Well, I'm Stumped

Ask Vance

supermarket photograph courtesy Janis Shirley

(page 1 of 3)

One reason I avoid public appearances — besides the obvious risk of kidnapping — is because I am weary of playing the game of “Let’s Try to Stump Vance.” On those rare occasions when my bodyguards let commoners approach me, it seems folks only want to see if they can trick me with a question I can’t answer. It rarely happens; after all, they are not Lauderdales, and never will be.

But I have to admit that over the years several readers submitted questions that have proved rather pesky, and my accountants pointed out that I get paid the same pitiful wages whether I correctly answer queries at all. As long as I dictate enough words to fill up these two pages, I can laugh all the way to the bank. [And straight to the unemployment line, Lauderdale — Ed.]

So here are readers’ questions that have gathered dust in my “in” box for quite some time. If anyone can answer them for me, not only will I be grateful, but I’ll post the responses on my “Ask Vance” blog.


Dear Vance: I have attached a 1941 photograph of my grandfather’s grocery store, which was located on either Chelsea or Ayers. Can you help me locate it? — J.S., Memphis

Dear J.S.: This photograph intrigued me. It’s a beautiful building, with various members of the reader’s family posed out front for the photographer — perhaps to celebrate opening day? I admired the handsome art deco ornamentation, and the keystone at the top showing the date of construction (1934), but I was somewhat puzzled by the name of the establishment. Why would anyone call a grocery store “Victory Little”? Or was it supposed to be “Little Victory”? At any rate, I thought a quick glance through the old city directories from the 1940s would reveal its location.

Well, I was wrong. Searching for Little Victory, or even just Victory, turned up nothing. Scrolling down the street listings for Chelsea and Ayers turned up nothing. Even looking up the store owner’s name — I learned from J.S. that it was her great uncle, Harold Wiginton — still nothing.

But I finally found something that only added to the confusion. The 1943 city directory shows a Victory Little Super Market — but located at 613 South Highland and operated by two brothers, Joseph and James Montesi. J.S. insists her family never operated a store on Highland, and the phone books for the next year, 1944, show this property has now become a Liberty Cash Grocery, a chain owned by the Montesi family.

So I’m at a loss. The building in the photo seems to have a parking lot to the left and an old house to the right, and the sidewalks are considerably wider than normal, with a metal light pole (not to mention an old car) planted smack in the middle of the sidewalk. But I can’t find any other clues in the photo, such as a street number on the store, that would suggest its location.


Reader Comments:
Jan 7, 2013 04:10 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dear Vance

You recently had a question with regards to the City "parking lot" at the corner of Adams and High.

For many years I worked for Mid-South Title Company and as part of that job in the 1970's was required to research that property for a potential buyer.

As I remember, the property was deeded to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of The City of Memphis in Trust for and organization which I remember as being the Old Folks Society of West Tennessee.

I also remember a Chancery Court Proceedings against the City claiming that bodies had been removed and in some instances "draggged over.;" however, when I find copy of my old file, I should be able to provide you with the details.

I believe that as part of the research we "unearthed" some sort of plat which showed the location of some graves.

I'll get back with you when I find my copies.


Jan 22, 2013 05:13 pm
 Posted by  M.Compton

I can't help on the building, but I may have insight on the name. As the photo dates from the early forties, I'm pretty sure the name "Victory" relates to the war effort. Just as there were "Victory" gardens (link below), I don't see any reason there couldn't have been "Victory" little super markets. The red, white, and blue shield emblem by the name supports this view.


Jan 30, 2013 01:00 am
 Posted by  Yoyo Patricia Craig

If you haven't received an answer on the "Exit" question, this might help. I understand that the exit numbers are the number of miles into the city, not the number of exits. They relate to the mile markers on the interstate. Of course I could be all wrong on this but that is what I was told by a trucker many years ago! I adore your column, thanks so much for the wonderful stories.

Apr 30, 2013 10:59 pm
 Posted by  One2

Vance, how and when did Union Avenue get it's name? Seems strange that a Southern City should have a major street with this name unless it was done during reconstruction (I believe that is how some refer to the occupation of Memphis by Northern Troops after the Civil War also know as the War of Northern Aggression.)

Thank you!

May 29, 2013 10:49 pm
 Posted by  anonymous

Union is named after the union between the separate towns of Memphis and I believe the other one was called South Memphis and Union Av was where the border was

Jun 13, 2013 08:11 am
 Posted by  LTC


The Poor Man’s Store is on Beale Street.
The picture was taken on January 1, 1938 by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.
The Time Life Getty image number is 50647778.

Jun 13, 2013 09:19 am
 Posted by  LTC


"The name had nothing to do with the Civil War Union occupation nor the merger with South Memphis in 1850,"...Our city's original street names, including Union, are on the original survey and map of 1819 — more than 40 years before the onset of the Civil War. The main east-west streets honor the first five presidents and Memphis founders Andrew Jackson, James Winchester, and John Overton.


...a popular myth about another well-known Memphis street. The theory held that Union Avenue was named to signify the "union" of incorporated South Memphis with Memphis in 1850, but Union Avenue was on city maps as early as 1827. It also is on the 1841 map, and Williams says the name Union simply "was a popular word in the American vocabulary at the time." It followed the naming of other streets for U.S. presidents.

"There had only been five presidents and they ran out of names, so they named the next street Union,"


Jun 14, 2013 06:31 am
 Posted by  LTC


Memphis' first mayor, first store owner, first postmaster and first son of Gen. James Winchester (one of the three city founders), Marcus B. Winchester; is buried under a horse barn that was later converted to a city garage and Office of Fleet Management. .

The historial marker at Winchester park reads "Winchester's grave is located under what is now a city garage on the west side of the property."


Winchester Cemetery was first located at Third Street and Poplar Ave and then later rebuired at the New Winchester Cemetery on High Street (now Lane Street) where the park is today.

Lt. Thomas S Trask was the first buried July 29, 1828. The city closed the cemetery in 1874 and move most of the buried to Elmwood Cemetery.


Jun 14, 2013 06:53 am
 Posted by  LTC


The 1951 edition of the Public Acts of the State of Tennessee documented a company called Hickeleat Chili-Tamale, Inc which could be the makers of Hickel's tamales.

Sep 10, 2013 02:16 pm
 Posted by  Phoebe

This building at 2053 Union is identical. I 1943 it was listed as Liberty Cash Grocers (hope the link works):


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