Remembering Scenic Slide Viewers

Sunday, October 9, 2016 - by Harmon Jolley

Most homes probably have a whatnot drawer.  While other drawers may be neatly categorized and organized as to their contents such as clothing or office supplies, the whatnot drawer is where everything else goes.  The more years that go by, the greater the collection in the whatnot drawer. 

Our whatnot drawer recently wouldn’t open.  I fixed this by removing an eyeglass case that had become wedged between the drawer and the frame.  While I was doing this, I decided to dump the contents of the drawer onto a table and to determine what to leave, move, or purge. 

I discovered that the drawer contained a small collection of like items which I’ll call scenic slide viewers.  I don’t yet know their official name.  One of mine has “Optimo Videoscope” in raised, molded letters around the plastic lens.  Prior to every tourist including children having cell phones with cameras, gift shops at tourist sites sold these scenic slide viewers to customers wanting to have a snapshot of the place they visited.  Usually, the scenic slide viewer came with a key chain.

The tourist sites depicted by my viewers are:

·         The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson near Nashville

·         Fort Nashborough model at the children’s museum in Nashville.  Oh, I remember that this and the Hermitage viewer were from a fourth grade field trip to the state capital and included a class photo with the governor on the capitol steps.

·         The U.S.S. Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor.  I think that a relative gave me this one.

·         Fields of the Woods park at Murphy, NC.  I know that's around the house somewhere, but isn't in this whatnot drawer.  We have multiple whatnot drawers.

The scenic slide viewers were classic low-tech ways of taking photos home to preserve memories.  The popularity of having photos, along with the limitations and awkwardness of the early methods, led to the development of cell phones with cameras.  So, don’t laugh too long at scenic slide viewers and their fans.  All modern technology has its roots in something less sophisticated!

I am curious how many other scenic slide scenes were depicted.  If you have a viewer, please send me an e-mail at (trying to keep the responses separate from regular e-mail).  I’ll post some of the responses as updates to this article.  If you can take a photo of the scene inside the viewer and send it, I’ll include in a photo gallery with the article.

 Please don’t send any of those scenes which depicted models.  That thought reminds me of a Beverly Hillbillies episode where Mr. Drysdale and a banker friend were sharing slide viewers with depictions of money and gold, and saying “vah-vah-voom” after seeing each image.

If you were a factory worker or route salesman or gift shop owner involved with scenic slide viewers, please e-mail your memories to me.  That will add to this compendium of all things known about scenic slide viewers.

John Shearer: Former American National Bank Building Turns 50

One of Chattanooga’s longtime depositors and loaners of money has collected its own form of gold this year.   The 20-story SunTrust Bank building downtown – originally built as the locally based American National Bank’s headquarters -- is reaching its golden anniversary with its 50 th  birthday.   In the early fall of 1968, the structure opened at Market ... (click for more)

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society To Meet Aug. 7

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7.  The meeting will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1160 Ridgeway Ave. Signal Mountain.  The speaker, Susan Gruwell, will present a program entitled, "Spotlight on Family Search."  Visitors are welcome. (click for more)

Juvenile Girl Shot On Doolittle Street Early Sunday Morning

A juvenile girl was shot early Sunday morning on Doolittle Street. Chattanooga Police responded at approximately 12:55 a.m. on to a person shot on the 2500 block of Doolittle Street.   Police were able to make contact with the victim at a local hospital where she was suffering from a critical, but non-life threatening gunshot wound. The victim was transported to a ... (click for more)

A Jury For 2nd Time Convicts Randall Reed Of Murdering 70-Year-Old Woman In 2011

A jury for the second time has convicted Randall Reed of first-degree murder in the 2011 death of 70-year-old Jane Stokes in East Ridge. The verdict was returned in the courtroom of Judge Tom Greenholtz’s on Friday. The earlier verdict had been thrown out by an appeals court. Reed testified in his own behalf. The victim was murdered in her home during a robbery in 2011. ... (click for more)

Just Recuse Yourself

Pam Fleenor, have you ever heard the terms “conflict of interest” or “appearance of impropriety”? It’s a foregone conclusion that Robin Smith will be victorious in Chancellor Fleenor’s courtroom. Here’s another term you may want to re-examine, recuse yourself.   Rusty Munger (click for more)

Not My University: Why I’m Not Okay With Mike Pence Coming To Lee University - And Response (6)

As a student of Lee University, who is well-aware of the Lee administration’s more conservative stance in politics, I am upset about Mike Pence visiting the university and being welcomed on our campus. Although I respect that Pence is in a position of authority as our nation’s Vice President, and that he likewise deserves the right to hold his own opinions in regards to the issues ... (click for more)