Remember When, Chattanooga? Pity the poor opossum stuck on Opossum Creek

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photo This 1975 Chattanooga News-Free Press photo was shot at the Highway 27 bridge over Big Opossum Creek near Bakewell in north Hamilton County. It was shot by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Robin Hood. / Chattanooga News-Free Press photo via

It's rare that a news photo contains irony. And for that matter, it's rare that a news photo features an opossum.

But, lo and behold, this 1975 photo of a small animal stuck on Big Opossum Creek amid flooding in north Hamilton County is a bit of a head-scratcher.

That is, until you comb the archives of the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Then, sure enough, you'll see this photo was splashed on Page 1 of the newspaper under the headline: "2.5-Inch Rain Brings Flash Floods."

The date was Oct. 18, 1975, and the news of the day in Chattanooga involved area flooding caused by persistent rain showers in the previous 24 hours.

Lest anyone think this photo was a fluke, the photographer, Robin Hood, had a good eye for interesting images. Two years later he would win the Pulitzer Prize for a feature photo of a Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair holding a baby in his lap at the Armed Forces Day Parade in downtown Chattanooga.

This photo of an unfortunate opossum was shot at the intersection of Big Opossum Creek and Highway 27 near Bakewell. The caption says the opossum "took refuge on a tree astride the Highway 27 Bridge."

It also noted: "The small, beleaguered animal appears bewildered at the unexpected turn of events, but his presence adds a touch of ironic validity to the name of the creek."

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, 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.

There was no mention in the story of whether the opossum survived the flood. One guesses it depended on whether this particular opossum was patient or panicky.

On a serious note, the local flooding was quite bad that day and emergency crews reported blocked roads and forced evacuations.

"Highway 27 at Opossum Creek was closed for several hours when water overflowed onto the bridge, leaving uprooted trees deposited in its wake," the newspaper reported.

This photo was found in a batch of slides from 1975 discovered recently at the offices of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The photos have been digitized and some are presented at

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Next week's subject: The 1975 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Cheerleaders.

Remember When, Chattanooga, appears on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at

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