Columnist Recalls Part-Time Employment at Frick’s Music Mart

A bright spot of my early college years was working part-time for Henry and Mary Lou Frick at the Music Mart at 403 S. Roan Street, just up the block from King’s Department Store.

Henry was a skilled businessman who operated a large well-organized business from a very compact store. He sold a wide variety of items such as band instruments, harmonicas, drumsticks, pads, sheet music, records, consoles, portable record players and reel-to-reel tape recorders.

Henry and Mondel “Montie” Butterfield opened the store on W. Market Street in August 1946. Henry was working at WJHL radio at the time. Dr. Butterfield, ETSC's Music Department director, later retired and sold his portion of the business to the Fricks.

After working at the store during the 1961 Christmas holiday season, I was offered and accepted a part-time job with the couple in May 1962. My hours were Monday through Friday after school and all day Saturdays averaging about 23 hours per week, which provided this college student with some much-needed money.

I recall several coworkers: Gene Young, school band representative (and drummer for the Charlie Goodwin Band); Judy Bell, store supervisor; Willard Blevins, instrument repairman; and five clerks: Betty Gabbert, Nancy Steele, Eddie Washburn, Ken Harris and Linda Ogden.

My duties included the usual janitorial services plus dressing the front store window, preparing mail orders, taking them to the post office, making bank deposits at Peoples Bank, assisting customers during peak hours, occasionally traveling with Gene in the store’s Volkswagen van, taking the Frick's old green and white Pontiac to Direct Oil Service Station at 502 S. Roan Street for servicing and hauling returned defective record players for repair to Johnson City Radio & TV Service, owned by Ray McCrary and Joe Phillips on Spring Street,.

Another occasional responsibility was handling printing needs for Ken Marsh (who worked at WJHL radio) on an old mimeograph machine in the back of the store that looked like it came over on the Mayflower. I had to laboriously insert a scrap “slit sheet” between each page to prevent smearing of good copies.

Henry and Mary Lou had three daughters. One of my imperative duties was sporadically mailing Moon Pies to their oldest daughter and husband who lived in Maryland. I assume they bought their own RC Colas.

Henry always had a witty sense of humor. One day he walked to the back of the store and said, “A man wants to know the price of that dusty record player in the front of the store.” On another occasion, he uttered, “There is a dead bug in the harmonica display case that needs a price tag.” 

Right after the store opened the day after one Christmas, Judy informed me that Mr. Frick wanted me to remove all the store decorations. Thinking the Fricks had not arrived yet, I responded, “Take them down? You’ve got to be kidding. Henry Ebenezer Scrooge Frick.” A deep resonating German voice floated from the rear of the store boldly affirming, “Bah Humbug, take them down.” Henry walked around the corner wearing that characteristic smirk on his face. I took the decorations down.

I could go on forever with cherished memories of the Music Mart. I worked for Henry and Mary Lou until I transferred to the University of Tennessee in September 1964. My employment at the Music Mart under the Frick dexterous baton was educational, entertaining and memorable. I loved every minute of it.