Well, I'm Stumped
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Dear Vance: Where was the Poor Man’s Store in Memphis? I found this old photo online. — G.L., Memphis
Dear G.L.: I’ve seen this interesting photo (below) before on sites like eBay, and some sellers claim that it originally ran in Life magazine in the 1930s. Wayne Dowdy at the main library showed me similar photos of old Memphis businesses that appeared in a local history book, From Cotton Row to Beale Street. The Poor Man’s Store wasn’t included — or mentioned — in that book. So who took this photo, where was this tiny store, and how long was it in business? I just don’t know.
After several half-hearted attempts to skim microfilmed copies of Life, I gave up trying to find the original article, and once again turned to city directories. A dead end. I found no listing for such a store in any phone books from the 1920s through the 1960s. And, just as with the Little Victory store, I’m puzzled by the name of this little establishment: Did “Poor Man” refer to the owner — or to the customers?
I’ll let you ponder that for a while, along with several other “stumpers.” And yes, these are all genuine questions from readers. I can’t make this stuff up.