It was the 1950’s and 60s – the days of the greasers, sock hops, hula hoops, Luci and Desi, “kookie,” televisions topped with rabbit ears, and restaurants lined with multi-colored, neon designs. All of these symbolized American popular culture of the day.
A number of years ago, one of my student-interns, Megan Goodchild, wrote a fascinating article about one of those Murfreesboro institutions, the Anderson Motel and Restaurant. Enjoy the stroll down memory lane.
Every town has its legendary “hot spot,” the place that everyone flocked to for good food, music and just the right amount of trouble. Murfreesboro had such a place one time, though to remember you may need to think back a few years — 50 years, that is.
It was before I-24 came through Tennessee when US-41 was the main road for travel. The Anderson Motel and Restaurant was built in the late 1940s along that road. It was a popular stop on the Old Dixie Highway for travelers and locals alike. Andersons was owned by Myrtle Anderson, well-respected woman who lived in an apartment above the restaurant.
“She was a tough woman who kept her customers in line and wouldn’t stand for any type of ruckus in her establishment,” recalled Benton Parker of Woodbury.
Parker remembered the restaurant in the 1960s when he would eat there after he got off work at midnight.
“There would always be a fight in front of the restaurant because Myrtle would kick anyone out that started trouble inside,” Parker elaborated.
Anderson’s was open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but it really came alive about 10 p.m.
“We would all go down there after we would get off work at midnight. It was “the” place to be. Employees of the Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna always seemed to get in trouble when they drove to the restaurant after work,” Parker recollected.
He continued, “A lot of the locals there thought those ‘propellerheads’ were invading their territory especially the women.”
It seems that Parker himself had an encounter with Ms. Anderson when he and his friends were eating in the restaurant.
By the way, patrons were known for their many harmless practical jokes. Once, Parker picked up a bottle of ketchup which unbeknownst to him, the cap had been loosened by one of his friends.
Laughingly, he noted, “I started to shake the bottle up really good, and it went all over the place. I got all over the windows and even on the curtains. I thought that Ms. Myrtle was really going to let me have it!”
Wrought iron decorated the outside of the restaurant and inside mirrors line the walls. The side walls had large windows with a booth at each one. A motel was located out back and consisted of eight cottage-style rooms.
It wasn’t just the small-town camaraderie that kept customers coming back, but the food was the greatest. Parker remembered that the hamburgers were the best in town. Many recall that Anderson’s was a great hang-out for kids. In those days, everyone had a favorite restaurant hang-out. During its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Anderson’s was it. Although the jukebox rang with the favorite hits of the day was a draw, nevertheless the establishment would not be the same without Myrtle Anderson.
“There was no finer person than Myrtle,” said Marie Gentry, who worked in the restaurant in the 1950s. She had no education and never used a bank, but she always had plenty of money.”
Despite the restaurant’s popularity, a bit of controversy and mystery arose around 1959 and 1960 when, while having an affair, a local businessman was shot and killed at the motel by his lover. Uncertainty about the incident remains as rumors and untruths circulate even today.
Unfortunately, this triggered the beginning of the end for the Anderson Motel and Restaurant and perhaps of Myrtle as well. Many believed that Myrtle was never the same after the shooting. In the late 1960s, the restaurant deteriorated and the motel began to have a shady reputation.
After rumors of alleged prostitution, gambling and drug activities, Anderson’s finally closed in the 1970s. Frank Davis of Murfreesboro bought the property in 1975. The property changed hands a number of times before finally being sold to CVS Pharmacy in 1999, ending the legendary hangout. Though the Anderson Motel and Restaurant closed years ago, its memory remains embedded in this town. It has not only become a part of Murfreesboro’s history, but of its culture as well.