Custom House Chronicles

Stories, historical tidbits, and musings from the East Tennessee History Center staff.

Ace news reporter and long-time WBIR-TV personality Jay Beeler managed to capture the 1963 Riviera Theater fire on Gay Street in Knoxville with his trusty 8mm home movie camera as it happened. The late Mr. Beeler filmed several historic news events over the years, and his amazing film collection has just been preserved by the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, thanks to his daughter Kristi Beeler. The classic film Jason and the Argonauts, then a first-run feature, was playing at the Riviera at the time of the fire.

 

Sam Orleans

Remembering Knoxville Filmmaker Sam Orleans on the 50th anniversary of his death, July 9th, 1964.

This film clip features the Singing Randolph Family, popular performers on local radio stations WNOX and WROL during the 1940s.  Local filmmaker Sam Orleans captured them in his motion picture studio, located on West Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville. This 16mm print was used to introduce the family band before rural gigs in small movie houses across the south and is one of few surviving productions of the prolific and talented Sam Orleans. 

Jim Clayton interviews Sheriff Buford Pusser on the Clayton Startime show in the early 1970s. This rare clip is one of the few surviving moving images of the real Buford Pusser, who became a national folk hero following the release of his motion picture bio Walking tall. From the Jim Clayton Collection at the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.

 Big South Fork Country by Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Howard H. Baker, Jr., was best known for his life in politics; first as the son of a U.S. Representative, then in his own positions as U.S. Senator, Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan, and as Ambassador to Japan. However, photography was another passion in his life, as evidenced by the dedication in this book, "To Joy, for her long understanding and tolerance of my photographic foibles." Howard Baker's photography has appeared in Life magazine, National Geographic, and Howard Baker's Washington, which we also hold in the McClung Collection.

Roger Howell Photo

The newest collection to be added to the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection is the Roger H. Howell Collection. Roger Hoffman Howell (1898-1962) was a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who came to Knoxville in 1936 to work as an engineering draftsman for the new Tennessee Valley Authority.  These are photos that Mr. Howell took while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains; he and his future wife, Alice Lynn, met hiking with the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.

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