Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019

Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019
Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Graceland, Pink Palace, and the Pyramid, Part 2 - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Continued from Part 1...

The Pink Palace Museum.
Upon entering the Pink Palace Museum, we received the promised free admission. Bob asked the lady at the front desk if there was a certain order in which we should see the museum. She told us not to miss the "Clyde Park Circus" show at 2:00 p.m. (the last show of the day). We had an hour to check out part of the museum while we waited. 

"The Pink Palace," as this estate is now known, has a rather unique history. In 1916, Charles Saunders created a self-service grocery store. Unlike country stores where you gave your order to a clerk who then pulled items off the shelf, at Mr. Saunders store you entered through a turnstile and wound your way through the aisles, choosing your own items. You then paid cash and carried your groceries out through the exit turnstile. He called the store Piggly Wiggly. It was the inspiration for modern-day supermarkets. In addition to his own stores, he issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers so they could operate their own Piggly Wiggly stores. 

He was doing very well and designed his own home. The construction on the home began in 1922. A man ahead of his time, his dream home would be self-sustaining with its own ice factory, electrical generators, a man-made lake with artificial waves, a private golf course, bowling alley, billiard room, indoor shooting gallery, and an indoor swimming pool. In addition, upstairs would be a combination of ballroom and movie theater. The exterior would be pink Georgia marble. He referred to his planned estate as the "showplace of the south."

As we all know, things don't always go according to plan. In November 1922, "Saunders announced a new issue of Piggly Wiggly stock on the New York Stock Exchange. On the same day, a New York state Piggly Wiggly franchise failed." All hell broke loose. 

"Wall Street speculators saw this failure as a chance to make money on a falling stock. They planned a maneuver known as a bear raid. Owned shares of stock are like cash in a bank. They can be loaned and traded by brokers like money in a savings account. In a bear raid, investors borrow shares of stock and sell them at the highest price possible. When the stock price falls, the short-seller buys back the same number of shares for less than they were sold. The raider then returns the shares to the lender and keeps the difference in price as a profit. However, when the lender calls for the stock to be returned, the short-seller must do so by the next afternoon regardless of the current price of the stock. Bear raids cause the cost of a stock to fall in the short run, but healthy companies generally rebound."

"When Saunders learned about the bear raid, he felt that the short-sellers were insulting him, his company, Memphis and the South. In retaliation, he tried to beat the raiders by cornering his own stock." 

Long story short, "Saunders borrowed millions of dollars, secretly drained Piggly Wiggly's resources and used his personal fortune to purchase stocks for the corner. Wall Street financiers warned him to stop, but Saunders succeeded in his corner. On March 20, 1923, he called for delivery of outstanding shares, trapping the bear raiders because he owned most of the shares they had borrowed. 

"The NYSE suspended trading on Piggly Wiggly stock and changed the rules giving the short-sellers five extra days to return the stock. The next day, Piggly Wiggly was permanently stricken from the NYSE. The extra days gave the raiders time to find every available share of stock and pay back Saunders. The broken corner left Saunders and Piggly Wiggly with all the stock and nowhere to sell it." 

Due to all of Saunders finagling and stock market gambling, in 1924 he went bankrupt and had to stop building his home. All that had been completed was the pink marble shell. 

"When developers bought the estate at auction, they planned to turn the land into an expensive and fashionable suburb. The palace came along with the lot. The new owners deeded the building to the City of Memphis in 1926, stipulating that it become...'a conservatory, art gallery, museum of art or natural history... used wholly and exclusively for public uses for the benefits of the Caucasian race.' The mansion opened to a segregated public in 1930 as a museum...In the 1960s, the museum finally opened its doors to everyone..." [NOTE: All text in quotes above came from historical signs in the Pink Palace.]

Exploring more rooms of the museum revealed lovely art pieces. Below, the piece of furniture is itself a work of art, and also contains other pieces of art inside of it.

Detailed close-up of the above piece of furniture.
Flashy fireplace surround/mantel.
In the upstairs lobby are "The Murals" by Burton Callicot. He titled the center panel, "The Coming of de Soto." The left panel is "Conflict with the Indians." On the right is "The Discovery of the Mississippi River."

"The Murals," by Burton Callicot.
We used up our hour and went to the display room for "Clyde Park Circus" for the 2:00 p.m. show. Clyde Park was eight the first time he went to a circus. As an adult, Parke learned to carve wooden figures as a hobby. He created a three-ring circus under a 15' big top tent lit by tiny strings of working lights. He carved thousands of figures to go in it.

Three-ring circus.
The table that the circus sits on is 12' x 25'. 95% of the characters are animated using belts and pulleys fixed to a single 1/2 horsepower motor underneath the table. They put mirrors on the floor to let us see the underpinnings.

Mirrors on the floor to let people see
how it all works.
Midget, fan dancer, hula dancer.
Animal wagons.

The circus street parade makes a complete 60-foot circuit in three minutes. The scale of the circus is one inch to one foot. There are about 200 roustabouts, drivers, and performers. There are also roughly 40 horse-drawn wagons, 90 horses, and 45 menagerie animals. It's fun to see what all is in the tents and around the circus!
The Old Lady in the Shoe.
When the circus exhibit ended, we had a couple of hours to finish exploring the museum. We did it backward because we were on the second floor. The main exhibits started on the first floor with geology, dinosaurs, and then traveled forward in time. We were on the second floor so we saw dioramas, a log cabin, a history of transportation, health issues, and rooms decorated in period furniture.

True that.
Wedding dress, 1886.
Yellow Fever epidemics.
Confederate money.
The Wagonette, a forerunner of our bus systems.
See description below.
Public transportation.
The Gambler's Lady below is wearing an 1835, two-piece, sheer voile dress made out of cotton, "the white vegetable fleece." Cotton was denounced by the British flax trade because "its light weight would make women feel sensual." She is also wearing patterned cotton stockings which, in the 1830s, would be considered risque. Ladies were not supposed to show their legs or ankles.

The Gambler's Lady.
We made it downstairs to my favorite displays: rocks and geology. The artistic spheres below are beautiful!

Stone Spheres (see how they're made in the
description below.

Azurite and malachite - from Arizona
(used to manufacture copper).
Pyrite (Fool's Gold) - from Spain
(used in manufacturing iron).
Selenite (fishtail) - from Mexico.
Quartz crystals -
from Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Very interesting what they found when
building a road bed from Corinth to
Tupelo, Mississippi  - fossils!
Lots of fossils!
A python skeleton which looks like art.
So, the Pink Palace Museum is well worth a visit. Allow at least three to four hours and make sure to see the Clyde Park Circus!

From the Pink Palace, we headed to the waterfront to get information from the Tennessee Visitor's Center. It's on the way to the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid. This place is a wealth of information!

Me and my friend, Elvis Presley.
Bob is hangin' with B.B. King.
Watch music to your heart's content.
Mosaic egg outside Visitor Center.
From the Visitor Center, we went to Bass Pro Shops' Pyramid. Wow! Check this out. It has a hotel in it, the world's tallest free-standing elevator, an observation area and restaurant at the top, 10 aquariums, a swamp, and Ducks Unlimited: Waterfowling Heritage Center.

Free-standing elevator.

The swamp, complete with real fish.
A spotted gar in one of the aquariums.
Interior of the pyramid.
Under-the-sea-themed bowling alley.
Bowling alley ball returns.
That concluded our day. All said we walked four miles today. Memphis continues to surprise us. We are discovering so much. 

That's plenty for one day. Thanks for sticking around to read this.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing tours you take. Sure enjoyed Elvis' mansion. Thank you. A native of Tennessee yet never the pleasure of seeing it-of course, I was wild about his music!


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