A Rider's Journal
photo of el Bandido in front of the old Lamar Theater
A bucolic morning in Orange Mound.

Memphis TN—I got up early on a Sunday morning (Independence Day, even) to get some photos of some of the city's historic sites before the summer sun and traffic set the streets aflame.

On my way back home, el Bandido turned 60,000 miles.  I happened to be near a building I had passed before, so paused to take the commemorative shot.

The building is the now-shuttered Lamar Theater, on Lamar Avenue.  Across the street is a building advertising the Clarence Saunders Sole Owner of My Name grocery store.  (Saunders invented the modern grocery store (Piggly Wiggly), then lost them in bankruptcy.  He rebounded with this oddly-named grocery chain.) A few blocks away is the decaying H.C. Handy Theater.

These buildings are of a reminder a time when city life didn't mean driving to the suburbs to shop, dine out, or see a movie.  Neighborhoods had their own restaurant, bar (in Memphis, you had to buy a bottle at the package store next door to the bar), grocery store, and theater.

Orange Mound itself has an interesting history.  Founded in the 1890s, it was developed specifically as a suburb to provide inexpensive homes for black people.  While Orange Mound was never affluent, buildings like the Lamar Theater are a reminder that the area was once a thriving community.

For more about the Orange Mound neighborhood, see the "Orange Mound" entry in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. The Encyclopedia also covers the fascinating story of Clarence Saunders and Piggly Wiggly supermarkets.


photo of a sign for the "Clarence Saunders" grocery store
This had to be the longest name for any grocery store anywhere, ever.
photo of the old W.C. Handy theater
What remains of the fancy neon sign is still impressive.