Tell Your Memphis Stories, Get Published in the Memphis Type History Book
There are signs of Memphis' history all around town. Literally. Some, like the Arcade Restaurant's iconic neon sign is still a working part of that business, while others, like the Universal Life Insurance sign, are now just historical markers. Some of my favorites are the forgotten, fading murals on buildings downtown that make you wonder what happened there fifty or 100 years ago.
**Update as of October 2014: The book is ready! You can preorder by November 2 and get this extra stuff:
– free shipping
– your copy will be signed by the authors Caitlin and Rebecca
– you'll get a postcard set of Memphis Type History paintings and a Type History bookmark
– you'll get a digital download of Chapter One right away
– illustrated map of all the landmark locations if you opt for local pickup at a book event (TBA)
Universal Life Insurance Company Sign. (Painting by Rebecca Phillips) Note: Memphis Type History is looking for people who have stories about ULICO, whether they went to social events there, worked there, or were involved in the company in some way.
In 2009, photographer Jeremy Green started photographing signs and graffiti around town, and painter Rebecca Phillips was so inspired by the images of these often-overlooked places that she asked to paint some of those images. Rebecca says she was inspired to recreate the photos as paintings because she's "always been drawn to the illustrated look of landmarks that people produced years ago for advertisements in postcards and posters".
Rebecca at work. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Phillips.
As the number of paintings grew, Rebecca partnered with Caitlin Horton of Front Porch Art. They launched a successful Kickstarter to produce two poster prints of this Memphis Type Illustrated series (you can see and buy those prints here).
Arcade Restaurant. Top: Photo by Jeremy Greene. Bottom: Painting by Rebecca Phillips.
Now, Caitlin and Rebecca are working on turning the series into a book, which should be available this fall in bookstores and gift shops around town (I'll keep you posted). But these two don't just want a book of paintings, they want to include your Memphis experiences. I talked to Caitlin about the project and how Memphians can have a slice of their life preserved in the book. Here's what she said:
We need people to share their stories about these landmarks. Their story may not seem remarkable to them, but even something about everyday life will give a sense of the atmosphere or experiences related to these places. This book is about Memphis as Memphians see it and live in it everyday. Some of these landmarks and sign have great histories, but we didn't even know that until we started digging. Personal accounts help us get a sense of what Memphis was like at different points in time, across different slices of life.
I had the honor of interviewing my mom, Dianne Pendergrass, for a story. As a young person living in Memphis in the 70's she spent a lot of time at Overton Square. She had her first taste of Chicago style pizza at the Chicago Pizza Factory and played plenty of backgammon at Bombay Bicycle Club.
Rebecca Phillips' painting of the Chicago Pizza Factory Sign in Overton Square, near where Chiwawa is now.
My favorite memory she shared is one about a viewing party thrown for the Luke and Laura wedding on [the popular soap opera] General Hospital. I think it shows the community atmosphere of Overton Square. She said you saw the same people there every night, so you all knew each other, and it felt very safe. My mom said:
"I remember going to Solomon's for the Luke and Laura wedding party. They had a big screen and they played it… so that was where we all went. They threw this huge party. They had wedding cake, a champagne fountain… it was just wild and fun."
She also told me about the bartenders at TGI Fridays who did tricks for a crowd that was sometimes three deep at the bar. Apparently the bartenders were real cuties…and real flirts!
Do you have a story like this? You can share your own through the Memphis Type History blog . It's easy to tell your stories and share your memories with Caitlin and Rebecca, and you might get to see your name in print later this year. Here is a full list of landmarks they're looking to hear stories about. Reach out to your older relatives and see if they have any stories, too. Find Memphis Type History online, on Facebook, and Twitter. You can find the original photographs on Jeremy Greene's site.