The Year of the Dog at the Pink Palace

Loki and Katie Willis have spent 2014 working on a 52-week photography project that features Loki’s personality and Katie’s talents behind the camera. Loki is a schnauzer-poodle mix who Katie adopted from Memphis Animal Services in 2010. Each week, Katie has photographed Loki at iconic Memphis landmarks including the Brooks Museum of Art, the FedEx Forum and the Orpheum Theater. Loki has also visited some places that are off the beaten path such as the moose sculpture outside the Park Adams Apartments. In early September, Loki and Katie made a visit to the Pink Palace for week 29.


This photograph is republished with the permission of the artist. To see the entire The Year of the Dog: 52 Weeks of Memphis project, you can visit You can also follow Loki’s adventures at


A Very Memphis Christmas

Decorating the Pink Palace has been a longstanding Memphis Christmas tradition. In 1951, the Museum displayed a forest of live, imaginatively decorated Christmas trees. The exhibit promoted fire safety and was co-sponsored by the Memphis Fire Department. At the opening, Santa Claus arrived in a fire engine. The trees were decorated with ornaments that were hand-made by Memphis school children. The ornaments were donated to local orphanages at the close of the exhibit, and the trees were planted on the grounds of city schools. The museum was a segregated place in the 1950s, and black citizens were only allowed to view the exhibit the Tuesday of the week it was open.Living Christmas Tree Exhibit 1
For Christmas 1960, the staff hosted a program titled “Christmas Traditions South of Our Border.” It featured a lecture about Mexican traditions, a piñata and Spanish caroling by students from Immaculate Conception and Blessed Sacrament schools. The next year’s decorations consisted of model trains and featured a program about Christmas traditions around the globe. Central Baptist Church’s Junior Bell Choir played carols, and the planetarium put on a “Star of Bethlehem” show. In 1962, the five thousand members of the Shelby County Council of Garden Clubs held a Christmas show at the museum. The put up themed decorations in the different galleries and called it “Our Gift to Memphis at Christmas.”

Berry Brooks Christmas 9The 1968 holiday season featured the return of the school tree decorating contest. As in the 1950s, the staff wanted students to decorate live trees and then plant the trees at the schools. However, this time the Memphis Fire Department protested by saying that it was a fire hazard to have so many lit trees in the mansion. Artificial trees were decorated instead. At the opening ceremonies, Mayor Henry Loeb ceremonially lit the trees, Santa Claus arrived on a peppermint float, and the Dunn School choir sang carols.
Since 2002, the Pink Palace has hosted the Enchanted Forest and Festival of Trees, which benefits Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.


Enchanting the Pink Palace

The Enchanted Forest began at the Goldsmith’s department store in Downtown Memphis. George Hettinger, designed the display, initially spreading out the characters throughout the store. The display grew each year, drawing visitors to walk through the ground floor displays. In the 1970s, Barry Hartzog, the store’s visual merchandising director, revitalized the exhibit by adding new characters that were child sized. Olive Gamble, the Goldsmith’s seamstress, made new costumes for the characters each year. In 1990, when the department store was struggling, they donated the Enchanted Forest to an organization called TWIGS.

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The TWIGS (Together We Initiate Growth and Sharing) was an auxiliary group that formed in 1978 to support and raise money for Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center. Le Bonheur itself began in 1923 when a group of young Memphis women gathered to make clothing for the children of the Porter-Leath Orphanage.  The called their sewing circle “le bon heur,” the good hour. It would later become the Le Bonheur Club.  As the club’s membership grew, its activities expanded.  Some of the ladies began to provide transportation for the orphans to their pediatricians.  In 1944, when the Memphis Pediatric Society envisioned a hospital completely dedicated to children, they looked to the Le Bonheur Club for help.  In eight years, the women of the club raised two million dollars for the construction, equipment, and needs of this new hospital.  In honor of these women and the efforts of their club, the hospital was christened Le Bonheur.  On June 15, 1952 the doors of the hospital opened with a grand ceremony and ribbon-cutting.  The key was tied to a balloon and allowed to float away; symbolizing that Le Bonheur’s doors would be open to any child in need.

The TWIGS’ first fundraiser was a tree decorating contest, which eventually turned into the Festival of Trees. This event grew each year until it included a café, bazaar, gingerbread village and model railroad exhibit. When Goldsmith’s donated their characters, the festival was renamed the Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees and relocated to the Memphis Agricenter. In 2002, TWIGS decided that they needed a smaller venue, and the Enchanted Forest moved to the Pink Palace Museum. From mid-November until the end of the year, the temporary gallery is transformed into a sparkling wonderland, complete with Santa and snow.