And when his hit movie Jailhouse Rock came out in 1957, at least one Memphis woman was so bedazzled by the jailhouse fashions that she designed a rather special shirt for her daughter, as shown here. An accompanying news clipping from the old Press-Scimitar explains:
Delores Weaver, 10, wears prison stripes to be like Elvis. A fifth-grade student at Colonial School, Delores designed her blouse, even down to the prison number from Elvis' prison garb in his new picture, "Jailhouse Rock." Her mother, Mrs. G.M. Weaver, carried out the idea with needle and thread. She can rock and roll, too."
I'm not sure that sending your child to school dressed like a prisoner is the best way to motivate a youngster, but what do I know?
What I would like to know is: Where are you today, Delores Weaver?
And what happened to that shirt?
PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES
A few miles to the west, an older tourist court was already standing on the north side of Summer, just west of Perkins. It had gone by many names since it opened in the 1940s, but most Memphians remember it as the Silver Horseshoe. I'm not sure how it got such a distinctive name, since no part of it was painted silver, and the rows of cottages nestled under the old trees were (as far as I can tell) not arranged in a horseshoe shape. It was just a basic little motel, which managed to stay in business for four decades or more, until the bulldozers finally pushed it all down in the late 1980s to make way for a shopping center.
What WAS distinctive about the whole complex was the oddly designed little diner that stood next door to the Silver Horseshoe office. Called — what else? — the Horseshoe Diner, this tiny cafe was all jutting rooflines and weird struts, painted a nice green and white.
I managed to take a few photos of the Silver Horseshoe and Horseshoe Diner just days before they came tumbling down, so here you go. Enjoy.
Well, here's the ad, and here's the radio. Fancy, isn't it?
The Garod Neutrodyne is described as "the most beautiful receiving set in America. The cabinet is mahogany, highly finished, with sloping panel." And just look — it comes complete with three three big knobs (for "selectivity, tone, and volume") and a tiny dial. And not much else, apparently.
Keep in mind this is what you got for $195. If you wanted tubes, batteries, and a speaker (and you'd certainly want all three if you expected to listen to that radio), you paid a whopping $275.
By comparison, in the 1920s you could buy a CAR for $750, and a complete house for around $1,000. Makes you appreciate that little iPod a bit more, no?
First of all, it was packed with ads for long-gone Memphis businesses and products. The Buckingham-Ensley-Carrigan Company (whew, they need a shorter name) was offering the new Garod Neutrodyne radio, "a five-tube receiver of the latest design, using the famous Hazeltine circuit." This thing cost $195 — an enormous sum in those days. And if you wanted tubes, batteries, and a speaker (you know, all the things that would actually make it WORK), you'd have to pay $275. (By comparison, a ticket to a box seat at the Lyceum cost only $1.)
Elsewhere around town, Hull-Dobbs announced, "Our service floor and shop are open all night for adjustments and repairs on Ford cars." The Romie Beauty Shoppe offered "marceling, permanent waving, and the latest cuts in shingles and bobs." Roy Grinding Company (apparently a very specialized business) urged, "Ladies, bring us your scissors to grind and we will make them cut like new." Cassie McNulty's Hat Shop (oh, what a great name!) promoted their "beautiful line of Spring hats." The Laird School of Dancing offered classes in "plain and fancy ballroom dancing." And Permo Service Station advised readers that their car could be "called for and PERMANIZED within three hours." Permanized?
Now, if I had just been born with more "gumption" I might have been able to look into the life of Dr. Rafferty on my own, but as luck would have it (all part of my clever plan, you see), one of my readers decided to do it by himself.
Hunter Johnson, a very nice fellow who knows a good deal about Memphis history, sent me a nice letter, and I'll include a portion of it here, for your reading pleasure:
"Although I did not know W.H. Rafferty, the last name certainly rang a bell in my mind because both I and my father were patients of a Dr. J.E. Rafferty back in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Joe Rafferty and his wife, Ruth, were both chiropractors with an office on Cleveland at Washington. I did some checking and discovered that he was the oldest son of William Henry Rafferty and his wife, Emma Wilson Rafferty.
And then, all by itself, we have a stunning full-color postcard of ... a telephone pole, standing at the corner of Perkins and Summer. Gaze at it in awe. Just think of purchasing cards like these by the dozen, and sending them to all your friends, with the clichéd postcard message, "Having a great time! Wish you were here."
This particular postcard was printed by the Dow Chemical Company (it says so on the back, you see), because they were so very proud of the coating they had applied to this particular pole. Maybe they had treated other poles in Memphis the same way, but this is the one they selected for their postcards.
And who can blame them? Just look at it! Nice-looking and quite tall, and fairly straight, with a stunning white base. It's carrying a pair of heavy cables AND a street light. Who among us, from day to day, can say we do as much?
So I might share some of them with you from time to time. This one is an especially clear view of Russwood Park, destroyed by fire in 1961 in one of our city's biggest blazes. So there's one clue to the date of the photo: before 1961.
That's Madison Avenue running diagonally across the top part of the photo — just about the only manmade object in this whole sweeping image that has survived, 40 years later. Across the street from the old baseball stadium is the original portion of the old Baptist Hospital. In the foreground you can see the incredible Italian Renaissance-designed Memphis Steam Laundry building, with one of the tallest smokestacks in town.
To the right are various older hospital buildings in our city's medical center, most of them replaced by The Med complex. And if you squint your eyes and look very carefully, you can barely make out the circular Duke Bowers Wading Pool in the corner of Forrest Park.
Not a trace remains of any of these things, not even the little neighborhood down in the bottom left corner, so it's a good thing somebody held onto these old photos after all these years, isn't it?
A reader named Elizabeth Kelley just sent me this email, so look in your closets and attics and libraries and see if you can help her out. I just assumed Central had a complete collection of their old yearbooks, but I guess I assumed wrong. The Lauderdale Library is lacking many volumes, too. But with so many Central alumni out there, somebody must have an old yearbook tucked away, even an old one like this.
Dear Vance: Luckily, I’ve stumbled upon your blog “Ask Vance”, and decided to give it a shot. I’m looking for a copy of a 1937 Central High School yearbook containing what I hope are the graduation photos of my parents. Can you suggest a resource in Memphis where I might find this item? I have contacted Central’s library and the Shelby County library. Both reply they have no yearbook for that year.
Thanks for your very interesting blog, and for any help you might give me.
Robert Harrell, one of my readers from Gadsden, Alabama — okay, he's probably the ONLY reader from Gadsden, Alabama — always writes in with intriguing questions. In a recent epistle, prompted by my compelling and heart-warming story of the old police station on South Barksdale, he remembers a small police station that once stood on the corner of North Parkway and North McLean.
Here's what he says:
"There was a police station located at the intersection of North Parkway and North McLean — southeast corner. We would drive past it at night and see officers inside the attractive building. The zoo fence was adjusted to provide room for the building, and today this same fence is still standing, with the location of the police building vacant, and no visible indication of a former building.
"Was this a substation for the Barksdale station? It was across North Parkway from Snowden School, and has been gone since 1934."
This is a mystery to me. I've never heard of such a place, but according to Mr. Harrell, it stood on the corner where the zoo now has its "Back to the Farm" complex. If anybody knows more about this, or — even better — has a photo of the building, please let me know.