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Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway is in a relationship with his city. A communication strategist, freelance writer, and author of "I'm a Memphian," he can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

Conaway: The Ogle of us

By Published: January 24, 2019 4:00 AM CT

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT.

For instance, what’s down there?

He’d been down there all alone for hours, his flashlight bouncing off the vaulted ceiling and green-tinted walls far beneath the city, following the course of the old Gayoso Bayou now captured in a gigantic storm drain. You think about history down there. And battery life. You see things few have seen. And you see “no signal” on your cellphone. You realize that no one knows where you are. And that includes you.

That’s when Jimmy Ogle, as he tells it, found a ladder and climbed back into this century.

I told that story in a column some years ago as just one example of a zillion from our own one-of-a-kind Jimmy Ogle – our own Memphis Wikipedian. Jimmy will forget more about Memphis before he goes to bed tonight than you and I will ever know, and he generously shares that knowledge with anyone he thinks might want to know. If you ask Jimmy a question, the answer’s going to take a minute, and you will be amazed.

When he read what I wrote about the Loosahatchie Bar, Jimmy sent me comparative photos of the course of the river at Memphis for the last century and references for who set the course, and told me a couple of stories about not only visiting the Bar to harvest a Christmas tree in a johnboat, but actually setting up and conducting day trips to the Bar and volleyball games on its beach at low water.

Whatever I write about Memphis, Jimmy already knows about. Of course he does. The guy’s more Memphis than the water and the barbecue.

I’ve never heard of the National Society of the United Daughters of 1812, but they’ve given Jimmy several awards, and so has virtually every historical society, commission and civic institution around here that anybody’s ever heard of or cares about – including this beauty – “Descendants Of Early Settlers Of Shelby County And Adjoining Counties Award with Heartfelt Appreciation for Tireless Efforts to Promote the Histories of the Region Our Ancestors Settled and Built.”

In addition to his countless walking tours, lectures, and tireless advocacy, he’s run the Memphis Queen line, Mud Island and Beale Street Landing, and been Duckmaster at The Peabody, scoreboard operator for Tigers basketball, and the official Shelby County historian since 2014.

And Jimmy is moving to Knoxville in the spring to be close to his grandkids, only the pull of family strong enough to pull those roots.

He’s leaving us with what he calls his “bicentennial gift,” storytelling with Jimmy beginning Monday, Feb. 4, in the Mansion at the Pink Palace, and every Monday and Thursday through March 14. Here are the subjects and dates:

  • “Historic Memphis To Modern Memphis,” Feb. 4
  • “Before There Was Memphis,” Feb. 7
  • “Memphis In The Roaring ’20s,” Feb. 11
  • “Memphis Music History,” Feb. 14
  • “Historic Memphis Riverfront,” Feb. 18
  • “A Century of Black History In Memphis (1865-1968),” Feb. 21
  • “Historic Tall Buildings,” Feb. 25
  • “The Origins & Oddities of the Streets & Bridges of Memphis,” Feb. 28
  • “Memphis & The Civil War,” March 4
  • “Memorials & Historical Markers in Shelby County,” March 7
  • “Women in Memphis History,” March 11
  • “Memphis – 1970s To Now,” March 14

Each hour-long program is free, open to the public, and will begin at noon. The whole series will be archived at the Pink Palace and available at the Memphis Public Library. And, I assure you, Jimmy will be available by phone from Knoxville and in person when he comes home to visit.

I’m a Memphian, and I’d like to thank Jimmy Ogle for giving that statement meaning over all these years.

<strong>Dan Conaway</strong>

Dan Conaway

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