Chester Martin Remembers The Park Theater

Sunday, January 24, 2016
Park Theater
Park Theater

It was actually inspiring for me to see the recent picture posted here on Chattanoogan.com of the former Park Theater. It was on the SE corner of  McCallie and Willow Street, and could classify easily as being one of Chattanooga's first "Art" theaters. I think there was another such theater in Riverview, but it was outside of my territory as I had no car at the time. The "Park" theater took its name from Highland Park, probably the first Chattanooga suburb after St. Elmo. There were no published ratings for film in those days, so it could be assumed that all performances were for "General" audiences. After the Park and Riverview theaters, I think the Brainerd (Cinerama) Theater came next, which was on the northeast corner of Brainerd Road and Germantown.

About 1950 while I was still in high school, the Park Theater offered a "Finer Films Festival" that lasted for many weeks. My art teacher at Kirkman Vocational HS reviewed all the titles and urged all his students to go, if at all possible.

They were some of the most interesting films I had ever seen, and introduced such actors as Alec Guinness to Chattanooga audiences. There were many titles I still find available on Netflix, such as "Bicycle Thief", "Quartet", "Macbeth", (played by a young Sir Laurence Olivier), "Tight Little Island", Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, "The Mikado" etc. Alec Guinness was already an acclaimed actor in his native England at the time, but virtually unknown in the U.S. The Park Theater showed a number of his earliest films such as, "The Captain's Paradise", and "Lavender Hill Mob". Another memorable film from that series was, "The Red Shoes." I can still recommend any of those films to this day, even though a bit "dated". One of Charlie Chaplin's last films before he left the U.S. was also in that line-up, titled, "Limelight." I think he wrote both the screenplay and the music.

Until about 1950 Disney had dominated the field of Animation - in the entire world, actually. It was said that if you asked someone in a remote African village to name a well-known American, they would not say "Truman" or "Eisenhower", but "Walt Disney". So it was a great surprise for Chattanoogans when the Park Theater started presenting some "foreign" animated films. I only saw one such French film, which depicted human robots whose every movement was accompanied by an appropriate mechanical sound, and there was no dialogue. Very different from Disney! Like it or not, it was probably good for helping us Chattanoogans get out of a comfortable rut and showing us some new avenues for Film Art, and Animation in general.

As you waited in line to buy your ticket at the Park, you ran the good chance of meeting up with some of your favorite people, giving you the opportunity for sitting together and enjoying the film all the more.

(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 )

Chester Martin
Chester Martin


John S. Elder Was Early Settler At Ooltewah

The Elders were among Tennessee's earliest pioneers and were well acquainted with Davy Crockett. John S. Elder and his nephew, Robert S. Elder, made their way to Hamilton County at an early date. The family traces back to Samuel Elder, who in April 1796 paid $200 for 150 acres in the "County of Greene Territory of the United States of America South ... (click for more)

Chester Martin: The Big Clean-Up

I think it was probably Hollywood that created the myth of 'Sunny California'.  At least that is the concept I grew up with. California - and all the 'Old West' - was famous for blue skies and those natural formations out in the desert that looked so near and yet were deceptively so far away. California's 'golden sunsets' were the subject of many a painting, post-card, and ... (click for more)

Fleischmann Blames Senate Democrats On Government Shutdown

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann blamed Senate Democrats after the Senate’s failure to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR), putting a government shutdown into place. He said,  “I cannot fathom how Senate Democrats, knowing the severity of the issues in question, acted with such insensitivity using our children and our military as pawns, putting party over country. ... (click for more)

Elderly Man Dies In House Fire In Cleveland

An elderly man died in a house fire in Cleveland on Friday night. Neighbors said they were able to pull a woman from the flames at the home at 685 4th St. SE, but were unable to save the man. Fire crews went to the scene shortly after 7 p.m. The cause of the fire is being investigated. (click for more)

DACA Or Amnesty To Become The Majority?

As we have the political drama that we see in D.C. let’s be honest about what DACA is all about. We understand as the liberal policies of abortion, dependency on the government and an anti-American globalist / progressive agenda that many have come to realize these policies no longer represent their core beliefs and have left a certain party. Without an influx of new dependency ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

It is said that a 15-year-old in Minnesota, where just like the rest of the United States prayer in schools is prohibited, was tasked with writing an essay. He turned in his paper and, as it was returned with an A-plus, it is only fitting that something this clever should begin this week’s edition of The  Saturday  Funnies. Those who enjoy the Funnies understand that ... (click for more)