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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 


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