History of the Technical Society of Knoxville
1921 – 1984
Evelyn Elliot Wilcox
Dedicated to the late Helen H. Mason,
beloved member of this Society
whose idea led to this publication,
and to the memory of my father,
Reed Archer Elliot, who served as
President of the Technical Society
I. The Early Years 1921-1929. . . . . 1
II. The Depression, TVA, and World War II 1930-1949. . . 11
III. Transition Years 1950-1960 . . . . . . . . . . 25
IV. Challenge and Change 1960-1984 . . . . . . . . 33
THE EARLY YEARS 1921-1929
Since 1921 the Knoxville Technical Society has been a vital part of Knoxville’s civic and professional life. Its members have involved themselves in virtually every aspect of Knoxville’s development. In fact, the Society’s concerns over the years reflect the problems and challenges which have faced the city. It has served as a sounding board for new ideas and as a forum for dissemination of technological information. weekly meetings have brought together a diverse membership from the private sector, the University of Tennessee, and TVA, and have introduced many newcomers into the community.
The founding of the Technical Society by prominent members of Knoxville’s academic and business community was an expression of the belief in progress and in the area’s future potential which was current at the time. In the 1920’s Knoxville, like most of the country, seemed to be flourishing and was thought to be on the threshold of even greater growth. The population was increasing, building permits were at a record high, taxes were low, and the young population (82.93 percent of the city’s population was under 45) was optimistic about the future. New advances were being made in science and technology and locally the University of Tennessee was making plans for expansion. As a result, some Knoxvillians saw a need for a civic and professional group which would help them stay abreast of new trends. The Technical Society served this purpose and its members hoped that it could serve the community as well, for underneath the prosperous surface were disturbing problems. Knoxville’s neighborhoods were changing,
polarizing along class and racial lines. Prosperity existed alongside pockets of poverty. Working class citizens were faced with low wages and no job security. City government was plagued by factionalism. Its high bonded indebtedness prevented the city from providing many needed services. Pollution was a problem and planning was virtually nonexistent. Over the years the Technical Society would address itself to many of these problems.
Charles Ferris, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, founded the Knoxville Technical Society. In later years he was to say that the idea came to him after attending early UT highway engineering conferences. On April 26, 1921, Ferris invited a few of his colleagues to dinner at Good’s Cafe, where preliminary plans were laid for an organization which would include “all Knoxville’s engineers and technical men.” Dean Ferris served as toastmaster. He introduced as the evening’s speakers W. M. Fulton, Dr. C. A. Perkins, Dr. H. A. Morgan, William Whaley, E. A. Seahorn, N. W. Dougherty, Dewey Hunt, James Dempster, R. C. Matthews, and Calvin Rice, who was national secretary of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The Knoxville Sentinel for the following day reported that the new organization “will address itself to civic problems when these arise, each problem being considered by a group especially adapted to the work.” Reminiscing about the dinner twenty-five years later, Ferris modestly said that Calvin Rice “by means of an excellent dinner, a good idea and a good purpose, interested a dozen Knoxville technical men in forming a society which would serve the surrounding community by supplying technical guidance in civic problems.”
Formal-organization of the Technical Society was deferred until June 6, 1921, in order to coincide with the dedication of Morgan Hall, UT agriculture building, and the dedication the next day of Ayres Hall. It was hoped that the spirit of progress implicit in these events would be symbolic of the new Society. The first meeting was a dinner at the Business Men’s Club. A constitution was adopted unanimously.
Charles Ferris was elected president. First vice-president was William Whaley; second vice-president, C. I. Barber; treasurer was E. A. Seahorn; and N. W. Dougherty served as secretary. W. B. Crenshaw and F. W. Webster were elected directors for two-year terms and John Graf for one year. The meeting was addressed by two well-known engineers who were made honorary members of the Society: Thomas McDonald, chief engineer of the United States Bureau of Public Roads; and C. J. Tilden, professor of structural engineering at Yale University.
In accepting the presidency, Dean Ferris said that he wanted to see the Society organized “for the good it could do.” Professor John A. Switzer of UT invited the members to join the University in its work. He especially hoped that the Society would aid in building an engineering library at UT.
The Society began with forty-eight members. Some were professors or graduates of the College of Engineering. Others were engineers who had come to Knoxville to supervise various local industries. All were brought together in the Society by the dynamic personality of Charles Ferris, whom former UT President James Hoskins called “one of the most beloved men ever on the Hill.”
Ferris had come to Knoxville in 1892 as an instructor in mechanical drawing at UT. Born in Napoleon, Ohio in 1864, he received his B.S. degree from Michigan Agricultural College (later Michigan State) in 1890 and did graduate work at McGill University, Montreal. He said that his early schooling consisted of reading the Bible, Oliver Twist, state agricultural reports, and a collection of biographies of famous’criminals. When he came to UT in 1892, there were fewer than fifty students in the College of Engineering. The fourth faculty member hired, he saw the department grow from little more than a blacksmith’s shop into one of the area’s foremost technical schools. Ferris was later to found UT’s cooperative engineering program, one of the first in the country.. He was active in many aspects of University life, organizing the first University bookstore and playing on the football team.
In his first year as an instructor, the 156 pound Ferris was asked to play on the football team to give weight to the line. In describing his football career Ferris said, “I was in no sense an asset to the team. . . about all I learned was how to fall without having my breath knocked out.” Nevertheless, Ferris continued to enjoy the sport, which at that time was played on a rough field which had to be cleared of rocks before each game. An iron fence at the north end kept players from falling into the street. Ferris well understood the need for a new field. He helped arrange financing for Shields-Watkins Field by organizing a realty association which sold stock to pay for acquisition of part of the stadium site. It has been said that one of Dean Ferris’ outstanding traits was his sincere interest in people, particularly his students.
Henry Aikin, who was a young engineering professor when he joined the Technical Society in 1921, remembers Ferris as a friend as well as his dean. Aikin and his new bride lived with the Ferris family during his first year at UT.
Ferris was successful in attracting to the Technical Society many of Knoxville’s leading citizens. Professors Perkins, Dougherty, Woolrich, Biggs, Carson, Matthews, Ayres and Aikin were colleagues from the College of Engineering. J. Wallace Keller, a 1910 UT engineering graduate who had worked on projects in Mexico, Haiti, and Alaska, had returned to Knoxville in 1921 to help run his family’s foundry business. E. A. Seahorn was a founder of Seahorn and Kennedy, a civil engineering firm, which still exists in Knoxville. Charles Barber, a well-known local architect, designed many of Knoxville’s homes and churches. Architect Fred Manley and his partner Clem Myer were responsible for the Medical Arts Building and several area schools. John R. Graf designed the main building of the 1910 Appalachian Exposition. John B. Cox, a 1893 UT graduate, supervised the installation of street car systems in England and Portugal. Weston’ Fulton, meteorologist, inventor, and industrialist, was a charter member as was his business associate in the Fulton Company, Jean Giesler. He, like Fulton, held more than one hundred patents for temperature control and other mechanical devices. Charles Lester was a landscape architect who had studied at the University of London. He landscaped the Fulton estate as well as other large private gardens in Knoxville. Roy Reddie, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, supervised the first zinc mines in the New Market area, while Harvey Coy eventually became vice-president of American Zinc Company in Mascot.
Alexander Harris had come to Knoxville as director of public services under City Manager Brownlow.
These men shared with Charles Ferris the belief that the Knoxville Technical Society should have two main objectives: to foster the professional development of its membership and to aid the public in solving civic problems. The Society was formed at a time when Knoxville’s citizens were beginning to expect more from local government than maintenance of law and order. Many citizens recognized the need for plans to regulate urban growth, for codes to regulate building and health, and for increased efficiency of public services. The members of the Technical Society subscribed to these views and, as engineers and technicians, were willing to lend their expertise to attain these goals.
Throughout its history the Technical Society has been consistent in its approach to the issues of the day. First, it educates its members through informational programs presented by experts in various fields. Next, it appoints committees to study areas which it judges are appropriate for its scrutiny. Finally, the committees make resolutions which, if approved by the membership, are presented by resolution or other means to the appropriate civic body.
In the 1920’s the Technical Society was one of the leaders of the movement to reform city government. In 1923 this resulted in a change to council-manager type government. Along with more efficient government, the Society advocated more effective public services. It supported a plumbing code which was adopted in 1924. Boiler inspections were called for, and in 1927 the boiler code committee prepared a bill which was introduced in the state legislature.
1927 also saw the beginning of the Technical Society’s years-long struggle against Knoxville’s chronic smoke problem. Hundreds of coal furnaces produced a choking, smoky haze which was characteristic of the city. In February, 1927, the Society heard a report on Knoxville’s smoke, its types, and some possible remedies. Mr. Gordon of the Smoke Abatement League told of the League’s work and of its desire to cooperate with the Technical Society. In 1928 Society members were invited to the Smoke Abatement League meeting at the Lyceum Building where they heard the results of a report on soot deposits. In 1927 Mr. Barber reported that the Society had received some credit for work done on smoke abatement.
Knoxville’s City Planning Commission contracted with Harland Bartholomew and Associates of St. Louis to prepare a comprehensive city plan. It was preceded, in 1927, by a Major Street Plan for Knoxville, which City Council adopted. This plan, which included a recommendation for construction of the Henley Street Bridge, also called for an east-west connector across the north end of the business district, which was eventually realized in 1976 with construction of Summit Hill Drive. By 1928 H. W. Alexander of Bartholomew Engineering had joined the Technical Society. His report on the Major Streets Program was received enthusiastically by the group, which had been an early advocate of city planning. Later that month Dean Ferris moved that Alexander be written a letter complimenting his on his success as a resident engineer in Knoxville.
The Technical Society also showed early interested in issues which affected the members professionally. It believed in publicizing its findings. In 1927 Mr. Sea horn reported that an exhibit window had
been obtained at Sterchi’s. Its purpose was to exhibit interesting display and “indirectly advertise the Society.”
Professor Dougherty explained to the Society the role of the State Engineering Examining Board. In 1929 the Society voted to contribute forty dollars toward legal expenses incurred defending a test suit, which was later decided in favor of the board. In 1931 Dougherty became a member of the State Board of Examiners.
The Society joined the Chattanooga Engineer’s Club in endorsing the State Geological Survey. In 1928 Professor J. A. Switzer moved that a telegram be sent to Congressional Representative J. Will Taylor and Col. L. D. Tyson recommending that the Mississippi Flood Control Bill before Congress be amended to provide for participation of civilian engineers.
The question of public vs. private control of power production at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was one with far-reaching implications for the Society and the area. Professor Switzer was especially interested in this issue. In 1927 he voiced his concern that, should the Madden Bill receive Congressional approval, it would prevent future development of the tributaries of the Tennessee River and would effectively grant an enormous subsidy to a private corporation. A resolution to this effect was passed and sent to the Tennessee legislative delegation, to engineers’ clubs throughout the state, and to the press. In 1931, however, Professor Switzer spoke to the Society opposing the Norris Bill, which would have allowed government ownership of the Muscle Shoals plant, terming the proposed expenditures called for in the bill “enormous” and “unwarranted.” He reported that a poll of the members showed a three-to-one majority against the bill before his talk and seven-to-one against after it.
The 1920’s were a time of optimism for Knoxville. Growth seemed inescapable. progress inevitable. The establishment of the Technical Society was an outgrowth of this climate. Its concerns reflected those of the community–desire for improvement in civic function. hopes for professional growth. Its programs for that period reflect the Society’s varied interests. One meeting a year was conducted by the senior engineering class at UT. At another, Charles Barber described the new YMCA building.
Col. D. C. Chapman spoke on the proposed Smoky Mountains National Park. George Dempster told of his experiences with the use of dynamite. A Mr. Crawford of Johns Manville discussed the origins and uses of asbestos. Col. Parker of UT spoke on football and Judge Bob gave a “practical talk on being human.”
The weekly luncheon meetings were held in a variety of locations. Early records show meetings at the YWCA, UT’s Strong Hall Cafeteria, the Cragmore Tea Room, Church Street Methodist Church, the Farragut Hotel, and the Hotel Andrew Johnson. The price and quality of lunch was a topic of great interest over the years. Some of the changes of location were caused by price increases, the first from forty to fifty cents. In 1928 a member suggested trying a vegetable lunch for a few weeks. Although the motion carried, there was no further mention of the vegetarian meals. Charter member Henry Aikin remembers that in those times of more relaxed teaching schedules. he and his colleagues from UT enjoyed walking to the noon meetings.
Annual outings were popular events. In 1928 the group toured the Aluminum Company and lunched at the hotel in Walland. Other outing destinations included Lea Lakes, Lake Santeetlah, and the Tapoco Inn. In 1927 the annual outing was a picnic at Beverly, the home of Charles Barber, outside Fountain City. The minutes report that all had a delightful time. Eventually the annual outing became a family picnic, a tradition which lasted for almost thirty years.
Although one member’s proposal of a stag banquet was not adopted, the young Society took part in some activities which have not become traditional. In 1927 it held a benefit dinner for the Old Ladies’ Home. Two years later, at the request of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Society helped sponsor a program aimed at publicizing the need for a municipal airport. The chief pilot for the Mahon Company was selected to fly the Society’s plane at aviation day ceremonies.
Mark B. Whittaker remembers the early years of the Technical Society as being particularly enjoyable. As a young engineer just beginning his career in Knoxville, he was proud to be associated with so many of the city’s leading citizens. He recalls the meetings as congenial occasions, combining the best aspects of the luncheon club and the professional society. By the late 1920’s the Society had established itself in the community. It had identified as its primary areas of interest the professional concerns of its members and civic problems to which its members could address themselves. Despite the fact that actual progress had been slow, there seems to have been a spirit of optimism about what could be accomplished.
THE DEPRESSION, TVA, AND WORLD WAR II 1930-1949
By the 1930’s a spirit of optimism must have been difficult to maintain. Knoxville, along with the rest of the country, suffered from the effects of the Great Depression. By 1932 three of Knoxville’s six national banks had disappeared through mergers, and three were in receivership. Many depositors lost their life savings. In the city, building permits fell from 2,207 in 1928, to 1,246 in 1929, to 757 in 1930. In August 1930, Frank Jones, the city planning engineer, spoke to the Society on city planning, a program which may have seemed quixotic at the time. One symptom of the hard times was the decline in membership of civic clubs. Although perhaps not so hard hit as some groups, the Technical Society worried about how to stop its declining membership.
In 1931 Dean Ferris suggested that the high cost of lunch, then 65 cents, was keeping away prospective members. Another member proposed a cafeteria style meal as a money-saving idea.
At about the same time, Dr. Charles Barbour, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, presented a program on the effects of the depression on some of Knoxville’s citizens. He introduced a Mr. Roop, who had been unemployed for months and who described the experience and how he had survived. Dr. Barbour also told of the crisis situation which had developed since the city had found it necessary to suspend employment of many whom they could no longer afford to pay, even with food. He asked the Society to help in any way it could. Like most of the rest of the community, the Technical Society could offer little in the form of financial
assistance. It did, however, continue to support by resolution what it felt were solutions to Knoxville’s pressing needs.
In 1931 it sent a resolution to Knox County Court urging continued financial support for the newly-created Knox County Health Department, noting that “typhoid fever and diptheria have been remarkably reduced during the past two years through its work.” The resolution went on to state “three years ago there were but very few sanitary privies in the country; at present we can see them in all sections of the county.”
The Society also advocated the sale of bonds for a new county high school, sending a telegram to the Knox County legislators in Nashville. When the city asked for a report on a new central heating plant, a committee was established which sent the city manager a report of its findings.
The Technical Society’s strong connection with UT was evident when, in 1930, a committee sent a recommendation to the president of the University suggesting that the new engineering building be named Ferris Hall. The Society was notified by the UT- Board of Trustees that its recommendation had been accepted.
Writing about this period, H. H. Hale, Society president in 1933, described himself as a “hard times president,” who with “a baker’s dozen struggled to keep the Society alive.” Then, said Hale, “TVA came into the picture and our interests, membership, activities, and finances received some blood transfusions. Things began to pick up all the way around.” Certainly the TVA act passed by Congress on May 18, 1933, was to have a profound effect on the Tennessee Valley, on Knoxville, and on
the Knoxville Technical Society. The group was not slow to recognize the new presence. On June 19, 1933, it appointed a committee “to formulate plans for the club’s activity regarding the Tennessee Valley Program. ” In August of that year, plans were made for a fifteen-minute radio program on WROL as a part of the Society’s contribution of cooperation with the TVA in its program. In the words of one long-time member “things were never the same again.”
Many of the engineers, architects and scientists who had arrived in Knoxville found their way to Technical Society meetings, at first as speakers and guests, later as members. In the fall of 1933, four meetings were addressed by speakers from TVA on topics ranging from street tree planting to highway design. A 1934 program describing construction methods and equipment being used in construction of Norris Dam attracted an audience of seventy-six. Prior to 1933, the usual attendance had been twenty to thirty.
The newcomers from TVA began to join the Technical Society almost immediately. Between September and May of 1934, thirty-eight new members joined, twenty-five of whom were from TVA. By 1936 the membership totaled one hundred twenty-three, of whom twenty-two were from UT and fifty from TVA. Almost every month after 1934 saw members joining from the ranks of the new arrivals. The impact on the Technical Society was immediate. As Past-President Hale said, the transfusion was badly needed. Deans Ferris and Dougherty are also said to have believed that the influx of new members was a lifesaver for the Society. Many of the new members were renowned engineers who had already achieved great distinction in their fields. Others were younger men who would gain world-wide
recognition for their pioneering work in the Tennessee Valley. The benefits were reciprocal. The Society gained energetic and talented members, while the newcomers found in the Technical Society an introduction to the community and to many of its leading citizens. In fact, the Technical Society was unique in its welcome of the new arrivals. No other local group offered the same combination of technical forum and social meeting ground. For many newcomers, joining the Technical Society was the first step in an attempt to become part of a community which had not traditionally welcomed outsiders. Many of the new members began to involve themselves in the life of the Society almost immediately. They initiated new activities, such as a George Washington’s Birthday party at the Andrew Johnson ballroom to which ladies were invited. The TVA orchestra provided music. Later the same year a new member announced the presentation by the TVA Players of the Chinese fantasy, The Yellow Jacket, to which all members were invited.
The new members were quick to concern themselves with civic problems as well. There was ample scope for their energies. Knoxville in the 1930’s was plagued with sooty air, a growing traffic problem, lack of municipal planning, inadequate and deteriorating housing.
Many of the newcomers remember their first impression of Knoxville as one of soot and smoke. One called it “a down and out city.” Past-President Ervin Newman vividly remembers his first morning in Knoxville when, on looking out his hotel window, he saw a herd of cattle crossing Gay Street. To these men, many of whom had come from larger metropolitan areas, life in Knoxville must have seemed somewhat unusual. To them, many of its problems were obvious and action was essential.
A 1935 discussion of Knoxville’s traffic situation gives an interesting insight into the differing approaches to problem solving represented by some Society members. On the subject of how best to improve traffic safety in Knoxville, there were four quite different perspectives. Professor Dougherty of UT suggested that a course in traffic safety be established at the University. Architect Charles Barber spoke of the need for traffic surveys. A new member from TVA advocated a volunteer traffic police corps, while another new member told the group how the problem had been approached in St. Louis. The minutes report that “a lively discussion followed on relative standards of safety and law observance in Knoxville and other cities.”
Some members may have objected to criticism of their city. J. Wallace Keller, a member whose ancestors had been early settlers of the area, quit the Society in the 1930’s because he found the new TVA members “too pushy.” If there was resentment of the new members and their sometimes unfavorable comparisons of Knoxville with other cities, there was also the realization that these men were willing to involve themselves in the work of the Society and to lend their considerable talents to the civic improvements which they believed to be necessary.
By 1937 the Society had elected its first president from the ranks of the TVA members. The presidency of A. S. Fry marked the beginning of an active period in the Society’s history. “Fry, described by one member as a “good tyrant,” stressed organization and seriousness of purpose. Monthly board meetings were held at the UT Faculty Club. A new constitution was adopted and printed in a yearbook which also included lists of the members, officers, committees. and a short history
of the Society. The cover of the yearbook was adorned with the new Technical Society logo of sliderule and triangle which was designed by TVA engineer James G. Allen.
The method for announcing future meetings also became more elaborate. Since 1921 Professor Robert C. Matthews had been responsible for sending out notices of meetings. A charter member, Matthews graduated from the University of Illinois in 1902, where he gained a national reputation as one of the country’s first cheerleaders. The first engineering faculty member hired by Charles Ferris as dean, Matthews taught descriptive geometry and elementary machine design. In 1937, Professor Matthews inaugurated the weekly bulletin, the Technical Soupçon, which he composed, typed, duplicated, and mailed himself. The letter-sized sheet contained notice of the coming week’s program, a description of the program of the previous week, announcements, and attendance figures. Matthew’s distinctive style featured good humored jokes and outrageous puns. The name Soupçon, itself a play on words, suggested the miscellaneous nature of the newsletter as well as the Society’s lunchtime custom. Professor Matthews continued to publish the newsletter until his retirement fromthe University in 1949, when he was made an honorary member of the Society. Matthews’ humor and personality were reflected in the Soupçon, and its success was entirely due to his efforts. After 1949 the publication underwent various changes, going from note card to legal size and finally becoming a monthly newsletter.
Another Technical Society tradition begun in the 1930’s was the weekly drawing for an attendance prize, known as the Brier Bowl. The earliest mention of such a
drawing is found in reports of the 1935 George Washington’s birthday celebration. The first prizes were free lunches. For many years Burgess B. Brier was in charge of the lottery. A June 1937 Technical Soupçon announced that the drawing would be called the Brier Bowl since “the club gets stuck weekly for a free lunch.” The prize, which was designed to encourage attendance and prompt payment of dues, was won by the third name drawn–if that person were present and wearing his name badge. After Brier’s resignation from the Society in 1959, the drawing was carried on as the Humidor by Ritchey Hume and finally as the Gravy Bowl.
1937 was a year when new committees were established and new projects begun. A new smoke-abatement committee was appointed to study ways to bring the problem to the public’s attention. A traffic committee issued a report which called for enactment, enforcement, education, and engineering in solving the city’s traffic problems. The committee further recommended that driver education and a state driver’s permit be compulsory, stating that “no mere payment of a dollar should be construed as granting anyone the right to operate a swiftly moving vehicle over the streets of the city.”
One of the Society’s earliest civic improvement projects was begun in 1937. It proposed to construct a zero milestone in front of the Post Office from which distances could be accurately measured. Although the project was approved by City Council, permission for the marker to be erected on government property was denied by the Treasury Department and the Project was dropped in 1941.
The first Technical Society awards to UT engineering students were announced by Dean Ferris in 1937. Prizes of twenty-five and fifteen dollars were given for the best papers on an engineering subject. The awards were given yearly until 1942, when war-time conditions forced suspension of the competition.
By the late 1930’s the Technical Society had established committees to study many civic and professional issues. In 1939 there were committees for traffic, flooding, industrial training, the city plan, student papers, smoke abatement, and fire protection. One of the most ambitious projects was a proposal submitted by the traffic committee. It proposed that the city build a circumferential boulevard which would completely encircle the downtown and nearby residential districts. The plan called for a divided four-lane highway which would follow, on either side, the courses of First and Third Creeks. The creek channel in the center would be enlarged for flood protection. The eleven-an one-fourth mile boulevard would relieve traffic congestion on downtown streets, promote safety, insure flood protection, and provide landscaped recreation areas along the river front. The plan, which filled the front page of the Sunday Knoxville Journal Magazine for August 20, 1939, was headlined “A Dream for the Future.” The visionary plan foreshadowed the later construction of Neyland Drive, Bicentennial Park, the downtown business loop, and the 1-640 connector. The Journal report termed the plan’s only obstacle the city’s financial stringency. Indeed, as the Society would discover, financial stringency was a formidable obstacle, impeding implementation of virtually every civic improvement for the next thirty years. Local conservatism and resistance to change were
further obstacles, as the chairman of the traffic committee, H. L. Freund, discovered while accompanying a field representative of the National Safety Council who was visiting Knoxville. The two men encountered no local support for the idea of a Knoxville Safety Council. Guy Smith, editor of the Knoxville Journal, doubted that money could be raised either publicly or privately for such a venture.
The director of the Chamber of Commerce was not helpful, saying that he did not look with favor on any civic movement which involved criticism of present public policies. Since neither local newspaper reported the field representative’s visit, although both had interviewed him, the men reached the conclusion that there was no local support for work on traffic safety and that Knoxville was satisfied with the status quo.
Despite this somewhat pessimistic outlook, the Technical Society continued to work toward its goals of civic improvement and to offer its services to the city whenever it felt it could be of use. In the 1940’s Knoxville needed help. In 1946 John Gunther called Knoxville “the ugliest city I ever saw in America. . . Sunday movies are forbidden and there is no Sunday baseball. Perhaps as a result, it is one of the least orderly cities in the South–Knoxville leads every other town in Tennessee in homicides, automobile thefts, and larceny.” Although Knoxvillians furiously objected to his portrayal of what Gunther described as “an intense, concentrated, degrading, ugliness,” the city was dirty, its housing was deteriorating, its population was declining, and its government lacked funds for needed improvements. Even Knoxville journalist Lucy Templeton wondered in her column if the city would be able to recognize and find solutions to its problems.
The Technical Society offered its services in several areas. In 1940 City Manager Mynatt gladly accepted the Society’s offer of help in revising the city building code. In 1941 a committee produced a revised code which was approved by City Council and adopted on December 2, 1941. Despite the city’s promises to publish the new code, this was not done until 1944, when the Technical Society paid to have it printed.
In 1940 the flood committee issued a seventeen-page booklet outlining Knoxville’s potential for flood damage. Citing a giant Ohio Valley flood of 1937, it suggested steps the city could take to avoid a similar disaster.
The Society also continued to work on plans for development of river-front land created by the closing of Ft. Loudoun Dam. In 1940 the Society offered its help to the City Planning Commission, and a committee worked with TVA on waterfront development plans. In 1941 the city hired Bartholomew and Associates to review planned waterfront development. City Council approved a plan which called for parks and a river-front highway similar to the one proposed by the Technical Society in 1939.
The Society kept up its work on smoke abatement. A committee reviewed Knoxville’s smoke ordinances, issuing a report critical of City Council for its failure, in 1940 and 1941, to fund budgets for enforcement of smoke regulating ordinances. The News Sentinel for March 6, 1941, quoted the Technical Society’s report and asked that funds for effective enforcement be found. As a result of the Society’s work, two inspectors were appointed to the staff of the smoke regulation engineer.
By 1944 thirty-one Technical Society members were serving in the armed forces and the remaining members were ready to assist in the war effort.One member,
Harry Tour, designed and made a service flag which displayed a star for each service member. The Brier Bowl prize was paid in Defense Stamps. Dean Dougherty, who was Civilian Defense Coordinator for Knox County, offered the Society’s services in civil defense. Its first project was a study of protection of school children in air raids. Prepared in conjunction with the Knoxville Sub-Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the report was an extensive one, containing plans of each city school, as well as an assessment of each structure’s value as a possible shelter. The buildings were described, shelter areas designated, and needed improvements noted. Two appendices described the dangers of explosions and their effects. The report recommended that in the event of attack, schools be evacuated if possible. The Board of Education and the Office of Civil Defense adopted the proposals.
As its contribution to the war effort, the traffic committee studied city traffic lights, to determine whether some stop lights could be turned off in order to save gasoline, rubber, and to speed up traffic flow. Of twenty-six lights investigated, the report concluded that nine could safely be discontinued or replaced by stop signs. The report was sent to City Manager Webb, who later made some changes as a result of the study. Not all Knoxvillians were impressed by this Technical Society effort, however. City Judge Bob Williams dismissed the case of a motorist charged with a traffic violation at Martin Mill Pike and Chapman Highway, where a light had been changed from red to blinking, with the comment, “some more of that expert stuff. . . the money saved wouldn’t pay the hospitaI bills of those injured there.”
Before the end of World War II the Technical Society began to think about the direction the city would take in the post-war period. It continued to advocate planned growth and the employment of well trained professionals as advisors to the city. In 1943 a post-war planning committee was formed. It was hoped that the committee could interest representatives from other civic organizations in planning for Knoxville’s development. Because of its strategic location and cheap power, the Society felt that Knoxville was potentially on the verge of a period of new growth. It proposed that the Society take the lead in promoting advertising of Knoxville and the area. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation was far different. In the 1940’s Knoxville politics was dominated by Cas Walker, a politician who had consistently opposed increased taxes, spending, and change. Nevertheless, in 1945 the Society sent Mayor-elect Walker a resolution urging City Council to appoint a qualified city manager who met the requirements of the International City Manager’s Association. In 1946 Walker fired progressive City Manager Paul Morton. The post-war planning committee identified many of Knoxville’s pressing problems. It called for a school-building program and worked for passage of a school-bond issue. In 1946, City School Superintendent Prince asked the Technical Society for a special committee to help the Board of Education plan temporary school buildings. In 1947 the Society was given the opportunity to discuss important civic issues on WNOX Radio Forum. For its two programs the Society chose to discuss Knoxville’s need for a new technical high school and a civic center. In discussing the need for vocational education, the Society pointed out
that 62.6% Qf all Knoxville’s students dropped out of school between grades one and eleven. In cooperation with the Knoxville Council of Civic Clubs, the Technical Society led the way in calling for a civic auditorium, a project which was finally realized in 1961.
Progress was slow in many areas. In the 1940’s the Society began sending representatives to City Council meetings and reporting its actions to their members. It urged other civic groups to follow its
lead in monitoring Council’s deliberations. When the city asked for
help from civic groups on the problem of First Creek flooding, the Technical Society offered its assistance, while urging that the city
hire a consulting flood control engineer to make a study to determine
what solutions were needed and at what cost.
Some of the Society’s other post-war projects were continuations
of earlier work. The traffic committee went on wrestling with
Knoxville’s traffic problems. One member suggested that an emergency squad be formed to repair dangerously run down streets.
In 1945 it issued a thirteen-page report entitled Stop Traffic Accidents, It Can Be Done. The report described a situation of increased car registrations and climbing accident rates, proposing creation of a Traffic Commission as well as a scientific survey of traffic conditions and safe driving courses in schools. One thousand copies of the report were distributed to City Council, County Court, police, and to nineteen civic groups. . . The report stated that since 1937, when it inagurated a traffic-safety program, the Society had been instrumental in saving 235 lives. A News Sentinel editorial for September 16, 1945, praised the Technical Society for issuing the report, which was carried on page one of the Sunday
Magazine, but termed some of its proposals “too elaborate” and called
instead for better enforcement.
Enforcement was also key to the on-going smoke-abatement effort.Throughout the 1940’s, the Society stressed the importance of enforcing existing regulations as well as the need for public education.
It repeatedly offered its services to the city. A resolution which was
sent to Mayor Edward Chavannes in 1947 described the Society’s resources as “over two hundred engineers who are ready to help with what many regard as Knoxville’s number one problem.” In 1949 it adopted smoke abatement as its major continuing professional project. Despite its efforts, there is little evidence that the city took advantage of the Society’s offers of assistance. In 1951 the group was still attempting to educate the public to the dangers of air pollution.
That year it published a chart showing the correct way to fire a furnance with soft coal in order to reduce smoke.
TRANSITION YEARS 1950-1960
In the spring of 1951 the Technical Society observed its thirtieth anniversary. As part of the founder’s day celebration, a special issue of the Technical Soup90n was printed; it contained what proved to be a final interview with Dean Ferris, who died on May 19, 1951, two weeks before the event. In his message Dean Ferris reminded the present and future members of the Society’s dual objectives of civic service and mutual contact and discussion. He expressed the belief that over the years the members had realized these objectives and that through its numerous public projects the Society had made a definite contribution to Knoxville’s civic life.
Certainly by the 1950’s the Society had established its priorities. It had made building codes, traffic, City Council, and smoke abatement on-going concerns. During that period it also concerned itself with public health, civil defense, and municipal planning. Its members were involved in virtually every aspect of the city’s life. By then many of the TVA members and their families had lived in Knoxville long enough to become active participants in community life, serving as Scout leaders, church workers, and joining PTA groups. Harry Wiersema for example, active in civic welfare work, was also instrumental in bringing David Van Vactor to Knoxville as head of the UT music department and conductor of the Knoxville Symphony. Wiersema and his four daughters played with the symphony and he served for several years as its general manager.
The Society sponsored a bowling team which was part of the Civic Bowling League. It also sent players to the annual Frank Garrett Memorial Civic Golf Tournament. In one contest the Technical Society was represented by fourteen golfers, who ranged in age from twenty-five to eighty-six. Robert Monroe, age eighty-six, shot a ninety-three.
For many years, from the late 1930’s until 1954, the Technical Society’s annual picnic was a highlight of the year.Some of the most memorable picnics were held at the Tazewell Pike home of Charles Barber and, later, of Homer George. The members and their families enjoyed traditional picnic fare: fried chicken, potato salad, tomatoes, pickles, and watermelon, which was served on long brown-paper-covered tables. The afternoon festivities included games of softball, horseshoes, bingo, bridge, and badminton. There were door prizes and prizes for children’s games. The gardens and high hedges were perfect places for games of tag and hide and seek. Later picnics were held at Fountain City Park and the Municipal Water Plant.
By the early 1950’s, however, the picnic had become less popular. Perhaps the members and their families had outgrown picnics and softball. Perhaps the new phenomenon, television, seemed more interesting than picnics. Whatever the reasons, the Society voted in 1954 to discontinue the tradition. For two years a newly-formed Ladies’ Auxillary held a barbecue; but in 1957 the Auxillary voted itself out of existence, abandoning the idea of a summer outing.
Subsequently the annual meeting in January would become the Society’s primary social occasion. If the Technical Society was changing, with even its newest members becoming part of the community, Knoxville, too, was in a state of transition. The 1950’s saw an
increasing trend toward suburbanization, as more families moved to newly established subdivisions outside the city limits. Within the city, unemployment was high and many local , industries were in decline. Knoxville had the highest percentage of people earning under $3,000 of all metropolitan areas in Tennessee. Between 1950 and 1960 the city’s population declined, while its dependent population (under eighteen and over sixty-five) represented eighty percent of the city’s population gain. These demographic shifts symptomized what one source has called “a city in trouble.”
As it had in the past, the Technical Society called attention to many of the city’s problems, offering its members’ assistance and encouraging the city to hire professionals to solve technical problems. In a resolution supporting a proposed municipal auditorium, the Society asked that Council, in carrying out the project, employ competent planners and architects and that it consult with the city and county planning commissions. Although the auditorium plan failed, the Technical Society continued to send resolutions to the mayor and Council. It endorsed a new city sanitary code as well as construction of a primary sewage treatment plant for Knoxville. When the city dismissed its sanitary engineer, ostensibly for economic reasons, the Society passed a resolution protesting the action and requesting that the position be filled immediately with a fully trained professional sanitary engineer. In 1953, City Council, responding to pressure from the Technical Society and other groups, called for a referendum on funding a treatment plant, and by 1956 Knoxville’s sewage disposal facility was completed.
In 1950 the Society sent a report to Mayor James Elmore recommending that the city adopt the Southern Standard Building Code, and calling the old code, which the Society had prepared in 1940, inadequate for new, developments in building materials and construction methods. The mayor accepted the report, asking for the maximum publicity coverage, and the Southern Standard Code was adopted. Proposals for a county building code were not successful at that time.
When, in 1950, repairs were being made to the Gay Street bridge, the Society recommended that the city hire consulting engineers to carry out a stress analysis of the structure, which had been built in 1897. As a result, the city hired a firm to carry out the necessary investigations.
Although the idea of urban planning had been introduced in Knoxville as early as the 1920’s, in the 1950’s the concept of planning as an accepted part of government’s role was a controversial political issue. In 1950, under Mayor Elmore, the City Planning Commission published a general city plan for Knoxville which was the first such attempt since the Bartholomew report. A preliminary Technical Society analysis called it not a plan but a statement of objectives for a future plan. The report noted that if followed, the plan would further divide the city into neighborhood shopping districts and decentralize the business district by the construction of expressways.
In 1952, Mayor George Dempster, opposing the previous administrations’ planning policy, proposed to transfer planning to the city engineer’s department. As a result, the planning commission staff and several of its citizen members resigned. Subsequently, the Technical Society’ city plan committee advised that its name be
changed to the civic development committee and that it send a representative to joint City County Planning Commission meetings which were beginning to be held monthly.
The trend toward suburbanization produced some new challenges for the Society’s members. Between 1943 and 1956, fifty-six new sub divisions were built outside the city. All of these areas depended on
wells and septic tanks. In 1954 the joint Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission asked for the Society’s help in the septic-tank effluent problem. A committee was appointed to classify Knox County soil for septic tank use. It consolidated several hundred soil classifications into four broad groups according to their general suitability as disposal media. The committee used its studies to construct a soil map showing the various types of soil in the area. ` When the Planning Commission asked for help in reviewing specifications for subdivisions, the Society appointed a committee which, with the FHA, redrafted the existing specifications, which were found to be ambiguous and poorly arranged. It prepared specifications for new roads, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks of subdivided areas.
In 1956, these special committees and the civic development committee were incorporated to form the metropolitan planning committee, which began to work closely with the newly-formed Metropolitan Planning Commission. After the MPC was established, with its own staff, the Society was not as necessary as it had been for technical assistance. It did, however, work to promote the MPC and to increase public awareness of the need for planning. In 1957 with that goal in mind, the Society
began a quarterly news letter, The Metropolitan Planner.
Each issue was designed to bring a particular topic to the attention of Technical Society members and other interested groups. Five hundred copies of volume I, entitled “Knoxville’s Growing Pains,” were sent to civic groups and community leaders. Other issues dealt with industrial land use, downtown development, streets, highways, and traffic, as well as city and county finances.
The city continued to search for solutions to its many problems. Between 1945 and 1959, it commissioned six separate traffic and street plans. Soot was still a worry–1949 sootfall was 143.3 tons compared to 348.6 tons in 1936. The Technical Society took part in a campaign sponsored by radio station WNOX aimed at emphasizing the public’s responsibility for observance of anti-smoke ordinances. When asked by the Knoxville Civil Defense Committee, the Society appointed personnel to help in collecting information for a Civil Defense Analysis of areas such as traffic, utilities, communications, weather and geology.
In the 1950’s the Society continued its practice of sending letters to each new mayor and to city and county officials, offering the aid of its various committees. The response varied with each administration.
Mayor Elmore welcomed Society help on building codes, and Mayor Dance appreciated its support of the MPC. Mayor Dempster, however, did not respond to offers of help from the traffic and school building committees.
The 1950’s have been called a time of complacency. Knoxville, traditionally a conservative community, continued in that era to view change suspiciously. The Technical Society, while consistentlyadvocating the use of modern methods and technology, reflected community
values in its reluctance to become involved in some controversial areas. It actively supported the movement for fluoridation of the water supply, a position which could be supported by scientific data. It refused, however, to assist the Americans for Democratic Action in a plan for entertaining foreign visitors to the area. In 1954, following the
Supreme Court’s landmark decision ending school segregation, the chairman of the school-building committee suggested that the Society study school consolidation and desegregation. Although it was to advocate consolidation, the Society did not address itself to the issue of desegregation. In 1954, when asked for a contribution to help finance Bible teaching in the city schools, the Society denied the request; not on grounds of separation of church and state as originally suggested, but because as a non-technical matter it did not come within the Society’s scope. That position also led the Society to refuse permission for a program by Miles Horton, of the Highlander Folk Center, as too controversial. However, in 1959 the Society sponsored meetings on the subject of the proposed metropolitan government at a time when many civic groups avoided that controversial issue.
While reluctant to become involved in issues which it felt were outside its mandate, the Society was to initiate one of its most popular projects in the 1950’s. In conjunction with the Knoxville News Sentinel and the University of Tennessee, the Technical Society sponsored the first Southern Appalachian Regional Science Fair. On May 2, 1953, the Society gave the first awards dinner, which was attended by one hundred fifty students. It has continued to support the Fair, providing it with judges and, until 1966, underwriting the banquet. After that year it was decided instead to donate two
cash awards and trophies to the senior division winners in engineering or physics.
CHALLENGE AND CHANGE 1960-1984
The years since 1960 have been challenging ones for the Technical Society. A period during which the Society questioned its purpose and methods, it was also a time when some of the Society’s goals for the community seemed at last to be within reach. The Society continued its interest in civic improvement, while putting a new emphasis on educational projects and involvement with other professional groups.
By the 1960’s the city had begun to come to grips with many problems which had long interested the Society. Trained professionals were employed to solve technical problems, something which the Society had always called for. The city’s planners, traffic engineers, and pollution experts were at work on problems to which the Technical Society had once given a great deal of its time and attention. It was time for the Society to reassess its role in the community and to establish future goals.
Between 1965 and 1975 the Technical Society initiated three separate investigations into its direction and purpose. As early as 1957, one member expressed the fear that the Society was “coasting,” that not enough of value was being accomplished. A 1966 report found the Society deficient in the performance of civic duties; it cited Article I, Section 2 of its Constitution, which calls for the Society to “aid in an educational manner, the public in the solution of civic questions.” One committee felt that its obligation to the community was not being met “except for a few programs and projects accomplished in the past and only one currently in progress.”
In 1967 it was suggested that the Society needed a single worthy project and that a public relations program be enacted to support it. This spirit of self-examination continued into the 1970’s when the board discussed the need for more and better committees, more complete committee reports, and a more active board. It repeatedly expressed the wish that the Technical Society not be “just a knife and fork club.” In 1975 a self-study committee reported lagging member interest, indicated by low attendance. A survey found that as few as one-sixth of the members polled would actively work for the Society, while only one-half said they would take some part in its programs and activities. As a result of the report the committee suggested that the Society needed to improve its image with its own members and that it should eliminate non-functioning committees, emphasizing instead those concerned with civic problems. Again, it hoped that the Society could change its image from that of a lunch group to one of a service organization.
In addition to member apathy and lack of direction there was the problem of decline in weekly attendance. By the 1970’s older members and retirees made up the bulk of the attendance at weekly meetings. It was felt that new faces were needed. In 1975 TVA employees and retirees made up half of the membership. Although special efforts had been made over the years to include UT faculty members, many had dropped out because of class schedule conflicts and research commitments. Oak Ridge had never been a source of members because of the time restrictions imposed by the lunch-hour meetings.
Membership guidelines had traditionally been subject to interpretation.
Although the Constitution states that members be persons engaged in engineering, architecture, physics, chemistry, or allied arts and sciences, the last phrase had been cited as an indication that membership qualifications might be construed liberally. In the past a few members had been accepted if the applicants had been connected in some way with a technical organization. Nevertheless, the majority of members were engineers, architects or scientists. In 1963, when the president brought up the question of admitting negros, the matter was shelved for the reason that the only prospect was an economist, not an engineer. By the 1980’s the Society had one black member. Women, too, were at first excluded by the terms of the Constitution. There were few qualified women architects or engineers in the area until quite recently. The first woman member, admitted in 1968, was Rose Ann Hatcher Kyle, a statistician who worked in TVS’s division of water control planning. In 1971, Helen Mason, a technical librarian was elected to the Society. She went on to serve as secretary and member of the board and was awarded honorary membership. A few other women joined in the 1980’s. In general, however, the membership continued to be white and male, with TVA employees making up the largest group.
Despite questions of direction and method, there was evidence that the Society’s efforts had not been unsuccessful. From 1960 to 1980 progress was made in many of the areas in which it had been involved. A combination of factors including new political alignments, better economic conditions, industrial and population growth, gave Knoxville a new, more positive outlook. In 1971 Mayor-elect Kyle Testermam
challenged the Technical Society to provide guidance and leadership in community affairs, saying that its proposals did influence the deliberations of local governing bodies. Evidence of this could be seen in the areas of air and water pollution. Since 1927 the Technical Society had been active in support of smoke abatement. By 1962 this committee’s name was changed to the air pollution control committee. In reply to a letter from the committee, the city smoke regulation engineer reported that the city’s original ordinance, which the Society had reviewed, had been amended three times since 1940. From 1940 to 1950, sootfall was reduced from 286 tons per square mile to 83 tons per square mile.
A 1965 committee report, Air Pollution–A Growing Menace in Knox County, outlined the general situation including topography, weather factors, types of pollutants, and existing regulations. It recommended that the county apply for federal funds for an air pollution study by experienced consulting engineers. In 1966 such a survey was instituted by the MPC. The next year the air pollution committee reviewed plans for a new rendering plant at East Tennessee Packing Company, finally determining that the new plant would not create an odor or water pollution problem.
In 1968 the Technical Society congratulated Knox County’s Commissioners on the establishment of a Department of Air Pollution Control, which was to be responsible for controlling pollution in both the city and county. The Society has continued to support funding for the department and its director. Society members have served on the Pollution Control Board, Hendon R. Johnston serving as its first
chairman. By 1972 the environmental resources committee was able to report that “based on the activities of the Knox County Department of Air Pollution Control and particularly Mayor Kyle Testerman. . . it was judged that for the first time ever pollution control activities in Knoxville and Knox County are receiving their due share of governmental attention.” An air pollution committee continues to keep members informed. In 1983 the Society passed a resolution supporting reauthorization of the Clean Air Act and supporting provisions which would maintain environmental gains of the past decade, as well as initiate positive action to reduce acid rain.
The Society was also concerned with water pollution. In 1966, at the request of the Clean Water Council, the air and water pollution committee prepared an informational paper, Public Service Paper 661 on the Southern Extract Company. The report included a study of the plant and its history in Knoxville. It described the company’s pollution of Ft. Loudoun(sic) Lake by its waste products. The paper recommended that the city make a study of the economics of water-quality management in deciding to what degree pollution of lake water by industry may be permitted. When the problem of First Creek flooding became an issue after a 1976 flood, the Society offered its help in developing a floodcontrol plan. Mayor Tyree withdrew his 11.6-million-dollar plan until it could be examined by experts from TVA and the Technical Society.
The 1970’s found the environmental resources committee at work on the problem of waste. In 1971 it issued two reports which were summaries of several years of discussion on the problem. The reports recommended that the existing Third Creek facilities be reorganized,that sewer ordinances be enforced, and
that the entire system be evaluated by an independent consulting engineering firm. They further recommended that the city and county find a site for a sanitary land fill and develop and implement a five-to ten-year waste-management program. Mayor-elect Testerman asked for, and received, Society suggestions for implementation of the two reports.
In 1975 the Society published a report on the waste problem entitled, Illegal Dumping in Knox County: the Problem and the Solution. The report, which described the many problems associated with illegal dumps, presented three possible plans for correcting the situation and for providing county residents with garbage service. Copies of the report were sent to Knox County Judge Howard Bozeman and other county officials.
The Technical Society had long urged the city to hire and adequately fund a professional engineer to oversee a traffic engineering department. A 1961 committee report characterized the city traffic engineer as most discouraged about his work, adding that ninety-five percent of his recommendations were not accepted by City Council. In 1971 the Society issued a study of city traffic operations, the policies of the traffic engineering department, traffic enforcement policies, and the court system. The report found that in addition to better enforcement, the city needed more than one traffic engineer and a larger budget for the traffic department. It further recommended that a committee of representatives from local engineering societies and the Technical Society be formed to advise the mayor and City Council. Mayor Testerman asked the traffic committee chairman to work with him in revising the traffic engineering department. In 1972 the traffic committee reported that it had been inactive because the 1971 traffic analysis was so well received by the mayor and Council that it was thought best to let the new traffic director get started “without agitation.”
Long a supporter of the MPC, the Technical Society policy in the past two decades has been not to duplicate the work of the commission, but to actively support its recommendations. In 1968 the MPC Chairman, Dr. William Cole, asked the Society to undertake a comprehensive study of the organization and function of the MPC. The study, which was carried out in conjunction with the UT Graduate School of Planning, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, and the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers, was intended to determine whether the MPC was reaching its full potential. It outlined Knoxville’s problems and recommended that the MPC formulate an over-all regional plan for Knoxville and Knox County. In 1971 a Technical Society member served on an advisory committee to screen applicants for MPC director. Throughout the 1970’s the Technical Society’s metropolitan planning committee worked to encourage municipal planning. It was hoped that the Society could serve as an intermediary between the MPC, developers, and homeowners. The committee also reviewed preliminary studies for the proposed east-south Knoxville connector and bridge. In 1979 two of its three recommendations were adopted at hearings on the project.
In addition to supporting metropolitan planning, the Society continued to monitor zoning and codes. In 1963 it called for a new zoning ordinance to replace the city’s 1928 ordinance and the 1941ordinance for annexed
areas. City Council adopted the Southern Standard Housing Code in 1971 following a recommendation by the Society.
In the 1970’s the Technical Society turned its attention to such contemporary topics as nuclear power and the Tellico Dam project. The Society made little effort to examine differing views of these issues. In the 1970’s TVA policy favored development of its nuclear power programs as well as completion of the Tellico Dam project. Perhaps because of its large TVA membership, or perhaps because of a tendency of the members to endorse the findings of many of their eminent colleagues, the Society invited speakers who represented the opinion of the majority of the membership on these questions.
Nuclear power was the topic of numerous Society programs. It heard from such advocates of nuclear power as the Chief of TVA’s Nuclear Engineering Branch and the head of the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration at Oak Ridge. The best attended meeting of 1972 (145 present) was addressed by the project manager of TVA’s Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant. The program for the following week was a talk by the Director of Reactor Research for the Atomic Energy Commission on nuclear power as the key to future energy needs.
Four programs for April, 1975 were devoted to various aspects of the breeder reactor: investigating its impact on the community, its place in the energy program, and the status of foreign breeder programs. All speakers were proponents of the breeder concept. When the Society was challenged by a critic to look at both sides of the breeder issue, he was invited to join the Society and to chair a committee to do just that. There is no evidence, however, that the new member took advantageof the opportunity.
Several programs were devoted to the projected benefits of the Tellico Dam project. In 1972 a representative from Boeing Corporation discussed land purchases involved in development of the proposed new town, Timberlake, and how private enterprise had become involved in the project. Another program was described as an informative description and justification for the Tellico and Timberlake project. In 1977, when the project had been temporarily stopped by the “snail darter” controversy, the Technical Society board of directors approved a resolution supporting the Tellico project and urging its exemption from the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The membership approved the resolution by a vote of forty-seven to one.(Bob Scott remembers voting against. President Mancil Milligan said “ the resolution passes with some opposition”.)
When planning began for a World’s Fair in Knoxville, the Technical Society heard presentations on the fair and how it would benefit the area. Although the Society never formally resolved to support the event, many of its members were involved with the fair in various ways. Some retired TVA members served as guides to the TVA exhibit. Ironically, the World’s Fair created an unforeseen problem for the Technical Society. It had met at the S & W from 1946 until the cafeteria closed in 1981, when the Society moved to Ramsey’s Cafeteria. With the opening of the World’s Fair, the Society was forced to move again, this time to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where the weekly attendance dropped sharply.(actually the Society met in several places- including the YWCA which had hosted the Society in earlier years- before settling on St. John’s Episcopal Church.) The Society is currently meeting at the Quality Inn, downtown. In the 1980’s the Society has continued to support the concept of metropolitan government, offering the services of its members to the Knoxville-Knox County Charter Commission. In a recent action it endorsed the concept of a technology corridor along Pellissippi Parkway.In 1983 the Tennessee technology corridor committee was created to help promote the plan.
The Technical Society has, throughout its history, supported educational projects. As early as 1928, it subsidized the Tennessee Engineer, a quarterly publication put out by students of the UT College of Engineering. It contributed to the publication for several periods from the 1940’s until 1951. It was an early contributor to the UT Engineering Library. In the past two decades the Society has concentrated its efforts on the secondary school level. It established a speaker’s bureau which provided speakers to civic clubs and local high schools for Engineers Week talks and career day programs.
In 1959 the Society began the Junior Engineering Technical Society, or JETS, program in several local high schools. Society members served as advisers to the groups, whose aim was to stimulate interest in science and engineering. Students were given opportunities to apply principles learned in school to actual engineering projects. The Technical Society has also sponsored several Explorer Scout Posts which provide opportunities for Scouts interested in science and engineering to carry out projects with the help of Society advisers. In the middle schools, it sponsors Math Counts, math contests which are conducted along the lines of a spelling bee under the leadership of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers. The Society also is a sponsor of the local Junior Achievement program, lending financial support and technical advice to a participating school and judges to the annual competition.
The Society established a Science Enrichment Fund which donated money to area high-school science departments. It provided funds for solar energy-project and a computer at West High, a spectrometer for
Central High School, and equipment for a photography lab at Gresham Junior High.
The Technical Society has continued to support the Appalachian Science Fair and is planning for the 1988 International Science Fair which will be held in Knoxville and which will attract entrants from approximately twenty countries. Finally, in 1983 it established the Ferris Endowment Fund which, it is hoped, will attract contributions from Technical Society members, friends, and former students of Dean Ferris in support of engineering education.
As in the past, the Technical Society enjoys varied and informative weekly programs. It welcomes speakers from many of the area’s institutions including UT, Oak Ridge, and TVA. Traditionally the Society invites the mayor as well as other members of city and county government to speak. For many years members have enjoyed programs ranging over a wide variety of topics. In 1938 they heard Dr. Arthur E. Morgan speak on the engineer and his relation to government, J. B. Jones on marble for the National Art Gallery, Major E. C. Eckel on engineering geology, and Major Robert Neyland on UT football. Often the Society’s members share their special interests or knowledge with the group. In 1949, for example, the late Dana Wood, an avid collector of gravestone epitaphs, gave a talk entitled “Gone But Not forgotten.”
Society programs also serve to keep members informed of technological advances. In the 1940’s the group heard programs on the possible applications of the heat pump, plastics, the atom, and contact lenses. The Society has continued this tradition, inviting speakers from virtually every segment of the community, from
newspapers and school boards to business and industry. In the 1980’s its programs inform members of the latest developments in many areas. Indeed, some members find the more technical programs a challenge to their ability to stay abreast of changing times.
In recent years the Technical Society has emphasized the importance of cooperation with other professional groups. As early as 1946 Society President Armour T. Granger raised the issue, suggesting that the Society take the lead in coordinating local engineering organizations. It was not until the 1960’s, however, that the Society began to move in that direction. In 1966, when it first was invited to join the state-wide Joint Engineering Action Group, it declined on the grounds that the Society’s main focus should remain on the local level. By 1969, however, the Technical Society decided to join JEAG, citing its interest in combatting air and water pollution and in legislation concerning engineering matters. As a member of JEAG, the Society joined engineering groups across the state in working for the public welfare and for the advancement of the engineering profession. Through JEAG it monitors legislation affecting the profession, using JEAG staff resources to inform legislators of its position on matters of professional interest.
In 1973 the Technical Society joined thirty-five technical and professional societies in sponsoring WATTec, a conference and exhibition which is held annually during National Engineers Week. The name, WATTec, is an acronym for Welding and Testing Technology Exhibition and Conference, since its two original sponsors were the Oak Ridge units of the American Welding Society and the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. The conference, with the common electrical unit as the root of its name, focuses on the uses, production, and conservation of energy. It provides a forum in an interdisciplinary environment for exchange of ideas and information on national issues involving science and technology. In supporting WATTec, the Technical Society continues its tradition of encouraging professional growth and fostering public awareness of technical issues.
Past President Robert Collignon believes that in the future the Technical Society could serve as an umbrella group for the area’s many technical and professional societies. It is clear that this is a challenge which the members of the Society have the talent and resources to meet. Over the years the Technical Society has demonstrated its willingness to address complex issues. Traditionally, its members have volunteered their time and expertise in an attempt to improve the quality of life in the area, and the city has gratefully accepted this help, especially at times when it lacked many resources.
If in the 1980’s the Society accepts a new challenge, that of unifying the area’s technical organizations, it would make another significant contribution to the community. Perhaps in years to come the Society will once again emphasize its civic function: identifying local areas of concern to which its members can usefully address themselves and taking an active role in helping to shape Knoxville’s future. Whatever its future direction, it is likely that the Knoxville Technical Society will remember Charles Ferris’ original intention–that the Society work for the good it can do.
The Technical Society Papers. Special Collections. U.T. Library. University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Deadrick, Lucile, ed., Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee. East Tennessee Historical Society. Knoxville, Tennessee, 1976.
Gunther, John, Inside U.S.A. Harper and Brothers. New York, 1946.
McDonald, Michael, and William Bruce Wheeler, Knoxville, Tennessee Continuity and Change in an Appalachian City. The University of Tennessee Press. Knoxville, 1983.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press. New York, 1965.
The Knoxville Journal.
The Knoxville News Sentinel.
(parenthetical comments are by Bob Scott)
The following is by Charles Ferris, founder of the Technical Society of Knoxville:
Remembrances of Charles Ferris
The first effort to organize a team was in 1892. Charlie Moore was captain. Mr. Wertz, a teacher at a local private school for boys was the volunteer coach, later replaced by Mr. Carmon. Wallace Woodruff, a Yale student, put on his uniform and taught a few Yale plays. I have a picture of the team with names of the players.
It was difficult to find enough students to make a team. Would I play? I was a young instructor but there were no rules to bar me from the team. In fact Mr. Cannon registered as a student, though I doubt if he ever attended a class, and was no doubt our star. I was in no sense an asset to the team. I had never even seen a game. My place in the line was at right tackle. About all I learned was to how fall without having my breath knocked out.
The game was rough. It was in the days of the flying wedge. The line formed locked to the center protecting the ball carrier. On one occasion I must have been rather annoyed by the man playing against me for he came out of the scrimmage with a black eye. By the way I remember the captain asked me to play to add weight to the line. I weighed 156 pounds. Our uniforms were very simple, duck trousers, wool jerseys, wool caps, cleats on our everyday shoes. No practice field was near the University. The best we could find was a meadow at the end of Yale Avenue, the area now covered by the L&N shops. Local games were played on what was called Baldwin Field, now covered by the Western Market. The property was owned by Mr. Baldwin, vice president of the Southern Railroad.
The first game of the season was with Maryville, played on their field. There were some bad feelings between the students of the two colleges and I remember that the few students who went with the team carried canes, just in case, though no trouble developed. I played against a very sturdy Jap who complained to the officials that I was holding, but how else could an amateur hold his opponent except by holding.
Our second game of the season was played with Vanderbilt on Friday, followed by a game with Sewanee on Saturday. We lost both games. Return games were played on Baldwin Field. I was out of the Sewanee game recovering from the rough game played at Sewanee. At one point in the Vanderbilt game it looked like we might win, our player had the ball and a clear field but the sole came off his shoe and what chance to make a touchdown with one shoe off and one shoe on.
On the sideline we were honored by the presence of Chancellor Kirkland of Vanderbilt. He was courting Miss Henderson, daughter of the chief attorney of the Southern Railroad. They sat in a carriage behind a pair of fine horses. Two students got into a scrap. Dr, Perkins objected to the point where he hugged both of them.
For years little progress was made in developing football. Coaches came and went with the seasons. The first advance was when Wait field was graded, the area now given over to tennis. Dr, Wait professor of chemistry was chairman of the athletic committee and gave much time to athletics, hence the name. The field was too short. The tall iron fence at the north end was built to keep players off the street. There were a few rows of seats on the west side. Before a game students volunteered to pick up the loose rocks. Prof Mathews was the cheerleader, and a good one. In act Prof. Mathews had a national reputation as a cheerleader. Several years after he joined our faculty to teach mechanical drawing I received urgent telegrams, from the University of Illinois asking that Prof. Mathews be allowed to come to lead the cheering at an important home game. Prof Dougherty was the star player on Waite field. I used to sit with his father on a bench on the east side of the field watching the game. It is told that a rough coach during practice passed behind the line swearing at the players and giving each man a kick where a kick is always resented. When he reached Dougherty, Dougherty said Coach don’t do that again, and he didn’t.
Modern football at the University began when we first won from Vanderbilt on the home field. I happened to sit with Dr. Ayres on the east side bench. He turned to me in astonishment and said, we won. Winning from Vanderbilt aroused local interest in the game. A suitable field was needed with seats enough to care for the public.
The only nearby possibility was the triangular area bounded by Seventh Street, the University campus and the L & N railroad. This was a densely populated area. There was a deep gully on the University side and a cut of 25 or 30 feet was necessary on the west side. The Cooperative Book Store Board took the initiative in securing the property appropriating $1000 to secure options, appointing Profs Hill and Ferris to act for the board. I remember that we first showed our plans and asked the advice of several leading citizens. Mr. C.M. Mc Clung. Mr. Edward Oats, Mr. Cary Spence and Mr. Dave Chapman approved the project and when given the opportunity gave generous financial support. Robert Foust of the Alex McMillan Co. was suggested to work with us. We met no serious trouble in securing options, though it was necessary to make a shift to avoid paying an unreasonable price for one piece of property.
The real problem was still unsolved: to raise the money to take up the options. It was decided to secure a charter for the University Realty Company and offer stock to the public. A mass meeting in market house and (?) was well attended and much interest aroused. Cary Spence, a famous athlete in his youth ; then postmaster was president of the Realty Co. Spence, Chapman and Ferris were in charge of stock sales. I remember that at our first meeting it was decided that we should get a leading citizen to head our stockholders with a generous subscription. I was asked to see Mr. C.M.Mc Clung president of the company bearing his name. When I came back with his order for $1000 worth of stock Spence and Chapman felt confident the plan would succeed. Really, selling stock did not prove to be a very difficult task. Dr. Ayres asked me to quit all class work for a few days and devote all my time to the effort. Mr. Spence and Mr. Chapman were very active. Enough stock was sold to warrant us taking advantage of the options. To have ready cash three banks gave us credit to the amount of $10,000.
The University Realty Company became a heavy property holder. There were about 55 houses on the property yielding some income. In the meantime as other property in the area could be purchased at reasonable prices we found some way to expand. Rentals were handled by the Rambo(?) Realty Co.
The World War 1914 to 1918 prevented all thought of development of the property as an athletic field. But when the war was ended interest was renewed in the project. The big event was the generous gift- by Mr. Wm Shields- a member of the University Board of Trustees. President of the City National Bank, Mrs. Shields joined in the gift hence the name, Shields-Watkins Field. Nearly all stock was donated. Mr. Shields purchased the balance and supplied funds to grade the field and build the first concrete seats. Fitting into the plans was the building of Ayres Hall. To make room for so large a building it was necessary to remove a large amount of earth. Filling a large deep gully along the border of the field joining the University campus offered a convenient dumping ground for this surplus. Plans were drawn showing the necessary cuts and fills. Contract was let to George Dempster to remove the dirt from the top of the hill and do the necessary grading. From this distance it seems odd that mules did most of the hauling. It appears that Mr. Dempster was a pioneer in the use of trucks in this area for he used one on the job. Mr. Dempster was no amateur in moving earth for he had worked a steam shovel in the dredging of the Panama canal. Grading the west side of the field the slope was filled to allow the first 2000 seats to rest on the bank.
Our early plans were soon scrapped by the increased interest in football. Early plans called for a quarter mile cinder track, a 100 yard dash in front of the grand stand and baseball diamond.
When the contractors completed the grading and built the concrete seats the University granted a holiday from all class work to allow students and faculty to work on the field to put it in final form for use. I had noted that McGregor Smith a senior in civil engineering had shown unusual qualities as an executive and asked him to take charge of the plans for the day- quite a task for a young man, for about a thousand people were to be employed & with borrowed tools, teams and trucks from local contractors. Much was accomplished. The weather was perfect. The girls prepared and served the midday lunch. At the end of the day the field was in fair shape.
By chance I ran into a rather interesting sidelight. Enthusiasm was so high that if any student failed to report he was due for punishment. An engineering student failed to report. I found a group of his classmates in the act of ducking him in the pool in the hydraulic laboratory. Perhaps I should have gone my way without seeing, but I talked them out of the act.
The Marble Posts
During my early years at the University very little money was available even to pay meager salaries. (My first years pay was $600) In Washington for some mission for the University by chance I had breakfast with the president of Michigan State College. I had been in his classes in chemistry and he called me Charlie.”Tell me Charlie, how you people in Tennessee can run a university without money. I could almost say with sweat and blood and tears for Dr. Dabney had a way of working everybody very hard and he did not spare himself.
The above is merely introductory to the story of the marble posts at the main entrance and to the Estabrook Road. There was nothing to mark the main entrance to the campus, merely an opening in the hedge. Dr. Dabney asked me if I could do something about it. I could. A man in the marble business had a son in the University taking my classes. I knew the man had more marble than money and arranged for him to supply the marble for the posts at the main entrance in payment for his son’s fees.
When the road was opened from Main Street to Estabrook we again needed a suitable marker. It seemed logical to erect marble posts similar to those at the main entrance. To secure the necessary funds letters were sent out to graduates of the Engineering College. The response was liberal. I doubt if Tom Allen a brilliant engineer, valued citizen of Memphis, member of our Board of Trustees, remembers that he sent his check for $20. By the way, Tom was the other member of my first class in thermodynamics. I agree with him that I did a very poor job.
There is an amusing story in connection with the building of those posts. At that time I was living on White Ave. near the University. One night about eight o’clock I received a telephone call from a student asking if I would approve the holding of a simple ceremony appropriate to the building of the posts and would I be at home to a group of students who wished to call. Soon I heard the then famous, notorious KucheKuche Band playing on West Clinch Ave. cerenading(sic) Prof. Carson and Dr. Perkins. When they reached my home Mrs. Ferris joined me on the porch to greet them. After some more music the leader asked me to join them. Before I could answer Prof. Carson called “come on Ferris and have some fun. We went to the home of Dr. Waite on the campus. A speaker in the group made rather slighting comments on the doctor’s subject, chemistry. Dr. Waite saw no humor in the occasion and refused an invitation to join us. We passed Barbara Hall and cerenaded(sic) the girls , then on to the posts. The boys had a rough coffin and with short, appropriate speeches copy of each textbook in engineering was deposited in the coffin. Well I remember when they buried a copy of the descriptive geometry which I wrote and used as a text. The orator slammed the book into the coffin. “There lies descriptive geometry , written by Prof Ferris, ignored by everybody else”. All the books were bedded in concrete in the west post and are there to this day.
The Road to Estabrook
The original Esta brook Hall was but the beginning of the present rampling(sic) structure, the original entrance shows as the arched opening down stairs in the court. The building was reached by a mud road from Seventh St. when the large addition was made to the front of the original building. The road level was necessarily raised and thus came a need for continuing the road to Main St. Money was never available to pay for the bare necessities but from some source enough was found to pay a contractor for the rough work, cutting and filling, but the road was not ready for surfacing with stone. I explained the problem to Dr. Ayres and asked that all engineering students be given a holiday to work on the road.
A rather misterious(sic) notice appeared on the bulletin board at Estabrook calling for a mass meeting of engineering students and faculty. They all came. I asked if the students would like a holiday. Would students accept a holiday? Of course they would. I suggested they reserve their enthusiasm until they knew my terms. Then the problem was explained and I asked the students to work a day surfacing the the road. The acceptance of the conditions was equally enthusiastic with the understanding that the faculty would work.
Plans had already been made. Seniors would be foremen. Each assigned about 15 men with a list of tools needed and the place to work. Students voted that Prof Carson and Dr. Perkins should serve as water boys. Sure enough they were on the job all day . Each with a new tin pail and dipper. Necessary tools were borrowed from a local contractor. Each foreman was given a list of needed tools, headed by one unicycle. The boys had never heard of a unicycle. It proved to be a wheelbarrow.
It was a great day. The weather was perfect and much work was done. The girls served lunch. We have several good pictures of the boys at work. One in particular shows Dr. Ayres with a hand full of sandwiches , enjoying the day with the boys.
As usual Prof Mathews was the leading character. Early in the afternoon he proposed that we end the day with a banquet. A messenger was sent to the hotel to make necessary plans. It was a good occasion for speeches. Prof Mathews was toastmaster. All right, said Mathews, I will call on you and you and you. So began the annual engineering banquet.
The Manual for Engineers
The engineering faculty was small in the year1900. A photograph taken at that time showed Prof Carson, professor of civil engineering, Dr Perkins, professor of physics, Dr Waite professor of chemistry, J.R, McColl instructor in shop practices, C.E.Ferris instructor in freehand and mechanical drawing.(don’t repeat this, but I was known on campus as the art teacher.) We had noted with regret that there was but a small development of industry in the state. Tennessee was producing raw materials, the product of unskilled labor to pay for the products of skilled labor. No people could grow prosperous with such a handicap.
Dr. Perkins and Prof McColl came to my office to discuss what the university could do to arouse an interest in industrial education as an approach to the development of industries to fabricate the products of our natural resources. We decided to publish a small leather bound book of vest pocket size carrying carefully selected data, chiefly tables, of use for engineers and business executives. The tables were purposely too short to fill the page , leaving room for our messages in the interest of industrial education. Quoting from the preface of the first and all succeeding editions: “Our object in compiling the following pages of tables and other engineering data is to secure a medium whereby we may bring to the attention of the men who control the affairs of the South the strongest possible arguments in favor of industrial education as a means of developing our undeveloped resources.
The first edition was 5000 copies printed locally. We sold enough advertising to pay the cost of publication. I am still surprised that so many leading manufacturers in many states purchased space with nothing to show except our letters telling of our purpose.
We fully expected to distribute the books without charge to men of affairs in the South. But the unexpected happened. When we sent bills to the advertisers , along with their checks came requests to purchase copies, the manufacturers name to be printed on the cover. We needed the money. Of course we would sell. In fact the entire edition was sold with practically no free distribution.
This started a new train of thought. If manufacturers thought so well of our little book why not another edition, and more editions. We were sorely in need of equipment in our tool room in the shops and in our laboratories. In later editions we sold as much advertising space and copies of the book as the traffic would bear. Then began trading space and copies for much needed equipment. Until the plates were badly worn we published about 125,000 copies giving us something like $20,000 worth of equipment. I remember that we made a trade with the Standard Oil Co. for enough asphalt to treat the road from Estabrook to Main St.
The Student Loan Fund
In the early years of the present century there was a very evident dollar shortage among the students attending the University. Many came with the hope that they could find enough work to pay a good part of their expenses. Even when work could be found too much time was taken from studies. I think it was during the first summer school that Dr. Dabney asked me to help in starting a student loan fund. As I remember some kind of an entertainment was given by the summer school students in benefit of the fund. I wrote a number of letters to Knoxville citizens who I thought would be interested. Several hundred dollars were secured. I remember the very generous gift of $100 made by Mr. Leon Jerolmen, leading attorney.
I do not know how her interest was aroused. Mrs. Smith, mother of J.Allen Smith, Grandmother of Powell Smith gave $5000 to the fund. With this generous gift service to the students began. Later Rush Strong gave a very large sum to the fund. My connection with the loan fund was limited to the initial effort, acting on the suggestion of Dr. Dabney.
Note. Early in my connection with the University Dr. Dabney formed the habit of calling on me for things he wanted done. I would receive a telephone call from the office,”Ferris you are a fine fellow” All right Dr. Dabney what do you want me to do now? On a rather recent visit to the University he made the very extravagant statement:”When I wanted another building I could tell Ferris today and it would be ready tomorrow”. He was referring to the problem of finding classrooms to care for the summer school students who came in unexpected numbers. But I wish to add that it was a pleasure to work with Dr. Dabney. No matter how poorly my tasks were performed he never offered a word of criticism. Rather he showed his confidence by asking for more.
The Cooperative Bookstore
Half a century ago there was no organization for handling student books and mail. Some professors ordered books for their students. One dealer in the city tried to carry student books. Mail for students was delivered to a student who stood in front of the Y.M.C.A. Building surrounded by students who asked:”any mail for me today?”
About 50 years ago Dr. Dabney asked me to organize the Book Store and Post Office. Space was assigned in the south end of South College. No funds were available. Equipment for the store and post office was secured on credit. Credit was established with the publishers. I was appointed clerk in charge of the post office with a salary of $100 per year. The business was small and my secretary served part time. She was not a very keen business woman .I remember that after selling out some article I dictated a replacement order. She commented: “There is no need to place that order . We can’t keep it in stock.”
About 1902 it dawned on me that I was personally responsible for every transaction. Sometimes amounting to as much as $10,000. To relieve me of this liability a stock company was formed. Shares were sold at $5.00 each to students, employees and professors giving a capital of about $3000. The board of directors was made up of students and professors. I never owned any stock in the enterprise. It was never our purpose to make a profit. Each year a small surplus was earned and distributed to student enterprises.
The turning point in athletic history occurred when we first won the football game from Vanderbilt in 1910. Our football field was the small area now used for tennis.
The cooperative bookstore initiated the plan to purchase the present field. The board appropriated $1000 to secure options and appointed professors Hill and Ferris to represent the board. Options were secured on much of the present area , then a slum section.
To secure funds to purchase the property the University Reality Com. Was chartered. The success of the sale of stock was largely due to the enthusiastic support of many leading citizens. I may mention Mr. C.M.McClung,Mr. Edward Oats, Mr. Carry Spence, Mr. David Chapman. About $18,000 worth of stock was sold which with few exceptions was donated. During the development of the field practically all of the surplus earnings of the Cooperative Book Store were donated to the enterprise.
Not all the earnings of the Bookstore were donated to athletics. The list of other donations would be rather large. A loudspeaker was purchased for Jefferson Hall at a cost of $1462. There was need for an employment secretary to help students find jobs. The Book Store paid his first years salary, $1800. Through the 50 years the book store has returned to student enterprises more than $40,000, divided roughly, Athletics $15,000 all other student activities $25,000. The store and post office have expanded with the growth of the University. Now occupying all the first floor of South College with the present enrollment this space is too small. At no time has the University expended any money to develop the bookstore. In return for light, heat and janitor service the store furnishes examination books for students at a present cost of about $1200.
Sales have grown from a very small beginning to more than $300,000 due to the large enrollment. With no working capital it has always been necessary to maintain a high credit rating. Every opportunity to secure cash discount has been accepted. Many times to protect our credit rating it has been necessary to secure short term loans from our banker. In parentheses may I add that the banker always required my personal endorsement of the loan.
Credit should be given to the two women who have been the active managers through the years. Mrs. Lule(sic) Jones, known to the students as “Jonesie” was a friend to all students. She resigned in 1921. For 25 years Miss Mary Hess has been the capable manager, meeting growing needs with rare executive ability. Never sparing herself in her service to the students.
In Lighter Vein
Years ago students celebrated Halloween with vigor. One morning the entrance to Science Hall was completely closed with railroad ties taken from maintenance work at the street railway on Main St. One morning a small pony belonging to Dr. Perkins was found on the second floor on South College. The janitors were unable to lead the pony down in the orthodox way and tried backing him down. The rear feet got tangled on the steps and the poor fellow rolled down. He did not seem to mind the experience and began to eat grass.
Col. Nave, commandant found all his guns were missing from the armory and were not found for several days. At chapel he told the boys what dire things would happen if the guns were not returned promptly. In fact he was really standing over the guns hidden under the platform.
There was a small pipe organ in the Science Hall Chapel located in the balcony. It may be there still. On one occasion the boys scrambled the pipes. To Prof. Parsons, the organist, discord meant pain. One can imagine the tragedy when he touched the right keys and produced discord.
In the olden days all students were required to attend chapel. The boy who was not in his seat was called before the Administrative Council. Faculty members were supposed to attend but were not disciplined for absence. It was custom to sing the first and last verses of the hymn. I was not present on this occasion and can only repeat what was told to me. The boys ganged up on Dr. Dabney. They agreed to join in the first verse of the hymn but to remain silent for the second. It is reported that Dr. Dabney did his solo without a break and without comment. I can never forget my first appearance before the students at chapel. Dr. Dabney sent a messenger to tell me that I must make a speech. I was then on my way to chapel. Dr. Perkins was also a new member. He made a short appropriate address. Then I was introduced. What would I say? What could I say? I have read that the human brain begins to work at birth and stops abruptly when called on to make a speech. I remember that I tried to say that the young men present would be running the affairs of the state in twenty five years. I stammered and stopped. Dr. Hoskins who was in the audience, a graduate student, delights to say that he has been waiting all these many years to hear the balance of that speech.
The paper ends without anything about the university extension so it is clear he intended to write more. This paper may have been written in 1946, which is 5 years before he died.
For reference Dabney 1887-1904, Summer School 1902, Ayres 1904-1919, Morgan 1919-1934, Hoskins 1934-1946