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Jimmy Ogle Tours

 

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If you would care to make a donation to help offset the costs of the free tours, please use the PayPal button below.

Private or custom tours vary in cost and are subject to availability.

Thank you for helping to keep Memphis history alive.
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Welcome to the online home of
Jimmy Ogle

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.

Jimmy Ogle Tours

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    -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -      October News      -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -   

 

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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.

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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.

Hopefully this 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!

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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.)

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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 Cafe.

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!

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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!).

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***   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 Alley.


  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 Barboro Alley).

  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 days!

• 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 to be.

• 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 true believer.

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Remember Libertyland by John Stevenson

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...

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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 Myths

by Graham Simmons and Dr. Harry Friedman

  I 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 Last"!

  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 world.

  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 Studies.
 

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Web Site Tops 100,000 Hits!

  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 happen!!

# Country Pageviews %
1. United States 8,733 66.22%
2. Other 3,414 25.89%
3. United Kingdom 513 3.89%
4. Canada 206 1.56%
5. Australia 39 0.30%
6. Netherlands 25 0.19%
7. Germany 24 0.18%
8. France 21 0.16%
9. Spain 19 0.14%
10. China 18 0.14%
11. Ireland 14 0.11%
12. Philippines 14 0.11%
13. Brazil 10 0.08%
14. Switzerland 9 0.07%
15. Sweden 9 0.07%
16. India 8 0.06%
17. Russian Federation 7 0.05%
18. Singapore 6 0.05%
19. Italy 6 0.05%
20. Japan 5 0.04%
21. Denmark 4 0.03%
22. Belgium 4 0.03%
23. Norway 4 0.03%
24. New Zealand 4 0.03%
25. Malaysia 4 0.03%
26. Taiwan 4 0.03%
27. Turkey 3 0.02%
28. Slovak Republic 3 0.02%
29. Thailand 3 0.02%
30. Colombia 3 0.02%
31. Finland 3 0.02%
32. Croatia (Hrvatska) 2 0.02%
33. Hungary 2 0.02%
34. Kenya 2 0.02%
35. Moldova 2 0.02%
36. Macedonia 2 0.02%
37. Mexico 2 0.02%
38. Costa Rica 2 0.02%
39. Chile 2 0.02%
40. Austria 2 0.02%
41. Czech Republic 2 0.02%
42. Bulgaria 2 0.02%
43. Bahamas 2 0.02%
44. Vietnam 2 0.02%
45. Uganda 2 0.02%
46. Poland 2 0.02%
47. Portugal 1 0.01%
48. Slovenia 1 0.01%
49. New Caledonia 1 0.01%
50. Tanzania 1 0.01%
51. Ukraine 1 0.01%
52. Tunisia 1 0.01%
53. South Africa 1 0.01%
54. Scotland 1 0.01%
55. Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 0.01%
56. United Arab Emirates 1 0.01%
57. Argentina 1 0.01%
58. Serbia Montenegro 1 0.01%
59. Israel 1 0.01%
60. Korea (South) 1 0.01%
61. Morocco 1 0.01%
62. Monaco 1 0.01%
63. Indonesia 1 0.01%
64. Hong Kong 1 0.01%
65. Estonia

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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 time).

  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 !!!


http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-era-of-google-maps-fans-of-paper-maps-refuse-to-fold-1415317412

 

A BIG MEMPHIS THANK YOU to Andrea and Alan!!

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"History is Made" at Westy's -- May 27, 2015!


JMO1, JBS3, JBS5, JBS4, JMO2, JMO3 (in arms)
That's about 250 years of Jimmy Ogles and Jake Schorrs!

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TOURS

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