The original mission of the Survivors Club of Kingsport was to preserve the history of Kingsport through oral histories. Roundtable discussions by club members, all 70 or older, were videotaped and copies of those tapes were donated to the Kingsport Public Library.
Today’s Survivors Club meetings are still heavy on Kingsport history, but there’s also a regional focus. Meetings are open to anyone, and the club would like to see younger members of the community join them. In fact, the club might change its name to finally lay to rest some misconceptions the public has had for years.
“We’re not a bunch of medical survivors or family loss survivors. We’re history buffs who have an interest in Tennessee history, an interest in local history,” said Jack Mahaffey. “We really need more young people coming in.”
The late Peggy Turner founded the club in 1988 while serving as executive director of the Downtown Kingsport Association. Charter members include some familiar Kingsport names — Jitney Blankenbecler, Tom Gannaway, Katty Harrison, Mack Riddle, Dr. Shelton Reed.
“There was no leader. They just sat around and discussed their lives,” Mahaffey said.
Today’s meetings are divided between hosting guest speakers, and what club chairman Nancy Garrett calls member programs of roundtable discussions. Guest speakers through the years have talked on a variety of topics — the history of Pal’s, the Dobyns-Bennett Alumni Hall, religious sects of East Tennessee, the Eastman explosion, the Sullivan County archives and Deery Inn, solar energy, the Netherland Inn, the history of the Kingsport Fire Department, the history of Bays Mountain, and the Battle of Kingsport.
At last week’s meeting, Rann Vaulx presented “Rotherwood: Frederick Ross, A Mansion, A Silk Mill and a Great Tree.”
Occasionally the club will schedule a field trip. They’ve visited the Toy Reid Employee Center at Eastman, Hale Springs Inn, the Deery Inn and the Sullivan County Archives.
The club meets at 9:30 a.m., the first Monday of each month (except for December) in the fellowship hall of First Presbyterian Church on Church Circle. Meetings generally attract between 25 and 35 people, which is about half the club’s membership.
For more information about the Survivors Club, call Garrett at 245-1203.comments powered by Disqus