The and the Lewis Family
A Report by Tim Congdon: Tim passed away Dec. 2008 - Tim we will miss you !
It was dark and raining in Ferriday. I pulled into a gas station and jumped out by the pay phone. It was March, and colder than I thought it would be this far south. On the torn corner of a placemat from a Memphis restaurant was an almost indecipherable gathering of numbers I took down during one of my marathon phone calls with Gary Skala. Fumbling in the rain with change, and dogged by poor lighting, I dialed the number for the Lewis House and its keeper, Jerry Lee Lewis' sister, Frankie Jean. I stopped shivering when a voice, softer than I had anticipated, answered, "Hello?".
It was after the dinner hour and I had only called to find out when a good time might be to come tour the Lewis House on the following day. I stumbled through my introduction and apologized for calling so late. Nonetheless, Frankie Jean was determined that we, my son, Zach and I, head over to the house. " I'm tired," she said, "but y'all come on, we'll put you up at my daughter's. We're the house with a white pick-up in the drive. There's a bullet hole in the door from Jerry's last visit. "
That rainy night began our 3 days of visiting the Lewis House and Frankie's family, the Terrell's. The house is filled with some of the most obscure Jerry Lee items to be found anywhere. There are sermons Jerry Lee wrote while in the seminary framed on the walls, and more pictures, posters and memorabilia than one might see after years of collecting and precious family belongings Frankie has saved for posterity. Fans from all over the world have sent items to be displayed throughout the house, including one of John Lennon's pianos, and even Marilyn Monroe's dress from "Some Like It Hot".
Next door to the
house is the family's drive-thru store, where more Jerry Lee items are on display
Frankie Jean's husband, Marion, and their daughter, Marian Jean keep shop. The family is one of the hardest working I've seen . Frankie Jean is up at the crack of dawn and spends hours every day cleaning the house and keeping dust off the displays when she is not giving tours. Marion leaves in the morning, works all day at a hospital and comes home to do the night shift at the store, where Marian Jean has pulled the long daytime hours. The day ends late at night for Frankie, who sleeps in the house. She is also the security guard.
Still, the Lewis House is in need of more help than Frankie Jean and her family can give it. The roof leaks, and there is no hot water in the house. In the winter, Frankie Jean still heats the house with firewood she chops herself. The contents of the house are under continual assault from climatic changes- the hot humid summer days bake the many rare items on display . Security is less than adequate: recently, Frankie was attacked while sprucing up the yard around Elmo Kidd Jr's grave, whose tombstone has had chips struck off of it by over-zealous fans. (Elmo was another sibling who died quite young in life and who is buried on the grounds of the Lewis House.)
Displays have been
ripped off the walls in places, and other items have been stolen as well. The
house needs a new roof, some climate control and hot water. The grounds need
a fence around them, plus a few cameras inside and out to keep visitors honest.
This house deserves the support of Jerry Lee's and Linda Gail's and Lewis Family fans. Unlike the ranch in Nesbit, there is no set charge to tour the house. There is a box for donations that visitors can leave to the extent that they are able to afford a donation. All the gifts and items that are received by Frankie Jean for the house are itemized and cataloged, and never leave the collection.Funds received by the Lewis House are used to improve the house and grounds or pay the operating expenses for a destination that should be at the top of every fan's list. This is the place to go for any fans who are looking for the heart and soul of the Lewis Family and the man whose two hands have changed the face of music, the king in exile, Jerry Lee Lewis. The history on display in this house will someday help restore him to the place he deserves and the recognition he will one day find in the annals of music of the 20th century.
In noting this,
Jerry's long time friend, Gary Skala, has called this place 'the house of the
unfinished sentence'. Think about it.
Any fans who are in a position to help the Lewis House
with donations or items for display are invited to contact Frankie Jean Lewis
Terrell at 712 Louisiana Avenue, Ferriday , Louisiana 71334 or call 318-757-4422.
A newsletter with interesting comments and stories as well as a list of sponsors
of the Lewis House will soon be available to donors and fans.
for Frankie Jean Lewis Terrell
The photo from the Lewis family is used with permission by Frankie Jean Lewis Terrell, it was given only for this report of the Lewis house, any use of the photographs without permission is prohibited.
The other photos copyright 2001 by tim congdon.
Many Thanks to my friend Tim for the report and the photos and to Frankie Jean Lewis Terrell for the great photo from the Lewis famlily.