Tag Archives: Memphis museums

Memory Lane Road Trip~Part 11

12 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites



Day 11 – Friday 4/27/2018


After a great complimentary breakfast at the motel this morning, I headed east on I-40 to visit the Fire Museum of Memphis located just as I crossed the Mississippi River in west Memphis, TN.  This museum is located in the 1910 Fire House No.1, where they display several beautifully restored early 1900s fire engines.  Other fire station artifacts and memorabilia displayed in the museum, tell the story of the Memphis Fire Department as far back as the late 1800s.



As I headed for my next museum, I passed a Historical Marker relating the story of the Memphis slave trade. I parked so I could get out to read about the history and get some photos.  I was not aware that Memphis was, in around 1855, considered a regional hub for the slave trade.  This turned out to be the exact corner where Nathan Forrest established his slave auction block (circle) in 1854.



He continued his lucrative business there (owner of some 3000 slaves himself) until 1860 when he moved his auction center one block north.  When Tennessee seceded from the Union in June of 1861, Forrest joined the Confederate Army.  Distinguishing himself during the Civil War, General Forrest left the Army at the end of the war in 1865.  Wikipedia states that in 1866 Forrest joined the KKK, and was later voted the first “Grand Wizard” of the KKK in 1867.


Now I headed a few blocks south to visit the Cotton Museum located in the Cotton Exchange building, at #65 Union Avenue there in Memphis.  This museum tells the story of how the cotton industry influenced the lives and economic growth of the area in and around Memphis from the mid-1800s.



The Memphis Cotton Exchange was founded in1874 to handle the growing cotton market in the area.  Once established, the Memphis Cotton Exchange was connected with the New York and New Orleans Cotton Exchanges to regulate standards for the buying and pricing of cotton in the Memphis area and the mid-south.



It was only another few blocks south to visit the Memphis Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum.  I never did find that museum in the maze of “Jazz Joints” there on Beale Street.  They all advertised to be the original source, location, and very best of Memphis “Jazz”/”Blues”/”Soul” music.



Then there was the “Orpheum Theater”, that advertised to have the very best entertainment in town.   They had listings for all kinds of modern day performers that I had never heard of.   And of course, Elvis is still a big name anywhere you go in Memphis.



The Orpheum Theater was built on this corner in 1928, to replace the original “Grand Opera House” of 1890.  That structure had burned down in 1923.  They had their own “Walk of Fame” on their sidewalks, around the theater, that included some of the big names in the entertainment business down thru the years.



About three miles south of Beale Street I visited the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, there in Memphis.  I didn’t know until I got home and Googled the Stax Museum, that the building is actually a “replica” of the old Capital Theater, which Stax Records (1957-1976) used as their recording studio.  Known as one of America’s original promoters of Southern Soul music, this is where many early artists cut their famous record albums.  Stax also released many gospel, jazz, and blues recordings from this studio over the years.



Now I headed north, back toward downtown, to visit the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.  This museum is housed in a small 1849 clapboard house built by Jacob Burkle, who was at the time, a well-known livestock trader.   The museum is filled with exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the system known as the “underground railroad” in this part of Tennessee during the mid-1850s.



Next I headed east a few miles to visit the “Pink Palace Museum” located adjacent to the Memphis Lake and Chickasaw Garden Park. This turned out to be a huge “Family of Museums” that included a museum, displaying artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the Memphis area, a Giant CTI 3-D theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium.  Since I wanted to get to my next museum before they closed, I opted not to spend the time in this “Museum.”



Now I headed for the Elvis Presley Auto Museum (at least that’s where I thought I was going) located in the Bluebird Estates area of Memphis.  The Internet listing indicated the Auto Museum was a separate museum.  Having never been to Graceland, I thought I could view Elvis’s cars and airplanes separately.  Silly me!  Of course all the collections are together, and everyone just HAS to go thru his mansion. So I ended up paying for the whole works, when I only wanted to see the autos and airplanes.  What a scam!



His 30+ cars, motorcycles, boats, and off-road vehicle collection is impressive, but really not worth the price I had to pay for admission (including getting to see his famous pink Cadillac).  And I had often wondered where all the Convair 990 aircraft ended up.  I have to admit the Elvis mansion is beautiful, and his family lived in opulent splendor.  But here again, what do you expect of people who have more money than they know what to do with?


After I finished with that impressive attraction, I ask Greta to take me to the motel, there in Memphis, so I could relax and enjoy my leftover Mexican Dinner from Papito’s Mexican Grill.  Yummm!


—–To Be Continued—–




Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.




One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

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