Cy Lyle, Former Comet Editor, Spoke to Kiwanis Club in 1931

I love to read old newspapers because I never know what I might come across. Such was the case when I examined an article in an April 1931 Johnson City Staff-News titled “Major Lyle Is Chief Speaker for Kiwanis – Old Resident Describes Development of City from Days of Long Ago.”

Major Cy H. Lyle, former editor of the city’s first daily newspaper, The Comet, offered interesting tidbits to the club of the development of Johnson City from a diminutive village of less than 400 people to a thriving town of almost 30,000. The occasion was the Kiwanis Club’s regular luncheon meeting Wednesday noon at the John Sevier Hotel.

Fortunately for club members, he offered very specific information about the city’s growth from 1887 until 1931. However, regrettably for newspaper readers, the account provided a dearth of specific information about the history he was so fluently discussing.

The noted newspaperman supplied details of the city’s gradual growth from the days when the town consisted of the Hoss House, a single water tank (used for trains at Johnson’s Depot), a water ram (hydraulic pump that operates without electricity) and a few scattered houses. Lyle further related numerous anecdotes involving some of the early citizens. Again, the newspaper writer saw fit not to mention their names or what they said. Cy proceeded to describe the struggles of producing a daily paper.

Major Lyle depicted the various residences and business buildings that sprang up as Johnson City grew, relating specifically where each one had stood. The newspaper indicated that older members of the club enjoyed his address because they remembered the things he said. Younger members were also interested because they had heard about them from hearsay.

Lyle recalled the days when Bob Taylor, Augustus Herman Pettibone (member of the United States House of Representatives for the 1st congressional district of Tennessee) and others engaged in heated political battles.

 “I quote these facts from memory,” said Lyle, “but there is none here who can dispute them. I can remember Johnson City from 1878, when I went to work for the Jonesboro Times. I moved to Johnson City in 1881 and lived here much of the time since.”

After Lyle concluded his speech, Mayor W.B. Ellison, who was in charge of program entertainment, introduced some pupils from West Side School The young artists gave a varied program, including a piano and xylophone number, the chorus from a song titled “The Levve,” a reading called “Moonlight on the Colorado” and a song by a quartet of harmonica players.

F. Stewart Crosley, newly elected governor of the Kentucky-Tennessee district, was introduced by president and businessman F.B. Hannah and, in a brief response to a standing tribute by the club, expressed his intention of carrying out the agenda launched by the late Dr. E.B. Bowery, whom he succeed in office.

Afterward, the president handled several items of business. One was an invitation from the Miami Kiwanis Club for the Johnson City members to attend the international meeting in that city sometime in May. District trustees Charles Edwards of Kingsport, L.M. Allred of Erwin and Walter Hunter of Kingsport were present to name a successor to the post of lieutenant governor. It was announced that W.T. Watkins won the award for having the greenest necktie at the previous gathering.

The meeting concluded on a humorous note. Ralph Carr was introduced as the club’s “Baby Kiwanian.”