This Week in #CHA: First Krystal opened

Authored By David Schmidt

In the midst of the Great Depression, few had the courage to venture into a new business. However, Rody Davenport Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill had that courage; and on Oct. 24, 1932, they opened the first Krystal restaurant.

The idea for such a restaurant came to Davenport while traveling north of the Mason-Dixon Line. He visited a White Castle restaurant and learned a lot about the operations and functioning of the business. Applying lessons from this visit with his belief that people want to eat quality food that is inexpensive and served by courteous staff in a clean environment, the two men planned the first Krystal.

The name “Krystal” came from Mrs. Davenport. Understanding the importance of cleanliness in that era, she suggested the name “Krystal Klean” after seeing a sparkling crystal ball in a neighbor’s yard and being reminded of the phrase “clean as crystal.” It was shortened to Krystal. A crystal ball remains part of the emblem of the restaurant chain.

Besides the name, the men wanted the building itself to project an image of cleanliness. Therefore, the 25-by-10-foot building had a predominant stainless steel interior and a white porcelain enamel exterior. Additionally, the building was manufactured in a metal shop in Chicago. Then, the prefabricated pieces were transported to Chattanooga and assembled on the corner of Seventh and Cherry streets.

When French C. Jenkins purchased the first six hamburgers and a cup of coffee for 35 cents, the Southern tradition knows as Krystal began. Even though the original building is gone and prices have increased, the hamburger remains the same. Now, anyone in the southeastern United States can enjoy the hamburger that started Krystal more than 80 years ago.

Other historic events of interest that occurred during the week of Oct. 21:

-Oct. 23, 1863: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Chattanooga and took command of the federal forces here.

-Oct. 24, 1944: On this day near Belmont-sur-Buttant, France, T. Sgt. Charles Coolidge began his heroic conduct that lasted for the next 96 hours. It was for this conduct that he received the Medal of Honor.

-Oct. 25, 1819: The General Assembly passed a bill creating Hamilton County.

-Oct. 26, 1909: Gen. O. O. Howard, the namesake for Howard High School, died.

-Oct. 27, 1863: The engagement at Brown’s Ferry took place.

David Schmidt is an avid history buff. He and his family moved to Chattanooga several years ago. He has fallen in love with the community and its history. You can contact him directly at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.