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.


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