UA-53645469-1 Memphis Type History: The Podcast

Zion Christian Cemetery

November 28, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin tells Rebecca the history behind Memphis' oldest African-American graveyard: Zion Christian Cemetery. She was taken to the site by Tramica Morris (whose home we toured in our 16th episode – A Tour of Glenview Historic District). There are many notable Memphians buried there and ever so many ties to important moments of Memphis history... and we're happy to report that efforts to revitalize it are underway.

The 15-acre Zion Christian Cemetery is located on the north side of the 1400 block of S. Parkway East. In 1990 is was added onto the National Register of Historic Places and there are likely 30,000 people buried there. Back in 1873, the United Sons of Zion, an African-American fraternal organization founded by freed slaves, purchased this land.

It took three years for it to be turned into the final resting place for so many when Reverend Morris Henderson, the founding pastor of Beale Street Baptist Church got it officially established as a cemetery. This church was the first brick church in the Midsouth built by and for African Americans and the congregation was made up of freed slaves.

In my various pieces of research for blog posts and podcast episodes, I've come across the quick mention that people used to believe the yellow fever was somehow started by African Americans through voodoo or somesuch. And although it was believed that the black community was immune to Yellow Fever, they were, in fact, not totally so. While most white citizens fled Memphis in the fever, many African Americans stayed and nursed the sick. But when they died, they couldn’t be buried at the other cemeteries in city so they would be laid to rest in Zion – so this is why there are so many people buried there.

The victims of the Peoples Grocery Lynching in 1892 are buried at Zion Christian Cemetery.

Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and William Stewart,were brutally murdered by a mob of white men (with the press present to take down all the details) because their grocery store was more popular and prosperous than the white guy's store in the same neighborhood. I go into more detail on the show, but I still recommend you visit the links at the bottom of the show notes to learn more about it. Moss' murder would inspire Ida B. Wells' international anti-lynching crusade.

Julia Hooks is also buried in Zion Christian Cemetery. She was deeply involved in young people in the city as an officer of the Juvenile Court, a teacher, and a school principal. Her sons, Henry and Robert Hooks, owned the famous Hooks Brothers Photographers. This business was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. They were extremely influential in recording African American life in the 20th century, and even took the only known studio portrait of blues musician Robert Johnson. Their studio was located at 162 Beale which is now King's Palace Café (and has been left largely intact apparently).

Julia Hooks' grandson was Benjamin L. Hooks, a name you likely recognize because the main library is named for him. Dr. Hooks was a major civil rights movement leader and was executive director of the NAACP from 1977 to 1992.

There are many other notable African American community members buried here in Zion Christian Cemetery, and you'll need to tune in and hear about them all!

The cemetery thrived up until the 1920s, by which time many of the original shareholders had passed away... so it was supported by church collections. Then by the '60s it had pretty much been abandoned. It was so overgrown that many people didn't even know that such a historic site lay underneath all the trees and weeds.

In 2005, the Zion Community Project was formed to clean out and preserve the history here. On the day I visited, a lot of clearing out what going on. Future plans include identifying those laid to rest there, creating roads and walkways for better navigation through the cemetery, and documenting the stories of people buried there.

For full show notes, links, and pictures visit memphistypehistory.com/zion

Ladies Night

November 22, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin and Rebecca take each and every one of you out for Ladies Night! And guess what? It's a two-for-one special tonight because they each share the story of a Memphis lady they love.

 

First, Rebecca makes Caitlin play a game of "Name That Tune." Well, sort of. We're not really sure how the game show worked and we for sure don't play the right way. But you can play along with us if you dare! But beware that Rebecca gets REALLY bossy about it.

All of these shenanigans lead us into learning all about Estelle Axton, who grew up on a farm and moved to Memphis to be a teacher. But then in 1958, fate came upon her when her brother, Jim Stewart, asked her to start Satellite Records with him. Estelle and her husband re-mortgaged their home and created their first big musical hit. This caught the attention of an LA label that already owned that name. So the siblings combined the first two letters of their last names to create... drum roll please... Stax!

Every recording studio is known for its unique sound, which is greatly affected by the physical build of the studio. At Stax, the floor was slanted because they had to set up shop in a theater. And voilà, the Stax sound was created! The original label's name lived on in the Satellite Record Shop that Estelle created in the former concession stand to help pay rent and gain insight into which records would sell best. Along with much success with Stax, Estelle also went on to become huge in the music industry, both in Memphis and globally.

Next up, Caitlin brings the Wild West to Memphis with a story that bundles up in one inspirational woman all the things we love: Memphis, an iconic sign, and, as stated, the Wild West. In 1927, 21-year-old Evelyn Estes (aka "Calamity Jane's Little Sister) set off alone with just a horse and her dog, Kip, to reach the Pacific Ocean in California. She took very little with her except a travel journal, intending to rely solely on the kindness of strangers. Caitlin details the high points of Evelyn's journey, which includes things like how she delivered a baby, ran slap into pioneer life (straight up Oregon Trail stuff, y'all), saw several famous people, and lots more.

For those who particularly love the ladies of the Wild West, we also have a nice little sidebar in this episode about Calamity Jane herself, too! We also cover a bit of the history behind our surprise iconic sign encountered by Evelyn herself on her way to the ocean... no spoilers here, though!

Evelyn didn't stop being awesome at 22. She also was a WWII nurses' aid, made B29s, worked with children in the John Gaston Hospital. Being the total boss she was, Evelyn lived on to the age of 103.

For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/ladies

Shotgun Houses

November 13, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin educates Rebecca on Midtown Memphis' favorite type of home – the quintessentially Southern shotgun house.

 

Shotgun houses can be found all over the south, including Memphis. First up, let's understand the format of a shotgun house. It's narrow – just one room wide – and would be at least three rooms deep to count. Typically, the first room was a living room, then bedrooms, and then the kitchen at the back. The original shotgun house would have been 12-feet wide with a single window beside the front door. Later in time, as we'll see, this design will change. The name comes from the fact that a gun could be fired at the front door and the bullet would travel straight out the back door without hitting anything, since there's no hallway.

Where these original shotgun houses came from remains a mystery. Some say they're African floor plans that were brought to Haiti by slaves in the colonial era. The first ones documented in the U.S. were built in New Orleans in the 1840s. They then began spreading throughout urban areas. The "second wave" of shotgun home building made it to Memphis, so the ones built here in the 1860s and 70s have fancier architectural elements than the first wave houses. Finally, the "third wave" came about in the late 1880s during industrialization. This time period featured simplified shotgun homes constructed as working class rental units.

Because of constant changes throughout time, it's uncertain that all of these Memphis shotgun house neighborhoods still exist, so explore at your own risk :)

659 Jennette Place was the site of a famous Memphis shotgun house, as it's where blues musician W.C. Handy wrote songs like "Yellow Dog Blues" and "Beale Street Blues." It's now at 352 Beale Street as a museum.

406 Lucy Avenue is where you can find the shotgun house Aretha Franklin was born in... and rumor has it that her bathtub is still in there. Since the time of this episode's recording, it seems that renewed efforts are underway to restore the home for history.

In a book on Memphis architecture, Wells Avenue was listed as a wealth of shotgun houses, the best in the city. But its National Register of Historic Places designation was removed in 2014 so I'm wondering if they are still there. Lost Memphis found two shotgun homes there in 2014. These are/were built around the turn of the century and are closer to 25 feet across... the same street feature/d 1920s bungalows as well.

Belz Court was constructed in 1936 to house African American families working in Philip Belz's North Memphis Industrial District. There were a dozen shotgun duplexes there on either side of a "pedestrian court" – no driveways or anything for parking because the planners expected everyone would just walk to work. Because of it's old-fashioned design, only about three of them were left in 2014 because they just aren't very practical for modern families. Lost Memphis also went there to check out what's left.

For full show notes, visit memphistypehistory.com/shotgun

 

Libertyland with John R. Stevenson

November 6, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin chats with John R. Stevenson all about everyone's favorite bundle of fun—Libertyland! John just published a book about the park and we dive right into all the weird and wonderful things about this historic Memphis spot.

For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/libertyland

Ghosts In Memphis: E&H, Snowden, & The Orpheum

October 30, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, we learn that there are a lot of ghosts in Memphis. Earnestine & Hazels, Annesdale Snowden historical neighborhood, and The Orpheum Theater are just a few places where you can find a ghost. To get you further into the Halloween spirit, listen to first-hand accounts of encounters with these ghosts and discover if perhaps you've met one yourself!

 

Introducing the Pigman

First Caitlin sets the mood for this episode by sharing a story she uncovered of a past Memphis ghost who haunts a smoke stack in North Memphis... the PIGMAN! Squuueeeeeeeel. 

The Haunting of Earnestine & Hazel's

But then things get real when we share a true story of a guy who witnessed a ghost first-hand at Earnestine & Hazels. We also hear two tales of things that go bump in the night from listeners – but one of them might have quite a logical explanation...

Ghosts Get Real in One Memphis Neighborhood

This house may look like an idealic southern home, but there is more hiding behind the bricks. Ashleigh Carroll shares how she discovered the home she purchased may actually be haunted. "Henrietta" has been paying visits to her family for years. Ashleigh tells several stories about her experiences with the ghost including how other people have at various times confessed experiencing paranormal activity without realizing Ashleigh already knew about it. And spookiest of all, perhaps, the mysterious messenger who delivered a bundle of very old photos of the previous residents only saying, "The pictures stay with the house." You can see a couple of those photos below but you'll want to listen to hear why its especially creepy. 

Mary, The Orpheum's Longest Tenured Star

The Orpheum theatre is a historic place of entertainment. From broadway shows, to concerts, and various other performances, there aren't many dull nights at this theater. Well, we found out that is especially true because Mary (we're not sure why everyone names their ghosts, but seriously, they ALL have a name!) has been haunting this place since the 1920's. Her story is one of tragedy but her presence is warm and joyful. Whether it be a practical joke, hanging out with kids, or watching shows on the balcony, Mary is in good spirits. She even made her presence known to the star of The King and I while on stage. Interestingly, that same show just recently finished a run at the Orpheum. Curious about all the stories? We hear from the director of marketing for special productions, Renee Brame, about the various times and places people have experienced Mary's presence.

 

For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/halloween17

Let’s Talk Type

October 22, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, we're talking type – typography that is! Rebecca gets in the hot seat to teach us all about appreciating the visual form of words and letters... and how we can get more into typography in our everyday lives.

 

We dive right in to typography as it relates to signage and lettering in this episode. So we recommend that you first listen to our intro episode if you haven't already for a background on how Memphis Type History began and the double meaning in its name.

Typography is text, fonts... type is a letter form. Letter form is an art form that can be made digitally on the computer or by hand, and even through typesetting like on a letterpress where letters made out of wood or metal are used to create different prints. These days, endless type can be created, and even sold, using modern technology!

In the olden days, signs were typically hand-painted. What was painted on the side of the building to advertise what was inside often became the logo for the business... and this method continues today through Rebecca's own hand for businesses like Propcellar and 409 South Main.

 

What's needed to create good type? A sense of space, composition, and a steady hand for the most part. Hand-lettering involves researching an appropriate era for inspiration and figuring out how to merge these styles with what is appropriate for the project. Rebecca will often create several different options, which often creates an entirely different feel to the entire piece even if each ones is coming from the same inspiration.

To create her Florida piece, Rebecca first planned out the piece on paper. She decided how the letters should be spaced out, what style they should have, and whether they need flourishes or not... she even thinks about how thick or thin each part of the letter should be. Unlike pieces like the one below which Rebecca creates by painting layers upon layers, her typographic pieces are sketched out first.

Rebecca begins by sketching "roughs" onto paper. She keeps working and working until it's exactly how she wants. Then she transfers the sketch (usually smaller scale) onto the wood using carbon paper. Letters don't need the soft edges that a painting of a sign or a landscape needs to look realistic, so all she has to do is paint the background and then work on top of the carbon copy sketch. In order to hide the lines, Rebecca paints slightly over the edge of the carbon marks – as she pointed out, steady surgeon hands are surely needed!

If you want to get into typography, Rebecca recommends resources like Thinking with Type , Sign Painters , and take time to visit your local library.

For full show notes go to memphistypehistory.com/type

A Tour of Glenview Historic District

October 15, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin gives Rebecca an overview of the history behind Glenview Historic District. Then we sit down with Glenview resident Tramica Bridges who tells us all about the history of her home and so kindly gives us a tour!

 

In 1904, architect George E. Kessler began work on the Memphis Parkway system, part of the City Beautiful Movement which aimed to create a city that integrated well with nature. The plan included features like neighborhood parks as well as lampposts, benches, and other "street furniture." You can see aspects of this trend throughout Glenview, which was mostly built from the 1910s through the 1940s (although there are some homes that date up to 1997).

In addition, there are also curves in the grid layout of the neighborhood, a new development that came alongside the introduction of cars into everyday usage. Within the subdivision, you can find wonderful examples of architecture of this period, such as the bungalow, craftsman, Tudor revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and your good ol' ranch homes, among others. This historic neighborhood is bordered by South Parkway East on the south, Burlington Northern Railroad on the west, Southern Avenue on the north, and Lamar Avenue on the east.

Glenview's first residents were white, middle class professionals – small business owners, salespeople, craftsmen, and the like. A notable event that once took place in the neighborhood was the staging of Tennessee Williams' first play, Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay! in 1935, when he was a student at Southwestern College, by the amateur theater group out of Alice G. Rosebrough’s home, aka "Rose Arbor."

In 1956, Reverend Charles H. (Bob) Mason, Jr., the pastor at the Church of God in Christ (one of the largest Pentecostal churches in the nation and the largest Pentecostal congregation in Memphis) purchased the house at 1755 Glenview Avenue. The Glenview Civic Club and the Glenview Plan, Inc. (a business scheme designed to purchase properties put on the market in the neighborhood and sell them only to other white people) began working to keep Mason, Jr. and other African-American families, out of the area. We discuss these disturbing dealings and the attempts to intimidate with various acts of violence further on the show.

Other black leaders made their home in Glenview, with 1968 being a turning point in the transition of the neighborhood. The National Guard occupied the neighborhood and imposed a curfew on black residents, which apparently signaled to the remaining white ones that outsiders considered the neighborhood to be a black one. So out they moved, making room for many extremely notable black leaders like the first African American writer for the Commercial Appeal, Rubye Coffman, the first black Memphis policeman, Memphis Red Socks players, and more.

Next on the show, Rebecca and Caitlin visit Tramica Bridges for a tour of her Glenview home. Her house has been featured in the Glenview home tour in previous years, and she takes great care to keep its historical elements while adding her own flair. We loved how her son, the entrepreneur behind Mo's Bows, also adds his own unique take to the space!

Tramica shares the history of her home's past owners, followed by a tour of the house. 

For full show notes go to memphistypehistory.com/glenview

Steamboats and the Bluff City

October 8, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin and Rebecca get on a boat. No, that's wishful thinking. Instead, Caitlin tells Rebecca about the history of steamboats and how these ships played a role in the growth of Memphis.

 

This episode begins with an introduction to Caitlin's favorite steamboat captain, singer and songwriter John Hartford. Sure, he won three Grammy's for "Gentle on My Mind" but her preferred track is "Don't Leave Your Records in the Sun." Who doesn't love a good tip set to music?

Steamboats played a huge role in the economic growth of cities along the river, as well as the entire United States, in the early 19th century. These massive ships were able to take large amounts of freight and passengers both up and down the country's major rivers and tributaries due to the newfangled steam power technology.

The very first steamboat on the Mississippi River was The Orleans way back in 1811. It was launched from Pittsburgh and worked alright, but many design and technological improvements were quickly on their way. The boats that followed were named the Comet, the Vesuvius, the Enterprise, and the Washington. But only The Enterprise boldy went where no man had gone before.

By 1810, there were twenty steamboats on the river. At first they were made of wood and fueled by wood, but later that fuel became coal. At first, it took three weeks to make the trip up the Mississippi River to Ohio. But as time progressed and more powerful engines were constructed, better boiler systems came into play, pilots got more experienced, and dangers were removed from the river, this trip was cut down to just four days. Because of construction methods, fires, and frequent damage by obstacles along the river, a steamboat lasted, on average, about five years. By the 1830s, over 1,200 boats were chugging up and down the waterways.

Memphis became a prominent port out of its slave trade. This was one catalyst for the First Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, a naval battle that many citizens went out to watch. The Union won the battle, and Confederate naval control of the river was pretty much nonexistent after that. Tom Lee Park is located on the riverfront, and is named for an African American riverworker, who himself couldn't swim, rescued, on his own, 32 drowning people from sinking of the M.E. Norman in 1925.

So what was life like on a steamboat back in the day? Well, supposedly, beer was the #1 drink in the 1800s, also known as the glory days of the riverboat. There was a lot of gambling on the boats, and pilots often raced each other. There are several very famous races with well-known captains documented from history. These pilots were highly skilled, as they didn't have instruments and navigational readouts to go on. Instead, they learned from experience where the sandbars, rocks, snags, and landmarks were along the river. They also had to know about stuff that changed all the time, like river depth and current, and much of that was understood through understanding swirls, ripples, and what the color of water meant... and then pairing that knowledge with a gut instinct for the feel of the boat.

In the early 20th century, steamboat usage began to decline. Passengers began using a faster form of transportation – the train. Then came the Great Depression, which saw a decline in almost every industry. Shipbuilding technology had improved to where diesel engines were being used a lot more. Diesel tugs required smaller crews, which meant less wages. Plus, the technology was just better. So by the 1940s, steamboats were considered outdated.

These days, only a few riverboats still run on steam. According to research, the Belle of Louisville, the Natchez, the Minne-Ha-Ha, the Chautauqua Belle, the Julia Belle Swain, and the American Queen are still operating. In 2008, the U.S. government put an end to overnight passage on steamboats except with the permission of Congress.

In Memphis, you can still get out on the water on a riverboat. The journey begins on the cobblestone landing, built by immigrants from 1850 to 1890. It's presence made a big difference in Memphis becoming such a huge port city because it could withstand the mules loading and unloading all the heavy goods. As of 1996, it's estimated that more than 800,000 of the original cobblestones are still there, although it's all in great disrepair. It's the last complete stone landing on any waterfront in the country.

In the 1950s, most riverboat-related activities moved to President's Island. In 1955, the Memphis Queen Line was founded by Captain Ed Langford. In 1960, his part-time captain, Tom Meanley, purchased the company. He later endeavored to build the Memphis Queen III from 1977-1979, and then the Island Queen from 1982 to 1984, from the ground up. They made the hulls at Meanley Shipyard behind Captain Tom's house in Whitehaven, and then a house-moving company took them to McKellar Lake about 12 miles away. From there, they were towed to the cobblestone landing where the smokestacks, pilot house, and decks were added. You can ride the Island Queen, the Memphis Queen III, or the Memphis Showboat on sightseeing trips, dinner cruises, and private charters.

For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/steamboats

The Forgotten Adventures of Richard Halliburton with R. Scott Williams

October 1, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Rebecca sits down with R. Scott Williams to learn all about Richard Halliburton, a famous but forgotten Memphian. Halliburton cuts a fascinating figure in history as an explorer and adventure writer.

 

Scott, COO of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., published The Forgotten Adventures of Richard Halliburton. If the name sounds slightly familiar to you, it's because Halliburton Tower lies on the Rhodes campus, donated by Halliburton's father (along with documents from his life and travels). Fun fact: Halliburton's mother was one of the first psychologists in Memphis!

And now, onto the main event – Richard Halliburton.

“Let those who wish have their respectability. I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy, freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous and the romantic.” –Richard Halliburton

At the age of nineteen, Halliburton ran away from his hometown of Memphis to go on adventures. He became an internationally known celebrity and the most famous travel writer in the grand ages for adventure – the Golden Age, the Roaring Twenties, and into the Great Depression. He did everything from climb Mount Olympus to flying all the way to Timbuktu, always looking for the next bigger and more astounding adventure to share with the world.

But wait... how did he fund all this crazy travel? Well, back in the day, people gave lectures about the adventures they went on... and these events funded their subsequent adventures. He would do as many as 50 lectures a month sometimes! Basically he was the Anthony Bourdain before there was such a thing as the Travel Channel. If he lived today, he would be the ultimate travel brand... and Scott even tells us what his TV show would probably be called, but you'll have to listen to this episode to find out more!

Scott shares how Halliburton was a great marketer and could always find the best "hook" for designing adventures. In one instance, he decided to fly to his next adventure. He flew all over the world for 18 months, including into volcanoes! His pilot and he ran into another pilot, Elly Beinhorn, who was also quite adventurous in her own right. Oh, and Scott really thinks this period of Halliburton's life would make a great movie – and there's even a love story that makes that even more intriguing....

One of our favorite things was how tied to Memphis Halliburton was. For example, when Halliburton was but a toddler around 1902, Mary Hutchison, the founder of Hutchison School, started the school in his home, as she was great friends with his parents. "Hutchy," as she was known, was called "Grandmother" by Halliburton, and she's even buried in the family plot. She's credited with really giving him his spirit of adventure.

Unfortunately, Halliburton's last adventure was a bit too ill-conceived and he perished in a typhoon while sailing the seas in a Chinese junk. The original plan was for him to sail the junk from Hong Kong to San Francisco and appear just in time for the opening day of the World's Fair. However, he disappeared at sea at the age of 39... just two years after another famous adventurer, Amelia Earhart.

We hope finding out more about this amazing Memphian will revive an interest in writings and life's work of adventuring around the world. 

For full show notes go to memphistypehistory.com/halliburton

 

Dining 1: Anderton’s & The Four Way

September 24, 2017
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In this episode of Memphis Type History: The Podcast, Caitlin and Rebecca tell each other about a restaurant from Memphis history. Caitlin starts us off with some old timey vocabulary before diving into Anderton's (get it??) Rebecca follows up with charming stories of The Four Way, which is so near and dear to our hearts.

Herbert Anderton learned how to cook on a Texas Army base before bringing his skills to downtown Memphis.

In 1945, Anderton's Restaurant and Oyster Bar opened at 51 Madison to immediate success. In 1956, Anderton's East opened up in the former Gilmore Seafood Restaurant at 1901 Madison as a second location. There was also a third location around 1965 in Whitehaven, across from Graceland. Then it and the original downtown location closed, and Anderton's East became the only one – and this is the one that most people have such fond memories of... due in part to its amazing piratey, nautical-themed interior.

In the restaurant’s first ten years, it served over six million oysters to more than two million diners. On their 10-year anniversary, they baked a cake to serve 2,500 customers so that anyone who came in on that day could enjoy a slice. If you have a photo or memory of this event, please get in touch with us. We need to hear more about this event!

Anderton's closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2009 BUT the décor lives on at The Cove on Broad Avenue.

The Four Way makes a strong appearance in our book, and we were thrilled to revisit it for this week's podcast episode. It's located in Soulsville, one of the most historic neighborhoods in Memphis.

It began as a small pool hall where you could also get basics like a hotdog, a sandwich, or a beer. In 1946, Clint and Irene Cleaves took out a loan on their house to purchase the building. Their restaurant had an upscale feel with white tablecloths and snazzy servers. They added a private dining room in the back complete with a doorbell and required staff approval before entry.

The Four Way was one of the few places in Memphis that white and black people ate at together. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a regular, as were many famous Stax recording artists. And, of course, Elvis also dined there.

The restaurant closed in 1996 due to Mrs. Cleaves' declining health. Willie Earl Bates purchased it when it went up for auction in 2001. He remodeled it and expanded dining space by removing the pool tables and adding an upstairs dining room for groups. But he did keep the menu as close to the original Cleaves' version as possible, even having cooks help with taste-testing to make sure the food remained "rightly seasoned."

Today you can still find amazing soul food at The Four Way, as it carries on even after Mr. Bates' passing in 2016.

For full show notes, go to memphistypehistory.com/dining1