The tale of Tom Thumb and FairylandAug 9th, 2011 | By admin | Category: History Mystery, In Every Issue
The Tale of Tom Thumb in Fairyland
Chattanooga has a magical mix of firsts, fantastic formations, innovations and excitement that have made it a hub for longer than we can record.
Movie stars were forbidden from doing it on camera and the entertainment world was turned upside down because of it and it’s no surprise that “it” came from Chattanooga, Tennessee. When Garnet Carter franchised his entertainment innovation the entire nation’s amusement industry took notice at the phenomenon that was sweeping the country. Miniature golf courses, Tom Thumb Golf, popped up in vacant lots everywhere and turned the million-dollar amusement industry on its ear.
Chattanooga has a magical mix of firsts, fantastic formations, innovations and excitement that have made it a hub for longer than we can record. Some of America’s earliest settlements were on our mountains and our shores as thousands of years of history grew from the spirit of our city.
Chattanooga’s children have been the envy of American families for generations. Since the 1930’s when See Rock City barns began dotting the highway as far North as Michigan and all the way up and down the Eastern coast families have looked forward to visiting the Scenic City and the amazing and tasty wonders that make it such a remarkable place to be.
It is no surprise that the city that first bottled Coca Cola also created the magical Moon Pie, a sweet snack that was made to fit perfectly in the lunch boxes of American workers. Little Debbie snack cakes were first produced from a bakery on Main Street and Brock Candy satisfied the sweet tooth of Chattanoogans of all ages.
The sweet successes of the scenic city are only the tip of the iceberg for a place that has seemed tailor made for families since the region was first settled. Early explorers in 1863 marveled at the “citadel of rocks” that became known as Rock City before the sounds of the Civil War reached our valley.
Garnet Carter’s goal of the Fairyland development was coming true on the top of Lookout Mountain when his wife Freida took her dream to the steep bluff acreage that overlooked seven states. As Frieda created a walking path of gardens in her wonderland she integrated her love of her German heritage with her adoration of the local plants, flowers and trees, building a place full of the love of nature and the joy of reflection with a dose of the mystery and magic of her native folklore.
Garnet’s love of people, golf and his entrepreneurial spirit collided on the top of Lookout Mountain to create an amusement frenzy that spread like wildfire. The world-class golf course that he planned to go with his 300-acre resort community was taking too long to complete and Mr. Carter noticed his guests enjoying the small practice putting green he had set up in a small area near the clubhouse.
Garnet and Freida developed the practice putting green into a miniaturized 18-holes with hazards, hummocks, bunkers and roughs. The “Tom Thumb Golf” that resulted created a game that both amateurs and experts could play, reveling in both joy and exasperation while providing entertainment for the onlookers and gallery of spectators as the sport spread across the country. Securing patents and finessing franchises netted enough money that Garnet made millions as the entertainment industry watched aghast.
Movie stars were forbidden from having their pictures taken playing the game as their media moguls perceived it to be a threat to their industry. Over 50,000 miniature golf courses grew around the country, creating a craze that entertained Americans as the Depression drew near and spirits needed lifting. From day to dawn amused Americans plunked down their 35 cents as they searched for that par 42 at courses on rooftops, in formerly vacant lots and even in a state prison in New Hampshire and a hospital for the insane in Nebraska.
As the 1929 stock market crash send waves of fear throughout the land Garnet sold his franchise rights to Mr. W.H. Robinson, the famous Heinz pickle manufacturer from Philadelphia. The Carter couple took their profits and moved their fairies, gnomes and fanciful creatures back to the grottos, caves and sun-dappled paths along the bluff of Lookout Mountain.
Rock City and its iconic barns guided American families up an amazing mile for generations and Chattanooga’s children continue to thrill to the birds of prey, the baffling boulders, fantastic formations, awesome caves and wild waterfalls at the top of the mountain that has loomed over the Chattanooga valley for millions of years. Aerial adventures, cave camping and the joy of nature are all for the taking for our children, providing excitement and education for generations to come.
Plan an adventure with your family:
Visit www.seerockcity.com and plan an adventure with your family. The magic mile of the Incline Railway, the visual display of the Battles for Chattanooga Museum, Point Park, Ruby Falls and Rock City are all a short drive up the mountain, far removed from the 4-hour tour a trip up Lookout Mountain used to be.