Downtown In Better Times - And Response

Monday, December 4, 2017

Well, bless you, Roy, for bringing up happier times. 

We do not have a "downtown" anymore.  That used to be the safest place anywhere in driving distance for my mom who allowed us (my sister, brother, and me) to spend a good part of the day strolling that little bit of heaven and making our wish list for Christmas with a spending cap of a dollar for each of us.  That is when pennies we saved in our banks required a guard posted at home.  We never knew when the kids next door some two miles away may slip in if they could peddle their bikes that far without having a flat tire. 

Our stroll downtown covered every five-and-dime (McClellans, Woolworths, and Grants) and of course every floor of Millers and Lovemans and as far north as Sears and any other purveyor of toys and sweets on Market or Broad and no farther south than Main.  That was the boundary of our corridor, the river to Main Street.  It was not safe to go any farther since "strong drink" was sold or somehow made available beyond those borders. 

When my sister was 12-years-old, her few cents for admission would allow us younger two to get in the movies free.  That was when Tom Mix, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers with Trigger were stars in the westerns and Dick Tracy was better than in the Sunday funnies.  Mom and Dad could afford popcorn at the movies and a Krystal hamburger and a banana split at Echerds drug store for each of us. 

We dared not go back home without our usual Christmas surprise for my dad: a box of chocolate-covered cherries from Brock Candy Company.  Ironically, my dad progressed in his position at the local box factory to become head of the folding department at the company that made those boxes.  I would almost swear that I could smell those cherries when he came home from work near Christmas time.  My mom called that "just wishful thinking," although we learned that she had slipped a box for us to share, wrapped it in colorful paper, tied it with a ribbon, hid it until Christmas morning and claimed that Santa had left it under the tree.  We never missed a Christmas without having that box of cherries for my dad under the family tree until his death. 

So, Roy, among all of the turmoil we face every morning when we awake until we go to sleep at night, we still have some welcome surprises, such as that huge yellow moon yesterday morning that lit up my bedroom just before it crept over Elder Mountain.

 Better times are coming.  They have to be....and that is very wishful thinking. 

Charlotte Parton

* * *

My mom often related details about trips she took to downtown Chattanooga when she was a young girl. She especially enjoyed the theatre and window displays. 

When I was a high school teen I went to the Rogers Theatre to see a movie with a school friend who was old enough to drive. When we exited the theatre that night, a prostitute stepped out of a dark doorway and propositioned us on the sidewalk. We laughed and kept walking, never thinking about what might be in the unlit parking lot ahead. 

About two years ago I went downtown to Broad Street to help a friend whose car would not start. While we were working on his car, a trio of two men and a woman crossed the street to the sidewalk where we were. They looked like they were all in their 20’s. I thought they were waiting on a bus. Very casually, one of the men made a few steps to the outside wall of a bank, pulled his pants down and urinated on the wall and sidewalk. I told him to stop. The three glanced at me briefly and walked away, disappearing around a corner. 

There are many beautiful places to enjoy in Downtown Chattanooga, and many positives. Unfortunately, with reports of violence in Coolidge Park, the streets being used as toilets, and most recently, brazen armed robbery times two, visiting the downtown is last on my agenda. 

Not sure what the answer is when people have no regard for others on so many levels. I am positive that the “improvements” to the downtown will continue. South Chattanooga will be reclaimed and the conversion of Miller Park moves ahead. I only hope that we are not building a ghost town we cannot occupy. 

Ted Ladd

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