Tennessee Tech Archives participates annually in the Christmas Forest exhibit at the Cookeville History Museum. The archive creates a tree that represents work that was performed in the archive that year and they combine the work with a little bit of creativity. This year, the Christmas tree depicts ornaments that represent a small part of the preservation process that archivists perform during archival “processing.” Processing is a general word to describe how archivists make materials available to users and involves a set of tasks including arranging, describing, rehousing, and performing preservation on archival materials. Preservation, unlike conservation, involves removing harmful materials, such as metal fasteners, or rehousing archival materials into new housing, such as acid-free folders and boxes, to prevent further deterioration of the materials. Preservation is minimally invasive and does not involve altering the physical materials; whereas conservation may involve physically altering/changing materials.
The ornaments on the tree are all made with binder clips and paper clips removed by archive intern Julia Peacock while processing the papers of the famed American tuba player and professor, R. Winston Morris. Archives also removes staples during preservation work, which can be grueling. These tedious tasks remove the potential for rust to form from the metal on the unique materials and preserves the materials for the future with less risk of deterioration. All DIY ornaments on the tree are made by employees in the library and archive interns.
These are examples/images of the ornaments created with the paperclips and binder clips in the collection and they include the supplies needed for the ornaments if you want to make them at home!
Tennessee Tech Archives recently received a relic from the past— IBM punch cards (Image 1). These paper-based, 7 3/8 by 3 ¼ inch cards were the primary means of programming computer instruction, performing data input, and storing data beginning in the late 19th century through to the mid- 20th century.
Punch cards originated in the 1880s when United States census clerk Herman Hollerith developed punch cards and the tabulating machine to assist the United States Census in 1890. Hollerith’s idea was grounded in the inventions of weaver and merchant Joseph Marie Jacquard, who used punch cards to automate steam-powered looms, and mathematician Charles Babbage, who designed a polynomial calculating machine using punch cards. Player pianos also used a type of punch card technology, where rolls of music with holes would indicate the note played on the piano, as did punched train tickets.
Hollerith’s invention enabled the government to complete the 1890 census in two years instead of the historic eight years using his innovations. The tabulating machine used mercury-lined pins, which traveled through the punch cards’ round holes to complete electrical circuits. Results registered on a counter board. Hollerith recognized the impact his invention had on saving time and money, and in 1896, turned his invention into a business, the Tabulating Machine Company. By 1911, the Tabulating Machine Company merged, and the resulting businesses eventually became International Business Machines, or IBM, in 1924.
With new and faster means to capture and store data, companies and businesses requested more data. IBM responded and revised its punch cards to include 80 columns that used rectangular holes instead of circular ones in 1928. Many punch cards came printed with what became a familiar phrase, “Do not spindle, fold, or mutilate.” IBM improved punch card technology again when it made punches “electrographic” or “Mark Sense,” allowing for pencil-marked cards to be changed into punch cards.
The first documented use of punch card-type technology on campus began in 1959 when the Department of Engineering purchased an analog computer for differential equations at a price of $5,000. In October 1959, Engineering Science built a new computer laboratory that included a desk calculating machine, an IBM 610 personal digital computer, and three electronic analog computers. The early computer laboratory was in Henderson Hall and shared its space with a subcritical reactor supplied with 5,500 pounds of nuclear fuel provided by the Atomic Energy Commission! Later, in 1963, punch card technology’s use expanded on campus enough that the University created positions for statistical services and IBM operator, which by 1966 became the IBM Tabulating and Statistical Services Department coordinated by J. Pate Pointer.
These new computer laboratories provided spaces to accommodate for Tennessee Tech University’s changing curriculum initiated by computers. By 1958, the University began offering computer classes in its Engineering Science Program including the “Principles of Digital Computers,” and “Digital Computer Laboratory,” a class that required students to program and code one math problem using the IBM 610, which used punched tape— a type of punch card technology. The punch cards seen here are a sample of punch cards being used to solve complex equations by engineering students. The information needed to be added correctly and the card order needed to be precise for the computer to work efficiently.
During the Christmas holiday of 1964, Tennessee Tech completed Clement Hall, the new engineering building. It provided space for the D.W. Mattson Computer Center, named after the Chair of Civil Engineering, who pushed for the facility. The computer center cost $350,000 and included two IBM 1620 digital computers, an IBM 1311 Disk File System, an IBM 1710, two keypunches, a collator, an alphabetic interpreter, a reproduction punch, and an auto plotter (Odom, 1). The IBM 1710 reportedly held two-million digits (0 or 1) of information. The lab assisted student education but was also for campus-wide activities such as grading, surveying, testing, payroll, automating alumni records, sectioning for registration, preparing housing reports, research, and data analysis. The Associated Student Body used punch cards in their 1964 elections; the ROTC designed a program to improve supply orders; and in 1965, the IBM 1710 was even used to pick dance partners for a school formal. The annual report for engineering in 1964 described the computer center and new computers as completing work faster than previously and making more complex data processing tasks possible.
Also, in 1964, Tennessee Tech implemented the IBM punch card system for registration using computer sectioning. Prior to this, registration was done manually, but better automation was necessary to provide for the nationwide phenomenon of increased enrollment on college campuses due to social and political changes, such as the GI Bill or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Registration took 30 minutes for most students that year, and 3,291 students registered using the method.
The IBM tagline, “Do not spindle, fold, or mutilate,” printed on most IBM cards, was a small issue in comparison to the many headaches punch cards created; however, the punch cards were still more efficient than previous methods. Overall, punch cards needed to be handled carefully. The order of the cards mattered when performing programs and required numerous cards. The “punches” also needed to be filled in appropriately. If incorrect, the user started again on a new card.
After using the IBM 1710 for registration in March of 1965, students spoke about the system saying, “If I had been more careful, I would have been able to complete registration within an hour,” and “…IBM registration is efficient and well worth the trouble.” Many students commended the computer, but others felt it was difficult and wanted it to have more capabilities. Early programming did not accommodate for exceptions, redundant data, scholarships, full classes, professor preferences, and overlapping times, amongst other things. Computer programs did what they were told to do and if a solution was needed for a distinct set of circumstances, it needed to be created (via punch card programming of course). One computer software did not necessarily run on another type of computer. Despite some issues with registration experienced by some students, the software completed the course cards in 30 hours.
Punch cards were on campus for many years following their early initiation. In 1987, Dr. Hoyle Lawson and Dr. Robert Craighead developed computer registration using an Optical Mark Reading System, an idea based on the University of Georgia’s system. At the time, Tennessee Tech’s punch card system was wearing out and the University required a new system.
Tennessee Tech’s use of the punch cards system came at an opportune time in the university’s history. Tennesse Tech just changed its name from Tennessee Polytechnic Institute to Tennessee Technological University in 1965, emphasizing the future of the university’s technology and engineering programs. The computer and punch cards were part of the transition, leading Tennessee Technological University into the computer age. With punch cards and computers in place, campus employees devoted more time to tasks rather than data processing, were able to explore data using methods unattainable manually, had better control of their data, and could perform data tasks faster, and for less money.
Photographs showing punch card technology in use on campus
Tech Archives recently received a scrapbook owned by Malcolm P. “Mutt” Quillen (1910-1995), a Tennessee Tech football, baseball, basketball, and track star, and later coach and administrator. Malcolm Patterson “Pat” Quillen, his son, donated the scrapbook to Tech Archives. For Tech Archives, the scrapbook filled a gap in a smaller collection of scrapbooks it held highlighting the career and retirement celebration of the famed Coach P.V. (Putty) Overall. The scrapbooks, created presumably by Overall, contain news clippings, correspondence, photographs, and various Tennessee Polytechnic Institute football ephemera such as programs and schedules dating from 1934-1974. Overall gave the one scrapbook to Malcolm P. “Mutt” Quillen because the scrapbook highlighted Malcolm’s years when he played for Tennessee Tech.
Preston Vaughn (P.V.) “Putty” Overall (1897-1974) was born in Snell, Tennessee. Overall served in World War I in the Company “C,” 516th Army Engineers. He began his sports career at Middle Tennessee Normal School, later Middle Tennessee State University. He attended and graduated George Peabody College and lettered in football at Vanderbilt in 1921. He went on to work shortly at Livingston Academy in 1922 with Helen Marie Blanchard, whom he married in 1923.
Overall began his coaching career at Tennessee Tech in 1923. He coached basketball, baseball, and football, but is known for football. In 1946, he retired his first time from coaching to continue the growth of the Physical Education Department. His best football seasons were in 1928 and 1932, but in 1952, Overall returned to coaching. He retired the second time in 1953 on top after the Golden Eagles’ team played East Texas State in Orlando, Florida in the Tangerine Bowl, and the Golden Eagles went to the OVC championship with Western Kentucky, and even still the Golden Eagles beat MTSU (46-13), a long rivalry Overall was instrumental in initiating.
The early athletic program at Tennessee Tech lacked the essentials such as fields and facilities (campus map). Football was played on the old fairgrounds. Athletic scholarships were nonexistent and there was a small football team. Overall helped build the athletic program at Tennessee Tech and he organized the biology program at Tennessee Tech, starting with zoology and botany. He chaired and organized the Department of Health and Physical Education in 1938. He was also the first president of the Tennessee College Physical Education Association.
Overall retired from all positions at Tennessee Tech in 1967 but during his time at Tennessee Tech, he built the athletic program at Tennessee Tech from fledgling to Golden Eagle. Middle Tennessee State University honored Overall a “Distinguished Alumnus in 1961. Overall was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1966-1969, and was honored in 1966. He was one of the first inductees into the Tennessee Tech Hall of Fame in 1975. Overall has had two Tennessee Tech athletic fields named in his honor, the most recent is Overall Field in Tucker Stadium. He was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame in 1981.
Malcolm Quillen’s success did not pale in comparison to Overall. He was a successful athlete in the 1930s and coach at Tennessee Tech in the 1950s. He was inducted into Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, the OVC Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, and Tech’s baseball playing field is named in his honor. He was Tennessee Tech’s Dean of men from 1958 to 1975 and a golf coach in the late 1970s. Both he and Everett Derryberry are in the Columbia Central High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The scrapbook, donated by Pat Quillen, and the collection held by the archives, highlight both of these men’s extraordinary sports’ careers at Tennessee Tech. Students and athletes appreciated Overall’s character and life lessons. From Overall, “Athletics should supplement the classroom teaching in giving too our society boys and girls that have first hand [sic] experience in learning the values of honesty, self-denial, loyality [sic], respect for others and a willingness to assume and discharge their obligations to God and man.” The collection and scrapbooks contain numerous accolades written to Overall from former players before and at the time of his retirement. Access a selection of these here. The scrapbook Overall gifted Quillen can be accessed here. We will be digitizing the remaining scrapbooks this year so check back if you enjoy it!
Roads, avenues, streets, and boulevards provide the means of travel through and around Tech’s campus while offering students the ability take their first steps on their journey at Tennessee Tech University and into their future. Since its establishment, there have been many changes to Tennessee Tech’s campus, including road names. Roads across the country have a lot of different, strange, and unique names, but what is the reason behind Tennessee Tech’s road names and how did they receive their names?
Tennessee Tech’s campus has streets named after trees and numbers, a system derived and popularized by two of the oldest cities in the United States. The City of New York popularized numbered streets in America around 1811 when it created the “Commissioner’s Plan of 1811.” The plan established the grid system to solve current and future infrastructure problems and to accommodate for the influx of immigrants arriving in Manhattans ports and harbors. Naming streets after trees became popular when William Penn, an English Quaker, oversaw the creation and design of the city of Philadelphia. He wanted the city to have lots of green spaces and to be fire resistant– presumably because London has had over a dozen notable fires that destroyed most of the city. Penn and his apprentice Thomas Holme mapped out two miles of land in between two rivers, the Delaware and the Schuylkill. They designed the city with wide open streets in a near perfect grid. Running North to South, almost all the streets were named after trees, including a Cedar and Walnut Street, similar to Tennessee Tech. Whether driving through town or studying a map, the influences of these cities can be seen in almost every town in the country.
The most recognizable road on campus, Dixie Avenue, was named after the University of Dixie. In 1909, the leaders of the Broad Street Church of Christ established the University of Dixie, or Dixie College, in Cookeville, Tennessee. The college later became the state-run Tennessee Polytechnic Institute and then Tennessee Technological University. Originally called West Road, a 1915 article in the Putnam County Herald called the road Dixie Avenue, “or the pike leading out north by the University of Dixie.”
On Tennessee Tech’s campus there are two roads named after notable people in Tennessee Tech’s history, William L. Jones Drive and McGee Boulevard. Most students only think of William L. Jones Drive as the primary address for Tennessee Tech or as the road in front of Derryberry Hall. William L. Jones (1935-1981) had a long career at Tennessee Tech, receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the university. He then worked as the chief fiscal officer for the university. In 1974, he became Tennessee Tech’s vice president for Business and Fiscal Affairs. In 1975, he became the State of Tennessee’s commissioner of Finance and Administration. He served in many capacities for the State of Tennessee including in the Department of Safety, where he designed the central driver’s license system for Tennessee. A scholarship was established in his name soon after his death and William L. Jones Drive was dedicated on May 30, 1982 to a “graduate who served with distinction…for the University and the State of Tennessee.”
McGee Boulevard is located on the west side of campus in between Hooper Eblen and the tennis courts. Sidney “Doc” McGee was a prominent member in both the Cookeville and Tennessee Tech communities. In 1917, McGee’s began working as a coal miner in West Virginia, but soon enlisted and served in World War I. After the war he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of West Virginia. He earned his doctorate in French at the University of Montpellier in France. He was a member of Tennessee Tech’s faculty for 29 years and served as chairman for the foreign language department. He was also an advisor for the yearbook and student newspaper and was known as the university’s unofficial sports information director. In addition to his work at Tech, Dr. McGee was a sports correspondent for Cookeville’s Herald-Citizen and was the first chairman of the Golden Eagle Sports Hall of Fame selections committee, where he was posthumously inducted after his death in 1976. In 1977, Tennessee Tech dedicated McGee Boulevard at the same time as the newly built Hooper Eblen Center and The Eagles’ Nest. In addition to having a street named after him, there is a scholarship in his honor. The archives house his papers which documents his early years and tenure at Tennessee Tech.
Commissioners’ plan of Manhattan Island and report with related materials. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. (n.d.). https://archives.nypl.org/mss/605
Groundspeak, Inc. (n.d.). William L. Jones – Cookeville, TN Image. Waymarking. https://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=c9dfe4b6-18f9-48ea-8241-3dc976e1c9f0
Plan of the city of Philadelphia. City Maps and Urban Environments – CURIOSity Digital Collections. (n.d.). https://curiosity.lib.harvard.edu/city-maps-and-urban-environments/catalog/67-990098471410203941
McGee, Sidney. “Sidney McGee’s Photograph Book.” Volume. 1919. From Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections. RG 8 Sidney [Doc] McGee papers, Volume 2.
Tennessee Technological University. Photo Services. “William L. Jones.” Negative. Undated. From Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections. RG 112 Photo Services photographs, Box 73, Folder 142.
Tennessee Technological University. “William L. Jones Program of Dedication.” Pamphlet. May 30, 1982. From Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections. RG 9 Records of the President, Box 394 Folder 14.
Winberg, M. (2019, October 27). William Penn at 375: How Philadelphia became a model for American cities. Billy Penn. https://billypenn.com/2019/10/27/william-penn-375-years-philadelphia-model-city-street-grid/
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The Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections is excited to introduce their newest addition to the archival team! Jenny Huffman began her new role as an Archives Assistant in June 2022. Her work will include digitization and digital preservation, remediating existing metadata and creating new metadata, management of the Archive’s public image on social media, and streamlining digital workflows by maintaining and updating policies and procedures.
Jenny is a Tennessee Tech Alumni who earned her B.S. in History in December 2019. During her undergraduate studies at Tennessee Tech, Jenny served as president and vice president of the History Club, and currently serves as President Emeritus of this organization – an honor bestowed upon her for her work in fundraising, raising membership levels, and ability to create and market innovative history programming. While attending Tennessee Tech, Jenny participated in a 9-month internship at the Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections. During this internship she processed the papers of composer Robert E. Jager. She also served as a volunteer at the Cookeville History Museum where she accessioned artifacts and performed in the Night at the Museums Ghost Walk.
In May 2022, Jenny obtained her Masters of Science in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee Knoxville where she followed the Archives and Records Management pathway. She served as president of the Society of American Archivists student chapter for three semesters and published a poster for the national Society of American Archivists 2021 annual conference. She is a recipient of the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award as well as the Outstanding Service Award.
Jenny has digital archival experience through real life projects that she participated in during her graduate studies. She worked as part of the Rockvale High School Digitization Project – a semester-long group project that worked with the newly reopened Rockvale High School in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Jenny also created description guidelines for the digitized materials included in the digital repository.
In addition to experience gained during her graduate studies, Jenny’s most recent project involved setting up a Memory Lab and Digitization Station for the Putnam County Library.
While Jenny is passionate about digital archiving and protecting history, she also loves reading, playing video games, catching up on the latest Marvel or DC shows and movies, and is proud to call herself a pop culture geek.
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On April 13, 2022, Tech Archives participated in a film screening series with 63 other institutions airing and discussing the documentary, “The Loyola Project.” The film documents the 1963 NCAA championship win of the Loyola Ramblers of Chicago. The film was offered to Tech Archives due to our providing archival resources for the documentary and because of our participation in the 1963 NCAA championship. Tennessee Tech won against Morehead under Coach Oldham in the OVC playoffs on March 8, 1963, putting them in the NCAA playoffs against one of the tournament’s top teams in the nation, Loyola. The Loyola win against Tennessee Tech remains the largest victory in the tournament’s history.
The NCAA championship of 1963 included Tennessee Tech, Mississippi State, Illinois, Duke University, and Cincinnati. In the Round of 25 at the NCAA Championship that year, the first team the Ramblers played against was Tennessee Tech followed by Mississippi State Bulldogs (Maroons at the time) under coach Babe McCarthy. Tennessee Tech and Mississippi State were still segregated schools, but Mississippi States’ situation was further aggravated by the Mississippi Governor, Ross Barnett, and the widely-accepted unwritten sanction that prohibited their teams from playing against teams with African Americans players. Mississippi State’s coach sent his players to the championship, defying his state’s sanctioned rule by setting up a decoy team to pretend to go to the tournament while the actual team travelled by another means. It was McCarthy’s defiance and the Rambler players’ perseverance that led to a basketball game that is now known as the “Game of Change.”
At the end of the tournament, the Loyola Ramblers won the 1963 tournament against the University of Cincinnati, but their journey was challenged by racial barriers and occurred during a very critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The Ramblers’ coach, George Ireland, was culpable of creating these barriers, but also removing them for the win. Ireland initially did not play more than three African Americans on the court at a time due to an unwritten rule about having too many African Americans on the court at once. Team members were segregated when they competed in the South at segregated institutions and the players did not receive the support they needed to attend Loyola College, a mostly white institution. Players received threats and hate mail. In the end, George Ireland played more than three African Americans and won the championship as a result, breaking the unwritten rule.
Tennessee Tech began integrating in 1964 and in this same year, Tech’s basketball coaches recruited African American players. The first players recruited to the Men’s Basketball freshmen team were Henry James Jordan, Joe Neal Hilson, and Marvin Knott Beidleman. The experiences of Tennessee Tech’s first African American athletes were similar to the story of the Loyola Ramblers.
Tech Archives partnered with Athletics, Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to host the event. The speakers included Men’s Basketball Coach John Pelphrey, Women’s basketball Coach Kim Rosamond, and Historian Dr. Arthur Banton. The discussion was informative and the panel provided a historical perspective and personal perspective from the coaches regarding their relationships with their players. “The Loyola Project” is available for viewing on Paramount+ streaming. The movie captures this great historical event while revealing the lasting emotional impact upon those involved.
Almost exactly one year ago, I fell victim to the soul-searching state of mind that enraptures every senior as they arrive at their last year. Age-old enigmas, such as how I was going to prove to my parents that an English degree wasn’t the worst decision I’d ever made, were far more stressing than any research paper. I had inklings of what I wanted to do— vague visions of myself surrounded by books and old things— à la Evie Carnahan shelving dusty tomes in The Mummy (1999). Fate soon dispatched me a sign: a flier in Henderson Hall for an Archives Management and Research course. Through this class, I discovered a profound love of the archives, and after bugging Megan Atkinson, our university archivist, enough times— she offered me an internship.
As luck would have it, the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree hit the Big 5-0 this year, and the Jamboree’s board sought a research assistant for a book celebrating its semicentennial anniversary. One of Tennessee Tech’s Archives and Special Collections’ primary duties is the preservation of the Upper Cumberland’s history and culture, thus the Jamboree board looked to Tennessee Tech for assistance. They had the resources, decade’s worth of materials (photographs, programs, negatives, documents, even an artifact or two) but lacked the technology to properly process it. That’s where I came in.
I have digitized, preserved, and researched materials not only emanating from the jamboree, but also explored topics about the Smithville area in general to compose a comprehensive history of the festival. Notably, the Joe L. Evins Papers and Tennessee Tech’s Presidential Papers shed light on the origins of the most integral aspects of the jamboree, such as the town square that houses it every July. Evins was also a prime mover in the jamboree’s creation, alongside other notable Smithville natives, such as Barry C. Williams. Tech and the jamboree, as it turns out, has a rather long history together. The jamboree has called at least one Tennessee Tech president, Arliss Roaden, amongst its special guests over the years.
Recently, the materials entrusted to me by the Jamboree board have been donated to Tennessee Tech’s archives. With the anniversary book nearing completion, my work as an intern has shifted to ingesting the newly digitized Jamboree materials into our archive. This was an end goal from the start; the board wished for the Jamboree’s materials, its history, to not only be researched, but also translocated to a more secure and preservation-friendly location. Now, the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree Collection is underway, which the majority of materials in the process of digitization. I am thrilled to see this project from its initial stages to its finalization as a formal collection. It is a great honor for my research to help not only the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree board, but also future students in their own projects.
Through this experience (99.9% this experience, .1% The Mummy), I discovered my true calling is preservation. I was fortunate to be given this wonderful opportunity, and work in a field previous unknown to me. It saddens me to report that my internship is nearing the end of its tenure, but my work is just about done here. My time in the archival world is far from over, however, as I will soon be moving to attend Indiana University Bloomington to pursue master’s degrees in both Literature and Library Science, with a concentration in Rare Book and Manuscript Librarianship (think Indiana Jones but only books). So, if you are interested in festivals, especially those involving fiddles, do check out our latest collection. I promise you will not be disappointed.
In a previous post in May 2021, we discussed the use of vendors for digitization in the archives. This same month, we dropped off six collections, including William Everett Derryberry, William Brinker, Dave Johnson, the Upper Cumberland Institute, Tennessee Tech faculty, Putnam Countians, and the Charles Faulkner Bryan recordings. We received all the digitized materials except the Charles Faulkner Bryan and began processing the digital materials to make them available to patrons. The audio assets contain veteran oral histories and local oral histories and interviews. The film assets mostly document William Everett Derryberry tenure as President of the University, but also feature the campus and its students. The coolest part of this project is finally getting to see and listen to the audio and film reels stored in the archives for almost 30 years!
Placing the materials online is a slow process because the archives needs to complete multiple tasks before publishing the materials. We ensure oral histories have signed agreements allowing for us to store and make the interviews available ; we ensure the interviews do not contain personally identifiable or health information; and lastly, we need to supply listeners with transcripts for the sound recordings. These recordings will also receive descriptions, titles, dates, and subjects to assist patrons in discovering the materials. If you are interested in volunteering to assist Tech Archives with transcription of the oral histories from the comfort of your home, email us at email@example.com
We are still working through the oral histories, but we shared the film assets from the Derryberry papers on our YouTube channel. The links are here:
Each year, Tech Archive’s participates in the Christmas Forest exhibit hosted by the Cookeville History Museum. The exhibit features Christmas trees decorated by numerous local non-profits such as Cookeville Leisure Services, Friends of White Plains, and the Putnam County Imagination Library. The trees are well decorated and typically themed. It is a wonderful event to take part in if you are in town, but if you are not, here is a link to this year’s trees.
Tech Archives makes its ornaments each year for its tree in the Christmas Forest exhibit. The students and staff all participate and can keep the ornaments they make after the event is over. The ornaments reflect an event that took place in the archives that year. For instance, last year, Tech Archives’ tree featured instruments and photographs from the Big Name Entertainment exhibit. This year, the tree features our digitized items. We made miniature books representing the digitized items, such as the yearbooks, catalogs, and scrapbooks.
Lastly, Tech Archives would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday and happy new year! We will be closed from December 18th to January 2nd. Thank you for all your support this year and we look forward to seeing you in 2022!
Tech Archives worked with vendors to perform our digitization on negatives, reel film and sound, and cassette tapes. Almost 10,000 negatives featuring the Upper Cumberland from the 1930s to the 1970s are currently being described and will be available online soon. Describing the materials is time consuming and each individual photograph needs at least a title and a date. The photographs from these efforts are fantastic and can lead anyone interested in history down a few rabbit holes, as was the case with me and photographs from the Dispatch newspaper featuring the grand opening of the Cookeville Mall.
Planning for the Cookeville Mall began three years prior to its opening. Continental Development Company developed and planned the mall project and Roy Hendrick of Baton Rouge, Louisiana designed the mall. J.C. Penney, when searching for its future location, rated Cookeville its fourth choice, but Cookeville was eventually selected due to being a “hub city” between Nashville and Knoxville, Jefferson Avenue’s proximity to I-40, and Cookeville’s good market. When land on South Jefferson came onto the market, a site-study was performed and the area was selected. Planning for the future mall began and construction on the mall began in late 1976. Construction lasted approximately one year and was completed by R.L. Scobey and Sons construction company of Nashville.
Cookeville Mall’s grand opening occurred from October 5-7 in 1977 and the event sparked a huge celebration in the Cookeville area, with three days of special opening events, including performances in the parking lot from Cookeville High School’s band and majorettes before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Tennessee Tech provided art demonstrations, music performances, and music and dance lessons. “The Shopping Place of the Upper Cumberlands” was hailed as modern, exotic, and exciting, and a “stately structure.” “Like a Park,” the new mall’s interior included resting spots with fountains, plants, skylights, and trees, and as one merchant put it, no rain! The design was to create an “outdoor atmosphere to indoor shopping.” The Bank of Putnam County even installed its first ATM machine in the new, modern mall. Edd Rogers Chevrolet-Pontiac and Buick displayed and raffled a 1978 Chevy Chevette in the mall.
When it opened, the mall included 37 retail stores and two anchor stores, each over 30,000 square feet. The anchor stores were JC Penney and Harvey’s, a department store that originated in Nashville. Some of the first stores in the mall were Bittner’s Tuxedo Rental, the Sound Shop, Cracker Barrel, Linda’s Lingerie, Toy Time, Keys and Things, Lee’s Lady Shop, The Place ladies clothing, Hallmark, The Dragon Gate, Merle Norman, Village Boutique, the Smoke Shop, and California Concepts hair. Shops and shop owners were highlighted in both the HeraldCitizen and the TheDispatch newspapers, many times discussing the backgrounds of Cookeville’s new and current business managers.
The mall’s construction was joined by restaurants appearing all over town, especially in the Jefferson Avenue Area. The 1978 Eagle states that students and locals flocked to “Burger Row,” a nickname referring to the number of restaurants around Jefferson Avenue, especially burger chains.
Unfortunately, the boom eventually led to bust, as is the state of malls across America. Eventually other shopping centers, such as Jackson Plaza constructed in 1999, began to house retailers that may have previously been located in a mall. Then the more obvious change from in-person to online shopping and Amazon greatly affected the shopping mall.
With a love of shopping malls and TheDispatch photographs, I decided to see what the status of the Cookeville Mall was today. This is my second trip. Five years ago, the interior of the mall was mostly empty. As of 2021, Planet Fitness and Gimme A $5 are where Harvey’s was located, anchor store J.C. Penney was open, and the Cookeville Antique Mall was located in Cracker Barrel’s original location outside the mall. Inside the mall’s west side were two businesses – Cookeville Cosmetology School and Thrive Family Fun Center, a business that offered a silver lining to the mall’s future.
I walked through Thrive to see what was happening inside and photograph some of the old businesses. Thrive was setting up for their Halloween event and they were kind enough to let me photograph even while their business was in a state of disarray. These are a few photographs of what I found at Thrive, which has effectively utilized most of the mall interior.
If you are/were a Tech Student, employee, or Upper Cumberland resident with an interesting story regarding the Cookeville Mall, please share your experiences with us. Tech Archives would like to collect, preserve, and make accessible these experiences and memories of the Cookeville Mall with future researchers. Follow this link to participate!
Author’s Note: Thrive Family Fun Center has arcade games, a trampoline room, nerf wars, and a rock-climbing wall. These activities look fun alone, but their Halloween set-up looks like it will be fantastic. They will host their Halloween event on Fridays and Saturdays in October. For more information: https://thrivecookeville.com/
This video is from a YouTuber, but includes a commercial from the Cookeville Mall in 1994.
References: The Dispatch newspaper, October 4-7, 1977. The Eagle yearbook, 1978. TheHerald Citizen newspaper, October 4-7, 1977. The Oracle newspaper, October 7, 1977. RG 126 The Dispatch negatives, October 1977, from Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections. Sky City Retail History blog, June 11, 2009. http://skycity2.blogspot.com/2009/06/cookeville-mall-cookeville-tn_11.html “Stonemar spends $30m for Tenn. shopping center.” Real Estate Weekly, vol. 54, no. 21, 23 Jan. 2008, p. 28. The Tennessean, October 4, 1977, pg. 25.