Photo courtesy Special Collections, University of Memphis Libraries
Last week I posted an old color postcard of Clearpool, and everyone — well, at least some of my half-dozen readers — got such a thrill out of it that I thought I'd mosey down the road a bit (that road being Lamar Avenue) and show you an old photo of the Rainbow Lake Terrace Room that I turned up in the Special Collections Department at the University of Memphis.
The two places are actually connected, in a way, because at one time they were owned by the Pieraccini family. Rainbow Lake was considered a bit more upscale than Clearpool. Just look at their fancy "AIR CONDITIONED" restaurant, that was proclaimed the "South's Finest," and who am I to argue with such a claim? Just to the right of this building, barely visible in the photo, is the humped roof of the huge Rainbow Lake Rollerdrome, one of the best and biggest skating rinks in town, and just beyond that is (or was) the huge Rainbow Lake swimming pool.
There was no actual lake at Rainbow Lake, in case you were wondering.
This was a mighty fine place, and the Lauderdales rented it out on numerous occasions for my highly anticipated Arbor Day parties. But brother, was it plagued by trouble (and I'm not talking about the Arbor Day parties). In 1947, it made all the papers when several dozen sailors from Millington got into a bottle-throwing, sucker-punching free-for-all with a group of civilians. I'm proud to say that Mother Lauderdale held her own with these drunken louts until she got cold-cocked with a Jim Beam bottle.
Then, in 1957, a rock-and-roll dance party (now that's just asking for trouble with those crazy teens) was held in the Terrace Room shown here, hosted by two of the most famous DJs in Memphis history, Wink Martindale and Dewey Phillips. Well, that got out of hand when many of the kids (and some of them were barely 15) got rip-roaring drunk. Rainbow lost its beer license after that.
Then there were fires, armed robberies, and even an accidental drowning in the big pool. In 1958, the owners announced they were turning the sprawling 14-acre complex into a private resort, to be called Rainbow Lake Country Club. They planned to build a 40-unit luxury hotel, and even add a 500,000-gallon indoor swimming pool. None of that ever happened.
In 1963, a department store called Big M announced it had leased the site and would tear down all the buildings and erect a gleaming new department store there. Well, none of that ever happened either.
Then the Memphis AFL/CIO Building Association purchased the property. They turned the old Terrace Room into meeting space, and converted the skating rink into offices. The swimming pool filled up with trash and rainwater. The building association later went bankrupt, and Pancho's bought the site for its headquarters and food-processing facilities. That was in 1981. They stayed there for almost 20 years, until moving out. The buildings finally came tumbling down, and if you drive past the site today (I think there's a motel there now), you've reached the end of the Rainbow.