Thousands of fans gather for the Candlelight Vigil in remembrance of the death of ELVIS PRESLEY at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. In the years since his death, fans from around the world gather each year at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee in the days surrounding the anniversary of his death for the annual event known as Elvis Week. (Photos by Karen Pulfer Focht ©)
FOR SOME OF THE PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE KING BY MEMPHIS PHOTOJOURNALIST KAREN PULFER FOCHT SEE LINKS BELOW-
Pete McCarty invites everyone to the Memphis Uke N Roll Festival in April of 2020. Come join the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob as we have a four day party in Memphis that celebrates everything wonderful about the ukulele. For tickets go to www.memphisukenroll.com
What started out as a small group of friends getting together to jam has grown into a wonderful ukulele community in Memphis. The Memphis Ukulele Flash mob meets each week at Central BBQ on Summer Avenue in Memphis on Tuesday evenings from 6-8pm for a standing room only sing-a-long led Pete McCarty.
Memphis Magazine recently did a story on Pete and the Flash Mob calling them the Pied Piers of Happiness who “bring joy to the world.”
The all volunteer group also spend their time and talent spreading love around the community, playing for nursing homes, children’s hospitals, farmers markets and even holiday parades.
The festival will showcase talent from around the country, there will be workshops, open mic opportunities, sing-a-longs, fun and fellowship in the south main neighborhood in downtown Memphis.
Enjoy this photo gallery which will get you a sense of our city, Memphis, the city we love so much. You can also see some of the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob members spreading some love. (Photos by Karen Pulfer Focht ©)
To see other videos and photos of the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob look under “Ukulele Fun” Category on my blog.
Now, ya’ll come!
The future of Tom Lee Park is up in the air as officials and city activists try and agree on the future direction the park should take with a redesign.
In the mean time, Memphians enjoy the amenities as it stands.
A recent report on CBS Sunday Morning about “The Return of the bald eagle” highlights the success of the Endangered Species Act and the benefits to the bald eagle.
I photographed this Eagle on Whidbey Island in Washington State, earlier in the week that this story ran. It was perched on top of a piece of driftwood alongside the water at dawn, waiting for its prey.
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
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.
Father Francis Chiawa gave several children their first communion at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Memphis, Tennessee this week.
This church is the oldest black catholic church in Tennessee and in the days of segregation in the south, this was the church where the “colored” Catholics were allowed to worship. They celebrated their 80th anniversary in 2017.
Memphis is one of the poorest big cities in America. This photo was made in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis.
This story was also picked up and featured by a Dutch weekly Catholic newspaper Katholiek Nieuwsblad, where I spoke with Anton de Wit.
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)
This Grizzlies season has been full of many ups and downs and unknowns; it’s been a season full of emotion for the players, the fans and the coaches.
Marc Gasol got to play hard in front of Zach Randolph, who watched him try and break a record from the bench. Fans cried as their beloved Marc Gasol was traded and it was the first time there was not a Gasol on the team since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis. Super fans Bongo Lady and Growel Towel Carol became double trouble as the two became seat mates. They cried together with Marc Gasol’s mother, when she came to a game to watch Pau shortly after Marc was traded. They held hands.
LeBron James gave Briane Miller, an assistant equipment manager for the Memphis Grizzlies, his shoes during a game, she cried, he hugged her and the story went viral.
Rookie Jaren Jacks Jr. hula hooped on Beale street and won over Memphis fans with his charm, moxie and basketball skills.
The fans have embraced Joakim Noah, Jonas Valanciunas and many other new Grizzlies.
The Japanese media was here most of the season watching Yuta Watanabe.
Chandler Parson hardly played and then came back and played hard.
Mike Conley is the last man standing of the core four, and it is unknown if he will be back in next season.
People said the Grizzlies were fun to watch again by the end of the season and that the games were more exciting.
It has been a season full of shocks, including Thursday when the Grizzlies sent Chris Wallace and Bickerstaff out to speak to the media and a few hours later, fired Bickerstaff and reassigned Wallace.
It is an evolving process. We will see what next season brings.
As always you can follow Geoff Calkins in the Daily Memphian for excellent coverage.