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.

It was certainly a nice-looking place, as you can see from the old color postcard (below). But bad luck seemed to trail Berryman wherever he went. In 1949, a team of bank robbers was found holed up in Unit 15, but somehow managed to get away just as the police arrived. The Press-Scimitar ran a big story about the caper, headlined, “Bandits’ Headquarters in Memphis Suite at Tourist Court,” and included lots of photos of the place. Just the kind of good publicity a motel needs.

A certain unpleasantness surrounded it in its final days, too, when it was known as the Adobe Village. I drove over there several years ago, and as soon as I pulled into the drive, a very large and unfriendly gentleman ran out of one of the buildings and actually chased my Daimler-Benz through the complex. While I cowered bravely in the back seat, my chauffeur gunned the engine, made a quick loop through the place, and finally reached the highway safely.

Something tells me the man was not seeking my autograph. A few months later, the entire complex was demolished. Most of the site is occupied by a used-car lot now, just south of Nonconnah Creek.

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