An ad in a local newspaper dated June 1906 noted that during the past three or four years, almost every large city in the United States was visited by a young man who did things of an astonishing nature. He carried a remedy that worked wonders, becoming known everywhere as “The Great Payne.”

A notice appeared in the Associated Press reported from Cincinnati, Chicago, New York, Richmond and Atlanta. The correspondence consisted of statements of cures by this so-called remarkable remedy of deafness of 20 years standing, made in three minutes. Cripples walked after using the remedy for only five minutes.

The latest report was from Knoxville where Payne stayed a few weeks and sold $15,000 worth of his remedies. The Journal and Tribune and Sentinel of that city gave daily reports of many remarkable cures, and people from all over the South traveled to Knoxville to learn more of the great remedies that were astonishing people all across the country.

Thousands of leading citizens of Knoxville testified to the merits of the remedies, many of them being professionals of the city. One was Dr. W.N. Somers, who had been hard of hearing for 10 years.

This gentleman used Dr. Andes’ Great Remedies and stated publicly on The Great Payne’s Platform to an enormous crowd of people that this remedy was beyond his conception. Somers could not realize how anyone who had been deaf that long could, in only three minutes, converse with their friends in ordinary tones:

“It is a fact,” he said, “although I cannot explain it, for I now hear distinctly, which is the first time in ten years.” The Great Payne is now in Johnson City, Tennessee and would still be here for one week. Anyone suffering with deafness, stiff joints, catarrh, rheumatism, stomach trouble, kidney, liver and bladder disease, should call to see him at the downtown Arlington Hotel, opposite the Windsor Hotel. Mr. Payne make demonstrations nightly at his show grounds.

A well known Knoxville citizen told how his hearing was restored by use of Dr. Andes’ Great Remedies. It was printed in the newspaper in an advertisement:

“When Mr. Payne came to Knoxville with his good concerts and I saw the enormous crowds passing my home, l decided it was something out of the ordinary to bring out such large audiences night after night.

“My family insisted that we should attend, but I did not care to, knowing that it would be almost impossible for me to enjoy it as I could not understand what was being said on the platform.

“I endeavored to bear the lecture given by “The Great Payne,” but could only catch a few words now and then, but caught the words, ‘It is good for deafness. I purchased one bottle and immediately started the use of it as directed.

“After one application, I was able to understand every word that Mr. Payne said from 30 feet away and could hear the snap of fingers 50 feet from my car. I have used one bottle of the great medicine and am glad to know my hearing is restored.”

 (Signed) J. H. Proffett, 100 E Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, Tennessee.

Catarrh was the cause of Mr. Proffett being hard of hearing; it also caused the loss of memory, sense, smell and taste. Symptoms were a heavy dull headache, bad taste in the mouth and offensive breath. When the problem began to drip, it went into the stomach, causing all forms of indigestion and dyspepsia. Dr. Andes’ great prescription was said to guarantee to cure any form of catarrh.

The “Journal and Tribune” and the “Sentinel” of that city had columns in their papers every day of the demonstrations made on people suffering with deafness and stiff joints. Mr. Payne was about to make his demonstrations nightly while in Johnson City.

By using Dr. Ande’s Great Remedies, he showed the audiences how it would restore hearing and make stiff joints agile in three to five minutes:

“If you suffer with rheumatism, catarrh, stomach trouble, indigestion, constipation, piles (hemorrhoids) of any form, bladder trouble, asthma, or any kind of parasite, such as tape worm, be sure to call Mr. Payne.”

The salesman rented rooms at the Arlington Hotel in downtown Johnson City where anyone could call and he would take great delight in explaining how Dr. Ande’s Great Remedies’ cured a variety of ailments.

An advertisement said, “Paine will remain in Johnson City until Saturday, June 10. The great advertiser’s coat, adorned with $20 gold coins for buttons and handsome diamonds was worn by him while here. He was now in Johnson City with his big free shows, having 20 people including brass and string bands with better than any paid show ever in the state that was free to all.”

A large platform was erected on the vacant lot adjoining the new Armbrust-Smith Building on Spring Street. Concerts opened every night at 7:30 p.m. promptly. The entertainment consisted of two and a half hours of solid fun, humorous comedians, charming singers and several energetic buck and wing dancers.

“I would love to take a swig of that potion right now to get some relief from hearing loss. Is the doctor still in business? With all that healing improvement, he is probably still around.ö

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Many people likely recall the 1952 polio epidemic that spread throughout the nation, paralyzing individuals and putting many in “iron lungs,” large machines used to control breathing. Several folks cancelled travel plans for fear of contracting the dreaded disease. Several vaccine tests, developed by Jonas Salk, were administered around the country with encouraging results.

On April 15, 1954, Washington County rolled out its trial vaccine program for city and county schools. To better inform the public, Dr. Emmett Byrd, director of the effort, prepared 25 questions and answers for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle. Here is a paraphrase of them:

Johnson City Press Chronicle Newspaper Clipping about the Polio Epidemic

1. What is the trial polio  vaccine? A watery solution containing killed polio virus, which, hopefully, will stimulate the body to produce adequate antibodies in the blood to protect against paralytic polio.

2. Who will receive it? All second grade children in Washington County schools, city and county.

3. Why were these children selected? This group is more susceptible to getting polio.

4. Will any other children receive the trial vaccine? No.

5. What are the “control” groups? Children in the first and third grades from whom blood samples will be collected and compared with those who receive the vaccine.

6. Who will give the trial vaccine? Local physicians volunteering through the county in cooperation with local health authorities.

7. Where will the trial vaccine be given? At seventeen centers: seven in the county and ten in the city.

8. How many doses will be given each child? Three.

9. Can a child in a grade that is being tested take if he or she already has had polio. Yes, three types of polio virus are definitely known and immunity to one type does not protect the individual against the others.

10. Will a child receive the first dose if he or she is absent on the designated day? No. It is imperative to receive the first dose on the scheduled day.

11. What happens if a child misses school on the days that the second or third dose is given? It will be rescheduled at a later date.

12. What is the period between doses? One week between the first two and four weeks between the second and third. The last one is known as the booster shot.

13. Why are three separate doses necessary? The first two doses stimulate the body to produce antibodies while the third one boosts antibodies to a high level.

14. How much trial vaccine does each child receive? One cubic centimeter at each dose. Three shots collectively amount to 45 drops.

15. Where on the body is the trial vaccine administered? In the arm muscle.

16. Will it leave a scar or produce aftereffects? So far, none have been observed.

17. How can parents be certain the vaccine is safe? All lots of vaccine have been thoroughly tested by all means known to medical science.

18. Has the trial vaccine been used on human beings before? Yes, for over a year.

19. Will the child's family be charged for the trial? No.   

20. Will all participating children be volunteers. Yes.  

21. How will the parent of an eligible child request participation? By returning a signed request form to the school.

22. How will we know if the trial vaccine has protected the children? Late in 1955, results will be made known.

23. How long will the vaccine be effective? That information is not known at this time.

24. Will volunteer workers be needed for the vaccine trials? Yes, a great many for multiple non-medical tasks.

25. How many children in Washington county will be eligible to receive the trial vaccine? 592 second graders in city schools and 349 in county ones, a total of 941.

I was in the fifth grade at Henry Johnson School in the spring of 1954 and too old to participate in the program. By 1961, progress, which by then included Albert Sabin's oral polio vaccine, reduced the cases of the disease in the United State to 161. Doctors Salk and Sabin became household names. If you participated in the program, drop me a note.

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Dr. Nat Winston, Jr., former Johnson City resident, leading psychiatrist, healthcare pioneer, previous Commissioner of Mental Health and a past candidate for governor of Tennessee, passed away peacefully on December 31, 2013. Susan Taylor Carson, a close friend of the Winston family, forwarded me several notes of conversations she had with Nat's widow, Martha Winston. She also scanned and sent a number of photos obtained from Mrs. Winston.

Susan is from a well-known Johnson City family. Her parents were Sam and Betty Taylor who owned and operated Taylor Furniture Co. at Boone and King streets in downtown Johnson City. Nat and Sam grew up across the street from each other on Welbourne and E. 8th avenues, went through school together and joined the Army together during WWII. 

Older area residents will likely recall Dr. Winston, who operated as a psychiatrist out of his office at 404 N. Boone near Watauga, launched a highly successful crusade in the healthcare field and enjoyed a long and rewarding career of doing what he did best – helping people.

Dr. Nat Winston in His Younger Years

Nat's star was already beginning to rise as a student at Science Hill High School. The 1944 yearbook impressively said it all: “Worthy, Courage, Honor, these indeed your sustenance and birthright are. College Preparatory and State: Madrigal Club; Reporter, Prayer Group; President, Glee Club; President, National Honor Society; ROTC, Major; Student Council; ROTC Metal; President, 10-B Class; President, 10-A Class; Reporter, 11-B Class; Reporter; 11-A Class; Reporter, 12-B Class; President, 12-B Class; and President, 12-A Class.”

In addition, Nat was voted “Most Outstanding Senior,” “Best All Around Senior Boy,” “Most Popular Boy” and “Best Executive” and received more senior superlatives than any student in the school's history to that date. 

According to Susan, “Nat was Tennessee's Commissioner of Mental Health under two governors: Buford Ellington and Frank Clement. Nat was so popular that a large contingency of supporters begged him to run for governor, in the Republican primary, which he did in 1974.

“Nat's contributions to our city, state and country should not be overlooked or understated. After graduating from Vanderbilt medical school, he came back to Johnson City and set up the first mental health clinic. From here, he went to Chattanooga to establish and manage Moccasin Bend Mental Health Hospital. He changed the way the medical profession treated mentally ill patients and, in the mid 1960s, Reader's Digest wrote a feature article about him, recognizing that he spawned the birth of a quiet psychiatric revolution.”

“Nat was a very popular and highly sought after public speaker and storyteller throughout the nation and he used his banjo to tell stories of the mountain folks of Appalachia, for whom he had a deep love.

“Nat, Jr. was a son of Nat, Sr., who was once president of Home Federal Savings and Loan Association and president and director of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce.

“Nat and his father together built a cabin deep on the side of Grandfather Mountain. It was there that he got to know and love the mountain people of rural North Carolina, deeply immersing himself in the study of Appalachian history. He made field recordings of the residents and recorded an album in 1966 entitled 'All the Good Times Are Past and Gone,' in which he included the recordings of the mountain-told stories of courtship, feuding, moonshining and others.”

In 1962, Nat wrote and recorded a banjo instructional record and course that was distributed through Sears, Roebuck & Co. It sold over a million recordings, for which he received a gold record. It was the first true how-to-play Scruggs style banjo instruction published.

Nat's mother, Mrs. Nat T. (Naomi) Winston, Jr. was a school teacher at Stratton and then Junior High School in the 1940s and 50s. Many students from that era may recall that she frequently talked about her son in class, usually discussing his love of old-time music and especially the banjo.

Susan indicated that Dr. Winston first met Earl Scruggs when he was a medical school resident at Vanderbilt University. Earl was in a serious automobile accident and was laid up in the hospital in Nashville. Nat and Earl quickly became best fiends, with the popular banjo picker becoming a frequent guest at Nat's cabin in North Carolina. When the doctor moved to Nashville in the mid 1960s, he was Earl's neighbor and became the go-to psychiatrist for the troubles of many country music stars.

In 1964, Winston made an 11-minute music video for a local television feature with Earl Scruggs at Nat's home. The video can be viewed at The jam session is quite entertaining, even though the quality deteriorates toward the end.

Dr. Nat Winston in His Older Years (others are Earl Scruggs (left) and John Hartford (right)) 

In 1971, Dr. Winston was called on to appear on Ralph Edwards “This Is Your Life” nationally syndicated television program. That night the producers shined the big spotlight on country music singer, Johnny Cash. The entertainer was surprised during a filming of his hit television program, “The Johnny Cash Show.” He had just finished welcoming the studio audience when his wife, June Carter Cash, walked onstage unannounced and abruptly introduced Ralph Edwards to the bafflement of her husband. Between moments of laughter and sadness, the singer was overcome with emotion several times.

Ralph Edwards introduced Nat as the president of the American Psychiatric Hospitals, Inc. His brief portion of the show can be viewed at 4:15 on YouTube ( Nat told the audience, “I gambled on John and we both won.” Johnny, knowing that Nat was instrumental in helping the singer overcome serious problems at the peak of his career, said to Nat as he was walking away, “You're a fine banjo player too.”  

Martha Winston recalled that Nat often talked about the time he received a call from June Carter Cash urging him to treat her husband. Although Johnny would not agree to enter a hospital for rehabilitation, he was perfectly willing for Nat to come to his Hendersonville, Tennessee home for private therapy. Nat did this over a period of one year, visiting Johnny every day after work without accepting compensation. He did it out of friendship and love for Johnny and members of the Carter family. Also, since he was serving as Commissioner of Mental Health, he felt it would be a conflict of interest to continue to treat patients for a fee while he was serving the state.

“Johnny Cash credited Nat,” said Susan, “both in his biography and publicly on the Larry King Show for his medical treatments that restored his life and career.

“On one visit, “Nat told him of James “Tiger” Whitehead, a colorful Carter County mountaineer, mill operator and bear hunter (reportedly killed 99 bears during his lifetime). On another trip to Nat's cabin, he took Johnny to visit Tiger's grave on Tiger Creek Road between Hampton and Roan Mountain. Johnny was so impressed by the story that he wrote “The Ballad of Tiger Whitehead,'” which he later recorded on an album. Nat had no idea that Johnny gave him credit as co-writer until one day when he received a royalty check. Listen to Johnny talk about Tiger Whitehead and sing the song at

Nat had a quite interesting ancestry; the famous Taylor brothers, Governors, Alf and Bob were his kin. Locally, Harrison Taylor is also his relative and is a fine historian as well.

Carson further iterated : “Nat helped many people from all walks of life, not just the famous. In later years, he headed up a Nashville facility to treat at-risk teenage boys and then later specialized in the treatment of sexually abused women while he worked at a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee and then wrote a book on the subject.”

I asked Susan if she played the kind of music that Nat loved. “As for me,” she said, “I chair the ETSU Development Council for the Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies Program. It was Nat who started me playing the banjo and guitar in the mid 1960s. After my father's passing in 1974, Nat became somewhat of a surrogate father to me and I spent much time with him in recent years assisting Martha in the care of Nat's failing health. He was a great influence on my life, as well as upon the lives of many who knew him.

“Nat's family requested that memorials be given to the Council, which is a part of the ETSU's Department of Appalachian Studies. It is so fitting because he was passionate about the people and music history of Appalachia. In addition, he and his father have given many historically interesting documents and artifacts to the Reece Museum and Archives of Appalachia. It has been suggested that a room within the museum be named in his honor and legacy. We in the department would be very grateful.

“We are hoping to raise enough money through Nat's memorial to start a Winston scholarship. He would have been thrilled about that. He loved this music so much. I took one of our best fiddle students to his house and to visit him in the hospital where we entertained him. He was delighted and spoke of that often.”

In conclusion, Doris Cox Anderson, my aunt, who was in the same graduating class as Nat, recalled him by saying, “Not only was he a handsome man, he was also very friendly and highly intelligent. I am not surprised that he went on to have such a stellar career and life.”

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In 1947, five local physicians had their practices at 234, 236 and 238 E. Market Street near Tannery Knob (where I-26 now comes through). Doctors George Scholl and Mel Smith were at the first two-story dwelling, doctors Harry Miller and J. Gaines Moss at the second and doctor Ray Mettetal at the third. Unlike the other five doctors, he and his family lived upstairs and had his practice downstairs.   

Dr. Mettetal told my parents something that year that would have a profound impact on my life – I had rheumatic fever. The disease is an inflammatory infection affecting the joints and possibly the heart, skin and brain, targeting youngsters between the ages of four and eighteen. I was five at the time and sickly with the classic symptoms of fever, joint pain, fatigue, paleness, lack of appetite, weight loss, a rash and bouts of strep throat. 

My daily routine quickly began to change significantly. After two-weeks of being quarantined in our smallish apartment, I was subjected to absolute bed rest with limited physical activity. I was not permitted to walk so I had to be carried everywhere I went. Unlike today, almost total inactivity was considered essential to control rheumatic pain and spare damage to the heart. 

Once a month, I was taken to Memorial Hospital (Boone Street and Fairview Avenue) for a blood “sed (sedimentation) rate test” that measured the amount of inflammation still present in my body. The procedure was performed on the second floor along the north end of the hospital with windows overlooking E. Watauga Avenue.

I grew to dread the needle that was placed in my arm and held there for what seemed like an eternity. The attending nurse always had me look out the windows to get my eyes and mind off the needle. I recall seeing a man on Watauga chase his hat that had blown off from a wind gust. Everyone was laughing at him except me.

For about six months (maybe longer), I spent my days in bed, at our dining room table, in a chair with a bag of toys on our table’s center leaf that was positioned across the arms or sitting in a chair looking out the window of our second floor apartment. I observed traffic below and saw people at the Sur Joi Swimming Pool (107 Jackson Avenue). Sometimes I played 78-rpm records on our old upright radio/record player. A thoughtful young lady, Anna Buda (sister of George Buda), who lived in a nearby apartment, routinely came by with her little dog, Butchie, and let me play with him.

Some time ago, I came across a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ad in an April 30, 1944 edition of Time Magazine. It featured a young boy (about my age when I was sick) with rheumatic fever in a bed crammed full of toys, books, games and crayons. A young girl was entertaining him with a puppet show at his bedside. The ad emphasized the need to keep patients fully occupied until all signs of the disease had cleared up. Entertainment, it said, was the best medicine a patient could receive.”

A second advertisement in a February 1944 edition of Good Housekeeping Magazine showed a mother privately talking to the doctor with a young boy in bed in the next room. It consisted of solemn questions and answers between Mrs. Roberts and the physician.

Until 1960, the disease was a leading cause of death in children and a common source of structural heart disease. Although the malady had been known for several centuries, its association with strep throat was not made until 1880. In the 1930s and 1940s, rheumatic fever was a serious medical concern for adolescents. With the discovery of penicillin followed by a plethora of other antibiotics, patients could then be treated adequately.

The end of my illness meant learning to walk again. My dad held my arms much like he did when I took my first steps as a toddler. I was assigned the morning session of Miss Taylor’s first grade class at West Side School because I needed an afternoon nap. In 1950, we moved from our apartment to the “wide open spaces” of Johnson Avenue. My new active lifestyle of running and playing was a thrill that is firmly embedded today in my memory. 

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 In 1873 when Johnson City’s population was about 600, Reverend Clisbe Austin, who listed his address as “Johnson City, Washington County, State of Tennessee,” marketed a U.S non-alcoholic medicinal product known as Austin’s Liver Regulator.

 On September 17 that year, the reverend submitted an application for his invention to the United States Patent Office. He was granted rights for patent 152,939 under the category “Improvements in Medical Compounds.” Research suggests that Clisbe, as assignor, authorized his two oldest sons, Frederick and Clisbe, Jr. (by his second wife, Jane Ann Hammond) to produce and market the product from their recently purchased Austin’s Springs property on the Watauga River. 


The recipe consisted of eight largely unfamiliar, hard-to-pronounce ingredients, with the exception of one – apple-vinegar. The components were placed in a brass kettle, boiled six hours, strained, filtered and bottled for distribution.


In a June 1874 local ad, the inventor promoted his product: “The world wonders why it is that Austin’s Liver Regulator so far excels all other family medicines now before the people. The reason is it is the result of 35 years gathering and experimenting until we brought it to the state of perfection and now proves its wonderful virtues at home before going among strangers. We boldly challenge the world to produce its equals as a gentle, safe and reliable family medicine.


“The product cures all derangement of the liver and bowels and purifies the blood, has cured several cases of scrofula (tuberculous infection of the lymph nodes), prevents and cures diseases generally if taken in time (cholera and all fevers not excepted). Hence, every family should keep it in their house and prevent sickness and doctor bills. It is purely vegetable compound made of the roots of Armenian growth, their medicinal properties extracted with pure apple-vinegar without the drop of spirits.”


The ad identified a “cloud of witnesses,” prominent Johnson City citizens who put their stamp of approval on the medicine in a document dated April 15, 1874: “We the citizens of this town and vicinity do heartily recommend Austin’s Liver Regulator as being one of the safest and best family medicines we have ever used. It is exceedingly popular where it is made and has performed many wonderful cures among us. The signatures read like a who’s who of the regions early days:


B.F. Swingle (clerk and master chancery court), 0.P. Childress (merchant), H.C. Burroughs (merchant), John J. Adams (home builder), H.H. Crouch (builder), A.B. Bowman (postmaster), D.B. Farnsworth, (express and depot agent), A.J. Toppings (surgeon and mechanical dentist), E.F. Akard (attorney at law), Rev. T.B. Felts (M. E. Church, South), Rev. F. D. Crumley (M.E. Church, South), Col. P.P.C. Nelson (ex-state senator of Tennessee), Dr. H.H. Carr (Tennessee legislature), Col. J.K. Miller (U.S. revenue collector), D.W. Crumley (City Mayor), Charles S. Holloway (city marshal), W.H. Taylor (city alderman), Jacob McNeese (city alderman), J.M. Carr (city alderman), Rev. J.D. Daugherty (M.E. Church, South), A.J. Daugherty (shoe and boot maker), D.M. Taylor (deputy sheriff), E.S. Crumley (tinner), J.P.S. Ryburn (tanner), A.S. Brownlow (claims agent), E.D Hoss (hotel keeper), G.W. Hicky (hotel keeper), S.H. Miller (justice of the peace), J.M. Williams (justice of the peace) and J.B. Love (farmer).


 The Austin Brothers made and sold the product for one dollar per bottle; five bottles equaled a gallon. The company offered an undisclosed discount if the buyer purchased a dozen bottles. A printed circular could be ordered at no cost from the company that provided additional information about the medicine. The mailing address was shown as “Austin Brothers, Johnson City, East Tennessee.” 


Reverend Austin died in 1883 at Austin’s Springs (later Austin Springs).


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According to the late Ray Stahl’s book, A Beacon to Health Care, Johnson City’s first hospital opened in 1903 when the National Home for Disabled Soldiers became a reality. Four years later, Dr. W.J. Matthews opened a modest clinic on the first floor of the Carlisle Hotel (Franklin Apartments) at E. Main and Division streets. Then in 1911, six doctors launched Memorial Hospital, a small 10-bed facility at 712 Second Street (Myrtle Avenue).  

With that said, a September 1915 edition of the Johnson City Staff newspaper contained an editorial from someone identified only as JOL, bemoaning the fact that Johnson City did not have a public hospital. Why did Mr. L say the city needed a hospital that year if Memorial Hospital was still in operation? 

The editorial writer began his note saying, “I have been extremely interested in the new hospital movement since I had the pleasure of reading several articles by prominent local citizens in your good paper recently that I personally feel that too much cannot be said in behalf of this very much-needed institution.”

JOL noted that local doctors in 1915 were not wealthy enough to establish a private hospital or even collectively support one. To administer care beyond their capabilities, a patient had to be referred to a hospital in another city. That often meant traveling long distances over rough roads and incurring expensive medical bills. Local doctors were strapped for lack of modern equipment, medical support and hygienic facilities.

Emergencies were another matter. With time being of essence, local doctors frequently took extraordinary measures to save lives and provide relief for their patients. To ease the burden on the doctors, the writer felt that Johnson City deserved a modern hospital. The need became even more critical after automobile and railway traffic significantly increased. Also, industry growth bringing with it new and sometimes hazardous occupations necessitated a quality medical center. 

On the financial side, few hospitals were moneymaking institutions with practically all of them being supported through endowments and subscriptions. Local doctors made it abundantly clear that they did not expect to use the hospital for moneymaking purposes. It was to be an institution for the care of patients. They reasoned that with a new hospital, they could refer people needing medical attention to it rather than sending them outside the city, thereby saving them time, money and possibly their lives.

The new hospital movement required modern facilities with an X-ray machine, a thoroughly equipped and sterile operating room, an ambulance and congenial surroundings. Charity patients would not be turned away; the hospital would be open to everyone, rich or poor.

JOL concluded his editorial with a challenge: “Every good citizen should manifest some interest in this very worthy institution.”  

New Appalachian Hospital at Seventh (Chilhowie) Avenue

Apparently the overly crowded and inadequate Memorial Hospital in 1915 did not meet the standards of a “new hospital movement,” prompting JOL’s editorial. Five businessmen quickly remedied the situation when they purchased Cy Lyle’s (The Comet newspaper’s editor/publisher) 2-story, 16-room brick house at 809 Seventh (Chilhowie) Avenue for the new Appalachian Hospital. The group previously secured a charter that granted them “the right to organize, equip, own and operate a hospital and sanitarium.”

The facility opened to an appreciative public that likely included Mr. JOL. From that modest medical beginning of yesteryear emerged today’s impressive Johnson City Medical Center. … and the beat goes on. 

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A 1920 booklet titled “Did You Know? – Book of Facts, Household Recipes and other Valuable Information” from the Chattanooga Drug and Chemical Company promoted three health products and at the same time offered 20 pages of interesting reading.

The main sales item was Ziron Iron Tonic, a medicine said to prevent diseases, not cure them. One user claimed that after taking two bottles of Ziron, she had more energy to do housework. “When I began taking it,” she said, “I weighed 129 pounds and now I weigh 140.”

Velvo Little Liver Pills were described as a purely vegetable remedy for problems associated with a “torpid liver.” A testimonial claimed, “I had a deep-seated cold and my liver did not act. I tried other liver pills (Carters Little Liver Pills maybe?) and did not do me any good. One dose of Velvo relieved me at once.”

Mentha-Col Chest Salve was sold as a refined, antiseptic, expectorant preparation, for external and internal use in coughs, colds, sore throat and simple chest troubles. An ad proclaimed that the product offered immediate relief to a little girl who was beset with chiggers, those annoying little red bugs found in wooded areas.

In a section titled “Games For Rainy Evenings” one amusement was called “It Is to Laugh.” A player was blindfolded and given a cane. The others joined hands and circled around him or her. The blindfolded person then tapped the floor for them to stop, pointed to someone and said “It Is to Laugh.” The selected person had to laugh without revealing his/her identity. If the person was identified, they traded places; if not, the blindfolded person tried again.

The newsy publication also contained 39 “Household Hints” such as preserving potatoes: “Dust the floor of the bin with lime; put in about six inches of potatoes; add more lime; and alternate in this manner. One bushel of lime was used for 50 bushels of potatoes. The lime was said to improve the flavor of the potatoes and prevent rotting.

“To renew a razor strop, apply clean tallow over the surface and work it in with the palm of your hand; then rub the (leather) strap with soft pewter or lead.

“To keep corn green, gather it with the husks on. Put a layer of salt in the bottom of a clean barrel, then add a layer of corn and alternate until the barrel is filled. Add another layer of salt and put on a weight on it. Make a little brine of salt and water, pour over the tip and set it cool place, being careful that it does not freeze. The corn will keep sweet and fresh the whole year. When you wish to use it, take off the husks and soak the corn for 24 hours in cold water.

“To test milk, procure a long, glass bottle. Cut a narrow strip of paper the length of the bottle from the neck to the bottom. Mark off the strip of paper with 100 equal parts and paste it on the bottle. Pour in the milk and let it stand. After the cream rises to the top, the number of spaces occupied by it will be the percentage of cream in the milk. It should occupy from 11 to 13 spaces.

“To cool a room, wet a large cloth and hang it in the room. Let the ventilation be good and the temperature will drop 10 to 20 degrees within an hour.” This might offer a possible solution to our energy crisis.”

And finally, one item dealt with how to determine a horse’s age by examining its teeth. Before three years old, the animal sheds one on each side of the center teeth. At four, it loses the two corner and last of the four teeth. At five, it cuts the under tusks. At six, the grooves and hollows begin to fill up and at eight, they are filled up.”

These informative booklets became a common fixture in area homes of yesteryear. 

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When I was about seven years old, my mother and I were walking in the vicinity of McClure Street just off W. Market and observed a man on the opposite side of the street who appeared to be under the influence.

As the hapless high-stepping chap staggered along, one of his feet literally slapped the pavement as if he had no control over it; the truth was, he didn’t. I asked Mom what was wrong with him. While I cannot recall her explanation, I now suspect that he likely was a victim of a malady known as “Jake Leg,” a term describing someone affected by ingesting large quantities of Jamaica ginger, a product containing a high concentration of alcohol. 

In early 1930, newspapers in the American South and Midwest began reporting an unidentified new paralytic illness that was affecting relatively large numbers of people. Oddly enough, the problem was not that prevalent in other areas of the country. The assignable cause was soon linked to Jamaica ginger, an advertised medicinal tonic legally marketed and sold as a remedy for a number of illnesses.

“Jake,” as it became known, had been in use from about the time of the Civil War. With the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, the production of all commercial alcohol was forbidden in the United States with one notable exception – medicinal products.

Over the next several years, 50,000 to 100,000 people, mostly males, were permanently crippled with partial paralysis from the drink. The problem quickly crept into hobo jungles along railroad tracks of the affected routes. Compared to whiskey, Jake was much cheaper and had higher alcohol content. The product sold between 1920 and 1930 caused no significant health problems other than the usual alcohol related concerns.

The dilemma occurred when manufacturers decided to add an industrial plasticizer to the drink known as TOCP, which was mistakenly thought to be harmless. The tasteless, odorless and colorless additive was put in the drink to mask the high alcohol content detected during government tests of the product. Also, Jake was highly adulterated with molasses, glycerin, and castor oil to lessen the objectionable ginger taste, making it somewhat more palatable to consumers.

Jake leg caused neurological damage to the body particularly to the spinal cord. The first visible sign of it was a gradual paralysis that affected the lower extremities, thus giving it its name. As a rule, the condition was temporary but sometimes became permanent and even fatal.

The plight of these sufferers became the subject of numerous country songs with such titles as “Jake Leg Blues,” “Jake Bottle Blues,” “Jake Walk Blues,” “Jake Leg Wobble,” “Got The Jake Leg Too,” “Jake Leg Rag,” “Alcohol and Jake Blues,” “Jake Liquor Blues” and “Jake Walk Papa.” Artists of that era included Lemuel Turner, The Allen Brothers, The Ray Brothers, Byrd Moore, Narmour and Smith, Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey, The Mississippi Sheiks, Daddy Stovepipe and Mississippi Sarah, Asa Martin and Willie Lofton.

After the Food and Drug division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture took a serious aim at the problem, the popular drink became illegal, but many habitual users skirted the law and managed to locate supplies of it.

After about six years, Jake Leg became history. Today, only the scratchy echoes of the old songs taken from worn out 78-rpm records remind us of the affliction of yesteryear: “You're a Jake walkin' papa with the Jake walk blues; I'm a red hot mama that you can't afford to lose.” 

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There was a time when people suffered from “consumption,” now known as tuberculosis, a debilitating disease that often resulted in certain death for those afflicted.

I vividly recall when one of my childhood friend’s father was diagnosed with TB and was sent to a hospital in Greeneville, TN for a prolonged stay and treatment of the dreaded disease. Sadly, he never returned to his family. Affected people were once sequestered in stuffy rooms with closed windows and given cod-liver oil and cough medicine until death finally offered its relief.

It was not until 1873 that tuberculosis victims had any hope of surviving the malady. Dr. Edward Trudeau was cured of the illness by isolating himself in the remote Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The doctor subsequently developed the first sanitariums that promoted a lifestyle change treatment. These special hospitals provided patients with a regimented treatment of fresh air, cold-water bathing, nourishing food, proper exercise and rest.

The facilities prescribed rigorous edicts for their patients to follow. Sufferers were kept outdoors all day and not permitted to sleep or sit in a hot room even for a few minutes. Sleeping quarters consisted of open porches, tents in the yard or indoor rooms with the windows fully open. This was enforced in both the sweltering heat of summer and the chilly air of winter. Patients were given extra layers of blankets, fur coats and woolen hoods to stay warm.

Thirty minutes of gentle exercise was administered twice daily; equally important was the need to get plenty of rest. Three full meals per day were served along with a supplemental snack of two raw eggs and two pints of milk served 2-3 hours after each meal. Wine, whisky, beer or tobacco products were absolutely forbidden.

Bathing was in the form of cold sponge baths or a plunge in a frigid body of water. TB sufferers were warned to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing and to burn the tainted cloths afterward to prevent the spread of bacteria. A positive outlook on life was stressed, which was believed to help strengthen the body. Those inflicted were to look pleasant, act confidently and be cheerful.

Sanitarium treatments, while painfully slow and monotonous, seemed to work. Many patients began to exchange detrimental health for renewed vitality in their bodies. Of 1000 patients in the early stages of TB who sought treatment in a sanitarium, over 600 were cured, 200 others had their disease arrested and some of the remaining 200 were able to do light work. Revitalized patients began giving testimonials about the advantage of enduring the rigors of a sanitarium. Applicants for admission became so numerous that only about one person in 20 was able to secure a room.

Between 1890 and 1910, sanitariums were built in nearly all parts of the civilized world; in the United States alone, some $1.9 billion dollars were spent in erecting them. By 1910, the country had more than a half million people with tuberculosis and fewer than 200 sanitariums to handle them. This statistic forced patients to provide for their treatment at home, which was often not as effective unless they endured the same rigors required of them at a sanitarium.

Today, thanks to advances in medicine, tuberculosis can be cured using a battery of drugs specified by the treating physician. The once plentiful sprawling specialized TB hospitals around the country have mercifully long vanished from the scene. 

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Imagine attending a lecture in 1910 at the Hippodrome Opera House at W. Main and Whitney streets. The speaker is Dr. Alvin Davison of Lafayette College lecturing from his latest textbook, Health Lessons, Book 2, American Book Company. His address would likely go something like this: 

“Let me commence by presenting some sobering mortality figures from my book. Although Americans now live twice as long as their forefathers did, only two people out of 100 die of old age; the other 98 perish from disease or accidents. One-fourth of children born in this country die within 12 months and less than half of our population lives beyond 55 years of age. Fortunately, we can now identify the germs associated with such common deadly illnesses as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, diphtheria, grippe (influenza) and plague.

“However, our ongoing challenge is to prevent these often-lethal microorganisms from attacking and ravaging our bodies. Our delicate living machine can be seriously damaged and even destroyed by negligence. In 1885, just 25 years ago, polluted water was regularly supplied to our cities and towns from sewage-laced upstream sources. Today, this has essentially been corrected; most municipalities now furnish safe clean water. As individuals, we can improve our health by striving to augment the nutritional value of the meals we consume. This effort can have a bonus advantage of lowering our grocery bills.

“For instance, ten cents worth of corn meal furnishes as much nourishment as $2 worth of oysters. A dime spent for stewing beef or 12 cents for two quarts of milk will produce more food value than a one-pound 24-cent sirloin steak. The daily cost of feeding wholesome meals to a family of five need not exceed 75 cents. Healthful yet inexpensive choices include wheat bread, corn meal mush, beef stew, small dried beans, potatoes, oatmeal, milk and in-season fruits and green vegetables.

“Also, food should be chewed more than a dozen times before swallowing. Two thirds of a pound of properly chewed victuals offers the same dietary benefit as one pound of carelessly consumed fare. Dyspepsia (indigestion) is a common ailment caused by swallowing food before it has been crushed into very fine particles.

“Milk, an essential element of our diet, must be handled with extreme care. Bad milk is responsible for sickness and death of young children. More than twice as many people die from bacterial tainted milk as from old age. Milk of questionable quality should be pasteurized by heating it to just below the boiling temperature, stirring it frequently for 20 minutes and then cooling it rapidly with additional stirring. The product must then be consumed within 24 hours.

“On another subject, it is healthier to sleep at night with one bedroom window open at least a foot at the top and bottom. This insures adequate breathing of fresh air and should be done even in the coldest weather.

“In recent years, health sentinels have become quite commonplace is most cities and towns. Their job is to detect contagious diseases and isolate them from other households. It is imperative that we obey their directives. These guards have the authority to restrict people from having visitors or mandate compulsory detention, known as quarantines, inside their homes until the health threat has been eradicated.

“Let me conclude by addressing the health teachers in the audience. Imparting instruction that invites health and happiness will bless not only those of today, but generations yet unborn.”  

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