Early rides are so influential that sometimes one of them can end up influencing our life decisions.
Like my early ride in a Ford Model A rumble seat when I was 12 years old.
Uncle Hoyt Van Roberts was my first hero because he played a guitar. One day he came by the house, driving a little Model A Roadster with a rumble seat. It was the sharpest little machine I have seen before or since.
Ford would make a fortune if they reissued a special edition of it. I would sell my car in a second to own one of them. In the late '70s they did rebuild a few of the Model A's and I wish I had bought one, but they didn't put the rumble seat on them and the rumble seat is what made it so special.
The rumble seat sat behind the rear window on the outside of the car. Uncle Van settled me in it and said he had some errands to run. The first one was to confer with Mr. Rogers, who owned the Chickamore Barn Dance on Bonny Oaks Drive, which was known as Governor's in recent years. I suppose Uncle Van played there.
While he was talking to Mr. Rogers, I stood in front of a Wurlitzer Jukebox in complete awe. What a gorgeous thing. With flashing lights and bubbles and the greatest sound I had ever heard.
Like I said, some of your early rides can influence your life decisions. I made a life decision then and there to learn to play a guitar so I could play in places like the Chickamore Club. It was gone by the time I had a band, but I did play at the New Chickamore Club, located where the Harrison Post Office now stands.
After Uncle Van finished his business at Chickamore, he went to a drive-in burger place in Ooltewah. In those days, carhops took your orders and brought your food to you. Most of the carhops were pretty little girls and Uncle Van had the prettiest one. They sneaked in a little smooching and again I made the connection between being a guitar player and getting parking lot sugar. I redoubled my efforts to learn guitar.
One of the most spiritual rides of my life led to one of the most spiritual days of my life. It was a Sunday when Dad took me and my brother Blaine to ride the Incline and walk all day on Lookout Mountain. We thought we were going to church when he got us up and walked us to the end of the streetcar line on Taylor Street. We knew something was up when he asked for a transfer. We needed no transfer to go to church.
We ended up at the Incline in St. Elmo and Dad said, "I thought it was more important today to see some of our history. We go to church most of the time, but today you will see how important Chattanooga was to the outcome of the Civil War. And there is no more beautiful place to worship God than Point Park and Lookout Mountain."
The Incline was incredible and it was the most memorable day I ever spent with my father. Every Chattanooga child deserves a ride on the Incline.