? Could that be Earl Byrd, a patrolman from that era? His patrol car, a black Ford coupe with an emergency light on top, is parked in the road behind him purposely blocking traffic. The sign on the lamppost at the crosswalk reads, “Keep to the Right.”

Several street lamps can be seen on both sides that are typical of that era. Note the two-way traffic flow on E. Main instead of the current one-way flow east. The parking meters appear to be tiny compared to those of today. A small water fountain is barely visible, located on the far left side just to the right of the hedge (left of the lady). It attracted much attention throughout the years, especially on hot summer days. This plaintive device was nothing compared to the majestic bronze Lady of the Fountain that once stood facing east on Fountain Square. It was removed in 1937 and relocated to Roosevelt (Memorial) Stadium.

Note how the people are dressed; most of the men are wearing hats and are decked out with coats and ties. The women appear to be wearing dresses.   

Allow me to guide you on an imaginary walk beginning at Fountain Square and going east on the south (Hamilton Bank) side of the street to Colonial Place (later renamed Colonial Way and Colonial Drive). We will then return by crossing Main Street to the north side of the street and traveling west. See how many businesses you can remember:

Snyder-Jones Pharmacy, Calfee & Swann, Fields Department Store, Congress Barber Shop, Jones-Vance Drug, (crossing Spring Street), Hamilton Bank Building, Carl H. King Co., Hollywood Shop, Southern Shoes, Goldsteins Store, H.E. Hart Jeweler, Peoples Drug Store, Thomas’ Men Shop, Thomas’ Lady Shop, Sterchi Brothers Stores, Dosser’s Department Store, Beckner’s Jeweler, Christiansen’s Café, Smythe Electric Co., Lorraine Shops, Booze Brothers Shoes, The Hat Shop/Plaza Fashions, Masengill’s Women Clothing, (crossing Roan Street), King’s Department Store, Charles Store, Ben’s Sport Shop, American Optical Co., Gunner Teilmann Florist, Siler & Co. and Marshal Brothers Lumber Co.

This brings us to Colonial Place where we will cross Main Street to the north side and return to Fountain Square by going west. Again, note all the businesses along this side of the street:

Home Federal Savings & Loan, General Exchange Insurance Corp. / Singer Sewing Machine Co., Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Peoples Bank, (crossing Roan Street), Liggett’s Drug, F.W. Woolworth, The Young Set, The Jewel Box, S.H. Kress, Majestic Theatre/Barber Shop, Kinkead’s Flowers, Thom McAn Shoes, Cole Drug, The Budget Shop, Kinney Shoes, McLellan’s Department Store, Liberty Theatre, Darling Shop, Betty Gay Shop, Wallace’s Shoes, Hannah’s Men Clothing, Glamor Shop Women’s Clothing, Parks-Belk Department Store, Glen-More Clothing Store and Anderson Drug Store. This brings us back to Fountain Square. If only we could actually make that trip.

Two other businesses on Fountain Square visible on the left side of the photo are the Mecca Restaurant, and Mullins Jewelers. Just inside the door to the right of Mullins is a set of stairs leading upstairs to eight professional offices.

A hardy thanks is extended to Tommy Thomas for sharing his wonderful photographs and story with us. 

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During my youth, I recall seeing a magazine titled, “The Progressive Farmer” lying around in some of my relatives’ country homes. I loved to glance at the ads in it. Today, I occasionally purchase one at a flea market, antique store or auction and I still enjoy its dated contents.

Today’s column photo is from the February 1940 edition. Reading it is a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Allow me to paraphrase comments from selected ads:

Prince Albert tobacco evoked a special memory for me. Some of us pranksters phoned grocery stores and asked the attendant if he or she had “Prince Albert in a can?” The response was always in the affirmative. We then responded: “Well, you better let him out before he suffocates.” We then hung up. The tobacco was advertised as “Crimp Cut” to be used in long burning pipes and rolled (yes rolled) cigarettes.

In another ad, seven panels reveal a father trying to convince his young son to swallow some foul-tasting adult laxative. Mother soon comes to the rescue with a spoonful of Fletcher’s Castoria. The lad gleefully laps the spoon. Somehow, I do not remember it being that wonderful, but it definitely beat Castor Oil.

International Harvester’s new McCormick-Deering Farmalls introduced ‘Lift All,” the first all-purpose hydraulic air lift and ‘Culti-Vision,” with offset controls that gave the driver full view of his field. Four models were offered.

Plymouth offered a two-way guide to the best car value. Customers were urged to examine the quality chart for facts about the new 1940 vehicles and then take the luxury ride for proof. Plymouth’s rating that year was 21, the highest score among the other cars.

The Lifebuoy’s Health Soap ad proclaimed that hard work, exercise and even the lightest farm chores could bring on perspiration. To the rescue comes Lifebuoy; its crisp odor immediately disperses, leaving the bather with protection that lasts and lasts. I loved the smell of Lifebuoy in my youth and still do.

Ball Band Shoes were so-named because they had a black band around them. They were marketed with a big red dot with the words, “Look for the Red Ball.” They supposedly fit better, were more comfortable, resisted wear and were more affordable than their competitors.

Lee Overalls is another one I recall. A Ripley’s “Believe or Not” entry that year stated, “If Lee overalls started marching today past your home 13 paces apart, they would march forever and no overall would pass your home twice.” Ripley explained why. “As fast as this line would march, new overalls being manufactured by Lee would maintain the line and the march would go on (indefinitely). The ad concluded with “If Lee overalls don’t last longer than any overalls you ever wore, Lee will give you a new pair free.” Believe it or not.

A&P Food Stores promoted their coffee line by joining thousands who saved on their three brands of coffee: Eight O’clock, Red Circle and Bokar. I don’t recall those brands.

Harley Davidson told farmers that owning a motorcycle offered many advantages: riding to and from school, performing farm errands quickly and economically and taking scenic vacations. Sending in a coupon brought a 24-page brochure featuring photos and stories from owners.

Tuxedo Starting and Growing Allmask guaranteed to keep farmers’ chicks healthy, allowing them to grow into well-developed pullets with high egg production. The product aimed at helping these birds withstand diseases induced by vitamin starvation such as nutritional roup, nerve disorder and rickets. The product’s empty bag could be used for making dresses, romper suits, draperies, furniture coverings, pillows and other useful articles. 

Finally, the Bristol Chick Hatchery took out a small ad for Leghorns, Rocks, Reds, Irpingtons, Wyandottes, Hampshires, Giants and Cornish. Interested parties could write for an illustrated circular describing the products.

The thing that stands out in the publication is the low cost of products and services in 1940.  

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From 1908 to 1940, it was not unusual for a Johnson City family to anxiously travel to the railroad station to greet the arrival of their newly purchased mail order prefabricated model home from Sears, Robuck & Co. (formerly dubbed the “World’s Largest Store”).

On board were one or two railcars containing approximately 30,000 house components weighing an estimated 25 tons. During the program’s 32-year span, over 100,000 homes representing 447 styles were offered to the public. Entrepreneurs Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck began their successful business venture in 1893.

To order a prefabricated home, buyers had to show clear title to the lot, have steady employment and make a pre-payment equal to 2.5 percent of the amount of the material bill. A kit included all materials needed (excluding the house’s foundation) to build a sturdy, well-designed house. Eager homebuyers, aided by family, friends and neighbors, often provided labor for the project. Others contracted the work with a local construction firm or paid Sears to build it for them.

Each home came with an elaborate leather bound instruction manual containing step-by-step instructions for assembly. Sears promised that an average sized house could be constructed in about 90 days. A unique number inserted on each piece of carefully precut lumber identified its exact location as noted in the manual, eliminating any guesswork.

Sears Modern Homes consisted of three choices: Honor Bilt, Modern Bilt and Simplex Sectional. The first used only the best types of lumber, such as Douglas fir or Pacific Coast hemlock for framing, cypress for outside finish; and oak, birch and Douglas fir or yellow pine for interior finish. Catalogs showed floor plans ranging from modest to elegant homes. For instance, Honor Bilt homes in 1926 ranged from $986 (The Fairy) to $4909 (The Glen Falls).

Standard Bilt homes that ranged from $499 to $999 were available for those who could not afford the more expensive Honor Bilt ones. Although they too were high quality, they were not top of the line.

Simplex Sectional units were, as the name suggests, made in sections and could be quickly bolted together. These included add-on garages ranging in prices from $87 to $227. They also were suitable for summer cottages and hunters’ cabins.

Renters were urged to buy prefab homes and save monthly payments. The houses, depending on their size, could be paid off in as little as seven years. A side benefit of home ownership was having a nice yard where the entire family could enjoy landscaping it with green grass, flowers and vegetable gardens and a variety of trees, shrubbery and plants. Some house plans allowed potential buyers to alter the layout, such as reversing floor plans that took advantage of morning and evening sun. These altered plans contained the word “Reversed” after the name. Also, customers could suggest design changes by submitting blueprints to Sears, creating another kit.

As an experiment, the company once built two identical houses. One was built the ordinary way that required measuring and cutting; the other was a Sears home kit just as it came from the factory. The Sears home required 40% less labor. The company also sold wood to consumerswho chose not to order a precut home but desired quality materials from them at lowest cost.

In early years, houses could be built with or without an indoor bathroom. When one was included, it was generally located on the second floor. The company even sold a 720-pound sturdy outhouse kit priced at $41 that measured 4×7 feet. It contained ventilators on each side, asphalt roofing and two smooth finished seats with different size holes – one for adults and the other for children.

In later years, central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity became standard in most homes. Consumerscould select the heating system that best suited their needs: hot water heat, steam heat, warm air heat and a Hercules “pipeless” furnace. Also available were complete plumbing systems and a choice of bathroom fixtures such as the little nostalgic porcelain tub that stood on four feet.

Consumers could pay cash with the order, pay for material during the construction phase, pay after inspecting the shipped material or provide a “guaranteed letter of deposit” from a post office. The latter stated that the buyer had deposited with them the required sum of money as a special fund to be paid upon delivery of the kit. Every home carried with it a “Certificate of Guarantee” for delivery of all materials as detailed in the plans and specifications.

A typical testimony from a satisfied homeowner reads as follows: “I am well pleased with the house and with your material. My wife and I, who are approaching 60 years of age, built the house ourselves and saved about $1,300.”

The curtains came down on the Sears Modern Homes era by the Great Depression of 1929. Almost overnight the company was thrown into a financial tailspin by steadily rising payment defaults. Because of their high quality, many of the homes are still standing. According to local resident, Ken Harrison, the houses at 309 W. Pine Street and 320 Hamilton Avenue in Johnson City are Sears homes.

The City of Johnson City Historic Zoning Commission is interested in learning of any Sears kit homes that are located inside the city limits. If you know of any, please call Jessica Harmon with the City of Johnson City Planning Division at (423) 434-6073.

How can someone identify a house as being a Sears one? Search the Internet for suggestions: “Determine if the house was built between 1908 and 1940. Compare the actual floor plan dimensions with those shown in an old catalog. Identify characteristic column arrangements on porches. Find a square block molding at the foot of stairs. Look for numbers on boards used in attics and basements. Locate a shipping label under a staircase. Find the house’s building permit in a local courthouse. Look for an “R” or “SR” on plumbing. Find a stamp that says “Goodwall” on the back of sheetrock.”

(Resources/contributors:;; Small Houses of the Twenties, 1926 house catalog reprint, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia /Dover Publications, 1991; Ken Harrison; Bernie Gray; and Bill Russell.) 

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I have fond remembrances of patronizing several “mom and pop” grocery stores in Johnson City during my youth. The earliest one I recall was the Red Store in the late 1940s (Bert Weems, later W. Howard Stewart, located on W. Market at W. Watauga).

Others included Ford Wilson Grocery (Ford and Verna Wilson, Elm Street, delivered groceries to our apartment in the 1940s), West Side Grocery (Carroll and Nettie Younce, two of my favorite people, W. Market at Knob Creek Road), Fox Grocery (Henry and Louise Fox, Knob Creek Road near Peachtree), Bailey and Son Grocery (Frates and Mary Bailey, Earnest Street, selling those wonderful orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream “pushups”) and Puckett’s Grocery (Jeff and Martha Puckett, Forest Avenue).

Today’s column spotlights Adams Grocery at 109 E. Main (Guy and Carrie Adams). I recall the store but do not remember going in it. Karen Roberts of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle interviewed the couple in October 1988.

The couple sold groceries in the front of their home and lived in the back. Three old store signs graced the entrance with each one having a different product displayed: Coca Cola, Farmbest and Pepsi. Vintage soda pop machines and an ice cream freezer stood next to the walls along the front and side while the other two were stocked high with canned goods. Two benches greeted patrons on the front porch, as did a Chevrolet truck, usually sitting under the carport, and a cat named Bill that roamed freely about the place.

Karen noted that big-name chain stores extinguished much of the smaller stores’ trade. However, the couple was the epitome of small struggling grocers from that time. In good and bad times spanning three decades, the Adams’ business philosophy of treating customers with respect was unwavering.

“If I ever mistreated anybody in my life,” said 87-year-old Carrie, “I don’t know it. That makes a big difference with customers. If you treat them nice, you can get along with the world. People came in the store as much for friendship as for food. Not many people come by anymore because the dirt road out front is now paved, carrying torrents of traffic. You can hardly get across the street now. Would you send your kid to the store in that traffic?” Karen readily understood what Carrie was talking bout because passing cars and trucks drowned out most of what she was saying.”

“Also hurting small business are large companies giving big stores hefty discounts,” said Carrie. “If you were starving to death,” you couldn’t get anything to eat at a big store. If anybody comes in here and says that they are hungry, we give them something to eat. It happens almost every week.”

Guy, Mrs. Adams husband of 70 years, added his two cents: “Sometimes people knock on our door at five o’clock in the morning. There is no certain time for us to get up or go to bed.” This presented no problems to the couple.

Mr. Adams, a former livestock dealer who was 90 years old at the time of the interview, was mostly a silent partner, except when he talked of his love for horses. Pointing to Keystone, a housing project down the street, Adams noted that it belonged to his family. “It was just a big cornfield. It’s the first winter I ain’t kept some horses out there, but if I live to warm weather, there will be horses in that lot.”

Mrs. Adams boasted of her ability to get along with people in a neighborhood that some people consider a bit rough. “I get along with the meanest boys in Keystone and that’s saying a lot. They are all good to us,” Mrs. Adams said. The subtle way Mrs. Adams handles a disagreement has led to an enduring marriage. She makes her point and abruptly leaves without any argument.

When the couple was asked if they would consider selling the store, Carrie responded that they would keep it open as long as they were physically able. They needed the income plus it was a part of their life and their home.

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 In 1948, Johnson City was Tennessee’s fifth largest city with a population of 31,508. “The Hub of Tennessee,” as it became known, had experienced a population growth since the turn of the century: 1900, 4,645; 1910, 8,502; 1920, 12,442; 1930, 25,000: and 1940, 25,322. In 1948, officials provided some remarkable statistics about the city. It had a trading population in excess of 250,000 within a radius of 25 miles. Retail sales two years prior hit $26.9M.

In addition to the general products were lumber, building material, hardware supplies, dress goods, groceries, machinery and other allied lines of merchandise. The city served as the favorite retail shopping locale for the vast and fast-growing area.

By 1948, Johnson City was served by three railroads: the Southern Mail Line from Washington to New Orleans, the Clinchfield main line and the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Three U.S. Highways 11E (East and West), 19 (North and South) and 23 (North and South) contributed to traffic flow through the city. Also present was a million dollar airport that was the first stop of American Airways’ southern route out of Washington, with four planes flying daily.

Advertisements from a 1948 City Directory

Johnson City was the most diversified trading center of East Tennessee and one of the leading industrial centers. Local industries included hardwood flooring, furniture, textiles, rayon yarn, hosiery, fabricated steel, foundry products, bobbins and other products. There were 30 industries employing 4000 people with an annual payroll of slightly under $5M dollars.

In addition to the general mercantile products were lumber, building material, hardware supplies, dress goods, groceries, machinery and other related lines of merchandise. Retail sales for 1946 were $26,900,000.

Johnson City’s terrain was rich with a wide variety of raw materials including hardwood lumber, agricultural products, clay, shale, feldspar, coal, limestone, acid woods, water, mica, manganese and other natural resources, all of which existed in a crude and undeveloped stage.

The city was likewise proud of its Mountain Branch of the Veterans Administration Facility for Disabled Veterans. The reservation contained 450 acres of land on which were 76 buildings. It had six miles of asphalt-paved roads, three miles of secondary roads and its own “white way.” The value of the buildings and plants was appraised at $3,511,276, exclusive of the worth of equipment, which amounted to $785,733 or a total value of $4,297,049. The replacement value was estimated at $15M. There were 556 hospital beds, 1,723 duty and non-duty beds, and 330 unofficial barracks beds, making a total of 2,609 units. About 5,000 disabled World War veterans were admitted each year.

Johnson City was well served by a “Class A” school system with a splendid education system. In addition, there was an excellent Junior High School on N. Roan Street. The city boasted of providing the home for East Tennessee State Teachers College that had an annual enrollment of approximately 1,500 students. Nearby Milligan College had an annual roster of approximately 400 students. The 48 churches dispersed throughout the city covered practically all denominations. By this time, most of them had large congregations and modern church structures.

The civic clubs of the city in 1948 included the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist, Civitan, Business and Profession Women, Pilot, Monday, Merchants Credit Association, as well as numerous patriotic, educational and music organizations.

The city was served with daily newspapers, both owned by Press, Inc. The Johnson City Chronicle was delivered in the morning and the Johnson City Press was distributed in the afternoon. It was also the home of radio station WJHL, which had just recently increased to 1,000 watts and had become a part of the ABC national hook-up at 910 on the radio dial. Station WETB, Johnson City’s newest station, broadcast from sun-up to sundown at 790 kilocycles.

Johnson City was recognized as being one of the outstanding burley tobacco centers of the Appalachian region. Within a radius of 70 miles of Johnson City, there was annual production of approximately 40-million pounds of burley tobacco. The quality and type of tobacco was up to standard and annually competed favorably with other markets in price and volume sales. The city had seven spacious tobacco warehouses with a combined floor space of 450,000 square feet of floor space.

With two sets of buyers, Johnson City could easily double the pounds sold. Thousands of tobacco growers preferred selling their product in Johnson City. Johnson City, being such a diversified retail and wholesale trading center, had a great advantage to the farmer in buying the necessities of life because, according to one slogan, “You can get it in Johnson City.”

Top: Johnson City Livestock Market As It Appeared on Broadway Street; Bottom: Main Street Looking West. Charles Store Is On the Left, Penneys on the Right

By 1948, the city had fast become the livestock and agricultural center of East Tennessee with the opening of a new livestock market. This was brought about by its ever-increasing number of quality mules and horses, the quality of its beef and dairy cattle, its fast-growing lamb production and an increase in poultry products. Washington County was in the midst of a soil improvement program aimed to prevent land erosion, increase lime in the soil and expand red clover across the land. Washington County was believed to have an enviable future in agricultural and livestock advancement.

The opening of the Johnson City Livestock Market in 1948 provided the handling of more than a thousand head of livestock each Wednesday.

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In March 1947, there were 57 cafes/restaurants within the posted limits of Johnson City (excluding those eateries in five and ten stores, drug stores and ice crème parlors). Some of the better-known ones, depending on your age, were Dixie Barbeque, Melody Lane, Guy’s Café, Derby Grill, Eddie’s Steak House, Long’s Barbeque, Market Street Café, Lucky Grill, Peerless Steak House, Spot Steak House, Dinty Moore’s and Patio Grill.

A few of the lesser recognized ones included Bacon’s Café, Fair’s Grill, Jestes Café, Maple Street Lunch Stand, Sevier Café, The Stag, Main Coffee Pot, Murr’s Place Cafe, Sports Center Sandwich Shop, Tipton’s Roxie Café, Black Hawk Restaurant and “Y” Café.

Over the years, some restaurants opened and remained in business for an extended period of time while others were short-lived. A few relocated to a more favorable location. One establishment upgraded its facilities and food choices after shutting down and remodeling its premises. Henry “Chris” Christiansen owned Christiansen’s Café at 236 E. Main Street. His wife, Vera, worked as a secretary for Sterchi Brothers Stores Inc.

The food establishment was located on the south side of E. Main between the Keys Building (Orth D. Hutchens, accountant; Carla B. Keys, President of Johnson City Enterprises, Inc.; and Tunnell’s Photographic Studio) on the west and Smythe Electric on the east.

The Johnson City Press-Chronicle announced its reopening on Saturday, March 20, 1947, with a bold headline: “East Tennessee’s Most Beautiful Restaurant Makes Its Bow!” The ad further declared: “After months and months of planning, we are pleased to present to our patrons and friends a new, beautiful Christiansen’s Café at our same location. We have long dreamed of giving to Johnson City an eating establishment comparable to the finest to be found in larger cities. With this in mind, we’ve worked untiringly through the years of shortages to present just such a restaurant to our patrons and friends. This is now a reality and on Wednesday, we invite you in to see the most modern, beautiful and complete restaurant within hundreds of miles of this city. We hope you’ll like it. Chris.”

The newspaper on that Saturday displayed several ads from local businesses offering their wishes for success, but also plugging their products or services:

Hecht’s Bakery, Inc.: “Congratulations to the new Christianssen’s Café. Try our delicious cream pies at Chris’s.”

Smythe Electric Company: “Best wishes, Chris. Johnson City may well be proud of your newly remodeled restaurant and we are proud to have played our part in its construction.”

J.E. Green, Contractor: “Congratulations to
Christiansen’s Café on the opening of our newly remodeled restaurant. We are pleased to have worked with you on this job.”

Grocers Baking Company: “Congratulations Chris. Honey Krust bread is made with pure golden honey making it fresh, wholesome and delicious. Honey Krust products – enriched white bread, whole wheat, cracked wheat, Aunt Sally’s self-rising, rye, sugar rolls and tea biscuits – are available at your cafe.”

Scruggs Equipment Company, Inc.: “Congratulations to the modernized Christiansen’s Café in Johnson City, Tennessee. Scruggs Equipment Company, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, furnished the new, modern equipment and fixtures. The local representative was W.D. Chadwick from Johnson City, Tennessee.”

While I do not know when the business opened or closed, I do know that by 1953 the E. Main Street location was occupied by Jo-Ann’s Shops. If anyone can recall eating at Chris’s place, knows someone who did or can shed additional light on the former business, I would like to hear from you.  

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It is always intriguing to scan through old pamphlets from yesteryear that offer household hints and work savers to help consumers beat the high cost of living. They vividly reveal how life has changed over the years. One publication from 1957 gives helpful advice for operating an automobile. I have paraphrased the comments for brevity:

Make sure your car is in good shape before taking a trip. For outings of less than 100 miles, take the car in for an oil change, get it lubricated and have the tires, battery and radiator checked. For an extended journey, also check the brakes, steering wheel, lights, horn, windshield wipers, mirrors, exhaust system, ignition system, wiring and fuel system.

The temperature gauge should read between 170 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Since fuel burns at 4000 degrees, if the cooling system isn’t working properly, extreme heat could damage the pistons, cylinder walls and other engine parts. 

The radiator necessitates being flushed twice each year – when replacing antifreeze in the spring and when adding to it in the fall. The fan belt needs to be checked to ensure it is not loose. If it is, it should be tightened; if frayed, it must be replaced. A belt that does not work properly wastes gasoline, causing cylinders to score and leave the traveler with an undercharged battery.

Look under the hood for any worn or frayed wiring. Since lacquer protects car wiring, apply a coat or two of clear liquid to exposed wiring, particularly near the engine. This will prolong the life of the wiring by protecting it from acids and moisture.

Examine the heater hose to ensure that it is not rubbing anything. Hoses as well as wiring should be located as far from hot engine parts as possible. Brakes need checking anytime the car pulls to the right or left. Both front brakes should be inspected, regardless in which direction it is pulling.

Lubricate the car every 1000 miles. This can save money in terms of added power, better gasoline mileage, longer bearing life and many other less tangible results. Another special tip is to keep the gasoline tank full to prevent condensation from forming and contaminating the fuel. (Imagine doing that today.)

Excessive oil consumption can often be traced to an over-zealous gas-station attendant who fills the crankcase above the recommended level. It is important that the oil level be kept between the “add” and “full” marks, not above or below them.

Never race a cold engine because this burns gasoline and increases motor wear. During the first 10 minutes of travel, operate it slowly, shifting from low to second at 10 mph and from second to high at 25 mph. If you have an automatic transmission, let the motor run a while before driving the car.

Use the choke sparingly if your car is equipped with one. Since too much choking can consume up to four times as much gas as the engine needs, never leave the choke knob out farther or longer than is necessary to get the engine running evenly.

Make it a point to always start, drive and stop smoothly. Fast acceleration wastes gas as does pumping the accelerator when waiting at a traffic light or stop sign. Hard braking does the same thing. It causes you to waste fuel by needlessly accelerating too fast for conditions under which you are driving.

Finally, a weak spark plug may prevent complete combustion of the fuel. To prevent this, have spark plugs, distributor points, battery ignition coil, wiring and connections checked regularly.

The helpful hints suggested in the 1957 booklet should make us thankful for the improvements our cars have undergone over the years. Automotive maintenance has certainly come a long way in the last 55 years.

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Today’s column is a collection of blurbs taken from the Johnson City Chronicle in mid August 1927. The city’s population that year was 25,000, with a trading population estimated at 200,000.   

The city limits enclosed 7.2 square miles with 45 miles of asphalt-paved streets, 80 miles of graded macadam and 68 miles of cement sidewalks. The State Normal School had 35 teachers for 1,550 students; Milligan College operated with 14 faculty members and 250 undergraduates.

Free Service Tire Company (phone number 5158) had an interesting advertisement entry using a 4 by 6 inch block interestingly titled, “The Blowout, Vol. 1, No. 29.” The ad was published every Thursday in the interest of Johnson City motorists by the Free Service Tire Company, Dan Wexler, Editor:

“In time of famine, the Eskimos have been known to eat leather, bones and almost anything except Eskimo Pie.

“Speaking of cooling subjects – the Walker Coal and Ice Company, who run their vehicles winter and summer, use Goodyear tires on their trucks.

“The ladies who dress in the latest style don’t have any trouble keeping cool this summer.

“Mrs. Doc. Lamb (wife of Dr. John Lamb, a dentist), who not only knows style but also the disadvantage of changing tires in this hot weather, just purchased four Goodyear Tires for her Dodge Sedan.

“Motorist: ‘I’m sorry I ran over your hen. Will a dollar make it right?’ Farmer: ‘Better make it two. One of my roosters was mighty fond of that hen and the shock might kill him.’

“A real good time can’t be bought or planned; it just happens.

“The fellow who buys cheap tires may be figuring on having a good time, but he will no doubt have a hot one.

“Don’t spend more than you take in. Then you’ll not have to worry about higher accountancy.

“Charlie Hunter (cashier, Unaka and City National Bank) who knows a little about accountancy also knows a lot about buying tires. He uses Kelly Heavy Duty Tires.

“’The old gray hair ain’t what she used to be,’ said the dear old lady as she finished dying her hair.”

Another item from that edition noted that Harry Range of Range Motor Company said that the greatest problem of automotive engineers was to design motors that would achieve greater fuel economy. The latest claim by the Dodge Brothers Company was that its new 4-cylindar cars, driven at 25-miles-per-hour, were capable of running 25 miles on a gallon of gas. Several unique features of the car’s design were credited for the exceptional fuel economy.  

An additional note says about 75 “newsies” (carriers of the Johnson City Chronicle and Staff-News) were complimentary guests of the John Robinson Circus at the big tent show on Keystone Field that Thursday night. The circus held a clever contest offering complimentary tickets if newspaper readers would cut out a piece of a puzzle in subsequent editions of the paper that week, put them together to form a whole picture, identify it and then submit it to the newspaper.

 The H & C Grocery Company, owned by H. C. Hows, located at the corner of 301 W. Walnut Street at Buffalo (phone 686) had a rather large ad: “What do you need today in the grocery line? We have a complete stock of all the finest brands of fruits, vegetables, staples and canned goods. … The delicious flavors of our meats call for a second helping. We take pride in offering the very highest quality obtainable.”

Finally, the police blotter contained the notice of an individual living with his uncle in Cash Hollow. He was arrested by Sheriff Dan France and Deputy Thomas Howell on a charge of stealing and was taken to Blountville for detention. The robbery occurred at the Tom Childress Store on Horse Creek.

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The late Sue Carr Eckstein once shared with me a massive scrapbook that had belonged to her father, Paul Carr. She also gave me a photograph of Carr Brothers employees that accompanies this column. My research dates the photo to about 1922. The business, owned by brothers, Paul and Sam Carr, was located at Oak and Millard streets. Earlier publications list it at First Avenue and Millard Street, but that was before Oak Street was renamed from its former Carnegie street designation. 

My grandpa, Earl B. Cox, is shown in the second row in the center (hatless and wearing a suit). Paul Carr is on the front row, fourth from the left. For years, the owners gave their employees a $20 gold piece as a Christmas gift. Another present for men was a necktie. I have one of the latter that is permanently retired and resting comfortably in my closet.

City directories provide a glimpse of the business, which began operation about 1910 as a coal supplier. Three years later, its product line was expanded to include fuel wood, ice and lumber. By 1915, the firm had dropped wood.

Circa 1922, a representative from the Utica Heater Company of New York came to Johnson City at the invitation of the Carr brothers to promote their highly publicized “Super-Smokeless Furnace.” The public was invited to attend a demonstration of it on a W. Market Street vacant lot that was adjacent the old Arcade Building. The space was frequently used during the city’s early years for numerous open air and tent performances. 

According to the agent: “The Utica furnace consumes all gases and volatile matter that would ordinarily escape in the form of smoke by combining them with air heated to about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. No smoke comes from the furnace and the available heat emitting from the coal is increased about 60 percent, ensuring absolute cleanliness and a 25-30 percent reduction in coal consumption.”

By 1928, the company had stopped selling ice and was promoting “lumber, building materials and coal.”

A full-page flyer from a 1930 Johnson City Chronicle and Staff-News stated: “Carr Brothers – Home Builders – Wholesale and Retail Dealers in Lumber, Building Material and Coal – Price Quality and Service Have Built the Business into One of the Largest in Its Line in the Entire Appalachian Section of Tennessee and Virginia.”

The workforce that year included Paul Carr  (general manager), Sam Carr (assistant manager), Earl B. Cox (collection, salesman), Ralph B. Carr (salesman), H.G. Taylor (salesman), J.F. Venable (salesman), C.G. Taylor (collection, salesman), Guy S. Carr (real estate, rental), W.P. Crowley (real estate, rental), N.K. Humphrey (shop superintendent), Paul Emmert (bookkeeper), Mrs. R.O. Wilcox (assistant bookkeeper), Mrs. Ana Eakin (stenographer), Miss Edna Gobble (shipping) and Phil Carr (messenger).

A 1941 brochure gave the company’s address as Oak Street at the Southern Railroad tracks, although the actual location was unchanged. The railroad conveniently ran in close proximity to their property, which is likely why they purchased this parcel of land.

In 1948, the management team consisted of Paul Carr (president/treasurer), Sam Carr (vice president/secretary) and Phil Carr (vice president). By then, the business was more descriptive: paint, lumber, roofing, lime, plaster, cement and coal. Several large coal yards and warehouses occupied the property. Also, three next generation of Carr brothers had made their way into the business world occupying executive positions at 7 Up Bottling Company: Guy (president), Ralph (vice president/treasurer) and Phil (secretary, in addition to his Carr Brothers position). 

Around 1963, Carr Brothers closed its doors forever, having completed a 53-year successful downtown run. If anyone can identify the other personnel in my column photo, please send me a note.

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