Memphians are getting something very special to celebrate this particular New Year’s Day: an all-new city mayor and a much-transformed city council. (Yes, I know, “new” in politics is often a mixed blessing. But hope springs eternal.) By contrast, we here at Memphis magazine in 2016 are celebrating something old, namely, ourselves.
Right now we’re in a special place, just like Jack Benny, and if you’re old enough to understand that reference, you probably were a charter subscriber to City of Memphis magazine in 1976. Jack Benny was one of America’s foremost comedians of the mid-twentieth century, a precursor of today’s late show hosts, who forever and always described himself as age 39. That’s exactly how old Memphis magazine is right now, although unlike Jack Benny, we actually will turn forty in April.
We have all kinds of tricks up our sleeves for that 40th Anniversary issue, but this month, we’re focused upon the here and now. This particular January issue includes our Fourth Annual Home Resource Guide, designed to give readers a comprehensive view of who’s who in the Mid-South home-services industry, as well as our annual overview of the local wedding scene, this year featuring three different but splendid autumn nuptials. And while last year our neighborhood focus was Walnut Grove Lake, this year we’ve decided to come back in town, covering Cooper-Young in detail.
The Cooper-Young “revival” in a real sense parallels the lifespan of this magazine. In fact, City of Memphis magazine (the name changed to just Memphis in 1978) was just over a year old when its editors profiled a young furniture maker named Steve Crump, who had just opened up a shop at the corner of, yes, Cooper and Young (see page 26).
This link between magazine and neighborhood is personal for me, since I started working for Memphis in 1978, and moved into Cooper-Young ten months later. Our family lived on Oliver for the next fifteen years (as did my grown daughter for another decade, in the same house), so now whenever I wander into Celtic Crossing to watch soccer on Saturday mornings, I still feel right at home. Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra was fond of saying.
To me, Cooper-Young and this magazine have always seemed somewhat kindred spirits over this period, reflecting as both have done for decades now something of the same “grit and grind” approach to life made famous by a more recent Memphis sports institution. I remember being warned by my real-estate agent that I was making a huge mistake buying into such a declining neighborhood in 1979. No, there was nothing fancy about Cooper-Young (not then, not now) but even back then, it was full of all kinds of wonderful people, older ones who were a tad eccentric, and younger ones who were even more so. It’s hard for me to imagine coming of age, as an individual, as a parent, and as a Memphian, anywhere else.
I hope readers of this magazine feel the same way about us. We’ve gone about our business for 39 years without making much of a fuss, but I do like to think we’ve made something of a difference in Memphis. We have been blessed with talent. More than a few magnificent writers, editors, photographers and artists have displayed their wares in these pages over the years; we’ll probably reprise some of their “greatest hits” in the months ahead. And we’ve been even more blessed with consistent local ownership that’s always put quality above profit. Producing a first-rate city magazine is the group’s foremost objective.
But most of all, we’ve been fortunate to have readers and advertisers like yourselves who believe in what we do, and without whose intellectual and financial support this magazine would never have lasted four years, let alone forty. And like Cooper-Young, we’re every bit as excited about our future as we are about our past. Happy New Year!