At any rate, Loeb's made some pretty tasty barbecue, and by the 1960s it seems there was a Loeb's Bar-B-Q on just about every corner. They're all gone now, after the company decided to focus on their commercial real estate business.
Which brings me to this week's mystery.
Most of the Loeb's Bar-B-Q shops that I visited had a pole-mounted sign, in the shape of a standing pig, outside on the street or sidewalk. The silhouette was quite distinctive, and you can still find many of these around town, painted over to reflect the name of whatever new business has moved into the old building.
But while leafing through a 1964 Snowden Junior High School annual, I noticed this little ad for a Loeb's with an entirely different — and much larger — rooftop sign. Boy, that is one Big Pig!
So the obvious question is: Where was this particular establishment, and what stands there now?
Because I get so many queries about long-lost diners and restaurants, you see, and also about odd and unusual tombstones.
My good friend Andrew Northern, who has amassed a fine collection of interesting Memphis images, seems to share my hard-to-explain fascination with old graveyards, and recently sent me two photographs of rather cryptic tombstones he recently discovered in the cemetery of Embury Methodist Church, on Woodstock-Cuba Road several miles north of Memphis.
First of all, it's always sad when someone is buried without anyone knowing who they are, and in this case, a simple tombstone marks the last resting place of someone whose identity remains unknown. But it's even sadder when the tombstone carvers can't even spell UNKNOWN correctly! And good grief, would it have really been that much trouble to at least put a DATE on this stone? This is just ... bizarre. Though I DO like the "In Spirit" floating above the cross. That's a nice touch.
But what's with the cross? If the person buried here is completely uknown — uh, I mean unknown — then how do we know he (or she) wasn't Jewish or Buddhist or Hindu or — for that matter — a fearsome Thuggee (look it up — it's not what you think).
The other stone that caught Andrew's eye marks the grave (maybe) of James E. Rowe, who embellished his tombstone with the sort-of-witty inscription THE END. But is it, really? You'll note that the stone carries only the date of Mr. Rowe's birth, not his death. It's late and I'm tired, so I haven't been able to determine if Mr. Rowe is even buried here. Yet.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANDREW NORTHERN
I'm too consumed with terminal ennui to bother looking into the history of this company — where it was located and all that — but thought I'd just chatter on, in my mindless way, about the product itself, which I picked up at a local estate sale.
First of all, I love the wonderful graphics on the box, showing a pair of rather spooky-looking identical triplets arranged within a sawtooth-edged white circle, which is within a light-blue circle, which itself is placed inside a dark-blue square with a bright-red border. And just look at the cool font they used for "Hi-Hat."
The back of the box (see below) tells you pretty much all anyone would want to know about this product. It's not just "smart" face powder, but it's also "purse-sized" for your convenience. And gosh-a-mighty, look at all the shades available. Yes, there was the basic white and pink and "flesh." Even something rather mysteriously called "Rachel." But depending on your mood, you could apply "High Brown" or "Copper Bronze." Feeling a bit frisky? Then I'd go with "Teezum Brown" or "Teezum Red." And for a truly special evening, then you'd most certainly want to wear "Parisian Lavender Nite."
Note that even though it's not listed, this particular box contains "Toasted Chestnut."
And don't just search for this product in the local stores. Stomp your foot and DEMAND it: "Insist on Hi-Hat Jockey Club Face Powder — Sold Only Through Hi-Hat Agents."
A bargain, I'd say, for just 10 cents.
And yes, I know what you are wondering. I DID brush it on, and my goodness that Toasted Chestnut really brings out my skintones. I mean, I have always looked fabulous, as have all the Lauderdales, but the phrase "Roman God" now comes to mind whenever I glance in the mirror (pretty much all day long).
Despite the name, it was a hugely successful product, manufactured here in Memphis by the Plough Chemical Company (better known today as Schering-Plough). Though company records are a bit vague, I believe you could still find Penetro on drug-store shelves as late as the 1950s.
I discovered this old booklet tucked away in the Lauderdale Library, and I have to admit I like the way the product is marketed. Just look at that nice old woman! "Grandma created it," says the booklet, and "medical science perfected it." As a result, "NOW MILLIONS USE IT." And wouldn't you, if Grandma said it was good for you?
So what did they use it for, exactly? Well, just about anything. The makers of Penetro claimed it could cure "sprains, bronchial irritation, cuts and scratches, tired and sore muscles, head cold discomfort, superficial burns and scalds, irritated feet, sunburn, bruises, and abrasions."
Why, it could even treat frostbite!
The secret ingredient behind this miracle product? Mutton suet. Yes, that's right — globs of FAT extracted from SHEEP. Hard to believe (downright impossible, I'd say), but Plough claimed this "is one of the earliest of all home remedies. Your grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother placed their faith in mutton suet."
Really? I'm pretty sure my mother's family was all Methodists, and if they had any faith in mutton suet, they never mentioned it around me. Is it in the Bible somewhere?
The Riviera stood at Jackson and Watkins. Go here to read the whole exciting, spine-tingling story.
At the time, I had posted several black-and-white photographs of the Riviera, but I recently found a great old postcard that shows how the place looked in color.
Wow! Certainly some of the best neon in Memphis, I'd say. The building itself is still standing, though almost unrecognizable, and all the neon tubing is long gone. What a shame. That glowing tower would have looked grand on the Lauderdale Mansion — and the Mausoleum.
If you've been reading this blog (and really, what else is there to do?), you know I recently turned up an intriguing old photo of a Toddle House nestled in the shadow of a large Gothic Revival church, and everyone has been offering suggestions and theories about the precise location shown in the photo (see the previous post and all your comments below).
It was quite a mystery because the photo, dated 1937, had a notation scribbled on the back "Highland - St. Luke's." But even the folks at St. Luke's said it wasn't St. Luke's. And a caption at the bottom said "J.C. Stedman, Memphis" but I have since discovered that Stedman wasn't a local photographer, but was the developer of almost ALL the Toddle Houses built across the U.S.
And I can now say with 99.99% certainty that the buildings in the old photograph are NOT located on Highland. Not even close. In fact, they are not even located in Memphis.
The picture shows the First Congregational Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. It's still standing today, as you can see from the photos here, "borrowed" from Google and Bing, but the charming little Toddle House is now a parking lot, dang it. The photo here is taken from just about the same position as the original photo; the little red dot shows the approximate location of the old Toddle House. (Scroll to the next page for an aerial view that's a bit more clear.)
All credit for solving this vexing mystery must go to Laura Cunningham, who works in the history department at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library, with additional help pinpointing the correct structure from "critter42" here. Laura knew that the original photo had been mislabeled, and this afternoon, while I set about to slog through old city directories and newspaper files, she disappeared for about 10 minutes and then told me, "I found the church." And she was right.
What she did was truly astounding. Laura began her detective work by — no, I won't give it away here. I will let her research secrets remain a secret, but let me just say that I was very impressed, and the Lauderdales are rarely impressed by anything. Why should we be?
But, to show my gratitude, not only will I give her praise here, but a plug as well. Laura is the author of the very interesting book, Haunted Memphis, and she is currently hard at work on another, to be called Lost Memphis. I'd say she's also got a good start — the first few pages anyway — on a third book, Lost Columbus, Ohio.
And thanks again to critter42 for his fine detective work as well.
BUT WHERE IS IT?
The photo is dated 1937. On the back, someone had scribbled in pencil, "Highland - St. Luke's." That would put it on the east side of Highland, south of Midland. There's just one problem: The church building in this photo (see a detail below) bears no resemblance to the present St. Luke's Methodist Church at 490 South Highland.
You can't see it in this scan, but there's a street address at the bottom of the door of the Toddle House — 482 — which would indeed place it next to St. Luke's. But only if this is South Highland.
But this is NOT St. Luke's. For one thing, St. Luke's has a front entrance with THREE doors instead of one, it does NOT have the massive and elaborate stained-glass window in the facade, and it is only about two-thirds the size of this building. Even the stonework looks different.
Note that the photo carries the inscription "J.C. Stedman, Memphis, Tenn." But that may only indicate the photographer is from Memphis. It's not definite proof that this is a Memphis scene.
There's another reason I'm not convinced this is South Highland. The Memphis Room has another view of this same Toddle House, taken from a different angle, so you could see what was off to the left side (and behind) the little building. As you can see from the detail below, it seems to be some kind of car dealership or used-car lot. Since the neighborhood east of Highland (which would be behind the buildings shown here) is residential, it really seems unlikely there was a car dealership there, even in 1937.
Heck, for that matter, even the double-wide sidewalk and fancy lamp posts (not visible here, but in another photo of this place) tell me: This is NOT Highland.
Okay, history detectives. Where is (or was) this church, and the Toddle House next to it? (Click on any of the images to enlarge them.)
ALL PHOTOS ARE COURTESY OF THE MEMPHIS ROOM, BENJAMIN HOOKS CENTRAL LIBRARY
Not exactly the kind of person you want your kids hanging around, is it? Not with his tangled, shoulder-length hair, menacing tattoos, and weirdo Carnaby Street fashions! And Lord only knows the eardrum-bursting psychedelic music he played on that guitar, cranked up to "11". Why, he makes Marilyn Manson look like a choir boy!
Wait a minute. Something's not right here. This is Bailey Wilkinson, one of the nicest fellows you could hope to meet, a clean-cut fellow with short hair and — good grief, I think he's even wearing white socks with his penny loafers!
But in the mid-1960s, when he opened his oddly named OSO club for teenagers on North Highland, just a few blocks from Treadwell High School, you would have thought that Satan himself had moved into the community. The OSO was the first of the so-called "coffeehouses" that opened around Memphis, and neighbors (meaning = adults) were NOT happy. They fretted about the music, the musicians, the food, even the decor of the OSO and other clubs that followed: The Bitter Lemon, the Pastime, the Roaring 60s. They were especially concerned because so many of these places were — horrors! — painted black inside. Good children, it seems, didn't hang out in places with black walls.
Even ones, like the OSO, that clearly posted NO DRINKING signs on the front doors.
But this was Memphis in the 1960s — or trying to catch up to the 1960s — and the OSO and the other little clubs around town provided a new kind of place for teens to hang out, and managed to attract an astonishing number of talented performers: The Box-Tops, The Groupe, The Tribesmen, The Hombres, Even the all-girl band, The Goodees.
Then, before you could play "Purple Haze" on air guitar, the whole "beatnik/hippie/club scene" kind of faded away here. All these old places have been demolished or converted into other businesses.
And Wilkinson himself? I was told he died in a car wreck, sometime in the 1970s, long after the OSO closes. Does anybody know for sure?
PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES