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Residents hopeful that Frayser will rebound

'Maybe they could revive it like Midtown'

38127 Demographics

Population: 50,575

Male/female: 46%/54%

Black/white: 76%/22%

High school graduate only:
30%

College graduate:
6%

Married:
36%

Households:
17,073

Income less than $25,000: 36%

Income greater than $75,000: 9%

Own home: 65%

Resident less than 1 year: 21%

Resident more than 5 years: 52%

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Source: Claritas


The Log Cabin Restaurant and Lounge and J and D Quality Cars aren't too far apart on Thomas Street around the heart of what might be called Old Frayser, where Thomas, coming north from Memphis across the Wolf River and up a long hill, crosses Whitney.

They make good vantages from which to observe - or comment on - the changes that have taken place in the sprawling community annexed by the city Jan. 1, 1958.

(The partly rural Zip Code 38127 ranges all the way up to Shelby Forest, but the majority of the population is concentrated in Frayser.)

"I remember when living in Frayser was like living in a small town in Arkansas," said Robbie Hall, 52, having breakfast at The Log Cabin with her husband, Billy Garner, 62 (retired on disability after 37 years in the carpenter's union); her mother, Thelma Hall, 78 (who remembers the days when there used to be dancing at The Log Cabin); and Robbie and Billy's 10-year-old grandson, Robbie Jeffery. "Back in the '50s, people took care of each other."

Now, she said, as platters of typical Southern breakfasts were delivered to the tables, "there's not much sense of being connected to the community because there's nothing to connect to anymore."

Down at J and D Quality Cars, across from Northgate Shopping Center, which opened in 1955, sales manager J. W. Sisk, 63, looks out the three glass walls that surround his desk and worries about small businesses closing.

"We had three dollar stores in this shopping center up to about three years ago," he said, "and now we're down to one."

Sisk will assert that "there are a lot of good things that go on" in Frayser, "but I think there's a lot of crime out here and I think probably the police could be a little more diligent in this area."

On the other hand, "I saw something in the newspaper a few weeks back about a committee for the betterment of the Frayser community starting up. I think that would be very effective in Frayser if they have more of that.

"I would like to hear more about what is going on with those types of organizations that are trying to get businesses back into Frayser or keep businesses in Frayser that are already here," Sisk said.

Robbie Hall is an admitted news junkie - "I follow the news all night long. I'm an insomniac." - but she doesn't trust what she sees: "They don't have any idea what's going on in the world."

What she's looking for is "someone who isn't biased, somebody that I believe was really telling the truth."

It bothers her that local media play up "racist this and racist that" in reporting black and white problems and relations.

"I would like to see something more intelligent," Hall said, "some kind of forum where black and white people could present different viewpoints, where they could say, 'We can do this,' or, 'I stand apart on this.' If we don't have something like that, things will never get any better."

"There's no telling what Frayser will be like in a few years," said Billy Garner, finishing his breakfast at The Log Cabin.

"Maybe they could revive it like Midtown," said Robbie Hall. "There are nice areas here, nice homes, but everything is getting run down."

The missing generation at the gathering is young Robbie Jeffery's parents, who, he said frankly, "parted ways long ago." He's a science fanatic in a Keystone school and wants to attend MIT.

The grandparents look at him proudly.

"You know," said Hall, "everyday people are the ones who are going to change things. Robbie is our future."

This is the last of 77 entries in the Fresh Eyes series, which has taken a tour of Greater Memphis Zip by Zip.

The team that visited 38127 in Shelby County included photographer A. J. Wolfe, Appeal reporter Fredric Koeppel and John Wood, a writer with the Special Publications Department.

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