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Memphis and the Delta
by Judge Thomas Givens


There has been and always will be a special connection beetween the Mississippi Delta and Memphis.

Memphis was a way station for the great Blues singers from the Delta, like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Smokestack Lightning. It was also a haven for the more fortunate as a respite from the rigors of the Delta. In fact, Memphis has long been called the "Capital of North Mississippi."

Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson revived pleasant and sweet memories of my many summers in that great city. My relatives lived in the Bethel Grove area close to Lamar and Airways, and my family and I visited them all through the year. Every summer Iíd go up and stay for a week or two.

My earliest memories of Memphis go back to the 40's. My granddaddy's sister lived on Blythe Street close to the fairgrounds; her husband was a fireman on the Frisco Rail Line. Memphis still had street cars then, and I remember riding them to the zoo.

Funny that I would remember another event because I was only 4 years old, but we were there at my great-aunt's on December 7th, 1941, and I recall all the excitement when the announcement came in over the radio about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Memphis was a whole lot different back then. I made friends with a neighbor of my relatives, and he and I rode all over Memphis on bikes. I was a little embarassed because my cousins were girls, and I had to ride their "girl" bikes with the yoke and not the bar at the top. We rode our bikes to the fairgrounds, not too far away, where we drove the "dodgemen" cars and rode the roller coaster called the "Pippen."

And there was the "Rainbow." This was sort of an entertainment complex out on East Lamar. They had a skating rink and swimming pool, and it was a major hangout for teens. Elvis hung out there at the same time I did, so we might have rubbed elbows. If we did, I don't recall. I did spend quite a bit of time there.

Don't want to leave out the Airways Theatre, close to the intersection of Lamar and Airways. Did some heavy hand holding there with my Memphis girl friend. Didn't work out--she moved on to better things, not wanting to be tied down to a Mississippi Redneck. The movie I most fondly remember seeing there is still one of the best--"River of No Return," starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe.

So there is my Memphis. I ain't going to tell you about my adult escapades there.

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Judge Thomas Givens continues to share his memories with USADEEPSOUTH . . . and are we glad!
Readers may contact Tom at deltajudge2@aol.com.

Read more of his columns at USADEEPSOUTH:
Gravel Roads
Whiskey, Chickens, and Cherry Bombs

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