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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.