A Memphis City Beautiful Parade in 1941 — What's Going On Here?

Photo courtesy Benjamin Hooks Central Library

The Memphis Room at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library contains a marvelous collection of old photographs: buildings, streets, people, and events. Many of the images are so well-known — to history buffs anyway — that they are immediately recognizeable.

And then you'll occassionally turn up things like this.

This photo is identified only as "Memphis City Beautiful Parade - 1940." But I just keep looking at it and wondering what it was really all about. I mean, here you have three women in rather bizarre outfits (look at those hats!) pushing what are obviously fake garbage cans. Well, they might be real garbage cans, but they are clearly wrapped in shiny foil and mounted on what seems to be push lawnmowers.

Not exactly on par with a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float, is it?

Was this part of a larger event — a Cotton Carnival parade, for example? Or was this the highlight of a City Beautiful Commission parade? Whatever it was, it attracted plenty of people; just look at the crowds lining the street behind them (though nobody seems to be looking at them — was something even more thrilling coming down the street behind them?)

Perhaps we were just easily entertained in the early 1940s, and Memphians had nothing better to do than drive downtown, gather along the curbs, and watch women push garbage cans down the street.

It boggles the mind.


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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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