Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lauderdales' Visit to Maywood

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 11:44 PM

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While looking through the dusty scrapbooks piled here and there in the Lauderdale Mansion, I chanced upon this grainy old photograph that was taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s, I believe, showing one of our family's many trips to Maywood.

Of course, we had our own Olympic-sized pool at the Mansion, but sometimes we hopped in the gleaming new Hispano-Suiza (shown here) and journeyed down "old" Highway 78, to spend the day at "The Beach Within Reach." I so clearly remember the gleaming white sand, the ice-cold water, and the adoring crowds that would surround our car as soon as we pulled up, hoping we would toss baskets of money their way.

As you can see, the Lauderdales were actually allowed to park on the beach itself, so we wouldn't have to push our way through the regular folks to get to our reserved spot.

I can't believe that woman in the foreground had the nerve to actually touch the Lauderdale limo, leaving her smeary fingerprints all over our chrome bumper! And look at the bold fellow in the back (a possible assassin, no doubt) reaching through the back window! It's a good thing the chauffeur didn't see these ruffians, or they would've been tossed into jail.

Oh, such happy, happy times!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh-Boy! — Flavored Drinks and Popsicles

Posted By on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 10:47 PM

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I have pounded on my big head with my little fists, and I STILL don't remember this enticing product, with the snappy name "Oh-Boy!"

But the company that produced it was doing well enough in the late 1940s and early 1950s to run large ads like this one in Hutchison School yearbooks.

It was obviously something like packaged Kool-Aid. Just pour the flavored powder into a two-quart pitcher of water, and you have a tasty drink. Or pour it into ice trays (remember what those are, children?), put a stick in each "square," and you have a frozen treat. More specifically, a frozen sucker.

I notice that the grape and strawberry versions are "artificially flavored" but the orange variety is apparently all natural. Oh, sure ...

And look at the price! Five cents! What can you buy today for a nickel?? Why, I charge a dime just for a handshake, and a quarter for a hug.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Well, This Goes Without Saying ...

Posted By on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:38 AM

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Yes, it happens to the best of us.

A tombstone (and family name) at Calvary Cemetery in Memphis.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Lauderdale Mausoleum at Elmwood

Posted By on Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 12:07 AM

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Work is progressing nicely, I think, on the Lauderdale Mausoleum at Elmwood.

We had a bit of a dispute, you may recall, with cemetery officials and the Land Use Control Board, over the amount of neon signage that would be allowed on the roof, spelling out "LAUDERDALE." Eventually we reached a compromise; the 12-foot-high neon letters would be acceptable as long as they didn't actually flash on and off.

When finished, the magnificent building — sheathed in the finest vinyl siding — will contain more bricks than the old Sears Crosstown, and will be large enough to hold precisely 156,784 people, expected to come from all corners of the globe to pay tribute to the Lauderdales and study the beautiful mosaic panels telling the story of our accomplishments in America. Plus, there will be punch and candy.

I'll post another photograph, next time in color, as the structure nears completion.

Oh, I can't wait to go there!

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Audition - Who? Where? When?

Posted By on Sun, Jan 16, 2011 at 11:14 AM

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This photo tumbled out of an old book I had purchased at a Memphis estate sale.

I love the composition. It perfectly captures the "moment" — an old-time audition, with a pretty girl on a fancy stage, dressed in a sexy costume, and singing her heart out, a piano in view in the bottom corner of the image. No bored piano player visible; that would have spoiled the effect.

The 5x7 photo has a rubber stamp on the back (see below), indicated it had been carefully inspected (I'll bet!) and approved by U.S. Army censors, so this must have been mailed to, or from, somebody in the armed forces during World War II.

But who is she? Where is she performing? When did this take place?

We'll probably never know. But I sure hope she got the part.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mulford Jewelers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 2:16 PM

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How many of my half-dozen readers remember Mulford Jewelers — a Memphis institution for more than half a century?

Well, I certainly do, because that's where the Lauderdales purchased the gold, silver, and platinum baubles and beads that made the Mansion glitter like a comet flashing through the night. Of course, that sparkle lost most of its luster when the Lauderdale bankruptcy proceedings — which made front-page news in every newspaper in the northern hemisphere except South Dakota — took away just about everything but the tattered clothes on our backs.

But that wasn't the fault of John N. Mulford (the dapper gentleman shown here), who owned and operated one of this city's oldest and finest jewelry stores. Born in London, Mulford came to this country in the 1870s. He loved to hunt and fish and roamed America in search of a place where he could pursue those interests, eventually settling in Memphis. If he hadn't done that, you wouldn't be reading about him now. Not here, anyway.

In 1880, he opened Mulford Jewelers at 6 South Main Street in a building known as the Marble Block — possibly because it was made of marble, but maybe that was the owner's name; I just don't know. The store remained at that location until 1942, when it moved a few doors down, to 26 South Main. At least, I think it did. You have to remember that Memphis changed (and standardized) its street numbering system in the late 1800s, so it's possible this was the same building, with a different address. See how complicated my job can be?

Anyway ...

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Ask Vance" Book and Calendar Signing - Tonight!

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 11:14 AM

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The rumors are true. Tonight (Tuesday, January 11th), I will make a rare public appearance at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, to autograph copies of my brand-new 2011 "Ask Vance" wall calendar AND to inscribe copies of my sort-of-new book, Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert.

Here's the deal: If you buy a calendar for the amazingly low price of just $10, you also get a FREE one-year subscription to Memphis magazine.

If you've already bought the book, well I really think you should buy another, but if you don't want to do that, bring your old one in and I'll autograph it.

The whole shebang kicks off at 6 pm at Davis-Kidd, 387 Perkins Extended. All the snow has melted from the streets, so don't even think about using that as an excuse to stay home.

See you there!

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ripley's Tiny Knee Stadium — UPDATED

Posted By on Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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More than a year ago, I ran a photo of Tiny Knee Stadium in Ripley, Tennessee, and pondered why it had such an unusual name. A few readers chimed in, but I don't think they really had a definitive answer.

Well, I have the complete explanation now, since I recently received an email from Willard Rooks Helander of Libertyville, Illinois, who just happens to be the grandson of a rather remarkable fellow named Irvin Knee.

Here's what he tell us:

Coach Irvin Knee was a standout athlete at Wabash High School in his hometown of Wabash, Indiana, and then at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he excelled at football, track, and field events. He was called "Tiny" because he was a formidable figure, whose many Drake Relays records were unbroken during his life. He played against the University of Chicago football team wearing a leather helmet and slept under the stadium in the space where the creation of the atomic bomb later occurred.

Tiny Knee also coached college football in middle Tennessee and also played professional football for Clarence Saunders' Tigers. He moved to Ripley, Tennessee, to build the athletic program and teach science courses. At Ripley he recruited laborers to build a football field and cinder track described by Tennessee sportswriters as the finest track in West Tennessee.

Coach Knee developed standout track, field, and basketball programs, as well as coordinated building two public swimming pools for youth, Tiny Town kiddie park, and the Tiny Knee Shack where teens could "hang out" in the 1940s right through the '60s. He was a familiar sight in his green Willys jeep. Nearly every child in Ripley had a ride in Coach Knee's jeep and he was affectionately called Chief White Cloud by the Native American community in the area. When he died in 1968, a memorial service was held at Tiny Knee Field and the stands were filled with the many men and women who paid tribute to the man who taught them lessons on succeeding, not just in athletics and sportsmanship, but in life both on and off the field.

Tiny Knee was my grandfather.

— Willard Rooks Helander (Brownsville, Tennessee, native and Libertyville, Illinois, resident)

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