The Owl Lunch Service and Tourist Court



A Big Boy Cone, Anyone?
  • A Big Boy Cone, Anyone?
A weary traveler driving into Memphis along Summer Avenue would find it hard to resist turning into the Owl Lunch Service and Tourist Court for a tasty meal and a good night's sleep.

First of all, it's impossible to miss the big billboard-sized sign, adorned with a giant painted owl. If that didn't get their attention, a smaller sign was placed right at the curb, facing the oncoming drivers, and telling them to STOP, EAT, and DRINK.

And why not? Just look at the neat rows of white cottages, with their eye-catching red roofs and brick pillars holding up the front porches — all the comforts of home. Over to one side (at the left in the card) was some kind of octagonal (or at least hexagonal) concession stand, its arched windows decorated with yellow awnings and colorful flower boxes.

Then there's the main building, presumably housing the cozy cafe, which offered Clover Farms Ice Cream, Clover Farms Malted Milk (just 20 cents), and something called the Big Boy Cone — that was just a dime (and decades before any Shoney's Big Boy made an appearance in town). The joint also sold Clover Farms Bottled Milk Chocolate, according to the great sign.

Summer Avenue, officially designated U.S. Highway 70, was also called the Bristol Highway because it supposedly stretched all the way across the state to the city of Bristol in the northeastern corner of Tennessee. I say "supposedly" because I've never actually journeyed that far on it. But because it was such an important traffic artery for tourists and business travelers, it certainly attracted some of the most memorable "roadside" attractions in Memphis, including the Silver Horseshoe Motel, Leahy's Trailer Court, the Crescent Lake Tourist Court, and — most famous of all — the world's first Holiday Inn.

I have no idea where the Owl Lunch Service was actually located on Summer, but it's a safe bet that what's there now doesn't have half the charm of this old place.

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