In May 1891, local newspaper had encouraging news for residents of Johnson City; they were about to acquire two new grammar schools in an effort to reduce age and overcrowded conditions of existing ones.

“We are glad to announce this morning,” said school officials, “that the work of the committee on two new school buildings has been completed, sites secured and designs accepted for the two buildings. All that was left was to proceed immediately after the Aldermen accepted a bid for construction.”

In the consensus of the public, the committee demonstrated outstanding work and made excellent selections. Although residents admitted that the committee was a bit slow in bringing the schools to fruition, they acknowledged that there was no reason to complain further about it. The new education facilities were truly model structures of that pre turn of the century era.

The pronouncement was made to build Columbus Powell School at the corner of Roan and Pine streets for students living in the eastern portion of the city and Martha Wilder School at New and Myrtle for students residing in the northern part of town. The addition of two new modern schools would address congested concerns.

Martha Wilder School as It Appeared on Myrtle Avenue and  in 1891

Columbus Powell was constructed at a cost of $7,500 while Martha Wilder was a bit higher at $10,000. Initial plans called for two smaller schools on the north side of town, but was later changed to one larger school, hence the added cost.

The proposed location for the larger building put it equally convenient to both parts of the city. Both buildings had stone foundations with walls of brick. It was but a very short time before work began and it was hoped to have them ready for use before the following year's school season concluded. They accomplished their goal.

Turning the clock ahead two years found the two schools conducting commencement exercises. Each was described as being of a most interesting and entertaining nature and reflected great recognition, not only for students and teachers but also on the city as well. The closing exercises proved to those present that the educational expenditures were definitely well worth the investment.

Exercises at Martha Wilder School began at 1:30 p.m. and continued for several hours. The program, which was varied and altogether well-arranged, was rendered in each particular discipline in a most satisfactory and enjoyable way. Exercises were consequently executed and were described as being excellent such that the participants could be proud of their efforts. The occasion, burnished with bright faces and sweet smiles, enlivened with merry chatter and pretty songs, was one well worth attending and the few hours of which were undeniably pleasantly and well spent.

Carefully prepared exercises at Columbus Powell commenced at 7:30 p.m. with the invocation by Rev. K.C. Atkins. To say that the exercises were well-attended faintly expressed it; the building was packed with interested parties. Following this were songs, the recitations and declamations, each rendered skillfully if not artistically.

On Monday, June 16, 1898, the Board of Education met in the old Science Hill school building on Monday, June 16, 1898 to, among other business, elect the following teachers for the incoming year:

Columbus Powell (W.P. Crouch, principal): Misses Clara Cloyd, Kate Simpson and Laura King.

Science Hill (S.O. Brown, principal): Misses Bessie Stanley, Lena Anderson and Kathlene Reeves.

Martha Wilder (S.A. Crocket, principal): Miss Nora Cuningham and J.E. Crouch.

One noteworthy change occurred. The office of superintendent was eliminated and a principal was selected for each school, with each one being managed independent of the others.

The early 1930s would usher in three new grammar schools: A new Columbus Powell School, with the same name, would be built on the old site. Martha Wilder would give way to Stratton on a new site and a new West Side would built to the west of the old one would eventually be called Henry Johnson School.

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Recently, my wife and I attended my 55th Science Hill High School reunion, which included the combined classes of 1959-60-61. We were the “babies” of the attendees.  While many classmates go to these events faithfully every five years, others never attend or make an occasional appearance. Sadly, many have left us; some cannot be present for a multiplicity of reasons, which include health issues. At the urging of Bernie Gray, I want to pay homage in today's column to my three favorite classes by providing a brief early history of our school. I will feature more later.

Science Hill High School as It Appeared When It First Opened in 1868

According to an old 1941-42 scrapbook, Johnson City became the proud possessor of the school largely because of a small group of far-sighted individuals who perceived the need for such an institution of learning shortly after the Civil War ended.

In 1941, Thad Lacy, an officer of the school's Alumni Association, announced that plans were being completed for the annual Science Hill Reunion to be held Friday at the long deceased high school on N. Roan Street.

Mr. Lacy quoted from the original minute book of the first Science Hill Literary Society that resided in the ownership of Mrs. Peter J. Naher of E. Holston Avenue. It showed the interest expressed by society members to obtain an adequate high school or “seminary,” as it was called, for the then-small town of Johnson's Depot. Extracts from the original Minute Book are as follows:

“February 1, 1867. First minutes of Science Hill Literary Society: president, J.H. Wagner; vice-president, M.C. Wagner; secretary, M.F. Young; and treasurer, A.H. Yeager.

“July 19, 1867. Whereas the members of said society were interested to such an extent of education and virtue in our community that they conceived the idea and are attempting to build an institution of learning to be known by the name of Science Hill Seminary in honor of Science Hill Literary Society and for the promotion of the cause of education and virtue and whereas the State of Tennessee granted a charter for the protection of the proposed institution, recognizing H.H. Carr, J.M. Johnson, A.H. Yeager, J.Q. Williams and B.W. Akard. Members of Science Hill Literary Society, as trustees of said institution, have the right to instruct said trustees in regard to wishes of the society, Science Hill Literary Society is head of the author and head of the proposed institution.

“B.W. Akard, 88, of Weatherford, Texas, one of the charter members of the original society, said: “We knew it took gall, grace and greenback, and while we were supplied with the first, we had little grace and no greenbacks at all. But we started a subscription. Not one of us had a respectable suit of clothes, except John Johnson, who was always a tidy looking sort of chap. I subscribed $40; I had $2. I chopped and hauled wood for the railroad through July and August.”

Unidentified Newspaper Clipping about the Opening of Science Hill in 1868

The Science Hill Male and Female Institute, forerunner of the present day high school, which resulted from these pioneers' plans, was dedicated October 27, 1867 and was opened August 24, 1868. N.E. Hodges, principal of Science Hill commented: “We  at the high school are looking forward to homecoming day. We shall have guides to show the visitors through the building and hope many will 'visit on the hill' Friday.”

Tea was served to visitors on Homecoming Day at Science Hill from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lunch was served in the cafeteria from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., followed by a football game that was played between Science Hill and an unspecified Jacksonville, Florida team. A dance was held on Friday evening in the gymnasium for members of the Alumni Association, their dates, Science Hill seniors and the two teams.

The alumni group was formed early in 1940, largely through the efforts of Miss Regina Eiseman, who is largely remembered for her long tenure as principal of Junior High School that once stood at N. Roan and W. Fairview. 

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A few weeks ago, Joe Avento, a Press Staff Writer, produced an interesting article for the newspaper titled, “From a goat to a parrot: ETSU's choices of nicknames, mascots quite the colorful tale.” In the piece, he noted the various mascot names the school has adopted over the years, such as Bucky, Pepper, Captain Kidd I and Captain Kidd II. Joe further explained that Captain Kidd I came on board in 1950 and disembarked in 1957, allowing Captain Kidd II to take over the helm.

Joe's article reminded me that the 1953 ETSU annual in my library featured a live goat named Billy the Kid (not Kidd). The book showed a sketch of the domesticated animal on the cover, plus an additional 34 photos and caricatures throughout the pages that depicted the friendly critter.

The yearbook officers that year were Charlene Wright, editor; Don Lockmiller, business manager; Drury Cargill, sponsor; and Louie Kinch, photographer.

A perusal of the contents of the book revealed an account of the class of 1953's college days with the ever-present “assistance” of the school mascot. The opening title, spread over eight pages, defined the noble goal of the annual: “Billy the Kid makes tracks, taking us back over the trail, bringing back memories of a year's events as the class of 1953 presents The Buccaneer.”

Slightly enhanced captions for 17 of the pictures of Billy are listed below (top to bottom, left to right:



01. “I am a good second baseman, coach.”

02. “Don't kid me, Kid.”

03. “Cream and sugar, please. Here's my nickel.”

04. “I love water sports.”

05. “Remember that every little “butt” helps.”

06. “A mixed reaction to a goat in class.”

07. “At last, it's graduation day.”

08. “Coach Brooks certainly knows basketball.”

09. “Oh goody, a letter from Aunt Nanny.”

10. “Sir, my aim is to become a 4-star general.”

11. “We need to patronize sponsors of our yearbook.”

12 “Billy the Kid makes his presence “felt” on campus.”

Indeed, that was all. Billy the Kid must have leaped, bucked, skipped, galloped, and trotted on his hooves into the sunset after that one year concluded because he was not the mascot in the 1954 annual. According to a reference in the 1952 annual, Captain Kidd 1 was the mascot that year. No mention of a mascot is noted in the 1954 edition, but we know it was Captain Kidd 1. Maybe a former student or other knowledgeable reader can shed clarifying light on why Billy the Kid only served one year in 1953. Also, does anyone recall any stories about this popular goat?




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I attended the first grade at West Side School (1949-50) and grades two through six at Henry Johnson School  (1951-55). PTA was held on the third Wednesday of each month. We usually decorated the rooms for each meeting, which usually consisted of posters we researched for assigned projects.  I had some really great teachers for my grammar school years. Let me briefly comment on those at Henry Johnson.

Henry Johnson School

Plaques on each side of the front doors

Second grade (1950-51), Mrs. Linnie Rowe: She really knew how to motivate me. I routinely wrote little “stories” on small pieces of paper and gave them to her to read. Not long after, she began reading them to the class, which thrilled me immensely. Her husband, Mr. Everett Rowe, would become my Junior High School principal preceding Tyson Jones within five years.

Third grade (1951-52), Miss Margaret King: She is best remembered for her interest in Cherokee Indian culture. It was during this time that I developed pneumonia and was not allowed to return to school for 15 days. My teacher, being so “thoughtful,” sent me homework assignments to do each day.

Fourth grade (1952-53), Mrs. Alf (Fannie) Taylor: She is remembered for her love of reading books to her young students. She allotted about ten minutes at the end of each school day, continuing the next day where the previous one ended. I fondly remember two books: The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) and Uncle Wiggley (Howard Garis). These books now grace my home library.

On one occasion, Mrs. Taylor learned about an incident that one of the boys did at recess. She asked us to identify the guilty perpetrator, but nobody would squeal. When school was concluded, she dismissed the girls and kept the boys in their seats. After a futile effort to get us to open up, she led us into the hallway and proceeded to whack each boy on the behind with a ruler. Her rationale was that this would at least punish the offender even if the rest of the class received the same discipline. 

Fifth grade (1953-54), Mrs. Dayton (Dorothy) Pierce: My memory comes up a bit short on her. However, my most vivid one was being sent to the basement and ultimately outside by the janitor to bring back some greenery to decorate our room for Christmas. I was the envy of my classmates. Each of us got to help deck out our room for Christmas, a chore I adored.

Sixth grade (1954-55), Miss Sophia Boring (homeroom teacher): She wrote an annual play for the school. The sixth grade class members were the “seniors” of Henry Johnson School. One of the scripts ranged from part of the class doing  the Virginia Reel to a tribute to coonskin-cap clad, Davy Crockett. Miss Boring also read stories to her class and occasionally acted them out, frequently standing on her desk to dramatize a scene. That got our attention. She introduced us to pen pals to whom we wrote. I eventually had two of them, one from Ceylon (later became Sri Lanka) and another from Australia. Miss Boring stands tall in my memory.

Sixth grade, 1954-55, Miss Gordon Browning (geography teacher): Her main contribution to my remembrance was her “Super Sticker Stamp Club.” This clever venture was designed to get students interested in geography by attending a volunteer after-school stamp-collecting club. I was elected president and presided over the meetings. Miss Browning insisted that we learn Robert’s Rules of Order and used them during the formal portion of our meetings. She cunningly had us talk about countries by using stamps, an activity which also enhanced our public speaking skills.

Music Teacher, 1950-55, Mrs. Mary Jordan: She taught all six grades using the popular New Music Horizons series. She instructed us in the basics of reading music, introduced us to several light classical favorites including her favorite, “Peter and the Wolf” and even gave us a French music lesson with the song “Alouette” (“Alouette, gentille Alouette”).

School Principal, 1950-55:  Miss Margaret Crouch was a friendly always-helpful administrator. I can still recall how pleasant she made my transition from West Side School to Henry Johnson School. I won't tell you what it means; look it up. Ah, those were the days. 

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I thoroughly enjoyed my years at the University of Tennessee while pursuing my engineering degree. While I have many favorable reminiscences from that era, there is a particularly bad one that occurred on Feb. 1, 1965 when I was a junior. The forecast for that wintry, 15-degree Monday morning was rain turning to sleet, followed by an accumulation of up to 6-inches of snow by early afternoon.

Surprisingly, classes that day were not suspended. Students, especially those from the South, viewed this as an opportunity to enjoy the campus's invigorating winter wonderland. True to predictions, the white stuff began falling by late morning.

Several of us left our Old Melrose Hall dorm after attending morning classes and walked down the Melrose Avenue circle toward “the strip” on Cumberland Avenue. As we passed through the crowd, we noticed some clever makeshift “sleds,” including a large wooden flowerpot borrowed from a nearby faculty house porch, being used to transport students down the slippery streets.

About eight people would cram into the pot along the top of the hill and travel counterclockwise toward the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house at the bottom. The ride abruptly ended when the sled hit the curb at the bottom of the hill causing it to flip, precariously dumping its thrill-seeking passengers onto the ground.

As we continued toward Cumberland Avenue, we noticed a continuous buildup of students that ultimately totaled 500. Although snowballs were initially randomly thrown at other students, the sport escalated into those on one side of the street throwing at folks on the other. Some individuals used an umbrella due to the intensity of the falling snow, but they soon came down after they became targets for a barrage of snowballs. On a positive note, there were reports of students helping motorists get their cars started and back on the road.

The weather began to take its toll on traffic with over a hundred calls received by Knoxville Police, which included the report of a 7-car pileup west of the campus. Of note were 67 complaints of students on the U.T. campus who were throwing snowballs at vehicles, especially those along the 1700 block of Cumberland Avenue.

About that time, the winter enjoyment was elevated another notch. One student would sneak up on a vehicle and attempt to open its door. If successful, a barrage of snowballs would be hurled inside the vehicle, covering the unsuspecting driver and the interior of the car with snow. The individual would be dazed and overwhelmed as he or she tried to navigate their vehicle away from the melee. Anything was fair game for this distraction, be it pedestrians, cars, trucks or 18-wheelers. 

After watching this activity for several minutes, my party decided to eat lunch, Our quick choices were the Quarterback Restaurant (Italian cuisine), the Varsity Inn (Greek food) and Sam and Andy's Tennessean (home of the legendary Vol Burger). We unanimously opted for a Quarterback pizza.

While we were dining, something happened a block away near the main entrance to the campus at Ayres Hall. A 56-year-old man who was employed by the Fulton Sylphon Company in Knoxville, left work early that day to have snow chains put over the wheels of his car. As he traveled down slippery Cumberland Avenue near the entrance to the Hill, he became overly agitated by a group of students throwing snowballs at him, blocking his view of the road.

About that time, the man, who reportedly had high blood pressure, suffered a heart attack, causing him to slump over his steering wheel and veer off the road, hitting a utility pole. He was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. We did not hear about this tragedy until later.

After we finished eating, we exited the restaurant. Almost immediately, we spotted a commotion and a large crowd gathering in front of the “T” Room, another favorite student eatery on the strip. We sensed something was wrong. To our dismay, we heard that that an 18-year-old male student had been shot near the restaurant.

Not knowing him, we learned that he resided in New Melrose Hall (later Hess Hall), the dorm adjacent to ours. We were further told that he was carried by students into the restaurant to wait for an ambulance to arrive. Word quickly spread that the driver of an 18-wheeler, an employee of the Bird and Cutshaw Produce Company of Greeneville, Tennessee, killed him.

Like many others, someone opened the truck driver's door and pelted him with snowballs. But unlike the others, he became irate, probably fearing for his safety. Witnesses said that he pulled a .22-caliber pistol from his glove compartment, stood on his truck's running board a few seconds and fired his gun into the crowd. The bullet struck the student over his right eye. Several people overpowered the driver, confiscated his weapon and wrestled him to the ground where they held him until authorities arrived. He was taken into custody and charged with second degree murder.

There was a good deal of discussion as to whether the truck driver aimed at any specific student who had thrown a snowball at him or shot aimlessly into the crowd. Some theorized that in the excitement of the moment, he accidentally discharged his weapon.

Unfortunately, this story does not end here. There was a third person killed on campus that day, but there was a myriad of contradicting facts surrounding this individual. One story had him being homeless and heavy on medication. Another said he was a trucker's helper riding along behind the truck whose driver was arrested for the shooting. Supposedly, he witnessed the tragedy and planned to testify on behalf of the driver. However, he was pelleted by a snowball that contained a rock or perhaps a hard piece of ice. He ended up at a nearby Salvation Army and later at a hospital where he complained of a severe headache from what appeared to be a concussion. While there, he succumbed to the injury. 

Within a span of one hour, three people died on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Police descended on the campus, many broadcasting messages to students. We were told to instantly leave the area and return to our dorms. We were warned not to pick up a snowball lest we be arrested. The campus was placed under a strict curfew until things calmed down. 

How could such a potentially fun day turn into such a horrible tragedy. The news spread like wildfire from radio, television, magazine and newspaper coverage. Even Paul Harvey made it the subject of his weekday program and a small national magazine, “Pageant,” described the tragic events in their March edition. 

When the grand jury met to determine what action should be taken against the truck driver, the court did not feel that his action warranted a trial, believing instead that he acted in self-defense to an unruly mob. Although he was immediately released from custody, some students disagreed with the court's decision and let it be known. There was no tangible evidence from interviews of those who witnessed the tragedy that the slain student participated in the snowballing activity. The general opinion was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I occasionally travel back to the campus, my mind sometimes drifts back to that fateful day when three lives were tragically extinguished, resulting from the antics of a few well-meaning but out of control students who were intent on having some winter fun. It was a day that still resides in my memory.

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The late George Buda once shared with me some ETSC student newspapers, the Tennessee Collegian. George had a heart for Johnson City and, over time, helped me piece together numerous Yesteryear articles. One edition from the November 1947 Collegian should bring back memories for many of my readers. That year, ETSC revived “Rat Week,” the custom of initiating freshmen into the college ranks. It was a tradition that was dropped and almost forgotten because of the anxiety that resulted from our country's involvement in World War II.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 20, the “rats,” as freshmen were called, were required to wear specially designed “rat caps” from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. for an entire week. If they encountered a faculty member, they were required to tip their hats as a courtesy gesture. Also, the sidewalks between the Library and the Administration Building were off limits to freshmen. The restrictive ruling also applied to the main entry doors of these buildings, requiring students to use side or back entrances instead. Failure to do so had its consequences.

“Rats” were required to memorize the school's Alma Mater and sing it upon request of any upperclassman. They were also to learn the context of the Constitution of the United Student Body and be ready to answer questions from students. Further, frosh were required to attend the homecoming football game wearing his or her special headwear. Another important assignment was gathering wood to be used at the bonfire pep meeting on October 25.

Top: One “Rat” Enters Carter Hall Fish Pond While Another Comes Out. Bottom: Lady “Rat” Taking Orders from a Group of Upperclassmen.

The campus grounds and dormitories were cleaned by freshmen on Friday, the 24th in preparation for homecoming festivities. The singing of the Alma Mater was heard frequently across all parts of the campus during “Rat Week.” A few people took involuntary baths in the Carter Hall fish pond while others scoured the Administrative Building using toothbrushes.

The 37th annual homecoming of ETSC began with a buffet supper spread in the Training School (now known as University High) cafeteria for the alumni by the Senior Class. John Burrus and his classmates served as host to over 200 alumni, who ate wieners and all the trimmings to the tune of “Do You Remember When.” The highlight of the supper was the presentation to the alumni of Dean Emeritus, David S. Burleson, who offered tales of the humble beginnings of the college that included when it was known  as a Normal School.

The culmination of “Rat Week” occurred on Saturday night, October 25, when freshmen marched behind their special float in the Homecoming parade heading to Memorial Stadium on E. Main Street.

The largest crowd that had been seen in quite a while witnessed the parade and floats preceding the homecoming football game. The sophomore float, the S.S. Buccaneer, took first honors, while the senior class, a cornucopia in green, orange and yellow with three high spirited ladies energetically pitching fruit to the onlookers, received second place. The Frosh float with their king and queen was decorated in pastel colors.

Top: Group of “Rats” Removing Their Shoes and Hopping Like Rabbits. Middle: Several “Rats” Sing at Orders from an Upperclassman. Bottom: Homecoming King and Queen.

Upon arrival at the stadium, the now-humbled freshmen sat on reserved seats as a group. The King (Elmer Evlin) and Queen (Margaret Kyker) of Homecoming from the freshman class were crowned at halftime. Afterward, the freshmen were instructed to engage in a shoeless “rat race” on the football field, which started at the front (north) end of the stadium. The obedient “rats” raced to the south end and returned.

While the entry-level students were doing this, several upperclassmen engaged in a bit of revelry by scrambling their shoes. One student, upon returning, managed to match his shoes but ruined them when he placed his cold, muddy, bruised feet in them. The consequence of this endeavor was that several students soon developed a sore throat.

The publication noted that the student government, under the able direction of its president, Harrison Taylor (a grandson of former Tennessee governor, Alf Taylor), was the proper organization to take their problems to for resolution. It further said that a “gripe box” would be placed between the Administration Building and the Library. Harrison defeated five other candidates for the 1947-48 Hall of Fame honor of “Best-All-Round-Boy.” Pereda Rice was “Best-All-Round-Girl.” 

Eight campus beauties were selected from a total of 32 candidates: Helen Hawthorne, Ernestine Duke, Joanna Goode, Nancy Kiser, Eleanor Willard, Sara Livesay, Eileen Martin and Mrs. Eleanor Weekley. 

The Tennessee Collegian extended its grateful acknowledgment to (Travis) Kinkade Floral Shop for the beautiful chrysanthemums, which were presented to the homecoming queen and to the Carson Newman cheerleaders.

Like most student publications, the 4-page bi-monthly newspaper contained 10 local advertisements:

Lodge Service Station (corner of Wilson and Lamont, U.S. tires, batteries and road service).

Jay's Confectionery (corner of Buffalo and Tipton, Johnson City's Leading News Stand).

King's (Johnson City's Great 5-Floor Department Store, Where the Smart Bucks Who Know Buy their clothes).

Jug's (Little Metropolis, East Tennessee's Most Complete One-Stop Store, Curb Service, Open 24 Hours a Day).

Dinty Moore's Restaurant (The Home of Good Eats, At 115 E. Market).

Yellow Cab Company (107 E. Market).

Coca-Cola Bottling Works (226-30 E. Market).

Beckner's (Diamonds, Watches. Jewelry, Opposite Majestic Theatre).

R&L Bowling (Daily 12 Noon to 12 Midnight, 8 Modern Lanes, 808 Buffalo).

The Record Shop (113 W. Main, west of the Windsor Hotel. They produced a radio program over WETB at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday known as “Name the Band” that featured Milburn Swanay, Wright Swanay and Brydeor Tolliver).

At the conclusion of “Rat Week,” the Tennessee Collegian had fitting words in an editorial: “'Rat Week' is over and from where we sit, it was a 'howling' success. Taken as a whole spirit was good on the part of the freshman as well as the upperclassmen and apparently it was fun for the majority.

“It is a pleasure to see a group of people work together for a common cause and it certainly seems to us that this was what was done by the frosh all week, as initiation tasks were dispatched in a resigned but competent manner. Again, may we extend a word of appreciation to each of you and welcome you officially into our student family.”   

While most students approached the week with a degree of uncertainty and apprehension and were glad when it came to a finale, they generally realized its value of initiating them into campus life. I wonder how many of those old hats still exist. 

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On Friday, May 25, 1894, the Johnson City Institute, a vocational school of sorts, closed another term of its most successful work. In the previous three years, the city had enjoyed having one of among the best institutes of the South. Prof. R. L. Couch initiated the school in the fall of 1891 with a modest beginning, but it soon became a school second to none.

On an early Tuesday morning that spring, the oral examinations had begun, being highly interesting and providing a source of entertainment. Half an hour was spent in reciting select readings, declamations, recitations and singing songs between each one. At the close of the exercises, the examinations proved how meticulous both teacher and student had been in teaching and learning.

Professor Couch, in a very touching and unexpected move, made an announcement that he would not be with them the following school year. This set off an emotional response as students, patrons, friends and teachers wept at the thought of his departing. Without doubt, ties of friendship had been formed with the professor that stood as sweet mementos of them long after their association with him had ended.

On Wednesday evening,  the Crescent Society gave its last entertainment; the address to the Society was provided by Rev. William Couch, which was received with much gratification.

A most delightful entertainment was given on Thursday at 2 p.m. by the Alpha Society, which was highly enjoyed by those in attendance. The address of welcome by the President, H.P. Exum, was a masterpiece of eloquence and showed the effect of hard study. The lecture to the Society was delivered by Rev. W.M. Vines. At 8 p.m. on the same evening, musical entertainment was provided that fully illustrated how well the music teacher had performed her duties.

On Friday evening, an address was given by Professor Browning, editor of the Johnson City Staff newspaper. He was a fine talker and gifted entertainer. On Friday night, the people of Johnson City had the pleasure of listening to a drama performed at Jobe's Opera House, at the corner of Spring and E. Main streets, that was given by the students. It was deemed to be the best school entertainment given in Johnson City in several years.

When the commencement exercises were closed and all teachers and students had parted with the old institute with honor, it was decided to have a reunion and picnic of all the students who had been in attendance at the Institute at any time during the previous terms. The entourage was transferred to Lake Wataussee (later renamed Cox's Lake) by street cars. When they arrived and found quite a large crowd had assembled on the grounds, they were entertained by the Brass Band of the Johnson City Institute.

About 11:30 a.m., lunch was served and several people ate to fulfillment. One student, identified only as J.N.H., ate 27 pieces of chicken in addition to other victuals.

After the meal, the teachers dispensed a treat to all the students that consisted of such items as candies, nuts and bananas. Later in the evening, the crowd, after a delightful day of boat riding, swinging and “sparking,” departed with melancholy hearts as they realized that they probably would never meet in the capacity of a school again.

The teachers departed to return to their respective homes while Prof. Couch headed for Bell Buckle, Tennessee where he took charge of the high school there. The people of Johnson City lost a grand institution and a notable group of teachers. Their work that might have been soon forgotten, became the influence that exerted their youthful minds and went forward in life with them.

To prove the immense popularity of Mr. Couch, just prior to the school's closing, the teachers made a valiant effort to raise money to increase his salary. Although many donated cash, some as much as $100, the effort was too late. The much-admired principal had signed a contract with his new employer; the city had lost a valuable principal. 

I will offer more detail about this largely forgotten institute in an upcoming feature story from a catalog I received from Bernie Gray. 

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It was August 1918 and the world was at war. If the Hun (Germany) was to be trampled to his knees, it had to be done by trained men under the able direction of capable leaders. That year, the Student's Army Training Corps (SATC) was opened to all American boys 18 years of age who aspired to enter college.

The Government was virtually commandeering college campuses for the intention of providing special training to thousands of choice young men who later became officers and technical experts.

King College was designated by the War Department as one of the components of the SATC. A United States Army commissioned soldier was chosen to direct the training of both college and preparatory students who were privileged to this educational opportunity.

The college offered special training in preparation for the United States Signal Services Corps. This included flag signaling, construction and operation of the telephone and telegraph and a special course in wireless telegraphy. Permission was granted by the War Department for the establishment of a wireless station along with instruction in wireless telegraphy as soon as the King College unit was organized.

The following courses were also chosen: chemistry; physics; biology; mathematics (emphasizing trigonometry and navigation); history and government (including the history of modern European nations; their form of government and the cause of the present war); the manual of arms; the school of the soldier, squad and company; intensive drilling; and observation of military regulations).

College students over 18 years of age were enlisted as privates in the Army and received weapons, uniforms and  equipment, being given regular pay as a private but without ration allowance. This two-fold education program opened up an attractive field of service to young men for future service in the Army or Navy.

While this unique activity was going on, the World War was very real to people like Sergeant Bob Boren, a soldier located “somewhere in France,” who penned a poignant letter to someone back home named Ike:

“Dear Ike: Your letter came yesterday. I regard a letter from a friend as a precious gift these days as they are getting fewer it seems, but when I look over them, they make a pretty good bunch at that. From what I hear, I guess you miss the boys around Johnson City now. It sure gives proof that Kaiser Bill is going to come down.

“I also notice the American people are doing their best to help the boys and that is what it takes and it does the boys lots of good to know the people are going to stand behind them. I notice you all are doing a great part and that is as good as battles. Ike, I think it is mighty nice of you all to remember me in your prayers and I appreciate it to the fullest extent. I heard that Mack was placed in the 5th class. I imagine he is getting restless by this time. I guess if you were not married with a family to care for, you would be in within 24 hours as everybody feels they owe a part in some way.

“It was mighty nice of you to offer to mail me anything I might need. The government now issues smoking tobacco and also all kinds of cigarettes to sell and we pay no tax on tobacco at all. We can buy all smokes far cheaper than you can and get the same brands. We have to get an order approved before we can get packages. Every time I want a letter, I write about two so as to have a supply on the way. I wrote W.M. Cooley a few days ago for my Shrine card. I have all other cards good for the duration of the war with me. We now have a club here, in fact we rented a house with all its equipment, have six rooms with kitchen and all. It has a piano and all kinds of reading material. It is a model home I will say.

“Big times are to be had over here. Yes, we will have some big games when Kaiser Bill is licked and Uncle Sam won't be so long doing it, I think. Please remember me to your mother. I am as ever, Yours truly, Bob.”

Little did Bob know that those “big games” were coming in about two months, bringing an end to the war.

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Today's feature is dedicated to the memory of the late Mrs. Louise Bond Alley who copied her mother's 1917 Science Hill High School annual, “Yellow Emperor,” for me shortly before her passing. I am hoping that some of our Johnson City Press  readers will recognize a few of the names.

The 70-page publication, revealing 38 graduates, was the first one from the school that had numbered pages and advertisements at the back of it. It acquired its name from an orange and brown North American butterfly described as having a swift dodging flight. 

The Board of Education (see photo) that year were 1. Dr. W.J. Matthews, 2. Horace Miller, 3. J.T. Browning, 4. Frank B. St. John, 5. J.E. Brading and 6. George T. Wofford.

Faculty members (see photo) who served the institution were 1. J.L. Gilbert (commercial arts), 2. Lena Mills (domestic science), 3. W.I. Williams (history), 4. Una M. Jones (modern languages), 5. Floy Harris (Latin), 6. P.S. Barnes (superintendent), 7. Lucy Hatcher (mathematics, future principal) and 8. J.A. Tinsley (principal). Not shown are E.K. Hickam (manual training) and Dean Slagle (science).

The editorial staff (see photo) was comprised of (sitting) James Remine, Anne Huddle (editor), Bess Remine, (standing) Helen Browder, Louise Cox, Oliver Robertson, Melville Smith, H.C. Hart, Nancy Weaver and Maurice Cardwell. Not pictured was Lorna Whiteside.. 


The senior class officers were Fred Locket (president), Oliver Robertson (vice president), Mildred Wade (secretary) and Bess Remine (treasurer). Their clever class motto was “We’ve crossed the hills, the mountains are in view.”

The only sports listed were girls' basketball and boys' baseball. A “Who’s Who in the Senior Class” listed 24 senior superlatives: most popular, most agreeable, most bashful, most sarcastic, best athlete, most conceited, brainiest, biggest flirt, most fickle, most kiddish, most original liar, most lovable, prettiest, cutest, most attractive, sissiest, sportiest, most studious, sweetest, most stylish, darlingest, most vivacious, most English and wittiest.

Two verses of the class poem read: “Farewell, thou dear, old rocky hill, Farewell forevermore; Thru mem'ry we'll be keeping still, When days with thee are o'er. However oft we may have dreamed, Of the future soon to be, Tis harder now than once it seemed, Oh, hill, to part with thee!

Unlike the class poem, the class song spoke of the thrill of graduating and being set free. The chorus read, “Little Jimmie Remine, Here's Altai Boring and Anne Huddle, And Buford Conner and Jimmie Humphries. All standing here you see. Oh, won't we have a jolly time. Oh, won't we have a jolly time. Oh, seniors, put your books away. We're all set free. And Floyd, you get your Ford cranked and stand before the gate, For we just must ride your Lizzie when we all graduate. We'll drive to the Majestic (Theatre) we're hired for forty “frog skins,” And we guess we'll be given our precious, precious “sheep skins.”

An amusing observation was declared in the Class History portion of the yearbook: “The class of 1917 claims the distinction of having fooled more teachers, ridden barebacked and unafraid on more unbroken ponies, absorbed more science, evaded more mathematics and eluded more examinations, remaining still unscathed than any other class ever turned loose upon an unsuspecting world.”

My favorite witticism from a joke page was Paul asking Jack if a damaging fire was of incendiary origin. Jack answered by saying “no” because he felt that the building had been set on fire.

The student societies were listed that included the president's name and club yell if provided: Adelphian Literary Society (James Remine, “Stand 'em on their head. Stand 'em on their feet. Adelphians, Adelphians. They can't be beat.”), Ossolian Literary Society (Bess Remine), Jefferson Literary Society (Oliver Robertson, “Rah, Rah, Rah. Row, Row, Row. Boom (stomp foot). Jeffersonian, Jeffersonian, Jeffersonian.”), Francis E. Willard Society (Ruth Allison, “Chick-a-lac-a, chick a-lac-chog-chog-chog. Francis E. Willard rog, rog, rog. We are the Willards. We are the best. We are the girls of the WLS.”), Victorian Literary Society (Lorna Whiteside), Athenian Literary Society (Katherine Sells) and YMCA (Clarence Miller).

There were 39 sponsors of the yearbook: The Hub, W.M. Silver Company, Unaka National Bank, The Hart & Houston Store, Hecht's Bakery, Inc., R.C. Hunter Agency, The City National Bank, Wm. Silver Optometrist, Ferguson Drug Co., Tennessee Electrical Supply Co., City Shoe Store, Johnson City Steam Laundry, The Kiosk Ice Cream Parlors, Connor Brothers Furniture Co., Gunnar Teilmann's Florist, Colonial Hotel, J.E. Crouch, Miller's Drug Store, Masengill's Ladies' Shop, C.P. Faw & Co., Boston Shoe Repairing Co., Lockett Brothers Co., White City Laundry, Jones-Vance Drug Store, The Frank Taylor Store, I.N. Beckner & Son, Smith Shoe & Clothing Co., The Bon Marche Ice Cream Parlors, Dosser Brothers, Mountcastle-Summers Hardware Co., Gump's Leading Clothiers and Furnishers, Coca Cola, H.R. Parrott Motor Co., Davis-Fain Co., Brading-Sells Lumber Co., Garden Drug Co., Tranum Brothers (with its famous rocking horse sign), Muse-Whitlock Co. and The Charley Cargille Studio. 

Additional ending thoughts about leaving the old institute of learning can be noted in the first and last stanzas of “Good Bye Science Hill,” written by Anne Huddle:

“Dear Science Hill, we've loved you long, And now we must bid you good bye. We've filled you with laughter, We've thrilled you with song, And sometimes we've wished we could cry. Your walls they have witnessed a wearyful fight, and rung to a won Waterloo, But oh in our triumph, we are dreary tonight. Goodbye, dear old school, to you.

“How cold, still and lonely, how weary you seem, A last wistful look and we'll go; Oh, will you remember the Class of Seventeen, The class that you comforted so? The shadows enfold you, it's drawing tonight, A smarting tear blinds each eye; Alas, but it is stinging and stabbing our sight, God bless you old school, good bye!”

In March 1961, 44 years later, my classmates and I experienced those same melancholy feelings when we too bid our final adieu to the same old nostalgic brick building that we affectionately referred to as “the Hill.” We finished the last three months of our senior year at a new modern school on John Exum Parkway.

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I have fond memories of attending Henry Johnson School (W. Market Street opposite Kiwanis Park) in the 1950s. When I transferred there after completing the first grade at West Side School, I received a warm reception from the principal, Miss Margaret Crouch who escorted Mom and me on a tour of the school.

Mrs. Mary Jordan was the school’s music teacher, instructing students in all six grades. Several years later, I enrolled in her husband, Glenn’s, mechanical drawing class at East Tennessee State College. The couple resided in the Franklin Apartments on E. Main Street.

Mrs. Jordan taught us several patriotic songs like “America,” “America, the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” We routinely sang them during her class.

Our textbooks were the “New Music Horizons” series published in 1945 by the Silver Burdett Company for grades one through six. Each book was of a different size and color with the grade positioned on the lower right cover. Over the years, I began collecting them at flea markets and antique stores and acquired five, missing only the first one.

The six books focused on music activities through “singing, playing, dancing, listening and creating.” They were designed to deepen students’ appreciation of their forefathers who were a part of our American heritage. The primary grade books 1-3 provided a period of enrichment that helped prepare the students for more advanced concepts. The intermediate class books 4-6 took the pupils to a higher level of specific skills.

Notes contained at the back of each book provided specific instruction for teachers. The lessons provided the basics for reading music and also taught us about such instruments as the violin, cello, trombone, French horn, flute, trumpet, cornet, clarinet and saxophone in an effort to awaken our interest in instrumental performance. 

Mrs. Jordan occasionally brought records to class and played them for us. Some had stories associated with them while others introduced us to light classical music, such as “The Nutcracker Suite” and the Russian composition, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Sergei Prokofiev. I have a set of 78-rpm records that are narrated by Basil Rathbone. They possibly are the same ones she played for us. Another frequently played disc was about an old clock maker. There were a variety of alarms heard on it. 

Mrs. Jordan kept a variety of musical instruments in her room for illustrations, but she made it clear to her students that they were to be looked at, not touched or played. She decorated the room nicely around the theme of music. I have always enjoyed music and Mrs. Jordan enhanced my appreciation of it even more.

Our dedicated teacher instructed us in a French song titled “Alouette,” first published in Montreal, Canada in 1879: “Alouette, gentille Alouette (Skylark, nice Skylark). Alouette je te plumerai (Skylark, I will pluck you). Alouette, gentille Alouette (Skylark, nice Skylark). Alouette je te plumerai (Skylark, I will pluck you). Je te plumerai la tête (I shall pluck your head). Je te plumerai la tête (I shall pluck your head). Et la tête (and your head), et la tête (and your head). Alouette (Skylark), Alouette (Skylark), O-o-o-o-oh. Alouette, gentille Alouette. Alouette je te plumerai.”

The folksong, while very easy on the ear, was a bit shocking. It originated from French-Canadian women who sang the ditty while plucking skylarks, considered tasty game birds. Each verse built on the previous verse, much like the “Twelve Days of Christmas, as each part of the bird's body was plucked: la tete (head), la bec (beak), le nez (nose), les yeux (eyes), le cou (neck), les ailes (wings), le dos (back), les pattes (feet) and la queue (tail). Mrs. Jordan never told us what the words meant for obvious reasons. 

My thoughts often revert to the five years I spent at Henry Johnson School; it was a pleasant, carefree time in my life. 

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