Ever so slowly like a hot August afternoon, the Cocke County scene shifts over decades, covering and uncovering the past. The new and the bright still to be revealed.

While slowly broiling in the mid-August heat wave with temperatures about 95 degrees over the weekend, it seemed a good time to relish the cool February of 1974. I visited the Newport Plain Talk in early 1974 scanning January and February of what was a looming large political year. It opened with a photo of Mom Mrs. Judy Keller of Rt. 3, Newport, and new baby Tiffany Nicole Keller. She was born on January 1.

Do you remember the Bat Harbor Bluegrass Boys? In Jan. 1974 Reese Thornton gathered that group of friends to entertain. It would not surprise me that I heard the fellows perform and you might have too. You can see their photo above.

City of Newport started major projects that are with us today including the opening of the Mayor Fred M. Valentine Jr. Homes off Musterfield Road. City officials at the time included City Recorder Gene Layman, Aldermen Ray Proffitt, Harry Melton, Danny Wester, and Neil Rader. We’ve lost a lot of good people since 1974.

Winter is basketball time and the pages of the Plain Talk were always packed with winter high school photos. It just so happened I was a sports writer then before spending more time in news reporting. I share some photos here of those tough games.

Do you recall Juanita Wallin Reed, who suffered from polio? Staff writer Shirley Elliott featured Juanita in the Feb. 8, TV magazine. Juanita spent the majority of her life in a wheelchair. The article told of her early active life and marriage to Bill Reed. Sadly, he contracted TB in 1956. That was the same year Juanita was diagnosed with polio and spent several weeks in an iron lung. She wore braces on her arms and legs after the deadly encounter. But she developed her talents in art and did artistic sign painting from her home.

Plain Talk advertisements down through the decades offer an interesting look at Newport life, especially what it cost to live. White Stores, no longer existing here, featured hot dogs for 66 cents a 12-ounce package; bananas at 11 cents per pound; yellow corn only 9 cents per ear.

A familiar but much younger face than I recall appeared in the Firestone tire ad placed by Burch Wood. He owned and managed Wood I-40 Texaco next to the Ramada Inn, no longer in business. Burch’s tire deals included retreads for $12 and Firestone deluxe tires starting at $28 each.

The Plain Talk always seemed to have focused on helping civic clubs promote fundraisers. Such was the case in early 1974 ahead of the April 6 Newport Kiwanis Club Kountry Kapers. The featured entertainment happened to be the Statler Brothers. I was there at Cocke County High School. Were you?

How young we all were in 1974, and I barely recognized J. E. Renner, who started in business, became a deputy, and finally founded Renner Trucking. The frontpage photo Feb. 15 showed the new Parrottsville Fire Chief Renner and his assistant Max Johnson. Renner replaced the late Berlin Basinger.

Both Renner and Johnson had started with the volunteer fire dept. in 1964. Renner became a partner in Parrottsville recapping and Johnson worked for Newport Utilities at the water department.

Do you recall the small school 4-S All Star District Players: The photos lined up in the sports section were Mary Watkins, Jan Sparks, Janice Styles, Debra Proffitt, Sharon Butler, Bucky Weeks, and Keith Bumgarner.

On February 28, the Newport Chamber of Commerce annual meeting took place. On the program was Lt. Col. Charles Lewis Moore, who spoke about the possibilities of an airport for Newport. As Cocke County Executive Moore continued to push for an airport. Jim Ethier became chamber president and Robert Mehren vice president.

What about the major change in the phone system then being operated by South Central Bell for Newport? You could quickly dial a number with only five digits but that all ended. That year it took all seven digits to dial 623-9011.

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