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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Rural Heritage Trust Unveils
First Set of Heritage Panels
The feature of the two panels is
the Rosemark-Kerrville Heritage
Tour, which consists of one
24.9-mile loop beginning in
Edmund Orgill Park and heading
east to the Rosemark,
Barretville and Mudville
communities, before returning
westbound on Mudville Road to
the Kerrville community and
Edmund Orgill Park. Two
additional “short” routes are
also included, both for a more
detailed drive on the east side
- the Rosemark, Barretville,
Mudville area (6.3 miles in
length), and Kerrville and
Edmund Orgill Park on the west
side (5.8 miles in length).
Rural Heritage Trust Marker Dedication from Willy Bearden on Vimeo.
Along the way, the routes will
cover historic homes, churches
and cemeteries, beautiful barns,
historical markers, agricultural
fields, livestock, lakes,
rivers, creeks, and pass through
several canopied lanes.
Downloadable maps and
descriptive tour information are
located in the
TOURS section of
Rural Heritage Trust web site. Community
histories are also available in
COMMUNITY HISTORIES section.
This event is free and open to
the public. Ample parking is
available at the site.
For More Information about the
unveiling ceremonies, contact
Jimmy Ogle at 901-604-5002
Message from Jimmy Ogle:
Respect For Recommended Response To COVID Will
Postpone Activities Indefinitely
2020 has certainly been a most unusual years for everybody in America, and the
world. The effects of COVID and the recommended responses for everyone's safety
and health has put a hurt on all aspects of our health, society, movement,
gathering and economy far beyond any imagination.
The tourism industry has been particularly curtailed with travel and lodging
industries being hardest "hardest hit". Restaurants and attractions have
temporarily closed, and most re-opened under limited occupancy. Spectator events
(whether amateur or professional) for all ages like athletics, concerts and
movie theaters may not have an upcoming 2020-2021 season at all, or at least
with no or few spectators in the stands). Health and safety are at the
forefront, and people must be very careful as they go out in public for the many
non-essential discretionary activities that we have grown accustomed to doing on
a daily basis, and must be respectful of others, their feelings and
Jimmy Ogle Talks & Tours went into "retirement" in 2019 with a final public
appearance on October 26 as A.C. Carruthers at the Soul of the City event at
Elmwood Cemetery (which will be a hybrid virtual event this year). Now living in
Knoxville, Jimmy has not traveled since March 16, 2020. Even his 50-year high
school class reunion, (MUS, Class of 1970) scheduled for September 25-27, has
been postponed until September 2021.
This web site will be updated periodically, so check in every now and then.
Above all, please "think safe" and stay safe. Respect the concerns of others.
Please keep your "physical distancing" as recommended by health professionals.
But now is the time to be "social" more than ever by keeping close and regular
through modern methods of cell phones, email, internet, Zoom, telephonic
WELCOME TO VIRTUAL JIMMY OGLE, PART 2
During the Spring and Summer of 2019, the
Downtown Memphis Commission sponsored the video recording of about 25 hours of
Jimmy Ogle walking through the streets and alleys, parks and plazas, rooftops
and riverboats of the Downtown Memphis and Riverfront environs. Once again, it
was the “most cultural, sophisticated man-about-town, Willy Bearden” who was
tasked with the audio and video recording – this time on the move (www.williambearden.com).
In all, there will be about 15 hours of
walking and talking (and pointing) about all of the features, highlights and
lowlights of Memphis history - tall buildings, historic homes an churches,
manhole covers, historical markers, bridges, streetscapes, scenic vistas and
even the Corps of Engineers river gauge bulletin board!
Willy Bearden has decided to start populating the JO Vimeo Site with the short
videos he has been working on, with the first episode being about the Mallory
Neely House. He is calling it: Jimmy Ogle Knows...Mallory Neely House. Go to
Currently, the Downtown Memphis Commission
is re-branding its web site, with a link coming soon to individual one-hour
segments covering Union Avenue, Beale Street, Madison Avenue, Cotton Row, Dr.
MLK, Jr. Heritage Corridor, South Main Street, Riverbluff Walk, Southernmost
Parks of the Riverbluff, Mud Island Walk Bridge & River Walk, Civic Center
Plaza, Court Square & Surroundings, The Edge District, Views from The Pyramid
Balconies, Madison Avenue, Judge D’Army Bailey Courthouse, Pinch District and
ISLAND QUEEN public Sightseeing Cruise.
In the meantime, just Google these four
words “You Tube Jimmy Ogle” to view many of the walking tours – all for free –
courtesy of the Downtown Memphis Commission and as the “Bicentennial Gift to
Memphis” from Jimmy and Willy! Many thanks to Penelope Huston and Jennifer
Oswalt of the Downtown Memphis Commission for recognizing the value of this type
of documentation of Downtown in its 200th year of existence.
** NOTICE **
During the phases of physical distancing in the community due to the COVID virus situation, the Downtown Memphis Commission has made a tremendous effort to bring many aspects of the Downtown scene from musical performances to chefs to artists to yoga, etc. to the fingertips all viewers in the virtual world.
Beginning in June, Robert Montgomery of the Blue Suede Brigade will be giving free livestream walking tours for the public on Wednesdays at 11:45 a.m. via the
Downtown Memphis Commission Facebook page.
Hopefully, as new phases of the re-opening in the City occur this Summer, Robert will be able to lead tours the “old fashion” way – in person. Until then, many thanks to Jennifer Oswalt and Penelope Huston of the Downtown Memphis Commission for the support and seeing the importance of free walking tours, whether in person or by virtual means. Contact information for Robert’s tours:
Office: 901-575-0540 / Cell: 901-497-2080
WELCOME TO VIRTUAL JIMMY OGLE, PART 1
Now available on the internet for FREE,
forever, for everyone - enjoy twelve lectures of various historic
Memphis topics from Jimmy Ogle, entitled
Making Memphis - Storytelling By Jimmy Ogle.
The series helped
kick off the museum's Bicentennial Series saluting Memphis and Shelby
County on their 200th anniversary, entitled Making Memphis: 200 Years Of
Memphis Pink Palace Museum received sponsorship to promote
the filming ("in front of a live studio audience") in the
Mansion Theatre on Mondays and Thursdays during February and
March earlier this year. Many thanks to Steve Pike, Jestein
Gibson, Luke Ramsey and dozens of volunteers of Memphis
Museums.Inc. that made this possible, as well as these
Greg Ericson - Ericson Group Inc.
University Of Memphis Libraries
Communities In Conversation Series at Rhodes College
These lectures are
easy to find. Go to the web site of Pink Palace Family of Museums -
Memphis Museums at
www.memphismuseums.org/pink-palace-museum/exhibits and click on the
Jimmy Ogle icon in that section, Use the
Pink Palace YouTube channel, or simply Google these four words
"JIMMY OGLE PINK PALACE". All twelve lectures will be available in that
one site and easy to download.
These videos are
available for education, enjoyment and for viewing for any group at any
time - for free.
To quote Jimmy O "it's my Bicentennial Gift to Memphis!"
Stayed tuned for
another announcement later this Winter about more Virtual Jimmy Ogle
with bout 30 hours of walking tours (filmed and produced by
in Downtown Memphis and the Riverfront - coming from the Downtown
*** UPDATE ***
I am proud and honored to be a
part of such a wonderful group of individuals.
Without them, none of this would have been possible.
This has been, and will continue to be,
a challenging time for many of us. We were all devastated when we knew
we had to cancel the conference this year. But we also were determined
to celebrate and recognize the hard work you all have done. So with
that, we are here, presenting your awards virtually. We’re pushing
through with the TAM spirit and sense of family to make sure you get the
recognition you so deserve.
· Each year TN Assoc of Museums recognizes
the projects and accomplishments achieved at TN museums during the
previous year. As you will see, regardless of staff size or budget, our
museums, all of YOU, are doing wonderful things that need to be
recognized and applauded. This year had many entries that showed an
underlying theme of diversity, inclusion and community – all so very
important right now.
· The awards committee was once again
impressed over and over with the creativity, resourcefulness and
commitment shown in all of the nominations. We think you’ll agree, TN
Museums are doing some amazing things! We encourage you to reach out to
the winners, congratulate them, ask about their winning entry, and be
inspired by their ideas! We also will be featuring winners over the
coming weeks on the TAM website and on social media. We hope this will
not only encourage and inspire you, but be a helpful way of sharing your
achievements with many others, near and far. Your awards committee is
pleased to present to you the outstanding achievements of you and your
All of the nominations were looked over
and then scored by each committee member on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being
the highest and 1 being the lowest. When we all met, we discussed each
and every nomination, then shared our scores and why we gave a
nomination that score. The scores were then totaled and averaged. If the
average score was between 5.0 and 4.5, it received an award of
Excellence. If the average score was between 4.49 and 3.75, it received
an award of Commendation.
Category 5 - $1-5M
~ Memphis Pink Palace
Museum, Memphis ~
Temporary Exhibit – Making
Memphis: 200 Years of Community – EX
Traveling Exhibit – Memphis’ Bicentennial Goes To Poland! –
Permanent Exhibit – Audience Engagement Components (AEC’s) –
Digital Media, Blog – Equator Trek / Viaje al Ecuador – COMM
Educational Programming – Memorable Memphians – EX
Special Event – Making Memphis: Storytelling With Jimmy Ogle
Special Recognition – Superpower Pup Pageant – COMM
So, again many thanks to the
staff (Jestein Gibson and Luke Yancey) and volunteers at the
Memphis Pink Palace Museum for their efforts in February and March of 2019.
And, a super special THANK YOU
to Willy Bearden for his creativity and production talents for getting the
on video for free viewing and use to everyone forever, and his perseverance in
working with Jimmy Ogle!
Catch more of Jimmy Ogle
“walking and talking” about Memphis in 2019 on You Tube (Downtown Memphis
Newman To Now (Memphis Heritage) and Bicentennial Moments ( WKNO).
Newman To Now Exhibit – A Virtual Opportunity For All
Newman's Memphis Website
Memphis Heritage is excited to announce the launch of the new Newman's Memphis website! Don Newman took some of the most iconic photographs of Memphis during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Explore the collection of historic Memphis photographs, search for photos, and order prints at:
Memphis Heritage will be adding new photos frequently, so check back often!
Newman's Memphis Quiz
Test your knowledge of Memphis history with our Newman's Memphis quiz! It's an open book quiz - use the new website to help you find the correct answers. We're giving away five Newman Main Street prints, so be sure to enter your email address at the end of the quiz for a chance to win!
In 2018-19, I was fortunate
to participate in a fabulous program through Memphis Heritage and
led by Emily Cohen, that brought its Don Newman Collection to life,
entitled Newman To Now, and now virtual online to all. Participants
were: Gary Walpole – Photographer, Jimmy Ogle – Virtual Walking Tour
Leader and Consultant, Nicki Newburger – Videographer, Drue Diehl –
Digital Archivist, Kelly Hatton – Shelby County School Liaison,
Margot Payne – Architectural Consultant, June West – Director of
Memphis Heritage and Interns Tiara Campbell, George Fenton, and
It was a real pleasure to
meet with, work with, go out on site to video and photograph with
these folks throughout Memphis from March, 2018 through April 2019,
and appreciate the work of Don Newman more than ever. Keep in mind,
that back in the middle of the 1900s, Don Newman carried an 80-pound
tripod, a 25-pound camera with a veil, and using 8” X 10’’ negative,
all while probably wearing a coat and tie in sweltering heat. The
quality of his images is to perfection and many are used as large
photo murals in many public places around town such as The Arcade
Restaurant, Lincoln-American Tower, various coffee shops and, of
course, at Memphis Heritage, 2282 Madison Avenue at Edgewood.
So, many thanks to Emily Cohen for
coordinating all of this effort and making these resources meaningful and
available to all online, too. See the recent update from Memphis Heritage below.
Newman to Now website information:
|Update from Memphis Heritage
Dear Members and Friends,
Our Board of Directors, June and I hope you and your family is
staying safe and well. We want to update you on what’s going on with
Memphis Heritage. In accordance with federal and local guidelines,
all of our events through May will be postponed. This includes our
Annual Membership Meeting, the Adapt-A-Door Door Dash, and the
Memphis Mercantile Market. We look forward to rescheduling these
events as soon as we can.
With so many having to follow the official request
to "stay at home", we are developing additional educational digital
content that will be available soon. In the meantime, check out our
virtual exhibit, "Newman to Now.”
We want to stay connected until we can gather
together again. Please keep in touch through social media, email and
by phone. And stay tuned for more exciting digital content in the
Take care everyone,
Holly Jansen Fulkerson
Memphis Heritage, Inc.
"Newman to Now" Virtual Exhibit
"Newman to Now" uses the historic photographs taken by
Don Newman between the 1940s and 60s and contemporary photographs of the
same sites taken by photographer Gary Walpole to explore continuity and
change in Memphis' built environment.
Explore Memphis’ history through photographs, newspaper
articles, interviews, and a virtual walking tour with everyone’s favorite
guide, Jimmy Ogle! There are also teacher plans that have been created for
this project on the site.
The Newman to Now Project is designed by Memphis
Heritage and partially funded by Humanities Tennessee, an independent
affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
2020 Women of Achievement Awards Ceremonyognize and celebrate these women.
On Sunday, March 29, in celebration of
National Women’s History Month, an elegant reception will be held and awards
will be presented to local and stories of their work told in seven categories:
Courage, Determination, Heritage, Heroism, Initiative, Steadfastness, Vision.
For Ticket Information ($35 each), go to
www.womenofachievement.org. Ticket sales end March 26.
For any other information, contact Deborah Clubb of the Memphis Area Women’s
Council (memphiswomen.org) at 901-378-3866,
The Memphis Women’s Legacy Trail is a
project to document, remember, and celebrate the women of Memphis, Tennessee
that have made a lasting impact on the city through their work and lives.
Compiled by Dr. Beverly Bond, Dt. Mrgaret Caffrey, Judy Card, Deborah Clubb, Dr.
Gail Murray, Jimmy Ogle, and Laura Todd, the brochure and information is the
first of its kind in Memphis. The goal is to raise funds to expand the project
in hopes to share the stories, history, and vision of these remarkable Memphis
A special, first-edition brochure was unveilied at the 35th Women of Achievement
Award Ceremony on Sunday, March 24, 2019. Brochures are available by contacting
the Memphis Area Women’s Council. Go to www.womenofachievement.org to view a
copy of selected parts of the brochure as well as the corresponding map.
WHER & Calvary Rescue Mission
In my experiences over
the years of walking the sidewalks, streets, alleys, parks, plazas and driving
the neighborhoods of Memphis in search of history, I discovered that every block
has a story. As many times that I have driven South Third Street (U.S. Hwy 61),
south of Crump Blvd., either to view the Gaston Park or STAX and Soulsville, or
even to drive on to Tunica and Helena, I have never really thought about what
things happened on the stretch of street in the 1950s, prior to the development
of the Interstate system in America, or even now in the 21st century. Back then,
the U.S. and State highways were the primary roadways for all vehicular
transportation across the country. So, Kemmons Wilson wanted to place a Holiday Newman's Memphis Website
Memphis Heritage is excited to announce the launch of the new Newman's Memphis website! Don Newman took some of the most iconic photographs of Memphis during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Explore the collection of historic Memphis photographs, search for photos, and order prints at: https://memphisheritage.pastperfectonline.com/ . Memphis Heritage will be adding new photos frequently, so check back often!
t the four major entries to Memphis:
|From the east - U.S. 70 (Summer
Avenue in East Memphis)
From the south - U.S. 51 (Bellevue, now Elvis Presley Blvd in South
From the west - U.S. 61 (Third Street) at Crump Blvd. (U.S. 78) just
after crossing over
the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge
From the north - U.S. 51 (Thomas Street and N. Watkins Street in
67 years ago in 1953, Kemmons
Wilson opened the third Holiday Inn (in Memphis and the world) on South Third
Street. In 1955, inside that Holiday Inn, Sam Phillips, Sun Studio founder,
joined with Kemmons Wilson to open and staff the Nation's First "All Girl Radio
Station" as WHER - 1,000 Beautiful Watts, with eight women the as first pioneers
- Dotty Abbott, Fay Bussel, Dot Fisher, Barbara Gurley, Donna Rae Jackson,
Marion Keisker, Becky Phillips, Phyllis Stimbert, and Bobbie Stout as the first
set of on-air personalities. At WHER 1430 AM, the Studio was the “Doll Den,” the
Control Room was the “Playroom,” and the Manager’s Office was marked “Boss
Ma’am.” Becky Phillips said the format was “better music, the kind that lives on
through the years to bring back pleasant memories.”
On that site near the rear of
the property was located the Assembly of God Church building that the Presley
family attended and where Elvis had sung on stage as a teenager, and it stills
stands today as a chapel for Calvary Rescue Mission. How about that?!
Calvary Rescue Mission was
opened in 1967 at 863 Jackson Avenue by Milton Hatcher, and was relocated to
several other locations over the next fifty years. On June 19, 2018, a
ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new facility with at 960 S. Third
Street. Calvary Rescue Mission is a non-profit, independent, faith-based shelter
for homeless men in Memphis. It serves two meals per day, offers clothes to
homeless, has a nightly chapel service and provides counseling, a disciple
program and lodging (110 beds) - all in a debt-free building now..
Just south of the Calvary
Rescue Mission is the City of Memphis Traffic Signal Maintenance & Construction
Division of Engineering office which happens to occupy a portion of the Holiday
Inn building that still remains to this day! Between the two properties is a
perfect patch of green grass along the sidewalk – perfect for a historical
marker location, too.
Betty Hatcher and Director Bob
Freudiger of Calvary Rescue Mission were very receptive to the proposal of
having a historical marker for WHER and Marion Keisker “in their front yard”,
and the rest is history, as they say at the Shelby Count Historical Commission.
The WHER marker was dedicated on August 9, 2019. Also attending that day were
Dave Brown (who worked with Marion Keisker for a while, and Jerry Williams (who
worked at this Holiday Inn and whose father built some of the early Holiday Inns
in Memphis). The WHER marker is also listed on the Women’s Legacy Trail recently
developed by Women Of Achievement in Memphis (www.womenofachievement.org).
In closing, please think of the
year round services offered at the Calvary Rescue Mission at 960 S. Third
Street, just two blocks south of Crump Blvd. As mentioned in the monthly
newsletter below, the monthly Chicken Luncheon may be the best fried chicken in
Memphis. Please drop by the Calvary Rescue Mission the next time that you are in
the area. To contribute to Calvary Rescue Mission, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 901-775-2570 (www.calvaryrescuemission.org).
To download or read the January newsletter from the Calvary Rescue Mission
A Wish Organization for WWII, Korea & Vietnam Veterans
December is the month of the year when most memories
awaken, whether they are about the annual holiday season events or
year-end reflections. Both of those ideas share the words "tax
deductions" but more importantly the word "giving".
One organization that I would like
to mentioned in the Memphis area is Forever Young - a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization which seeks to bring honor, healing and hope to
military veterans 65-years and older by granting their unfulfilled
dreams, sharing the stories of their sacrifice with others, and
returning them with Trips of Honor to the places where they fought
(Normandy, Belgium, Italy and Pearl Harbor) and even Washington, D.C.
Returning senior veterans to the
places where they fought is a powerful and healing experience. What was
once fear and death in their minds from the war, is now replaced with
peace and gratitude. For the first time in decades, many of the vets
find closure. Hundreds of veterans have been granted the trip of a
The local monthly Veterans' Meeting
is every third Thursday of each month at 10:30 a.m., with lunch to
follow at 11:30 a.m. in the Faith Building at Germantown Baptist Church,
9450 Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN, 38139.
So, please consider giving a
tax-deductible gift to Forever Young. Go to FOREVERYOUNGVETS.ORG for
Forever Young Senior Veterans
185 S. Center Street # 110
Collierville, TN, 38017
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...
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!!
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