Opening the Yesteryear Mailbag: Seven Press Readers Respond

Today’s column contains seven responses from Press readers. Several contain requests for information.

I received a photo of a dance band from about 1946 from an anonymous person who identified some of the musicians: Front row, l to r: Phil West (clarinet and tenor sax), Buddy Beasley (tenor sax), (unknown 1) and Patty Smithdeal (alto sax). Middle row: (unknown 2), Ruth Barr (trumpet), (unknown 3) and (unknown 4). Back row- Gene “Fergie” Young and (unknown 5. The photo was likely taken at the Franklin Club in Elizabethton. Who was JB?

Frank Campbell sent me a postcard of the Beverly Court and Coffee Shop that was once located at N. Roan and Sunset Drive. He found three cards in the building that once housed the motel. The card says, “25 units, tub and shower. Tile baths, radios, fans, steam and electric heat. Phone 2166 and 9175.”  

West’s July 4, 2004 obituary notice stated that he was oboist, arranger and Professor Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music and served as artist/faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival. His wife, violinist Carole Cowan, survived him. His first wife was the late mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani. To say the least, he had an impressive career.

Thomas Beckner, a Science Hill classmate of mine and whose family operated the successful Beckner’s Jewelers at 232 E. Main for many years, commented that growing up in Johnson City when we did was really great. “I used to walk to Junior High School from our house at 914 Holston Avenue,” he said. “It took about 30 minutes and along the way I would join up with Bill Wood and some other guys. Then we would walk home in the afternoon.

“I recall how vibrant the downtown area was in our day. Do you recall the first Kristal-type hamburger place in Johnson City? It was across from the old Hamilton Bank building on E. Main Street. I think they were five or ten cent each. I can still recall the smell of the place.” 

Bill Cooper noted that his son came home from a used bookstore with an original oil painting that was stamped, “A Prof. Kingfish Creation.” The backer board for the painting had a date of 1967. He commented on my article that said the Professor (Bill Marrs) adopted a hobby of painting and photographing areas of East Tennessee following a heart attack. Cooper was wondering if the painting is a “collectible.” It is nice to know that Bill’s paintings can still be found.

Richard Howie wrote that he had two great uncles, Louis M. Lecka and Charles M. Lecka who were brothers who lived in Johnson City. They were both from Albania. Their parents were Michael and Katkerin Michell Lecka. Louis owned a restaurant at 104 Fountain Square during the 1920's to the 1950s.  Not residing in Johnson City, Richard was clueless about where Fountain Square was located until finding out that it was the center of town on the railroad. Another location that interested him was 111 Spring Street, which housed the Sanitary Barber Shop. 

Frank Santore, Jr. asked me if I would do a story on Ed Carter, the popular former WJHL television newsman. He later moved to Columbia, SC where he became equally well liked over WIS-TV, the NBC affiliate, as their primary anchorman between 1972 and 1998. I chatted with Ed several years ago after a chance meeting with him in Columbia’s main downtown library. 

Bill Perham asked for information about the Publix grocery stores in the area. Soon after moving here about 10 years ago, he noticed a warehouse downtown with a faded “PUBLIX” painted on it.  He asked several people about it, but was unable to get much information. Bill said he was a big fan of the Publix Grocery chain, which originally started in Florida.

If you have information to share about any of these subjects, please pass it along for future columns. My e-mail address is on the home page.