If you would
care to make a donation to help offset the costs of the free tours, please use
the PayPal button below.
custom tours vary in cost and are subject to availability.
Thank you for helping to keep
Memphis history alive.
If you would
care to make a donation to help offset the costs of the free tours, please use
the PayPal button below.
custom tours vary in cost and are subject to availability.
Thank you for helping to keep
Memphis history alive.
Welcome to the online home of
Within the other pages,
you will discover unique stories and information on
little known Memphis history and perhaps a little about why I enjoy this town.
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Chinese Historical Society
NewChop Suey Cafe Historical Marker Dedication on Beale Street
Join the Shelby County Historical Commission and the Chinese Historical Society
of Memphis and the Mid-South for the dedication of its second historical marker
in Memphis - Chop Suey Cafe / Chinese Merchants on Beale Street. The ceremony
begins at 3:00 p.m. with a performance by the Zhou Family Band in Handy Park and
recesses to 342 Beale Street for the unveiling of the marker panel. This will be
the second historical marker this year for CHS following a dedication on May 25
of the Lung Kong Tin Yee Association at 233 S. B.B. King Blvd. on May 25. The
event is open and free to the public.
Also, at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 14 at the Hooks Central Library (3030
Poplar Avenue), Dr. John Jung will present "Chopsticks In The Land Of Cotton"
about some his personal experiences in the American south and a wider history of
the Chinese immigration into the American south.
Soul Of The City at Elmwood
Cemetery - October 25 & 26
Memphis turned 200
years old this year. We invite you to meet the people who transformed it
from a tiny trading post on the Mississippi River into a bustling
metropolis of 650,000. Saints and sinners. Patriarchs and politicians.
Suffragists, scoundrels, leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Victims
of epidemic disease, and more.
This year, Elmwood is expanding the all-access pass to Memphis history.
Join us for The Soul of the City, a two-night engagement on the grounds
of Elmwood Cemetery that will introduce you to some of the storied folks
buried in your city cemetery. Meet them. Hear from them. Learn about the
past, the story we all share. Tickets must be purchased in advance at
elmwoodcemetery.org/events or 901-774-3212. Parking is free. Gates open
at 4:30 p.m.
Tour takers will be greeted by costumed hosts as they walk over the
Morgan Bridge into the cemetery grounds and transported back in time
shortly thereafter. Then, they will meet nine costumed characters
representing historical figures as they stroll down winding carriage
paths. Guests will have a chance to peruse expanded retail options (Soul
Of The City t-shirts, too) and purchase beer, wine and snacks.
Jimmy O is honored to portray A.B. Carruthers in the annual Soul Of The
City event at Elmwood Cemetery on October 25-26.
Key To Downtown
On Friday, October 26 at the annual Downtown
Memphis Commission Vision Awards, Jimmy O received a Key To Downtown for
his "body of work and play of the past 40 years in Downtown. The Key was
forged at the National Ornamental Mental Museum for the occasion, which
opened in Downtown the same year that Jimmy came Downtown (1979)!
Many thanks to the
folks over the years at the Downtown Memphis Commission (formerly Center
City Commission) that have allowed and supported the many free public
walking tours over the years, highlighted by The Great Union Avenue
Manhole Cover & History Tour; The 10-Hour Tour (at 10:10 a.m. on
10/10/15) and the annual November 6th, 1934 Street Tour.
tradition and service will be continued by The Downtown Memphis
Commission - maybe there is a Blue Suede Shoe Brigade member that will
pick up the torch of talking about the amazing history (and present) of
the alleys, sidewalk, streets, parks, plazas, rooftops and storm drains
of Downtown Memphis and the Riverfront!
Beale Street has exciting
news to share!
On Friday, November 2nd, the Beale
Street Brass Note Walk of Fame Committee awarded
Jimmy Ogle his
very own brass note on Beale Street!
“It’s 180 names from all walks of
life about Memphis. And me being a guy that doesn't sing or anything.
But me being the guy that talks and tells the stories and encourages our
history to keep on being told, we're a circle of history here. We're not
supposed to take sides and Beale Street is just a place where everyone
comes together. So I'm happy to be here on Beale Street, forever.”
(Webmaster's personal note:
Congratulations, Jimmy. It truly couldn't have happened to a more
deserving soul in and of our city.)
A "Thank You" from Jimmy O
Many, many thanks are
in store to many people over the past 40 years in my life in Downtown
for the grandest of all Memphis honors - a Beale Street Brass Note that
was unveiled on November 2, 2018 in the legendary Band Box at Blues City
The actual Brass Note
will be installed on the sidewalk at W.C. Handy Park, 200 Beale Street
between Al James and The Blues Brothers!
Alley Stories & The Last Round-Up
On November 6th, 2018, Jimmy O
gave his last of a scheduled series of free public walking tours (November 6th,
1934 Street Tour) in Downtown Memphis that began in 2008 with the 1st Annual
Great Union Avenue Manhole Cover & History Tour on May 9, 2008. Individual tours
were developed over the years with the framework being about 45-minutes and 4
blocks in length - all on the sidewalk surfaces (handicapped accessible) and
FREE! On some weekends, three tours were melded together to make a 3-hour tour.
The 26 custom tours are/were:
The Great Union Avenue Manhole Cover & History Tour, Cotton Row, Mississippi -
The River, Mississippi River - The Land, River Bluff Walk, The Bridge Walk
(Memphis & Arkansas Bridge), Chickasaw Heritage Park to Crump Park; Martyrs Park
to Ashburn-Coppock Park to Tom Lee Park, Mississippi Greenbelt Park, Mud Island
Walk Bridge, Mud Island River Walk, Cobblestones & Sultana, Beale Street, South
Main Street, South Front Street, Civic Center Plaza, The Trolley Loop Tour,
Adams Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Madison Avenue, Monroe Avenue, The Peabody
Rooftop 360-Tour, The Moving Appeal (performance), Pinch District, Court Square
& Surroundings, and The 10-Hour Tour (the next 10-Hour Tour will be at 10:00
a.m. on 10/10/2020!).
Below is a story from The Commercial Appeal, written by John Beifuss,
which captures and characterizes the atmosphere in which Jimmy O
approached walking and talking about Downtown Memphis. It was a fun
ride, and thank you for all of the faithful participants over the
years that made this a fun time. ***
The Beifuss File:
Downtown Memphis' alleys —
historic, funky and strange
Alleys, in the public imagination, are places
of menace and danger, romance and seduction, illicit trade and fugitive art.
Yes, that's a pretty broad description for a narrow passageway. But you know
what I mean. Alleys seem authentic, outlaw — cool.
A sports bar is in a strip mall. A speakeasy is
in an alley.
The upper crust resides on Park Avenue. The working class inhabits Gasoline
When Turner Classic Movies decided to dedicate a weekly program to the
sinister crime genre known as film noir, what did the cable channel name it?
"Noir Alley." Lee Dorsey sang "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley." "Sneakin' Jane
Down the Lane" just wouldn't have had the same disreputable ring. But what was
once déclassé is now fashionable. Eager to embrace so-called authenticity,
cities now promote their back streets — what Downtown Memphis Commission
president Jennifer Oswalt calls the "alternative paths" that branch off familiar
corridors. That can be a metaphor, of course. (You've been to the Meditation
Garden at Graceland? Next, why not visit Furry Lewis' grave in South Memphis?)
But in the case of Downtown Memphis' network of historic alleys, the
"alternative paths" are literal.
Recently, the DMC announced a plan to
beautify several of Downtown's alleys, with public art, decoratively repaved
surfaces and other improvements. Specifically, the project — dubbed "The Artery:
Stereo to Escape" — will focus on the corridors of Stereo Alley, Maggie H.
Isabel Street (actually an alley), Rendezvous Alley and General Washburn's
Escape Alley, which connect to form the shape of an unused staple that mostly
runs parallel to Second Street.
But those pathways are only four of about a dozen alleys that crisscross
Downtown Memphis. So The Commercial Appeal (i.e., me and photographer Joe
Rondone) decided to take a walking tour of all of them, with official Shelby
County historian, sometime Peabody Duckmaster and top alley cat Jimmy Ogle as
our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.
Ogle, of course, never met a vintage
street sign, cornice or cobblestone he didn't want to, well, ogle. He is to
Memphis knowledge what water is to wet: Inseparable. You might ask about alleys,
but his answers will cover much more: Manhole covers (Downtown Memphis has 3,000
of them). Elvis (young master Presley lost his job as a movie usher at the old
Loew's State Theater on Main Street after getting into a fight in adjacent
Although most people now experience
alleys as pedestrian shortcuts, historically they were a necessity, Ogle said.
They provided crucial access to buildings for firefighters and other services,
including power and telephone companies. In what is now called Jack Tucker
Alley, for example, the sloping cobblestoned surface is interrupted at intervals
by deep chutes (now covered with metal grills) that originally were coal chutes,
so coal could be dropped down into a building's basement.
When the city was first laid out in 1819, it
basically stretched from where the Pyramid is now located to Union Avenue.
Consequently, most purposeful Downtown alleys are north of Union, and pretty
much end by Court Square.
Here's a rundown of our tour:
• We met Ogle — toting a heavy tin sign
embossed with the legend "November 6th, 1934" — at one of the oldest original
alleys, now known as Jack Tucker Alley, which stretches down toward the
Mississippi from 77 S. Front. The alleyway is named in honor of the late
architect (he died in 2009) now known as "The Father of Downtown Living," for
working to bring residents back to the historic city center at a time when more
people were incarcerated in the Downtown jail than were renting Downtown
apartments. According to Ogle, this alley is paved with cobblestones handmade
from "nine different kinds of igneous rock."
• Next, we ambled across Front to Barboro
Alley, paved with machine-cut cobblestones of decorative concrete known as "bomanite."
One of the longest (it connects Wagner Place and Second Street) and liveliest
alleys (it has hosted Goner Records concerts), Barboro is home to the
neo-speakeasy, Belle Tavern, and the walls of some of its building serve as open
air gallery space for impressive murals by such artists as Marcellous Lovelace
(whose painting includes a portrait of genius music producer Willie Mitchell)
and the team of Birdcap and Ninjacat (who specialize in the expressively
cartoonish). Ogle says that, at one point, a stretch of Barbaro near Second was
known as "Dead Man's Alley" because it housed two funeral homes. Those were the
• Running south from Barbaro to form the bottom
half of a T is a small alley known as Center Lane, which reappears north of
Union. But Center Lane is just a rumor of a thoroughfare compared to its
parallel neighbor, November 6th, 1934 Street, an alley that runs from Beale to
just past Jefferson in a frequently interrupted dotted-line pattern with 26
turns. Described by Ogle as "the spine of Downtown," the alley once was home to
what Ogle calls the "house of commercial affection" (i.e. brothel) that was run
by the "Heroic Hooker," Annie Cook, who lost her life in 1878 caring for the
sick during the Yellow Fever epidemic. But what especially interests Ogle is the
fact that the alley is named for an event that hasn't exactly imprinted itself
into the city's collective memory: Nov. 6, 1934, marks the day that Memphis
voted to join the TVA power grid. It's this quirkiness that appeals to Ogle, who
thinks "November 6th, 1934" might be America's coolest street name and the only
street in the country named after a full date: "There's no 'July 4th, 1776'
alley in Philadelphia. There's no 'July 11th, 1969' alley anywhere." For this
reason, Ogle is irked that street signs now read simply "November 6th," without
the year; that's why he carried his vintage street sign with the complete name,
which he held aloft near various street corners with the promise of what ought
• Walking north across Union one comes to
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Alley, named, of course, for the late restaurateur and
his famous barbecue restaurant. Crossing the Vergos street like a discarded rib
bone is one of Memphis' more interesting paths, General Washburn's Escape Alley,
which gives Ogle a chance to put on a one-man show as he re-enacts the comical
tale of Union General Cadwallader C. Washburn. Washburn reportedly hightailed it
down the alley in his nightshirt when he received word that Confederate General
Nathan Bedford Forrest had recaptured Memphis and was marching his way.
• Head back north on Charlie Vergos alley and
it becomes Maggie H. Isabel Street, an alley-by-any-other-name that has received
a DMC-coordinated makeover with the addition of decorative lights overhead and
newly stamped cobblestone patterns on the asphalt underfoot. Maggie H. Isabel
runs alongside Madison Avenue Park, the relatively new "pocket park" occupying a
small lot where the alley meets Madison Avenue. A particularly intriguing
element of this design is the Tops Gallery space embedded beneath the park,
which is higher than the alley for much of its length, thanks to the slope of
the street, which rises to meet Madison. A complement to the traditional indoors
Tops Gallery at 400 S. Front, the space is essentially a large trapezoidal "vatrine"
(glass showcase) for art, like a highfalutin window display in a commercial
shop. Curated by Tops owner Matt Ducklo, the gallery currently houses a
selection of "totemic modernist forms" by the man who may be Memphis' most
significant sculptor, John McIntire. Many days, a homeless drifter slumps near
the glass, adding an unplanned performance element to the show.
• Just North of Madison Park off Maggie H.
Isabel is Stereo Alley, marked at its entrance on Second by an impressive
overhead "Stereo Alley" metal sign, plus the call letters of station KLYX, which
once broadcast from headquarters in an alley building (hence the "Stereo" name).
The significant Memphis alleys more or less culminate with Park Lane (previously
known as Whiskey Alley for its prevalence of bars), and Floyd Alley, which as an
unusual claim to fame: You can still see, on a South-facing wall of the Metro 67
apartment building that flanks the alley near Front, the window through which
Tom Cruise threw a chair and leaped to freedom while eluding his pursuers in
director Sydney Pollack's "The Firm." The 1993 made-in-Memphis film was a John
Grisham adaptation. Actually, "It wasn't Tom Cruise, it was Tom Cruise's stunt
double," revealed Ogle, shattering the illusions of those "Mission: Impossible"
fans who expect the star to hang off jet airplanes and scale sheer cliffs.
Oswalt said the DMC's alley beautification plans are focusing on some of the
busiest throughways first. "We believe the investment in these spaces, in these
alleys and underpasses and pathways, will return greatly as we connect all of
Downtown and the riverfront," she said.
As for Ogle, “I would like to see us put these signs back on there," he said,
again brandishing his "November 6th, 1934" sign, with the determination of a
Remember Libertyland by John
Seven years ago while I
giving a presentation at The University Of Memphis, I met a student. John
Stevenson, that had an interest in Roller Coasters and Libertyland. Well, he
decided to publish a book about Libertyland's history. Arcadia Publishing has
published the book, Remember Libertyland, through its Images of Modern America
series. Remember Libertyland is now in three Memphis book stores:
Novel, 387 Perkins Extd.
Burke's Bookstore, 936 South Cooper
The Book Juggler, 548 South Main
While sitting in as guest
host on the Earle Farrell 4 Memphis radio show (KWAM AM990) on October 2, I was
also able interview John about his experiences with roller coasters (I believe
that he said that he has rode 173 coasters in America) and writing his first
book. John will be in Memphis last this Autumn for book signings, so stay tuned
(RememberLibertyland.com). Congratulations to John...
More Books . . .
Recently, three books of a
different Memphis topic have been published that are interesting to read, or
would make good "stocking stuffers" this holiday season . . .
The Memphis Belle - Dispelling the
by Graham Simmons and Dr. Harry Friedman
have known Dr. Harry Friedman for over thirty years and he is has been very
dedicated to the legacy of the Memphis Belle B-17, the crew and Memphian
Margaret Polk, the namesake. The book covers a long history of the Memphis
Belle, and on page 439 there is a photo of Margaret Polk and me sitting on the
stage at the dedication, where I was allowed to speak that day and welcome the
eyes of world to Memphis.
When I was General Manager of Mud
Island River Park in the 1980s, one of my happiest memories is the involvement
with the Memphis Belle Memorial Association (MBMA) and the relocation of the
Memphis Belle B-17 bomber from the 91st Bomb Squadron Restaurant near the
Memphis airport to the north field of Mud Island, or risk losing it to the Air
Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio that year. Credits should also go to Ward Archer,
Jr. for leading the fund raising efforts to Save the "Memphis Belle - Home At
The staff of Mud Island did a marvelous job coordinating with MBMA and the
living crew members of the Memphis Belle, which was the first B-17 to
successfully complete 25 missions over Europe in 1942-43 without a loss of a
crew member. Margaret Polk, a Memphian and girlfriend of the pilot, Col. Robert
Morgan, was also present for the dedication of the Memphis Belle Pavilion on May
17, 1987, as well as eight of the nine living crew members (of the original
ten). Over 10,000 spectators filled the banks of the Memphis riverfront and Mud
Island for a spectacular air show of seven of the eleven flyable B-17s in the
Eventually the Memphis Belle did move
to Dayton. On May 17, 2018, (75th anniversary of the Memphis Belle's last
mission over Europe) the Memphis Belle was unveiled at the Air Force Museum in
Dayton, Ohio after a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration. Last year,
when I was visiting the abandoned structure on Mud Island, I saw this memo that
I had taped to the electrical closet on August 5, 1987 - 30 years later, still
there! Many other of my memories of the Memphis Belle will be shared in 2019 in
the DETOURS section of this web site.
Memphis:200 Years Of Heart & Soul
by Kevin Kane with Samantha Crespo
The back cover jacket reads: Memphis: 200 Years of Heart & Soul is a celebration
of an amenity-rich, sustainable city beloved worldwide. Beginning with a brief
history, the book paints the picture of a city that, despite its challenges,
became a magnet for dreamers and doers, a place forged by vision and generosity.
The book goes on to reveal how these unique conditions created the amenities
that make the Memphis we know today. The narrative, told through the eyes of
frontline observer Kevin Kane and interviews with community stakeholders, closes
on a hopeful note: With such a foundation in place, what might Memphis look
forward to in the next 200 years?
Kevin Kane (President and CEO of
Memphis Tourism) and I have known each other since the early 1970s. Samantha
Crespo has been covering Memphis in many ways over the past few years (and has
been on many Jimmy Ogle Tours), and in Samantha's first edition of "100 Things
To Do In Memphis Before You Die", Jimmy O's walking tours were included as one
of those things you must do. I was glad to assist Samantha with details and
fact-checking on this book. But, the real story is the photography, as the book
is dominated with wonderful photos of Memphis scenes and Memphians of all kinds.
Check out page 45 for this mug shot of Jimmy O.
Overton Park: A People's History
by Brooks Lamb
Overton Park has been Memphis'
"Central Park" for over 100 years, and we all have many memories and stories to
tell about Overton Park. I was interviewed by Brooks earlier this year, but now
that I have read the book, I marvel at the experiences of the folks that he
includes, like Mike Cody, Charles Newman, Willie Bearden, Blanchard Tual,
Johnnie Turner, Steve Cohen and even a Zookeeper, Richard Meek.
The back cover jacket reads: This delightfully informative book, filled
with historic photos, offers a history of the park from the perspective of those
who lived it. Brooks Lamb interviewed nearly a score of Memphians to learn what
the park has meant to them and to discover the transformations they have
witnessed. The stories they tell reveal dynamic place that remains, despite
changes and challenges, a people's park and, in the words of one resident, "the
heartbeat of Memphis".
Brooks Lamb is currently the conservation projects manager for rural
lands at The Land Trust for Tennessee. A graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis
and a 2016 Truman Scholar, he wrote Overton Park with the assistance of the
Bonner Scholarship and a fellowship from the Rhodes Institute for Regional
Web Site Tops 100,000
On July 20, 2017, the jimmyogle.com
web site received its 100,000 visit. At 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19, I
visited the site and the number was 99,997. At 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 20, I
visited the site at the count was 100,002. When giving the public tour of the
Judge D'Army Bailey Courthouse at 12:00 non on Thursday, July 20, I was talking
about that milestone and one of the couples on the tour chirped up with the
remark that they had been on the web site several times overnight. The couple is
Paul & Joanne Jeckln from Brisbane, Australia visiting Memphis and looking for
something to do - and they found the Courthouse Tour!
One of the last stops on the tour is
in the Law Library and one of my favorite things to do is visit the landing the
has bound monthly volumes of The Commercial Appeal from the years 1966-1971. Of
course, we turned to a page in the Sports section and see the headline of
"Little Owl Tames A Spartan" from the 54-43 victory of MUS over White Station
(12/20/69) in Spartan Palace - Jimmy O scored 21 points!
Paul picked out the July, 1969 volume
and turned to the July 20 page where there was a large photo of man landing on
the moon. His memory was that he was 14 years old that day in Australia and it
was July 21 in that hemisphere at that time. The students were "turned out" of
school to watch the moon landing. What a small world.
Thank you to all of
the people from all over the world (see below for the 2017 stats) that have
visited jimmyogle.com, and great BIG THANK YOU to Martin Norris for making it
Memphis Map for Elvis Fans
The Memphis Map For Elvis Fans is out on the streets of Memphis, after a
successful launch party at A.
Schwab's on Beale Street on Monday, August 12. Being introduced during this
year's Elvis Tribute Week by our good friends Andrea Shaw and Alan Grossman
(from New York City), the "MMFEF" covers past and present Elvis related sites in
Memphis, and recognizes many of the sites that no longer exist (for the first
I met Andrea and Alan about 18 months
ago, while they were in Memphis (once again, as it turned out) to continue
their "love affair" with Memphis, Tennessee. Within a few months, Andrew and
Alan were contributors to the Memphis historical scene in another unsung way,
and now have launched a beautiful fold-out map (be careful) and web site (www.memphismapforelvisfans)
- all which is self-descriptive. The (18" X 24" once unfolded out) "MMFEF" is
the most appealing tourist map of Memphis that I have ever seen, and I have been
around here a long, long time doing this! They dropped by my office at Beale
Street Landing last weekend to give me a map in advance, and I had Andrea
autograph my first copy. There ya go . . .
I was able to spend some time off and
on with Andrea and Alan over the last year, and they have been on several of my
walking tours of the streets of Memphis. Jake Schorr of Westy's and The Carriage
Company of Memphis was a contributor, but Sue Mack and Mike Freeman spent a lot
of time authenticating the research of Andrea and Alan. The ultimate
satisfaction of giving Talks & Tours in Memphis is to have out-of-towners like
Andrea and Alan grasp what "Memphis" is, and then put their heart and souls into
a project that benefits all. I am sure that we will be hearing and seeing more
from them in the future.
!!! Now featured in the Wall Street Journal !!!
A BIG MEMPHIS THANK YOU to Andrea and Alan!!
"History is Made" at
Westy's -- May 27,
JMO1, JBS3, JBS5, JBS4, JMO2, JMO3 (in arms)
That's about 250 years of Jimmy Ogles and Jake Schorrs!
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