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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where Is This HUGE Church?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 2:46 PM

1937 Toddle House - But Where?
  • 1937 Toddle House - But Where?
Last night I was looking through old photos in the Memphis Room, and I came across this dramatic image of a charming little Toddle House nestled in the shadows of a GIANT Gothic Revival church.


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.)

Detail of Church
  • Detail of Church

Visible behind the Toddle House
  • Visible behind the Toddle House


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Where Is This Factory?

Posted By on Mon, May 17, 2010 at 9:10 PM

I was rooting around at an estate sale recently and bought a box of 35mm Kodachrome slides. Most of the images are of somebody's family — except for this one.

Judging from the cars, it was taken in the 1950s. The water tower says VO ... but that's about all I can make out on it. Notice that one of the train cars says "Soo Line" and I'm not even sure they serve this region, though freight trains can be made up of cars from all over.

So: Where is (or was) this place, and what did they make there?

Does anybody recognize it?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yet Another Mysterious Sign

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 10:56 PM

Most of you know that I've always been mystified and amused by these generic "international" signs — usually composed of standardized images that warn people not to touch things, or lift heavy objects, or otherwise do something dangerous or foolish.

But the other day, I was slumped in the back seat of the Daimler-Benz, as the chauffeur took it through a car wash. Peering out the window, through the suds, I noticed this nice little green sign inset into the brick wall.

The more I gazed at it, the more confused I became. What, exactly, is it telling me to do? It is mounted at eye level, so that people in cars can see it, but the car wash was basically an open structure, with no doors at either end, or even inside. Yet this fellow, lacking hands and feet, seems to be dashing towards a door with a handle.

He's also running in the opposite direction my car was pointing, which — at first — made me think we had driven the wrong way into the car wash. It's happened before, believe me.

My next thought was that he was making a desperate attempt to reach a bathroom in time. We can all relate to that experience. But why do the car wash patrons need to know of his plight? Or is it telling ME to hop out of the car, dodge the deadly arms of the washing apparatus, and — for reasons not at all clear — make a run for it?

I just don't know what it means, and I've been fretting about it every since. Can anyone make any sense of it?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Drink "Electrified" Water!

Posted By on Sat, May 8, 2010 at 8:25 PM

Electrified Water?
  • Electrified Water?
I seem to have an obsession for odd products and their advertisements. While poring over a 1924 musical program presented by Christian Brothers College, I came across this short and to-the-point ad for an unusual product called "Electrified Water."

Around this time, people were falling for all kinds of "quack" cures — including "radium" baths, of all things — so this fits right in.

Considering that it is delivered to your home, you have to wonder just how long the electrical effects lasted. Curious, isn't it, that the name of the company isn't even mentioned ... but whatever it was, it's long gone. In case you're wondering, 1122 Union is almost exactly where that street crosses over I-240 in Midtown, so any businesses that stood along that stretch were demolished some 40 years ago.

And it's only appropriate, I suppose, that this company's phone number had a "Hemlock" exchange — hemlock being a rather deadly poison, you see. Drink up!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

That Mystery Restaurant Was NOT the Luau

Posted By on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 7:51 PM

The Luau in 1972
  • The Luau in 1972
Back in November, I ran a photo showing the interior of some tropical-themed restaurant in Memphis, and asked my half-dozen devoted readers if they recognized the place.

We went back and forth on it, fistfights broke out, beer bottles were thrown, and we finally agreed that oh, what the heck, it MIGHT be the Dobb's House Luau, the restaurant on Poplar across from East High School, though I had my doubts, especially since no one could recall actually seeing a decent photo of the Luau interior. Mainly they just remember the giant head outside by the front door.

Well, I'm not trying to start any trouble here, people, but tonight I was scrutinizing my old copies of KEY magazine with a magnifying glass — doesn't everybody do that? — and found a teeny-tiny photo showing the interior of the Luau, and if you compare the two images you'll see that it is NOT the place I had shown you before.

The image is rather grainy, since the original photo was about the size of a postage stamp, but you should be able to see that the tables, chairs, floor design, and other details don't match. Both places seem to have an arched ceiling, but even the slope of that is different.

Tally, Stein, and Ronnie, by the way, were a trio who performed at the Luau in 1972, but I don't have the time or energy to talk (or type) about that right now.

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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?


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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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Yuletide Revelers

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 8:31 PM

In our December issue, I posted a question about a mysterious organization called the Yuletide Revelers, who — by all accounts — put on one heckuva party each year around the holidays, but the nature and origins of the group itself were something of a mystery.

Well, my good pal John Gratz, who knows as much about local history as anyone (and that includes certain members of the Lauderdale family), sent me this epistle:


I am sure by now you probably have been sent information about the Yuletide Revelers, but just in case you haven't, here is the story:

Members of the Yuletide Revelers were comprised from all those people who were members of the court participating in the Memphis Cotton Carnival each year: Ladies of the Realm and their escorts, as well as the actual court of the King and Queen and their guards, etc.

Once you were a member of the Cotton Carnival in this category, you were automatically invited each year to the annual party given by this organization. There were no dues, and each person could attend the Yuletide Revelers party. Once a member, you attended the ball each year with an invitation for life.

Each year the barge would load up the current participants down river just past the the old bridge, and then proceed to come upstream to the landing dock at the foot of Madison to a rather great deal of revelry, where the King and Queen would be welcomed to the city by the mayor of Memphis and given the key to the city.

The year I was an escort for a Lady of the Realm (from Riplay, TN) I was a student at Southwestern College. The barge floor had been painted with an aluminum paint, and it was not dry when we came aboard. The sticky, silver-colored paint stuck to my dress shoes, and during the course of the short trip upriver, paint became spread over most of the court's footwear and produced some difficulty in getting off the barge. Nevertheless the entire week was one big party for the court that went to all the clubs in town( Memphis Country Club, University Club, etc., etc.). By the end of the week each of us was exhausted and thoroughly consumed by the singing of "Dixie" at each stop along the way.

John Gratz
Cotton Carnival Court 1949

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Anybody Recognize This Place?

Posted By on Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 6:48 PM

I recently found, and purchased, a packet of 8x10 color photos at a local estate sale. The original owner/photographer must have been an architect, because most of them showed residential interiors. And then there was this one.

Does anyone recognize the place?

My first thought was that — finally! — I had turned up an interior shot of the Luau, but I've already had a few people (those lucky souls invited to the Lauderdale Mansion on the weekends for our badminton tournaments) who said this was NOT the Luau.

I'm not entirely sure it was even taken in Memphis, though everything else at this particular sale was Memphis-related. Was there another Polynesian/Tropical-themed restaurant in this area?

Inquiring minds want to know. And so do I.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Ripley's "Tiny Knee" Stadium

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 2:54 PM

I found myself in Ripley, Tennessee, a while back, with no memory of how I got there. But I finally peeled off the duct tape, wrestled free of the shackles around my wrists and ankles, and hitchhiked back to Memphis.

Whew. That must have been some party!

But while I was in that lovely town, I wandered past this football stadium. It wasn't a very large place, so I imagine it must have been for a local high school. What I most recall, though — in fact, it was the only thing I can remember about Ripley — was the curious sign on the place.

It's called Tiny Knee Stadium.

Does anybody know why?

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hinton's ARMORED Ambulances

Posted By on Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 9:45 PM

I know that when I suffer from leprosy, lunacy, gout, the shivers, the shuffles, and the loss of my immortal soul — among other almost daily afflictions — I really won't feel comfortable being rushed to the hospital unless I am in the protection of an ARMORED ambulance. After all, you just don't know what kind of hooligans and assassins may be lying in wait, just waiting to cause you harm when you are at your most helpless.

That, I think, seems to be the logic behind a series of ads that J.T. Hinton & Sons began to run in the mid-1920s. The interesting advertisement shown here, in fact, was published in the 1927 edition of The Lantern, the yearbook of The Hutchison School, which seems a rather strange place to put it. Not exactly the demographic for ambulances, is it?

Now first of all, J.T. Hinton & Sons was mainly a FUNERAL HOME, and I've complained before about what I consider a conflict of interest. Would it really be in their best interest, I have fretted, for the ambulance drivers to deliver you to the hospital safely — and therefore lose a perfectly good, perfectly DEAD funeral home customer?

But I digress. Hinton, competing with many other ambulance and funeral companies in Memphis, hit upon a rather unique marketing plan. As the ad says, they already operate "The World's Finest and Safest Ambulances." Not just in Memphis, mind you, but IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

And now, they provide you with "the first and ONLY Armored Ambulance in the World."

Continue reading »

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Not the Best Name for a Taxi Company

Posted By on Sun, Oct 18, 2009 at 10:26 PM

Look, I'd be the first to admit I don't know much about marketing. If I did, the various Lauderdale industries would still be thriving, and I wouldn't be forced to stay up past my bedtime on a Sunday night, scribbling this column or blog or whatchamacallit to eke out a pitiful existence.

But — I don't care if you did get stuck with the awkward phone number 666 (back in the days when phone numbers here were apparently just three digits).

It's just not a good idea, if you ask me, to name your taxi company after the Mark of the Beast.

Or any company, for that matter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does Anyone Remember This TV Show?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Jeanna Hartzog has written me from Silver Creek, Mississippi, inquiring about a local TV show that she and her sister appeared on in the early 1960s. I immediately thought she was talking about "Dance Party" hosted by Wink Martindale, or the later "Talent Party" hosted by George Klein, but apparently not. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Here's the letter:

I hope someone there can help me by providing some information.

My parents moved to Memphis in 1957 and I was born there in 1959. Around 1962, I only know at three years old, my sister and I appeared on a local children’s show. We were the featured quests, coming out of the audience to do the new dance, The Twist.

I began to think about this when my sister died several years ago. My parents can no longer remember the station or the name of the show. They mistakenly thought Wink Martindale was the host, but a very nice email from him said that was not so.

Do you have any knowledge of this show, the station, or the host? I know there are certainly people in the Memphis community who would have this knowledge, but I don’t know how to find them. I have made phone calls and wrote a columnist with no success.

Thank you for your time.
Jeanna McManus Hartzog
P.O. Box 124
Silver Creek, Mississippi 39663

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Frog Gates at Shelby Farms

Posted By on Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 10:52 PM

Shelby Farms and the old Penal Farm complex are just full of oddities. I've already written about mysterious gravestones, blue barns, and abandoned 1950s cars in the woods. But the other day, I spotted these strangely decorated gates in the western portion of the complex.

Yes, the two concrete gate posts are topped with brightly painted, cast-concrete FROGS. Now I have to say that for a former prison, Shelby Farms certainly has a lot of gates, but these are the only ones I've found (so far) that feature animals. And why frogs, I wonder?

They're located on Nixon Road, just south of Mullins Station, right across from the building that now houses the Shelby County Archives. The gate itself doesn't serve any purpose anymore, since the road now runs just a few yards to the east of it. But I really do like the frogs. I'm sure they brightened the days of the prisoners who trudged through these gates years ago to work the fields.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"A Prostrate Mother's Appeal" — From 1924

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 10:17 PM

Somebody on eBay has a rather interesting item for sale: a Memphis Police Department "Detective Division Circular" for a missing person, dated October 15, 1924.

Now, I imagine the police department searched for quite a few missing persons over the years, but I wonder if the official alerts were worded as dramatically as this one. Carrying the banner headline, "A Prostrate Mother's Appeal," the circular describes a young man named Howard Conrad, who disappeared from our city on September 26, 1924, and "has had a mental breakdown, which renders him unfit to hold a job [though] may attempt work."

The very words the doctors have used to describe me!

The circular continues: "There is a price on Conrad's head — one hundred dollars. It is not like the price that is placed on a criminal's head, for his capture dead or alive. It is the price of Mother's love. The parent's courage is strong. They believe they will find their son, if those who know a parents' love for an afflicted child will only help. Will you?"

The circular urged officials to check all hospitals, asylums, public institutions, and county farms. Then it added this bit of curious information about young Conrad: "Acts as one who uses dope and visits such places. May be giving another name and will not give parents' address, which is 2225 Madison Avenue."

That house is still standing today, just east of Overton Square, though the Conrad family apparently moved out many years ago. I wish I knew how this sad tale played out, but I have no idea if Howard Conrad ever turned up. And I didn't think it would be fair to the eBay seller to include an image of the "Missing Person" notice here, but if you'd like to take a look at this interesting document from the past, go here:

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