For the January 2015 edition of the Mountain Mirror, I looked at some old newspapers on microfilm regarding what was happening in Chattanooga at the beginning of a new year 100 years earlier. This year, to help bring back some memories for baby boomers (including me!) and older residents, I thought it might be fun to see what was happening in the city 50 years ago at the dawn of a new year. I thought it might also give some insight into the Chattanooga of that time period for someone not then old enough to follow the news.
A glance at both the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga News-Free Press from around Jan. 1, 1966, shows a city that was moving progressively into the latter half of the 20th century, but was also embracing the worthwhile aspects of the past. And on New Year’s Eve, it was simply enjoying the present. For example, more than 350 people were expected to attend the New Year’s Eve party at the Pan-O-Ram Club on the side of Lookout Mountain across from Ruby Falls. A cotillion New Year’s dance was held at the Fairyland Club, and William Ladew Mitchell Jr. and May Temple Montague were married on Friday, December 31, at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. Their reception was held in the Silver Ballroom of the Read House. Bridesmaids for the wedding were Temple Smart, Mrs. Lewis Gholston, Frances McAfee, Betsy Chisholm, Charlotte Montague, Mrs. Theo Hutcheson and Mrs. Mertland Hedges III. Groomsmen were Robert Sudderth Jr., Lewis Gholston III, Forrest Forman, Stephen L. Mitchell, Chris Zahnd, and Charles Wheland Jr. The pictures of the wedding and reception covered a whole page of each Chattanooga newspaper on January 1.
A few hours after the wedding, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church was among those holding a traditional watchnight service. Henry Gilman Jr. led the prayers.
Faith was obviously an important part of people’s lives in the Chattanooga of 1966, as big newspaper ads promoted the services at Highland Park Baptist Church at Union and Orchard Knob avenues, and at Woodland Park Baptist Church at Main Street and Holtzclaw Avenue.
There were, of course, the usual bowl games to enjoy on television on that day. Alabama and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant used the pinpoint passing of Cleveland, Tenn., senior Steve Sloan to defeat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 39-28. In the other three New Year’s Day games, Missouri beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl, LSU beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, and UCLA defeated Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Tennessee, inspiring fans by overcoming the deaths of three assistant coaches earlier in the year in a train/car collision to have its best season in nearly 10 years, had already defeated Tulsa in the Bluebonnet Bowl. On December 31, Georgia Tech and veteran coach Bobby Dodd enjoyed an upset win over Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl.
For wives and others who did not care to watch football on TV all day on January 1, Chattanooga Times writer Amy Frierson had an alternative suggestion or two in her column.
Sports fans were following the achievements of 16-year-old Baylor student Zan Guerry of Lookout Mountain, who won the singles and doubles trophies in the Sugar Bowl Junior Tennis Tournament.
In the world of business, Massachusetts Mutual insurance company took out a full-page ad recognizing the accomplishments of six local agents in each selling more than $1 million in policies. They were Jack Baras, Howard Bickerstaff, Richard Clinton, James A. Davis, Malone Everett, and Henry Valadez.
Loveman’s department store president Richard L. Moore Jr. announced that the fifth floor of the downtown Loveman’s was to be remodeled. At the time it housed the china, gifts, crystal and lamps section, but would add a bridal salon.
Among important news, the Vietnam War was still a few months away from dominating much of the headlines, but plenty of watershed history was being documented locally.
In the area of achievement for black Chattanoogans, Kenneth Saxon became the first black superintendent of a post office branch in Chattanooga when he was assigned to oversee the Alton Park branch. Morris Glenn, meanwhile, became the first black staff officer in the history of the Chattanooga Police Department.
The News-Free Press featured a story on City High graduate and Dartmouth University student Tom Brudenell, who had just returned from spending several months studying Spanish in Spain.
Chattanoogans also had opportunities to flock to the area theaters for entertainment. “The Sound of Music” was in its 25th week at the Brainerd Cinerama, “Thunderball” was playing at the Rogers Theatre downtown, the comedy “Boeing Boeing” was at the fairly new Eastgate Theatre, and “Xexous” was playing at the adult Riviera Art Theatre in Riverview. The latter showed that Chattanooga’s social mores were starting to change slightly.
On TV, the lineup on Monday night, January 3, included such shows as “Highway Patrol,” “John Forsythe,” “Dr. Kildare,” and “Andy Williams,” “Peyton Place,” “Ben Casey.” “To Tell the Truth,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Lucy Show,” “Andy Griffith” and “Hazel.”
Among the other goings-on in Chattanooga, funeral services were held for former Notre Dame High School principal Sister Mary Austin Aud. Nationally, Jackie Kennedy – the widow of John F. Kennedy – was still considered the woman Americans admired the most. She was still more than two years away from marrying Aristotle Onassis.
The turbulent and transcendent late 1960s were just around the corner, but the Chattanooga newspaper articles in early 1966 gave few hints of such a future.