Tag Archives: Bob Lawrence photo

First National Bank


Grubby, but unbowed.  It’s kind of difficult to date this money bag.  The downtown drive-in branch closed sometime in the 60s, maybe early 70s.  It was on the corner of Clay and New Streets, across from where Chef’s Pizza is now.  You can still see the traffic direction arrows for the drive-in lanes sunk into the concrete (they were originally filled with yellow concrete, but it’s mostly eroded away).
Storied history of this bank: established in 1916, as you can see.  J. Fred Johnson was a VP in ’23 and President by 1931.  In 1963, First NB of Kingsport and First NB of Bristol merged and sometime later the group became First NB of Sullivan County.  In 1981,  it became First Eastern NB; in 1982, it was First American Bank-Eastern and on and on  It might be Regions Bank now.

The bag is 10.5″ x 6″.  It really could do with a good washing, but that’s not going to happen.  HIstoric integrity and all that.

Center and Cherokee

Now that Bank of Tennessee is breaking forth from the constraints of the past and is going to land a big new footprint, so to speak, on the half-block of land they own between Cherokee and Cumberland with Center Street frontage.  This is what that area looked like around 1975.


It’s got crappy resolution.  I was living in a, er, low-rent apartment at the time and was playing around with a Polaroid camera I’d bought somewhere.  Anyway, this shows the corner of Cherokee Street (see the Kingsport Camera Shop sign mid right?  That’s all been taken over by that other bank) and Center.  There was a service station there, and one across the street.  They used to everywhere, for some reason.   Like pharmacies now.
The tower just under the wires on the right is where the telephone company is.
Roberts Tire & Recapping occupies the buildings low in the picture.

Early Air Conditioner


Back before the now ubiquitous air conditioning units became common on business rooftops, these structures dominated.  This unit, which used to be on top of the Variety Printing building (formerly one of two downtown locations of Mack Ray Cafeteria…the other was on Commerce Street in the old Harry Mills Motors, across from WKPT), cooled the inside air by evaporation. Inside this louvered, wooden structure was a coiled pipe through which air was pumped.  Water was sprayed over the coil, thus cooling the air by evaporation.  Something akin to the effect you’d get from a wet t-shirt, if the only reason you were wearing a wet t-shirt was to cool off. And if you had a breeze of some sort.
At any rate, I would often get lightly sprinkled with water walking down the alley, if the breeze (mentioned before) was blowing the right direction.
Why was I in the alley?  Going around to Wallace News, of course.
Note the (ha!) stabilizing wires.  Such strength.

Canal Street


Before the likes of George Carter and J. Fred Johnson strode the land, the area now hosting downtown Kingsport was a wetland, a marsh, a swamp.  A good place for hunting rabbits, it’s said.
Not a particularly good place to site a new town, so, two ditches were dug, one to the west and one to the east, to escort the water out of the downtown basin and off to somewhere else.
So here is Canal Street.  It’s actually a cut-and-cover culvert: the western ditch.  It comes out here:
This is on Reedy Creek, next to the old Irpco (sounds kind of like a burp, no?), which, in memory, is the old Coca-Cola bottling company on West Sullivan Street.

The Last of the Big Store


In November, 1985, the building that once housed The Big Store burned down.  The Big Store was an all-in-one place; even the Post Office was there.  It was said you could go from birth to death at The Big Store.  J. Fred Johnson’s, which is now a furniture store on the west corner of Broad and Center, was a spin off, as was Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home.
Judging from the shadows, I must have gotten there early in the morning, but it appears the firefighters had everything pretty much under control by then.