This story was updated at 4:18 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, with more information.
On one level, this is just an old photograph of a mid-20th century military parade in downtown Chattanooga. But look a little closer and clues emerge about the probable date of this community celebration.
The cars embedded in the crowds lining Market Street are clearly 1940s vintage. Zoom in, and you'll also notice that the Rialto Theater, a '40s-era movie house on Market Street, is showing "Cross My Heart," a film starring actor Sonny Tufts and actress Betty Hutton. Movie historians would note that this post-war comedy was likely playing in Chattanooga in late 1946 or early 1947.
The plot of "Cross My Heart" is described in movie archives this way: "A chronic liar (Betty Hutton) confesses to murder to show off her fiance's (Sonny Tufts) ability as a lawyer." Hi-jinks ensued.
Sam Hall, the curator of ChattanoogaHistory.com, a web site devoted to archiving legacy photos of the Chattanooga area, did some sleuthing and pinpointed the probable date for this photo as April 9, 1947.
Newspaper archives note that Chattanooga's Army Day Parade 1947 was held on April 9. Elsewhere in the newspaper it is noted that "Cross My Heart" was playing at the Rialto that day. Bingo.
Thus, an educated guess becomes a near certainty through the magic of online cross-referencing. This kind of 21st century online research "underscores the importance of documenting photos as well as digitized, searchable newspapers," Hall says.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is designed to preserve historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo old negatives, glass plate negatives, or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
It turns out that Chattanooga's Army Day was a precursor to the city's Armed Forces Day Parade, which was established in 1949, consolidating the four separate Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force parades that had existed previously. The Armed Forces Day Parade continues into the 21st century, with 2019 marking the 70th annual observance. It is often touted as perhaps the longest continuously observed city military parade in the United States.
But back in 1947, the Army Day parade was a crisp, 30-minute affair that attracted military units, aircraft, veterans and high school bands. The Chattanooga Times of April 10, 1947, carried this headline on page 11: "Snappy Paraders Cheered by Crowd."
The reporter wrote: "Flags flying in the sunshine and bands playing, Chattanooga's Army Day Parade went off with snap and precision, drawing applause from thousands of onlookers. Three platoons of helmeted infantrymen from Fort Benning, Ga., set the theme, and six silvery training planes roared low overhead, but local school units stole the show."
The article continued: "Few veterans of World War II marched in the parade or were noticeable in the crowds as spectators. American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War paraders were predominately men of middle age.
"Stores and offices halted work for half an hour. — Children and grown-ups seem more interested in identifying brothers and sons among the marching students than in the older groups."
Among the units passing in review that day were the marching bands of Red Bank, Tyner, Howard and City high schools. The parade route started on Market Street at 11th Steet near the Patton Hotel, and doubled back on Broad Street via 6th Street.
Ads on the page were also instructive of the culture. A half-page advertisement featured 1946 Miss America Marilyn Buford of California caressing an electric clothes washer available at Loveman's department store.
There was also a small ad for Dr. Edwards Olive tablets for constipation. The ad copy noted the laxative tablets were "mild, gentle, but oh so thorough."
Please see the Remember when, Chattanooga? Facebook page for more photographic memories of the Chattanooga area. Photos featured in this series are also available for closer inspection at https://chattanoogahistory.com/rememberwhen.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645.