Sometimes yellowed old newspapers contain news so forgotten it has become fresh again.
Until days ago, I had no idea that the Ottway community once had its own fair.
Not being Greene County born and raised perhaps gives me some excuse for my ignorance, because I soon learned from others that the Ottway Fair was kind of a big deal in Greene County in its time. Yet I somehow have never heard anyone mention it, including county old-timers.
I learned it by chance Tuesday morning, through randomly opening a bound volume of 1936 editions of The Greeneville Sun.
Inside the Monday, Oct. 5, 1936, edition of the paper I noticed a smaller insert publication, eight pages in length, and printed on a pinkish paper. It is labeled “The Ottway Fair, Ottway, Greene County, Tenn.” Just below that title is graphic lettering with an art deco look, saying “Welcome to the Fair.”
It caught my eye and I checked it out. The Ottway Fair, it appears, was an annual event and apparently enjoyed significant community support, if advertiser participation in its advance publicity is an indicator.
Apart from the title content, the front page of the insert has only two paragraphs of type, headlined “Foreword” and telling what the fair was all about and how it was funded.
Here’s what the first paragraph says:
“The Ottway Fair is an outgrowth of community fairs that have for a number of years been held at this place. It is strictly a community fair, but its scope is broad enough to cater to agricultural interests of neighboring sections. In making this fair more extensive, we are glad, however, to acknowledge assistance from outside sources.”
The second paragraph revealed that the “State Aid To Fairs” program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, had assumed “partial financial obligations in paying prizes on agricultural exhibits.” Also, it continued, “We are delighted with the splendid response of good-hearted business and professional men who contributed so generously toward the publicity of the fair. These benefactors can rightfully expect our loyalty and patronage.”
The paragraphs were designated as being from “The Ottway Fair, Member of Tennessee Association of Fairs.”
Advertisers in the insert publication provide an informal directory of active town and county businesses of the mid-’30s, plus a few regional ones.
On the insert’s front page advertisers include Johnson Hardware, (promoting its “Hardware that can stand hard wear”), the Greene County Motor Company, the Tobacco Board of Trade and Greeneville Tobacco Warehouses, and the Doughty-Stevens Company.
The latter’s advertising copy was written cleverly, beginning with standard good wishes for the fair’s success and followed by Doughty-Stevens’ statement of appreciation in being allowed to support the effort. It noted: “Each year this firm is good for an ad — we would feel hurt if you failed to give us the opportunity to chip in.”
Then a final, slyly worded sentence from that downtown Greeneville business: “You know that we sell furniture and hardware — so we won’t mention that.”
The remainder of the publication is comprised mostly of listing of fair rules, entry categories and prize awards paid ($2 for best tobacco in several types and grades, $2 for best pair of sheep, but only 75 cents for the best pair of goats and rabbits), and other background information about the fair, including the names of the Ottway Fair officers.
Those officers were: Glenon C. Brown, president; Ray Young, vice president; Bruce Graham, manager; W.F. Bible, secretary; Wilbur Young, treasurer, and W.P. Davidson, county agent.
Inside page advertisers supporting Ottway Fair were: Doak Lumber Company, Long’s Service Station, Wells Battery Company, Russell-Campbell-Tucker Hardware Company, Greeneville Milling Company, W.C. Ross, Greeneville Live Stock Company, Parks-Belk Company, L.A. Seaton Grocery, Linebarger Hardware Company, Powder Puff Beauty Shoppe, Patton Shoe Shop, J.C. Penney, Capitol Theatre, The People’s Cafe, J. Roy Brown General Merchandise and Groceries, the George R. Lane Store, Greeneville Hospital and Sanitarium, Pierce Drug Store, Neas & Broyles (apparently a farm supply store) and H.A. Sayler Groceries, Notions and Dry Goods.
And even more: D.L. Logan @ Company, M. Snyder (“A good place for you to buy your ready-to-wear shoes, etc.”), S.B. Larue & Company (an insurance firm), Dixie Auto Supply Company, First National Bank, Central Service Station, J.A. McDonald & Sons (a Rogersville business), R.S. Fields Store, Greeneville Furniture, Galbreath’s Bakery, Ricker-Broyles & Company, Rogersville Hardware & Grocery, Lancaster & Company, Greene County Bank, Wright’s Grocery, Easterly Motor Company, W.D. Bailey’s Garage, Ottway Mill Company, Baileyton Hardware, Smith’s Market and Bruce Cooter’s Garage.
The list goes on: Kiser Funeral Home, Disney Furniture Company, Dixie Cafe, Broyles Rubber Oil Company, Bohannon’s Filling Station, Banner Mill Company, Pet Dairy Products Company, Pruitt-Esso Service Station, R.T. Kelley General Merchandise, Miss Sallie Bohannon, J.A.B. Carter & Son, Takoma Hospital & Sanitarium, Tom & Leo Dry Cleaners and Staple Groceries & Hardware (Justice Brothers).
Also: White Stores of Greeneville, Waddell & Bird, Rogersville Milling Company, Central Drug Store, Tadlock Drug Store, F&K Grocery, Greeneville Stockyards Cafe, Park Feed Company, Boyd Drug Company, Coy W. Black Dry Cleaners, Grover C. Bird Store and Tennessee Eastern Electric Company.
It is quite a list of businesses, the names of which can probably trigger a trip down memory lane for some.
One piece of information not provided in the newspaper insert is just where in the Ottway community the fair was held.
Does anyone out there have memories of attending the Ottway Fair? Any clues as to when it began and how many years it happened? And upon what piece of land?
Do any relics beyond old newspaper publicity items survive? Do recollections linger of some of the lesser-known businesses who advertised, especially the lesser-known ones?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information about this bit of Greene County cultural and community history that seems to have dropped mostly into the shadows of vanishing memory. Pictures, old trophies, whatever it may be, could make good material for a future follow-up column.
Oh, one further note from the publicity insert: The amount of money allocated from the State of Tennessee to enable the Ottway Fair to provide award money was only $59.46.
The big prize, by the way, was attached to the 1936 Ottway Fair’s Friday night hog calling contest. Whoever won that event took away a Shaeffer pen and pencil set worth $8.50.
You have to wonder if that pen and pencil set is still hiding in a long-neglected drawer relegated long ago to an attic out there in some old farmhouse.