John Shearer: Finding More Nostalgic Sights -- And Changes -- In Hixson

Sunday, April 21, 2019 - by John Shearer

Last year on at least two occasions, I wrote about and took photographs of some of the reminders of old Hixson, including from both the pre-World War II era and the mid-20th century.

 

It was in part due to the fact I had moved back to my old home community of Hixson in 2017 after 12 years in Knoxville, and I wanted to re-explore the area or maybe examine some of it more closely than before.

 

Realizing I hardly scratched the surface in the previous two stories, even in a specifically defined geographic area, I sought out to do it again Saturday morning during the cool and overcast day.

I basically started near Northgate Mall and drove out Hixson Pike to Chester Frost Park.

 

While I found a few more reminders of old I have not previously covered, I also found quite a few changes, including one giant one in the curve of Hixson Pike just northeast of the Valleybrook and Creeks Bend golf courses.

 

Stopping first behind the Krystal and Dollar General off Hixson Pike by Highway 153, I took a picture of a sign that says “Pruett’s General Offices.”

 

I know there is still a Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market, and proprietor Chuck Pruett has been a trendsetter in developing the healthier and higher-quality food stores in Chattanooga in the last couple of decades. However, this sign no doubt dates to the days when the family operated a number of Pruett Food Towns around Chattanooga, including one right there where Dollar General and Harbor Freight now sit.

 

I am not sure what use these Hixson Pike offices have now, but seeing that sign – which is now almost inconspicuous – made me feel like I had jumped right back into the 1970s or early ‘80s.

 

I actually knew the friendly and modest former Mary Claire Pruett from the grocery family and used to give her rides back and forth from college when she was on her way to being named Miss Georgia Football about 1981.

 

A few feet away from the Pruett’s sign is another structure appearing to still be frozen in the 1970s or ‘80s. It is the former Long John Silver’s fast-food restaurant that used to be quite popular.

 

Unlike some of the other areas nearby – like the sleek new and architecturally eye-pleasing Aubrey’s and Panda Express buildings just across Highway 153 where a former Sears automotive center was – this spot has not changed a bit. In fact, I felt like I could almost still walk in and order a fish and chicken plank dinner and some hushpuppies.

 

Unfortunately, the building is a little more faded on the outside than in its fried fish heyday. Some equipment also seems to be stored inside the building, so perhaps it is being mothballed in some way.

 

In an era when the old-look fast food restaurants are disappearing, this ship dock-themed wooden structure is still a nice throwback, even though it has not been a Long John Silver’s for a long time.

 

I then traveled past a number of places I could have easily stopped at and photographed – like the old Karl’s family restaurant sign, the Hixson shopping center and the former Citgo gas station by the Gold Bond facility. Perhaps those can be visited in the future.

 

My next stop this time dealt more with the future, not to mention the disappearance of the past. There at the curve of Hixson Pike past the Publix, it looked like a giant mudslide had taken place.

 

The bulldozers have definitely been busy reshaping the once-pastoral tract into what now looks like a motocross track. The Macon, Ga.-based Fickling & Co. firm is in the process of building a massive 250-unit apartment complex there, greatly changing this stretch of Hixson Pike.

 

Several pastures off Cassandra Smith have also given way to residential construction in recent months.

 

After seeing this currently treeless and grassless scene that temporarily looks like Copperhill, Tenn., once did, or parts of Utah always do, a tree hugger or more sentimental type might be ready for nature and nostalgia again.

 

That can be found first in some rolling pastures on the left near Hixson Presbyterian Church just north on Hixson Pike. And then past the interesting and retro-looking Nana’s frozen dairy products shop and down North Gold Point Circle are some reminders of old at Chester Frost Park.

 

Although plenty of structures used in the Hamilton County Fair and some vintage-looking tennis courts can be found if one keeps on going down the road, at the front of the park road are quite a few pieces of nostalgia.

 

They include an old rock-framed stairway that apparently led up to the now-gone Jackson’s Chapel church, a couple of mid-century modern lakeside buildings that come complete with zig-zag rooflines, and the interesting rock springhouse pavilion.

And while the lake is the usual eye-catcher at the park, on this cool morning some blooming trees, grassy areas and brook-side irises across the street were quite noticeable.

 

Here, one can enjoy the natural and manmade reminders of the Hixson of old – or at least after the development of TVA – and know the space will likely never be converted into apartments, residences or commercial structures.

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


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