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Old Newspaper Affords a Look Back at Johnson County

While looking through some of my files recently, I found an October 31, 1946, edition of The John-son County News. The front page gives somewhat of a glimpse of Johnson County at the time of the paper’s publication. The slogan for “The News” was “An Independent Newspa-per Devoted to the Best In-terests of Johnson County.” The Johnson County News was one of the names the paper had over the years before it became The Tomahawk in 1956.
One of the main stories on page one was of the passing of beloved Dr. James R. But-ler. Some people who read this column will likely re-member Dr. Butler as he was a well known and well liked physician who trav-eled the highways as well as Johnson County’s remote roads to soothe and heal the sick. House calls in those days were often a part of a small town doctor’s day. A quote from the story says it best: “For forty years, over hill and through vale, in storm and calm, this kindly physician wended his way to soothe the sting of mortal pain…”
Also, on the front page was an admonition to vote in an upcoming election. It is rather appropriate that the paper I found dealt with an election since a Mountain City Municipal election will be coming up in March. The story on the election pointed out that there are millions of people in the world who “would gladly exchange whatever small possessions they may have left to them for our greatest of all American privileges — the right to vote.” The story went on to say that many Americans would forego their right to vote. That was true then and it is no less true now.
As a former sports writer for The Tomahawk, I was very interested in a short article headed “Rogersville Taken By Rangers, 6-0.” Some folks may not know that Johnson County sports teams were once called the Rangers instead of the Longhorns. I don’t know when the name change was made, but according to that October 1946 paper the football team was called the Johnson County High School Rangers. Anyway, the JCHS team did well as it shut out Rogersville on Rogersville’s home turf.
A few weeks ago in my col-umn, I wrote about the rail-road as a means of travel and commerce in Johnson County. Perhaps many pre-sent Johnson County citi-zens were unaware that trains were once a part of the Johnson County scene. In looking at the back page of my old newspaper, I found another mode of transportation that was once popular in the county: busses. Bus service was fur-nished by Greyhound, Fuller and Parkway bus companies. There were bus routes across the Iron Mountain to Bristol, to Statesville via Boone, to Boone with connections to West Jefferson, to Winston-Salem via West Jefferson, to Elizabethton, to Paynes Gap, and to Crackers Neck and Big Dry Run. The bus depot was at Central Drug Company on South Church Street across from where The Tomahawk is currently located.
Oh, and Johnson County once had theatres. Showing at the Taylor Theatre on Monday and Tuesday was “So Goes My Love,” on Wednesday and Thursday was “Night in Paradise,” and on Friday and Saturday was “The Plainsman.” The Taylor Theatre was near where Johnson County Bank is now located.
Although Johnson County and Mountain City has lost trains, busses, theatres and a number of businesses over the years, there have been a number of important posi-tive changes for the area. Heritage Hall is a great asset to Johnson County as it brings a variety of plays, and musical genres to its stage. While the Johnson County High School build-ing is not so new, it was built since the 1946 news-paper was published. The Vocational Center is an-other great asset to Johnson County. Roads and streets were improved over time, three supermarkets have opened since that time and schools have been consoli-dated and improved. Of course, there have been many other positive changes to Johnson County over the years. As is always the case, you loose some and you gain some and changes are inevitable.