Okay, I know that thousands of you — why, perhaps even hundreds of thousands — have been wondering what happened to my blog, where I posted such compelling stories as "The Clarksdale Giant," "The Clay Eaters of Memphis," and "The One-Armed Newsboy."
Hmmm, now that I list some of them, perhaps they really weren't that compelling after all. They certainly seemed so when I was writing them. When I was drunk, I mean.
Anyway, I was using a blog software program called "Vance Lauderdale's Blog-0-Matic" and wouldn't you know it, the dang batteries in the thing went dead, and even Radio Shack couldn't find the right voltage. So we've switched to a new, better program, but you'll have to put up with me until I learn such basic blog skills as typing, spelling, reading without moving my lips, and going to Sunday School.
In the meantime, though, I thought I'd post a photo of an old school that I discovered tucked inside a book purchased at a recent estate sale.
The “Ask Vance” system is an imperfect one. People write in (by email and “real” mail) to me at Memphis magazine with an astonishing assortment of queries. Then they sit back and wait for me to provide them with the answer they so eagerly desire — in the form of dates, names, addresses, photographs, and other information.
Unfortunately, some of these people have been waiting a rather long time. The problem is that I now have far more questions than I can ever answer — not at these pitiful wages, anyway — and right now I’m looking at a box on my desk filled with some 300 queries from readers. Some of these epistles are more challenging than others (heck, sometimes I’m not even sure of the question), so I thought I’d pick out just a few and post them here, in hopes that you — dear readers — can help with the answers:
• I would like to know where GAY-OLA Bottling Company of Memphis was. — W.K., Memphis
• What was the date that two very unhappy elephants escaped from the Memphis Zoo and caused great excitement in the residential neighborhoods north of Overton Park? — R.H., Gadsden, Alabama
Not too long ago, I was wandering around Forest Hill Cemetery, as I like to do sometimes, and spotted a rather unusual tombstone. As you can see, it’s a marker for a fellow named Harold Harvey, who was born in 1924 and died in 1947. But what caught my eye was the nickname inscribed on the tombstone: “Chunkie Boy.”
Let me just say right now, that if anyone has given me an unfortunate moniker that I’m blissfully unaware of, please don’t inscribe it on my tombstone for all to see.
But I was intrigued by Mr. Harvey, who died at a rather young age, so I tried to find out more about him. Not much luck, I’m afraid — nothing in the files of the Memphis Room or Special Collections at the University of Memphis. But then I turned up his death certificate, and I learned more than I really wanted to know. He worked as a fireman for the Frisco Railroad, it seems, was married to a woman named Ruth Harvey, and they lived together at 1231 Wellington.
And then, precisely at noon on July 12, 1947, the medical examiner’s report says that Harold Harvey — for reasons that perhaps only he knew — walked into his backyard and shot himself through the head with a pistol. He died one hour later at St. Joseph Hospital.
I suppose we’ll never know why he was called “Chunkie Boy.”
Sorry this is so depressing. Not every story I encounter in Memphis has a funny ending.