Traveling the Dixie Highway

Jonathon Fagan, The Murfreesboro Post, November 10, 2011

A pair of local authors is giving readers the chance to see Tennessee as travelers saw it in the early 20th century.

Most drivers traveling through Murfreesboro in the ‘30s and ‘40s simply saw just another small town along the Dixie Highway, a series of U.S. highways that linked Chicago and Miami.

The highway led motorists through the downtown areas of countless small Southern communities, and the newly-published work, Tennessee’s Dixie Highway: The Cline Postcards by local authors Lisa R. Ramsay and Tammy L. Vaughn, tells the story of the historic route in more than 200 photographs.

Ramsay began collecting early postcards sold along the Tennessee route as a gift to her sister, who was homesick after moving out of state.

She quickly took particular interest in images of the highway created by a father and son who owned a postcard business in Chattanooga.

Walter Cline Sr. and his son Walter Jr. traveled the South documenting small town life in photographs and promoted the Dixie Highway by selling their postcards at stops along the route.

Their postcards and photographs are popular among enthusiasts, and Ramsay decided that a collection of the images would be a great way to tell the story of the highway that linked Murfreesboro with communities throughout the South.

In compiling, editing and publishing Tennessee’s Dixie Highway, she enlisted the help of her friend Tammy Vaughn, whose family has called Rutherford County home for eight generations.

Ramsay grew up in the Walter Hill community, attended Oakland High School, and graduated from MTSU.

She currently oversees the reference department and historical research room at Linebaugh Public Library.

During their research, Ramsay and Vaughn contacted the Cline family and encouraged Cline’s daughters to write the Forward for the book.

“My favorite photos are of Murfreesboro’s James K. Polk Hotel and the Center for the Arts, which was then the Post Office and was later the Linebaugh Library before it moved to its present location,” Ramsay said. “It was interesting to learn that many of the post offices that were photographed by Cline along the highway later became libraries as well.”

Images of cities, towns and attractions throughout the Tennessee route are provided, along with historical information on each location.

Ramsay and Vaughn found local libraries and state parks to be the best source for information on the highway and its points of interest.

“No one could write such a book without the help of so many librarians and state park personnel,” Ramsay acknowledged.

Tennessee’s Dixie Highway: The Cline Postcards is currently available at The Country Gourmet in downtown Murfreesboro, The Avenue’s Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million in Stones River Mall, and Hastings on Memorial Boulevard.

It is published by Arcadia Press of Charleston, South Carolina as part of its Postcard History Series.

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