Monday, September 22, 2008

THIS Is Why Some People Fear Clowns. Yikes!

Posted By on Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 7:50 PM

BoboJojo.jpg In a December 1963 issue of The Commercial Appeal, Goldsmith’s actually ran this ad.

“Look Who’s Here for Toyland Opening!” shouted the headline. “Those Two Lovable, Laughable Clowns Bo Bo and Jo Jo.”

I’m sorry, but these guys don’t look lovable OR laughable. Why didn’t the store run their actual photos? Instead, we have DRAWINGS of hideous creatures who would give any kid nightmares.

“Come and give the young folk the time of their life,” continues the ad, “and reserve a good slice of fun for yourself, too! BoBo and JoJo, those two lovable, laughable clowns, are back . . . getting into mischief and having a grand time in Goldsmith’s Toyland, Fifth Floor.”

Uh, thanks but no thanks, Goldsmith’s. I think I’ll just stay home, and hide under the bed, where BoBo and JoJo can’t ever, ever find me.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Poochie — Memphis' Number-One Dog Hero

Posted By on Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 7:53 PM

f9f8/1242521854-poochie-herodog.jpg On those nights when I find myself alone in the Lauderdale Mansion (that would be Monday through Friday, plus Saturday and Sunday), I often amuse myself by digging through the trunks in the attic, looking for loose coins and poring over the old scrapbooks compiled by my ancestors. Sometimes those contain the most fascinating stories — such as this account, reported in a December 1941 issue (I don’t have the exact date) of The Commercial Appeal, about the life-saving exploits of a mutt named Poochie.

Poochie, according to the paper, was a mongrel, one of seven puppies born to a mother who was a rat terrier and whose father was a German shepherd, so it’s safe to say he was not a particularly beautiful dog. His owner was a fellow named Faber Becton, who lived in north Memphis on King’s Road, and he gave away the other pups, keeping the ugliest for his own. The newspaper reported, “Like a weed in a garden, Poochie grew and thrived. The Becton children loved Poochie and he returned their love.”

Well, one day Becton took Poochie with him to the Mississippi River, just above Memphis, to train him as a pointer. Just as they arrived at the banks, they encountered a tragedy: A group of men and boys who had foolishly tried to swim in the Mississippi were being pulled under by the strong current. Here’s how The Commercial Appeal tells the story:

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Rainbow Lake and the Rainbow Rollerdrome

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 7:59 PM

2096/1242522160-rainbowlakedecal.png I recently purchased this colorful old decal on eBay, for a Memphis establishment called Rainbow Rollerdrome. Maybe that was the actual name of the roller-skating rink, but the entire complex on Lamar will forever be known as Rainbow Lake, which also included a huge outdoor swimming pool, fancy restaurant, picnic grounds, and more.

Rainbow Lake was opened way back in 1936 by Leo Pieraccini, when that stretch of Lamar (at Dunn) was on the outskirts of town. In the early years, it was mainly a place to swim; the skating rink wasn’t added until 1942. Memphis kids had a great time at Rainbow Lake over the years, but brother, the place was plagued by trouble. In 1947, it made all the newspapers when more than two dozen sailors from the Naval Air Station at Millington staged a bottle-throwing, drunk-punching, free-for-all with a group of civilians. It finally took a Naval Court of Inquiry to sort out all the mess and clear most of the charges.

In 1957, a rock-and-roll dance party held in Rainbow’s famous Terrace Room — and hosted by two of the most famous disk jockeys in Memphis history, Wink Martindale and Dewey Phillips — got out of hand when many of the kids (some of them just 15 years old), got rip-roaring drunk. Rainbow lost its beer license after that.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 1939 Pure Oil Station on Front Street

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 12:53 PM

c869/1242669446-pure-station-1935.jpg In the September issue of Memphis magazine, I tell the compelling story of the little green cottage on South Front Street, which opened in 1939 as a Pure Oil Station (above). The building went through many owners over the years, and is now the property of a nice fellow named Kris Kourdouvelis, who lives next door and uses the old gas station for storage.

Yesterday I received an email from a Memphian named Kenneth Pasley, whose uncle was the original owner of that station. Here’s what Kenneth had to say about it:

"I worked at that station for my uncle, William Willingham, from 1956 to 1966, when I graduated from CBU. My uncle Bill owned the station from about 1938 to 1970, when he retired and closed it. During the war, Bill’s younger brother Tommy left school early every day and ran the station. When Bill returned home from France, in 1945, Tom spent time in the Army Air Corps, then moved to Walls, Mississippi, and opened a Pure Oil Station on Highway 61, just north of Twinkle Town Airport. Henry Halbert may have owned the little station in question before Uncle Bill, but he did not own it after 1938. Henry Halbert ran the Pure Oil Service station at 836 South Third (Third & Iowa), when my other uncle, Reggie Willingham, went into the Army Air Corps. Reggie took the station back over when he returned from the war. Henry then went on to open “Halbert’s Auto Supply”.

Thanks for the additional information, Kenneth.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Berryman's Tourist Court

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 1:05 PM

574a/1242670122-berrymantouristcourt-1.jpg By all accounts, Bob Berryman was a shady character. A rather notorious gambler and bootlegger, he served eight years in prison for murdering a bouncer at a downtown nightclub. Even so, his name brings back fond memories with many Memphians, for he was the owner and operator of the Silver Slipper, one of our city’s most popular nightspots before it burned in 1958.

In 1937, Berryman embarked on another venture, a motel complex on Highway 61 South he called Berryman’s Tourist Court. When it first opened (above), the Memphis Press-Scimitar commented on the 22 “Oriental stucco” buildings (actually more like Spanish Revival), arranged in a horseshoe, with the manager’s office and residence in a two-story structure by the entrance.

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