The year was 1947. Chattanooga businessman Hugh Wasson, president of the Colonial Baking Co. here, had just been elected mayor of the city, promising more budget transparency and new school construction.
Downtown landmarks included the Patton Hotel and the Rialto Theater, which in 1947 would have been showing films such as "Cross My Heart," a comedy starring Sonny Tufts and Betty Hutton.
Meanwhile, in these pre-fast-food, post-WWII days, the lunch counter was a fixture at American retail establishments, the first known example having been in a Woolworth's five and dime store in Albany, Indiana, in 1923.
This photo is part of a Chattanooga Free Press collection of images at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a legacy photo website curated by local history enthusiast Sam Hall.
Can you tell us the location of this lunch counter? The original caption to this photo has been lost, but perhaps you recognize a person or the place. We only know that it was shot here in 1947 by a Free Press photographer. If you have information about the content of this photo please email Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.
It was common for downtown lunch counters to serve hot and cold sandwiches, pies and soups, history notes. In this photo, notice the display of V-8 vegetable juice cans, a product which, interestingly, was introduced in the mid-1940s. Stacked orange juice cans and slices of fresh pies can also be seen in the background.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
This photo of white workers and customers was taken in pre-integration days. Years later, in 1960, lunch counters in the South became flashpoints in the Civil Rights movement, as Black customers staged "sit-ins" to challenge racial segregation practices that barred them from eating at lunch counters.
In February 1960, then-Chattanooga Mayor P.R. "Rudy" Olgiati would order the fire department to douse downtown crowds with water from fire hoses "after several days of increasingly tense demonstrations at segregated lunch counters at downtown stores," according to news reports from the time.
Stores involved in the Chattanooga "sit-ins" were F.W. Woolworth Co., McLellan Co., W.T. Grant Co. and S.H. Kress & Co.
The sit-ins began here when a group of students from predominantly black Howard High School began the series of peaceful demonstrations on Friday, Feb. 19, 1960, to protest the policy of racial segregation in public and private facilities.
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