Share Your Memories of John Totten and His Furniture Store

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley

Researching articles for Memories usually goes smoothly unless one or more of the following is true:

1.  The Public Library has no newspaper clipping file on the topic.

2.  There are no photographs or graphics about the topic.

3.  The local historical figure’s obituary provides no biographical details and basically says, “Died one day, and was buried two days later.”

John Totten, whose furniture business was featured in countless commercials over the years, has no newspaper articles filed at the Public Library.  So, I need your help in filling out this history of Mr. Totten. 

Let’s first jog some memories by viewing a commercial for John Totten which WRCB news anchor David Carroll has included on one of his local television archives:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk8ZqWO3OkE

As you heard, John Totten ended his advertisements with his signature line, “Where we mark it up, just a little bit.”  Another slogan was “Where you buy the furniture and not the building.”  The Totten Furniture building was located at 5813-17 Ringgold Road in East Ridge.

John Totten passed away in 2002 at the age of 82.  His obituary appeared in the June 23, 2002 Chattanooga Times, and provided these details:

·         Lifelong Chattanooga resident

·         US Army veteran

·         Associated with Totten Furniture for thirty-seven years

·         As “Slim Totten,” he was a musician at the Texas Ranch and Radio Playhouse

·         Hosted Gospel Music USA on WFLI radio

The Chattanooga city directory contains a few more details.  In 1965, he was vice-president of Cox and Moore Furniture at 25 East Main Street. 

Given John Totten’s contributions to our community, I believe that there are other biographical details and stories which can be captured in this article.  If you remember John Totten or his furniture store, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.   I’ll update this article with some of your memories.

 Memories Shared by Readers

John and Jenny Totten and the 4-5 kids they parented were members of Spring Creek (Road) Baptist Church in East Ridge in the 50s and 60s when I was there with my family as a child.   They had a son Johnny who was selling furniture at Ashley’s in Hixson when I saw him last about 9 years ago.  Carolyn was a daughter my age.   I don’t remember the others as much.  My older brother stayed in touch with John for years as my brother became a minister and he knew that John had a heart for people in need.  They anonymously assisted many needing furniture over the years.  John’s love of Southern Gospel music was always a “put your money where your mouth is” love for him and he sponsored numerous opportunities for us to enjoy it too.  He was always willing to sell you furniture – “where they marked it up, just a little bit!.”   for a fair price. Fond memories.  Worthy article.

_________________________________________________________________________

From Mr. Totten's daughter, Denise Whitaker:

There are so many fond memories of my Father.  He loved dearly his community.  I too cannot believe there were no paper trails of my Dad seeing he ran for a political office at some point…but I was so young I don’t remember the details.  I remember my Dad finding some youth sleeping under the bridge at the freeway.  They were moving north with big dreams and ran out of money.  He found them a place to stay and put them to work doing odd jobs until they made enough money to head home to Florida.  I also remember a bus of kids  who came to visit Lake Winnie became very ill….it seemed they had food poisoning and my father spent the rest of the night taking children to local hospitals in his station wagon because at that time there were not enough ambulances to get them there in a timely manner.               

My sister did have some old photos of my Dad back in the Radio Playhouse days.  He loved his music  especially gospel music.

It’s my understanding he was a medic in WWII, and when he passed away an elderly man came to show his respect and told me that my Dad had saved his life….I wish I had gotten more information on that man because when things settled down after his death I really wish I could have heard more about his story.

______________________________________________________________________________

I knew john all my life.   I had a cousin who sang with John's band at the ole Texas ranch in the late 30s or40s be four she went to Nashville.

 

 

 


Civil War Battle of Johnsonville Being Remembered

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Johnsonville. To commemorate the historic event, Johnsonville State Park and Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park will host several events in October and November.   The 150th anniversary kicked off earlier this month with a Civil War quilt show at Johnsonville, which will be on display through December 31 at the park’s ... (click for more)

James County Historical Society Meeting is November 7

The next James County Historical Society meeting will be Sunday, November 7 at 2:30pm at the Ooltewah United Methodist Church. The program will be about the history of Ooltewah Methodist Church and be presented by a long time member, Steve Wolfe.  If you have any thing that you would like to contribute about this church or another church, please feel free to do so. ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex Fetches $15 Million

Walnut Commons, the first downtown apartment complex built in many years, sold for $15 million, one of the developers said. John Clark said the initial estimate on the project was $11 million and it wound up costing around $12 million to build. "We're very pleased with the sale," he said. Mr. Clark, along with partners David Hudson and Bob McKenzie, are selling their stock ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Principal Ronald Hughes Named Tennessee's 2014-15 Principal Of The Year

A Hamilton County elementary school principal and an Anderson County supervisor have earned top honors for their work in Tennessee education. Ronald Hughes, principal of Apison Elementary School in Chattanooga, was named Tennessee’s 2014-15 Principal of the Year. He has served as principal at Apison Elementary for the past six years, and spent three decades working in Tennessee ... (click for more)

Congratulations To Ron Hughes

Hearty congratulations to Ron Hughes for being selected as Tennessee State Elementary Principal of the Year for 2014. Wherever Ron has been assigned as principal, he has exhibited strong leadership both academically and morally. His faith in God and his love for the students of Hamilton County have guided his actions and everyone that has benefited from the excellent education ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Brittany’s Days Dwindle

So here we are, facing what is known as “Devil’s Night” before Halloween comes, and the almost macabre news now comes that Brittany Maynard, the beautiful girl who has chosen to end her life as soon as Saturday, is struggling to meet her own deadline. She has inoperable brain cancer and, at best, only months to live. The 29-year-old, who was married shortly before her devastating ... (click for more)