Thursday, April 30, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 192

The Peabody Ducks

It is always fun to find something that is quirky and different.  The postcard sent by Q and the Gnome in 2000 shared this week shows the famous Peabody Ducks marching up the red carpet to take their daily swim in the lobby fountain of the luxurious Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.  The ducks live in specially built quarters on the rooftop of the hotel and take the elevator down to the lobby fountain accompanied to the music of John Phillip Sousa’s “King Cotton March” each day at 11 am.  They stay in the pool and entertain the hotel guests until 5 pm when the music starts up again and they go back to their own quarters for the night.  A special hotel employee acts as “Duckmaster” who trains the ducks and escorts them to and from their quarters to the fountain each day.  The ducks, local celebrities, and Duckmaster have appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Sesame Street, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.  They have also appeared in People magazine. 

The Peabody Hotel is one of the Historic Hotels of America that is part of the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The original hotel was built in 1869 by Robert C. Brinkley who named it for George Peabody in honor of his contributions to the South.  Since then it changed hands a couple of times, the original building closed in 1923 and a new structure opened on a different site in 1925.  The hotel experienced some rocky times such as when it went bankrupt in 1965 and was sold at a foreclosure auction to Sheraton Hotels.  Sheraton operated the hotel until 1973.  In 1975 it changed ownership again.  The next owner, Jack A. Belz spent $25 million renovating the now landmark and held a grand opening in 1981.  Today the 464 room hotel is owned by the Peabody Hotel Group. 

The duck parade on the red carpet dates to the 1930s when the General Manager, Frank Schutt, returned from a hunting trip and put live English Call Duck decoys in the hotel fountain.  It was such a big hit with the hotel guests that since that time five Mallard ducks (one drake and four hens) have become a permanent fixture at the hotel.  Wild ducks are brought in and replaced every three months.  It takes about one week to train them to march to the music and the Duckmaster walks along with them more for show than necessity as the ducks know what they are supposed to do and where they are going the minute the music starts.

For more information, see:

And a short video about the ducks and the current Duckmaster:

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