High waters on the Mississippi River roll past downtown Memphis on a hot summer night in Memphis, Tennessee.
John Michael Talbot sings Healer of My Soul at St. Louis Catholic Church in Memphis, Tennessee. The event was sponsored by Lumen Civitatis. John Michael Talbot is an American Roman Catholic singer, songwriter, guitarist, author and founder of a monastic community known as the Brothers and Sisters of Charity.
He is a multi-platinum selling, Grammy / Dove award winning Contemporary Christian Music pioneer. He is recognized as one of Catholic music's most popular artists with compositions published in hymnals throughout the world.
I was honored to be one of the photojournalists asked to participate in a New York art gallery show where we raised money to help the next generation of photojournalists.
The Ki Smith Gallery held an auction this spring as a way to raise funds for Boyd Station in Kentucky. The exhibition "Witness: Beauty in Truth" amassed 70 images from some of today's more prominent photojournalists, many of the images rarely are for sale.
Boyd Station is a place for creatives, writers and visual story tellers to come away from it all, get away from distractions and focus on their craft without the distraction of the every day world. Boyd Station is especially set up to provide inspiration and assistance to aspiring local photojournalists.
This is becoming especially important in this day and time where many of todays struggling newspapers seem to be losing the art of long form visual story telling or are, sadly enough, often happy enough with iphoneography.
Great photojournalism is at risk. Great photojournalism is important. Great photojournalism changes hearts, minds and communities.
Boyd Station is positioned to teach the next generation about great photojournalism. This was the idea of longtime photojournalist Jack Gruber, who set up the nonprofit which aims to "cultivate the arts in the bluegrass of Kentucky" while documenting the community at the same time.
One of my most popular images, a signed copy of the late blues musician Mose Vinson’s hands on a piano, was auctioned off in the fundraiser. I shot it on film and it was shot for his album cover. We shot the photo on Beale Street in Memphis, where he used to play. The auction was hosted by the Ki Smith Gallery in New York City in March. The event showcased 40 of today’s most acclaimed and awarded photojournalist's.
Thank you Ki Smith Gallery for a successful auction and fundraiser.
Ki Smith Gallery
712 W 125th Street
New York, NY 10027
We were lucky to get a mention in Newsweek. Alexander Cavaluzzo did a write up about the exhibit. https://www.newsweek.com/big-apple-plants-bluegrass-roots-grow-future-art-1356914
A successful online auction of our photos was held a few months later through Paddle8, where proceeds once again befitted Boyd Station. Paddle8 is an online auction house based in New York City that sells fine art.
https://www.boydsstation.org/ to learn more about Boyd Station.
Keith White purchased and restored the Hollywood Beach Private Pullman rail car, which is one of only three that existed. He houses the train car in St. Louis and offers a few short affordable trips per year for rail fans to enjoy.
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which styled itself "The Route of Courteous Service," was an American railroad that existed from April 14, 1900, until July 1, 1967
All Photos © Karen Pulfer Focht
Below is an original advertising picture of the Hollywood Beach put out by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.
Nostalgia Rides the Rails-
Written by John L. Focht ©
FUNK'S GROVE, Ill.--As Amtrak's "Lincoln Service" train speeds along the Illinois prarie at 67 mph, it shows off a special car coupled to the rear---the Hollywood Beach, a restored private railcar, which is taking a group of 15 guests southbound to St. Louis.
It is a restored classic railcar originally used by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad to carry passengers on their "Silver Meteor" New York-to-Florida trains in the 1950s and 1960s. It's an unusual combination of half lounge and half Pullman sleeping car, one of only three such cars, built in 1957.
The car is a labor of love for its owner, Keith White, 68, of Naperville. Ill. White is a retired Illinois Central/Canadian National rail traffic controller who started his career in Memphis, Tenn., then went on to Chicago.
"I really need to have this," White said the first time he saw the car. "So, it took a little bit of foolishness," he laughs.
It takes a lot of time and money to restore such a car, White says. He bought the car in 2016 for an amount he doesn't specify. He has spent about $500,000 to upgrade and renovate it. And now there are storage fees, insurance costs, annual inspections, Amtrak's charges to pull the car. ($3.67 per mile).
"It's definitely not for the faint of pocket book!" White says.
White has completely refurbished the Hollywood Beach, essentially bringing it back to its original look and feel. The large solarium lounge, with its large windows all around and on top, gives riders a full panaoramic view as we cross the Mississippi River on the MacArthur Bridge.
The car has five complete private bedrooms, with individual bathrooms, for overnight guests. It sleeps 10. The Pullman-style rooms provide a comfortable couch during the day and have beds that pull down from the wall for sleeping. Everything has been immaculately and expensively restored--- even the little "boxes" where first-class bedroom guests in the 50s could put their shoes before going to bed, to have them returned and shined by morning.
White has added a full kitchen and even a shower to the Hollywood Beach.
He runs trips on the car about four times a year, making arrangements to hook onto Amtrak on their routes. The Hollywood Beach just completed roundtrips from Chicago to St. Louis and Chicago to Carbondale. White and several couples spent the night in the bedrooms while the car was parked at Chicago Union Station.
Guest fares pay the expenses and make White a little money, but the Hollywood Beach isn't about making money. It's more about White sharing the experience. Likewise, it's not all about getting to a destination--it's about enjoying the journey.
The affable White and his wife Maggie serve as the crew. It has a homespun flavor. "It's like visiting Keith's cottage," said one of the guests, while sipping a beer. Keith cooks bacon and eggs for breakfast and serves all the meals. They put out bowls of Goldfish crackers and Tootsie Rolls. He is a conductor, cook, waiter, maid and attendant all in one.
At the end of this trip, the car returns to St. Louis and is switched into its home, the tracks next to St. Louis Union Station.
White, sweating, wearing an Illinois Central hardhat and yellow vest, says, "It's a lot of work. It's taxing. But I love it."
Written by John L. Focht ©
Owner of Railcom, Germantown, Tennessee
For more Information about future trips contact Keith White at
Keith’s Rail Way LLC
East High School in Memphis, Tennessee was given a hero’s parade and pep rally at the school on Saturday, May, 25th, 2019 for James “Big Ticket” Wiseman. Wiseman is the #1 high school basketball recruit in the country and he has signed on to play with Coach Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers in the fall. Wiseman is 7-feet tall with a 7-6 wingspan and he was an excellent student while at East High School
Wiseman is a true role model. "He was the only male to make the Principal's List, all A's and good conduct in all classes, every quarter for the past two years." said Dr. Newman C. Robertson, Principal of East High School.
Due to financial shortfalls, the Catholic Diocese of Memphis closed several of their jubilee schools this week.
After a multimillion-dollar donation from an anonymous group of donors, the first Jubilee schools were opened in 1999 in hopes of educating some of the cities poorest children.
The mostly non-Catholic students were educated paying little or no tuition, many were refugees who found their way to Memphis. “ We educate them because we are Catholic, not because they are.” said lifelong educator Mary McDonald.
This week teachers all the jubilee schools were told to remove all religious materials from the school before the incoming charter school takes over.
St. Paul Catholic School, in Whitehaven, is staffed with staffed with some Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation and is not a Jubilee School and it will remain open.
Below is a video about the Jubilee Schools when they were open. This was shot at Holy Names in North Memphis, not far from where Mother Teresa opened a convent for the Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor in Memphis. It highlights the mission of the church. “When we closed those schools we left more than old buildings behind, we left children, and those children need us now more than ever” Mary McDonald.
We recently got a sneak peek at the inside of Central Station in downtown Memphis. The historic building was once a very rugged and unwelcoming station. It still serves Amtrak but it is now being converted into a Curio hotel, due to open at the end of the summer.
“Curio – A Collection by Hilton is Hilton’s latest brand and will be a carefully selected, global collection of distinctive four and five star hotels that offer travelers local discovery and authentic experiences in key markets. Just as the word “curio” can refer to something of interest, unique or even rare, each Curio hotel will be different from the next, with individuality being a common thread.” Hilton https://hiltonhonors3.hilton.com/en/about/curio.html
Memphis civic treasure and developer Henry Turley, has had a heart and vision for the revitalized South Main area for many years. When the time was right, he called up his buddies and asked them to pitch in.
With the help of Malco President and COO David Tashie, the Malco Powerhouse Cinema Bar and Grill opened in the old powerhouse recently. It is also home to a large-format MXT "Extreme" Theater.
The hotel is inside the historic Central Station and is on Amtrak's City of New Orleans route, which runs from Chicago to New Orleans. Construction is supposed to be completed by August. Henry wants for people who come to town to have a nice place to stay.
The development group includes Henry Turley, Archie Willis and McLean Wilson.
Henry came from very humble beginnings. He is a kind and gentle soul who lavishes his southern hospitality on most everyone he comes into contact with. He has a beautiful, yet simple home, that sits high on the Chickasaw bluffs that over looks the Mississippi River. He loves purple martins and has placed several bird houses around the south main area. A box of soap chips sits in his living room. His family used to save up the used soap chips so that they could make a new bar of soap. He likes to remember from where he came.
“We look for projects that will make Memphis a more livable city” said Henry this week while showing off Central Station and the Powerhouse. Can one man’s vision really make that big of a difference? The Henry Turley Company has heavily contributed to the transformation and livability of downtown Memphis with the development of South Bluffs, Harbor Town, South Main and Uptown.
The renovated Memphis home of the teenage Elvis Presley (which was public housing at the time) has also opened in Uptown. Fans can sleep where Elvis laid his head as a teenager. http://www.karenpulferfocht.com/blog/elvisweek2018
It was hard to get people downtown after Martin Luther King was shot in the nearby Lorraine Motel. http://www.karenpulferfocht.com/blog/civilrightsmuseum But that is not the case anymore.
In spite of all of the construction going on, condo’s downtown Memphis are in short supply. https://dailymemphian.com/article/4572/Downtown-condos-in-short-supply
The Beale Street Music Festival was sold out on Sunday. Miley Cyrus made a surprise visit on Saturday. Read more in the Daily Memphian (links below)
Memphis Zoo Welcomes Second New Baby Giraffe in Less Than One Week~ Wendy, a Memphis Zoo giraffe gave birth recently to a boy calf and his is name is Kiburi, which means precocious in Swahili. Within the same week, the zoo’s 12-year-old giraffe Angela Kate gave birth her baby giraffe on April 9, 2019. These births bring the Memphis Zoo’s reticulated giraffe herd to 11. Reticulated giraffes are considered endangered, with only 11,000 remaining in the wild and a population that is declining. Memphis Zoo, located in Memphis, Tennessee, is home to more than 4,500 animals representing more than 500 different species.
Here you can see as the newest baby was introduced to his daddy Nikalaus gets to meet his babies.
I also happened to catch Giraffe vocalizations from the baby. It was the first time I had heard that. You can hear it too in this video.
Below you will find shorter video of just the baby giraffe vocalizations.
UPDATE FROM THE ZOO APRIL 25th, 2019-
“We’ve had a lot of questions about our most recent baby giraffe Ali, born just days after our boy Kiburi joined the herd earlier this month. Ali’s had quite the journey over the last few weeks, but we are happy to say she is back at Memphis Zoo on stall rest.” ~The Memphis Zoo
Tigers beat Tulsa for a 66-63 victory Saturday night.
Memphis mayor Jim Strickland declared Saturday to be Jeremiah Martin Day.
To read more about it see stories in the Daily Memphian @
“What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”Read More
Industry professionals got intimate concerts and opportunities to connect with artists at the 31st Folk Alliance International conference in Montreal, Canada. Artists showcased their music all around the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel.
Conference attendees and folk friends around the world were invited to join a live-streaming a performance of “Give Peace a Chance” from their own beds on February 16th at 9:30 am ET.
“In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a bed-in at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montréal, Canada where they penned and recorded the iconic pacifist song “Give Peace a Chance.” 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of this historic moment in music history, and our conference is taking place in the same hotel!” Folk Alliance International~
This weekend 78-year-old singer -songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who had a string of hits in the 60’s and 70’s was honored at the event. She is a peace activist and a very private person who seldom leaves her farm in Hawaii. She recently released a biography.
In what was a folkies paradise, thousands of folk music fans came together to hear music legends in the historic Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. While it was frigid outside, the warmth inside between old friends was palpable. I was sitting next to Tom Paxton as he whooped it up and gave a thumbs up to Livingston Taylor after he performed Somewhere Over The Rainbow. As soon as the set was over, Paxton approached the stage and the two embraced. Both artists have been able to maintain longstanding careers in the folk industry.
The reporter I was working with and I looked for every opportunity to slip into the space where Livingston Taylor was giving his delightful performances. His warm and inviting style was very engaging; his vocals soothing and his guitar playing joyful. But what made Livingston special to me was his performance charisma. Frequently interrupting himself, as to never let a teaching moment pass, he's filled wisdom and humor and eager to share both with his audience. This says a lot, when you think that more than 1,000 singers, songwriters and musicians from around the world were competing for the attention of industry professionals.
There is just something about Livingston that speaks heart to heart.
~~Young artist connected to industry professionals and each other, while showcasing their own music.
Story by award winning reporter Mike Sangiacomo, Cleveland Plain Dealer. https://www.cleveland.com/arts/2019/02/folk-alliance-conference-unites-musicians-from-around-the-world.html
Next years event will be in New Orleans.
VIDEO OF LIVINGSTON TAYLOR SINGING SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW ABOVE WITH APPROVAL OF TOM PAXTON AT THE END.
It has been such an honor and a pleasure to photograph Marc Gasol. As a freelance photojournalist in Memphis, I have had the opportunity to cover NBA basketball star Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol in a variety of way for a variety of clients. He has meant so much to this community as this photo gallery reflects. It is about much more than basketball. This city loves Marc and Marc has loved Memphis back.
Marc is Memphis.
GOOD LUCK ON YOUR NEW JOURNEY MARC!
Audio Engineering: History, Theory and Practice - Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee.Read More
By Karen Pulfer Focht
Memphis, Tenn. –On a bleak mid-winter Thursday morning in Memphis, Tenn. three veterans were buried with honors; but with no family members present.
The men all died in the fall but no one ever stepped forward to claimed their remains.
What could have been a very lonely funeral service was attended by hundreds of community members that packed the West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery. Cars lined up and down Forest Hill Irene Road, waiting to get in even as it started.
Veterans and soldiers created a sacred space for the caskets to pass through. They saluted each casket as it passed by.
An overflow crowd stood out in the rain. A few lucky people who arrived early sat in chairs inside the rotunda in front of the three caskets. They listened to taps. Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes and there was a gun salute. Many people, forced to stand in the rain outside, strained to hear the service where guests sniffled and cried as they thought of the soldiers who served our country and then died alone.
Leading the service, Memphis Funeral Home director Gary Taylor remembered the call he got December 31, 2018. He was told of three men, “all who were honorable veterans who proudly served the nation that we all love, with no one to claim them as their own.”
He thanked the Patriot Guard Riders, “thank you for your willingness to escort your brothers to their place of rest.”
He continued, “Thank you for answering this call, the call to bring your brothers home.” He addressed the crowd, “to each one of you here today, thank you for your presence. Thank you for answering a call, the call to claim these men as your own. We are all here today to render honor to whom honor is due; three men, three soldiers, three Americans, three hero’s.
The three men who were honored were Wesley Russell, 76, Arnold Klechka, 71 and Charles Fox, 60.
A moment of silence followed and the fallen warriors prayer was spoken. The flags that covered the casket were respectfully and deliberately folded. With no family present to accept the flags, the flags were then passed through out the crowd. Attendees cried, clutched, and kissed the flag and held them with reverence and dignity.
Taylor finished, speaking to the caskets he said “today, we salute you, today we all claim you as our own. “
Jan. 17, 20019 © Karen Pulfer Focht
THIS IS A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE MEMPHIS TIGERS AND THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, BOTH WHO PLAYED IN MEMPHIS SATURDAY DEC. 8th, 2018.
The great story of the day was when LeBron James gave Briane Miller, an assistant equipment manager for the Memphis Grizzlies, his shoes during a game Saturday night bringing her to tears. The Lakers won 111-88. Story @ This story has gotten a lot of traction!
Earlier in the day Memphis Tigers rejoice at the end of the game as Tigers win 94-76 in Saturday's game (Dec. 8) at the Fed Ex Forum.
Holiday Wonders at the Garden opens Friday, November 23rd and runs (select nights) through December 30th.
Highlights from the Memphis Grizzlies VS Utah Jazz at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee on Nov.12, 2018.