Garden walk revives forgotten chapter of Cooper-Young history
EDITOR: One of the highlights of the 2nd Annual Cooper-Young Garden Walk May 20-21 will be an appearance by President Harry S. Truman at 1042 Blythe.
More specifically it will be a wooden cutout, available for photos, of the 33rd President with a notable Cooper-Younger of the past, America’s Number One Chin Up Girl. The Lamplighter first shared this slice of Cooper-Young history back in 2014. Here we reprint that story for our readers.
By Apryl & Jason Potter
We spent about five years looking for a new home, and as I was driving home from work one day I noticed a for sale sign in the yard of a home on our block. My husband and I went to the open house at 1042 Blythe. As we were leaving, one of our neighbors mentioned that he believed the home had some kind of historical significance. According to the neighbor, in the mid-’90s people would often drive by, stop in front of the house, and take pictures. He’d asked what was so photo-worthy about the home and had been told that President Truman had once had dinner on the side yard lawn as part of a campaign stop.
We ultimately bought the house and were really intrigued by the idea that it might hold some kind of interesting backstory. We spent Valentine’s Day of last year at the Memphis Room at the Central Library searching for any information we could find to verify the Truman story. We were pointed in the direction of Cooper-Young resident Sarah Frierson as the resident Midtown expert, and she helped us refine our search. After uncovering the deed and last name of the homeowners in the 1920s, the McDaniel family, we learned that the family had five sons and two daughters.
In searching for the names of the McDaniel family members in the newspaper archive, multiple articles about the family matriarch, Mrs. G. N. McDaniel, showed up.
In 1944, all five of the McDaniel sons were in combat in World War II. At that time, the nation’s moral was at an all-time low, and the US government held a contest to name America’s Number One Chin-up Girl, a woman who would represent hope on the home front for families across the country with sons or husbands at war. The McDaniel boys, at that time spread across the globe, each wrote a letter nominating their mother for the honor, and in February of 1944 Mrs. McDaniel was informed that she’d been named America’s Number One Chin-up Girl. She would go on to be the face of war bonds, speaking at events across the country and receiving countless letters from mothers with sons fighting overseas.
Fortunately, we also learned that all five of Mrs. McDaniel sons survived the war and came back home to Memphis. Her youngest son lived on Blythe Street until he passed away in the late 80s.
We were also able to verify that Truman
America’s Number One Chin-up Girl: G.N. McDaniel was in fact very close to the home during a campaign stop, attending an event on Central Avenue early in the day and an evening party at a home on East Parkway in the evening. We assume it is feasible that he could have stopped by Blythe Street for a picnic and photo op with the Chin Up Girl and her five soldier sons before dinner.
While we’ve yet to find any evidence that Truman ever had that picnic in our side yard, we are pretty excited about the home’s historical significance as the home of America’s Number One Chin Up Girl.