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Vince Staten: Why was story about Rye Cove cyclone reported in Central time?

VINCE STATEN • May 28, 2013 at 7:53 PM

It was just one word in Sunday’s column about the cyclone of Rye Cove, but it jumped out at Brett Frazier. “Why would the paper report the time in Central time instead of Eastern time in 1929?”

Why indeed? That’s why I left that word in the story. I was hoping a reader would help me out.

Was Rye Cove on Central time in 1929? They are way too far east, aren’t they?

I checked with Kenny Stallard, who produced a DVD on the cyclone with the Scott County Historical Society. “I’ve never heard of this area ever being in the Central time zone.”

Kenny and I put our heads together and came up with the idea that the Central time report might have come from a weather bureau in the Central time zone. “Storm reports coming in by wire to the Times would have been coming from states in the Central time zone. Since there was not a local airport at the time, a weather report would not be coming from there. It could even be that the closest National Weather Bureau — if this bureau existed at the time — may have been in Nashville or a point even further west, such as St. Louis.”

So I did a little digging around in the archives. And what I found out surprised me.

The radio program listings in the Kingsport Times in May 1929 were all in Central Standard Time.

Then I found a 1922 Almanac and Year Book, published by the Chicago Daily News, that listed times zones established by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1918. The boundary line between Eastern and Central time zones ran south “from Huntingdon, Kenova and Williamson, W.Va.; Dungannon, Va.; Bristol, Va.-Tenn.; Telford, Tenn.; Asheville and Franklin, N.C.”

Bristol and Dungannon were considered the westernmost cities in Eastern time, according to the almanac. West of them the cities were in Central time.

Meaning in 1922 Kingsport and Rye Cove would have been in Central time. There’s a map in the almanac to prove it.

I don’t know when the time zone line was moved. I haven’t been able to find that. But I did find a 1931 Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year Book that was still listing the line as running through Bristol and Dungannon.

So that may be why the story noted the cyclone in Central time. It just may have been that in 1929 Rye Cove was in Central time.


Time in the early years of the 20th century was a fluid thing. While digging around, I found this headline from a November 1935 issue of the Kingsport Times: CHICAGO CHANGES TO EASTERN TIME.


A source tells me a representative from ABC News will be in Scott County on Thursday looking into doing a story on the 1929 cyclone.


Howard Doyle weighed in on the state bird controversy I wrote about last week. “One should not be so quick to condemn Tennessee’s choice of the mockingbird as the state bird. Consider our national symbol, the bald eagle. As mighty and majestic as it appears, it is mainly a scavenger and a fish eater rather than a mighty hunter. I don’t even want to discuss Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion: the wild turkey.”

Tom Jester also voted in favor of the mockingbird. “I think the mockingbird was a good choice for Tennessee because of its musical ability in a variety of styles. It’s said that if you have one clever mockingbird in your backyard, you don’t need any more birds.”

Contact Vince Staten at vincestaten@timesnews.net or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at vincestaten.blogspot.com.

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