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Monday, November 29, 2010

Lu Lynch's Orchid Shop

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 9:23 PM

Quite a few people, it seems, remember Lu Lynch and the nice florist shop that she owned and operated at 640 South Highland. The actual name of the place was Lu Lynch's Orchid Shop, but she sold all sorts of flowers and floral arrangements.

She opened the place in 1960, tucked in between the Trent Wood Record Shop and the Hi-Park Coin Laundry.

Lula (that was her full name) and her husband, Lester, a supervisor with the U.S. Postal Service, were founding members of the Memphis Orchid Society, and according to an old Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper account, they grew more than 15,000 flowers — most of them orchids, of course — in a nice pair of greenhouses they built behind their home at 851 Brower.

I know what you're thinking. So yes, I used Bing and Google to "fly" over their old house, and it looks like those big greenhouses are still there, though I don't know if any orchids are still growing in them.

"The orchids are like a family," Lu told a reporter in 1967. "We have a special feeding program for them. We watch the temperamental ones. We make sure we do not pamper them, but develop strength, sturdiness, and dependability." Just as Mother and Father did with me, and look at me today!

Lu Lynch's Orchid Shop remained in business until 1975, when the Lynches retired. For many years, the store operated as a pawn shop. I don't know what's there today.

"Orchids are a real therapy," Lu once told the Press-Scimitar. "If I am tired, I go into the greenhouse, and suddenly I am serene again." Perhaps we should all try to grow some. A little serenity would go a long way these days.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Welcome Wagon Building's Spinning Globe

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Years ago, I wrote about the Welcome Wagon company, which had been founded in Memphis by a fellow named Thomas Briggs (below). He built a stunning, four-story building (also below) overlooking Court Square, and several newspaper articles mentioned that Briggs planned to mount a giant neon globe on top of his headquarters. I expressed some doubts that this globe was ever installed, because I've seen lots of pictures of downtown, and had never seen such a thing.

Well, I was looking in the wrong places. Because in the front of a 1966 Kingsbury High School yearbook is a nice color shot of downtown (shown here and below), and right in front is the globe! Wow. What a fantastic thing to put on a building here — it reminds me of the globe they had on the "Daily Planet" building in all the Superman comics.

The question now, of course, is: WHAT HAPPENED TO IT? Does anybody know?

The story of Thomas Briggs and Welcome Wagon is a pretty interesting one, and since I've got some time here before I take my usual two-hour lunch, followed by my two-hour nap, I'll sum it up for you.

Years ago, you see, when you moved to a new city, a Welcome Wagon hostess would appear on your doorstep, bestowing nice gifts and free samples from the merchants of your city. It may seem a strange concept today, especially as people barricade themselves behind security doors, call blocking, caller ID, and other devices that would stump the most aggressive Welcome Wagon employee, but it was a huge success at the time, and it made Thomas Briggs into one of the wealthiest men in Memphis.

Continue reading »

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Rin Tin Tin at the Memphis Zoo

Posted By on Mon, Nov 22, 2010 at 10:25 AM

I really enjoy the offbeat questions I get from readers from time to time. Such as this one, from C.A. in Corinth, Mississippi, who asked me, "Was there ever a dog statue at the Memphis Zoo?"

This puzzled me, since as far as I know, just about every creature in the world is (or has been at one time) on display at the zoo except for dogs and cats. Pet-type dogs and cats, I mean. So when I asked what made her think such a statue ever existed, she replied:

"I have the statue. Bought it from an elderly lady. She said it came from the Memphis Zoo. It is Rin Tin Tin and has it on the statue. It stands 12.5" tall. As you can see it has some damage. It was an outside."

Okay, by "it was an outside" I guess she means that it once stood outside, somewhere. But judging from the photos, this statue seems to be made of plaster, which wouldn't have survived long after a Memphis rainstorm. So, assuming the "elderly lady" is telling the truth about it coming from the zoo, I can only presume it was sold years ago at the gift shop.

But why would the Memphis Zoo sell plaster statues of Rin Tin Tin, the famed German shepherd who starred in his own TV series, who — as far as I know — had no connection with Memphis?


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Kingsbury High School - 1963 City Champs

Posted By on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 11:37 PM

A few weeks ago, I found myself at an estate sale, buying books and all sorts of odd things. When I was leaving, I glanced in a cardboard box sitting in the driveway. Dumped inside, like so much trash, were more than a dozen old trophies, and I plucked this one from the pile, paid for it, and brought it home.

It was just covered in dirt and dust, and the base had come off, but when I cleaned it up and repaired it, I discovered it was quite a find. What you have here is the trophy presented to the basketball team of Kingsbury High School for winning the City Championship in 1963. It's a pretty cool-looking trophy, don't you think, with a plaque that lists Coach Bill Todd, and the members of the varsity team: Clyde Barnard, Tippy Rankin, Herb Slate, Mike Butler, Arthur Boone, Barry Cochran, Dave Grosmann, Alfred Stapp, Bob Shelton, Joe Hurt, and team manager James Durham.

The Lauderdale Library contains a set of old Kingsbury yearbooks, and the 1963 edition of the Talon tells the story of that team's accomplishments: "Completing their most successful season in the history of the school, the Falcon basketball team had a record of 26 wins and 2 losses. They won the Eastern Division and beat Frayser 54-49 for the City Championship. The Falcons were one of the highest ranked teams in the state, at one time being voted second place by the Associated Press."

Some of the scores were rather impressive. Kingsbury walloped East 82-47, beat Overton (ranked #1 in the state) 62-55, and set an all-time scoring record by completely overwhelming Trezevant 131-24. Other lopsided victories were over Catholic 82-41, Humes 89-48, and Westside 101-48.

And yet, half a century later, the actual trophy commemorating that remarkable season lay in a dusty cardboard box, neglected and forgotten. Very depressing. I'm glad I rescued it, but would prefer that it go to somebody at Kingsbury who could truly appreciate it. So if any of these team members are still around, or anybody who cares about the history of that school, just get in touch with me. I already have plenty of trophies of my own.



Here are some other shots of the trophy, and below you'll see a photo of the team, from the 1963 Kingsbury yearbook. For some reason, the players in the photo don't exactly match the names on the trophy. I don't know why.


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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Burger Chef in 1968

Posted By on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Since I'm posting old photos of high-school hangouts (such as Beal's Dixie Kream, below) I thought I'd share an ad for Burger Chef that I found in a 1968 yearbook for Immaculate Conception High School.

The food at these places was pretty good, I recall, but what was more memorable was the bizarre architecture, with that weird segmented arch erected over most, if not all, the Burger Chefs in town.

The address shown in the ad is wrong, since that would place it across the street from the Children's Museum. According to old city directories, in the late 1960s, the Burger Chefs in Memphis were located at:
3562 Walker (since demolished)
4382 Highway 51 South (building still standing and used as another restaurant)
682 N. Mendenhall (demolished)
3701 Lamar (demolished)
2450 Central (demolished; a Dollar General stands on the site)
153 North Cleveland (the building is still standing, but vacant).

Burger Chef was founded in Indianapolis in 1954 and the chain spread quickly throughout the country. It eventually became purchased by Hardee's, I believe, and the last Burger Chef closed in 1996.

Does anybody remember the girls (or the Burger Chef employee) shown in this ad?

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beal's Dixie Kream - TODAY - Wow!

Posted By on Sun, Nov 7, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Last week, when I posted the images of Beal's Dixie Kream taken in the 1960s, I sort of hoped that the place might still be open — perhaps run by the children of the original owner, Hazel Beal.

Boy, was I wrong. My pal Jeff Crook ventured down Old Highway 78 this weekend, and found the place, just about at the Mississippi state line. This is how it looks today. Pretty depressing.

Here's what Jeff had to say:

Hi Vance. I think I found Beal's Dixie Kream. I"ve attached the photo.

The place is in Mineral Wells, next door to an establishment that used to be called John's Creek Cafe. The cafe's sign has been painted over white, but there are some neon beer signs in the window and a sign on the door that says "No one under 21 allowed." Sounds like a charming place to see some genuine local color, but I had the wife and kids in the car, so I just took a photo of the wreck next door.

The building now appears to be owned by a concrete company whose fence runs all the way up to the walls, and maybe through them. I didn't open the door. It had a padlock, which looked broken. Maybe somebody broke in to set the fire.

Thanks for your hard work, Jeff. I always like it when readers do all my work for me.


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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beal's Dixie Kream - Olive Branch, Mississippi

Posted By on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Beals Dixie Kream in 1966
  • Beal's Dixie Kream in 1966
So the other day I was looking through a stack of 50-year-old yearbooks from Olive Branch High School. Doesn't everybody do that on a Saturday night?

I didn't find any Lauderdales among the students, but one thing I did notice was an ad in the back of all the yearbooks, for an establishment called Beal's Dixie Kream. Yes, that's right — it (and the owner's name) was spelled Beal — without the "e." Sometimes the ads spelled the name of the place "Cream" but the neon sign out front says "Kream."

The owner, as you can see, was Mrs. Hazel Beal. No mention of a Mr. Beal, so I wonder if she was a widow? Divorced? None of my damn business? (choose one)

The yearbooks spanned 1960 to 1967, and one thing that caught my eye was how the brick exterior changed over the years. In a 1961 ad, it was apparently a solid color, but in later ads it clearly had a checkerboard pattern. What's curious is that by 1967, the walls were back to being one color. Too bad the ads were in black-and-white, so I don't know what color(s) the place was painted. I bet it was quite festive, and since it appeared in every yearbook, THE place to go on Friday and Saturday nights in Olive Branch.

Like most ice-cream joints, Beal's offered milkshakes and a variety of sandwiches. But it also provided customers with "Memphis telephones" so they could "Talk While You Eat." In fact, look at the 1966 advertisement, and there's the phone booth, right in front.

The ads say Beal's Dixie Kream was located on Highway 78 at the Tennessee/Mississippi state line. I haven't driven out Lamar in a while (probably ever since Maywood closed), so does anyone know what happened to this cute little place, and what's there now?

Here are some other views of it, taken from the old yearbooks:

Beals in 1961
  • Beal's in 1961

Beals as it looked in 1965
  • Beal's as it looked in 1965

Beals in 1967. Note the popcorn maker.
  • Beal's in 1967. Note the popcorn maker.

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