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


Burma Shave Signs

Years ago my uncle Alf (A.T.) Connelly, a WWII vet, upon returning to civilian life, worked as a sign painter for the then Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge, Tn. He painted miniature sets of Burma Shave signs. Attached is a photo of one of those sets. The signs read as follows: “They missed the turn, Car was whizzin’, The fault her’n, The funeral his’n, Burma Shave”.  ... (click for more)

Brooks Family Was Among Earliest Settlers Of Sale Creek

Joseph Brooks was one of the earliest settlers at Sale Creek when it was part of Rhea County. Three of his nieces along with their husbands were Hamilton County pioneers. Joseph Brooks and his brother, Moses Brooks, were sons of John Brooks, who was born in Ireland about 1730. He made his way to Philadelphia and lived a short time in Pennsylvania before going with the tide of ... (click for more)

McCallie Coach From 90s Who Is Now Deceased Is Accused Of Abusing Students

A McCallie School coach from the 1990s who is now deceased is being accused of abusing students at the private prep school. Two former students said Steven Lee "Steve" Carpenter sexually abused them. Carpenter was the basketball coach at McCallie for 11 seasons - through 1999. He was boys basketball coach at Ridgeland High School beginning in 2000. Carpenter was ... (click for more)

Famed Radio Broadcaster Tommy Jett Dies At 77 At His Flintstone Home

Legendary radio broadcaster Tommy Jett (Thomas Wayne Reynolds) died Wednesday in his sleep at his residence in Flintstone, Ga.   He was 77. The native of Smithville, Tn., first was heard on Chattanooga radio in 1961 when he joined WFLI. He was known for his gaudy rings and his "Hey Now" greeting. He switched to country on WDOD in the 1980s and later was on "The Legend" ... (click for more)

Pluses And Minuses Of Tennessee's New Opioid Law

It was clear when Governor Haslam announced his TN Together plan in January that lawmakers were going to do something to try to address the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. With the passage of SB 2257/HB 1831, Tennessee now has one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws of any state.   The Tennessee Medical Association was actively engaged in the process and appreciates ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A True Tennessean

“Last week I told some Republican friends who have held high office, traditional and true Republicans, who like you are both conservative and compassionate, Christians in their personal faith and public service,” the email began. “These are Tennessee Republicans that I have known for decades, and whom I'd trust with my life and my wife … I told them that my views and values make ... (click for more)