Remembering Crisman Hardware

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - by Harmon Jolley
Crisman Hardware letterhead.  Click to enlarge.
Crisman Hardware letterhead. Click to enlarge.

“Ed, when are you going to fix our roof?” asked his wife, Florence. “The last time that it rained, the water dripped through the ceiling onto our Zenith floor radio. The green electric tuning eye looked like that it was shedding tears. I was right in the middle of listening to my favorite radio show, “Secret Storm.” I had to use the goldfish bowl to catch the water. Poor little Midas almost floated right out of his home.”

“OK, OK; I’ll call a hardware store and go buy some nails, a hammer, and roofing, “said her husband, Ed. “Hand me the phone book. Hello? Is this the hardware store? Do you sell roofing? You do? The Anco brand and it’s available in many different colors? Well, do you have black? You do? Well, put some back for me, and I’ll be right down. How will I find your store? So, I just look for the sign with the big pocket knife? OK, I’ll be right down.”

Ed was on his way to Crisman Hardware, a well-known store in downtown Chattanooga for many years. Like the Ellis Restaurant with its animated neon frog sign, and the Town and Country Restaurant with its animated coach sign, Crisman Hardware beckoned customers with distinctive signage. In their case, it was a large pocket knife with the name “Crisman” on the handle.

The hardware shop was founded in 1904 by brothers B.A. and Oscar A. Crisman, who were natives of Winchester, TN. The store’s first address was 425 Market Street near present-day Buehler’s Market and Jack’s Alley.

Since those were the days of real horsepower, the Crismans sold horse collars and other components of harness. Area farmers came to Crisman’s for all of the implements of agriculture, including picks, rakes, and fencing. An old photograph of the store shows that the owners used some of the sidewalk to display their wares.

“Prominent Tennesseans 1796-1938” (Gillum) noted in a biography of B.A. Crisman that “he has one of the largest hardware stores in the South.” By 1938, Crisman Hardware was celebrating its twentieth year in a new, larger store at 511 Market Street. The trademark pocket knife sign moved with the store, and was featured on company letterhead.

The Crisman brothers returned some of the store’s profits to civic interests. Oscar Crisman established Camp Elklore in Franklin County, TN in memory of his son. B.A. Crisman endowed the Crisman Memorial Library at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. The building has since been renovated, and serves as the university’s administration building.

In 1961, Crisman’s merged with Ace Hardware, and moved to 116 North Market Street. Customers continued to come to the 500 block between Market and Broad for hardware, though. The building that housed Crisman’s was demolished for a new Sears Parkade, which allowed folks like the above-mentioned “Ed” to park the car and then shop for tools for various home fix-up projects.

If you have memories of Crisman Hardware, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

"Look for the Big Knife" was the slogan of Crisman Hardware.  Click to enlarge.
"Look for the Big Knife" was the slogan of Crisman Hardware. Click to enlarge.
- photo by courtesy Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library

Wayne Shearer’s Special World War II Memoir Entry: Hearing About D-Day While In Texas

Chester Martin: Memories Of D-Day, 1944

Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR Earns Tennessee Society Recognition


(Editor’s Note: In connection with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Wayne Shearer, 94, is running his memoir entries from June 6, 1944, and immediately afterward in this entry. The regular series ... (click for more)

I was only 9 years old at the time and schools had just let out for the summer. I do not remember any particular increase in 'war-talk' among the adult population, and if there were any of that, ... (click for more)

The Tennessee Society Daughters of the American Revolution has awarded the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR with the Second Place Recognition for the number of points earned by activities related ... (click for more)


Memories

Wayne Shearer’s Special World War II Memoir Entry: Hearing About D-Day While In Texas

(Editor’s Note: In connection with the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Wayne Shearer, 94, is running his memoir entries from June 6, 1944, and immediately afterward in this entry. The regular series will pick back up beginning with late December 1943 in the next installment). On June 6, 1944, my aviation cadet pilot class was nearing the end of our 18-month training and we understood ... (click for more)

Chester Martin: Memories Of D-Day, 1944

I was only 9 years old at the time and schools had just let out for the summer. I do not remember any particular increase in 'war-talk' among the adult population, and if there were any of that, it never reached us kids. True, the adult population seemed to have followed a thin line of information, available on newspaper and radio news, but NO ONE in the civilian world had any inkling ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Police Charge Jason Ansley In Wreck On Main Street In Which 9-Year-Old Boy Was Killed; Going 62 MPH In 35 MPH Zone

Chattanooga Police have arrested 38-year-old Jason Ansley in a June 7 wreck on Main Street in which 9-year-old Liam Haddock was killed and two other family members injured. Police said it was determined that Ansley was traveling 62 mph in a 35 mph zone and he was caught on video running a red light at S. Orchard Knob just prior to the 9:08 p.m. crash. Police said Ansley, who ... (click for more)

Smedley, Bankston Say They Are No Votes On Property Tax Increase

Two County Commission members on Monday told members of the Pachyderm Club that they are no votes on a property tax increase. Sabrena Smedley, who currently chairs the commission, said there are a number of unanswered questions about the school system, including how the latest test scores will turn out and how much in repairs the schools will face under a new study. She said ... (click for more)

Opinion

Why I Support Funding The Proposed Budget

Dear Commissioners of Hamilton County, I attended the District 3 community meeting with Commissioner Greg Martin and School Board Chairman Joe Wingate, who was filling in for District 3 Rep. Joe Smith. Commissioner Martin stated he had not made up his mind on how to vote for the tax increase at that time. He requested thoughtful input on why the citizens of his district wanted ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: VW Needs Big Repairs

The banner headline on Monday morning read, “Gov. Lee, top Republicans celebrate failed UAW bid to unionize Volkswagen,” and that’s the second-worst thing that the headline could have said. The worst, of course, is if the UAW had won, and the Detroit-based union that lost 35,000 members last year would be revived -- breaking a hole into the tight wall of foreign-owned auto assembly ... (click for more)