Among the distinctive features of our community is a unique carousel in Coolidge Park, resplendent with hand-carved and painted wooden animals. These animals, primarily horses, were carved in the late 1990s in a workshop in St Elmo, Horsing Around. The workshop, established by Bud Ellis, was the only carousel carving school in the country. He was a self-taught carver of wooden horse and wanted to make a lasting imprint on the Chattanooga story. And indeed he did. His dream to revive a 100-year-old carousel came to fruition and this story is wonderfully described in “Carving A Dream, the story of the Chattanooga Carousel.” Written by Mountain Mirror writer Carol Lannon in 2000, the book is available on Amazon. If you are not familiar with this little jewel in Chattanooga’s history, I strongly encourage you to find a copy of the book and read it.
A Signal Mountain resident, Cay Ozburn, together with numerous other residents of the local area and artisans from as far away as Maine, collaborated on the endeavor. One carver, James Bacon from Chattanooga, was a part of Horsing Around from its inception and contributed seven animals to the carousel. A couple from Morrow, Ga., carved five different animals. Their efforts were supplemented with many volunteers who helped create these masterpieces of wood and imagination.
However, this story is about one of the men who worked in the workshop, David Kling, a life-long native of North Chattanooga. He was a fledgling wood carver in 1998 and joined Horsing Around during that formative era. He is an excellent reflection of the people who made the carousel the jewel it is today.
David was born in 1932, attended Normal Park Elementary School, and graduated from Baylor School in 1950. After several years at Tennessee Tech, David joined the U.S. Army, ultimately serving in Austria during the Cold War. His stories of being a military policeman in that era rival the intrigue of “The Third Man,” the exceptional film noire about occupied Vienna that is based on the novel by Graham Greene.
After Austria’s independence was restored, he relocated to Frankfurt, West Germany. His remaining service in Europe was providing security on the German rail system of that era, providing protection for the mail and a variety of other transported goods (including AWOLs being returned to their units). To any student of history, David’s stories are a wonderful study of life in Europe during the mid 1950’s.
After leaving the army, David finished his education at Tennessee Tech as an industrial engineer. He married his wife, Marcia (nee Williams), in 1959, and they raised two children. Last year, Marcia retired from Channel 9 after 51 years of service.
For 15 years, David worked in the iron and steel casting industry at the Ross Mehan Foundry and later at the Phelps Dodge Corporation during the prime of Chattanooga’s manufacturing era. In 1973, he left Phelps Dodge and founded Casting Specialist Inc., which he managed for 25 years. In 1998, David sold his business and retired, and this is where the historic carousel re-enters the story. For a year, he worked on several different horse designs at Horsing Around.
Each animal was assembled from more than half a dozen individually carved sub-structures, which were then combined to complete the finished animal, which was then adorned with saddles, many coats of paint and other appurtenances. The final product was drilled with a hole where a pole was inserted for its riding inclusion on the carousel.
David completed three horses during his time in the workshop, two of them rocking horses. He gave one to his granddaughter; one was on display at Normal Park School for a year and now resides in his basement with the last one. The future of David’s magnificent wooden horses is not clear. After finishing his horses, he was reluctant disfigure them by drilling a large hole in them.
One thing that is clear is David Kling’s zest for living – it truly belies his age, and he is a joy to be around.