Chester Martin Remembers Henry Acheson

Thursday, December 3, 2015 - by Chester Martin

As a young woman in St. Elmo, my mother knew Henry Acheson through his sister, Celeste. Mother was always aware of his foundry on West 38th Street, although with little idea of what products he made.

For years his foundry was an unsightly dump, (to be kind) as you gazed in through the jungle-like growth of nondescript foliage. Dirt roads appeared to wind spookily back in the direction of some tin shacks, set far back from the road.

The Google picture I am looking at this moment shows a totally different, improved aspect. It was/is on a long stretch of West 39th Street, and was formerly rather isolated from other industries.

Truth is, though, that Mr. Henry's foundry was not much different from other foundries of his day, or ours, for that matter. Beauty was not a requirement for great foundry work; any beauty lay in the end-product, which could be found on the streets of many cities such as Vienna, London, New York - and even Chattanooga! For our city he manufactured manhole covers bearing a relief sculpture depicting the view from Lookout Mountain - a pretty creative idea, don't you think?

He made drainage gratings and manhole covers, with which I am familiar, and quite possibly a variety of other ironware. Today the foundry also advertises a "machine works", and a railroad spur beside the business connects it with all markets.

By strange co-incidence in the 1940's Mr. and Mrs. Acheson moved next door to us. Henry was a slender man, always jovial, kept an unlit cigar in his mouth at all times, and would show his hired-help - slowly and carefully - how he wanted a task performed. This he would do while wearing a dress-shirt and necktie. He could tell some interesting stories, and was always first to arrive for neighborhood get-togethers. Being a man of "connections" during the war, he could get some quality steak and other meat which Mrs. Acheson would fry. Her kitchen window overlooked our driveway and it was not uncommon to come home on a Saturday evening to the heavenly aroma of Mrs. Acheson's succulent steaks frying! It was war-time and we had almost forgotten what the good smell of frying steak was like! (Windows were open all summer back then, as home air-conditioning did not yet exist).

Achesons were nice people and I miss them. Historian Alice Warner Milton had known him from approximately the same time as my mother, and she always spoke very highly of him and his work.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )


 

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