Fortner Furniture Company and the Giant Clock Mystery

Photo courtesy Special Collections, University of Memphis Libraries

For decades, one of the enduring landmarks along Summer Avenue was the giant round clock mounted on top of the old Fortner Furniture Company (most recently BoJo's Antique Mall) at the corner of Summer and National.

Once illuminated by neon numbers and hands, in recent years the huge clock was little more than a rust-covered (and -colored) disk overlooking the intersection. But still, it was something that almost everyone remembered, and like everyone else, I just assumed the clock was installed whenever the building was erected.

But then I found this old photograph, tucked away in the Memphis Press-Scimitar files at the University of Memphis Libraries Special Collections Department. As you can see, it's a fine image of the furniture store in its heyday, and it's dated on the back 1960. But what is obviously missing from the photo is the clock.

Now if you look carefully, the area above the building is smeared a bit. I don't know if that was a problem with developing the photograph — or did someone go to the trouble to "erase" the clock from the original image? An easy thing to do nowadays with PhotoShop, but not quite so easy with regular darkroom skills in the 1960s.

So that leaves us with something of a mystery. If the clock wasn't part of the original building, when was it added? And if somebody wanted it removed from this picture, why would they do so?

I'll let you ponder that.

Of course, it doesn't matter. I know that a local collector acquired the clock and hopes to restore it, but the old building it once adorned came tumbling down in recent months to make way for a Dollar General store. Or is it a General Dollar store? I just can't keep them straight ...


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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and 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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