Freight Train Derailment Graysville Tennessee September 9, 1949

One man was killed, and four others were injured, two seriously, about 2:45am on Friday morning September 9, 1949, when the last 13 cars of a 57-car southbound Southern Railway freight train left the tracks and crashed into six section gang sleeping cars parked on a siding a quarter-mile south of Graysville, Tennessee. George Jones, age 45, of Pine Knot, Kentucky was killed. Ned Barber of Dayton, riding the caboose of the derailed train, was bruised but not seriously injured. United Nations delegates traveling to Chattanooga on a train following the freight had to be rerouted through Knoxville.

(Courtesy Glass Family Collection)

Visit George Jones Find A Grave Memorial AT This Link.

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Becky Welch Miss Dayton 1965

Miss Becky Welch, daughter of Mrs. Carol Welch was 16 years old when she was crowned as Miss Dayton 1965 in a contest sponsored by the Dayton Jaycettes. Miss Welch a junior at Rhea Central High School was a cheerleader for three years. She was active in the Pep Club, “R” Club, Bible Club and a member of the junior play cast.

First runner-up in the contest was ViElla Smith, 18 year old senior at Rhea Central High School, the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Rodney Smith. Second runner-up was Ann Tallent, 17 year old junior at Rhea Central High School, and the daughter of Mr.& Mrs. Ralph Tallent.

Today, Becky is married to George Arnold of Dayton. George & Becky live in Dayton where they raised their family.

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Dayton Opera House Razed

Progress takes Old Dayton Opera House September 1937

In September 1937, the demands of progress claimed a landmark in downtown Dayton. The old Dayton Opera House, which began its career as a community center for the exhibition of dramatic art, was scheduled to be demolished to make way for the new post office building. The Opera House was erected in 1887 by W.C. Gardenhire, founder of the city, as we know it. The passing of the Opera House marks the passing of a mark not only in the progress of Dayton but in the field of historic entertainment as well. Oscar Seagle, one of the country’s greatest singers, once gave a performance in the old Opera House. It was also for many years the chosen scene of commencements of local educational institutions. The new Post Office was said to bring a distinct improvement to west Main Street. The old Post Office building still stands today being used as a utility collection point for the City of Dayton after the post office moved to a new location on 1St Ave.

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World War II Memorial Monument Dedicated May 1948

Monument Stands To Remember Those Fighting  Men and Women From Rhea County

With World War II raging overseas, back at home the Dayton Junior Chamber of Commerce (DJCOC) was busy putting together a project that would memorialize or honor the fighting men and women from Rhea County who had been doing a wonderful job protecting our cherished American way of life.

It all began in July 1944 when the DJCOC announced that a beautiful and permanent memorial to those who were so gallantly serving would be erected on the lawn of the Rhea County Courthouse.

The monument would be in total approx. 14 x 6 ft in size and made of beautiful, polished marble. The two side plaques would be used to memorialize those who had not made it back home. It was estimated that the memorial would cost approx. $2500. The community was asked to pitch in and help with various planned fundraisers. The main fundraiser was asking for the family and friends of each person in uniform to raise and donate a minimum of $2 per soldier. That way, the funds would be quickly raised. In order for each serviceman and woman to feel they had a personal participation in the monument, with each completed $2 donation, a 9×12 print of the memorial, suitable for framing, with an inscription and a blank space for the inclusion of the person being honored, was to be provided.

In the end, all the fundraising and construction had taken approx. 33 months to complete. The monument was officially dedicated during the week of May 6, 1948. The headlines read “We Are Gathered—Lest We Forget.”

The Rhea County Memorial was erected In Honor of the Gallant Men and Women of Rhea County who participated in the struggle to keep America mighty and free. Highlighting the ceremony was the unveiling of the bronze plaques bearing the names of those who lost their lives in WWII.

General Fredrick McCabe, U.S. Army retired, and Col. William H.E. Holmes, Tennessee National Guard, both of Chattanooga took part in the program and unveiled the plaques.

Dr. James Fowle, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, was the principal speaker.

The ceremony was concluded with complete military honors with a firing squad and the playing of taps.

Today, the memorial also contains the names of those men and women who lost their lives in World War I, Korean and Vietnam Wars.

World War II

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Virginia Hutcheson of Red Bank buys Kaiser-Frazer in Dayton

Performance record of Kaiser prompts Repeat buyer JUne 24, 1948

Miss. Virginia Hutcheson of Red Bank gets the keys to her 1948 model Kaiser-Frazer from Earl Hicks, local Kaiser-Frazer distributor. Miss Hutcheson stated she was so pleased with the Kaiser, spending less than $30 for maintenance for 21,000 miles driving over 15 months, that she decided to “trade-up.” On her first trip in the new Frazer she averaged 25.8 miles per gallon of gas round trip to Knoxville, using the over drive, which is standard equipment on the Frazer. This was Mr. Hicks’ first repeat sale since opening the local Kaiser-Frazer dealership 18 months ago.

(Photo Courtesy of the Glass Family Collection)


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Telephone Workers Strike April 10, 1947

Telephone employees shown on April 10, 1947, are Gladys Bolen (left) and Ruby Wilkey (right), as they pace back and forth before the entrance of the local exchange office. (Photo Courtesy of the Glass Family Collection)

Pickets March in First Dayton Strike in Over 10 Years

It all started back in February when negotiations began with the Union. The Southern Bell Telephone Company stated that their employees should be paid well, and that their wages should compare favorably with those paid by other concerns in the community for work requiring similar skills and training.

The telephone company was offering to renew the current contract, but the union was demanding an increase of $3.30 a month.  According to the telephone company, the union was insisting upon unreasonably large wage increases.

At the time the strike began, a telephone operator who worked a 40-hour week was averaging between $22 and $27 dollars a week. An installer/lineman was making between $27 to $62 dollars a week.

Even with having a few telephone operators who crossed the picket line to maintain a partial service to Dayton, the remaining employees maintained their night and day stance despite weather conditions at the time.

It is unknown at this time what the result was of the final outcome of the strike.  Whenever this information is obtained, it will be posted here with an update.

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Arnold Motor Company 1946

Gordon Lee Smith Returns After Military Service

In a September of 1946 Dayton Herald news article, Birch Arnold of Arnold Motor Company pictured above, welcomed Gordon Lee Smith back to work after being away serving three and a half years of military service. (Photo Courtesy of George & Becky Arnold)

It takes more than just a rack and a grease gun to give your car the proper lubrication which will keep it running quietly and smoothly for many thousands of miles.  Besides the facilities for lubricating a car, there must be the know how which comes from years of experience, coupled with the personal interest of the individual in giving you the best job obtainable. That is why we are so proud to announce that Gordon Lee Smith has returned to our organization after serving his country in the Armed Forces. Gordon Lee knows how to properly lubricate your car and takes pride in the thoroughness and quality of his work. All of his old customers were cordially invited to bring their cars by for his familiar touch, and those of you who are not acquainted with one of his lube jobs, should find out through experience.

Arnold Motor


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Dayton Theater

The featured photo of the Dayton Theater shown above was taken in 1941. (Photo Courtesy George & Becky Arnold Collection)

First Building In Dayton To Have Air Conditioning

Modern Theater Opens in Downtown Dayton

The November 21, 1935, edition of the Dayton Herald Newspaper carried a front-page story, “Dayton to Boast New Sound Movie Theater”. The announcement read that Dayton would soon have a completely new theater with modern equipment and first-run films.

E.M. Williamson, Dayton, capitalist, and property owner entered an agreement with Crescent Amusement Company, of Tullahoma, Tennessee, for construction of the new theater on north Market Street about a block south of the courthouse.

The old frame building that occupied the property where the new theater was to erected was torn down. They constructed the new theater building on a 30x100 foot lot and had a seating capacity of approx. four hundred patrons.

The construction of the new theater was completed and opened for business in March of 1936 at an estimated cost of $30,000.00, which included the lot, building and equipment.

Aside from the latest state-of-the-art sound system, the building was the first in Dayton to have air conditioning.

The first movie shown in the new theater was “The Voice of Bugle Ann”.

It is unknown exactly how many times the theater changed ownership through the years, but we do know at some point in its early history Cowen Woodlee of McMinnville, Tennessee, purchased the theater. He later partnered with a cousin of his from Dayton, Wayne C. Woodlee.

Wayne Woodlee would later go on to obtain full ownership of the business. For a few short years, Mr. Woodlee owned and operated the “Dayton Drive-In Theater” which was located just above town.

Becky Welch Arnold, granddaughter of Mr. Woodlee, has many fond memories of spending time around the theater with her grandfather. One special memory she recalls was going outside and watching him change out the movie posters when new films would arrive.

Many from our generation can recall splendid memories of spending Saturday afternoons at the theater along with their friends.

The closing date of the old theater downtown is not exactly known at this time, but according to several sources, it is believed to have closed around late 1959 to early 1960. (I will update this article with the correct closing date as soon as one can be verified.)

Prior to the opening of the Dayton Theater, there had been a theater in town doing business as the Lyric Theater. There is extraordinarily little information available about this theater.

Thirteen years would pass before there would be another movie theater located in Dayton. In 1973, Bill Matherly opened the “Jerry Lewis Cinema” in the newly developed Richland Park Shopping Center north of town.

Ironically, Bill Matherly developed an interest in the movie theater business when he was a teenager working for Mr. Woodlee. Each Saturday morning, Bill would pass out flyers around downtown advertising the day’s film. In return for his work, he received free admission to the theater that day. Bill, however, would not go in to watch the movie with his friends; he took the opportunity to watch Mr. Woodlee in the projection room operating the equipment. We will delve more into the theater in Richland Park in a future post.

A special thanks to George and Becky Arnold of Dayton for sharing the original 16mm film of “Dayton on Parade” with us. Becky’s grandfather, Mr. Woodlee had shown the film at the Dayton Theater on December 15th & 16th of 1941.

The Following ads appeared in the Dayton Herald Newspaper the week of grand opening. 

Dayton Theater

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The Voice of Bugle Ann

County Wide Victory Scrap Metal Drive November 1942

Here is graphic proof of the effort put forth by the community to support the scrap metal drive. In one-half day, the Junior Commandos of Spivey rounded up 5,000 lbs. of scrap even after the regular school drive had been finished. (Photo Courtesy Glass Family Collection)

Rhea County Supports War Effort with 275,000 lbs scrap Metal drive

During World War II, scrap drives were a popular way for everyone to contribute to the war effort. By recycling unused or unwanted metal for example, the government could build ships, airplanes and other equipment needed to fight the war.

Every patriotic man, woman and child in Rhea County laid business as usual aside the first week of November in 1942 to support the Salvage Committee’s Victory Drive. A house-to-house, farm to farm canvass was made over the entire county.

Organized on a school-community basis, there were 65 trucks each maned by two adults and schoolboys to help load the scrap into the trucks. All scrap metal collected was donated to the nearest school and the school would receive the money derived from the sale.

County Judge Floyd Knight issued a statement urging wholehearted co-operation across the county. Mayor Taylor of Dayton issued a proclamation making November 4, 1942, the day of Scrap Metal Collection and specifically requested all retail firms in Dayton to suspend business for the day and release their personnel and trucks to the drive.

Birch Arnold, who was chairman of the truck procurement committee, asked to get farm trucks in the local community to motorize the collection.

Rhea County Schools Superintendent Walter White sent letters to all schoolteachers in the county explaining the drive, its need and how it was to be conducted.

Headlines of the Dayton Herald on November 5, 1942, read “275,000 pounds of scrap metal collected Wednesday in One-Day All-out Drive”.

In Dayton at Birch Arnold’s scrap depot weigh-in slips totaled over 143,370 lbs. alone. Spring City weighed in at just over 60,000 lbs. Besides these collections mentioned, there were several other scrap metal donations throughout the county which brought the total up to the reported amount.

Mr. John Schild of Schild’s Cannery donated an old boiler which weighed around 5 tons. Another boiler of about three tons was also donated and moved from Bryan University.

Unfortunately, much of our cultural heritage was compromised or completely lost due to these drives. One such instance was the beautiful iron fence that surrounded the F.E. Robinson house located at 3rd and Market Street in downtown Dayton. Frank Earle Robinson (known as F.E. Robinson) along with his family felt it was their part to support the effort.

Words of praise were heard on every side, praise for the school children, praise for the merchants who closed their stores, praise for the school teachers and most of all praise for the community who got behind the drive to make it successful.

As a result, the materials collected for the war effort were recycled, scrap metal for bombs, ammunition, tanks, guns and battleships, rubber for gas masks, life rafts, cars, and bombers.

Many years have passed since the World War II ended, and we can all be thankful for every American who pulled together to help keep the people of our country free and stand up for the freedom of our allies.

A special thanks to the Glass family for their contribution to preserving our local history.


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Robert M.”Bobbie” Bankston-In Memory

Bobbie Bankston of Dayton dies from stab wound received in a fight that resulted over a pinball game

Let us take a moment to remember 18-year-old Bobbie H. Bankston, a local taxi driver who bled to death from a knife wound he received in a fight with 35-year-old Walter Clingan next to Charley’s Place on 1st Ave on the morning of June 24, 1941.

According to witnesses reports at the time the incident occurred at approx. 1am during which time all officers had been called to south Dayton to investigate an automobile accident.

It was reported that the fight was the climax of an argument which started earlier in the day over the outcome of a pinball game.

Bankston lived only a few minutes after being carried to Thomison’s Hospital, he was fatally wounded in the right groin, the main artery having been cut.

It was reported by an eyewitness, Lee Wilkey that Bankston, after having sworn vengeance from the argument of the same afternoon, lurked in the shadows by the side of Charley’s Place while Wilkey, Clingan and Dave Harwood turned the corner of 1st Ave towards the railroad.

As they turned the corner, Bankston jumped upon Clingan and is quoted to have said “I’ll get you now for slapping me this afternoon.” After fighting for a few minutes Clingan pulled out a knife and gave Bankston a very hard stab which proved to be fatal.

Bankston was survived by his wife of one week who was the former Miss Gladys Rothwell as well as his parents Mr. & Mrs. T.H. Bankston of Dayton, and three sisters.

Funeral services were held at the Chapel of R.J. Coulter, he was carried to his final resting place in the Montgomery Cemetery by pallbearers Albert Norris, Earl Pogue, Ray McKenzie, Condon Graham, Lee Graham, and Charles England.

A preliminary hearing for Clingan was scheduled, at this time there is no further information as to the outcome of the legal case against Clingan.

See Robert “Bobbie” Bankston’s Find A Grave Memorial Here


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