I am Joe Schlatter, webmaster of the LeConte Lodge Alum Site.
I was born in Centreville, Wilkinson County, Southwest Mississippi in 1944.
My father's business moved us to Knoxville in 1951 and my parents lived there
until their deaths in 2005 and 2007 -- except for a short stay in Anniston,
Alabama, 1962 - 1965 .
We lived at four different addresses in Knoxville between 1951
and 1962. When my parents returned to Knoxville in 1965 they had two
addresses, the last one was where they lived from 1967 until their deaths.
I graduated from Fulton High School in 1962. Dad's
business had transferred him to Anniston, AL, in January 1962, so, as soon as
school was out in June, my mother and younger brother John (born 1950; also
worked at LeConte) moved to Anniston and I went up LeConte for the summer.
I worked at the Lodge the summers of 1962 and 1963. I also worked at the
Lodge in Dec-Jan for the Calloway Family from Maryville who spent New Years' Eve
at the Lodge for the New Year in 1963, 1964, and 1965. Dad was transferred
back to Knoxville in 1965.
After working at the Lodge for the summer of 1962, I joined my
family in Anniston and enrolled in Jacksonville State College (later
University), Jacksonville, Alabama. I graduated from JSU in May 1967 after
marrying Rose Golden of Oxford, AL, in July 1966. I completed the Advanced
ROTC program, went on active duty as an Army Second Lieutenant in May 1967 and
retired as a Colonel in April 1995.
My interest in LeConte and the Smokies
My love affair with the Smokies and Mt. LeConte had three
I grew up attending Park City Presbyterian Church, corner of
Linden and Olive, one block off Magnolia Avenue. We had an active Boy
Scout troop -- Troop 36; Mr. Ralph Tonkin was our Scoutmaster. Two of the
older Scouts were Bob Rusk (son of Roger Rusk, professor of physics at UT, and
Ruth Rusk, English teacher at Carter High School, near Knoxville) and Bill
Tonkin (oldest son of our Scoutmaster). Bill Tonkin had a younger brother
about my age, Bob Tonkin.
Troop 36 was a very active troop; we spent a lot of time hiking
and camping around East Tennessee -- the Smokies, the Cherokee National Forest,
and around Norris Lake. Bob Rusk and Bill Tonkin could drive; Bob had an
old 1948 GMC truck -- the "Little Green Truck" -- and Bill could use his
family's car from time to time. Thus, when Troop 36 was not hiking, Bob,
Bill, Bob, and I -- or some combination thereof -- would load up into Bob's
truck or the Tonkin family car and head for the Smokies. These adventures
in the Smokies led me to a deep love of and appreciation for the mountains.
Miss Jessie Dempster
Miss Dempster, as we knew her, was a legend in Knoxville.
She was a Knoxville Dempster -- her family was important in local politics and
business. Her uncle was the inventor of the "Dempster Dumpster" trash
collection system and another uncle served as mayor of Knoxville. Miss
Dempster graduated from "Old Knoxville High School" in 1916 (I need to confirm
this). She never married. Jessie was a public school math teacher
who taught in several Knoxville schools.
She also was an avid outdoorsman who encouraged her students to
get outside and enjoy the mountains and lakes in East Tennessee.
Jessie was a life-long member of the
Hiking Club and, as I recall, she was president of the Club for at least one
term. (NOTE: The link to the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club website
sometimes is down. Here's a link to their
She was my math teacher in the 8th and 9th grades at old Park
Junior High School -- long ago sold to a developer and converted into condos.
When I was an 8th grade student, I mentioned to Miss Dempster one
day that my Scout troop was going hiking the next weekend and she told me of her
membership in the SMH Club and invited me to hike with the Club when I was not
with Troop 36. As a result, I went on many hikes with the SMH Club.
Miss Dempster was memorialized in a book titled "Jessie's
Children," by Dr. Herman Forest, a biology professor at UT who had known her for
years. I have a copy of the book signed by the author and by Miss Dempster.
This is a photo of past presidents of the Smoky Mountain Hiking
Club taken at the Club's 50th anniversary celebration in 1974. Jessie
Dempster is the lady in the front, center, wearing black and white plaid slacks.
Herrick "Brownie" Brown
When I was an 8th grade student at Park Junior High School,
Knoxville, TN, my science
teacher was Mr. James Grant. He was (still is) an amateur radio operator
-- a ham operator -- call sign W4UVU. He set up a small ham radio station
in the science class closet and I was hooked on amateur radio. I got my
first license in 1958 thanks to Mr. Grant
One of the most active and well-known ham operators in the
Knoxville area was Herrick Brown -- whom everyone called "Brownie," amateur
radio callsign W4ZZ. I met Brownie through the SMH Club and talked with
him often on the radio.
In 1959, Herrick and Myrtle Brown purchased LeConte Lodge from
Jack Huff, a Gatlinburg native who had purchased the Lodge from it's founder,
Paul Adams. I asked
Brownie if I could work at the Lodge in the summer and he told me I had to
graduate from high school first. When I graduated from Fulton in 1962, I
headed up LeConte for my first summer of work.
Photo of Brownie at the sawmill -- that's Brownie -- Herrick
Brown -- in the plaid shirt, on the left, wearing goggles.
Brownie had a small amateur radio station set up at the Lodge
complete with a LONG wire antenna that ran down the mountain for a couple of
hundred feet. This antenna was for the HF amateur radio bands --
3.5, 7.0, and 14.0 MHz. We also had a VHF station that operated on the
2-meter -- 144 MHz -- amateur band. There was a one-room cabin where four
of us staff members slept in double bunk beds -- two up, two down. Brownie
installed the ham radio equipment in this cabin and erected a mast next to the
cabin for the VHF antenna. For some reason lost in history, rooms on board
ship that housed the radio equipment were known as "the radio shack." Ham
radio operators adopted this practice and an amateur radio operator's station is
known today as a "shack." The cabin where we slept and where Brownie has
his ham station was called "the shack" -- I believe that's what it's still
called today (January 2010).
Brownie had his ham station on LeConte before the day of miniature solid-state equipment that
uses very little power and before the day of solar or wind generators. The
equipment we had was older equipment that used tubes and required 120 volts AC.
There's no electricity on LeConte except what we made ourselves. We could operate the amateur radio station only by running the old
Onan generator -- which required gasoline -- which had to be hauled up the
mountain on horseback. As a result, we rarely fired up the amateur radio
station. We ran the generator once a week on washday to run the old
wringer washing machine that we used to wash our clothes and Brownie and I often
got on the ham radio station then. Sometimes we would fire it up on Sunday
afternoons or during ham radio contests.
And that's how I came to LeConte -- now for - -
My LeConte stories
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