1920s in downtown Memphis, I would have expected old books until the 1940s. Again, not a single mention of C.M. Morton’s Barber Shop. something fancier, like tiles or even marble. Once again, though, I made some interesting discovAnd though the view through the window doesn’t show much, the other building visible isn’t very far away. eries. In the early 1900s, Memphis had only one billiard The street seems far too narrow to be 1920s Main Street parlor — an establishment in the old Peabody Hotel or Front Street. with the curious name of Hyronemus & Company. By Nevertheless, I decided to begin my search. And I 1930, our city had more than 30 places to shoot pool, came up empty-handed. Looking carefully through the with such intriguing names as The Antlers (26 S. Main) business listings from 1920 to 1930, I found no mention and The Pastime (9 S. Main). Even more impressive was the growth of the barber of a Morton Barber Shop. I did the same for listings for “billiard parlors,” which is how the city directories industry. In 1920, 168 barbershops were listed in the would have handled pool halls. Again, no billiard par- phone books. By 1940, Memphis had 318 places to get a shave and a haircut. Every big lor run by anyone named MorThough Loeb Properties is ton. And when I looked under hotel had its own barbershop, “names” in the old city directoalong with train stations, the known today for its high-profile ries, even though “Morton” is Cotton Exchange, First Nationdevelopments, in the early 1920s not uncommon, I was a bit sural Bank, and the Catholic Club. company founder Henry Loeb was prised to find no C.M., Charles, All this was interesting, but or Charlie Morton, either. where was C.M. Morton’s? I beinvolved in all sorts of enterprises. I had a brief “Eureka!” mogan to suspect something wasn’t ment when I came across “Mack Morton, Barber” in right. On a hunch, using the excellent resources onthe 1924 city directory. But V.C. assures me her grand- line at Tom Leatherwood’s Shelby County Register of Deeds website, I searched birth certificates, marriage father was never called Mack, and besides, this fellow’s certificates, and even death certificates for C.M. Morbarbershop was located on South Cooper, which is ton: “No Results Found.” pretty far from Main or Front. My endeavors weren’t entirely wasted. For one thing, even though Loeb Properties is known today for their high-profile developments, in the early 1920s company founder Henry Loeb was involved in all sorts of enterprises. The city directories described the company as “men’s furnishings and shirt-makers, laundry, barber shops, and Turkish baths.” It also amused me, as I perused the “B” business listings from this period, to discover so many long-gone ventures. In the early 1900s, Memphis retailers offered bake ovens, balustrades, barrel covers, bath seats (huh?), brushes, burial caskets, birds (Memphis Bird Store, 211 Main), and — this was a surprise — burglar alarms. And not a single listing for barbecue! But back to the original query. When I contacted V.C. and told her something was amiss, she admitted, “I could be mistaken about the time frame.” Her grandThe Lauderdales are known throughout the land father, it seems, “never went into detail about his time for their “never-say-die” spirit, but I contacted V.C. in Memphis,” other than to say that at one point he also with this news. As far as I could tell, despite what her drove a streetcar, which was interesting but not rele- grandfather had once told her, I found no evidence that vant to our present search. “He and my grandmother he ever lived or worked in Memphis. She admitted that eloped and got married in 1924, and family stories get many members of her family came from Mississippi, changed over time. So it’s possible he ran the barber- and the more I studied this photo, the more it seemed to me like a small-town barbershop. Though she didn’t shop in the 1930s, instead of the 1920s.” Yes, it’s possible, except this picture doesn’t show a need to do so, V.C. actually apologized, saying, “I’m sorbarbershop in the 1930s. As my esteemed colleague ry I sent you on a wild goose chase. This has taught me a lesson to take old family stories with a grain of salt.” Richard J. Alley pointed out, a Google search of old So I thought that was the end of it, and I headed off barbershops turns up images of shops almost identical to this one, complete with the oddly positioned sink. to the La-Z-Boy for my much-needed nap. But someAnd every one of these photos was taken in the very thing about the photo kept nagging at me: Would a early 1920s. Barbershops in the 1930s just don’t look like small-town barbershop have four chairs? So, if anybody this. I mention this to acknowledge that Mr. Alley helps remembers this place, don’t “Ask Vance.” Tell me. me out from time to time, and also because he likes to be called “esteemed.” Got a question for vance? So, even though I was doubtful of the results, I ex- EMAIL: email@example.com panded my “journey” through the city directories. Heck, MAIL: Vance Lauderdale, Memphis magazine, 460 Tennessee Street #200, Memphis, TN 38103 I even started in 1900 (when her grandfather would presumably have been just a baby) and looked through the BLOG: memphismagazine.com/Blogs/Ask-Vance
left: An old snapshot taken years after the barbershop photo shows Charlie Morton, his wife Bessie, and adopted son Bobby outside their home in Ripley, Mississippi.
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In this issue: Our Homegrown Holiday Gift Guide, the Memphis street racing scene, and 901 Health on how to age gracefully.