- [S4] Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee), 13 Oct 2001.
Anna B. Suggs obituary
- [S24] The Newport Plain Talk, (http://www.newportplaintalk.com), 6 Apr 2007.
Some talk about Rabbit & Bunny
(c)2007 NPT PHOTO BY DAVID POPIEL Standing in front of the former Artis "Rabbit" Suggs home off West Broadway are property owner Arvis Keys, at left, and Earl "Bunny" Jarnigan, Suggs' great nephew.
By: DAVID POPIEL
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
Dogwood winter surprised a host of happy blooming flowers and trees in April even creating a pollen whirlwind and snow fall for motorists driving last week our hometown.
You've been seeing photos and reading about the renovation work at what used to be the Carolyn Motel off West Broadway. Part of the property includes a two-story brick house that I've always admired yet had no knowledge of its history nor had I ever been inside it. So, I started trying to find out about it through the new owner, Arvis Keys. He has been busy, as you saw last week, directing block masons building a large commercial building to be used for rental offices. This building is about where the motel's pool was located. Did you ever swim in the pool? Earl "Bunny" Jarnigan did. He and I drove out to the motel and visited the house that was his great uncle's, Artis "Rabbit" Suggs.
Most folks didn't know what his real name was. Arvis didn't, but he did know a lot about the property because his relative, Marvin Keys Sr., had owned it after Suggs sold the property. Perhaps the more familiar property Suggs owned was Rabbit's bar and grill located just across the street. It has had various uses during the years including Jerry Wilde's real estate office and now a bar again. Suggs got his nickname when he took a rabbit to school one day, as Earl tells the story. Suggs did not build his house. It existed earlier and was owned by J. Donald Cody. The bar property was owned by Paul Cody, and Suggs had owned land that later became the Newport Plaza shopping center. An April 11, 1940 date is scratched into the bottom steps of the Suggs home. These are at the rear of the brick house and lead to the basement. Since Artis's name is on the step, it must have been added after the house was built. I'm assuming the motel was built years after the house and was named after his daughter, Carolyn. Carolyn was a close friend of Doris Teague and remained such after each married-Carolyn to John Edward Cox and Doris to John Abe Teague. Carolyn was the only child. Earl also told me a little about Rabbit's wife, "Aunt Rooney," who lived into her 90s near the Smoky Mountain Country Club and not far from the Tommy Smiths. The connection to Earl is through his grandfather, Earl Suggs. He was a brother to Rabbit Suggs.
Those of you from that era may not have known the family connections to the Carolyn Motel or Rabbit's but you did know the reputation of its barbecue. People would drive for hours to Rabbits to get a taste of the delicious barbecue made by Aunt Rooney. Of course, it is no secret that Rabbit's served alcoholic beverages too. The small brick business was known by its blue neon sign on the roof of a rabbit doing several hops before repeating the process minute after minute night after night. Never having met either Rabbit or Rooney, I had to rely on Bunny and others to tell me about them. One such fellow has fond memories of Rabbit and described him as a generous and friendly man. Dan Ragan was a teenager during the heydays of the Carolyn Motel. His father, Bill Ragan, frequently played cards with Rabbit. During 1966 and 1967, when Dan was a varsity football player at Cocke County High School, he got to see a lot of University of Tenn. games thanks to Rabbit. On Saturday mornings, Dan would accompany Rabbit to Knoxville to the home games, which were always during the day. "He liked to go to the games early and watch the workouts and warm-ups. He was a small man-most kind and one of the most generous men I've known," said Dan, who is a human resource specialist working in the Tri-Cities area.
For those who don't know my long-time friend Bunny Jarnigan, he was raised along Morrell Springs Road. His dad was Joe Jarnigan and Mom, Mary Elizabeth Suggs Jarnigan. Beside Bunny, the Jarnigans had two girls: Mary Alice McNabb, who lives in Georgia and the late Joeann Woodbury. I actually got to know Bunny because his wife, Jennifer, and I taught together at Cosby. Bunny made a lot of friends and helped people when he worked for Morristown Federal in the 1970s. He later joined Tennessee Farmers Insurance and has been with the Farm Bureau agency for 21 years. His job is regional agency manager in upper East Tenn. I enjoyed talking about those days and about the Carolyn Motel. By the way, Bunny got his nickname from his great uncle Rabbit. Today, we still say, "The bunny rabbit." Arvis hopes to bring the property back to life by converting the 20 rooms to apartments. He did the same thing with the Newport Motor Court he bought a dozen years ago. It seems people like to scratch information into concrete, because Otha Baxter's name and date, 1937, was in the sidewalk of the Newport restaurant property that Keys bought.
The Carolyn property was bought by Allen and Linda Hutson about 1970, and they owned it until 1976. When I talked to her Friday night, she said they lived in the old brick house and always loved its dˇcor and construction. Allen Hutson's name is scratched in the concrete sidewalk in front of the two-story eight-room motel addition he built in April 1975. Later they sold the property to Sam Patel, and Arvis bought it in Jan. from Mike Patel, Comfort Inn hotel operator. Allen is still active but retired from railroad construction work. He still owns property just east of the motel where Williams Landscaping recently opened. I'll try to find out more about this for you too.
In plain talk, things written in stone may last a long time but sometimes they are lost and forgotten over time.