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 scenicslideviewer@yahoo.com (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.


Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Nov. 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on  Tuesday, Nov. 6 , at the Signal Mountain Public Library.  The speaker for the day will be Linda Mines, a well-known historian within the Chattanooga area and the official historian for Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  She is the First Vice-Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter of the Daughters ... (click for more)

What Was That Stone Arch Halfway Up Lookout Mountain?

As a child in the early- to mid-70s the majority of our summer vacations were to Tennessee - a stop in Chattanooga then on to Gatlinburg.  We always visited the Incline, Ruby Falls and Rock City.    On the way up Lookout Mountain, I’m not sure of the road, there was a stone/cement type monument along the roadway with what looked to be a tongue sticking out ... (click for more)

City "Moves Away" From $4 Million Light Show On Walnut Street Bridge

The city is no longer pursuing a plan for a $4,050,000 light show on the Walnut Street Bridge. Dennis Malone, assistant city engineer, told City Council members on Tuesday, "We have moved away from that project." The council had earlier pulled capital funding that had been proposed for the "Ripples of Light" on the historic "walking bridge" that dates to 1891. “Ripples ... (click for more)

Developer Of Publix Grocery At St. Elmo To Go Before Variance Board

The developer of a planned Publix grocery in St. Elmo will go before the City Board of Zoning Appeals on Nov. 7 seeking three variances. Mike Price of MAP Engineers said the grocery has been working with community members to try to come up with an acceptable plan for the site where the former Mt. Vernon Restaurant and Pizza Hut are located. There has been controversy over ... (click for more)

Why Are Joda Thongnopnua And Phil Bredesen Downplaying Their Democratic Values?

For the past several months, the Democratic Party has reached a tipping point. “Their Resistance” is to oppose anything and everything Republicans are doing to deliver a stronger economy and better economic opportunities for all Americans.  Yet, I find it very interesting that the public outcry we are seeing from the Democrats on a national level is nowhere to be found when ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Tennessee Week’

For over 50 years I have heard the line, “There are two things you must never do on ‘The Third Saturday of October.’ You mustn’t ever marry and try not to die because, in either case, the preacher won’t show up.” He’ll be watching “The Game.” Ever since Oct 18, 1901, Tennessee and Alabama have been going at it and that inaugural game set the tone as well as the standard for all ... (click for more)