Few organizations have had such a positive influence on the physical and character development of our Fountain City children and youth as has the Fountain City Recreation Commission.
Under the outstanding leadership of prominent pediatrician, A.L. Jenkins, M.D., the founding officers and board of directors established the guidelines that have served the commission well for over 65 years. Those founders were: Dr. A.L. Jenkins, president; Edgar Gentry, vice-president; Robert M. Lowery, secretary; Ben Burnettte, treasurer. The members of the board of directors were: Claude C. Myers, Dr. Duell M. Methvin, G. Ed Byer, T.R. Harrington, Mrs. Charles Davis, Fred Donaldson, Herbert M. Webster, the Rev. Charles S. Bond, John Baugh, Mrs. Harry Brooks, Jerry Meadows, Mrs. H.M. Martinson, Hugh A. Bowling and Joe R. Cox.
Saturday, May 23, 1953, was an important day in Fountain City History. It was on that day that the Fountain City Recreation Commission formally opened its new athletic field just off Dogwood Road and Maynardville Pike.
At 4 p.m. the previous day, a parade was held downtown led by the Central High School Band, members of the eight Little League teams in their uniforms, members of the four-team Buddy League also in uniform, members of the Pony Leagues in uniform, followed by the Halls High School Band. Edgar Gentry was the parade master.
The main program began at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday on the Pony League field. Commission members and a host of volunteer workers had just put the finishing touches on the eight-acre area the day before. The areas included a Little League field, a Pony League field, badminton courts, a tennis court and a playground area.
Dr. Jenkins presided over the ceremony. Bill Truan, scoutmaster of Troop 35, led his troop in the Flag Ceremony, Dr. Charles Bond performed the invocation. Dr. Jenkins then introduced the park directors and commissioners. He then introduced one boy from each of the leagues. They were: Gene Bayless (Little League), Jimmy Harmon (Buddy League) and Galen Methvin (Pony League). Each of them expressed a “Thank You” for the recreation park.
The ceremony ended with the keynote by Billy Meyer, who had been manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons and was currently a scout and troubleshooter for the National League.
Former star end for the Central High School football team, Bob Johnson, had recently been chosen recreation director. His responsibility was to coordinate activities on all the fields and he directed exhibition games on each of the three fields to end the day’s activities.
Due to the organizational skills of the baseball commissioners the first season soon began and was quite successful. The commissioners were: Fred Donaldson, president; Warren Nichols, vice-president; Ben A. Burnette, secretary-treasurer and Buddy League Commissioner Harry Brooks.
Today, over 65-years later, the Fountain City Ballpark is still privately owned and operated by the Fountain City Recreation Commission and is still providing athletic programs for the youth of the Fountain City community. Its mission remains to provide a safe, fun and positive environment for all those that participate. It partners with the city of Knoxville to provide the best possible athletic programs for the youth of our community.
Each year the commission hosts a Spring and Fall Baseball program and a Winter Basketball program. In addition to the athletic programs, FCRC maintains a Training Center equipped with everything needed to practice during the off season. During the course of the year, FCRC holds many events and tournaments that benefit the ballpark.
Current board and officers: Aaron Miller, president; Wes Owen, vice president; Tait Roach, secretary; Blake Bivens, treasurer; Bob Elmore, chair of baseball committee; Nathan Myers, chair of basketball committee.
(Author’s Note: Thanks to coach Walter “Bud” Bales for his assistance with the text for this article.)
Jim Tumblin, retired optometrist and active historian, writes a monthly series called “Fountain City: Places That Made a Difference” for KnoxTNToday.com.