By Valerie Schremp Hahn, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. Growing up in St. Louis, we often drove the family truckster to Florida to visit relatives. And whenever we passed through Chattanooga, my dad belted out a few lines: Pardon me boy is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
By the time he forgot the rest of the lyrics, Chattanooga was a glimpse in the rear view mirror. And, perhaps a few decades ago, nobody could fault us for it.
In 1969, Walter Cronkite called it the dirtiest city in America. A year after that, the last train left the once-bustling Terminal Station. The Choo Choo was the nickname for the Cincinnati Southern Railroads wood-burning steam locomotive that traveled from Ohio to Chattanooga.
Since then, Chattanooga has transformed into a forward-looking, green-conscious place that embraces its history while chugging forward.
Its Tennessee Aquarium celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and has helped revitalize a once-neglected riverfront. In 2010, the city was the first to offer gigabit-per-second internet services to all homes and businesses. And Terminal Station became a hotel complex, with recent updates to hotel rooms, new restaurants and a new Songbirds Guitar Museum.
I recently drove the 450 miles from St. Louis to Chattanooga with my two ...