Feature story for The Commercial Appeal
July 29, 2012
Historic-memphis.com began its cyber-life as a website for the alumni of Memphis Tech High. Begun by Gene Gill, a 1951 graduate of the school, the content soon outgrew the parameters of its yearbook-like platform. More specifically, the historical aspect of the high school, which dates to 1913, took on a life of its own, and with it, an interest in all manner of Memphis history.
“I called Gene and said, ‘The Tech site is dying on the vine … but we’re getting all these hits on the little portions that we have regarding the historical side of Memphis,’” said Dave French, a co-founder of the historic Memphis site and a 1969 graduate of Tech High.
The school site (memphistechhigh.com), while still active but no longer updating, is the dusting of ashes out of which arose a Phoenix or, more precisely, a Memphis, in all of her past glory. On the new historic-memphis.com site, there are photos and a wealth of information accompanying them on movie theaters, schools, restaurants, hotels, parks, entertainment venues, department stores and train stations, among many more. Yearbooks from area schools, event programs, diplomas, postcards and other marginalia can be found as well.
French recruited longtime friend (and 1969 Immaculate Conception graduate), Maureen Thoni White, to help with the research and scanning of photos and books. For the three admittedly novice historians, the site is a labor of love; there is no money made from it, nor are there any plans to monetize it.
“It’s full of useful information and is well done,” said G. Wayne Dowdy, manager of the history department at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and author of several books on Memphis history, including “A Brief History of Memphis.” “It may not be a ‘scholarly’ website, but then again it doesn’t pretend to be. In my opinion, having a group of passionate collectors post information on Memphis’s past is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the city’s history. Plus, it’s valuable when history is presented in a fun — even when the subject itself is not fun — and accessible format, rather than a stolid, academic one. In many ways, history, particularly local history, is too important to leave solely to historians.” … (read more)