Unanswered Questions



The “Ask Vance” system is an imperfect one. People write in (by email and “real” mail) to me at Memphis magazine with an astonishing assortment of queries. Then they sit back and wait for me to provide them with the answer they so eagerly desire — in the form of dates, names, addresses, photographs, and other information.

Unfortunately, some of these people have been waiting a rather long time. The problem is that I now have far more questions than I can ever answer — not at these pitiful wages, anyway — and right now I’m looking at a box on my desk filled with some 300 queries from readers. Some of these epistles are more challenging than others (heck, sometimes I’m not even sure of the question), so I thought I’d pick out just a few and post them here, in hopes that you — dear readers — can help with the answers:

• I would like to know where GAY-OLA Bottling Company of Memphis was. — W.K., Memphis

• What was the date that two very unhappy elephants escaped from the Memphis Zoo and caused great excitement in the residential neighborhoods north of Overton Park? — R.H., Gadsden, Alabama

• I can’t help wondering about the sharp “S” curves on the north-south streets between Summer and Poplar, like Goodlett, Perkins, Mendenhall, and White Station. Did our city engineers “party too hearty” at Leon’s the night before they laid out the street plans? — “Sleepless in Memphis”

• What does Mr. Lauderdale know about a motorcycle or scooter being manufactured in Memphis between 1957 and 1961? I believe the manufacturer was called C&E Manufacturing. Where was C&E, and what happened to the scooter with the brand name “Argyle”? — S.B., Memphis [Note: I’ve already checked. Nothing shows up in city directories for this period. — Vance]

• I have always heard that my father, Lawrence Shurlds, and a man named Lem Boone wrote a small bridge [the game, she means] book called Stepping Stones to Sterling Bridge. Do you have any idea who Lem Boone was, or where I might find a copy of the book? — K.S., Memphis

• In the 1950s and early 1960s, I remember my dad going to a place that was like a Sonic, except you could order beer and they’d bring it to your car! Do you know what place I’m talking about? — K.S., Memphis

• I arrived in Memphis in 1949, and I remember just south of the corner of Mt. Moriah Road and Park Avenue, there was a rather large quarry. You drove down into it. Do you have any date when this quarry was filled, and by whom? — W.P., Memphis

• Who were the hosts of the local show Talent Showcase, and what years did it run? Also what year did a local show called Spellbound run, and who hosted it? — “stormking”

• I have a stock certificate from Progressive Building and Loan Association for 68 shares of stock. It was purchased by my great-grandfather in 1930. What happened to the business and is the stock worth anything? — C.H., Memphis

• I lived on Seventh Street in Hurt Village in the mid-1950s. I attended a place called Wesley House for kindergarten. I can’t remember what street it was on. Can you give me any information? — M.D., Memphis

• Recently I was in West Memphis and passed a building called the Red Barn on Broadway, which was built like a barn. It reminded me of a restaurant that had been in Memphis in the past. Was the one I saw in West Memphis built for the same reason as the one in Memphis? — A.S., Memphis

• Some in my office was wearing a Booker T. Washington Warriors High School t-shirt. I noticed that it was green and yellow, just like the shirts my mother wore at Central. Why do two Memphis public schools have the same mascot and the same school colors? — E.H., Memphis

• Is Peter Thomas, the voice on Nova, the same Peter Thomas who was on WMC-TV in the 1940s and ’50s? I was on his talent show. — N.S., Memphis.

• My girlfriend and I were trying to remember the name of a nightclub in the late 1970s or ’80s that had a beach theme and sand in the club. Can you help us? — C.J., Collierville

And finally (or at least for now):

• Do you remember the smell of the old Sears Crosstown store? It had a distinct — cold — smell. — K.M., Rockford, Illinois


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