Mr Pict and I had fond memories of Memphis so wanted to expose the boys to at least a little bit of the city. They were not especially up for it but we dragged them anyway.
We parked up near the Peabody Hotel and entered the lobby. Unfortunately we had literally just missed the famous procession of ducks. The ducks were not even frolicking in the fountain, having retired to their rooftop palace for the day. The kids were irked to have been dragged into the hotel without the payoff of seeing the ducks. The oldest two were virtually snarling. Our foray into Memphis was not going too well. We hoped we would win them over with a stroll along Beale Street.
One of the Beale Street locations I remembered finding fun was Schwab’s store so we headed there for some respite from the sizzling afternoon sun. The store opened in the 1870s selling men’s clothing, evolving into a dry goods store. I remembered it being a bit like a junk store or jumble sale, with items heaped on tables, and lots of unexpected finds. It basically retained that old-fashioned feel. Visiting again, it had been transformed as items were neatly organised on tables and displays. There were still quirky items among the usual fare so there was still fun to be had. I was happy to see that a pair of the World’s Largest Overalls (what I would call dungarees) were still on display. We ascended the stairs to see an area designated as a museum as it housed such items as vintage cash registers and stiff collars. The boys, however, were much more interested in the extensive range of candy available for purchase. Schwab’s contains a soda fountain and sells delicious ice cream but the queue on such a baking hot day was ridiculous so the kids instead chose some candy as a treat.
We didn’t feel we could bring the kids to Memphis without taking them to see the Lorraine Motel given its significance in American history. The motel was, of course, the location of Martin Luther King’s assassination 50 years ago. It is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum, with the motel complex preserved within its architecture. We were unfortunately too late to go into the museum (being too late being a theme of our road trip) but it was quite powerful regardless. We spent some time outside, in silent reflection, feeling subdued.
The casualty of our spontaneous decision to switch to Tennessee from Kentucky was the quality of our hotel room. The hotel was shabby and run down. I would guess it had not been updated since the 1980s. I took the stairs rather than the elevator and could barely breathe because of the reek of cigarette smoke. Our room was clean but very basic. The bathroom was reminiscent of school gym showers, there was constant noise from adjacent rooms coming through the thin walls, and the ceiling fan was not working so the room was utterly stifling. I admit I had thought of ‘The Shining’. We consoled ourselves that at least it was not as awful as the horror hotel of 2016.