We start the month of June steady on a Saturday, June 1, with promises of moderating weather to put us in an Andy Griffith easy-going mood in our hometown, where swallows circle late in the darkening afternoon skies.
There are few, if any records, from years past of the local scene any better than the Newport Plain Talk. The times that I reach back into the past I get a lot of comments from my column readers, as I did recently mentioning the Teddy Bear Grill in Newport.
So at the end of May I decided to stay inside where it is cool to see what was going on as June 1956 arrived in Newport, according to the pages of the Plain Talk & Tribune. Tobacco plants were well on their way about a foot tall, thirsty for rain.
I first opened to the May 5 edition and the front page showed a photo of Raymond Sutton. I saw his bicycling dentist son Dr. David Sutton Thursday morning. The news noted that Raymond had been elected president of the Newport Lions Club, which met at the Coffee Pot Café.
I think I knew and have met everyone of the officers from 1956: Dr. Nathan Ford, Alex Fancher, Cleo Balch, Quinton Parrott, Byron Ratcliff, Roy T. Campbell Jr., Harold Jaynes, Jett Hartsell, and Jim Masters. They and others made the club an outstanding civic group.
You have been at the Cosby Ramp Festival I’m sure: Perhaps even in 1956, the third annual featuring country singer Eddy Arnold. Rain dampened some spirits. Governor Frank Clement was on the podium with Eddy and Col. M. M. Bullard, while others held an umbrella to hear Arnold sing, “Cattle Call.” Today, The Newport Kiwanis Club sponsors the Ramp Festival and they too got a taste of rain this May.
In those years the PT&T published obituaries on the front page. I saw that in the May 31 edition that showed these local deaths: Lydia Ottinger, age 74, of Parrottsville died. Her husband was Raymond Ottinger. They had a daughter, Mrs. Dan Ragan, and son, Loys Ottinger.
The other death notice was for Mrs. Willie Mae Hampton, age 52. She died at her Dutch Bottoms home. I recognized the name of her daughter, Julia Mae Stokely, of Parrottville. She used to do janitorial work at the Plain Talk for years into the 1970s.
The newspaper ads are truly billboards of the time long past. The Newport Super Dollar featured JFG coffee for 85 cents per pound. How about four pounds of lard for your biscuit baking at 59 cents. Pascal celery by the bunch fetched 10 cents. Imagine buying a T-bond steak for 69 cents per lb.?
One of the columns folks loved to browse contained all the personal notes that Jim Dunn could glean from his talks and travel about town. You know his son, District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn. The June “In and Around Cocke County” caught my eye with this item: “Sgt. 1st class and Mrs. Albert Mathis and son Kenny have returned to Fort Bragg, NC after a two weeks visit in Newport as guests of Mrs. Milas Mathis and Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.
The June 7 edition front page showed a large photo of Bob Grim, IMAC National Champion driver in his open wheeled Indy style racer. He planned to race in the Dixie Sweepstakes at the Tenn.-Car. Speedway June 23. His mechanic in the photo was Hector Honore, famous for keeping the Bardahl Special, Black Deuce running with its powerful Offenhauser four cylinder. Honore went on to be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1991.
High school graduation news has always been important to the Plain Talk and so it was in 1956: “Brothers Graduate in Cleveland, Ohio.” The brothers were Eugene and Ray Suttles, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Barney Suttles. Before moving to Cleveland the boys had attended Newport Grammar School, Edgemont, and West End. You might have been their schoolmates.
What we in the news dept. called lifestyles or social news has always brought news of weddings, engagements, and social life in Cocke County. So it was in June 1956 when bride Patsy Rhyne was escorted down the aisle by her father Charles T. Rhyne. This was at Newport Methodist Church, where Patsy married Bill Williams. Pastor Rev. C. A. Brabston officiated.
You could always count on the Plain Talk then and now to deliver the news of local sales. By summertime that year Jenkins & Darwin Bros. had a midsummer sale and dresses sold for $4.99. Need diapers? Buy a dozen 27-by-27 inches for $1.66. Imagine how many you washed and hung out to dry.
Freeman’s June 25 ads had a powerful offer to its customers: Buy any appliance and get a free innerspring mattress. Prices for popular brands began at $199.95, and I’m thinking Dan, Bret and Dawn Freeman today would chuckle at that low price. Buyers paid $1 down and $10.43 per month. I’m going to Freeman’s soon. We will take another stroll in the Plain Talk past pages again soon, if you like.