Family marking century in CY with block party
By Aaron James
This year marks my family’s 100th anniversary in Cooper-Young, and I am celebrating by throwing a block party at 2028 and 2029 Felix, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 12. There will be food, live music, refreshments, and you’re all invited!
But now, let me tell our tale:
It all started when my maternal Great Uncle Vernon Ingram and his new bride, Louise Snowden, built 1839 Walker in 1912. When Vernon’s parents and younger siblings rode a wagon up from north Mississippi for a visit in 1918, he convinced them to quit the family farm and move to the big city.
On Feb. 21, 1922, Vernon’s younger brother Prentice married Louise Thomas at the home of Rev. Utley at 1981 Young. They eventually decided to call CY home too, and bought 1882 Manila in 1937. Grandma Ingram’s family had come from farms in north Memphis at what is now Dunlap and Jackson (a portion of which was called Thomastown Road in the 1880s), as well as south Memphis, where the Levi Road and community still bears their name.
My maternal grandparents were successful business owners, with Ingram’s Food Store on South Main, but unfortunately were not as successful at making babies and finally decided to adopt. Little did they know that the Tennessee Children’s Home, operated by the infamous Georgia Tann, was a literal black market baby factory. But the girl who would grow to be my mother, Gloria Ingram (Hollingsworth), certainly received nothing but love in her new home.
The following decade brought my dad and his family to the neighborhood. Born in Calhoun County, Miss., my paternal grandmother Nettie Lee Anglin (Moore) worked as a Rosie the Riveter during World War II. When she and my step-grandfather Mitchell bought 2029 Felix in 1946, she decided it was time to move her 13-year-old son Jack Hollingsworth to Memphis.
Jack and Gloria both attended Temple Baptist Church on Cooper, where they met and fell in love. The young couple were married in 1953 and welcomed their first child, Jack Jr., in 1954, making their home in the east half of what was then a duplex at 2087-89 Felix. In 1956, my maternal great-grandmother Ethel and her new husband Wallace Williams moved next door to Papa and Grandma Ingram, at 1878 Manila.
By the time I came along in 1963 we lived on North Graham, but found our way back to the family compound in December of 1975, buying the house across from Grandma Moore at 2028 Felix.
A few of my favorite memories include building a tree house from lumber scavenged from the house that was torn down where the Peabody playground is now. Walking to Fairview meant cutting through Harwood Arms, a gun shop where Celtic Crossing is now. And I still remember the day my dad finally let me get my hair cut in fly backs, which I did at Akins, back when it was still a beauty shop. This event, which would become my first step on the road to independence, was only made possible by the intervention of my new stepmother, Alice Wheaton (Hollingsworth.)
When I was 16, I delivered the Press-Scimitar throughout the neighborhood and bagged groceries at Baker Brothers. In high school, my girlfriend’s mother bought us season passes to Libertyland each year, and I bought parts for my 1968 Ford LTD at what would later become Young Avenue Deli.
After a couple of half-hearted years at Memphis State, the girl I was dating at the time said she would only marry me if I got a real job. The one thing I had known I was good at since 8th grade shop class was drafting, so I looked through the want ads and called every architect on the list. It was this serendipitous act that led to my working on the Boatmen’s bank on the corner of Cooper and Young in 1990. After I solved the drive-through dilemma by suggesting an angled canopy, my boss decided to give me a shot at designing the whole project. He and I spent an afternoon walking around the neighborhood and Overton Square, picking out the details that would add flourish to what has proven to be a rather timeless design, if I do say so myself.
Ultimately however, the significance of deep family roots was overshadowed by wanderlust, and I spent the next couple of decades using my profession as both the excuse and the means to travel the eastern half of the country, racking up 25 years, 25 firms, and 25 addresses. I was living and working in Manhattan in 2008, when my sister called on Easter Sunday to tell me our parents had been in an auto accident. Twenty-four hours later, I found myself once again living in Cooper-Young.
But the years have been kind to the old girl. What was built as a blue-collar neighborhood — maintaining this character through both my father’s and my childhoods — has gentrified into the cool part of town.
This year I will start a serious restoration of the house my dad grew up in, while maintaining my Midtown abode in the house my mom grew up in (which my own daughter and granddaughter briefly called home before moving to Austin.)
Having experienced so many locales over the years, I can say without a doubt, that Cooper-Young is the quintessential American neighborhood, and I look forward to a long and fulfilling future being back at home.