Saturday, July 31, 2010

Leftovers from Memphis and beyond …

Hearing that the Pyramid had closed down in Memphis surprised me. I remember it as being a thriving downtown venue for some big-name basketball teams. Of course, that was when I was last there years ago. The Pyramid, by the way, has been leased by Bass Pro Shops and will be transformed into a delta swampland atmosphere complete with restaurants and a bowling alley. ... It also stirred some memories of some other places I’ve been in Tennessee over the years, such as the Jacksons, in Tennessee and Mississippi. I was in Jackson, TN twice with the LeTourneau University women’s basketball for the NAIA national tournament and in Cleveland, TN when it won the first of back-to-back NCCAA National championships in 1996-97. I was also Jackson, MS once for a football game at Jackson State. Stephen F. Austin played there in the late 1980s. I remember because Jackson State is where Walter Payton played in college … On the way to Jackson, MS we drove through Senatobia, MS and I was there in 1986 covering Kilgore College in the JC national tournament. The Lady Rangers won their first national title there, but the national tournament moved to Tyler in 1987, where I covered it for a few years for the Longview News-Journal … I failed to mention it, but Cynthia and I had our first ride in a limousine. We called a limo service after the Passion Play in Eureka Springs to pick us up. The sight of a limo driving through a campground anywhere must have been a sight to see … While waiting on the Memphis bus tour to arrive, two of the largest statues we’ve ever seen were at the Visitor’s Center, one of Elvis Presley and one of BB King. Even their rings were huge … We also loved a large mosaic egg at the entrance of the center proclaiming Memphis to be the Home of the Blues as well as the Home of Rock & Roll.

While touring the Sun Studios, a picture of some of the greatest singers ever was on the wall -- Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered around at a piano. Ironically, Cynthia and I were trying to remember who was in that picture not long ago… St. Jude Research Hospital was interesting. Founded by Danny Thomas on the premise that no child should die in the dawn of life. … Another interesting stop on the tour was the sight of the Lorraine Hotel, the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The hotel was later converted into the Civil Rights Museum. A lady living at the hotel at the time, the last resident in the hotel, had to be physically removed by Memphis police and to this day – 22 years later, 7 months, so many days, so many hours – she still sits on a corner opposite the hotel in protest of the conversion of the motel and the money spent, because it was against everything Dr. King stood for. The police told her, she had fought a good fight, but the fight was over. She assured them it was not. Thus the protest goes on. The lady, Jacqueline Smith, even has a website, and it has a countdown of how long she’s been there …

Our bus driver Willie, told a few jokes along the way. He said UPS will be joining FedEx in the operation of the very expensive (to build) FedEx Forum and the name would be changed to FedUp! … Willie also told a true story, he noted, about two Memphis policemen who were caught digging up Elvis’ grave in the Forest Hill Cemetery, before it was moved to Graceland, because they wanted to hold the body for ransom. The two policemen are still in prison, he added … Willie told us about the bridge over the Mississippi River, that it was named for Dolly Parton, or so said, comedian Bill Cosby ... I’ve learned a little more about Kudsu, the invasive plant growth we saw. It comes from China and is used to stop erosion. It can also grow up to a foot a day or as much as 60 feet during a summer growing season. Larry Pennington jokingly said “plant the seeds and run.”


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