1953 Construction
W. M. Cline Company
Headquarters construction - 1953

A unique 16mm film documents the 1953 construction of the W. M. Cline Company’s photo processing plant in Red Bank, TN. Cline was one of the largest photo finishing businesses in the South. This plant was considered one of the most advanced in the country.

Two versions of this film are presented here; a full length 32-minute, and one for those like me with short attention spans, totaling less than 6 minutes.

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Full film: 32 minutes
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Fast version: 6 minutes

Walter Matson Cline Jr. (1914-1984), started his career as an apprentice to his father. He quickly expanded the family business, establishing the W. M. Cline Company in Chattanooga in 1938 after he graduated college.

Special thanks to W. M. Cline, Jr.’s daughter, Cathy Cline, who graciously loaned this film for digitization.

The location chosen may have had to do with its access to clean water. Photo finishing requires a lot of it. Cline purchased land on the opposite side of the boulevard, with direct access to the Springer Branch Creek. He installed a custom pump, water line, and a storage tank on the hill behind the plant. All is documented in the film.

Pump on Stringers Branch

Storage Tank

The water source was only used a few years, as access to municipal water became available and affordable. By the late 1970s, the land where the pump once stood was leased to build a Wendy’s restaurant.

Views from the film

Later years

The plant itself was expanded several times. First, in 1958 when a $200,000 color processing and printing facility was added; with a capacity of 10,000 color prints, 3,000 rolls of Kodacolor film, and 1000 rolls of 35mm color slides each day.

Cline enjoyed the fruits of his labors during the best of times for photo finishing. In 1979 he sold his company to Fox-Stanley Photo of San Antonio, TX. Within a few years, a series of sales and mergers resulted in many retailers you may remember such as Fox Photo, CPI Photo Finish, and finally; Wolf Camera of Atlanta, GA.

When Wolf went bankrupt in 2001, it was purchased by Ritz Camera, which itself was in bankruptcy by 2012.

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Today, this location is the home of AwardCountry.com, NameTagCountry.com, DeskPlates.com and PaperweightCountry.com; specialty products that grew out of a family business you may remember called ‘The Plaque Shack’.

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