Thursday, February 20, 2020

Alabama History & Culture News: February 20 edition

Here's the latest batch of links to just-published Alabama history and culture articles. Most of these articles are from newspapers, with others from magazines and TV and radio station websites. Enjoy!

Bicentennial Black History Month book unveiled
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Department of Education unveiled the first book celebrating 200 years of Alabama African American History.

UNA marker to recognize African American contributions dating back to LaGrange College
FLORENCE — A historical marker recognizing the significant impact African Americans had on the development of the University of North Alabama ...

Blountsville woman documents history with photos of abandoned structures
Lorna Fischer doesn't see an abandoned farm house or a dilapidated storefront when she travels around north Alabama, taking the back roads and ...

Historic sailboat being restored to be on display on the Causeway
The Smith family bought the designs and began building the boat in the 1970's in Tuscaloosa, AL. Everett Smith was the main person doing the ...

1920s Home For Sale In Birmingham's Historic Redmont Park
BIRMINGHAM, AL — Own a piece of Birmingham's history in this 1925 home in Redmont Park. Updated, yet maintaining the historic character of the ...

Remembering Alabaster's black history
ALABASTER – Every year, the month of February signifies Black History ... In Alabama, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, there's a lot to ...

Alabama A&M University's founder had faith that he could educate others
MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - William Hooper Councill was born a slave in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but in his lifetime Councill became a teacher, ...

American Village celebrates 20 years recreating history
“When I first came here, it was unusual to do Revolutionary War history in central Alabama,” he said. “How important this mission is to expose young ...

Alabama archives a handy place to do research, hunt for ghosts
The Alabama Department of Archives and History became my research headquarters. The department housed what was then called Civil Archives.

Alabama's early musicians topic of Bele Mont mansion program
“Fiddlers, Banjo Players and Strawbeaters: Alabama's First Pop Musicians” is a free program that will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the historic ...

“Just Mercy” and justice? Not in Alabama
A Hollywood movie and best-selling book about a legendary lawyer getting an ... that feeds off, subjugates, and disenfranchises the poor in Alabama.

Birmingham's Charles Gaines wins Truman Capote Award
Truman Capote wasn't from Alabama, but he had strong Alabama ties. ... Evans is the authors of eight books and hundreds of articles, including ...

Byler Road documentary selected for Lindsey film festival
The award is given to the best film made in Alabama. ... Joel Mize, author of the new book "The Byler Road and Its People," contacted Lee several ...

Shelby Fugate Makes AHSAA State Wrestling History
On Thursday in Huntsville, ALhistory was made on the first day of the AHSAA State Wrestling. Prior to the year 2020, no girl had ever won against the ...

Alabama Theatre promises visitors a brand new marquee
The Alabama's marquee might seem more utilitarian than its iconic vertical signs, but this feature of the theater has its own history and significance.

History through the lens of Montgomery's theaters
Working at the Capri has inspired my interest in the history of movies and theaters in Alabama and Montgomery. I've always had a thing for small ...

Category Summary (Cyndi's List - United States/Alabama - Social Networking) cial/
* New Links :       0
* Updated Links : 1
* Total Links :      46

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Movies with Alabama Connections: Rebel in Town

This post is another in a long running series on this blog that examines films with some sort of connection to Alabama. Up this time is a 1956 western, Rebel in Town, starring John Payne and Ruth Roman. Also in the cast are J. Carrol Naish, Ben Johnson and John Smith 

Payne plays John Willoughby, a Union veteran now living in the small western town Kittreck Wells with his wife Nora (Ruth Roman) and young son Petey. The local marshal asks for John's help in tracking down a band of Confederate veterans who are responsible for a robbery in a nearby town. Since he has a grudge against all rebels, John agrees to go despite pleas from Nora to stay. 

The robbers, a father and his four sons, are actually camped near Kittreck Wells and running low on water. Patriarch Bedloe Mason sends Wesley, Gray and Frank into town and remains behind with Cain. Nora and Petey are in town for his birthday party, and Petey remains outside while his mother goes inside one of the buildings to help prepare. Petey dislikes Confederates as much as his father, and has a cap pistol he fires at the trio while their backs are turned. Wesley whirls around, pulling his gun and shooting the boy before he realizes what has happened. 

Naturally the trio head quickly back to camp, where events escalate even further. Gray feels Wesley should return to town and face the consequences; everyone else disagrees. When he takes off for town to see if Petey is actually dead, Wesley follows him, stabs him in the back, ties him to his horse and sends what he assumes is a dead body on its way. When he returns to camp he claims Gray is determined to head into town, and will meet them in another location in three days. 

After Petey's funeral a posse heads out to find the killer, but they refuse to take the distraught Willoughby. He sets out on his own and soon finds Gray on the horse. He takes the young man home, and he and Nora begin to nurse him back to health. They slowly learn the story of his involvement in the gang, and an eyewitness claims Gray killed Petey. Mason has finally learned the truth himself and rides into town with his other sons just as vigilantes seize Gray to hang him. Wesley's guilt is soon known to all, and as he tries to escape John arrives to fight with and then kill him.  

More comments are below some of the photos. 

The film was released on July 30, 1956, and is 78 minutes long. Blogger Randy Johnson commented on this film in a January 2, 2012 post

Many southerners left their devastated homeland after the Civil War and headed west to join a general westward migration also underway. One spot was Texas, which had a population of just 200,000 in 1850 and 1,600,000 by 1880. Others headed south, especially to Mexico and Brazil

Danny Arnold had a long entertainment career as comedian, actor, writer, director and producer of successful television show like Barney Miller, That Girl and Bewitched. He was born in New York City and spent much of his life in Hollywood. This film was the next-to-last directed by Alfred L. Werker, who doesn't seem to have had any Southern U. S. connections either. 

Gray, Wesley and Frank Mason ride into town just looking for water. Gray was played by Ben Cooper; see below for more info on his career. John Smith played Wesley; he acted in many films and on television including lead roles in Cimarron City and Laramie. Ben Johnson worked as a stunt man, rodeo champion and actor in numerous films and TV shows that were mostly westerns. He won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show.   

By the time this film was released, Roman had been acting in Hollywood for a decade and her career in film and television would continue until 1982. Payne starred in a number of crime thrillers, westerns and more and the television series The Restless Gun. He was the male lead in one of my favorite movies, the original Miracle on 34th Street 

As the Mason family sits around their campfire after Petey's death and funeral, patriarch Bedloe Mason reminisces about the fine parlor they once had in their house [back in Alabama] and how he raised his sons to be gentlemen even if they weren't high society. Then he acknowledges all the death and destruction of the war...

J. Carol Naish was also a veteran actor with eventually more than 200 credits in his long film and television career. He received two nominations for best supporting actor Academy Awards. 

"I haven't been around here very long, I'm from Alabama", Gray says to Willoughby after he brings him home. Petey's father found him unconscious & tied to a horse after brother Wesley stabbed him. The actor playing Gray was Ben Cooper, who appeared in a number of film and television westerns 

"Our patient's from Alabama, Nora" John tells Nora. "I know", she replies. A few moments later in the conversation Payne notes that Alabama is a long way off, and the patient agrees.

Gray Mason is the youngest of the sons, & the one who wanted to return to town to see if Petey had been killed. He is thus the "rebel in town". He served as a Lieutenant in Murphy's Alabama battalion, as identified by the sheriff who thinks he may be one of the bandits that recently robbed the bank in White Springs.

Murphy's battalion was a real Confederate cavalry unit in the Civil War; three Alabama men named Mason were part of it

At the end of the film Gray is led away to face the consequences of his family's robbing ways. He tells the little girl Elizabeth who saw Petey shot that "I come from a long way from here, Liz, a place called Alabama". 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Alabama History & Culture News: February 14 edition

Here's the latest batch of links to just-published Alabama history and culture articles. Most of these articles are from newspapers, with others from magazines and TV and radio station websites. Enjoy!

Oakville Indian Education's Anna Mullican to speak to Historical Commission Sunday
Mullican, an Elkmont native, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alabama in 2007, where she majored in Anthropology.

The legend of Alabama riverboat captain Simp McGhee
According to the 1970 book “The Story of Decatur, Alabama,” by William Jenkins and John Knox, McGhee “was a debauchee but with a heart as big as ...

There is not and has never been a witch at County Line Cemetery. ... Aldridge of the State of Alabama and County of Russell, having a desire for the ...

Fleetwood Mac legend coming to Huntsville
Buckingham has Alabama history too. He and Nicks' pre-Mac group Buckingham Nicks' cult-classic 1973 album gained a fevered Birmingham and ...

New life for old rails: History stays on track in Montgomery
New life for old rails: History stays on track in Montgomery ... I would learn much about the old Western Railway of Alabama Car and Engine Shops in ...

Extra: Saving the St. James Hotel in Selma
While it's been closed and boarded up for years, there's an effort underway to save the St. James and this important part of Alabama history. The St.

Book On Great Alabama Football Plays Was Very Premature
Something over a decade ago I was contracted by Triumph Books in Chicago to write a book on the Fifty Greatest Plays in Alabama Football History.

Africatown event pushes preservation and history
(WKRG) — History and heritage come together in Mobile. ... Alabama Senator Doug Jones spoke, saying whatever happens to improve Africatown, ...

Column: African American museums help preserve an often-ignored history
These artifacts could be found in any historical museum in the United States. ... African American history, a vital part of American history, should be ... Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama., opened in 2018.

SWEET MEMORIES: Pioneer Museum Valentine's collection tells history of love
The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is well-know and appreciated for it ... collection of vintage Valentines and reflect on the history of Valentine's Day, ...

Bailey talks African American history at Read Alabama
Bailey talks African American history at Read Alabama ... featured in his book, "They Too Call Alabama Home: African American Profiles, 1800-1999," ...

Born in 1928 near Gilbertown, Alabama (Choctaw County) in the Sugar ... to an aunt's funeral on the wagon since it was about 4 miles to the cemetery.

MAKING HISTORY: Byrd, Warren paved the way as the first black leaders elected to Troy City Council
The election of Byrd and Warren came as many cities in Alabama and other states were transitioning from a commission form of government to a ...

Alabama man to be featured in 'American Idol' premiere
Alabama has a history of being well represented in the show, with Ruben Studdard winning Season 2 and Taylor Hicks winning Season 5. Several ...

Savannah Book Festival: Jeffrey Colvin speaks across generations in debut novel, 'Africaville'
Savannah Book Festival: Jeffrey Colvin speaks across generations in debut novel, 'Africaville' ... In the late '90s, I was working on a series of stories about rural communities in Alabama, where my grandmother raised her family.

Local author publishes book as he battles mental illness
Smith left Alabama and went north to attend college. The night of the stabbing, Smith was headed home after attending a Halloween Party.

Homewood's Melinda Rainey Thompson, creator of SWAG, back with new book, 'If I Were the Boss ...
... it with a book signing on Friday at 5 p.m. at Homewood's Alabama Booksmith. She follows that up with three book signings in Huntsville on Feb. 13.

How an Alabama teen became America's first WWI hero
Homer Givens was 19 years old when he received the title of “America's first World War I hero,” as well as one of France's highest honors, the Croix de ...

No Place Like Home' documents architecture in Auburn
Draughon serves on the Alabama Historical Commission and the board of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation. His father, Ralph Brown ...

Daleville Avenue first historic district in city
Kim McIntyre, who lives on the street, spear-headed the push to get Daleville Avenue added to the list of the Alabama Register of Landmarks and ...

Sam Hunt's tour for 'Southside' album coming to Alabama
Hunt, a former Birmingham resident, is a favorite in Alabama, with a significant history of performances in the state. Fans here have watched his fame ...

Bob Weidenbach to speak on Auburn history at Feb. 12 OLLI 'Brown Bag Lunch and Learn' at ...
Auburn native Bob Weidenbach will present Old Auburn: A Pictorial History of Auburn at OLLI's Alabama Bicentennial Brown Bag Lunch & Lecture ...

A Timeline of Birmingham's Black History
1903 – Social worker Carrie A. Tuggle opens the Tuggle Institute and School, the first orphan home in Alabama for African-American boys.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Valley Elementary School in Pelham 1964-2015

In 2015 Pelham City Schools ended use of Valley Elementary on U.S. 31 as a main school when a new replacement Pelham Oaks opened. Valley itself had opened in 1964 and thus had a long history. Both our children, son Amos and daughter Becca, attended in the 1990's. This website noted Valley had 729 K-2 students, which may have been the stats for the final year. When our kids attended the school had K-5 students. 

The building continued to be used by the city school system for various purposes until sold to a developer in August 2019. The plan for Valley is to create something similar to the company's Campus 805 entertainment project at a former school in Huntsville. As you can see below, some demolition began at the site in early December 2019. You can read a newspaper article updating progress at the site here.  

I took many of the photos below in August 2019. Also included are photos of some damage from the March 1994 tornado and various miscellaneous items. Comments are below some of the photos. 

I've written two previous blog posts with relevant material. One describes a postcard of Valley, probably from the 1970's based on the address on the card, "Route 2, Box 310" rather than the later "310 Opportunity Drive". Another post included Valley in a discussion of the history of schools in Pelham

A Facebook page for Valley Elementary lives on.... 

Here's that postcard of Valley Elementary. 

Blank signs seem strange after all those years....

After Pelham created its own school system, the elementary and middle schools Valley and Riverchase were branded with the high school mascot.

Demolition at Valley began in December 2019.

The photo above shows the school's playground in August 2019. Several photos below show damage from [I think!] the March 27, 1994 tornado to the same area in back of the school.

Yes, that's Amos and Becca....

Daughter Becca and her second grade teacher at Valley, Marcia Baggett
ca. 1995

This 2018 book includes a number of photos of students at the city's first elementary school, Pelham Elementary. That school opened in the 1930's, then moved to a new building occupied until 1964 when Valley opened. The  second Pelham Elementary building was demolished in 1973 to make way for the current Pelham City Hall.  

The building on the left on the cover is Rutherford High School, destroyed by a tornado on April 12, 1909.