Scenic view of Normal School's undeveloped land as observed from Soldiers' Home looking south. Contributed/Bob Cox
In 1909, the agony was finally over. After months of wrangling, the area of Johnson City known as the Southwest Addition, also referred to as the Carter site, became the location for the new East Tennessee Normal School. Although there was disappointment on the part of those who hoped the nearby Carnegie property would be chosen, there appeared to be no feeling of resentment toward the State Board of Education.
Before making its final decision, the Board revisited the Carnegie land. Although the Carnegie Realty Co. went out of its way in offering their site, the magnificent view of Carter could not be triumphed over. Shortly after lunch, the announcement came to a multitude of people anxiously waiting in the Carnegie Hotel lobby. The southwest addition was selected primarily for two primary reasons — a stunningly beautiful view from the campus and a generous offer of from 125-140 acres that were situated east and south of the George L. Carter home.
A banquet, in honor of the Board, was given by the Commercial Club of Johnson City. It was held in the basement of Munsey Memorial Methodist Church and was planned by the ladies of the church. The decorations were artistically appropriate and the service was charming. Beautiful young ladies served a menu of delectable and delicate provisions in a most eye-catching manner:
The menu consisted of Oyster Cocktail, Pickles, Celery Hearts, Olives, Wafers, Roast Turkey Stuffed, Club Sandwich, Cranberry Jelly, French Peas, Waldorf Salad, Neapolitan Ice Cream, Macaroons, Lady Fingers, Angel Cake, Fruit, Nuts and Café Noir (small cup of strong black coffee without milk or cream).
Noted city historian and attorney, Judge Samuel Cole Williams, presided as toastmaster in an idyllic manner. Governor Malcolm Patterson then furthered his reputation as an elegant after-dinner speaker in a very gratifying manner. He first talked about the early history of Washington County and then transitioned into the present and future of Johnson City, both subjects of interest.
Professor R. L. Jones was scheduled for a toast, but was unable to attend. Mr. Arthur T. Earnest kindly consented to render a song instead, responding heartily that led to an encore. Mr. J. Norment Powell, general counsel for the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway, commented on the subject of “education.”
Colonel J.M. Barker was assigned the duty of speaking on “Johnson City’s Past, Present, and Future,” a task he handled with ease and sophistication, congratulating Johnson City on having the tenacity to fabricate a town of 5,000 people. Mr. A.R. Johnson replied in his usual happy style to “Washington County Schools” and showed that since the establishment of Washington College 132 years prior, no effort had ever been made to establish a college in this historic county until the Normal School was secured.
Someone, whose identity was not disclosed, wrote a poem about the banquet, which was described as the most elegant affair ever tendered in this section:
“The finest of banquets e’er tasted they gave, With light and plants and flowers sweet, The eye to enchant and the senses enslave, With things all good and fine to eat.
“With oysters and turkeys and salads and sweets, To hearts they found the surest way, They clubbed us with sandwiches meet, For hungry men or gods at play.
“Then gave us ice cream like a sheaf of wheat, An emblem of harvest done, Which Showed that the good work was now complete, That the normal had been won.
“And cake which was surely rightly names, By angels it might have been made, And certain it is no man could be blamed, For thinking an angel each maid.
“Who served at the tables so daintily spread, With faces with smiles all alight, ‘Nowhere are found handsomer ladies,’ we said, “Than here in the garments of white.
“The speeches and songs to our minds were a feast, To think of many a day, But Our Ladies, that man would be worst than a feast, Who gave not this toast away.”
Email Bob Cox at email@example.com or visit www.bcyesteryear.com.