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Monday, April 2, 2007

Previous Posts

Previous Riverview Oral Histories can be seen by clicking the "Older Posts" link below.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Riverview Oral Histories #17: Jerome Pierce, Community Barber

I was born and raised in Old Kingsport which is located at the foot of Bays Mountain. We had our own school and church we attended until it closed, that's when I came up here to school. I attended Douglass School on Walnut Street. After school, I joined the Civil Conservation Corps and served in the Army during World War II.

When I came home in 1946 the first set of Riverview apartments had been built. I came back to Kingsport to live in 1951. I bought a house at 229 Carver Street and that is where I still live today. I've seen so many things change through the years. I enjoyed sitting on my porch and watching the children play, and exchanging conversation with people passing by. Years ago on Easter Sunday, the little boys and girls would walk around all day with their new clothes on carrying their Easter baskets. You don't see that anymore, I just don't see the young kids running and playing outside until dark and parents have to call them to come inside. The most pleasant thing I saw was how people took care of their property and how they took responsibility raising their children.

My three daughters (Staralee, Sherry & Aleea) all attended Douglass School. My son (Jerome Jr.) and I always enjoyed going to the Boys Club when it was at Douglass. All my children enjoyed it when I took them to the Douglass football and basketball games. My wife, Lizzie and I were active in the PTA. I was the president of the PTA for two years, one year with the assistance of Alene Sneed, and Inez Ervin we were able to get Wilma Rudolph as the speaker for the athletlics banquet, and the next year Mr. Gill helped us get one of the basketball players from Tennessee A & I as our guest speaker.

Another thing we used to do for the families in the community was a Christmas Dinner at the American Legion. Most people called it 'The Hut", but as members of Burdine Post #123, we liked entertaining the children. We also had one day, Thursday I think it was, that we could take our kids to the carnival when it came to town. On that day we had to operate the rides and sale the refreshments ourselves, but we didn't mind as long as our children got to enjoy the fun.

I used to let the Scat Cats practice in the back room of my house, now that was something.. listening to those young men go over and over the latest songs so they could play at a dance somewhere that weekend. They played for black and white organizations.

The one thing I did early in my life after moving to Riverview was to cut hair. I attendedTurpin Barber College in Richmond, Virginia in the late 1940's. I used to cut all of the little boys hair, Saturday was of course the busiest day. The fathers and sons would come, some mothers and sons and there was always the group of boys that got together after playing all morning that came in. I tell you those kids would have sand in their hair from playing in the sandbox.. it was really something, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I see some of those same young men today and they are not only grown, but some are retired. Later I used to go around to the sick and shut in, Dewey Long, Mr. Woods and others and cut their hair. Time seems to pass so fast. I'm 86 years old now, and I hung up my clippers a long time ago. But I still enjoy it when people stop by just to say hello.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Riverview Oral Histories #16: Mrs. Shirley Burnette Powers

PHOTO AT LEFT: In the 1952 Douglass Annual, Mrs. Shirley Burnette Powers is in the second row, on the right hand side.

MRS. SHIRLEY POWERS: First, I want to thank Mr. Calvin Sneed for giving me the opportunity to write about my history in Kingsport, TN as I can remember it. My name is Shirley Burnette Powers. My husband is Wallace Powers. We live in Chattanooga, TN. We have three grown Children who live and work in other states, Denise, Ben and Cindy Powers. My parents were Mr. & Mrs.William (Jack)(Lena) Burnette. I am one of eight children. We lived in the area of Kingsport, down below the Kingsport Press, where my father worked for 44 years. The name of the street is Roller Street. My fathers parents lived down there, Mr. & Mrs. Will (Lucy) Burnette. My Mothers parents, Mr. & Mrs Claude (Mattie) Ray and the other families, to name a few who were our neighbors then were, Mr. & Mrs. Henry (Viola) Summers, and children, Mrs. Della Lee and Children, Mrs. Viola Summers mother. We lovedto play all day together, when we could. My grandparents and the other families mentioned, moved to Riverview about the same time. One day in 1941, my daddy's brother, Mr. Herman Burnette, who worked for the Kingsport Times told my sister, Gwen, (Mrs. Gwendolyn Norwood) now, she was the oldest and I was next to the oldest, that he was going to take us to Riverview the next day to see where we were going to move and live. It was truly one of the highlights of my life. First I was thrilled to see the Playground right in front of the Apartment where we were going to live and thrilled again at the large apartment we were going to move in. Our next door neighbors were Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Cartwright. They lived in Apartment 53 and we lived in Apartment 54. We had the largest Apartments. Later, when the Cartwright family moved out of their apartment, we moved in. We had more bedrooms and our brother, Mr. Major Burnette had his own room. My other brother, passed away when we lived on Roller Street at 9 months old. His name was Winford Burnette. The other sisters were Mrs. Phyllis Jackson, Mrs. Annette Johnson, Mrs. Jackie Hicks, & Mrs. Deborah Malone. Some things were already mentioned, which I will not repeat. We loved Wednesdays in Riverview because the "Picture Man" would come in the evening and show movies, where the Playground was. We always had a wonderful time on the Playground and when it was time to go to school, we walked, and did not mind the snow or rain. We had no other way to get to school. I remember Fred & Mandy's store and Luke & Mary's store going to and from school, we would sometimes be able to stop, if we had some money. We would all share with each other. In Riverview we loved going to Mr. Collins' store, Edges Place owned by Rev. Edge, one of my pastors at the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church and the Midway Grill, owned by Mr. Paul Taylor. When they built the swimming pool in Riverview that was a plus, because we could not attend the other pool in the city. I remember our parents allowing us to go to Clay Hill, now it is Bays Mountain, to pick blackberries. My mother made blackberry pies, dumplings and she also canned blackberry jam and jelly, which were all delicious. My favorite teacher in school was Mrs. Scoggins. I thought it was real special when we moved from Riverview, to 953 Maple Street, she and her family lived across the street from us. Even though we had second hand books, we were taught well by our teachers because they cared about us. I won a financial award from a speaking contest. I won first place and because of my grade average, I received a scholorship to attend Knoxville College. I graduated from Douglass High School in 1952. Because of the typing skills I learned at Douglass, I was able to get a job as a typist at the Church on campus typing the bulletin every week. I graduated from college and began my work career by teaching in the Chattanooga School system as my first job. I loved the way all parents and teachers were concerned about the students. I said all this to say, with the help of all parents and teachers who were concerned about us, you can always make it if you try. In our neighborhood you were corrected by all adults, not just your parents. This helped you to become a better person. I was a member of Douglass High Band. The first Band. The Director was Mr. Shannon, I played the french horn. One unusual thing about our uniforms was that all the girls in the band wore skirts instead of pants. We were proud of our Director and our Band and the whole town was proud. We had a Bible teacher who taught a Bible class in all the Schools. I was in a play in High School with my cousin, Mr. Lawrence Ervin and Mr.Hugh Hord. I don't remember the name of the play but it was one of the best. I can remember how we had to practice and practice at each others house, because we had the lead parts. Now as I look back over that experience, it proves that you can do what ever you decide you want to do. I did not think we could do what we did. Don't pass up an opportunity to learn and gain experiences. I worked at the MidwayGrill, the swimming pool, the Central Baptist Church Nursery with Mrs. Betsy Sneed, the Director. She was Horace Sneed's mother, and other places, which helped me with my needs in high school and college along with my parents being there always. We were grateful to have a public Library in Riverview. Mrs. Helen Hickman was the Director. We always look forward to the summer, when school was out. The Churches would schedule Vacation Bible School, one week after the other. We attended from 9 AM to 12:00. Trips were sponsored to Trammell's Farm sometimes afterwards. Mr. Sam Trammell's parents had a farm near Kingsport, and we loved to go there. Mr. Sam Trammell was Mr. & Mrs. Cartwright's nephew. So he and his family were close to us also and we all grew up together. Mr. & Mrs. Sam Trammel owns Hardricks & Sons Funeral Home now in Chattanooga, TN. Mrs. Gertrude Trammell is the Director. Along with my Parents, the Church and School had the greatest impact on my life. We went to Sunday School and Church every Sunday unless we were sick. Everybody did.. We attended all services and activities on Sunday, including evening services. We sang in the Youth Choirs. We learned our Easter and Christmas speeches and were excited when it was time to say them. I will always remember what going to church meant to me. Another wonderful experience for us was our Church and others sponsored trips to Chattanooga, Tn to go to Lincoln Park. We would look forward to it, because we could not believe there was a Park that had all the rides and activities, and it was owned and run by Blacks. I have so many memories I would love to share, but most of all I always thanked my parents and everyone who had a part in making an impression on my life. Again, thank you Mr. Sneed for this opportunity. May God Bless you.

Riverview Oral Histories #15: Mrs. Helen Bunting

PHOTO AT RIGHT: Unidentified children pose for a picture in the Riverview Apartments.

MRS. HELEN BUNTING: I grew up in Riverview on Carver Street. I remember when there were dirt roads, and I also remember when the streets were first paved over with blacktop. When it would rain, we would play in that dirty water.. we would pretend we were swimming. Across the street from where we lived, there was a woody area and my youngest brother Eddie and my nieces Yvonne and Charlyne and my nephew Jimmy who are about my age, would play over there, catch tadpoles and pick blackberries. There were very few houses in Riverview. When my family came to Kingsport, they lived on Maple Street and they moved to Riverview when I was about four years old. My father, Willard C. Long, Sr., and my mother Ressie (Hoard) Long moved to Kingsport from Hawkins County, three of my brothers, Walter, Willard and Cecil and one sister Roberta, were all born in Hawkins County, and my sister Virginia was born in Virginia. My brother Eddie and I were born in Kingsport on Maple Street. The youngest sibling in my family, Charles, was born when we lived on Carver Street.. he died as a baby. I played mostly down in Riverview because that is where my nieces lived and in my backyard and front yard on Carver Street. We would play ring games, we would play jack rocks on the porch, we would draw hopscotch on the sidewalk, ride bikes and skate. I liked mostly everything about Riverview, even when the streets flooded because I liked playing in that dirty water. I didn't know it was a bad thing. The Underpath had a horrible ordor (people would use the bathroom under there and it would flood). We had to use the Underpath to go to Sunday School because our family belonged to Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church, and to get there from Riverview, you had to use the Underpath. When I was in first grade, I went a half-year of school at the old Douglass School, at the corner of Walnut (now East Sevier) and the old Bristol Highway (now Center Street). We still had to use the Underpath. After Christmas that year in 1950, I attended the new Douglass School on Washington Street (now Louis Street) in Riverview, and we no longer had to use the Underpath. After Sunday School, we would go to the movies and we'd have to use it, sometimes we would walk the tracks, which was really forbidden. When the Underpath was flooded, we would climb over and walk the railroad tracks. I remember walking down to Emmitt Collins' store to buy candy. I remember going to Paul Taylor's store to buy things. I remember going down in Riverview to the sprinkler, playing, going to the wading pool and on Wednesday night to watch movies., we would take a blanket to sit on. I think the reason they really built a pool in Riverview was because Johnny Hall drowned.. he went to the Holston River to swim and drowned. Another reason was probably so we would stay in Riverview at that time. We have some people from our community that because somewhat famous. Brothers Stick McGhee and Brownie McGhee. Stick had a song called"Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee." Brownie played with Sonny Terry, he also wrote the sound track for the movie "Buck and the Preacher, starring Harry Belafonte and Sidney Portier. My sister Virginia's brother-in-law, Johnny Cartwright who's originally from Kingsport, played with Harry Belafonte's band for several years. Lesley Riddle of Kingsport was an African-American guitar player who directly influenced the (A.P.) Carter family. We had several black doctors.. Dr. Massey lived in the projects.. he had five kids and I played with his kids. There was Dr. Todd, he would come to our house, make house calls. There was a black woman doctor named Dr.Francis, and also Doctor Faust. Mr. Palmer was a coach at Douglass, helived on Carver Street and I played with his kids. During the month of July, the carnival would come to town and there was one night that was called COLORED NIGHT. The white American Legion would sponsor the carnival, but would let the Black American Legion have one night proceeds. Because my father was the commander of the American Legion and my mother was the president of the Ladies Auxilliary, they would take me to the carnival on that day. We would stay all day. The proceeds from that night's activities would go to the Black American Legion. The building where the American Legion had meetings and other activities was called "The Hut." There are good things that happened becuase of integration, we received a few more opportunities. The bad thing was, we lost part of our culture.They tore down the old Douglass Street (on East Sevier), the Black teachers lost jobs, the Black businesses are all gone, and the Douglass Yearbooks and trophies are all missing. Douglass School was named after Frederick Douglass and that school name is gone.. now there is Dobyns-Bennett, named after local white men.

Riverview Oral Histories #14: Mrs. Nora Mae Taylor Alexander

PHOTO AT RIGHT: The old Dairy Mart ice cream parlor owned by Jason and Nora Mae Taylor on Lincoln Street. The former 229 Club was the last tenant.


When I first saw the Riverview Community, I was living across town. My husband (Jason Taylor) and I drove over to the community. There were only four houses over there and street names had just been assigned. Riverview was divided into four streets eastward: Wheatley, Louis, Carver and Dunbar. I remember three houses being on Dunbar, Mr. Nelson Smith, Mr. and Mrs.Nathan Byrd, and Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stafford's. In 1945, Jimmy Quillen had built two duplex apartment buildings on each street. We moved to Riverview in 1945, after we built our house. The school and the project housing were built about the same time. On Dunbar Street in 1945, Jason Taylor's house, Mr. Dobbins, Mr. Sneed and his sons, Mr. Preston Collins and Mr. Alfred Smith lived here. The rest of the neighborhood was built later. Mrs. Bessie Hipps gave the community the name Riverview because the river could be seen, so she said. Actually, the river was on Industry Drive below Riverview. Paul Taylor and Mrs. (Cora) Cox had a dry cleaning business and a grocery store and Midway Grill, an eating place. The people from the brickyard ate beans there every day. Mr. Emmitt Collins had agrocery store, too. JasonTaylor built the Dairy Mart where milkshakes, sundaes and hot dogs were sold. The swimming pool was open and very busy. Rev. Edge had a store where hamburgers and hot dogs were sold to the school children. Mr. Hodgehad a coal business, that Oscar McClintock later turned into a barbershop. Mr. Horace Curry turned his building into a mortuary, and now it's Robinson's Funeral Home there, beside the Elk's Lodge. At the time, the pleasant part of Riverview was Cement Hill before they started digging. It was like a nature sanctuary full of birds, wilderness and woods. We enjoyed the wild apples, strawberries and blackberries. The young children used to play out there.. Helen Stafford (later Patterson),Virginia Phipps and Nathan Bly were children back then. Riverview began to grow after people built houses on the lots they had purchased. The unpleasant part of Riverview was the dumpsite, where the Eastman Credit Union is standing today (on the other side of Wilcox Drive). I was pleased to get the swimming pool in the community back in the1950's. Mrs. Cox had a store in which we had the Boys Club meetings. Mrs. Leola Allen started the Women's Service League at Rev. Edge's store. She also started up a YWCA for women who came from out of town to stay, while they worked. This was part of the Women's Service League's functions. The Dairy Mart was located where the old 229 Club is now. Riverview also had four African-American doctors at that time. They were Dr. Francis, Dr.Faust, Dr. Todd and Dr. Massey.

Riverview Oral Histories #13: Mrs. Mamie Gillenwater

PHOTO AT LEFT: The Riverview Apartments, 2007. The three sets of apartments in the picture were the first built in 1940.

When we first moved in, back in the 1940's, there was just one street and we had one telephone that was down the street. Nobody had anything andthere was a stockyard down the road and we didn't have street lights for about a year. We got along good, we used to have screen doors that went to the floor and we could sleep with our doors open and our screen doors shut, but you can't do that now. It's all bad and you can't hardly stay here without it being awful. It's been like that for the past three years. We purchased our property from the Kingsport Housing Authority and we only paid nine dollars a month, and $1.50 for a phone. We didn't have any lights and we had to dust because of the roads every day. They finally had the funeral home and the grocery store and the Elks Club.

Riverview Oral Histories #12: O.M. and Ann Gillenwater

PHOTO AT BOTTOM: An aerial view of the Riverview Apartments, 1963. Lincoln Street is at the bottom from left to right, Louis Street is the street on the left, Carver Street on the right, and Douglass Street at the top. After living there for several years, O.M. and Ann Gillenwater eventually moved into the house at the top, just left of

O. M. GILLENWATER: Riverview is not like it used to be. Everybody was neighborly, but now you can't trust everybody. We lived in Riverview Apartments #12, and that was Carver Street, but there was no street, it was nothing but field. When I came back from the service, there was a drive-in theater. The drive-in was right over there where Buntney (Nathan) Bly lived, Buntney and Nathan Harris both had houses over on that side (of Wheatley Street). Back in those days, you'd just go to anybody's house and you were welcome as far as that goes. If somebody would have something for their children like a birthday party, you could go uninvited, everybody's welcome, out in the yard, have a picnic out in the yard, backyard, front yard, whatever, and you could leave home and not worry about anybody going in.

ANN GILLENWATER: When I came to Kingsport, (Emmitt) Collins had the store, Paul (Taylor) had the restaurant up the street, that was the only place to go until the Edge's came and put in a restaurant and he had rooms upstairs. Children had somewhere to go to eat hamburgers and sit and listen to music. Rev. Edge died in 1985, the restaurant went down, there wasn't no where the childeren could go, unless they could go to town to loiter awhile. Rev. Edge, he would show Christian movies and everything, and he would have something at the Masonic Hall at Christmas. Rev. Edge would give the children a party down there, he would furnish everything himself and he would need help, I helped most of the time. He would have homemade ice cream, and keep the restaurant open on Sunday evening for them. I neverhad any problem with, but one of them. We got along good with the children, REv. Edge would tell me "you'd better watch (name deleted)." I said "OK, I don't worry about (name deleted." (In Riverview) I lived down in Apartment 40, the streets were not paved and the gravel roads, people would get out there and speed up and down there, you couldn't sleep for that noise that they would make on those gravels. I didn't have a car, so driving was no problem.

O.M. GILLENWATER: First people that had cars in Riverview, were Rev. Stokely, Rev. Edge,and Preston Collins.

ANN GILLENWATER: You could ride a cab for 25 or 50 cents.. The price now, I would be afraid to call one now.

O.M. GILLENWATER: Right there where the church (Central) is now, I used to hunt all in there. Me and Dewey Long hunted all the time, up, plum up to the Brickyard. Before the pavement come around, they used to have hog pens, and I would go when the time come, I'd get my little 22 and go out and shoot 'em. It happened right down across the street from the Holiness Church. There used to be a woods over there by the school (the newDouglass), before Eastman bought in there, that's where the pond was. There used to be a branch, run right down through this way. I would set my dogs in there where the junkyard was, the rabbits would come down through there and I would shoot them. All that used to be woods and the junkyard right over in there. The house where we live now, Mr. Adams built this one. Woods were the first people to live here, then Palmers, then Ruffins. They rented from the Adams, Ruben was their boy's name. Mr. Palmer was a coach at Douglass High School.

SPECIAL NOTE: O.M. Gillenwater passed away shortly after recording his oral history for Discovering Our Community. His testimonial above is in tribute to his memory by all Douglass alumni.

Riverview Oral Histories #11: Mrs. Louetta Hall

PHOTO AT RIGHT: Aerial view of Douglass School, 1963. Louis Street is running diagonally to the right. That's Wheatley Street to the left.
The junkyard is down in the lower left corner.


When I became aware of my surroundings as a child, Riverview was what I would consider country, with fields of weeds, wild fruit trees and all kinds of berries and swampy areas. What the children did for fun was explore, snakes and insects were plentiful and the boys had no fear, the girls loved to capture butterflies, June bugs and lightning bugs for school projects like science and biology. The families in the housing had flowers in their yards, they had bars, gardens, hog pins and chicken coops. They raised most of their food, canning was common, people also enjoyed hunting small game like rabbits and fished out of the Holston River. These were educated people, but the only jobs were janitorial and domestic work, unless you were a preacher or a teacher. There was interchange. The white citizens came to Riverview most of the time for business. There were peddlers selling their fruits and vegetables, the Dixie Ice Cream Wagon, the ice man would sell blocks of ice, and there was the milk wagon. I remember Nurse Sullivan from the Health Department would come and check on the children when they had contagious deseases like measles, mumps and chicken pox. I especially remember Mr. Bennett, one of many door-to-door salesmen. He sold household items out of his car from the Bennett Store. Most people had accounts with him, not to mention the insurance man. I could tell some hilarious stories about him. Sunday's, a photographer by the name of Ralph Lee took pictures. On Wednesday's, I don't remember the gentleman's name, but he would come to Riverview with his reel-to-reel projector, and as part of our entertainment, we would take our chairs to the middle of the field there in Riverview and he would show us movies. That was always fun and something to look forward to. The community was blessed with talent. We had tap dancing contests, the guys would do a rhythm dance called the Hambone, beauty contests, talent shows, music festivals and quartet singing, and of course sports events and a lot of church events. The main fundraisers were fish fries, bake sales and donations. Our school pride soared when they built the new Douglass School in 1951. Our principal, Mr. V.O. Dobbins made us take care of it. We were proud to have people like Mahalia Jackson and Wilma Rudolph come to our school for special events. We had some of the best teachers in town, who not only taught the curriculum, but taught us about people and how to get along with others. They didn't mind correcting you, and respect was a must. In the latter 60's, integration was gradually taking place, and there were a lot of first's. The first Black store clerk in town, Linda Lee Cox worked at Fuller and Hillman. The first store to open lunch counters to African-Americans in Kingsport was the F. W. Woolworth's. That was the first lunch counter that we could go and sit down and eat with no problem.

Riverview Oral Histories #10: Mr. William Hickman

PHOTO ABOVE: The Old Masonic Lodge and American Legion Post, that Mr. Hickman remembers, also had a brick mason school with day and night classes for returning black servicemen coming home from World War II. Brick mason instructors included Mr. Stevens and"Pop"Fields.

MR. WILLIAM HICKMAN: When I first came to Riverview, we used to ride our bicycles around because there wasn't any houses or any cars or anything over here, no sidewalks or anything. There were only two houses I believe in Riverviewat the time. The houses were Ms. (Lillie) Smith and I believe Mr. Jim Stafford were the only two houses that were in Riverview, all the rest of the place was empty fields. I don't know too much about the naming of the streets, I think Jim Stafford had a lot too do with the naming of the streets and things like that, becuase maybe him and Mr. Dobbins did things like that. My grandmother and grandfather came over from North Carolina, and Idon't know who they bought their property from. Back then, Riverview was a good place for me to ride my bicycle. At first all the students from Riverview had to go under the Underpath to go to Douglass on Walnut, I mean East Sevier, until they built the new school. And then it was reversed. All the students from (across town) had to use the Underpath to come to the new Douglass. The whites found out the Blacks were going to be right in the center in Kingsport, we couldn't buy no other property no where else, only two blocks of Walnut Street (East Sevier) or Maple Street that they would let us build on, so they had to find somewhere to move us. We had a lot of undesirable homes there that people were living iin over there on Walnut Street. Old man Dykes, he would build little old cardboard houses and rent to people and you could almost see the floor, they were so shabby. Before they built the apartments in Riverview, Jim Ross built him a little house over here and it was a pond where he watered his cows and things out of that pond, it was more or less a creek or something. It looked like a little lake at times. I was drafted in 1943, and when I got back, things had changed. In the American Legion building, we had a brick mason school where veterans that came out of the service could go and learn skilled labor. They built Mr. Callahan's house for him. The people that went to brick school, that was for training, they built, they laid the brick for the Callahan's. One of the instructors, we called him Pop Fields. Mr. Stevens taught the day class, it go so big they had a day and a night class. People came from Greeneville, Morristown, Rogersville all over to do masonry work.

Riverview Oral Histories #9: Mr. Nathan and Mrs. Alma Bly

PHOTO AT LEFT: Nathan Bly remembers the old Underpath, and wishes the city would build a nice new, wider walkway, like they did for Eastman down the railroad tracks at Konnarock Road, and the PHOTO AT TOP RIGHT: At Central Baptist Church, Alma Bly remembers the Youth Choir directed by Mrs. Ethel Walton Daniels back in the 50's. The front building is the former Sanctuary, and the new Sanctuary is in the rear.

NATHAN BLY: My first memory of Riverview actually, I stayed over here with my grandmother. I wasn't a true resident yet, because I lived where we used to call across town, the Highway, with my mother. We also lived on Walnut Street. I spend most of my younger life with my grandmother in Riverview back during the 1950's, maybe a little earlier than the 1950's. I can remember when Riverview was first built. There wasn't a large number of apartment buildings such as it is now. If I'm not mistaken, there was just the section down on Lincoln Street, Carver Street and across. I believe it's Booker Street at the present time. That is all that was here, 56 apartments. At that time, there really wasn't anything else over here. All of that area was just open grassfields, sage grass, there were a lot of chicken coops, hog pens, things of that nature. That's the only thing people had to more or less survive back in those days. I can remember when the milk man used to deliver milk and they would bring milk in jars, and you would set your cans out on the porch and that'show you got your milk. I remember when the ice man would come around and sell you 50 pounds of a block of ice to put in our refrigerator, your so-called refrigerator, wasn't anything but an ice box. You put the ice up in the top and it kept everyting else cold. One of the good things back then, was no such thing as locking your doors. Everyone was family. Everybody knew and respected each other. There wasn't any stealing or any drugs or anything like that. It was an enjoyable childhood over here (in Riverview). We played in the field, which is now a parking lot that was the main playfield for all the kids. There is one thing that just about every kid in Riverview did when the sun set. You went home. Riverview wasa great place to live. I can remember in the younger days, when we were going to the Old Douglass (on East Sevier). My Aunt Virginia would take me to the Old Douglass. I wasn't even old enough to go to school. There were so many good times. It seems like there may have been people who lived what we called "across town," which we called "The Highway" (it was actually Sullivan Street). They were always into it with Riverview. When you go to Oak Hill, Sullivan Street, when you got to the bottom of Oak Hill, you were in Riverview territory, but when you got to the top of the hill, you were in the territory of "across town," which I didn't have any problem because I was part of both. There were some great times at Old Douglass on Walnut. We celebrated holidays like the Fourth of July, and also there was a Negro's Holiday we always celebrated on the 8th of August. That was when the communities from both sections of town where Blacks lived would get together. There would be croquet matches, checker matches, tennis, volleyball, badmitten, cardplaying, and everybody enjoyed those holidays. When we moved to the new Douglass, I think it was January of 1951, it was a state-of-the-art school. We had chemical labs, a home economics room, we had a library, history rooms, a cafeteria, a gymnasium and all kinds of nice classrooms. It was a good building, it was something we were proud of. When our school was built, that was the only new Black high school that was built in the whole Tri-City area. We had good teachers and a good place to learn, too. The most devastating eyesore was having to pass by the junkyard coming into Riverview. That was the only way into here. The only other way was the Underpath, and it was highly grown up, swampy and not that much improvement has been done to it as of today. They need to fix that Underpath, just as they did where the Eastman Research Building is and that underpass (beside Konnorock Road), a nice and clean dry area with the sidewalk and everything. It could be done the same way over there if someone would make the city spend some money to do this. It needs to be cleaned up, where it would be a better way for people who still have to walk through that area to go to town.

ALMA BLY: I remember Lincoln Street, I guess between the late 1940's and early 50's, it was the main Black Business District. We had the two-story Elks Lodge, on the first floor there was a nursery school. We had The Hut, theMasonic Hall and the Esquire Building. Later on, we had the Midway Grill, where I worked as a waitress. It was owned by Paul and Minerva Taylor. They also owned the Band Box Cleaners and I worked there, too. And then, there was the ice cream parlor owned by Jason and Nora Mae Taylor. Next door to that, Rev. Edge had a restaurant. We also had the Elks Club and Oscar McClintock owned a barber shop. Horace Curry had a mortuary, and Emmitt Collins had a store. Ethel Walton Daniels did hair on Saturday morning upstairs over the Masonic Hall. She did very, very good work, and everybody tried to get appointments with her. Even back before that, Ms. Ethel Walton Daniels directed the Youth Choir at Central Baptist Church. Rev. Parks was the pastor, and we were little children. She would get us all together, and we all wore little polka-dot blouses and black skirts. We practiced every Saturday and sang at functions. She was a very good director and educator for the youth. When we were teenagers, we used to always go down to Emmett's Confectionary. We would go at lunchtime. We would play the jukebox and dance, and I think he would stay open until 9 PM for the teenagers. Where the Eastman building is now located, was a drive-in theater. (The area where the Eastman Complex is now) had the junkyard, the drive-in, a plant that made potato chips, and an old store I guess you would call a Minute Market, but it was just a roadside store. It was located on what is now Wilcox Drive. Walking under the Underpath was always frightening, because you didn't know what was going to be on the other side. And like us two little girls having to walk under that Underpath early in the morning to go to school; it was very frightening.

Riverview Oral Histories #7: Mr. Jack Pierce

The picture at left, is representative of what Mr. Jack Pierce means, when he talks about the tranquility and quietness of Riverview. This picture from 2/17/07, is from the corner of Carver Street and Douglass Street, looking down to the Masonic Hall. Mr. Pierce has long lived in the house to the left, at the silver car.

MR. JACK PIERCE: I came to Kingsport from Old Kingsport that was three miles from Kingsport towards the Hawkins County area and we didn't buy property here. After I married, I bought a home here. I came to Kingsport in 1950. All my schooling was in Kingsport, so I guess it was in the early 1940's when I first come to the Old Douglass School (at East Sevier and Center Street). That's the only school I went to. When I first came to Riverview and started living in Kingsport, I lived with my sister on Carver Street, while I was going to the old Douglass. One of the most pleasant things (in Riverview) was the closeness of the families. All the families were real close and the older people helped raise the younger children. The parents got along real well and that was the part that you don't forget. Times have changed so much since then. The most unpleasant thing, I think, was the job situation. The Black people didn't even have paying jobs at that time, most jobs, the women did maid work, the men did janitor work, and at one time during that era at Holston Valley Hospital, all the maids were Black. You still had an education, high school or some college, you still got a job, you had to do janitorial work that was disheartening, really disheartening. Teaching jobs were low pay. The teachers at Douglass didn't make the money that the teachers made at D-B, and some of our teachers when school was out over the summer had to go work at janitor jobs to make it through the summer. Even our principal had to go to work at the Kingsport Press as a janitor. But, the most PLEASANT thing I saw was how people took care of their properties in Riverview and how they used to raise their kids. That went on right up until the 70's. People were interested in their kids, you had very few kids that were sent away. In Riverview, we had very few dropouts, most people if they got an education, they went on away where they could get better jobs because they were no jobs here for them. I remember the Roundhouse was the only building in Riverview. There was a pond over here, they used to take the cows over there to water them.

Riverview Oral Histories #6: Mrs. Lillie Smith

The picture at the left from 2/17/07, is taken from Lincoln Street, looking up Dunbar Street.

MRS. LILLIE SMITH: I tell you the truth, I never did like Riverview. I (would have) rather stayed on the other side of town, I didn't care for Riverview because I didn't know anybody, but it was my husband's idea to live over here. He said he didn't want to live anywhere else, so he built here and we have been here for 50 years, my children were born here, I guess I'll be here until I die. Riverview is my home now, at that time, I lived on East Sevier. But after I began to live over here, I love it. (When we first moved here), the projects and a little store down here, Emmitt's, were here. From East Sevier, we had to get here through the Underpath. Our house was first on Dunbar, then Mr. Alfred Smith. Mr. Smith built that house, his whole house lived in that house, Hattie Bell, Coil, he raised all his family in that house. The Stafford's (James and Ella) built their house long years after that as far as I know, it was open field, we had to fill in the yard with bricks, my husband had to dig out bricks, fill in and all that. It was very, very swamp; we had to have a sump pump in our basement because it was so damp, the water just stood. Byrd's was the same way (James Byrd, just up Dunbar Street). I think, who was that named Riverview, I can't give you that because somebody else, Cleve (Rutledge) might give you that name, Rome didn't know it? Seem like to me that had a history on that, something on who named this settlement over here. Bessie.. Bessie Hipps, that's who named Riverview. I can't say there was anything unpleasant, people were very thoughtful and happy and everything. You know, you had a neighborhood, it was very peaceful. It's so many gone, used to be a close neighborhood. You used to have Mr. Callahan and all them, aint' nobody here much, only Bud (Hickman) and his wife on this street. We almost all widows about, you know that. Lucille Flack is my oldest friend living now, I have seen every one of their children grow up, grandchildren, I saw Carolyn born, every one of them. Let's see, Dunbar, down on this end. Parthenia (Deal), our house was the first one, and (her) little house over there cross from me, that was the second little house, and I was so glad to see that house go up. You didn't have anybody down this way. I would get Betty Jo and Olivia and go across town, it was so lonely. Roads.. had dirt roads, not no concrete. I remember those big old trucks (from the "brickyard" traveling down Lincoln Street) coming and going all the time. The place where the swimming pool is, used to be the junkyard. They used to have cows across the railroad track. I didn't know anybody when I first moved over here,that's when I started to go to church and places like that, I met different people. Central Baptist Church was here when we built our house here.

Riverview Oral Histories #5: Mrs. Doretha Ross

PHOTO AT RIGHT: This is a 1963 aerial view of the Oak Street District where African-Americans had settled and were being crowded into. The diagonal road upper left is Center Street (the old Br istol Highway), the street left to right at the bottom is Sullivan Street (the old Kingsport Foundry is at the bottom), the next street up is Dale Street, and the next street up is Maple Street.

PHOTO AT LEFT: The cornerstone plaque showing where Mrs. Ross is the Daughter Ruler of the Elks Lodge, Riverview Chapter.

MRS. DORETHA ROSS: Before Riverview, as a child of four, my family moved to Kingsport from Newport, Tennessee. The Depression had just begun, and my father came on Sullivan Street and opened a restaurant on the corner of Sullivan and the old Bristol Highway (now Center Street). He had to discontinue the restaurant because people didn't have money to buy food. Black folks lived on Sullivan Street. It wasn't Sullivan Street then, but that's where they lived. We moved to East Sevier, it was Walnut Street then, and lived there until I was 12 years old. My family moved to Gate City, Virginia in 1937, because my mother had asthma. Her doctor said that Kingsport was not a good place for her to live because it was so damp and there was so much smoke in the air from the plants. I continued to go to school at Douglass, though. Before we moved though, our neighbors were the Hickmans, the Jason Taylors, the Henry Hayes, Buster Hale and the Smiths. Rev. and Mrs.Whitley also lived there. They were well known because they always had their sign that said, "it suits us." Mrs. Whitley said that everybody was always trying to tell them what to do, and they fixed everything up and putup the sign "it suits us." The Whitleys were the homeowners. They had houses that they rented, along with Mr. Gaither who was from Asheville that owned a lot of the houses for rent on Walnut Street. And Mr. Will Dykes, who collected the rent for some. The Hills lived next door to us, and the Davis's and the Stacy's both lived across the street. The Savoy Grill was on Center Street, which we called the Old Bristol Highway. And there were apartments over the buildings, and there were four or five brick buildings that housed the restaurants, the poolroom and barber shop, the Kingsport Provision was on Center Street, that was a food place. The Whitley's pastored a church, a little storefront church right there on Center Street. All of our activities were always at Douglass School, because we had the playground. The kids played on the playground on holidays, the Fourth of July, Eighth of August and what not. We just played up and down the streets. We had roller skates and the streets were paved, so we'd skate up and down the road. We had no supervision, playing like we do now. When people moved over to Riverview, they tore down some of the houses in the alleys (along Dale, Maple Oak and East Sevier). Most of the people that were in the alleys moved over to Riverview, but the folks who owned houses on the front sides stayed there. Lee Apartments (back then) was in the Black Neighborhood, but we didn't call it the Black Neighborhood. When you came to where Jill Ellis lives,that's about as far as the blacks went. To us, that was white people who needed (the apartments) then. Actually, I never did live in Riverview. I went to Riverview every day because I was an insurance agent. I sold North Carolina Mutual Insurance, the largest Black insurance company in the U.S. I collected insurance (premiums) from the people who lived in the housing, and we had lots of clients. I was there, (patronizing) the businesses, the restaurants, going into the Elks. My name is on the cornerstone of the Elks, not the first one, but the (1960) one that is sitting there now, because I was their daughter ruler (see picture above). They built the Robinson's Funeral Home (it was Curry'sFuneral Home back then), and then there was the Masonic Hall and the American Legion. There was the Esquire Club. Paul Taylor's Grill and Grocery Store in Riverview and Rev. Edge's was down on this end and they built the swimming pool. Like everything else, you had different people at different levels that took part in politics. Mrs. Inez Ervin was (active) in the Democratic Party. She and Mrs. Stacy were also over the nursery, that the Community Chest gave money for it, and they would always have this revival at the Civic Auditorium. Things were rough during the Depression. Blacks at the (Kingsport) Press were in the union with whites. The union took everybody in. When they struck, the Press broke the Union and everybody lost their jobs,including the Blacks. The Press hired new non-union workers, and many people had to leave Kingsport because of it. The year I was in the Douglass PTA, we bought the PA system at Douglass. The man who ran Dobyns-Taylor (Hardware) was very good at donating things to Douglass. I never did go to the school board. They didn't have the money. If you don't have the money, you can get the money. It was never equal, because you never got the same thing ) as Dobyns-Bennett). Just like Douglass would have to try to get uniforms. Dobyns-Bennett was a lot different. There was always the struggle to keep things in place. After Kingsport integrated schools, our kids could have gone on (to the white schools), but our system decided to keep them here. You see,Virginia was paying for them to go to Douglass, and my children were the first Black ones to go (to Gate City). A lot of the black Douglass teachers lost their jobs, but a lot of them just left. They saw what was coming along, and they just left, went on to other places.

Riverview Oral Histories #4: Mrs. Ethel Ruth Russell

PICTURE AT LEFT: In the background is the former railroad trestle that Ruth Russell used when she and other black children needed to cross the Clinchfield Railroad track from Cement Hill many years ago. The trestle which is long gone, was located just south of the downtown railroad station, right behind Citizens Supply on Main Street.

ETHEL RUTH RUSSELL: I used to live on Sullivan Street, and they had names around there like Black Bottoms and Cement Hill. I was born on Cement Hill. My grandfather and grandmother, they come from South Carolina. We moved from Cement Hill to Sullivan Street to Riverview. A lot of times on Main Street after we left Cement Hill, I walked to school some, and we had to go over a railroad trestle. Of course, I was afraid of that trestle, so I would crawl under the box cars. Over there on Main Street, Jason Taylor owned a dry cleaners and my uncle worked out front and he shined shoes there. After we moved to Riverview, we lived at Apartment 46, Louis Street (formerly Washington Street), and I can remember there wasn't no grass or nothing out there. The first telephone that I remember anybody having in Riverview was the Gillenwaters, and I guess we kept her busy answering doors using the telephone. But then, I remember we used to go where Douglass School is now, and there was nothing but blackberries and trees. We used to go out and pick blackberries and just had a good time, just had good clean fun. And I can remember they turned on the sprinkler in the summertime in the middle of the field, so we would all go out and play under that. We didn't have too much, but what we did have, we enjoyed it. That was a glorious time when the man would bring his reel-to-reel movie projector to the field. I can remember Central Church, but I never went to Central because Florda Lyle that raised me, most of the time she was at the Holiness church, they had a Holiness church over there (in Riverview), but later on when I made up my mind where I wanted to go, I went to what used to be the Walnut Street Methodist Church. I moved from Walnut Street, which because St. Mark Methodist Church, and now it's St. Mark's United Methodist Church. I have been at St. Mark ever since. You know, say it takes a community to raise children, and that's the way Riverview was in those days. My mother was somebody else's mother and they kept their eyes on children, we didn't have to worry about drugs, we had nothing to worry about. It was safe; Riverview was a safe place community. I remember when the roads were dirt before they were paved. We just played, just played around in it and barefooted. And we had some good people in those days, we had real good people. I remember Paul Taylor, he had a dry cleaner and Midway Grill and he had part in the funeral home. Ben Swann came later and of course, Rev. Edge came later, too. But before Rev. Edge, there was Nathan Byrd, he owned that restaurant down there before, I don't remember the name of it. I remember the Elks had a club there, it was the American Legion and Masons. Mr. Emmett Collins owned a grocery store. We also had a beauty salon that was run by Ms. Ethel Walton Daniels. The old Douglass, as we call it, we had real good teachers in those days and I can remember Ross N. Robinson was our superintendent. I also remember that black kids that went to Douglass, got to play up there at J. Fred Johnson Stadium on Thursdays. We had pretty good basketball teams, I played basketball. Riverview was a great place to live, it wasn't no slum. The way things were then, we were lucky to have a place to live at all, so (sometimes) we had to take a handout, and we were very grateful for what we got. We had to walk, in order for us to get to school (Douglass was located on Walnut, now East Sevier) unless you had a car, and if you didn't, you had to go through the Underpath. A lot of times, I don't think they ever had a light under there, especially if you come through at night. There was a little red store bythe foundry, we used to go in that store a lot, and even if we didn't have money, the people were always giving us something, always giving us something. Those were the days.

Riverview Oral Histories #3: James Swafford

THE PICTURE ABOVE: The Riverview Business District on Lincoln Street, 1963.
From left: Rev. Edge's Place, The American Legion, McClintock's Barber Shop, B.P.O. Elks, Curry's Mortuary, Masonic Hall, Collin's Grocery Store.

JAMES SWAFFORD: Well, when I first saw, came here, we used to live on Dale Street, Ithink these projects were here and we moved over here in 1942 or 1943, we moved in Apartment 20 and that's where we were until 1951, until we built the house over here on Dunbar Street. I remember having a little wading pool over here in the back the field over there, back of Douglass, after they built Douglass. We used to have to walk from Riverview across town to old Douglass. Wasn't too much going on then you know. We had a little candy store down there, Mr. Collins. Rev. Edge had a store and Mr. Collins had a store, you remember Mr. Emmit Collins? Yeah, he had a little store down, a little grocery store, we all participated and I remember Mr. Jason Taylor had a little ice cream parlor down there after they built the swimming pool. Later on come Mr. Paul Taylor, he had a little store down here on the corner, he had a little candy and a little stuff in there for you know, he mostly catered to the guys that worked in the "brickyard," you know, with the lunches and things. He had a little dry cleaners or something. I worked down there for him and Rev. Joe Whiteside when I was real young. When the projects were built, we had first a little sprinkler, right down there between the apartments, right there where 19-25-28, right in that little circle there, they had a little sprinkler they would turn on everyday when the summer time come. It was just as good as a swimming pool youknow, because old and young was out there, everybody wanted to stay cool. We had the Elks Club down there, a white wooding building, and Mr. Kiser and 'em built the American Legion during that time. They had a little school, called it a Mason School, I think they got some kind of grant to train these guys through the G-I Program. And they went in there and trained them how to be masons and things like that. All of them there,Stevens and all of them, they taught there, Mr. Kiser was over it. Black people during that time were Rev. Edge, Alex Gilmore, Paul Taylor, Jason Taylor, yeah, Mr. McKnight, he had a little candy store up to his house. Up here on Louis Street. We used to all run up there and get candy. Mr. Hodge sold coal and vegetables. My grandfather just plowed, did a lot of farming and plowed people gardens. He raised chickens and sold them. They kinda cleared off one end of the junkyard (on Lincoln and Wilcox)and made a drive-in movie theater. We all used to slip over there and go through and look at free movies. They tried to run us out, but they couldn't run everybody out. My grandfather had bought a lot down on Lincoln Street and the"brickyard" wanted it, so they swapped a lot at 225 Dunbar Street for it,and he built the house there. Ms. Lillie Smith was one of the first houses on Dunbar Street. Then I think Mr. Dewey Long, Mr. Preston Collins, he had a house down there in the corner, but I think that came a little later. These are some of the older people that were here, you know, that I remember. 'Cause Sneed and all those houses, they came later after the school was built, in fact we used to kind of farm that hill up there, my granddaddy, the "brickyard" let him plow that hill over there, put out corn and stuff like that. You know, I think basically we got along better back then than we do now,because I don't think our culture is respected. But we do pretty good over here, it's not bad, I think it might get better one of these days. Of course, I'm glad that we did integrate things because you know, we got better opportunities. But you know, the thing that hurt us, not just here,because you know I have been all over, it's the drug traffic, because when we had whiskey and beer, it wasn't as bad as it is now. People didn't get ripped off, beat up and all that old stuff. Just like a man said, "the kind and the wicked will do things in equal quantity. You can act nice and all that, but when you get those drugs in you, you're subject to do anything to get them drugs, you will steal or whatever it takes to get them drugs." That's a big problem that we have. All of us are affected by that.

Riverview Oral Histories #2: Pastor Geraldine Swagerty

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

PICTURE AT RIGHT: Here is a swampy area inRiverview right now, that must have looked like the one that Pastor Swagerty probably saw whenshe first came to the neighborhood.

PASTOR GERALDINE SWAGERTY:When I first entered the Riverview Community, I saw a junkyard (on Lincoln Street), and as you go down, I saw a swampy place, it was green water and there were weeds growing up in it, but you could see all the moss and all that was on top of it. It looked really horrible, and when you got to the end of Lincoln Street, you would run into, we used to call it the"brickyard," and their trucks would come through and it looked like they would have hot cinders and it would be steaming and water would be pouring out of the trucks. But the pleasant place, the sight that I saw was in knowing that all my people were there and we had a small playground and they has us a shower out there, we could take a shower when it got hot and play and just my friends and stuff. And that was the pleasant sight I saw. Just being there and being around your people and playing with your friends and things like that. They did have a drive-in movie after they moved the junkyard and we used to go over there and sit down between the speakers and listen to and see the movies, and we didn't drive in, we just walked in. Douglass was really on the ball about sports, they were really into it, and they won most of the games they played and they had excellent coaches and teachers at Douglass. Mr. Paul Taylor owned the Midway Confectionary Grill and it was on Lincoln Street next to the Shale place, and then there was a funeral home owned by the Swans. And then there was The Hut, which was owned by theVeterans Administration, and then Mr. Collins owned the little grocery store and we used to love to go over there and buy our candy. There was the laundry mat in the Masonic Building. Ms. Hattie Ray was the manager of the laundry mat, and there was a little barber shop next to the Elks Club. The first church was Central Church, and then we had Mount Zion Holiness Church located on Dunbar and Carver (actually Dunbar and Louis). It was just fun going from place to place and the church being there and all the kids was playing, we had a good relationship with each other. There were two Black doctors here and that was Doctor Frances and Doctor Foust, and a lot of time they didn't get paid because people were too poor to pay them, but they still done the job. (In the Riverview Apartments), there were seven units placed on that, and they had two large apartments which were built for the Clark Family and the Cartwright Family and they had the largest families. It was just a beautiful place and they had it fixed up real nice. You had to go through the Underpath to get to Riverview if you didn'tcome in on Lincoln Street, and it was very scary because there were a lot of men working on the railroad track and they used to say they would get us. And we, mostly, when we were kids, were scared to go through the Underpath. The first telephone, the first person what had a telephone was the Gillenwaters, and just about everybody used their telephone, they were very nice about that. Ms. (Gladys) Bly was a very dear person..she taught the girls how to cook and do little things and she would always spread her food out to everybody and she was just a remarkable person, and my grandmother was the president of the PTA, Fannie Smith. And they worked in the community together. I just really appreciate.. when I was young, I really enjoyed Riverview.

Riverview Oral Histories #1: Mrs. Eula Cartwright Leeper

PICTURE AT LEFT: The Kingsport Housing Authority wanted a picture of the Cartwright Family when they moved into the Riverview Apartments, and only five of the Cartwright children were present when the photographer stopped by. Parents Eula and Thomas Cartwright rounded up five other children in the neighborhood to complete the picture.
EULA LEEPER CARTWRIGHT:My name is Eula Leeper, and I have lived in Kingsport all of my life. I was born in Kingsport, and we used to live on Oak Street in the Todd Apartments.When they built the Riverview Apartments, they had built the apartment we lived in especially for our family, so that meant the girls would finally have a bedroom and the boys would have a bedroom. We all had a bathtub with running water, because the Todd Apartments didn't have a bathtub. You had to pour the running water in a tub. We had a big family, but we always had plenty of everything, and Riverview was a nice place. They had recreation for the children, and the recreation people would come over and show a movie and have baseball. There was no pool, but they had a sprinkler that they would turn the water on, and everybody was just real friends. The young folk were real nice to the older folk, and the older folk were nice also.Eula Cartwright Leeper