Hoover’s 1928 Visit Huge Event for SHHS Orchestra

Science Hill High School, after using a variety of names for its school annual, permanently settled on one designation in 1921 – The Wataugan. The name was also used for the student’s monthly publication. The Nov. 1928 edition contained an eye-catching article, “Why Hoover Came to Johnson City.”

Herbert Hoover, the Republican candidate and future one-term (1929-33) 31stpresident, conferred with hundreds of Southern leaders in our city on October 6. It was said to be the most important gathering of Republicans ever held in the South. Hoover delivered an address at National Soldiers Home in the afternoon and then attended a gala all-southern banquet at the John Sevier Hotel.

The students’ wording of the article showed their overt pride for the school orchestra in the opening words of the periodical: “It may have taken Mr. Lovette to bring Mr. Hoover to Elizabethton, but it took Mr. Hoover only a very few minutes to decide to stop in Johnson City when he became aware of the fact that this is the home of the ‘Famous Johnson City High School Little Symphony Orchestra.’ It would be hard to say just who was the most excited on October 6 – Mr. Hoover at the prospect of at last realizing his life long ambition to hear the orchestra play or the members of the orchestra when they realized that they were playing music for most likely the next president of the United States.”

The students deemed Oct. 6 as one of the two most memorable occasions in the career of the orchestra, the other being the night they appeared in a grand concert in Erwin, Tennessee. On that particular night, they all felt as though the impression they would make would become a vital part of area history. consequently, they devoted superfluous attention to their instruments in various and sundry ways.

One student, Mary Emma, “was afraid that Mr. Hoover wouldn’t see and admire Ray.” It was noted that Georgie May and Mr. Hoover had something in common (their ‘figgers’) so they became fast friends on the spot. Margaret Pouder was interested in finding out if Mrs. Hoover was as dignified as a president’s wife should be. Therefore, she humorously demonstrated the fact that a certain port of the body is sometimes made of rubber and rubbernecked to her heart’s content. Hasseltyne Oakes seemed to be instantly smitten by the charms of Allen Hoover, the future president’s son and asked another student, Wilma, if she didn’t esteem the name ‘Allen.’ Wilma concurred, but personally favored the name ‘Harry.”

Mr. Hoover asked many questions about the school orchestra, especially concerning their experience in playing before large crowds and if they had ever made any overnight trips on the train. The somewhat partial students alleged the supreme hit of the evening that caused reporters to buzz and cameras to click repeatedly was the orchestra’s stunning performance featuring 14 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, 1 string bass, 2 flutes, 1 piccolo, 2 clarinets, 2 saxophones, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 French horn, 1 tuba, drums, tympani, bells, organ, 2 harps and a piano.

The student article concluded with a declaration from the students: “The reporters were also astounded at the difficulty of the pieces rendered, which were way beyond most high school orchestras. However, all orchestras are not fortunate in having a Miss Wright and such talented personnel as we.”

That must have been quite a show.