Abe Zarzour Loved Baseball

Sunday, July 10, 2022 - by Earl Freudenberg
Abe Zarzour
Abe Zarzour

Charles Abraham “Abe” Zarzour operated a restaurant at Main and Market for 38 years.  A regular customer - the late Harry Thornton - gave him the name “the mayor of Main Street.”  Abe died April 6, 1997, but left his mark on the city where he was born.

After completing the eighth grade at Notre Dame High School, Abe left Chattanooga and went to Somerset, Ky., to play baseball but he returned home after a few years. 

In 1940, Mr. Zarzour went into the restaurant business but loved baseball so much he persuaded the city to start a free baseball school for boys where he was an instructor.  Mr. Thornton was on radio and television in Chattanooga for many years and the two became best friends.  Zarzour said, “Harry loved his chili dogs with onions and they shared a lot of baseball stories while the broadcaster was eating.”

Zarzour said Thornton would come into the restaurant and always encouraged him to remain involved in amateur baseball leagues and clubs. 

Another regular customer was Chattanooga Lookouts owner Joe Engel.  Mr. Engel was responsible for Zarzour being appointed a life member of the Boys Club and Zarzour helped Engel organize his popular Knothole gangs.  Engel got Zarzour a job as an assistant baseball coach for several years at Notre Dame High School. 

Zarzour collected ball gloves every spring and talked Jolly Charley Krause with WDEF radio into helping him with the annual drive.  Jolly Charley made the announcements and hundreds of good used and new gloves were collected.  They were given to youngsters who couldn’t afford one. Jolly Cholly said Abe’s enthusiasm and efforts made it possible for a lot of kids to be able to have a nice glove and play baseball.

When the Braves moved to Atlanta, Mr. Zarzour became good friends with announcer Ernie Johnson.  The Braves would bring Mr. Zarzour to Atlanta where he was Johnson’s guest in the press box.

Zarzour didn’t like the way things were going at city hall and tried to do something about it.  After running three times unsuccessfully for the old Chattanooga City Commission, Zarzour said politics wasn’t for him and decided to stick to cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. 

Mr. Zarzour didn’t re-open his restaurant when an explosion in 1977 destroyed the building where his popular eatery was located.  He then started helping his daughter Shirley at Zarzours on Rossville Avenue - now one of Tennessee’s oldest restaurants.  Abe’s grandson Dixie Fuller runs Zarzours which still serves plate lunches, delicious hamburgers and homemade peach ice cream.

Mr. Zarzour was a devout Catholic and attended Mass every Sunday at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church downtown.  One priest said, “Abe was always there and if he was absent they knew he was sick.” 

In later years Little Abe, as he was known to his friends, could be seen smoking a cigar sitting in front of his daughter Shirley’s business.  He died April 6, 1997. 

After Abe’s death, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Doug Meyer said “going to Zarzours just wasn’t the same as Abe was just like a family member.”   Abe loved his God, family, community and baseball.  We need more Abe Zarzours. 

 


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