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The blog of Vance Lauderdale

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

MORE Sidewalk Signatures

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2010 at 10:06 PM

SidewalkSign1.JPG
Awhile back, I wrote about "sidewalk signatures" — those names pressed into sidewalks years ago by the contractors, who were so pleased with their work that they actually signed it. If you don't remember my original column, then that's really a shame, but go here and try to pay more attention this time.

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 ...

SidewalkSign2.JPG

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mystery Cemetery — Is It Calvary?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Old Cemetery - Detail
  • Old Cemetery - Detail

Calvary Cemetery - Today
  • Calvary Cemetery - Today

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?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Putt-Putt on Perkins

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 10:37 PM

Putt-Putt in 1961
  • Putt-Putt in 1961
Mention Putt-Putt to most Memphians today, and they think of the miniature golf complex way out east, at Summer and Bartlett Road. And a fine place it is, too, with all sorts of entertainment available. I'm especially fond of the go-kart track, where you can find me most Saturday nights.

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.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where Is This Cemetery??

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:51 PM

Mystery Cemetery
  • Mystery Cemetery
I certainly have my hands full these days answering questions from readers. And yes, I know that is my job, but with my hands (literally) full, how am I supposed to flop in my La-Z-Boy, sip my Kentucky Nip, munch on bags of Circus Peanuts, AND work the tv remote control?

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.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Mid-South Fair Time Capsule — Missing!

Posted By on Sun, Feb 14, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Time Capsule Grave Today
  • Time Capsule "Grave" Today
Over the years, I've written about the unusual time capsule buried at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, close to the main entrance off East Parkway. I even mentioned it in a recent Flyer story called "Secrets of the City."

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."

Uh, oh.

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.

The same spot last year
  • The same spot last year

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Cybill Shepherd - Supermodel

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Cybill Shepherd in 1969
  • Cybill Shepherd in 1969
Most people these days probably think of Cybill Shepherd as mainly a TV and movie actress. And who can blame them, after some really fine roles in the movie The Last Picture Show and then on television with Moonlighting (with Bruce Willis, back when he had hair) and later, Cybill.

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.

March 1970
  • March 1970

April 1970
  • April 1970

June 1970
  • June 1970

July 1971
  • July 1971

October 1971
  • October 1971

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beatrice Garrison and the Pentecost-Garrison School

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Althea Pentecost & Beatrice Garrison
  • Althea Pentecost & Beatrice Garrison
In the January issue of Memphis magazine, I wrote about the Pentecost-Garrison School for Boys, one of this city's best private schools, and the forerunner to today's Presbyterian Day School and Memphis University School.

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

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Warner Theatre and Main Street at Night in 1961

Posted By on Sun, Feb 7, 2010 at 10:32 PM

South Main Street - 1961
  • South Main Street - 1961
I've written before about the grand old Warner Theatre. Erected on Main Street in 1921, and originally called the Pantages Theatre, this 1,900-seat showplace was one of the most popular movie palaces in town. It was demolished in 1968 to make way for NBC's (and now SunTrust's) Commerce Square.

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.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

WKNO-TV to Feature "Ask Vance" — Tune In!

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 11:06 PM

Southern Routes Airs Thursday
  • "Southern Routes" Airs Thursday
After years of turning a deaf ear to movie directors, television executives, and purveyors of cheap pornography, I finally gave in to the persistent demands of WKNO-TV and will now make a regular appearance on their popular Southern Routes series.

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.)

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