photo courtesy Memphis and Shelby County Room, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
A few months ago, in our “City Guide” issue, I showed readers a nice selection of photos from the Joe Bennett Collection, a treasure trove of vintage photos that has been organized and archived at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library by my pal Laura Cunningham (“In the Good Old Summertime,” August 2014).
Among them is this intriguing shot, taken around 1912 on the grounds of East End Park, our city’s first amusement park. I really don’t know much about the unusual vehicles these fellows are riding on. They seem to be soapbox-derby-type cars, which are pushed with a long pole.
But what caught my eye was the name on the cars. One of them is named, rather prosaically, the “Cole” and I don’t know who, or what, that might be. But the other car has a considerably flashier name: “Dixie Flyer.” This was a name that became attached to the streetcar that linked Memphis to Raleigh, and in later years, it was the title of one of our city’s first “alternative weekly” papers. We even surmised that it might have been the name grocery-store magnate Clarence Saunders would have renamed his professional football team, if he had joined the fledgling National Football League, but that’s a complicated story for another time.
In the background, it’s hard to miss the old East End roller-coaster, which (according to some sources) was dismantled when East End Park closed and moved to the Tri-State (later Mid-South) Fairgrounds, where generations of Memphians remember it as the Zippin-Pippin.