Remember When, Chattanooga? Why was there an open coffin on Dayton Boulevard?

Chattanooga News-Free Press file photo by John Goforth via ChattanoogaHistory.com. In 1959, the Jaycees Red Bank-White Oak chapter stops traffic on Dayton Boulevard on Safety Day. The coffin in the middle of the road is to remind motorists to slow down.
Chattanooga News-Free Press file photo by John Goforth via ChattanoogaHistory.com. In 1959, the Jaycees Red Bank-White Oak chapter stops traffic on Dayton Boulevard on Safety Day. The coffin in the middle of the road is to remind motorists to slow down.

It took some effort, but we tracked down this photo in the archives of the Chattanooga News-Free Press.

The photo, taken by newspaper photographer John Goforth, was published Sept. 8, 1959, the day after Labor Day, on page 4 of the newspaper.

So, why was there a coffin in the middle of Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank?

At first, it seemed the Red Bank Theatre, also in the photo, might provide a clue. Was the popular drive-in showing a horror flick, we wondered?

Actually, no. It appears that the movie showing in early September 1959 was the romantic comedy "It Happened to Jane" starring Doris Day and Jack Lemmon.

According to the caption on the photo, about 350 cars were pulled over on Dayton Boulevard that late summer day as part of a Safety Day Program sponsored by the Red Bank-White Oak Jaycees and the Jaycettes, the women's auxiliary of the civic club.

The newspaper reported that the Jaycees and Jaycettes were pulling over cars to "pass out refreshments, brochures about points of scenic interest as well as safety reminders."

Remember, it was a simpler time. We're not sure motorists would sit still for that in the 2020s.

The newspaper page where the photo appeared was a time capsule for the period.

A display ad purchased by WTVC Channel 9 on the page touted the 9 p.m. airing of "The Rifleman," a prime-time Western-themed television show of the 1950s. The TV listings, also on the same page, featured such morning kids shows as "Romper Room" and "Captain Kangaroo." Daytime programs, meanwhile, included the game show "Queen for a Day" and the dramas "As the World Turns" and "Young Dr. Malone."

A series of weight-loss ads on the page pulled out all the stops, with such sub-heads as "Den Mother Goes from Size 18 to Size 12 in 6 Weeks" and "Starlet Loses 29 Pounds in Two Months." The ads were for a weight loss supplement called Regimen Tablets, although the actual ingredients are never discussed.

There was also a sizable ad on the page for "Bush's Tony Dog Food" which, it was said, "assures your pet of all the vitamins and minerals required in their daily diets."

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook. See previous articles in this series at the ChattanoogaHistory.com website.

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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 nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-645. Follow him on Twitter @tfpcolumnist.