CHILDHOOD HOMES OF MEMPHIS CELEBRITIES

From MEMPHIS DOWNTOWNER , June, 2006

Back in elementary school I enjoyed reading
biographies of famous people. I think I was most
fascinated by anecdotes from their childhood and
teenage years rather than their adult exploits that made
them American icons. I still remember a few.

Abe Lincoln was a big practical joker. W C Handy
bought a guitar but his father made him trade it for a
dictionary because the guitar was "the devil's
plaything." John Kennedy was one of nine children and
his parents kept a card file to keep track of the kids. And
there was that incident with George Washington and
his hatchet.

We interviewed people (the ones who would talk),
looked through birth announcements, newspaper
articles and city directories to see where the early years
of famous Memphians were spent. Here's a few. 

KATHY BATES


4574 Minden
1952-1966

To borrow a title from one of her movies, here Bates
had "A Home of Her Own." From screwball comedies to
drama, Kathy Bates is an actress who does it all and it
all began when she was living here and a White Station
Spartan (class of 1966). After high school she left to
study at Southern Methodist University near Dallas.


SHANNEN DOHERTY

1772 Kilarney
1971-1973

So could Americans of the 1990's have warmed to the
show  "White Haven, 38116?" This is where Shannen
Doherty, star of "Heathers" "Beverly Hills, 90210" and
"Charmed" REALLY got her start. Born at St Joseph's
hospital, her parents were living here at the time and
moved before the 1974 City Directory was published. 


BEN FERGUSON

3217 Waynoka Circle North
1981-1992

Radio broadcaster Ben Ferguson is America's
youngest nationally syndicated talk show host. He
describes as "common sense conservatism." In
addition he is the author of  the book  IT'S MY AMERICA
TOO. 

His interest in the world beyond his backyard began
here.

"When I was a kid my parents started a neighborhood
watch group. It cut down drastically on crime. People
knew you didn't mess with our neighborhood,"
Ferguson says. The neighbors would watch one night
per month and when it was Mr. Ferguson's turn, he
would let Ben join him. "My parents goal was to give us
a sense of community and they succeeded," he says. 


ARETHA FRANKLIN

406 Lucy
1942 - 1944

Who knew this minister's daughter and church singer
would become "Queen of Soul?"

The Polk's City Directory shows her father living in the
house only in one edition, but according to The Stax
Museum, she lived here until she was about eight
years old. Then it was off to Detroit and off to history. 

 

ELVIS PRESLEY

185 Winchester # 328
1949-1953

In 1930's, public housing became part of the federal
government's "New Deal." The idea was have decent
well maintained buildings for the poor at little or no cost
to those tenants.

It was just the place for a family from Tupelo who left for
Memphis in 1949-Vernon, his wife Gladys and their
teenage son, Elvis. "We were broke. Things had to get
better," Presley told THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL in
1965. "When you are poor, you think bigger."

In 2001, Lauderdale Courts became part of the Uptown
Development of homes and apartments. And the
apartments were remodeled. Now visitors have the
opportunity to spend the night in the same apartment
where once lived a legend.

TIM SAMPSON

2886 Curtis
1970-1977

His MEMPHIS FLYER column, "Rants" which runs
"every week or when he feels like it," is a huge attraction
for those who agree with him and even a few who do
not. Here he spent most of his childhood. From 1968 to
1970 his family rented a house on Robco Lake, but
then they purchased this home on Curtis. He went from
a neighborhood where they could go fishing before
school to a neighborhood "with a lot of vans with
marijuana leaves airbrushed on the sides and playing
Led Zeppelin."

"On Hickory Hill Road out by the MLG&W there was this
place called Going to Market. I saw what I believe was
the last performance by Ike and Tina Turner. It was my
finest Parkway Village moment," he says. It was also
where he had his first job, working at The Igloo, an ice
cream shop on South Mendenhall It was the only one in
town to sell Weight Watcher's ice cream. After he
graduated from high school he could not wait to get out
of the neighborhood but now he says, "I like to go back." 

CYBILL SHEPHERD

http://www.devingreaney.com/homes%20069.jpg
3710 Northwood
1950-1959

She had not yet started as an actress or model, but this
was Cybill Shepherd's first home. In the late 1950's her
family moved to Highland Park Place, which was razed
last year for part of Trezevant Episcopal Home.


MAXINE SMITH


587 Lipford
1933-1937

Educator Dr Maxine Smith was a leading force in
school integration back in the days when such stands
were controversial. She has frequently been a gadfly in
area politics since and is now a member of the
Tennessee State Board of Regents.

She remembers her father telling stories from THE
PITTSBURGH COURIER and THE CHICAGO
DEFENDER of lynchings that were common at the time.
Even if she went down to the corner store(the building
is still there at Broad and Lipford) she would tell her
parents where she was going and when she would be
back.

"My parents always had in mind they wanted me and
my brother to be educated," she says. Her parents saw
to it they stayed in school and she and her brother both
finished graduate school. "There were two high
schools for black children. North of Poplar was
Manasas and south of Poplar was Booker T
Washington," she remembers. Her parents moved
from Lipford to Georgia Avenue be closer to Booker T
Washington High. Otherwise they would have to pass
white high schools in order to get to "their" school.

It is easy to assume that these memories of her
childhood were her driving force in pulling for
integration, but she says the answer is more simple
than that. "My parents saw I always knew right from
wrong."


HENRY TURLEY

1268 Sledge Ave
1941- 1957

Developer Henry Turley tries to bring back a
neighborhood before the home was a garage with
living space. Porches with swing sets are in the front of
the house while the garage is in the back. Visiting his
old neighborhood you can see a little bit of Sledge Ave
in his developments.

"Right in my neighborhood there seemed to be
everything - a hint of all of life's possibilities with all
kinds of people. It was small - just my size-and they
knew my name," Turley said in a speech sixteen years
ago. When he was six or seven he found adventure. "I
had a new 24 inch bike from Sears. I found all sort of
things in my neighborhood." he says. From the
Annesdale Mansion to the East, to the Lamar Terrace
housing project to the west to shacks to the south, a
few blocks were worlds away. But he says his favorite
trek was north to Bellevue and Lamar "A hardware, a
bakery, a coffee shop, even a five and ten cent store -
everything strange and exciting for a kid of six." 



KEMMONS WILSON

336 North Watkins
1913 - 1921/2

"America's Innkeeper" is what Kemmons Wilson has
been called, and as founder of Holiday Inn, who could
argue? He is also famous for his twenty tips for
success like "Remember that success requires half
luck and half brains," which is why his 1996 biography
is titled, HALF LUCK AND HALF BRAINS.

When he was less than a year old, his father died and
his mother Ruby "Doll" Wilson moved to Memphis.
Even in those days young Kemmons was already a
businessman. He donned a little "doughboy" uniform
and helped sell war bonds to finance America in World
War I. He sold magazine subscriptions door to door
and a too cute photograph of Wilson at about two years
old with a loaf of bread shows his first job - ad model.

After moving from North Watkins, Doll and Kemmons
lived several different places throughout Midtown
Memphis. Neighbors curious about this photographer
shooting pictures of the home at Peach and Watkins
were unaware of its history. But Julie Hall, who lives at
42 S Cox knew she lived in the former home of one of
America's greatest entrepreneurs. "I keep rubbing the
walls hoping his good fortune will rub off on me," she
says. 

GEORGE FRANCIS "MACHINE GUN KELLY" BARNES

2098 Cowden
1910-1914

How could this storybook house on Cowden have
raised Public Enemy Number One?

While a student at Central High, 1914-1917, Barnes
began selling bootleg liquor. Newspaper clippings
compiled by William Currotto suggested he fell in love
with easy money. Running afoul of the law meant
getting an alias, so Barnes began using the name
George Kelly. After he kidnapped Oklahoma oilman
Charles Urschel in 1933, he became known as
Machine Gun Kelly, and every lawman across the
country knew of him. He did return to the welcoming
arms of Memphis later that year, and soon afterwards,
into the welcoming arms of the Memphis City Jail.


TIM McCARVER

826 Bullington
1951-1957

A major league baseball player from 1959 to 1979 and
a sports caster since then, McCarver is the host of the
nationally syndicated "The Tim McCarver Show",
which plays here on WREG. McCarver moved to this
house with his mom, dad, two brothers, and one sister
when he was 10 years old. He began his playing career
after being signed on from Christian Brothers High
School by the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1978, the minor
league baseball stadium in Memphis was christened
"Tim McCarver Stadium."

"We always had a game going of some kind," McCarver
says of his childhood home. "I threw papers in the
morning. Nobody had a car. We would hitchhike, walk,
or ride our bikes." One of those places was WeOnna's
store at 1449 Mississippi. "That is where the kids went
for sodas for 15 cents and Captain Marvell comic
books!"



So here are some of those places where celebrities of
Memphis spent childhood and or teen years. They are
yards where they played games, neighborhoods where
mom and dad told them to stay out of the street,
sidewalks where they skinned their knees and
driveways where cars pulled up bringing baby home
from the hospital. But most significantly, it's where the
parents knew they had a star on their hands decades
before the rest of us caught on to that fact.