By Ralphine Major
I knew it as the building where our mother worked. The first time she worked there was before I was born. The second time was when she re-entered the work force and became our family’s primary breadwinner after our father developed heart disease and was forced to sell the dairy.
M. McClung & Company, often referred to as “McClungs” by the employees, was once a thriving business on Jackson Avenue in downtown Knoxville.
Mother recalls that many young people came to work there just out of high school. Some eventually left for the military or to pursue other job opportunities. Others spent their entire careers there.
I think back to the sixties when we would occasionally go inside the workplace when we went to pick her up after work. Upon entering, the sounds of ten-key adding machines and manual typewriters filled the huge room lined with desks. The open floor had no cubicles or partitions.
“It was like a big family,” mother remembers.
“The Grist” was the newsletter that kept employees informed of important announcements about their co-workers.
I was always fascinated by the piano that was in the employee breakroom. For bridal and baby showers in the office, employees could purchase gifts at McClungs. Even large appliances and other items could be purchased. For many years, we had a beautiful RCA console radio/record player that mother bought at McClungs in the fifties.
It was a sad day several years ago to watch on television as the McClung Warehouses burned, and an important piece of Knoxville’s history was lost. Though the buildings are no longer a part of downtown’s skyline, they will forever be etched in the memory of those who once had a connection to McClungs. Even today, on rare occasions we see someone that mother once worked with at McClungs. Every time we drive downtown, I still “see” that long line of buildings that once stood on Jackson Avenue and remember the important role that C. M. McClung & Company played in the history of Knoxville, Tennessee.