Lynn Mountain greeting in lights dates back to 1956

Published 10:29 am Thursday, December 11, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks Many in Elizabethton have childhood memories of the Christmas greeting on Lynn Mountain, the lights of which can be seen from several miles away.

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Many in Elizabethton have childhood memories of the Christmas greeting on Lynn Mountain, the lights of which can be seen from several miles away.

Elizabethton is a unique town that holds some special holiday memories for almost everyone who has lived here.
In an email received earlier this month from Lynn Holloway of Huntersville, N.C., he shared memories of pressing his nose against the window in his grandmother’s living room on Maple Street to look across the valley to the lighted Christmas tree greeting on Lynn Mountain.
“It was a magical memory from my childhood,” Holloway, now 60, wrote.
Holloway is just one of many who have childhood memories of that Lynn Mountain Christmas greeting.
Just as the Fraser fir serves as Elizabethton’s community Christmas tree, the lighted greeting on the mountain serves as the community’s Christmas card, and both can be seen from several miles away. The Lynn Mountain greeting is lit at the same time the lights on the Fraser fir are turned on. Both remain lighted until after the holidays.
It’s a unique greeting that had its beginning in 1956 when a small group of Elizabethton policemen, in a display of community spirit, began the project as a means “doing something” atop Lynn Mountain at Christmas time. The result was the lighting of the crosses on the mountains.
It’s ironic that the crosses on the mountain were originally placed there three years earlier by a group of junior boys from First Free Will Baptist Church who were challenged by their Sunday School teacher to do something “unusual” at Easter time. It almost landed them in jail when a group of the town’s citizens became irate over the cutting of trees and the clearing of a space at the top of the mountain for the crosses.
Both the junior boys and the policemen wanted to do something for the community. When good will is acted on, good and lasting things happen.
Having very few resources, the policemen decorated the crosses the first year using some makeshift decorations and a generator to produce the power for the lights.
Among that group of policemen was Henry Elliott, who participated in the project as long as he was a member of the Elizabethton Police Dept.
The second year the greeting appeared on the mountain, the police department recruited help from the Elizabethton Fire Department and the Carter County Rescue Squad. Long before the holidays, they laid their plans, which began with running an electrical line to the mountain. Decorations included two lighted crosses and a large decorated tree topped with a 40-foot star and a huge Merry Christmas sign.
The work was all volunteer. The men worked on the project after finishing their shifts at the police and fire departments. They trudged up the mountain on foot, carrying the materials necessary for the decorations on their backs. Materials were paid for by donations from well-wishers.
Some of those men, who made that first greeting possible were Doc Estep, Ernest Gentry, Dick Petrey, Oscar Dykes, Gurney Harrison, John Stout, Henry Elliott, Bill Bowling, Alvin Kyte, Bill Carter and Tom Ervin. Helping to secure funds were Dennis Younce, Bert Buchanan, Leon Martin, Ralph Perry, and Worley Merritt.
Almost all of them are now deceased.
Gone, too, are most of the businesses that donated to the fund that year – businesses that included Tennessee Line and Twine, Tennessee Chair Co., Builders Supply, Sterchi’s, Arney-Blair Motors, Lane & Hale Appliances, B.F. Goodrich, Webb’s Radio & TV, JC Penney , Birchfiel’s, Anderson’s Supermarket, Fitzsimmons Printing, Crouch Cleaners, Lilly Market, Elks Club, City Market, Citizens Bank, Carter County Bank, Stanley’s, Crockett & Turrentine, Rayon City Shell Service Station, Eller’s Service Center, Lynnwood Hotel, Smithdeal’s Supermarket, Paty Lumber Co., Watauga Cheverolet, Little Grill, Milt’s Coffee Shop, 7-Hour Laundry, and Presnell Motors – just to name a few.
Donations, which were listed in the Star that year ranged from a dollar to $20.
According to information supplied by Larry Shell, Joe Elliott, Ernest Gentry and Bill Bowling dug and blasted holes into Lynn Mountain and hand wenched the poles up the mountain and into the holes to supply power to light the decorations
The Lynn Mountain greeting became a Christmas tradition. But from time to time the greeting has also been the target of vandals. The men were continually having to replace the lights.
However, since 1994, the Elizabethton Electric Department has maintained the project and lights. In 1998, a new right-of-way was purchased to build a road up the side of the mountain so that the lights could be more easily accessed.
The structure was rebuilt in 2006 under the direction of Bob Cable.
While it’s a community project, it is now the Electric Department’s way of giving back to the community, and it is a greeting that is not only enjoyed by local residents, but by everyone who visits Elizabethton at Christmas time.
It’s one of those gifts that keeps on giving!

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