East Tennessee has produced a few area residents with a special knack for originality that resulted in clever laborsaving inventions. Some aspiring inventors fostered their unique creations past storms of adversity until they eventually rained profits for them. Others met with overwhelming difficulties causing them and their innovation to drift into obscurity.

As reported by the Johnson City Press-Chronicle in 1969, one successful local resident, Sam Guinn, made his mark on history in the early to mid part of the century. Although Louis V. Aronson (“Ronson”) is credited for designing and patenting the first mechanical lighter in 1910, allegedly the patent for the first flint lighter went to Sam in 1917. Sam’s brother, Tom, and a nephew, Tom Mitchell, once vouched for the claim. 

About 1904, the two brothers owned a store in Johnson City that sold tobacco products, soft drinks and fine candies. The two of them, along with four sisters and four other brothers, grew up on a farm in the Sulphur Springs community. Within a few years, they closed their store. Tom went back to farming while Sam moved to Cincinnati and began traveling for Detroit Stove Works. It was during this time that he began working on a design for a flint lighter.

In 1917, Sam secured a patent for his innovation. Initially, he fabricated the lighters in Cincinnati, but at the urging of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, he began producing them here. Guinn obtained an elongated brick building on E. Maple Street and established his business, eventually acquiring a workforce of about 20 employees.

All lighters of his design had a handle that when lowered struck a piece of flint and ignited. The inventor crafted three types of brass lighters. The cheapest one was small enough to be carried in a pocket or purse. A mid-sized model satisfied those patrons who wanted a stationary one for their desk, table or stand. It measured 5.25” x 3” wide and weighed 1.9 pounds. A third heavy-duty lighter was larger and designed for use in such public places as hotel lobbies. 

A tag on the bottom of the desk model (shown with this column) contains these words: “A Guinco Product, Pats. App. For U.S. and Foreign, S.E. Guinn Mfg. Co., 617 E. Maple Street, Johnson City, Tenn.”

A 1928 City Directory offers more information about the venture: “S.E. Guinn Manufacturing Co.; brass and bronze novelties; S.E. Guinn, pres.; E.J. Wagner, v-pres.; V.B. Guinn, sec.” Sam’s ingenuity was not confined to flint lighters. He also invented a pilot light for gas stoves that was heralded by the public because it could be lighted without matches. By flipping a lever on the cord that was attached to the stove, the stove would be lit.

Tom once displayed a copy of the April 1919 “Popular Science Monthly” that featured the new invention and carried a picture of his brother. He recalled when a company offered to buy Sam’s lighter patent for a staggering $100,000, but he refused the offer. 

Several factors led to the demise of the once profitable business in the early 1930s. The Great Depression was starting to hover over the financial horizon. Soon, raw materials became difficult to obtain, substantially slowing production. About this same time, Sam became ill.

The lucrative E. Maple Street business that had been spawned in the late teens soon turned to bankruptcy. The entrepreneur passed away in 1935.  

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In 1986, area resident Dana Love shared with Dorothy Hamill his memories of working in the banking industry in downtown Johnson City. The 88-year-old Erwin native earned his degree from Draughton Business College in Knoxville. After serving in the Army Signal Corp. during World War I, he became interested in the banking business.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Love said, “I’d had my financial training and wanted to use more of it, so I went to work in 1921 with Jim Pouder, president of the Tennessee Trust Company. George Keys, who owned the Majestic Theater, was vice president. The bank was located next door to the Arcade Building on Main Street.”

Love’s job was that of bookkeeper and teller. He recalled that there were only three employees besides Pouder. When the Unaka National and City National banks merged in 1924, Love soon joined the new conglomerate, which was aptly named the Unaka and City National Bank. The business occupied the large building at the southeast corner of Spring and Main streets. Older residents will recall that site being the Hamilton National Bank.

Officers were L.H. Shumate, president; Henry C. Black and William B. Miller, vice presidents; C.H. Hunter, cashier; Tom Roland, note section; and Frances Bewley and Bess Tatum, secretaries. The bookkeepers were located upstairs. Love became head paying teller with the new firm; the others were Dave Hunter, Sid Corpening and Arthur Earnest. Tellers made $75 to $100 a month, a decent sum of money at that time. The bank operated Monday through Saturday noon.

Dana was present on Sept. 30, 1932 when the Unaka and City National Bank was taken over by the Hamilton National Bank. The majority of the employees continued their employment with the new firm, except Henry Black who was hired by People’s Bank located at Spring and Tipton streets. Love recalls when a popular luxury hotel in Linville, NC did business with Hamilton Bank and always wanted new money when they opened for the season each year.

The bank had accounts with most local businesses that included Miller Brothers Furniture, Empire Chair Co. and Harris Manufacturing Co. The Tennessee National Bank was another downtown bank located at the southwest corner of Main and Spring streets. This institute was relatively short lived; it folded after the 1929 stock market crash and onset of the depression.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt closed all banks in early 1933, Hamilton Bank officials made a strategic move. They contracted the Muse-Whitlock Printing Co. to print scrip that would be used when currency was frozen. Scrip was issued in 1, 5, 10 and 20-dollar denominations. The newly printed bills became valid when the president, vice-president or cashier signed it. A 10-dollar one dated Mar. 10, 1933 shows: “Ten dollars of a deposit in the Hamilton National Bank, Johnson City, Tennessee has been assigned by the depositor hereof to the bearer hereof.”

Local stores accepted this paper in lieu of money during the time the banks were closed. When they were allowed to reopen, Hamilton promptly redeemed the script. Dana left the bank in 1933 and returned to the Army. In 1948, he worked at the VA Medical Center at Mountain Home until his retirement in 1960.

Love’s preserved banking memories offer yet another glimpse into Johnson City’s rich past.  

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A perennial struggle with parents is getting their young child into a barber chair for a haircut. In the 1940s, one unique barbershop in Johnson City came up with an imaginative way of dealing with this difficulty. 

My parents regularly took me to the OK Barbershop at 117 W. Market Street, located across from Powell’s Department Store. The barber was Burton Stansberry. The hairdresser trimmed my locks while I straddled a carnival horse. The shop was possibly named after the OK Corral. Prior to 1939, it was located at 111 Buffalo.

Oddly enough, the barbershop also contained a jewelry store, C.E. Hale Jewelers, owned and operated by Clarence and Ruth Hale. The barber chairs were on the right as you entered and the elongated jewelry counter was to the left. The hobbyhorse stood motionless next to the window.

I vaguely recollect Mr. Stansberry as being a soft-spoken man with a knack for turning a hair-raising experience into a pleasurable one. I looked forward to my next trip in two weeks. This haircutter offered his young guests the option of sitting in a regular chair with a seat across the arms or climbing onto the horse. I always chose the latter. Before giving me a trim, the gentle barber began by asking me if I would like to feed his hungry horse. He preceded to hand me a tissue with orders to place it in the horse’s mouth. The paper fit snugly between the animal’s lips without falling out. It stayed there until it was time for the next youngster to get a haircut and feed the “hungry” horse.

During the next ten minutes of grooming, this witty barber chatted with me about subjects ranging from his horse to what I did for recreation. I was so mesmerized I hardly realized I was in a barbershop. After I became too old to sit on a carnival horse, I switched to another barbershop. However, on visits downtown, I regularly stopped by the OK Barbershop to gaze through the window at my old buddy. The horse was later retired but remained in the window for an extended period of time.

I started going to Bill’s (Garland) Barber Shop at 268 W. Market, former site of the Red Store. Bill frequently talked about the Little League team at Kiwanis Park that he coached. I enjoyed his lively conversations. Over the years, I frequented several area barbershops, one being (Clinton) Durham’s Barbershop at 700 Lamont Street, opposite the VA Center’s main entrance. He presented me with a moneymaking opportunity by encouraging me to charge a dime for impatient customers to go ahead of me. That helped pay for my 50-cent haircut.

Primus Dees, who worked at the Majestic Barbershop at 241 E. Main, cut my hair for a couple of years. Primus sold vacuum cleaners on the side, which he kept in a rear closet at the shop. I occasionally went with my father to the Palace Barbershop at 302 S. Roan (around the corner from Liggett’s Drug Store). Boyd Purdy was Dad’s favorite barber.

Other area tonsorial parlors from the mid 1950s included the Arcade (Arcade Building), Capital (144 W. Main), City (129 W. Main), Congress (119 E. Fountain Square), Empire (1017 E. Fairview), Hill’s (427A W. Walnut), Jack’s (1102 Division), John Sevier (204 S. Roan), J.S. Martin (121 Buffalo), Donald Messimer (923 W. Walnut), People’s (209 E. Maple), Sanitary (111A Spring), Smitty’s (115.5 McClure) and Windsor (104 Windsor Way).

If you recall a favorite clip joint or had your hair cut on the OK Barbershop horse, I would like to hear from you. I hope someone will recall the horse’s name, if he had one. 

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Chester “Chet” Willis is a man with his heart wrapped up in his work. In 2003, he retired from his job as construction foreman with the City of Johnson City Water and Sewer Services Department and eagerly became involved with preserving Oak Hill Cemetery.

Oak Hill is the oldest cemetery within the city limits and contains the remains of just over 2700 inhabitants. As a member of the Cemetery Survey Team of Northeast Tennessee, this assiduous 80-year old individual assumed numerous laborious tasks that included restoring grave markers, producing and maintaining a massive directory of graves, installing 177 small red brick row markers, opening and closing the two main gates each day (at 6 a.m. and sundown) and helping keep the grounds well-groomed. 

This seven-gated chain length fence necropolis is one block off W. Main Street and surrounded by four streets – Wilson (north), Boone (east), Lamont (south) and Whitney (west).

Well-known Oak Hill residents include Henry Johnson (city founder), Tipton Jobe (landowner), Col. LeRoy Reeves (Tennessee state flag designer), Sam R. Sells (U.S. Congressman), Major Cy Lyle (publisher of the Comet newspaper), George Hardin (supt. of ET&WNC Railroad), Captain William Dickinson (Confederate pioneer and owner of Piedmont Hotel), Rev. John Wright (soldier in War of 1812 and officer for the Confederacy) and others.

Some 141 veterans are buried at Oak Hill  from the Civil War (55 Confederate, 29 Union), Spanish American War (16), Philippine Insurrection (1), Mexican War (1), World War I (30), World War II (5), and regular Army (4).

Mr. Willis produced a notebook full of annual reports from the Oak Hill Cemetery Association. The Jan. 24, 1946 one is particularly significant because it represents the golden anniversary of the society. The report began with a brief history of the cemetery: “Dear Member: On March 2, 1870, a bond was made by Robert Love and Samuel H. Miller to seven trustees – T.A. Faw, James M. Gentry, Wm. H. Taylor, Jm. Johnson, J.W. Seehorn, L.H.P. Lusk and P.P.C. Nelson – giving title to a part of their farms to be used for a cemetery for the growing village of Johnson City.”

Love donated about a half-acre and Miller roughly a quarter-acre. Each man reserved a 25’ x 35’ plot for his family members. Love’s was located in the northeast corner and Miller’s in the southwest sector. The oldest grave is that of Love’s daughter who died as a youngster in 1867. The contract specified that a “good plank fence” be built around the perimeter of the property and that the facility bear the name “Oak Hill Cemetery.” Over the years, additional adjoining land was added expanding the grounds to 6.5 acres. 

By 1888, the downtown cemetery was described as being a wilderness of weeds and briers and nothing less than a pasture for the town cow. When a new fence was needed in 1896, a committee of women from each of the area churches was formed to raise money. Mrs. C.K. Lide served as its first president. The group held oyster and strawberry suppers, sponsored lectures by such notables as Bob and Alf Taylor and hosted numerous musical productions to maintain the venerated downtown property.

A big “thank you” is in order to Chet Willis from the people of Johnson City for his unfaltering efforts toward preserving the final resting place of some of Johnson City’s most prominent citizens. 

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Hacker Martin (1895-1970) was a legendary former resident of the Gray community with some pretty impressive credentials – old-time fiddler, gristmill owner/operator and expert gunsmith.

Hacker and Maude Martin raised a daughter, Betty, and two sons, Raphael and Donis, the latter being longtime owner of Martin’s Jewelers in downtown Johnson City. Betty Thompson recalled that her father learned to play the fiddle from a mail-order correspondence course. His musical prowess inspired her to use music as a hobby and sing in church choirs over the years.

Mrs. Thompson remembered some of the tunes Hacker and friends played: “Turkey in the Straw,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” “Billy Boy,” “Goodbye Liza Jane,” “Red River Valley,” “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” “Little Brown Jug,” “Oh Dem Golden Slippers,” “Old Gray Mare,” “Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and “Wait for the Wagon.”

Betty discussed Hacker’s gristmill business: “Dad had such a love for cheap power and waterpower was the least expensive form of energy available. Dad’s first investment was the Cedar Creek Mill that he purchased from Grover and Dolly Campbell in 1940. We were living seven miles west in Pleasant Valley at the time. The old mill was in need of repair so Dad and some of his friends put it in operation again. My brothers and I helped build the dam that supplied water to the big wheel. My dad used the mill for corn and wheat. It had two sets of French burr (or buhr) grinding stones. One set was used for animal feed and the other for human needs. Mom used to say: ‘now Dad, when someone comes in with that good hickory cane corn, save me the toll (small amount of product charged as a fee) out of it.’ It made awfully good cornbread.

“When gas rationing went into effect during World War II, traveling back and forth from the mill each day became a problem. Mom made Dad a bed upstairs in the mill where he stayed 5½ days a week. He bicycled home on Saturday afternoons to help with farm chores and then returned Monday mornings. In 1947, my father built a large cinderblock building beside the mill. It has eyebrow windows with arches above each one. He knew that arches were very strong. In 1951, Mom and Dad moved to Appomattox, VA, where Dad purchased the Stonewall Milling Company, a large mill. He and Raphael later bought the Flourville Mill.”

Mrs. Thompson’s conversation then turned to Hacker’s gunsmith trade: “Dad stored large slabs of curly maple tree stock in the top of the mill. “He first sawed it in the general shape of a rifle using a band saw and then rasped it down. It took several months to make each of his beautifully crafted guns. “The mill’s waterpower allowed him to grind the flats on the barrels. The cinderblock building became used as a shop for his gunsmith work and our family’s apartment.”

Hacker was the embodiment of old-time gunsmiths; his stunning looking muzzle loading rifles and pistols appeared to be 200 years old. Today, they are collectors’ items. “Dad loved to sit around with his friends and tell one tall tale after another,” said Betty. “I loved to listen to them and wish I could remember some of their yarns.”

The Smithsonian Institute recognized Hacker for continuing to make rifles for muzzle loading hobbyists during the depression. Daniel Boone High School further honored him by including him on a mural located in the commons area at the school.   

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I mentioned in a previous column that M.I. (Martin Independence) Gump was assistant manager of Jobe’s Opera House and owner of Gump’s clothing emporium, both located at the southwest corner of E. Main and Spring streets. 

I received several inquiries from readers wanting to know more about Gumps, as it became known. According to Joyce and W. Eugene Cox’s History of Washington County Tennessee, A.S. Gump and D.B. Barr established the first store in 1880, four years before Jobe’s Opera House opened upstairs. On June 7, 1884, The Comet revealed that Martin had taken charge of the store that featured “a large stock of Gent's clothing made in the latest styles.”

Subsequent 1880 ads refer to the store as A.S. Gump & Co., Gump & Co. and Gumps. Lucy Gump surmises that Martin moved to town to manage a branch of first cousin Abraham Simon Gump’s Bristol business.

In the early 1890s, two younger Gump family members – Harry D. and Louis D. joined the enterprise. The business was renamed Gump Brothers by 1891 and operated until about 1921.

Big news in the July 8, 1909 Comet was the upcoming demolition of the front side of the Gumps and Opry House building, construction of a new one and remodeling of the interior. The stated reason for the project was “to make suitable background for the new fountain,” likely referring to the Lady of the Fountain statue across the street.

In that same edition, Gumps announced a “Re-Building Sale” that included furnishings, shoes, hats, trunks and bags: “Our business was established in Johnson City 29 years ago and this is our first sale.” Named brands included Hart, Schaffner and Marx; Schloss Bros. & Co. clothing; Hanan, Ralston & Bostonian shoes; John B Stetson & Young Bros hats. Carhartt overalls were excluded.

A July 16, 1903 Comet says that M.I. Gump established a wholesale grocery house in 1898 that served Tennessee and North Carolina. In 1903, the company moved into a new building on Roan Street; the Southern Railway constructed a sidetrack to it. Mrs. Louis D. Gump etched her name in local history by becoming a pioneer in the Parent-Teachers Association that originated in 1910, serving as first president of the Martha Wilder School PTA. 

A 1989 reprint of the 1909 J.O. Lewis book titled Johnson City, Tennessee (Overmountain Press) mentions two Gump stores located in the downtown district – Gump Brothers Clothing and Gump’s Wholesale Grocery. The book offered a flattering assessment of the clothing business: “Probably in the history of representative houses of Johnson City, no more worthy example can be found of what can be accomplished by energy, industry and well-directed efforts, than is so strikingly exemplified in the successful career of the big and influential house known as Gumps.”

Two members of the firm, H.D. Gump and L.D. Gump, were said to be “gentlemen of excellent high standing in business and social circles.” Later, the Gump name was attached to other Johnson City enterprises. About 1921, Louie, Harry and Jay Gump (Louie’s oldest son), formed Gump Investment Co. The younger son, Alan, soon joined the firm.

In 1927, Harry Gump filed plans in Jonesborough for a subdivision to be developed on Hillrise Farm, land he had owned since 1907. While the subdivision was officially called Hillrise Park, it was and is commonly called the Gump Addition  

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My Tennessee Silk Mill column prompted Geneva Feathers to send me a letter concerning a comment I made in it.  I indicated that the milling operation once increased its production capability after expanding to property along its east side.

Mrs. Feathers fondly recalled working at that site: “I want to add to Mrs. Rader’s memories – not about Leon-Ferenbach, though the company did have an impact on my life indirectly. “While I don’t remember the Livery Stable you mentioned, I recall that Tennessee Motors, the local Ford dealership, was once located between the silk mill and the Fire Hall.” A 1937 city directory authenticates Geneva’s memory; the main lot was at 232-234 W. Market next to the fire station. The used car lot was directly across the street.

Geneva said that her father, Dave Duncan, bought his first car, a Ford, in Erwin in 1917. She continued: “I went to work at Tennessee Motors in the office around January 1940. Gates Kidd was owner and Sherwood Hindley was office manager.”

Mrs. Feathers related the dramatic almost overnight changes to the automobile business that occurred after the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor: “After (the war) started, sales of cars to the public were frozen. We had nine cars in inventory then and they were slowly sold to those people who met the Rationing Board’s certificate of need. “I believe the last car was sold to Miss Margaret Hayes and her sister. They lived on Knob Creek Road, which then was considered to be far out in the country. “These ladies were able to get a certificate because they needed a car to carry out critical farm work for the war effort. They came by and purchased an aqua colored coupe for $900. There was no sales tax then.”

Geneva further commented how the war impacted her personally: “Tennessee Motors continued to repair cars and do some body work, but there wasn’t enough work to keep all of us busy. Being the newest member of the office staff, I was the first to be laid off. I worked in the office of Johnson City Steam Laundry for three to four months until I had an opportunity to go to Tennessee Eastman Company’s Accounting Department. After several months, Mr. Hindley left Tennessee Motors and I was offered the position of Office Manager, which made me very happy.I no longer had to spend long hours commuting over the congested two-lane highway to and from Kingsport. When Leon-Ferenbach bought our building so they could expand, Tennessee Motors moved to 415 W. Market. The body shop was eliminated then and efforts were confined to keeping cars and a few trucks. After the war, the dealership once again operated in a new building at 401 W. Market. I left the business shortly before they moved to this new building.”

Geneva concluded her letter with some remembrances of the Fire Department next door. “There was a small white short-haired dog with black markings on its ears that lived there. I believe he belonged to Fire Chief George Wilson. This was about four years after ‘Boss,’ the city mascot, died. As trucks were being prepared to go to a fire, the dog ran out onto the front sidewalk and charged back and forth, barking furiously to stop pedestrian traffic so the trucks would not be detained in any way.”

It is nice to hear from people like Geneva Feathers, who lived and breathed some of Johnson City’s diverse colorful history. 

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The late Tom Hodge once wrote a highly informative column about the early Ford dealerships in Johnson City. Five local individuals shared their remembrances with him. Henry Row, the initial responder, said that he worked for H.R. Parrott Motors in 1916 and 1917, recalling that Parrott had also been a partner in Summers-Parrott Hardware, a forerunner to Summers Hardware.

The dealership was located on Ash Street along the southwest end of the block. Henry said the late Harry Range had once been a partner in the dealership and believed the firm was sold about 1920. Row was hired by the business to assemble T Model Fords that came to Johnson City packed six to a railcar, the frames being crisscrossed along one end and the bodies at the other. The autoworker’s task was to install the wheels, position the bodies on the frames, move them into the shop and bolt everything tightly together. One auto took approximately a day to fully assemble.

Henry laughingly commented that when he entered the Army in 1917, he ended up in France … assembling Model T Fords. The Army found much use for this unique vehicle. Row said the Model T sold for roughly $350, becoming a much sought after and profitable seller for the company.

Lee Wallace next contacted Tom to say that James A. Summers and H.R. Parrott were jointly involved in the hardware and car dealership businesses in 1911. In 1914, each entrepreneur swapped his half interest, giving Summers sole ownership of the hardware and Parrott the auto business. Lee remembered when Summers Hardware was involved in construction work at the site and uncovered parts of old Fords buried in the former driveover pit.

Gardner Range, whose father once worked for Parrott Motor Company, supplied Tom with additional facts. Gardner once had a list of prices for the Model T. He recalled that the car had a base price and many items considered standard today were priced separately as extras. There were many Model T cars roaming the countryside without bumpers. Before someone could acquire a Ford dealership, he had to agree to also carry the Ford tractor, known as a Fordson. Range recalled that his father purchased an outdoorsman outfit and wore it while demonstrating tractors to prospective buyers.

Another individual, Jim Stewart, contacted Hodge to say that when he was a little boy in western Pennsylvania, the Fordson tractors were fairly new and very popular with area farmers. Jim related that the tractors had tanks containing two different fuels. Gasoline was used to start the engine and run it until the engine became hot. The driver then switched to kerosene as its primary fuel.

Finally, Lewis Holley shared with Hodge the fact that the Grove Inn was located just down the road from the dealership near the old Clinchfield Railroad Depot.  The facility, operated by a Potter family, was a boarding house that catered to railroad passengers. It had a swinging bridge across the creek.

Around 1925, Universal Motor Corporation opened along the southeast side of the intersection of King and Boone streets, selling the Ford, Lincoln and Fordson. In my next column, I will continue the Ford theme by sharing some interesting memories of Geneva Feathers who worked at Tennessee Motors in the 1940s. 

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In about 1958, this 16-year old young man had a 90-customer Johnson City Press-Chronicle newspaper route that encompassed five North Johnson City neighborhoods – Althea, Lake, Crocus, Lakeview and the adjoining section of Oakland.

Deliveries were six days a week; surprisingly, there was no Saturday paper. I was instructed to finish my weekday route by 5 pm and Sunday ones by 7 am. This was doable providing the bulk papers arrived on time. I began my weekday jaunt after arriving home from school at 3:30, walking from our Baxter Street home to the shared drop-off box at the overgrown spare lot on the northwest corner of Lakeview and Mountcastle. My route commenced two blocks away with the Brown family at 901 Althea and concluded with the Coxes at 1719 Lakeview, just a stone’s throw from my favorite recreational hangout – Cox’s Lake.

Most clientele specified exactly where they wanted their paper placed; randomly leaving them on sidewalks or driveways was not an option. I carried my papers in a thick white cloth bag that hung over my shoulder. My load was quite weighty at the beginning of the route, especially on Sundays, but was gradually relieved as I hurriedly trekked from door to door. Since rain was often a threat, I kept a large plastic bag in the bottom of my paper sack so as not to have to face irate customers who had to read soggy newspapers. I endured a daily ritual of coping with roughly five annoying canines, the worst offender being the Hagood family’s small white mutt on Althea.

Sporadically, Jesse Curtis, the circulation manager, would drive by to see how I was doing, his presence usually being made near the end of the route. The Sunday edition presented a whole new challenge. Not only was it thicker, it was delivered primarily in the darkness of the early morning hours when an occasional nocturnal critter would make an appearance. On cold mornings, three of us delivery boys ate breakfast while waiting for our papers to arrive. We built a small fire, heated cans of soup and consumed the warm contents during our brief wait. Ice and snow required my dressing extra warm for my hour and a half excursion. Dad would occasionally show compassion for his young son by escorting me by car on Sundays.

Collection day Fridays were particularly burdensome, as I needed to deliver papers, simultaneously collect money and meet the delivery deadline. I carried a long narrow loose-leaf hardbound notebook for keeping records of payments. I stored all monies in a leather Press-Chronicle pouch with a zipper. Several patrons hid their payments in unique locations near the front of their houses; others required me to catch them at home to collect. One customer had me stop by his downtown business for imbursement.

In spite of my efforts to finish collecting on Fridays, the task often extended into Saturday mornings. I made my deposit at the newspaper office on Saturday afternoons. An attendant behind a long counter took my pouch, counted the bills and coins by hand while I waited. She then paid me my salary. Later, the business acquired an automatic coin-sorting machine.

Today, I cannot walk into the Johnson City Press office without gazing at that long counter and reminiscing about my days of yesteryear when I was a proud hardworking wage-earning paperboy.  

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A distinguishing vestige of the era between 1908 and 1927 is the image of a black Model T Ford slowly chugging along a narrow city potholed dusty road, honking its distinctive “ahooga, ahooga” sounding horn.

In 1925, Johnson City’s Ford dealership, Universal Motor Corporation, was located at the corner of King and Boone streets, having previously resided on Ash Street. After the turn of the century, the emergence of motorized vehicles brought a significant decline in the horse-drawn buggy as being the principal means of transportation. A Model T roadster sold for under $400, traveled at 45 mph maximum speed, possessed a 10-gallon gas tank and achieved 27 mpg. Gas cost eight cents a gallon.

I recently acquired a 1926 automobile road guide that displayed a Model T Ford on the cover. The publication lamented the fact that many roads around the country were still unpaved, making it difficult for vehicular travel. Ownership and maintenance of this esteemed auto 80 years ago was no small endeavor.

Travelers planning a vacation were advised to carry an astonishing list of spare parts and tools with them: Open-end wrenches; adjustable (monkey) wrench; Stillson wrench; spark plug socket wrench; pair of pliers; chair repair pliers; mechanic’s hammer; large and small screwdrivers; assortment of files; spool of soft iron wire; box of assorted nuts, bolts and cotter pins; box of extra tire valves; tire pressure gauge; extra spark plugs and rim lugs; box of talcum power; several feet of high and low tension cable; roll of tape; extra valve and spring; grease gun, extra clip and bolts; extra fan belt; sheet of cork for emergency gaskets; and a small bottle of shellac; two extra tires with covers, preferably inflated on rims; three extra tubes, carefully rolled and packed in burlap to keep from chafing; a tube patching outfit for punctures and a blow-out patch or inner boot; tire pump in good working order; jack; 2”x8”x18” wooden plank to allow lifting the car on soft ground; tire chains for winter driving; extra cross chains; rope for towing a collapsible bucket; one upper and one lower rubber hose connection for radiator with clamps; box of cup grease, a spout oil can; and an extra can of oil.

The publication strongly urged proper lubrication efforts, including turning down grease cups and filling oil cups and oil holes daily. Crankcase oil was to be replaced every 1000 miles, universal joint grease every 500 miles. The guide offered these amusing and dated admonitions: “Keep your windshield clear of mist by rubbing sliced onion over the glass.” “Always stop for streetcars unloading or taking on passengers.” “While driving through large cities, watch the signals of the traffic officer on busy corners.” “A few (penny) postcards are much more practical to take along than postage stamps, which will gum together when damp.” And finally this attention-grabbing item … “Women drivers of motor vehicles should be given special consideration – and watching.”

After reading this old road guide, one has to wonder how a large family and the recommended spare parts and tools could possibly fit into a cramped Model T Ford for an extended journey. No one really minded this inconvenience though; this was the exciting era of the roaring twenties. 

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