Memory Lane is a 1950s nostalgia park that Otis and Kathy Eldridge pieced together in their backyard on Caney Creek Road near Rogersville over the years, beginning with an antique-filled country store replica that was built in the late 1990s.
For about a decade, the Eldridges hosted a free car show and nostalgia festival on Memory Lane the Saturday before Memorial Day, an event that grew to more than 1,000 classic cars and more than 10,000 visitors.
Every year, the Eldridges added a new authentic 1950s attraction to Memory Lane, such as a stainless steel diner; an old Texaco station; the actual Rogersville Roxy Theater marquee; a couple of car dealerships; a country church; a fully furnished post-WWII prefabricated Lustron home; an airport hangar; and a covered bridge, just to name a few.
It was more than a car show because all the antique-filled attractions were open to the public. It was literally a trip down Memory Lane.
There hasn’t been a show for the past two years, but late last month the Eldridges were on the verge of announcing the popular event was back on the calendar for 2013.
They had already acquired insurance for the event and were making other preparations when they received word from the Random Rods car club, which organizes the car show aspect of the event, that they didn’t have enough help or time to pull it off this year.
It was a disappointment, but Otis Eldridge told the Times-News that barring the unforeseen there will be a Memory Lane car show the Saturday before Memorial Day of 2014 — with or without the car club.
“Mark it on your calendar in 2014,” Eldridge said. “God willing we’re going back to having a show, and hopefully it will be as good as it always was. You can make your plans. We’re definitely on for 2014.”
As for 2013, the Eldridges will still be partnering with the Rogersville Chamber of Commerce and the Rogersville Main Street Program for one of the most anticipated “Cruise-Ins” of the year set for Friday, May 24, in historic downtown Rogersville.
That cruise-in was actually started as an off-shoot of the Memory Lane festival’s Friday “pre-party” in the mid-2000s.
Eventually, the Friday Memory Lane pre-party grew too big for the Eldridges to manage along with the Saturday festival, and Rogersville’s downtown merchants were happy to host the pre-party event.
The May 24 Rogersville cruise-in kicks off Rogersville’s summer of cruise-ins that take place on the fourth Friday of each month. Usually the show attracts at least 200 classic cars.
“It’s a neat little event and people really enjoy the Friday cruise-in,” Eldridge said. “They close off the streets and all the little shops and antique stores stay open. People get together and crowd the streets, and seem to really enjoy it. It’s the first one of the summer and everybody is looking forward to getting out, and we always have a good turnout.”
Eldridge added, “Downtown Rogersville is such a neat place, and it’s not just about the cars. It’s a neat atmosphere.”
Rogersville cruise-ins also include live music and food vendors. Details of the cruise-in events will be released later.