Carl Peters did not live to see his work succeed

John Thompson • Sep 13, 2017 at 11:28 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Carl Peters died last year at the age of 97; his daughter, Susan Peters feels he died just a little bit too soon.

"Pops died just six months before his beloved Cubs finally won the World Series and just a year before the City Council voted on repealing the ordinance that made the sale and possession of fireworks legal," said Susan Peters, a member of the Elizabethton City School Board.

She fondly remembers her father's love for the Cubs and the times he took her with him to Wrigley Field. She recalls his passion for the team and how he shared the anger of Cubdom when a fan interfered with a foul ball in play during a playoff game.

In contrast, his commitment to repealing the fireworks ordinance was only a short part of his life. But he would have been thrilled by the Cubs winning the World Series and also pleased to see the recent action by the city that could lead to the end of fireworks sales in the city.

She was referring to the action by the Elizabethton City Council that passed on first reading on Aug. 10 to "prohibit the possession, discharge, sale and storage of fireworks within the corporate limits of the city of Elizabethton." City Council will hold a public hearing, followed by a final vote on the fireworks ordinance during tonight's meeting.

Fireworks have been legal in Elizabethton since Ordinance No. 39-14 was passed on July 10, 2003. She said her dad immediately became interested in the matter and began doing research. She said he found out that only three cities in Tennessee permitted the sale of fireworks.

He began appearing at City Council meetings following the holidays when fireworks were allowed to be sold: the Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. He always had statistics on the dangers of fireworks and told the Council members that he had received numerous calls from citizens who encouraged his one-man effort.

Peters even cited newspaper articles and police reports when fireworks caused problems in Elizabethton, including one woman whose kitchen caught fire after a bottle rocket flew into her residence through an open window.

"He had a lot of people call him to support him, but no one would go with him to the City Council, so it always seemed like he was just one voice," Susan said. She said he also received a hate-filled phone calls, but those were usually anonymous.

Through it all, she said her father continued to make his semiannual appearances before City Council to seek the end of legal fireworks in Elizabethton, even as his own health declined.

His crusade did not end with his death. Susan Peters picked up his banner and addressed the City Council in July. She told the members that she was well aware of all her father's remarks because she typed his speeches and letters.

Carl Peters was born in Oslo, Norway, and emigrated to the United States at the age of four with his mother, Nancy Peters and his sister Edith.

"They came into America through Ellis Island," Susan said. "They settled in Evanston, which was then a small city. Edith got a job as the translator for First National Bank of Chicago. She spoke four or five languages.

Carl earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and a law degree from the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago in 1948. He worked as a chemist for several years.

He then became a patent attorney, and worked as chief patent counsel for Great Lakes Research in Illinois, New York and Elizabethton. He retired from Great Lakes in 1983.

He had a long and happy retirement, but his love for the Cubs was not rewarded with a championship and his efforts to change the city's fireworks ordinance did not bring about change in his lifetime.

If he had only lived a little bit longer.

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