Monday, January 16, 2017

A Family Vacation at the Beach in May 1956

This post is another in a series featuring old family photographs that give me an opportunity to discuss both family and other history. Let's see what's happening here.

I've been scanning a lot of these photos recently and at mom's house in Huntsville came across several batches of "Super Pak Snaps" with photos developed at "H and H Walgreen Agency Drugs". Interestingly I found nothing related to this phrase in the Walgreen company's rather lengthy history on its website, its Wikipedia entry or via a general Google search. 

Anyway, mom wrote inside the front cover of this one "Vacation 1956 (May, St. Teresa, Fla.)". She describes the place then as a fishing camp with little for her and a four year-old son to do but walk the beach and try to avoid all the trash in the dunes to get there. 

There is a funny family story attached to this trip. Dad would go fishing at night, often returning pretty late. Mom and I would go to bed until some of those massive flying Florida roaches appeared and tried to carry us away. Each night when he returned mom would tell dad about these things, but he would just scoff at her tales. About the fourth night, though, just after he had come home and gotten in bed, he felt one. Mom says he hopped out of bed, turned on the light and started packing. She kids that he might have left the two of us behind if she had not packed fast enough.

St. Teresa is on U.S. 98 east of Carabelle. The place is not too far from St. George Island where we have spent many vacations over the years. We've driven past Carabelle, but never as far as St. Teresa. Might have to do it this year and see what's there now.  

More comments are below some of the photos. 

Dad and I and the pier

Here and in the next two photos I'm exploring the shark-infested waters

Dad and I are having some more fun. Mom always claims she never knew how to work cameras, but she did a pretty good job here.

Now for some work on the beach

Mom and I and younger brother Richard, who would be born that October

And here are the cabins; I guess ours is the one in the foreground

St. Teresa is about 37 miles from Apalachicola, which is not visible on this map but is just west of Eastpoint. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Let's Connect an Author, Actress & Film Director to Alabama!

On a blog by author BV Lawson called In Reference to Murder, I recently read a review of Hugh Cosgro Weir's 1914 short story collection, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective. I do such things on long winter evenings. The five stories describe cases of one of the early American female detectives in fiction and her pal, reporter Nora Noraker. At the end of the review Lawson notes that two silent films had been made from the stories and starred Alice Joyce as Madelyn Mack.

Well, as I often do in these situations, I wondered if there was an Alabama connection buried in here somewhere. Lawson says author Weir was born in Illinois and worked as a journalist in Ohio. He also wrote stories for the pulp magazines. The FictionMags Index lists a number of stories for Weir and gives his dates as 1884 to 1934. Some brief searching produced nothing more on Weir, so I moved along.

What about Alice Joyce? From her Wikipedia page we learn that she appeared in more than 200 films between 1910 and 1930; she died in 1955. Joyce was born in Kansas City, so no Alabama link there. But wait--what do I see? Her third husband, from 1942 until 1945, was none other than film director Clarence Brown. And there you have it--the Alabama connection.

Say what? It's like this. Born in Massachusetts, Brown developed an interest in films as a young man. He served in World War I and by 1920 he was directing and continued in that role into the early 1950's. Brown's films were nominated for some 38 Oscars; he was nominated for best director five times, but never won. He directed Joan Crawford in six films and Greta Garbo in seven. He also worked with Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart and directed Intruder in the Dust based on the novel by William Faulkner. 

Brown died in 1987 at the age of 97. So where's the Alabama link? Brown's family moved to Tennessee when he was 11, and he graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville at age 19 with two engineering degrees. He worked briefly for the Stevens-Duryea car manufacturer in Massachusetts, and then moved to Birmingham to set up an auto dealership, the Brown Motor Car Company. Brown later said after visiting a nearby nickelodeon on lunch break, he decided to enter the film business. In 1913 he went to work for Peerless Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, then a center of silent movie production.

Brown is one of three prominent film directors with Birmingham connections. I'll be doing a blog post on all of them one of these days. 

Alice Joyce [1890-1955] in Photoplay magazine in 1917

Source: Wikipedia 

Clarence Brown [1890-1987]

Source: Wikipedia 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Birmingham Photo of the Day (54): World Newspaper & Cotton Club

This photograph shows a block of businesses along 17th Street North and was taken by the Jefferson County Board of Equalization for purposes of property appraisal. A large number of these photographs are in the Board's collections covering 1938-1977 at the Birmingham Public Library. The block is between 4th Avenue North and the 3rd Avenue North Alley. 

Five African-American businesses are shown in this photograph taken sometime after 1936. On the far left, at 312 17th Street North, is the office of the Birmingham World. This newspaper began publication in 1930 and continued until at least early 1998. The Birmingham Public Library's "last issue received" was February 26 of that year. Whether the World remained at this location that entire time is currently unknown to me.

Next is the Poro School of Beauty and Culture. This business was probably a franchise of the Poro School founded by Annie Malone in St. Louis in 1917 and then moved to Chicago in 1930. The schools trained black women as sales agents for Malone's very successful line of beauty products. 

The next two businesses appear to be Kelley's Barber Shop and Ashjoy Bakery. I've so far been unable to locate any more information on these two shops. That may be the bakery's delivery truck parked out front. 

The last business on the right is the Cotton Club, presumably named after the famous Cotton Club in Harlem that operated during the 1920's and 1930's. On October 15, 1936, the club was registered as an Alabama Domestic Corporation. The three men named in the filing were James W. Aird, Brett George and Brett Martie. In the 1930 census we find James W. Aird to be a 25 year-old lawyer living with his parents and possibly an older sister. His father James. B. Aird was also an attorney. I've yet to research the other two men. 

Photographs like this one give us a snapshot in time of a block of African-American businesses in Birmingham decades ago. Follow the link below the photograph to a version which you can make larger to see more details.

Also below is an aerial view of the block today. Appropriately enough, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is located on the former site of the Cotton Club. 

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Here's the block today; the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is on the upper corner where the Cotton Club was located. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Visit to Fort Payne (2)

In the fall of 2012 Dianne and I visited the Fort Payne area and stayed a few days in DeSoto State Park. The first blog post about that trip can be found here. In that post I discussed a bit about the history of Fort Payne and the surrounding area.  I've written earlier about our visit during this trip to the fascinating Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Chapel just outside the state park.

When you visit this area of Alabama you can take a lot of spectacular photos, and I want to share a few more here. I also want to mention some specific places in downtown Fort Payne.  

The drive around Little River Canyon provides many spots for great views.

From various places on the drive you can spot several mansions close to the canyon's edge. 

Just like the big cities, rural America and small towns are full of the signs of past lives.

The hosiery industry in Fort Payne has it's own museum, which is fitting for a place known so long as the "sock capital of the world." 

Next door to the Hosiery Museum on Gault Street North is the Opera House, opened in 1890 during the area's brief industrial boom in the late 19th century. 

A downtown park has this monument to the "Confederate Soldiers". 

The Fort Payne Depot Museum is a gorgeous building constructed in 1891. The Depot was saved in 1985 when a group of citizens purchased it from the Norfolk-Southern Railway before the planned demolition. The Depot is one of the few surviving in Alabama from the 19th century.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

What's Coming to the Blog in 2017?

On January 1, 2016, I posted an item under a similar title purporting to described what was coming to the blog in the coming year. I had done the same thing in 2015; both of those posts are copied below. 

So here I am wondering what's coming in 2017. Looking back at the predictions for 2015 and 2016, I realized I actually have posted some of the stuff I listed. 

I did explore the Alabama connections in Rock Hudson's 1953 film The Lawless Breed. I have started a series and completed several entries on actresses from Alabama who achieved fame in Hollywood before 1960. I did take a look at Augustus Thomas' 1891 play "Alabama" and some old Alabama postcards.

I will leave topics listed in 2015 and 2016 but not yet covered to discovery by discerning readers. They all remain on the "to do" list.

I also hope to get around to at least some of these topics in 2017:

-Dad and the USS Errol
-A Visit to Montgomery
-The Lady from Lipscomb Who's Buries in Austria
-More Early Alabama Songs
-Harriet Martineau Visits Alabama in 1835
-Alabama's Weird Tales Connections
-Anne Goldthwaite, Alabama Artist

Sometime fairly early in 2017 I will also be putting up the 300th post on this blog. Scary. I started the blog in March 2014 and have posted some 285 items so far. Scary. 

As I noted in closing the 2016 speculations, the various series such as "Alabama Book Covers", "Old Alabama Stuff", "Birmingham Photos of the Day" and so on will continue. And other topics will surely pop up that I don't even see coming at me yet. Isn't this fun?

And as granddad still used to say, "See you in the funny papers."

You do know what funny papers are, don't you?


What's Coming to the Blog in 2016??

On January 1, 2015, I posted a document with a similar title. Here I am again one year later doing more or less the same thing.

First, let's take a look at last year's list, which you can also find below. I've actually posted blogs on a couple of the topics I intended to do. In February I covered the film The Lawless Breed and its connections to Alabama. Two more postings in that series followed during the year and more are in the pipeline.

I also started the series on film actresses from Alabama before 1960 and have posted on Lois Wilson and Gail Patrick. Dorothy Sebastian is next and others will follow.

And that's it. All the other topics I listed a year ago have yet to appear on this blog. What can I say? I'm easily distracted. Don't worry; they are all still in that mythical pipeline and some may even pop up in 2016. I also have many other topics "coming soon":

-What was America's first female detective doing in Montgomery before the Civil War?

-Some old Alabama postcards and the messages they send to us

-Some Alabama medical ads in 1911

-Augustus Thomas' 1891 play "Alabama"

Of course, the various series such as "Alabama Book Covers", "Old Alabama Stuff", "Birmingham Photos of the Day" and so on will continue. And other topics will surely pop up that I don't even see coming at me yet. Isn't this fun?

And as granddad still used to say, "See you in the funny papers." You do know what funny papers are, don't you?

What's Coming to the Blog in 2015??

People will be born, people will die. People will fall in love, get married, fall out of love, get divorced--wait, wrong list!

What's in store for THIS BLOG in 2015? Maybe I can get more specific with that one.

I began this blog in March 2014 and by the end of the year I'd put up 95 postings. Crazy. Topics ranged from old books to silent movies to old photos to abandoned drive-ins to a giant frog in Mobile. Oh, and Alabama Pizza Pasta in London. All of it related in some way to Alabama history. Mostly.

This year the onslaught of random quirkiness will continue:

-What's the Alabama connection in Rock Hudson's 1953 film The Lawless Breed?

-Who were some well-known movie actresses from Alabama--besides Tallulah Bankhead--long before Kate Jackson, Louise Fletcher, Courtney Cox and Kim Dickens?

-What three famous film directors have Birmingham connections?

-Who were all those photographers criss-crossing Alabama for the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s?

-Who were three female writers from Alabama whose first names began with Z?

-Who was Ambrose Bierce and why did he come to Alabama in the 1860's?

-What kind of career has train robber Railroad Bill had in blues and folk music?

-Will the madness ever end?

As my grandfather used to say, "See you in the funny papers."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Visit to Fort Payne (1)

In the fall of 2012 Dianne and I made a trip up to Desoto State Park outside Fort Payne and stayed for a few days. These photos are from that trip; I'll be doing another post with more pictures as well. I've already done a post on the fascinating Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel just outside the park. 

After the Civil War, the Birmingham to Chattanooga railroad line passed through Fort Payne, and the town enjoyed a brief industrial boom as investments from New England poured into the area. The Opera House and other opulent buildings were constructed during this four-year period. In 1907 the first hosiery mill was built in Fort Payne, creating a second economic wave that lasted for many decades.

One place in the area we visited was the Orbix Hot Glass Studio. Glassblowing is a difficult and beautiful art; you can get up close to it here. In addition to watching the process, the shop offers a variety of pieces for sale. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos there. 

Comments are below most of these photographs.  

There's something fascinating about old barns.

Fall colors in Alabama can be fascinating, too.

Here's the lodge entrance. You can almost see the door of our room in the middle left of the photo. The Mountain Inn Restaurant here served some wonderful meals; the breakfast buffet was especially good.

The town of Fort Payne has a lot of history and restored buildings are common downtown. I'm always attracted to old theaters and cinema houses; this one was built in 1935 and is still thriving. 

This restored shop housing Accel Graphics has several large photographs of old Fort Payne above the entrance. That's a neat idea!

Fort Payne has honored the group "Alabama" in a big way. That makes sense; they were one of the most successful musical acts in the U.S. from 1979 until 2004. 

Also near Fort Payne is the Little River Canyon National Preserve, which has some of the most spectacular scenery in Alabama. DeSoto State Park is actually located within the Preserve. Here are a few photos taken in the Preserve; more will follow in the second post about this trip.

Back in the 1960's, long before the Preserve was created in 1992, I came here on a Boy Scout camping trip. One thing I remember vividly from that trip was hiking to the bottom of the canyon and looking back up. Hulks of derelict cars could be seen on the sides of the canyon. Seems the area, being remote, was the perfect site to dump stolen cars after they were stripped of parts. At least that's how I remember the story. 

Even the road around the canyon offers spectacular rocks. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

New Year's Eve in Montgomery in 1967

Recently I began looking for some photos to use in one of my history of holidays in Alabama blog posts on New Year's Eve and Day. As often happens in doing research, one gets sucked down another rabbit hole but finds fascinating stuff anyway.

All of these photos were found on the Alabama Mosaic site. They are part of more than 2200 at the Alabama Department of Archives and History taken at the Laicos Club by Southern Courier photographer Jim Peppler. Published in Montgomery, the Courier covered civil rights in the South from 1965 until 1968. All 177 issues can be found here.  The photos used here are form a subset of 49 identified as taken at a New Year's celebration. 

The Laicos Club was registered as an Alabama non-profit domestic corporation in Montgomery in October 1962. I have found nothing more about it. As noted below, photos and a brief article about the band appeared in the Southern Courier issue for January 27-28, 1968

More information about the band and others is given below some of the photos. Material in quotes comes from the notes on individual photographs on the ADAH web site.

"Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces performing on stage at the Laicos Club...Chico Jenkins is playing the guitar on the leftMarion Sledge is singing at the microphone, and Bobby Moore is playing the saxophone in front of the drum set."

The ADAH page is here.

"Woman performing on stage with Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces...."

Some of the band members are seen playing behind two dancers. Leader of the group Bobby Moore is playing the saxophone. 

Barbara Howard Flowers on the left and another woman are looking at photographs during the Laicos Club celebration. Flowers was a staff member at the Southern Courier; the other woman was a backup dancer for the band. The photographs they are looking at were taken at a show in Selma at the National Guard Armory on Dallas Avenue.

Marion Sledge sings with the band at the show.

Guitarist Chico Jenkins plays during the show

A dancer performs during the show. The stage and band are behind her, but not visible in this photo.

Here's the Southern Courier story; a larger version of the text is below.

Born in New Orleans, tenor saxophonist Bobby Moore started the first version of his group while stationed in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the early 1950's. After leaving the military, he moved to Montgomery in 1961 and put together the band seen in these photographs. They played local concerts and often provided backup for such national artists as Sam Cooke and Ray Charles when they came to town.

In late 1965 they recorded Moore's song "Searching for My Love" at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. The song became a hit and million seller in 1966 after Checker Records in Chicago signed the group. Checker released less-successful singles through 1969, then dropped the group. 

Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces continued to play in Alabama with various personnel until Moore's death in February 2006. The group has continued under the leadership of son Larry Moore.