After 53 years, I’ve finally been to see Rock City. For those of you who grew up in the Mid-West, or the Great Lake States, or the Southeast or travelled through any of those states in the 60s and 70s, you likely remember passing red barns with black roofs that were painted with big bold white advertising letters “SEE ROCK CITY” and underneath “Chattanooga, Tenn.” And how nostalgic and appropriate for me that it would be today, the fifth anniversary of my mom’s death.
We took numerous summer vacations in the 1960s and 1970s, many in the southeast US; one when I was nine years old, not far from here, in Gatlinburg, TN on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains. I remember with fondness those vacations because we would do all the “touristy” local things: all the attractions, bumper cars, go-carts, spin art, mini-bikes, and amusement parks. We bought Fireworks (you can still buy fireworks housed in large warehouse style buildings, [including bottle rockets!], year ‘round here in Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Florida) and swam in hotel pools to fight off the oppressive humidity. We bought fudge and salt water taffy, rock candy on sticks, and ate peanut butter on saltines for snacks. I don’t remember staying in fancy hotels, just ones with adequate swimming pools (that usually meant ones with diving boards). I don’t remember eating at fancy restaurants. What I remember is that for my siblings and me, the vacations were always a lot of fun and for Mimi, these vacations were a time for family togetherness, away from phones and television and our hectic schedule of activities. She graced this earth for seventy years.
So today, as we remembered Mimi, we were tourists in beautiful Chattanooga: we saw Rock City, toured Ruby Falls, a 145 ft. water fall in a cave 1085 feet below the top of Lookout Mountain (and both agree that the original cave explorers were a special group of adrenaline junkies) , and went to the Moon Pie General Store. I only bought a couple of Moon Pies, and mostly just ogled the old time candies such as Turkish Taffy, Slap Sticks and Caramel Cremes. On this road trip into our empty nest, I thoroughly enjoyed the day but, mostly, pushing that turnstile and walking down the ramp to See Rock City.