By Paula Walter
Johnson County’s Jack Swift grew up in Johnson County. Not only was Jack born here in Mountain City, but so were his parents, Carrie Emoline Harper and Isaac Alan Swift. He had one brother Ray, who passed away in 1990.
Jack went to Dewey Elementary School. According to Jack, there were two classrooms and two teachers, along with a principal. One room was designated for grades one through four, and the second room was for students in grades five through eight. Jack recalled the students had to use outside facilities, outhouses, as there was no indoor plumbing.
Jack’s worked for seven years at the Blueridge Shoe Company for seven years before starting at The Tomahawk Newspaper. His newspaper career began in the circulation department as manager. “I did all aspects of circulation,” Jack said. He then moved on to selling advertising, making ads and helping lay out the paper. “We had to be sure the papers got into the customers’ hands,” he stated. At that time, laying out the pages for print was a long and tedious process.
Jack was appointed sports editor by then editor Deidra Smith. “I had to cover sports as best I could,” Jack stated. “I would cover games, and then come into The Tomahawk late at night to write the stories. I mainly covered football, basketball, and baseball at the high school level.”
Jack worked at The Tomahawk newspaper for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2003. According to Jack, one of the highlights of his newspaper career was getting to meet lots of interesting people. “There were some things I liked,” he stated. “By and large, I enjoyed it.”
Jack recalled the long, laborious task of laying out the pages before everything became computerized. According to Jack, headlines were printed one letter at a time on a circular device. According to Jack, the newspaper pages came out on photographic film. “We had a little dark room there,” he recalled. “You had to keep light from getting in.” The film was then dunked into a tub of developer. You would then put it in water that contained a chemical to stabilize the film.” According to Jack, it took a long time to print the newspaper. “I missed the paper and the people, but I didn’t miss the deadlines,” Jack recalled. “I’d like to express my gratitude to the McClouds for giving me the opportunity to work at The Tomahawk.
“All this is memory, “ he said. “Sometimes the memory is good; sometimes it’s not so good.”
It wasn’t long after his retirement when Jack, who happens to be Johnson County’s historian, started his column This ‘n’ That, for the paper. “I started writing the column the last day of 2003, “ he said. Although Jack enjoyed reporting on sports, his This ‘n’ That column continues to be his favorite writing for the paper.