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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Water Woes in Part of Riverview

Our cameras found workers from Kingsport Public Works hard at work, repairing a broken water main on Wheatley Street, at the former intersection with James Street in Riverview on Thursday, December 31st.

The broken water line brought out the workers on New Year's Eve morning.. they say the break is a routine one, that the 6-inch water line right here at this part of Wheatley Street is rather old (I told them they should check the water lines on Dunbar and Carver Streets, if they wanted to see OLD water lines).

Public Works employee Joey is in the hole, and he was able to cut the busted water line out, replace it with new pipe, and then clamp it down. The process took about 20 minutes.

Riverview residents on Wheatley Street, from Industry Drive back to Dunbar Street and then down to the old James Street at the new non-profit tower, were all without water for about an hour on Thursday, while the break was repaired. The break did not affect the nearby non-profit tower under construction, nor the renovations going on at V.O. Dobbins, even though it was practically beside the building.


From Each Douglass Alumni Family to Another.....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa turns 43 year old this year (2009). Kwanzaa, the alternative to Christmas mainly celebrated by African-Americans, was created in 1966 by Ron Maulana Karenga.

Ron Maulana Karenga, a political activist and professor was activist in the "Black Power" movement in the 1960s. Karenga helped found the Black empowerment group "US Organization.

Kwanzaa, derives its origins from the African "First Harvest" and was created as way for the African-Americans to connect to their traditions rooted in African and to common humanist principles.

Kwanzaa is based on seven principles each with a Swahili name:

Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa was originally meant as alternative to Christmas. Karenga, who was also a convicted felon, saw Christmas as a "white" holiday that blacks should reject. Since then Karenga and the celebration he spawned have evolved into a more complimentary celebration, occurring from December 26th - January 1.

Though some say Kwanzaa is a manufactured holiday it is now firmly established as a, mainly, American tradition. Recent research shows that over 4.5 million Americans celebrate Kwanzaa.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Your Douglass Website's Christmas Present to You!

Greetings, Douglass Alumni and Riverview Neighbors and Friends!

Remember Mr. Dobbins giving announcements on the loudspeaker? Remember the different ways we understood what we were taught? Remember Coach Deering's determination to win ball games? How about Mr. Gill's determination to Most of all, remember the family atmosphere we experienced at Douglass?

As we remember friendships and togetherness, let your mind wander back to a time when teachers cared about students.. when the school was a sanctuary.

We have a special Christmas present to all of you.

At "The Last Great Program At Douglass" on a special day, January 10, 2009 the audience viewed a very special DVD of interviews and pictures from some of our former Douglass teachers, with their remembrances of the school, some of them humorous, all of them memorable.

They taught us for so many years.. now, it's our time to teach them. We are grateful for our time with them.

The words from Mrs. Ellis, Mrs. Webb, Mrs. Charles, Miss Charles, Mrs. Welker, Miss Long and Coach and Mrs. Bob Deering, make the Walk Down Memory Lane's Douglass hallways unforgetable. Most of our teachers are gone now, but oh, how we remember them. We don't have much left, except our memories.

Our special present to you is that DVD, in the 3 parts below:

Click here for Part 1, "Memories of Douglass Teachers."

Click here for Part 2, "Memories of Douglass Teachers."

Click here for Part 3, "Memories of Douglass Teachers."

Your computer should have the Adobe Flash Player to see the video.

And there's even more good news. The "Memories of Douglass Teachers" DVD itself is now available for sale. Own a piece of our history, history we cannot ever get back, but can stroll through the halls of Douglass with some of the teachers that helped make it special.

The price is $10, and is available right now. If you're out of town, we'll ship it to you for $2.00 extra. Proceeds go to the programs of your Douglass Alumni Association.

Just send an email to: to reserve your copy TODAY! Make your check out to the Douglass Alumni Association, and send it to:

Douglass Alumni Association
P.O. Box 1936
Kingsport, Tennessee 37660.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

After the Blackout, Christmas Caroling in the Snow


Edward Newcomb, Brandon Pruitt (behind Edward) and other members of New Vision Youth sing Christmas carols along Dale Street on Tuesday. A total of 26 carolers from the organization sang along Dale, Maple, Oak and Dunbar Streets. They also visited Maple Oak Apartments and Holston Manor. In photo below, Trenise Harris, left, and Jayven Petty sing ‘Joy to the World’ in front of a house on Dale Street.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Power Restored

According to Andra (Puddin) Waterson, the power is now back on in that 2-block section of Riverview.

The power came back on about 5 PM, Eastern time, late Tuesday afternoon, after a 4-day outage.

Folks are now trying to get their homes warmed back up, and it's a slow process. They're also trying to get some of the sick and shut-in, back into their homes.

Riverview: More Power to the People!


Everything had pretty much settled down in Riverview by Saturday afternoon.. Friday's snow was on the ground, everything was kind of quiet. Folks had spent plenty of time getting used to driving around in the snow and ice, and the focus shifted to what may be a white Christmas later in the week.

And then..... it happened.


"We were just sitting there, watching T-V late Saturday afternoon about 7 o'clock," says James Henderson of Carver Street in Riverview. "All of a sudden, the lights went out. They'd blinked a couple of times, but stayed on. We knew that some of the power was out around us, and we got concerned when ours blinked."

"Then, the lights went out, and stayed out."

Electricity had gone out in a two-square block area of Riverview, bordered by Dunbar Street, Douglass Street, and Louis Street. All of Carver Street from Douglass to Dunbar was also out. The Great Storm of 2009 that dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow last Friday night, had left its cruel Christmas gift on area transformers, power poles and power lines.


"When the power didn't come back on," Mr. Henderson says, "me and (wife) Cecilia started wondering what to do. We called around and every hotel and motel was booked up with the earlier people whose power was off. This home stays pretty warm, in fact, the temperature didn't drop below 60, so we decided to try and ride it out Saturday, piling blankets on the bed, plugging up any air leaks. We got along all right through Saturday night, and the snow outside with no power made everything real quiet."

"Sunday morning, we tried to find a hotel room, and we were lucky this time," he says. "Some people who were stranded along the roads had checked out, but other people who'd lost power were checking in and we were able to find a room at the Hampton Inn at the same time they did. We stayed overnight Sunday, and Monday morning we checked out with the reservation that we might be coming back if the power wasn't back on."

It wasn't.

By this time, American Electric Power was saying it was a slow go to get to all the affected areas, and that some folks might not have power back on until Christmas.

"So, there we were, back in the motel Monday night," Mr. Henderson says.

"It's funny how just those 2 blocks in Riverview were affected. Van across the street from us and your dad's house (the Sneed Jr. house) had power, and they've got power from a different line, right across the street."

Even the homegoing of our neighborhood friend, relative and classmate Clyde Releford had to be moved from Central Baptist to Shiloh Baptist, because Central had no electricity to heat the sanctuary.

Workers from A-E-P did finally get the power back on late Tuesday afternoon about 5 PM. People started slowly trickling back into their homes, trying to get heat pumps and heating and cooling units started back up. Some houses took longer to warm back up than others.

"The lowest it got in our house was 48 degrees," says Mr. Henderson. "When we had siding put on years ago, they put a thermal barrier around it. They didn't take the old siding off, and when the man put the air conditioning in, he recommended that we have more insulation put in the attic, and I told him, as soon as you get through, that's what we're gonna do. It has always made a difference in how warm the house gets in the winter and how cool it is in the summer. We've also got the insulated windows, too."

"I'd been wondering about homeowner's insurance and what it covers in a situation like this, and we thought, 'well maybe, they might call it an Act of God and no coverage for it.'"


We put Mr. Henderson's question to Nathan Vaughn, local agent for State Farm Insurance.

"There is homeowner's insurance for power interruptions," says Mr. Vaughn. "Folks need to make an accounting of what they had, make sure things are I-D'd, and what the value of those items might be. They also need to understand that insurance requires that they have a responsibility to protect their property as best they can, especially anything electronic. There's not a whole lot insurance can do about spoiled food from no electricity, but there's always the issue of pipes that froze up because no water had been flowing through them. When the power's out, there's also no heat to keep some inside pipes warm, and there might be the potential for pipes to develop leaks. We always advise people if they have to leave home during a power outage in very cold weather, to leave a trickle of water running, so the pipes won't freeze from no heat. Policy holders do have a responsibility to try and protect their property as best they can."

Mr. Vaughn also had some advice about electronics during power outages.

"Always unplug all electronics when the power goes off for an extended period of time, especially if they're plugged directly into the wall," he says. "Unplug them BEFORE the power comes back on. When the power does come back on after a long time, it's possible it may come in with a surge, and that may zap certain electronics like TV's, VCR's, computers, radios and things like that. You can always protect them by having them plugged into surge protectors, and the more you pay for one, the better it protects your equipment. If electronics are damaged these days, sometimes it's cheaper to just go buy a new whatever-it-is, we live in a throw-away society. But if insurance pays for it, most policies require an estimate on what the repair cost would be, and insurance will probably go ahead and pay for the full replacement value, what it would cost brand new, even if it's 10 years old."

Andra (Puddin) Waterson is one of the homeowners, trying to get re-settled right now back into a home that has had no electricity for four days.

"We had to clear most everything out of the refrigerator," she says. "There was no power and some things had started thawing out. I don't think there's much to be saved, even though we'd paid for it, and really didn't open the freezer door when the power went out."

Mr. Vaughn also had a word of caution about frozen food that could seem all right.

"When the power comes back on, take all the items out and examine them carefully," he says. "Any little part that is softer than usual, could mean thawing has happened and that could mean germs have set in to food poisoning. That food should be thrown out."

"It's good to know what insurance means if the power's been out," says Mr. Henderson. "I would not have thought to ask those kinds of questions, and I'm glad to know that now."

"This was one storm the weatherman got right," he says. "He said we may have power outages because of snow, and we'd all better be prepared for it. But you can't out-prepare God.. whatever you do, it's still in His Hands."

"He's still watching out for us, and will give us only what He knows we can stand. He took care of us during this time, and we need to give Him the thanks and the Praise."

Still plugging: AEP crews pull 16-hour days to restore power

Photo: David Grace —

Red Cross volunteers Joel Van Ryn and Virginia Hankins prepare lunch Monday for the area residents who remained in the shelter at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. About 14 people were still at the shelter early Monday, waiting for power to be restored to their homes.

TUESDAY MORNING, 12/22/09, 11:30 AM


'We’re working very hard to get neighborhoods restored as quickly as possible.’
— Isaac Webb


AEP Appalachian Power expects power to be restored to the vast majority of its customers by this evening. Worst-case scenario though, some people in this region may still not have power restored until midnight on Christmas.
Last week’s snowstorm knocked out the power to more than 200,000 households in AEP’s service area in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — 20,000 alone in the greater Kingsport area. Over the course of the weekend, more than 1,000 workers took to the streets to repair damaged and destroyed power lines and poles.
By Monday morning, AEP reported 6,800 homes without power in Sullivan County, 1,380 in Hawkins County and 130 in Washington County, Tenn. Isaac Webb, district manager for AEP, said that number should be below 1,000 by Tuesday evening.
“This may linger another day or two on the Tennessee side,” Webb said, noting it could be Christmas before AEP restores power to every home. “It’s difficult to predict because you have to put eyes on every single thing. While we’ve looked at an awful lot of it, there are still surprises waiting on us.”
AEP was reporting 6,400 customers in Scott County without power (including the Duffield Industrial Park), 1,800 in Washington County, Va., 4,000 in Russell County, 10,000 in Buchanan County, 8,400 in Dickenson County and 3,200 in Wise County.
“While we have significant enough trouble on the distribution system, we’ve lost multiple transmission lines in that area so substations do not have electricity to them,” Webb said Monday. “We are fixing those lines today and finishing up identifying the trouble, so you should see that number go down dramatically on (Monday) and Tuesday.”
Webb said probably more than 1,000 people are working in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to restore power. In Kingsport and Scott County, AEP has 144 overhead line contractors from out of state and 120 AEP employees working, along with another four or five dozen tree service crews.
On the Virginia side, Webb said AEP has around 400 outside people working with 200 AEP employees and seven to eight tree service crews. The contractors have come from Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.
“We’re finding that everywhere we go, there is something that has to be fixed — whether it’s a wire down, a pole broken or a tree on the line or whatever,” Webb said. “So the going is a bit slower than we would like because it’s not simply throwing a breaker and restoring power. But we’re working very hard to get neighborhoods restored as quickly as possible.”
Webb said AEP spends over half of its maintenance budget each year on trimming trees, but for the most part, trees with power lines running through the limbs have not been the major problem.
“It’s the trees next to them,” Webb said. “In most cases it’s not trees next to the lines; it’s the trees 20, 30 or 40 feet away from the lines that get overburdened and fall over on the lines.
“When they hit the line, they’re breaking poles, snapping cross arms and knocking wires down. It’s not a simple matter once you get out there to fix the problem.”
When AEP loses power to large sections of its service area, the company establishes a priority system on restoring power — critical pieces of infrastructure come first (hospitals, water pumps, emergency services), then the company looks at where the biggest outages are and tries to restore power there next.
Crews are working 16-hour days to restore power, with Webb noting fatigue is an issue, especially since some of the workers were involved in repairing the damage from the recent windstorm.
“You could have people out there all night long, but you wouldn’t get anything done. It’s cold, and you can’t see what you’re doing. You’ve got to have people who are thinking well,” Webb said.
AEP says customers who are experiencing an outage should make sure Appalachian Power has been contacted by calling or reporting it online.
The phone number to call in Tennessee is 1-800-967-4237, and in Virginia the number is 1-800-956-4237.
To report an outage online go to
Kingsport established an emergency shelter for those without power over the weekend at the Civic Auditorium. On Monday morning, about 14 people were taking refuge in the facility. By the afternoon, about four or five remained. The Red Cross reported about 35 people used the shelter over the weekend.
The Mount Carmel Fire Station was also an emergency shelter over the weekend, holding up to around 30 people at one point and seeing about 60 people total, according to Fire Chief Chris Jones. By Monday afternoon, the number had dropped to about three or four people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Still Out

Monday Night, December 21st.. 10:30 PM

The lights in that 2-block section of Riverview are still out.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Power Outage Hits Riverview

The power outage bug finally bit Riverview on Saturday.


Neighbors report the electricity went out Saturday night in the 2 blocks that run from the Mount Zion Church on Dunbar Street, to Carver Street and on around to the Central Baptist Church parking lot at Douglass Street. Then, the entire length of Douglass over to V.O. Dobbins, and back down Louis Street back to the Mount Zion Church on Dunbar. I called around, and got it narrowed down to those two blocks.

The power failure is blamed on the heavy snowstorm that crippled Kingsport, knocking out power to 135,000 customers of American Electric Power at one point. By early Saturday afternoon, the outages topped 200,000.

For the first time in many years, and probably only a handful of times in its history, there were no Sunday morning worship service at the Central Baptist Church Sunday morning, because of to the power outage.

Oddly enough, the power is still on, on the far side of Dunbar Street on the Clay Hill side, from the Blyes down to the Taylor's and Deal's, and down to Lincoln/MLK.
The block from the Hickman's at 214 Dunbar Street, to Douglass Street to Carver and back down still have electricity, too. Also with power is the block from Louis to Wheatley, and down Louis to Lincoln-MLK.

Why that two-block section is affected is not known. Neighborhood speculation is that Dunbar Street has always had power coming from the downtown substation that serves downtown and the brickyard. The center neighborhood homes are served with power from across town on Sullivan Street, Dale, East Sevier and Center Street, from a substation that also feeds Wellmont-Holston Valley from Gibsontown. The Louis Street-Wheatley Street-V.O. Dobbins Complex is served from a power substation that also feeds Borden Village. An examination of the power grid in the neighborhood shows this.

At this point, nobody knows if a tree limb fell on a power line, or a line simply snapped in the power-affected 2 blocks of Riverview.

Kingsport Pictures From The Snow

David Grace —, and THE JOHNSON CITY PRESS Dave Boyd

Abandoned vehicles line the median of Interstate 26 near Rock Springs on Saturday. Many motorists were stranded overnight on the interstate. Downed trees provided yet another hazard for motorists on the region’s slick roadways Friday night and Saturday morning.

The weight of Friday’s snow proved to be too much for this tree on Lynn Garden Drive.

A driver tries to avoid a tree that had fallen on Lynn Garden Drive.

Red Cross volunteers Pat Castle, left, and Don Blevins set up cots at the shelter in the Kingsport Civic Auditorium on Saturday. More than a dozen stranded motorists stayed at the shelter Friday night.

Traffic problems along I-26 north of Johnson City

Dave Boyd, Johnson City Press
Officers with the Johnson City Police Department began towing abandoned vehicles that were left blocking portions of the roadway on Saturday, said JCPD Lt. Larry Williams.

UPDATE - Power

FROM JEFF FLEMING'S GOOD NEWS BLOG (Kingsport's Assistant City Manager for Development):

12/19/09 5:00 PM Tenn AEP Customers without power:
Hawkins County, TN 4,756 (73%)
Sullivan County, TN 14,400 (35%)
Washington County, TN 300 (99%)

Total:19,456 (in Tennessee), 38,000 (in Virginia) and 135,500 (in West Virginia)

AEP customers click here for an update.

Also from Jeff: For those without power, there is a free emergency shelter at Kingsport Civic Auditorium and Carter's Valley Ruritan. Mayor Phillips asked me to spread the word that MeadowView Marriott is offering a special rate of $79 per room for those wishing to check into a local hotel.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow in Riverview: "Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful"

Frightful weather indeed, as 6 to 8 inches of snow blankets Riverview, South Central, and the Kingsport area from New Canton to Bristol on Friday and Saturday, December 18 and 19, 2009.

Northeast of Bristol, the snowfall was much heavier, but it certainly left its mark on the Riverview neighborhood.

To see a slideshow of the Snow in Riverview, click here.


"Friday afternoon, it was raining," says Jeannie Hodges, "and we'd just got word that the schools would be closing early. The rain was coming down when I picked up my grandson at 12:15. It switched over to snow quickly in the early afternoon, and I noticed that it started sticking. I was really surprised at that."

By the time it was over, Riverview, Kingsport and Sullivan County measured 6 to 8 inches of snow on the ground... 4 to 6 inches had fallen across Johnson City and Washington County, Tennessee... 8 to 10 inches across Rogersville to New Canton in Hawkins County... 7 to 13 inches in Gate City and Scott County... 10 to 15 inches across Big Stone Gap, Norton and Wise County, Virginia.

"I measured 6 and a half inches in the yard," says Mrs. Hodges. "We went down Louis Street and Lincoln (MLK Drive). We were wondering about the snow plows. I didn't hear one, but down the middle of Louis and MLK were clear. Today, when you got out of Riverview, the main roads, Center Street, Sullivan Street, Eastman Road, Wilcox Boulevard, Stone Drive.. all those roads were clear."

"Yesterday," she says, "was a different story."

That's when a 15-minute, 5 mile ride on Stone Drive, turned into 2 hours.


SCREEN NAME 'GINNY': "This picture was taken earlier today (Friday) at about 5:15pm on Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport. We were driving from the mall to Post Oak drive nearly at the other end of Ft Henry (almost at Gray). We were stuck in traffic from 4:00pm to 8:00 PM. Highway 36 is still stalled heading into Kingsport due to the snow and a couple of accidents."

The above picture is typical of roads in Kingsport on Friday afternoon.

"We had to go from the Fort Robinson area, just west of Lynn Garden Drive, to just west of Allandale there on the other side of Rotherwood," Mrs. Hodges says. "It took us 2 hours. With all the snow, and traffic moving slowly, and the wrecks. People were sliding all over the place, and some of them would hit roadblocks, turn around, and drive in the wrong direction on the four-lane Stone Drive, just to keep moving. Some people couldn't get into their subdivisions, especially at Rotherwood Hills and Rotherwood Estates. They couldn't make it up the incline to get into the subdivisions, so they ended up parking along Netherland Inn Road, and that led to the congestion and slow-going."

"I called Wal-Mart to check on getting some times, and they told me they were selling tires right and left. People buying them up because of the snow."

"We were lucky in Riverview," Jeannie says. "The lights flickered just for a bit, but stayed on, but other people are not so lucky."

The bad weather immediately mobilized many people like Johnnie Mae Swagerty, who routinely swing into action checking on the sick and shut-in in times of bad weather.

"I checked on the Snapps, James and Ellis," she says, "and they were doing O-K. I went down and check on my mother (Pastor Geraldine Swagerty), she had just got out of the hospital with cancer, and Miss Eleanora Horton, and they were both doing all right. I checked on the Pruitt's, Shelia Leeper and her mama, Miss Eula Cartwright, and I made calls to some other folks to see if they needed anything. I checked on Mr. Mark Orlinger on Oakdale Drive, and took him some bread and stuff. Many people just couldn't get out, and really shouldn't because it was so slick outside."

The Saturday edition of the Kingsport Times News was not delivered because of widespread power outtages, leaving a lot of local residents "in the dark" about how the rest of the city was handling the emergency.

"My power went out here Friday night around 10 o'clock," says Sandra Wilmer in New Canton. "It didn't come back on until about 2 o'clock, and it got pretty chilly. We had around 6 or 7 inches of snow in New Canton and Church Hill, and I haven't tried to go anywhere. I've got things to bake for Christmas, and I'm afraid to start baking 'cause the power might go back out," she chuckled.

"There was a power outtage at Holly Hills down there in Rotherwood," says Mrs. Swagerty. "There's no heat, no electricity, no nothing. My son is on his way here, it's taking him about 2 hours to get here, but he was on Stone Drive trying to get here so he and his wife and son could have heat. Tish's husband went to try and get my other sister and her family down to my house, because they don't have any power either."

"I've been calling around checking on people, to see if they needed anything. Many families are spending an early Christmas together before the holiday next weekend, because the electricity is out where they are. We've been trying to get with everybody without heat, and get them moved down to places with heat and electricity."

"Dale Street, Maple Street and East Sevier were pretty covered, but people were driving slow and getting around, but our seniors don't need to be getting out in all of this mess."

"We always come together when there's bad times," Johnnie Mae says.

"We have to watch out for one another."

Snow Coverage: Kingsport

The Kingsport News Times, which has 33,000 subscribers, is reporting that their building has lost power. That means they are not publishing on a regular schedule.

Subscribers' Saturday editions should go out later in the day Saturday, or possibly with the Sunday edition. It will depend on what the weather and power limitations permit. Here's their website:

They also print the Johnson City Press and that paper will not be printed tonight either. Their circulation department tells us this is the first time since 1998 this has happened. They are working to get the entire edition on-line for their readers.


Vehicles are disabled on Christian Church Road in Boones Creek, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009 near Johnson City, Tenn. A major storm moving up the Atlantic Coast on the last shopping weekend before Christmas threatened to shut down much of the region as officials warned of up to 20 inches of snow and significant power outages.

Friday, December 18, 2009

MEETING POSTPONEMENT - Douglass Alumni Working Board Meeting

Because of the bad weather lingering through Saturday, the meeting of the Douglass Alumni Working Board for that day, December 19th, is postponed for a few weeks.

We will let you know the reschedule date.

--Pres. Douglas Releford

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Christmas Videos

Friends sent me these two Christmas videos.

What do you think happens, when you leave "Rover" alone while you go to the store for a minute?

He gathers his friends to wish everybody >"Merry Christmas From the Dogs!"

Sometimes, it's not safe to open, just ANY Christmas present under the tree. It'll have "Man's Best Friend" thinking, "Not With My Christmas Present, You Don't!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Accused Graffiti Writer Speaks Out: "I Am Not A Racist, nor Am I a Criminal"


"This incident has completely ruined my life."


Those words written by Andy Frye, the young man charged with writing racist graffiti on the white pillars of the Interstate 26 overpass at Meadowview in April, 2009. Frye is charged with vandalism. We were notified about the graffiti, which contained racist references to African-Americans and President Obama, shortly after it was discovered by some Riverview residents. Kingsport police arrived and a clean-up crew from the Tennessee Department of Transportation spent almost $1,000 to cover up the markings.

See the slideshow of the original graffiti by clicking here.

Your Douglass Website editor made contact with Frye shortly after his arrest, to obtain his side of this story, that has evoked emotions on both sides of the racial barrier that many people say, still exists in the area. A few days later, he responded to the request in an email sent to the Douglass Alumni Association, via its website.

Frye said in the email that until he could speak with his attorney, he could not comment specifically about neither the charge nor his defense, but in the email, he did shed some light on how his name became associated with the graffiti and his personal feelings about the charge.

"After reading your article on the Douglass Website," Frye said in the email, "I immediately knew the white man described in the article was my father-in-law." He refers to the "white man" that came running up to African-American Ramon Willis, who, along with his family, were waiting for the police to arrive, after observing the graffiti at the I-26-Meadowview overpass. Willis says, the man who ran up to him, kept saying 'please don't hurt my daughter, please don't hurt my daughter,' alleging that their daughter's boyfriend spray-painted the graffiti.

Frye says, he is the person referred to by the father-in-law, who he says, has a personal vendetta against him. Adding to the confusion, the father-in-law referred to him as a boyfriend, although Frye says he is married to the man's daughter.

"He lives on the same road the bridge is located on," Frye wrote, "and has been tormenting me and my family for nearly 2 years." He did not go into details about that experience.

"It really bothers me to be labeled as a racist and a criminal in the very town I was born in (Kingsport), and raised in all my life. This has completely ruined my reputation in my hometown that I grew up in and love. I cannot leave my house without feeling as if I am being labeled as a racist criminal."

Frye describes himself as a "family man, married for 2 years, working a fulltime job and raise a family," and as a person who "loves America." He writes that he "is expecting another child in March 2010 and this situation has cost my family and I our entire life savings."

In the email, Frye says he has never been accused of a crime, even being pulled over and gotten a traffic citation, pointing to what he refers to as "a perfect record" that he intends to keep that way.

"I am a current member of the National Police & Trooper Association," emails Frye, and also "the Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police and the National Rifle Association."

This reporter had been trying to set up a face-to-face interview with Frye ever since he contacted the Douglass Website, but was unsuccessful. Frye continued his defense in several blog posts to commentors to the graffiti article that appeared in the Kingsport Times-News in October, shortly after his arrest.

"I have spent thousands of dollars and maxed out nearly every credit card we own to get out on bond and pay for legal fees," Frye blogged. "When this article (the Times-New article) first published, we contacted Times-News and tried to get our address removed from this article because we were concerned about our safety and our (2) children's." He wrote that the newspaper refused. He also blogged that "there is absolutely no evidence that links me to this crime, other than the so-called 'witnesses' who made statements (about him) to police."


Frye's case will be heard by Judge Jerry Beck in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Criminal Division in Blountville on January 14, 2010.

We will follow this case and let you know the outcome.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Congradulations to Charles Maxwell and Maxwell Coach Company

The winners of the 2009 annual KOSBE Awards were handed out Thursday night (Dec. 10, 2009) by the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce’s Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship (KOSBE).

Maxwell Coach Co. Inc. (Charles W. Maxwell) was awarded first place for Business Excellence (employing fewer than 10 employees). Maxwell has four vehicles: a 56-passenger motor coach, a 50-passenger motor coach, a 15-passenger van and a seven-passenger van.

Giving back


In an effort to give back to the community, participants in New Vision Youth’s ‘Guardian Angel’ group gathered at the home of Veronica Camp recently to pack turkey and ham baskets for two needy Kingsport families this holiday season. Camp is a parent representative for New Vision Youth. New Vision Youth members this year also adopted a family through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. New Vision Youth serves children from 5 to 18 years old.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Caroling in the Neighborhood



• KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department, New Vision Youth and the South Central Kingsport community are hosting a children’s Christmas caroling event Monday, Dec. 21, in the South Central area. Parents of children who want to participate need to register their child at the Civic Auditorium or call Jason Wilburn at 246-4201 or Johnnie Mae Swagerty at 246-6623. Participants need to be at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center at 4:30 p.m. The bus that will transport the carolers will depart at 5 p.m. Hot chocolate and cookies will be provided to the carolers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ebony Club Alumni Conference Club

Hey, gang:

I just wanted to remind you about the conference call that is scheduled for tomorrow night (Tuesday, December 8th) at 9:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. CT.

The call-in number is (646) 716-5918.

I look forward to chatting with you tomorrow night.

Be blessed, and continue to be a blessing.

Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
DBHS Class of 1986

Monday, December 7, 2009

Riverview Seniors Enjoy Fun and Events at Christmas Dinner & Party

Although it was held away from home this year, the annual Christmas Dinner and Party for Riverview's seniors was a rousing success.

"We had very good attendance," says Jeannie Hodges of the Kingsport Weed and Seed office. "More than 80 seniors came out for the event."

To view a slide show of the Christmas Party, click here.

This year's dinner and party was held at the Kingsport Renaissance Center, because the regular place, the V.O. Dobbins Gymnasium, is undergoing a renovation, as is the entire building.

"It was strange having to move the dinner for the first time ever," Mrs. Hodges says. "It's been held at V.O. Dobbins for all of the years we've had it, and this year, we were lucky. When we reserved the Renaissance Center room back in August or September, there was only one room left for December. December is a popular month for Christmas celebrations, reunions and parties. We were able to get the very last room available."

Seniors dined on roast beef with gravy, parsley potatoes, green beans, rolls and 3 different desserts.

"We had a van go around and pick up some of the seniors who can't get out on their own very much, and also the ones who needed transportation," she says. "We had door prizes, games and a special program by the New Vision Youth..each of them told about what Christmas means to them, and there was an essay reading by Jimmy Thompson's son.

The kids ended the presentation by singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to the seniors.

Although the night was a festive one for everyone, thoughts of many there still drifted back to Riverview. This time next year, the Christmas Dinner and Party will be held back at the newly-renovated V.O. Dobbins Complex, hopefully in the new Douglass Community Center.

"We'll have a much nicer facility to look forward to," says Mrs. Hodges. "It does keep the event more in the neighborhood, and most of the seniors who like getting out and walking, won't have to go so far."

"Just to have it back in the Riverview Community where it started will be nice, where we can enjoy the dinner in the building that has always served as a cornerstone of the community."

The Masons in Riverview: More Than Just A Secret Handshake


Do you know the secret handshake of the Masons?

"No, I cannot show it to you. If you are a Mason, you already know what it is." Orville Bond wasn't about to tell me one of his lodge brothers' biggest secrets.


Mr. Fred Lollar (Holding flag).

_____?____, Mr. Thomas Cartwright, Mr. Ed Bristol, Rev. William Gambrell.

Mr. Oscar Bond,_____?_____, Mr. Paul Taylor, Mr. Charles Lindsay, Rev. William Stokely.

_____?_____, Mr. Will Patton, Mr. C.C. Kiser, Mr. James Deal, Mr. Joe Stinson, Mr. V.O. Dobbins, Sr.

View a slideshow of the historic Masonic Lodge building on Lincoln-MLK Drive by clicking here.

Orville Bond and Jack Pierce were both Masons in Riverview, and one Saturday morning, I found them reminiscing about the historic men's organization that included the fine gentlemen in the above picture, provided by Virginia Leeper. Mr. Bond's reluctance to showing the Masonic handshake was more protective of the organization's respect in the Riverview Community, than indictative of some secret society.

The Riverview Masonic Lodge was the Universal Lodge No. 239 F. & A.M., and the Lucy Crawford Chapter No. 262, O.E.S. The historic lodge building is still standing on M.L.K/Lincoln Street, but not for long. The property may soon be part of the HOPE VI revitilization project going on across the street.

"The Masons were a no-nonsense kind of thing," both Mr. Bond and Mr. Pierce proudly stated. "They were a benevolent group, always helping in the community, and helping their brother in need," said Mr. Pierce. "If you were joining the Masons to party and have a good time, you were trying to join the wrong organization. If your enjoyment was for the good of the community, it was a good thing to be in. But there was no cussing, no drinking, no carousing, no partying. There was a certain way you carried yourself in the Masons."

"You didn't have to command respect," he says. "People saw that around you, and automatically knew that there was something special about you."

Orville Bond came home from the Army on a furlough back in the late 1940's, and joined the Riverview Masons while home.

"Oh Lord, the Masons were a powerful organization back then," he remembers. "If you got in the Masons, you had really done something, you had accomplished something good. If you STAYED in there, you had done something good."

The Masons in the Riverview Community were obviously men of character. "Young men in the neighborhood wanted to be associated with them because they were men of good stature," remembers Jack Pierce, "men that were honorable, men that were respected not just in the Riverview Community, but respected on their various jobs at Eastman, the glass plant, the cement plant, the Press, and elsewhere. The Kingsport lodge also included New Canton, and Rogersville had its own chapter."

The older Masons in Riverview apparently kept a quick rein on the younger men selected to be in the organization.

"You didn't just GET into the Masons," said Mr. Bond. "Oh no...there was a committee that investigated you first. They'd look at your background. Some people were denied that wanted to get it, the Masons would vote on you, whether you got in or not. A certain way they voted, and one vote the other way and you were not accepted. Everybody had to vote positive on you."

"They really just didn't let anybody in," remembers Van Dobbins Jr., whose beloved father, V.O. Dobbins Sr. was a 33rd Degree Mason in the Riverview lodge, and who, himself, joined the Masons while in college. "To be a Mason, required a clear mind to be able to do the things required of the honor, the different functions involved in keeping a strong lodge. You respected each other, you didn't do many of the things members of other clubs did. It was a much different mindset. There were strict codes of honor."

Among those codes of honor was the handshake.

"If I shook your hand and you were a Mason, I'd know it," says Orville Bond. "Words would not have to be spoke..we'd BOTH know it. That meant a different relationship. Even if I came in your house, the way I conducted myself and the way you conduct yourself, we'd know. If a Mason asked you a question, you knew how to answer him."

"I have heard of Masons in problems far away from home," remembers Jack Pierce. "Car trouble on the road, something where you needed aid. If the man who stopped to help you gave you the secret handshake, they'd recognize each other as Mason, even though they were total strangers. Bottom'd get whatever you needed to take care of the problem. If it was a car problem, not only was it a repair shop to fix it, but the money to fix it if you didn't have enough. White Mason, Black didn't make any difference. Once the handshake, they'd never leave your side until the problem was fixed. 'NEVER FORSAKE EACH OTHER' was the way I heard it."

The code of Masonic conduct included many other things, too. A tour of the old two-story Masonic Hall in Riverview reveals some strange observations, to the untrained, non-Masonic eye.

"Although we had a first floor," says Mr. Pierce, "the Masons never met on that floor. Meetings were always on the second floor, Masonic business was not discussed on the first floor. There was a reason why they never met on the first floor, but nobody ever talked about it."

And then...there were the steps to the second floor, which are still there. These were not regular, ordinary steps.

"I helped Mr. (C.C.) Kizer build those steps up to the second floor," he says. "They were alternated, all the way up. There were 3 first steps, then a platform, then 5 steps, and another platform. Then there were 7 steps the rest of the way up."

3, 5, and 7.

"The way they were built, meant something in the Masonic organization. Again, nobody ever talked about it. To this day, I don't know the code behind the steps, and I never asked anybody. Nobody who knew, probably wouldn't talk about it anyway, but each level 'meant' something in the way they were timed as you went upstairs."

Even upstairs on the second floor, were signs of secrecy. Closets that were not numbered in sequence the way numbers go.

"The closets, the stairs, the way you carried yourself, even small things like the handshake...those were things that signified you as an upstanding gentleman," remembers Van, Jr. of the old Riverview Masons. "Your word was, and still is, your bond as a Mason. There were certain things expected of you, and the Masons provided you all of these mental tools to be able to carry yourself with dignity. To be a Mason required a clear mind to be able to do things required of the honor, the different functions involved in keeping a strong lodge."

Just walking around the still-standing historic lodge itself is a reverent experience. The old kitchen where many feasts were prepared for banquets, Christmas parties for the neighborhood children, and just quiet suppers for the needy of the community is still intact, along with the original stoves, the original refrigerators, sinks and cabinets.

Oh.. if those utensils could talk... The historic walls could probably do some talking, too. And a whole lot of bragging.

"Ike and Tina Turner performed in here," remembers Van, Jr. "So did the Bar-Keys in the 60's, the Temptations and the O-Jays. One of the biggest crowds I remember in here was for Sly and the Family Stone. During the soul heydays, many groups that made it big, passed through here playing to young black people. I remember the older Masons never understood the popularity of the soul groups, never even pretended to. But they did understand that our people did not have a chance to get out in Kingsport much, it was so segregated and all, and rather than have the young people risk driving off on the highways to Knoxville, Nashville or Atlanta and seeing the groups, the Masons brought them to Riverview."

It might be difficult to imagine the young African-American men of today, trying to live up to the standards of yesterday's Masons.

"The role models, the values and things change with time," says Van, Jr. "This type of lodge, this type of Mason required a lot of time, a lot of concentration. Back then, they had the time to live the values, but nowadays, nobody has the time. You're doing what you can to survive on your own these days, but back then, the community had the Masons, and the Masons had each other. Family life was different back were expected to stand by their wives, and most families had father figures. The Masons were the backbone of the family system."

That family system also spread to many of the women in the community, married to Masons.

"If Daddy (V.O. Dobbins Sr.) seemed to be overboard with the Masonic philosophy," Van Jr. says, "Mama (Mrs. Fannie Mae Dobbins) was ridiculous. She'd be 65, 70 years old and going out every day carrying food to folks that were shut in, with nobody to do for them. She'd fix food and take it to folks like Miss Mamie Dixon, and she'd always put candy in her pocket. When she would be walking with the food, the kids would always run up to her, because they knew what she had in her pocket. It was hard for them kids to get jawbreakers and tootsie rolls and stuff like that, but she never forgot to have it in her pockets for them. Almost like a Mason who remembered to take care of the community first, then self.

"There are still Masons around the country, living the Masonic life," he says, "and they are to be commended for that in today's society."

"The Riverview Masons represented men who all had different skills, abilities, education levels, with which they could address the various issues that faced the African-American community during a turbulent time. Money was scarce, but the Masons found ways of helping people survive. They were strong because of the unity to be able to provide services and different things for the Black community that were not available anywhere else."

"The Masons in Riverview stood out, not for who they were...but what they believed in, and how they demonstrated it."