Zack Meaders Guess shares his memories of Overton Park, a place his son Noah Guess cares for as the owner of Echo Systems Inc., the park’s landscaping team. You can submit your own park memories at overtonpark.org/stories.
This is written in April 2021. In a few days I will be eighty years old. I was born in Memphis in 1941 and have lived here all my life except for three years when I lived in Kentucky. I love the City of Memphis and am glad this has been my home. A big part of my love for Memphis concerns Overton Park. When I was a boy, we would have picnics in the park, grilling hot dogs, swinging on the swings, and walking the trails in the woods.
In the summer we used to go once a week to the Overton Park Shell and hear the free concerts. The orchestra was great, being directed in those years by Noel Gilbert. There was something almost magic about sitting in the bleachers under the stars and hearing that beautiful music.
Three generations of my family have used a particular place in Overton Park to propose marriage to our wives to be. My dad, E. A. M. Guess, was forty-three when he married. My mother, Ora Eunice Rushing, was thirty-three when they married. They were blessed to have almost twenty years together and had two sons and three daughters born to them. Dad was born in 1896 and Memphis was his lifelong home. He proposed to my mother in Overton Park in front of the Doughboy statue. This is a statue of a World War One soldier with a helmet and a rifle with a bayonet on it. He proposed to her there in 1940.
He told the story of that proposal many times. When I fell in love with my wife to be, I decided to propose to her at the very same location. I was pretty smart. I decided to propose to her on my birthday so I would always remember the day. We went to the Park, drove up to the Doughboy statue and got out of the car. I said, “Judy, I love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?” She smiled and said, “Of course I will!” I was very excited but had not thought to bring a bouquet. So, I just snatched up one of the beautiful tulips planted there and gave it to her. I figured that since I had been a faithful taxpayer over the years that the City of Memphis owed me that one! I proposed to her in 1968. We have been blessed so far with fifty-one years of happy marriage.
I told that story to all our children. Consequently, when my oldest son, Isaac fell in love with his Rachel Inman, he decided to propose to her at guess where? Yes, in front of the Doughboy statue! This was in 1997.
Do the math. Some of the Guess men proposed to their wives during a period of some fifty-seven years! No wonder we love Memphis. No wonder we love Overton Park. No wonder we love the Doughboy statue!