I’ve spent some more time flipping through the 1959 city directory published by Nelsons’ Directory Company, Inc. for the Kingsport metropolitan area, including Gate City and Weber City.
I’ve lots to tell. And lots more to research. More tales will be coming.
After my initial tracking of this particular copy of the book’s provenance (because I found the receipt for its purchase inside its pages), and after a cursory search for immediate family members’ addresses and telephone numbers, I next became enthralled with its introduction to the Kingsport area.
It includes a several-pages history of how Kingsport came to be, and notes that at the time of its compilation and according to Nelsons’ research, “There is only one Kingsport.”
“Of the thousands of post offices and railroad stations listed in the official directories, There is only one Kingsport,” the publisher claimed in 1959.
The short history is followed by several pages of statistics. I think they’re rather interesting. I’ve had fun the last few days asking folks to guess the city’s and county’s property tax rates from 61 years ago. The answer: $2.50 (per $100 of assessed value) in the city; $2.82 (per $100 of assessed value) in Sullivan County. Both are lower today. Of course, property values, and therefore assessments, are much higher.
The assessed valuation for properties inside Kingsport in 1958 was $51,081,051. And that, according to the Nelsons’ city directory for 1959, was an 82.09% increase since 1948, when it was $28,052,042.
Countywide, the assessed valuation totaled $111,315,929. (Sullivan County’s current budget is based on an estimated 2020 assessment, for revenue generation, of $3,891,869,600.)
The Sullivan County Schools system was operating 48 schools (yes, you read that right) with total enrollment (as of September 1958) of 16,233. There were eight county high schools and 40 county elementary schools.
The Kingsport City Schools system operated nine schools for 5,676 students. And get this: there were two city high schools, two junior highs, and five grade schools. (Today, the city’s current budget indicates the city system operates 13 schools with more than 7,700 students.)
And it would seem Kingsport was a pretty good place for making a living in Tennessee. According to the directory, Kingsport’s annual per capita income, and annual income per family, were above six other “leading Tennessee cities” and Bristol, Va., too.
Income per capita: Kingsport, $1,826; Memphis, $1,705; Bristol, Tenn., $1,620; Nashville, $1,616; Knoxville, $1,590; Chattanooga, $1,504; Bristol, Va., $1,455; and Johnson City, $1,411.
Annual income per family: Kingsport, $6,485; Memphis, $5,780; Johnson City, $5,546; Knoxville, $5,533: Bristol, Tenn., $5,517; Nashville, $5,483; Bristol, Va., $5,234; and Chattanooga, $5,033.
Kingsport had the largest hospital between Roanoke, Va., and Knoxville in 1959.
The directory counted 141 churches in the area in 1959, with 39 denominations represented.
But perhaps my favorite little quirky thing in the directory’s introduction pages is its particular (and to me, peculiar) way of breaking down its estimated population of 71,345 residents within its coverage area (including Gate City and Weber City) as of April 4, 1959: it tells you how that breaks down by last name initial.
The B’s won hands down, at 7,664. There was relatively little spread between the C’s and S’s for second and third places, at 6,407 and 6,209, respectively. But, wait, some might call foul: they separated the Mc’s from the M’s. Together (1,787 for the former and 4,532 for the latter) they could have earned third place. That, of course, means there are 27, not 26, divisions of residents based on how their last name began. My O’s? They were sixth from dead last, a spot held by X, which I didn’t make plural because it got zilch in the 1959 last-name initial listing.
I think that’s enough numbers for today, and I hope these numbers entertained you. They’ve been a welcome distraction for me. (But I can’t help but be a bit competitive. If only they’d waited a week to finish their count, my O’s would have had at least one more when my brother Keith was born on April 11.)