These names were impressed into the wet cement with a mold or a stamp and have survived for decades, so it was a pretty good system.
But today I was stumbling around in Central Gardens (please don't ask why), and happened to glance down at my feet as I moseyed along, and I noticed an entirely new — and considerably fancier — form of these signatures. As you can see, they are fancy embossed markers, cemented into place at various locations along Central Avenue. I really like the design of these things. "Miller Maker Memphis" is an especially fine one, with its triple use of a large "M." And I'm sort of intrigued by the interlocking "paperclip" design of "Koehler Brothers & Franklin." I assume that Franklin joined the Koehler Brothers in the concrete company and was determined to get proper (and equal) credit for the sidewalks they poured around town.
My only complaint — why didn't everyone DATE these things? I guess it would have been expensive to create a new plaque every year, but still ...
Last week I posted an old Poland photograph showing a cemetery in Memphis, and I wondered just where it was. Something about the image made me think of Calvary Cemetery, and so I drove over there one day recently and tried to find the exact same location in the old photograph.
I wasn't entirely successful, but I might be very close. Take a look at the two pictures here. In the background of the old photograph (shown here on the left), I noticed a rather unusual white concrete retaining wall (the image is fuzzy but you can see it) with an undulating top and posts at each end surmounted by large concrete (or stone) balls. There's also apparently a post close to the center of this little wall, also topped with a somewhat smaller ball.
Well, my recent journey to Calvary turned up an almost identical formation, as you can see in the second image (on the right). The center ball is missing, but you can tell that one was once mounted here. The roadway in the background also looks similar to the roadway in the original photo (you'll have to scroll down a bit to see the original photo in its entirety).
Now keep in mind, as I've said, that the original photo could easily have been taken as long as 100 years ago, so lots of other elements in the photo — the number of monuments, the size or shape of the trees — would have changed drastically.
At the same time, you get a vague impression that the view in the old photograph is looking UPhill, whereas I'm looking DOWNhill in the current photograph. So maybe I need to get over there again and walk all around this particular wall and see if I can find a downward angle on it.
The location of the middle ball also seems just slightly off-center in the newer photograph, while it's almost exactly centered in the old photo. Though that could be because of the camera angle. It's too bad the original image is so blurry!
Or maybe I'm in the wrong place entirely, and am going completely insane.
What do you think? About the cemetery part, I mean. Am I getting warm?
But back in the 1950s and 1960s, miniature-golf courses were considerably more basic. Just a few twists and turns in the course, maybe a few hoops to get the ball through. And you played golf, and that was it. No driving ranges or arcades or water slides or anything like that. And one of those early Putt-Putts was located on Perkins, close to Southern and the railroad tracks — pretty much where CK's Coffee Shop stands today.
I remember this place, mainly for the bright-orange borders along the astroturf "fairways," but I wasn't able to find a photo of it until now, when I was leafing through a White Station High School yearbook from the early 1960s. Not a very clear picture, but it's all I've got. Notice that the caption says this was "the best course in Memphis" and the Spartans shown here seem to be having one heckuva good time.
Then one day it was gone, replaced over the years with an International House of Pancakes (or some kind of pancake joint), a Johnny Rockets, maybe some other establishments. I wonder what they did with that neat "PUTT PUTT" sign that served as the obstacle on the last hole?
It's certainly a far cry from places like Goofy Golf, which had opened about this time down in Panama City, Florida, where miniature golfers wandered through a jungle maze, their putting skills challenged by giant dinosaurs, apes, whales, and other creatures. But hey, this wasn't the Miracle Strip — this was Memphis, where you played a hot game of golf and then cooled off with a milkshake at Shoney's. Well, I sure did, anyway.
It's almost more than I can handle, which is probably (though doctors can't say for certain) why I spend my nights crying myself to sleep, in my little cot in the basement of the Mansion.
Anyway, now that I've got THAT off my chest, I thought I'd share with you just what I'm talking about. Somebody (oh, I won't name names) picked up this nice old photograph at an estate sale, taken (as you can see by the name in the lower righthand corner) by the noted Memphis photographer, C.H. Poland. It shows a cemetery with what appears to be a freshly covered grave, considering the piles of flowers.
And the question is: Just where, exactly, is this cemetery?
We really don't have many clues. There's no date on the photo (front or back) and no obvious landmarks in the picture. I can't even make out any names on the tombstones. It's clearly a rather large graveyard, and it looks a bit hilly, but that doesn't really narrow it down much, since Elmwood, Forest Hill, and Calvary all have hills and dales.There are a few distinctive gravestones in the background, including several topped with a cross, and there's some unusual stonework in the foreground.
It also seems a bit cluttery and unkempt, doesn't it? The tombstones don't stand completely straight, and the grass looks high.
But I'm stumped. I suppose I could drive around all the cemeteries in the area — assuming that, since this is a Poland photo, this is even a Memphis graveyard — looking to see if I could spot an area that resembles this. And in fact, that may be what I'll end up doing.
First, though, I thought I'd see if anybody else recognizes the place. Before I go to all that trouble, you see.
Buried in 1956, the "capsule" was basically a large glass jar crammed with all sorts of things that fair officials thought Memphians of the future would enjoy when (or IF) they dug the thing up 100 years later — in 2056. I can't remember the exact contents, though I'm sure it was all very interesting stufff.
But what really made this time capsule unusual was the fact that, according to newspaper accounts at the time, the jar was sealed with a "radioactive substance."
Well, now my pal Angela Freeman Parks tells me that the time capsule has gone missing:
"Vance, THE TIME CAPSULE IS GONE!!! My husband just drove by the old fairgrounds ... not only is the Pippin gone. But the time capsule buried on that site in 1956 and to be opened in 2056, containing a glimpse into the world from the opening of the fair in 1856 to 1956. All that remains is fresh concrete."
Sure enough, as you can see from the photo I took of the area today, she's right.
Hmmm, this just might be a problem. I don't know who took it, or where it is right now. But I sure hope the culprits wore lead gloves and kept a geiger counter handy while they were doing it.
The picture below shows the nice monument that marked the spot until recently.
Others may know her for her singing, or maybe her political activism, or maybe because she kept a home in the South Bluffs for years and years.
But many people, it seems, have quite possibly forgotten that this East High School graduate was, by any definition of the word, a Supermodel. She got her start by winning the "Miss Teen Memphis" contest in 1966, which launched an extraordinarily successful modeling career. In fact, in the late 1960s, it was hard to pick up a teen or fashion magazine without finding Cybill on the cover or featured inside.
While rooting through the Lauderdale Library one lonely Saturday night, I turned up a collection of Glamour magazines (as shown here) from 1969, 1970, and 1971 with Cybill on the cover. Not only was she a fetching cover model, but rumor has it that director Peter Bogdanovich spotted one of these Glamours while standing in line at a Hollywood supermarket and decided, right then and there, that the then-unknown girl would be perfect as Jacy in The Last Picture Show.
(Other stories claim that his wife actually came up with the idea. If that's so, she probably came to regret it, since Peter and Cybill started, uh, "dating" after the movie came out.)
The rest, as they say, is history. But here are some other Cybill-adorned Glamours for you to admire.
At the time, I had not located a photograph of one of the school's founders, Beatrice Garrison, so we only included an image of Althea Pentecost.
But as luck would have it, I did finally turn up an old, undated photo of both women in the Special Collections Department of the University of Memphis Libraries, so here you go. Though the entire right side of the photo, which originally ran in the Memphis Press-Scimitar, has been trimmed away for some reason, you can see that the ladies are standing in front of a lifeboat, so we can assume the snapshot was taken while they were on an ocean voyage.
That's Beatrice on the right, by the way.
PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES
This nighttime view of South Main Street — taken by an unknown photographer and discovered in a box of Kodachrome slides tucked away in the Lauderdale Library — shows the Warner Theatre in 1961. I know the date because that's when the movie Parrish, promoted on the theatre's stunning marquee, was showing. The drama starred Troy Donahue, Connie Stevens, and Claudette Colbert, and lobby cards proclaimed that it depicted "More Than a Boy ... But Not Yet a Man!"
Oh, how many times that same phrase has been used to describe ME — usually by my team of psychiatrists. The pills they gave me just do no good at all.
There's wasn't much traffic on Main Street on this evening. Though the Warner is long gone, the old Lawrence Furniture building next door (originally constructed in the late 1800s as the Lemmon & Gale Building) is still standing on Main Street, as are many of the other structures dimly visible in the old photograph.
It's true! The first show airs on WKNO this Thursday, February 4th, at 8 pm.
So plop yourself in front of the television, set your TIVO, or just wander around the appliance section of your local Target store. If you still miss it, the show will repeat on Saturday, February 6th, at 2:30 pm and again on Sunday, February 7th at 12 noon. After that, well, I really can't help you.
I won't tell you what topic I'll be discussing on the premiere episode; you'll just have to watch. I guarantee you it will be a good show, since it's produced by a super-talented gentleman named Kip Cole, and the "Ask Vance" segment (no, the whole show isn't about me — not yet, anyway) will be produced by my pal Bonnie Kourvelas, who has produced and hosted many of WKNO's wonderful Memphis Memoirs specials. If you saw "Beyond the Parkways" or "At the Movies" — well, that was some of her fine work, so I'm in good hands.
Don't worry; I'm not leaving the world of magazines or blogs or books or calendars; I'm just spreading out a bit, that's all.
Of course, this is only the first step. Next: Billboards, iTunes, and podcasts. I'm trying to get some of my colleagues to wear those old-timey sandwich boards — adorned with a stunning portrait of me, of course — and walk up and down the Main Street Mall. So far, no takers, even though I've offered them a fistful of nickels. How lazy can you be?
(And yes, that IS me on the TV screen in the photograph here. Don't squint at the image; click to enlarge it, for goodness' sake. Gosh, what a cute tyke! I think I was only 35 or so, singing in the school play.)