After skies cleared revealing the firefly activity last week, the temperatures slid into the 50s for our hometown, that had recently endured 90s in May and now early springtime temperatures as summer edges in closer for Newport.

An encounter at Walmart with an old timer I’ve known for years will bring some historic Newport sports news soon. John F. Frazier has agreed to talk to me about his years coaching basketball and playing baseball in the 1960s industrial league.

Coincidentally on Friday morning while scanning the 1961 Newport Plain Talk & Tribune I came across his name.

“Was that you John, who hit the home run?” I asked. I referred to the June 5 Plain Talk story about the Rhyne Lumber Co. and American Can Shop teams winning opening season games at Newport. John played for Wall Tube and hit a home run.

“I was quite the baseball player,” he said. John will be 83 this November so it is past time to talk sports with him.

By 1961, Arthur L. Petrey was operating the newspaper for John M. Jones Sr. of Greeneville. Jack Hixson was news editor. I knew him and also journalists Ola Fancher and writers such as Jerry Clevenger.

The Cook of the Week then and now has been popular. In June the Society News featured Mrs. Burnett (Bernice) Dawson of Bybee as the cook. She lived on a 12-acre farm at Flat Acres and attended Harned Methodist Church. Living with the Dawsons at the time was her mother, Mrs. Doug Blazer, age 90. The recipe she shared was “Never Fail Teacakes.”

J. L. Caton wrote a popular column every week featuring people you know: His subject being Mrs. Lorenza Gunter of 1012 River Road that first June week 1961.

She loved growing roses and also smoked meat in her smokehouse. The photographer convinced her to pose in a white sun bonnet. You might have known her older brother Roe Valentine.

White Stores continued its summer sales with sirloin steak for 79 cents per pound. And how about Swan’s hot dog buns for 25 cents per pack?

Saturday nights found hundreds from Newport at the Tennessee-Carolina Speedway watching the races. The photo that week showed the racing team of Bill Gilbreath, Bill McMahan Sr., Clarence James and driver, of the number 33, Bill McMahan Jr.

Eastport Drive-in and Restaurant had its grand opening blitz in the Plain Talk in early June. Mr. and Mrs. Ruble Douglas had just opened the eating spot and the building still stands today. The photo of interest to me showed these young women cooks and waitresses: Mary Hartsell, Sharon Wyatt, Anna Mae Grigsby, Shirley Benson, Olene Jones, Audrey Taylor, Alice Faye Gilliland, Betty Phillips and Alma Warden.

Another group of cooks shown in a small photo were preparing the hearty meals for the logging operation as Black’s Chapel church construction got underway. The photo you see in the column shows the women and too bad that the etiquette of the day didn’t allow for their first names. Mrs. B. R. Freeman was the fundraiser and reported the community had raised $1,500.

The newspaper has always promoted and encouraged community projects. I remember Mrs. Hugh Russell from her days fostering the Red Cross programs, such as first aid and swimming lessons at City Park Pool. In the June 5 Plain Talk she appears in a photo with the mayor.

On the same front page is the report of the death of E. H. Lillard, 81, born on Cosby Creek, son of Dan Lillard and wife, Jane (Dennis) Lillard. E. H. taught school at Hartford and Bison and then worked for England Warden Co. (later changed to A. C. Lawrence Leather Co.) His career also included working at Stokely Brothers.

I’m out of room and time this week but also saw a major story on the election of Kin Holt, sheriff of Cocke County. You will be interested to read about this and other past news from 1960s Newport Plain Talk. Kin Holt was still sheriff when I met him as a reporter for the newspaper in 1973.

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