By Jack Swift
Looking back on my boyhood days, I see a loving family. Although we were not wealthy in the material sense, we never lacked for good food, adequate clothing or shelter. If we weren’t wealthy, we didn’t realize it because there was more than enough love to go around. I have been blessed with the very best mother and father a son could have. The sacrifices they made for me are many and I will never forget it. Much of the knowledge they possessed was of the heart and not just of the brain alone. Although they may never have done great things in the eyes of the world, they have left their mark and the world is a better place because of their influence.”
Those are my words that were entered into the first Johnson County History Book published by the Johnson County Historical Society in 1986. I’ve written much about that book and the two others that have been published since: one in 2000 and the latest in 2015. All three volumes are for sale at the Johnson County Welcome Center on South Shady Street here in Mountain City. All three contain a wealth of family histories as well as a great deal of interesting information about Johnson County.
In this column I want to mention by family and how blessed I was to be a part of it. My father, Isaac Allen Swift, worked hard to raise his family, as did my mother, Carrie Emiline Harper Swift. Both of them knew what hard work was and they were not averse to it. I had a brother, Charles Ray Swift, who passed away September 10, 1990. He too was a hard worker who had many friends. He was my only sibling. He worked at many jobs and farmed on the side. One of the most interesting jobs he held as a young man was making cement blocks. Mr. Blain Cole owned a small block factory about three miles out of Mountain City on Highway 67. It was a simple machine that made one block at a time. I understand that some buildings in Johnson County used some of those blocks.
As I remember, there were two main parts of the plant: The concrete mixer and the block mold. A certain formula of sand, concrete and water were mixed together to a certain consistency. The mixture was then poured into the mold, extracted from the mold and then dried. Before drying, the blocks were very fragile. But after being dried, they were very strong. The block making took place in about the early ‘50s if I remember right. Perhaps there were other block factories then, but probably none as small. Other jobs my brother had were at Lukens Steel Mill, Coatesville, Pennsylvania; General Motors, Wilmington, Delaware; Lincoln Industries, Damascus, Virginia; Blue Ridge Shoe Company and Timberland Shoe Company, Mountain City, Tennessee. He married Nora Mae Jennings and they have a daughter, Deborah Flanders of Sherman, Texas and a son Gregory of Powell, Tennessee. Both are graduates of Tennessee Technological University of Cookeville, Tennessee.