Thursday, May 29, 2008

John George Morris and the Riviera Grill

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 9:03 PM

In the April issue of Memphis magazine, I told the interesting story of John George Morris, who opened a restaurant on Poplar called “The Old Master Says” and even planned on topping the building with a 14-foot replica of his own head. Oh, just read the column; don’t make me repeat the whole story here.

Anyway, I had expressed some doubt that the plaster head was ever installed atop the restaurant (since none of my friends can recall such a sight), and I also had a few other questions about this short-lived venture. So I few days ago, a nice packet of materials arrived in the mail from George J. Morris, attorney-at-law in Charleston, South Carolina, who just happened to be John George Morris’ son and had read my original article.

Though he is still searching for a photograph, the younger Morris assures me that the giant head was indeed placed atop “The Old Master Says” restaurant, an establishment which, in later years, became home to the Dobbs House Luau. He also says the restaurant stayed in business for several years longer than I said it did, though I believe Memphis city directories listed “The Old Master Says” for only two years. Still, I believe he knows what he is talking about, so it is possible that Dobbs House, which is shown in later listings, continued to operate the restaurant until they finally converted it into the Polynesian-themed Luau (which had its own giant head — an Easter Island-styled one) by the front door.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

John George Morris and the Riviera Grill

Posted By on Sun, May 18, 2008 at 9:07 PM

faa7/1243822009-rivieragrill1.jpg In the April issue of Memphis magazine, I told the interesting story of John George Morris, who opened a restaurant on Poplar called “The Old Master Says” and even planned on topping the building with a 14-foot replica of his own head. Oh, just read the column; don’t make me repeat the whole story here.

Anyway, I had expressed some doubt that the plaster head was ever installed atop the restaurant (since none of my friends can recall such a sight), and I also had a few other questions about this short-lived venture. So I few days ago, a nice packet of materials arrived in the mail from George J. Morris, attorney-at-law in Charleston, South Carolina, who just happened to be John George Morris’ son and had read my original article.

Though he is still searching for a photograph, the younger Morris assures me that the giant head was indeed placed atop “The Old Master Says” restaurant, an establishment which, in later years, became home to the Dobbs House Luau. He also says the restaurant stayed in business for several years longer than I said it did, though I believe Memphis city directories listed “The Old Master Says” for only two years. Still, I believe he knows what he is talking about, so it is possible that Dobbs House, which is shown in later listings, continued to operate the restaurant until they finally converted it into the Polynesian-themed Luau (which had its own giant head — an Easter Island-styled one) by the front door.

Continue reading »

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Fantastic Hart's Bakery Sign

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2008 at 9:21 PM

2713/1243823012-hartsbakerysign1.jpg No listing of the great neon signs in Memphis — and boy, we have enjoyed some great ones — would be complete without a mention of the Hart’s Bakery sign, which stood like a beacon at Summer and Mendenhall in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite years and years — well, maybe a half hour here and there, tops — of searching, I have never been able to turn up a decent COLOR image of this masterpiece. But one day recently, while idly flipping through my old copies of Key magazine, I found an ad for the bakery that included the sign, so take a look at it:

Too bad it’s in black and white, so let me try to describe what I remember. This was a combination neon and mechanical marvel. First of all, you had a huge bright-red heart mounted on a fluted aluminum pedestal. On each side were neon-shaped hearts, arranged one inside the other, which got smaller and smaller as they reached the center. These, as I recall, were in yellow, and as the neon tubes flashed on and off, in and out, in sequence, the heart seem to PULSE or BEAT. At the exact moment when every tube of neon was illuminated, the giant cursive letters spelling out “Hart’s” flashed across the sign. Then they turned off, and the whole “heartbeat” started again.

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Charles Oldrieve - River Walker

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2008 at 9:17 PM

8af7/1243822801-charlesoldrieve.jpg Take a close look at this rather fuzzy image. It’s from an old postcard archived in the Lauderdale Library, and it shows just what you think it shows: A gentleman in long pants, jacket, and cap is WALKING down the middle of the Mississippi River. The photo was taken just as he passed Arkansas City, Arkansas, sometime in January 1907. And though it’s hard to tell from the blurry old photo, he accomplished this seemingly impossible task by strapping six-foot “water shoes” — basically little canoes — to his feet. And no, this wasn’t one of the Lauderdales, though my Uncle Lance was known for his decidedly eccentric behavior after imbibing a bit too much moonshine. This fellow’s name was Charles Oldrieve.

Oldrieve lived in Massachusetts. For reasons that were never made clear — not to me, anyway — he accepted a $5,000 wager (an enormous sum in those days) to “walk” the Mississippi River, all the way from Cincinnati to New Orleans, a distance of more than 800 miles. A former circus performer, he experimented with various devices for five years, and finally came up with his cedar “water shoes.”

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