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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Dixie Dreamin--a Short Loop, Part 2


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There was one stop on Broad Street that was a must--The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum <Wrecker Museum 01-14> I knew the museum was there, but had no idea that the first wrecker was built in Chattanooga! I knew it was the home of minature golf, Moon Pies, Krystal burgers and Little Debbie snack cakes, but not wreckers:) The story begins in 1916 when Ernest Holmes Sr., who ran an automotive garage, was called out to pull a car out of S. Chickamauga Creek. He managed to suceed, but it took a block and tackle installed in a tree and plenty of manpower to get the job done. He knew good and well there would be other calls like this one, so he sat down and designed the first wrecker. This consisted of a shop crane and winch on the chassis of a 1913 Caddilac. Soon he was out of the garage business and into the manufacturing of wreckers.


Perhaps the greatest task for his wreckers came during WWII when they were used to keep the supply lines open and running. More info on the Ernest Holmes Company can be found at

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bltruck.htm Note: The site of the original garage is no longer a few blocks from the museum. The museum has moved to larger quarters. Oh, and the garage was on Market Street which makes it part of Dixie Highway history:)


As for the museum itself, it has a magnificent collection of well restored old wreckers, toy wreckers and old gas pumps. There is a Hall of Fame, displaying pictures of the many people who have contributed to the profession of towing and recovery. And just recently (since I was there) they've opened the Wall of the Fallen, displaying the names of towers who have perished on the job. The tour featured a video where it was brought out that the casualty rate among towers, on a per capita basis, is comperable with that of policemen and firemen.


More information can be found at



We were greeted by the curator, Frank Thomas, and his assistant, Joyce Shrum. When they found out I was going to do a writeup for this newsgroup, they presented me with a media giuide with all sorts of copies of old newspaper clippings and information. I'm quite grateful for their help.


But it's the wreckers that are the stars of the show. All well restored and spotless! I'll let the photos speak for themselves:) All in all, a most impressive experience and highly recommended.


We thought that would pretty much wrap up the trip, but it wasn't to be so. We turned down a side street to get a picture of a ghost sign <Ghost Sign...>, when we noticed a neat looking building another block beyond. Quite frankly, this is not the sort of place tourists would be, usually. It's an industrial area, smelling of a chicken processing plant. But this one building stood out for it's beauty. It turned out to have been the powerhouse for the Chattanooga Plow Company. <Chattanooga Plow powerhouse 01-04> Net research hasn't turned up any info about this place except it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It only goes to show you can still find a surprise or two, even in your old home town:)


Like many cities and towns, especially in the south and southwest, Chattanooga is hosting a growing Hispanic community. They've brought their artistic talent with them as witnessed by this group of murals we found on Broad Street. <Hispanic Murals 01-03>


We finished up by turning right on Main Street and back to Main and Market:) Then it was time to head back home.

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