Chattanoogan: Doug Chinery - When Men Weren’t Afraid

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - by Jen Jeffrey

From Dumont, N.J., Doug Chinery came to Chattanooga in his early teen years and was educated at the ‘school of hard knocks’.

“When we moved down here I got my butt beat many times because I was a ‘Yankee in the South’. It was hard to fit in at first. There was a big guy that used to pick on me all the time, so I did the same thing here that I did up North,” Doug recalls.

“There was a guy who was about 16 years old and I was 12, but he was in the same grade I was - Charlie Lum was his name. He was bigger and he kept picking on me and shoving me,” he says.

Doug finally spoke to his father about the bullying and he gave him the same advice most fathers gave and that most mothers dreaded - to fight back! 

“He said, ‘You gotta fight him’ and I said, ‘But he’ll kill me!’ and he said, ‘Yeah but it will be okay after that’. So I fought the guy and he beat me to a pulp! After that, he was my friend and he defended me against everybody else because I stood up to him. So I did the same thing down here and after that nobody else would mess with me,” Doug affirms.

He later attended McCallie for one year and wanted out. “I hated uniforms and any structure like that so I went to City High and graduated in 1961,” he says.

Doug married at 22 years old and had two children. He is now married to Marie who is retired from Delta and now works with the mayor’s office.

It is apparent that times have changed along with values, pride and honor. Doug gives credit to an organization called the Jaycees for making him a responsible man who worked with others to get things done.

The Jaycees were a national and international group of young men who formed a junior Chamber of Commerce. “We were just a group of guys that didn’t know that we ‘couldn’t do something’,” Doug attests.

The Chattanooga Jaycees had a hand in building many things in Chattanooga such as the Orange Grove Center and the Jaycee Towers.

“In the 1930s parents had an organization for special needs children and came to the Jaycees saying, ‘We need a place for our kids to get an education to the best of their ability,’ ” he relates.

After being on the board for 18 years, Doug was president of Orange Grove for four years. “People on the board usually had family with special needs who would always ask why I served on the board and put in so much time when my own kids were healthy. I said, ‘Because my kids don’t have special needs and I feel I owe something to the people who have to go through that’ and I became touched by the situation out there. Many others have contributed so much to Orange Grove,” Doug says.

The Chattanooga Jaycees started or helped start other permanent projects; the Chattanooga Symphony, Blood Assurance, Big Brothers Association, Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, the Chattanooga Area Literacy Movement and much more.

“A lot of people in town today don’t know about the Jaycees, but they were a tremendous force,” Doug says.

“Almost every mayor of Chattanooga was once a Jaycee. Ralph Kelly was one of the original Jaycees, Dalton Roberts… Unfortunately, it’s pretty much gone,” Doug admits.

He recounts the story when Ralph Kelly was mayor and about ‘Kelley’s Raiders’ re-possessing The General, the Civil War locomotive displayed at Union Station since 1901. “Kelly’s Raiders - a bunch of political guys, went out and hijacked the train and put it in Union Station. There was a big lawsuit over it – it was worldwide news,” Doug says.

The General is now in a museum in Kennesaw, Ga.

What had prompted Doug to become a Jaycee was watching everything happening around him knowing the Jaycees had a part in it. “As soon as I turned 21, I joined. Used to, you were kicked out at age 35 – you were called an ‘exhausted rooster’,” Doug laughs.

“As the Jaycees evolved – well, the world evolved; those of us that were young men took responsibility for doing things and there isn’t so much of that today,” Doug says.

“If you wanted something done, tell the Jaycees and they’ll do it! When there wasn’t a fair here in town, the Jaycees started one. We brought in the rides and exhibits and put on several fairs,” Doug states.

“How do a bunch of 20 or 30-year-old guys do this? Well,” Doug says, “…we didn’t know we couldn’t. As time went on, young people got less and less responsible. They were handed things, didn’t have to work for anything and pride started disappearing - and so did the Jaycees.”

Doug shares his opinion on why the group slowly faded out. “In 1984 the government started saying, ‘If you are going to take funds, you are going to have to invite women into the Jaycees’. The women had their own organizations – the government didn’t say they had to let men in there,” he says, “A bunch of the guys in the Jaycees were married and a bunch of the women weren’t. We used to have board meetings and retreats - and a lot of the wives said, ‘You aren’t going to be a part of the Jaycees anymore’, so it just kind of broke itself up. They started having bake sales and car washes instead of building things like the Jaycee Towers,” Doug says.

Doug was 35 when he was an ‘exhausted rooster’ but continued to work with them until they disappeared.

“We had a TV program every Sunday for over 20 years. We used to have a question of the week and I was a moderator for a number of years. A politician would never refuse to come on the show. He would have a real problem getting elected if he did. We used to call them out on stuff with questions that needed to be asked. We had politicians come to our luncheons and a politician would not dare refuse to come there, either. Bill Brock was there on many occasions, he was a Jaycee himself,” Doug says.

“I’ll never forget one program we had where a candidate was running against him for Congress. There was also a guy in Congress that had done something that was ‘all kinds of bad’ and he was a Democrat. Frazier got up there and the question was asked, ‘Would you vote to confirm this person in Congress?’ and he kept beating around the bush … so they asked Bill to respond; he came walking up there with his hands in his pockets and he stood there for a second and he said, ‘I wouldn’t vote for that guy for dog catcher!’ - it brought the house down!” Doug laughs.

If the Jaycees saw a need they took action. Doug considers the changes in young men over the years and says, “There used to be pride in ownership. Things move so fast now and there is no inter-communication between people – everything is done on the Internet.  If you sit in a meeting you see everyone on their cell phone – nobody talks anymore. We used to have meetings where we had to talk to each other. There was a lot of interpersonal communication and you were held accountable for what you said you were going to do,” he affirms.

“This is the first generation where our kids are not going to have it as good as we did - or their kids aren’t going to, so I think things are going backwards. And it could get to the time where things get a little bit scarce again where people actually have to work for a living. I’m looking for Galt’s gulch,” Doug declares.

Doug hasn’t let his younger days of gumption go by the wayside; he still has his hand in many things today. He also owns Hamilton Place Insurance and took on a little business venture – hot sauce.

He is owner and distributor of Lucious "The King's" BBQ Seasoning, a Chattanooga product invented by Lucious Newsome found at http://www.luciousseasoning.com/ He also owns Dragon's Breath Distributors. www.hotsauceandsalsa.com

One of Doug’s hobbies is playing the guitar. “I still have a Gibson SG1 that has Les Paul’s signature on it. I took it to a guitar store to get it cleaned up – it appraised at $12,500.00 – I had paid $300 in 1961,” Doug marvels.

Doug and Marie take annual trips to Ireland. “My great-grandfather was John O’ Flynn. He left on a boat in 1873 with his four children and his wife and sailed to Ellis Island. He ended up in New Jersey and had my grandmother (Mary O Flynn). I had never met John but I knew my grandmother very well. That was part of the reason I wanted to go there in 1996 the first time,” Doug states.

He tells a story about the charm he had witnessed during his first visit.

“We were driving around everywhere for about 50 miles – it was a lot of driving. It was raining and it was dark, garbage trucks were coming at us – we were driving on the other side of the road, seeing castles and monastery ruins and here I am, lost in a little bitty car with steering wheel on the right!” he laughs.

“This truck driver gets out and comes over to us – here in the United States, you might get nervous about that…” Doug quips and continues as he gives a perfect Irish voiceover; “He knocked on our car window and he said, ‘Would ye be lost, lad?’ It was the first words I heard in Ireland. I told him we were trying to go on the Limerick Road into Enness and he said, ‘Tell ye what, lad, just follow me’,” Doug concludes in an Irish brogue.

The gentleman saw him to where he needed to go to get to Enness and gave him the rest of the directions, bidding them to have a good time in Ireland.

Doug shares more stories as the Irish in him shines through and he says, “It is a fascinating place - my roots are there. I would love to live in Ireland. There are not just 40 shades of green – there are 100!”

Living in a different era and witnessing the changes in the world and in young men today, Doug Chinery has not lost his grit and determination to make things better.

“I learned to be an entrepreneur in the Jaycees; I learned to take a lot of risks - I am not afraid to do anything and that’s okay….but it drives my wife crazy.”  

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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