Ask Vance Blog

The blog of Vance Lauderdale

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another View of the Japanese Gardens - 1920

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Postcard view of Japanese Garden
  • Postcard view of Japanese Garden
Okay, it took a while, but I finally turned up an old postcard showing the Japanese Gardens in Overton Park. The card is postmarked 1920 or maybe 1928 (the date is hard to read).

Compare it with group of Robert Ferguson photos that I've already posted. (I re-posted one of them below so you really won't have to go to any trouble whatsoever.) You'll note that the odd white "mountain" appears to be the same in both views, as does the bridge (reflected in the water in the old photographs). And you can see a stone lantern that looks just like the ones in the photos.

But what you DON'T see are the crazy trees, the dog statue, and the weird rock-covered iron grate that the woman was sitting on (though maybe that's too small to show up in the postcard).

The Japanese Gardens were in Overton Park for some 40 years. My theory is that this place, like so many others around town, changed over the years. Certain features were added or removed.

But it's pretty definitely the same "mountain," if you ask me.

Photo taken in the 1920s
  • Photo taken in the 1920s

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Japanese Gardens in Overton Park - I Think

Posted By on Sun, Sep 26, 2010 at 9:25 PM

My pal Robert Ferguson, a former police officer turned history buff, recently purchased a set of old black-and-white negatives at a Memphis estate sale. He went to the time and trouble (and expense) to get some of them turned into prints, and made an interesting discovery — what he thinks may be really fine old photographs of the Japanese Garden in Overton Park.

Robert Galloway, who was head of the Memphis Park Commission, was fond of all things Oriental, and in the early 1900s he had city crews scoop out a nice pond and build an island in the middle with a "snow-covered" Mt. Fujiyama. They installed a graceful arched wooden bridge, and added Japanese lanterns and other ornaments. It was a wonderful addition to the park — until December 7, 1941, when anti-Japanese sentiment boiled over and the entire thing was demolished. The Memphis College of Art stands on the site today.

I think Robert (Ferguson) is right. Some of the pictures show Japanese lanterns and other ornaments, and the photo of the man in the hat, who seems to be sitting on an invisible chair, shows the fake "mountain" in the background. But I don't know what to make of the woman sitting on the ground, since she seems to be perched on rocks piled on an old iron gate.

Robert wrote me: "I'm guessing the photos are from the Japanese Gardens that were destroyed in Overton Park. I'm 90% sure these are Memphis locations, because the old Midtown home where I bought them also shows up in some of the negatives [not shown here]."

Judging from the clothes, these were taken in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and one photo [not shown here; just take my word for it] shows an automobile with a 1935 license plate.

I think these do indeed show the long-gone Japanese Gardens, though I don't know what to make of the weird bare trees that seem to have wires dangling from the sawed-off branches. And does anybody recognize the family?

Other pictures are on the next page. Thanks, Robert, for sharing them.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "Ask Vance" 2011 Calendar — Almost Ready!

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 11:59 AM

Has it really been a whole year since I produced the last "Ask Vance" Calendar, which now adorns the walls of homes, tents, trailers, and jail cells throughout our great land?

Well, the new one is almost ready — it's at the printer as we speak. So get ready for it — more than 100 eye-popping, never-seen-before images of Memphis people and places.

The 2011 version is packed with old photographs, postcards, booklets, programs, advertisements, and other images: the Wonder City Restaurant, Ollie's Trolley, Jockey Club Face Powder, roller-skating bears (yes, BEARS), the Ditty-Wah-Ditty Tourist Court, Maywood Beach, Sacred Heart High School, Helen of Memphis, and lots more.

Plus, two whole pages of photos devoted to Clarence Saunders' Keedoozle stores and Fred Smith's Toddle House restaurants.

Look in the October issue of Memphis magazine for the order form to order a copy for yourself or your friends (and get a subscription to the magazine when you do so.) You'll be able to order them online too; be patient.

But quantities are limited, so don't wait until the last minute.

This lovely fire-twirling lady (above) is just one of the images on the cover. You'll have to buy the calendar to find out who she is.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The 1910 National Aero Meet in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Glenn and Lena Curtiss
  • Glenn and Lena Curtiss
A huge flock of "Bird Men" swooped into our city in 1910, when Memphis — yes, Memphis — hosted one of the first aviation meets in America. Wilbur and Orville Wright had made their famous flight at Kitty Hawk just seven years before, so this four-day event was many Memphians' first look at those newfangled "aero-planes," which one reporter described as "a weirdly shaped automobile on three wheels."

He might have mentioned the wings, too.

Held at the Tri-State Fairgrounds April 7-10, 1910, the National Aero Meet featured noted flyer Glenn Curtiss ("the champion of the world"), Charles Hamilton ("the dare-devil of the air"), and a number of more modest aviators from around the country.

The photo here shows Curtiss with his wife, Lena, in the cockpit of their plane, Miss Memphis.

The Commercial Appeal bragged that "all eyes are on Memphis," and workers transformed Main Street into "a glare of patriotic colors in honor of the thousands of visitors." Local businesses jumped on the bandwagon with bizarre enticements. A newspaper ad for Lowenstein's department store bragged, "Our rest rooms, a revelation of artistic beauty and luxurious comfort, are one of the interesting features of Memphis."

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vance Lauderdale - Young Scholar

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Vance Lauderdale, B.A., M.A.
  • Vance Lauderdale, B.A., M.A.
It seems I can't even walk down the candy aisle at Schnuck's these days without someone stopping me and saying, "Vance, how is it that you know so much about so many weird things in Memphis?"

If the person is a subscriber to Memphis magazine, I will usually take the time to reply, the best I can. If they are not a subscriber, then I knock them aside with my cane and storm out of the store. It's bad enough that you are reading this highly entertaining blog for FREE; must you pick my brain like a pickpocket, too?

But the general answer is that I was considered a boy genius, knowledgeable in any and all fields, collecting diplomas from schools around the globe. In later life I just decided to focus on the more arcane subjects of the city that I have decided to call home (after being exiled from so many others by the police, Boy Scouts, and 4-H clubs).

In fact, here's a charming photo of me at the tender age of 6, just after I had earned my degree in geography (with a minor in cartography) from Case Western Reserve University — a school that I chose merely because I found the name amusing. I still have the old globe, a graduation gift from President Grover Cleveland.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Charles Lindbergh's Visit to Memphis in 1927

Posted By on Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 3:22 PM

If you were reading this thrilling, heart-warming blog waaaaay back in 2009 (and I certainly hope you were), then you might recall that I told about the day in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh visited Memphis. It was only a few months after his world-famous transatlantic flight, and the "Lone Eagle" had embarked on a cross-country tour in The Spirit of St. Louis to talk to various civic leaders about the advantages of air travel.

Lindbergh landed here at Armstrong Field on an October afternoon, and was driven to Overton Park, where he was greeted by some 100,000 fans. He gave free rides to a few VIPs (including the Lauderdales, I'm almost positive), then took off the next morning. All accounts of his visit mention the newsreel cameramen and newspaper photographs who captured his every move, and back in 2009 I wondered: Where are those photographs?

Well, one of them has finally turned up, as you can see here.

James Webster, now living in Galena, Illinois, wrote me a few weeks ago and told me this:

"I have an 8x10-inch glossy photo of Lindbergh taken on that visit. He is behind the wheel of a convertible, seated next to an unknown gentleman. My great uncle, William Lake Hayes (7/12/1891-9/13/1973), who was a Memphis city attorney, is in the rear, seated next to another unknown gentleman.

"As a child in the 1950s and early 1960s, I spent many summer days in Memphis visiting my grandparents, who lived on Oakview Street, near Lamar Ave. I would walk over to Uncle Lake and Aunt Margaret's house (at the southwest corner of Kendale Ave. & Burris St.) on the other side of the Southern RR tracks, to be regaled by his stories of the Boss Crump days in Memphis (while turning the freezer crank for my aunt's homemade ice cream).

"Other than my memories, I've been able to find very little about my uncle or his career in Memphis city government. As an amateur archaeologist, I'd certainly welcome more information."

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