"My two brothers have been a big influence on me. They both graduated from college recently, and that motivates me to stay in school too and be successful. I'm interested in going into aircraft mechanics."
“Our family lived in the Vollentine area in the 1930's and '40's, and my best friend, Martha Ann, lived just behind us. We were in the same school all the way from Vollentine Elementary through Snowden and then Central. Every Saturday Martha Ann and I walked over to Jackson Avenue, got on the bus, and went downtown to Gerber’s Department Store on Main. Back then you could go anywhere. It was safe; nobody even locked their doors. Everybody was poor, so there was nothing to steal anyway. Well, Gerber’s had a Tea Room, and Martha Ann and I would order egg salad and olive sandwiches and then go to a movie at Loew’s [Loew’s Palace Theater]. During the week, movies were fifty cents, but on Saturdays, we could watch westerns for a quarter.
“One time this tall blond movie star, Van Johnson, visited Memphis in person, and three of us girls went to the theater. He was going to be on stage there, so we got second-row seats and were just so excited. We found out he was staying at the Peabody, so after the show, we went to the hotel and up to the floor where his room was. Of course, the guards wouldn’t let us get off the elevator. They said, ‘Little girls, you run on home.’ Instead of doing what he told us, I asked, ‘Would you please get us signatures? We need three.’ And they did. We all got Van Johnson's autograph!”
"My biggest challenge was graduating from high school. In 5th and 6th grade, I was ready to give up. People in school treated me bad, my teachers treated me bad, and since I have a learning disability, people tried to take advantage of me. My grandmother is the one who kept me going. She always gave me encouraging words. She said, 'Keep going, keep your head up, you can make it.' She let me know she loved me and would always be there. She gave me the support that some people don't ever have. I didn't want to be a dropout, so I kept at it and graduated from high school in 2007. I felt like I was a big person then, like I had achieved something, like I was on clouds in the sky."
"I'm a native Memphian, and when I was growing up I heard a lot from my parents and grandparents about what life was like here in earlier decades. Memphis celebrated its 100th anniversary when I was 5 years old, and the festivities, parades, and exhibits associated with the celebration had a big impact on me. From that time on, I was aware of and fascinated by the history of our city. When I finished graduate school and came to work in the library, the city's past became my passion.
"In the Memphis and Shelby County Room at the Central Library, we have the papers of Maxine Smith (NAACP), Boss E. H. Crump, and the photos and papers of individuals who are less well-known but also contributed to the building of our city. We in the History Department try to capture the whole story of Memphis, not just the lives of the rich and famous. Everyone is an historical figure, everyone has an impact, everyone makes a contribution, everyone has a story.
"Memphis has made great contributions to the world---not just in the realm of music, but in art, literature, entrepreneurship, and politics as well. One important but little-known fact is that beginning in 1868 and going through Reconstruction and the segregation era, African-Americans voted in large numbers here in Memphis. Their involvement had a great impact on local and thus national politics. Blacks and whites worked together in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and that's a story we need to tell the world. As a city, we are far more unique and have made far more contributions than most of us know."
G. Wayne Dowdy is the author of several books on Memphis history , all available on AMAZON. Titles include:
G. Wayne Dowdy - Agency Manager, History Department
Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (Memphis Public Library)
There will be a Memphis & Shelby County Room OPEN HOUSE on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 6 p.m. Come celebrate the opening of the Nadia Price Photograph Collection, the J. Porter McClean Collection, the Claypool Family Collection, the Walter R. Streuli Collection, and the Nowag Music Collection with the Rhodes College Archival Studies Fellows.
--- Hosted by the History Department, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Avenue.
“I wanted to create art but wasn’t able to afford supplies, so I started dumpster diving and picking things up off the curb. I’ll take whatever I can find and create something interesting with it: hats, scarves, shawls, and boas--- all ready-to-wear articles of clothing made from items that people throw away. I would describe my art as haute couture recycled trash.
“A while back there was a flood in the Midtown area and I came across a whole collection of ribbon that had gotten wet and been thrown away by a storeowner. I picked up all the ribbons, washed them, hung them out to dry, and said to myself, ‘Hey, I can do something with this.’ I started collecting more ribbons everywhere I went, finally accumulating enough to make a dress and an opera coat. That creation was the 1st place winner in the 2014 Curb Couture Trashion Show by the City of Memphis Beautiful.
"Every year I participate as a featured designer in the Curbside Couture annual recycling show at the Clinton Museum. It's a design contest for students all over the state of Arkansas, and there are cash prizes for the various age groups, elementary through high school. I've done the show's finale for the last five years, and my goal is to inspire the kids to create something new and to think outside the box. It's one way I can give back and help young artists.
“I encourage people to be creative with resources. I believe in recycling, cleaning up the environment, using what you have, and not being wasteful. We can do it one step at a time, one rag at a time.”
Click on the photo below to see shots taken by the staff of the Memphis Flyer:
Photos below courtesy of Paul V. Thomas:
Paul's winning ribbon-dress design:
Paul V. Thomas, Artist
"The happiest time of my life was when I met my husband and got married. Everything that could go wrong on a wedding day went wrong though. I had chosen my dress a month before the ceremony and it fit beautifully, but on the day of the wedding, it took two people to get me into it. I don't know what happened. Then, my husband had bought the wrong size ring and had almost forgotten to pick his tux up from the cleaner's. The pastor had the dates mixed up, had gone fishing, and somebody had to go find him and get him to open the church so he could marry us. Then, a month after the wedding, I woke up one day and didn't feel well, so my husband brought me a bowl of corn flakes and a banana. I thought I just had a cold, but when I threw up my breakfast, my husband said, 'You don't have a cold! You're pregnant!' and I was. Our son was born that December, nine months after we married. I wrote a paper about all this for an English class in college and my teacher thought I was making it up. She said, 'All this couldn't happen to one person', but it did. I've had quite a life!"
"If I could sit down and talk to anybody in the world, it would be Amy Poehler [actress/comedian]. She's funny, smart, and a great role model for girls. Her site, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, encourages young women to use their intelligence and to be creative. I would love to tell her how much I respect that."
"The last five years have been challenging for me because I'm only 20 and I've been living on the streets with two children. What's getting me through now is my relationship with Christ; I didn't have that before. I'm due to deliver my third child September 9, and I'm planning to place her for adoption. I'm afraid but excited at the same time. I've chosen a family for her already. I read the profiles of four couples and one really stood out to me; I knew they were the parents I wanted for her. I met them a couple of times, and after the first fifteen minutes together, I felt like I had known them all of my life. I know I'm blessing this child with a better life than I can give her right now."
"My hero? Definitely Spiderman. He's a unique guy. He tries to help the world and keep the peace."
"In Mexico, I watched my mother crochet and then taught myself how to do it. It's easy. This will be a table runner when it's finished."