National Guard Armory

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Jackson,Tennessee’s National Guard Armory was the first built in Tennessee. It was located at the corner of Institute and Chester.

This area was originally owned by Dr. Butler in 1820’s and used as a racetrack. The land was donated and became the location of the Memphis Conference Female Institution  until 1924.

According to the records I found the land was purchased  from the Beare Company in 1929 for $23;974.00 to build the Armory.  The original bid for construction of the building was

$91,000.00  with all the modifications the building end cost by the time of completion in 1932 was $280,000.00. 

The Armory housed 4 units of the Tennessee National Guard and provided a place for many community functions.

Now to the story and memories of MrsJane Elizabeth Harris Parham, (1918-2009)

One afternoon I was visiting with Miss Jane she was telling me about growing up in Jackson. The conversation got around to her favorite music and her love for dancing.

“ oh dear, let me tell you about the music at the Armory .”

She started telling me about all the bands that came to the Armory .

“ People would come from all over West Tennessee Kentucky, and Mississippi to attend the dances. The main floor was for the Band and the dancers . There would be some tables but mostly chairs around the wall.  Now in the balcony were the watchers. In other words there would be  parents, siblings and music lovers keeping an eye on the dancers and enjoying the music. Us girls would dress up in our favorite dresses and dancing shoes. I danced to the Bob Crosby Band, the Buddy Rogers Band with his “girl singer” Marylin Maxwell,  then there was the Ozzie and Harriet Nelson Band just to name a few of the bands” she said. I lost her there for a minute as she just sat there and smiled.

When she came out of her memory moment she told me this story. 

It was in the 1930’s she could not remember the band but she remembered the dress. She told me it was a beautiful pink silk dress with a net overskirt , cap sleeves and backless to just above the waist. She added that of course her shoes were the same color as her dress.

“It was a beautiful dress the net skirt was attached to the dress right where my dance partner would put his hand. Well the night was hot and there were a lot of people dancing it was hotter inside than out. The dancing started at 9PM  and ended around 2AM . Half way through the dance I felt the overskirt start pulling away from the dress.  By the end of the night my net skirt had pulled all the way off . Dancers had stepped all over it I managed to rescue some of  it. Needless to say I went home with what was left of my skirt over my arm. My poor net skirt but it was a great dance.”

In the 1940’s she told me she got to hear Perry Como with the Marvel Maxwell, the Ben Polack band with Harry James.

“I also saw Louis Armstrong,Cab Calloway, Clyde McCoy just to name a few performances I attended. Now one I did not attend was when Sally Rand the famous fan dancer was in town but I was told it was a sell out. Now on a different visit I remember in the 1950’s I took my son to the Armory to see Gene Autry he had a grand time.”  She said

Miss Jane told me there were so many events held at the Armory. The many exhibits, the wrestling matches and so much more .

Then on April 29th 1965 the fire alarm sounded the Armory was on fire.  

One of my favorite story from Harbert Alexander— He  told me he was sitting at his desk at the bank. Like everyone else he left to go see the fire. Half way to the Armory he remembered there were live rounds stored there. “So I just turned around and went back to my desk.” He said

The National Guard Armory was destroyed but the memories that were made at this great building are still around. Many remember , go back in time and smile. 


History of  Dairy Queen: In 1938, near Moline, Illinois, J.F. McCullough and his son, Alex, developed the delicious dairy product millions have come to know as Dairy Queen soft serve. The McCulloughs’ innovation was the beginning of today’s system of more than 5,700 Dairy Queen and Dairy Queen/Brazier stores in the United States, Canada, and many other countries in Europe, Central America, the Far East, and the Middle East. The McCulloughs arranged to test their new product in an ice cream retail shop in Kankakee, Illinois, owned by Sherb Noble, Noble held an “All You Can Eat for 10 Cents” sale on August afternoon. More than 1,600 people lined up to try the new treat, and the McCulloughs knew they had an exciting business opportunity. All they needed now was an efficient way to dispense their soft serve product — and they soon located a freezer, invented by Harry Oltz of Hammond, Indiana, which could produce a continuous flow of the product.  J.F. McCullough often referred to the cow as “the queen of the dairy business”. Thus, the Dairy Queen name originated. The first Dairy Queen® store, owned by Noble, opened in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois


The Chero-Cola Story

When it was first marketed in 1910, Chero-Cola was just one of many cola-flavored soft drinks that had emerged in the wake of Coca-Cola’s success. Although most people today have never heard of Chero-Cola, other soft drink brands that evolved from the same company are familiar to millions.

Soda Fountain Patent Medicines

In the latter half of the 1800s, the typical drugstore featured a soda fountain, owing to the enduring perception of carbonated water as a health tonic. Soda fountains added a wide array of flavors to the bubbly water, and eventually pharmacists began experimenting with adding exotic roots and herbs, creating a market for a new type of beverage. As with the countless “patent medicines” that had long dominated the over-the-counter pharmaceutical industry, these new sodas were advertised for their alleged medicinal benefits. Coca-Cola, for example, was promoted as a remarkably beneficial stimulant, thanks to the cocaine it contained in its early years

Although it has never come close to challenging the market dominance of Coca-Cola or Pepsi,  the company had become a global corporation called Royal Crown

founder was trying to find a replacement for Coca Cola.  It only lasted until 1921 when a court ruled that “Cola” couldn’t be used in their name.  They changed their name to Nehi in 1928 and eventually introduced a new cola named Royal Crown in 1933.

Part of Bemis Tn History

Built in 1916, the Bemis School is likely one of the oldest remaining Rosenwald schools in Tennessee. Although schools were built using Rosenwald school funds in the state starting in 1914, no schools from 1914 or 1915 remain extant. The Bemis school was built while the program was housed at Tuskegee Institute. Much like the model housing A. F. Bemis strove to build in Bemis, Washington’s vision for the school building program was to create model school buildings for rural communities. Progressive reformers believed that the school environment was crucial to student learning. Rosenwald school designs included strategic positioning of windows to create enough light, air circulation, and heat to create the proper interior environment for students. Even schools designed for one teacher were not merely single-room structures. Their designs included cloak-rooms, secondary classroom space, libraries, and other amenities: “Their strategy was to construct small, yet well-designed and better equipped rural schools. These unadorned structures augmented the work already being done in southern black education by uniting the interests of educational reformers, sympathetic state and local officials, and African American school patrons*

* Mary S. Hoffschwelle, The Rosenwald Schools of the American South Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006, 


Southern Engine and Boiler Works

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The Southern Engine and Boiler Works started out as a small shop owned by two mechanics Sherman and Cole in 1874.

The shop was located at Lexington and M&O rail yards and known as Sherman Manufacturing Company . Name changed in 1880.

Southern Engine and Boiler Works .was on 3 acres which bordered by Royal,Mill Street and the railroad yard ..1896 owned by stockholders they made small engines, boilers and iron works. The plant was built in a square that covered the majority of the 3 acres operation 1899-1912 the address was 334-354 N Royal.

Engineers and workers from Germany were in charge of the design , supervising and building after 3 years construction.. there was an area in East Jackson known as German Town complete with homes and boarding houses for the workers ,German restaurants and of course a beer garden

 Back to the building on all three floor facing Royal were offices. On each floor there was also a bank style vault it was said there would be at times  more money on premises than in all the banks in Jackson. The employees at one time numbered over 400 employees. The beginning salary was $25.00 per month the general manager earned $125.00 per month..* 

There was a 3 story wall of windows facing the machine floor from the offices. At the end of each building were  walls of windows and across the roof were sky lights that could be opened by pulleys.  ( side note some of the engineers helped design several  of the downtown buildings with skylights  or added skylights to existing building to aid in light and ventilation)

The mill room building had skylights across the roof bringing in as much natural light and fresh air. The plant had it’s own power plant located in the center of the quadrangle. In the center of the Mill room was a ten ton electric traveling crane with a span of 76 ft. Another feature was a small industrial railroad running through all the buildings  making easy to carry parts and finished products where they needed to be. This whole plant was state of the art and engineers from all over the country came to tour for ideas.

With all the improvements the number of product line increased .  According to their catalog Southern Engine and Boiler Works was a wholesale jobber and dealer in mill supplies. The product line included supplies for log  mills ,grist mills ,  cotton mills, steel fittings, pipe fittings, shafting , pulleys, sewer and coal hole covers. These were just some of the products that were shipped all over the country from Jackson Tn. 

Business was good the company continued to prosper they were able to expand there product line to include gasoline engines.  After WW1 the financial difficulties began in 1917 the company sold to a capitalist from Cleveland , Ohio.

In 1918 a group of gentleman purchased the mill supply division and  formed Southern Supply Co.

In 1922 the remaining part of SE&BW  was purchased by W.H. Collier . (Mr. Collier was an engineer at SE&BW in 1905 he left to start and build the Marathon car. In 1906 in the building across the street on Royal the first car rolled out))

.Then in 1926 Southern Engine and Boiler Works went out of business completely because of the oil engines and TVA  electric power.

From 1926 to present day buildings were torn down until all that was left was 342  Royal. Steel Fab was at this location when I toured the building .

  • * next installment will be a review of what the average income and budget  was in 1901.
Steam rising from inside the SE&BW 1901


West Tennessee Fair

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In 1855 Robert H. Cartmell was instrumental in organizing the first Agricultural and Mechanical Fair. He was concerned that farmers needed more knowledge to diversify by rotating crops,

deep plowing ,ditching ,terracing and other modern practices.

The fair was held Oct. 23-26 1855. The first fair had over 6000 participants and was held one mile west of the courthouse on 30 acres in the S. Fairground Street area.

The barns were constructed in 1857 along with grandstands, a race track, an amusement area, and cook tents.  Can you imagine the horse races, mule wagon pulls ,harness races, fireworks, and of course politicians on their soap boxes. As the conflict approached the military recruitment and military drills.

In 1861  the Civil War had began and the fair was discontinued.

The grounds was used first for the Confederate troops then for various other units. The area became known as Camp  Beauregard the name first appeared in the  local newspaper of the era.

In 1871 the first fair was organized by a for profit group “West Tennessee Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association”.

Durning 1870-1890  they followed the agricultural theme along with immigration to the area. The growth of the railroads, inexpensive land and job opportunities as sharecroppers.

Clifiton and Sarah Dancy in 1891 sold 86.15 ac. for 4304.50 to the Fair Association. The land was located between Magnolia St and the Forked Deer River.

By 1895 the Fair Association went broke.  At this time we know as I have written about before Samuel Lancaster created the beautiful Lancaster Park.

So let’s fact forward to 1906 as the Fair Association reorganized. By October  1908 the fair was back opened boasting the best race track in the area”fit for horses, mules  harness and even automobiles”. 

In 1912 land was purchased an area was set up for the West Tennessee Colored Agricultural and Mechanical Fair. Both fairs were held in October but not on the same weeks.

In 1919 the name was changed to West Tennessee District Fair Association. For the next 10 years the fair grew and more and more people attended the fair. Then that night in 1929 flames and smoke could be seen for miles. The fairgrounds was on fire al the barns, grandstands, cook shacks all gone. 

It took awhile to rebuild but the financial woes continued. Years 1932-1939 were really bad but the Association kept plugging away to recover . In  May 1940 the U.S.7th Cavalry Brigade bivouacked at the Fairgrounds.

The 34th Fair in 1941 was boasted as one of the finest ever the War exploded the Fair was shut down from1942-1946. In 

 1946 the went through a serious remodeling . Sept. 9,1946 the fair opened to celebrate the boys coming home and to having fun again.

In 1965 the 110th  Fair had a new name and was beginning to show wear but it continued to open every year.  Now the fairgrounds held events like tractor pulls, demolition derby, concerts,  and was even the site of scenes for the movie Walking Tall. 

In 1990 the Fairgrounds underwent a major face lift. Now the area covers 75 acres boast a large air conditioned exhibit hall, 

2 open air pavilions approximately 50,000 sq ft display area, a 2000 seat grandstand ,lakes, a paved track, grassy areas.

In other words Jackson and Madison County have a Fairground that we can take pride in sharing with West Tennessee.

Thousands of people have visited the Fair over the years and this year will be no different 

Come visit this year

September 14 – 19 2021  the West Tennessee State Fair celebrates “River to River: A Bicentennial Journey.


351  N. Liberty


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The original house at 351 N Liberty was built 1825 the property Robert E. Chester . The house he built was a double log cabin with a “dog trot” between the structures. ( a dog trot  was a covered walk way with a wood floor) 

In 1835 the house was sold to Samuel Jackson Hayes for $4500.00. In 1852 the house was sold John H. Miller the local paper (The Whig) stated the home had been enlarged and well improved. The area was referred to as “Miller Hill” 

During the  Civil War the home was taken over and used as a Hospital and Surgical Center. Can you imagine what the staff and patients felt as the watched the town burn. The Union soldiers under Fielding Hurst first held  the town for ransom then set the fire that destroyed or damaged many of the buildings in downtown Jackson.

As the smoke cleared the rebuilding started. When the troops left town closing the hospital  everyone moved on with their lives. The Miller family restored their home bringing it back even grander than before. The mansion on Miller Hill.

The Miller family sold their home in 1930. From the 1930’s until the Gardner’s purchased the home it went through several hands as a private residence ,an apartment building and then it just was vacant no one wanted to tackle restoring the lady. All the time the stories of the house being haunted were around.

Gwen and Kent Gardner purchased the home restoring it slowly  and adding Gwen’s answering service.(someday I will do a story on Gwen and her business.)   Kent is a whole different story he was definitely a character.

After they sold the house it served many different roles from a home or shelter for Veterans,  men with issues with drugs and now a home and new start for women.

Next will come the ghost story …

It was in the early 70’s I had just come back to Memphis from one my “ roamings” when I got a call. It was one of my friends,Jim, from NYU who was working on his Phd  in psychology at Duke. 

Duke University was known not only for their Psychology Dept.

but also for  the Parapsychology Laboratory and Dr. Rhine.

As he informed me he was doing a “side-bar”  in Parapsychology for  a chance to work with Dr. Rhine.  His assignment was a “ghost busting” because of this he was coming to Memphis to take part in a study in Jackson, Tn. He had been at his grandparents in Florida when he got the assignment so if was easier to come to Memphis than go back to campus.. Jim said he would explain everything when I picked him up at the airport. (Did I mention he was a bossy yankee but a good friend) I got my “instructions “ and picked him up the next day. On our drive to Jackson I got the rest of the story.

A gentleman named Kent Gardner had called Dr. Rhine . Kent had found out Duke had grant money to do studies in hauntings in the south.. Somehow he convinced Dr. Rhine his house in Jackson was haunted. Jim was to meet 3 of his students from Duke at the Gardner home. According  to the grant the school paid for travel but the home owner covered the lodging and meals.  I asked why he called me he informed me I was a consultant and would do the backstory on the house that way he could expense my gas money .( cheap labor)

We arrived at the home on Liberty at the same time his students did. That is when I met Miss Tiny Gwen and Kent Gardner. Gwen showed us where we could camp out and put the equipment. Now in the 70’s the equipment was big and bulky not like what they have now. We sat up the equipment and listened to the history of the house and Kent’s stories.

The agreement was we would do one night study at the house then one night at Riverside Cemetery.

Now while Kent was telling his stories he took us out and showed us an area that he called part of the Underground Railroad. I looked at Jim and he looked at me and rolled his eyes. We both grew up in the country and knew a cistern* when we saw it. . (. *• an underground reservoir for rainwater)

From that point on there was doubt in anything Kent said.

The studies were completed Jim and the students headed back to school. I made arrangements to come back up to do interview, research and read a journal Gwen had that belonged to one of the Miller girls.

This is the story of the ghosts of Bellwood Mansion.

In the 1840’s there was a fire in the cook shack behind the main Hayes house. They were unable to save cook’s daughter who was sleeping in the corner of the room.  

It was said the cook lost her mind and mourned herself to death. After they reconstructed the cook shack and everything had calmed down the sightings began. In the yard 

to the side of the structure they would see the rocking chair rock and hear someone humming a lullaby. 

Forward to the days the house was used as a hospital the yard was littered with amputated limbs. The soldiers worked as fast as the could to dig trenches in the back of the property to bury the amputated limbs . Many stories were told about men who did not survive the surgery limping around the property looking for their arms or legs.

Of course there were the stories of visitors and employees of the home finding bloodstains on the floors where the operating tables  would have been. Then when they reported them or got back to clean the spot it was gone.

The young nurse who had worked in the surgery during the war has been seen . The story goes at night she would sit with the “boys” offering comfort. After the house converted back to a home many reported going down stairs and seeing a lady sitting in a chair in front of the window in the south west corner of the dining room crying.

There were the sightings of the Union Officer coming down the stairs with a tumbler of whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other.

A month after the group from Duke left I met Jim in Nashville to give him my report and read the finished report they had compiled based on their findings. I read his report as he read my report. We just shook our heads at every point I had reported based on history etc they had found readings. Plus they had a few I did not have. I took the copies back to give to Gwen so she could give them to Kent. I did not want to hear what he had to say. The Gardner’s later moved to a house on King off Highland

The first time I visited the house I got an strange feeling I told Gwen  she agreed and added some more information but we agreed not to say  anything to Kent.

My friend Jim finished his degree and moved back to New York where he taught for 20+ years I lost him in 2000. I will never forget the “ghost busting” in Jackson little did I know I would end up living in this fair city. 

Oh yea, the study in Riverside Cemetery was full of the wanderings  of the  residents.







Those of us of a certain age remember Brooks Steak House that was located across from Fairgrounds on S Highland. There were the family dinners or that special date night. Then there were. The  “dress up “ occasions fraternity banquets/dances, wedding receptions and an assortment of other parties in one of the party rooms. Great memories and wonderful food.

One afternoon I was visiting Doris Freeman ( Cuz Tuny) and we were talking about restaurants that have called Jackson home. Cuz who had worked for years in advertising. She had had the opportunity to write copy for many of the restaurant’s ads. In the process she got  to know the owners and managers of the restaurants. Somehow we got off on Brooks Douglas and his wife Eva and the many restaurants they ran over the years.

“You never know a person’s back story”Cuz said “for example the Douglas’s love story.”

She went on to tell me one day she was at Brooks’s getting a late lunch and talking to Eva. “I could not help myself, not that I am nosey or anything,a I had to ask her how she and Brooks met.”Cuz just laughed ( I just loved her laugh)

Cuz went on to tell me what she was told. 

Eva was born in Budapest, Hungary . She attended private schools in London, England. In 1944, at the age of 16 and in her first year of college she met Brooks  who was in the Navy  stationed in London during WW11. They met at a Red Cross USO. They  were married on July 30, 1946.

Cuz said as Eva told the story she had a sparkle in her eyes.Eva went on to tell her about the good times and the challenges she had in her life. 

“ I had an extra long lunch that day and I enjoyed every minute of it  Cuz said “but when I left I had so much admiration for this wife, mother and businesswoman. See you never know until you ask.”

As we continued to talk  she tried to remember all the restaurants the Douglas owned, invested in or managed  over the years. Her list included  Brooks Steak House, The Hut, The Fox, The Thunderbird Restaurant and the Dixie Creame Drive-In.

Brooks Douglas died in 1985 and Eva retired and moved to Destin. Eva passed away in 2019.I have several notebooks full of Cuz Tuny’s stories. I thank my lucky stars I had a creative writing teacher at NYU that taught us to treat and write interviews like we were writing a screen play. He told us to include every sign, laugh, every emotion our subject expressed and we as a writer experienced. The older I get the more I appreciate that advice and my many notebooks of notes and interviews.