Monday, December 21, 2015

Birmingham Photo of the Day (41): Two Hats

You never know what you'll find when you start roaming around in the archives, whether physical or digital.

I found the photo below in the Alabama Department of Archives Digital Collections. The description proclaims "Two unidentified women in Birmingham, Alabama" and gives the date range as 1900-1909, probably based on their dress. Those magnificent hats!

The Archives' listing identifies the photography studio as Up-To-Date Photo Company in Birmingham; that information is probably on the back. So far I've found no information on the firm.

Who are these women? Perhaps mother and daughter?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Alabama Book Covers (7): Stephen Gresham

Back in the dim past of the 1970's I worked for several years at Draughon Library on the Auburn University campus. How we met is lost in the mists of time, but at some point I did meet a young English professor named Stephen Gresham. We spent significant time in the break room at the library discussing the possible supernatural or extraterrestrial overtones of such things as cattle mutilations. He was from Kansas and had a bit of personal experience with such matters, as I remember.

By the time I left Auburn in 1980, Dr. Gresham had begun writing fiction and has continued to do so ever since. Today he has retired from the English Department and has become well-known for his suspense, horror and young adult novels and stories written under his own name and two pseudonyms. 

He continues to live in Auburn. Below are covers from a few of his novels.   

Monday, December 14, 2015

Birmingham Photos of the Day (40): The Post Office in 1906

The magnificent building in the first photograph below stood on the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 18th Street. Constructed in 1893, the structure served as both federal courthouse and post office. The second photograph shows the building under construction in September 1892. New Orleans architect William Freret also designed some of the Woods Quad buildings at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The BhamWiki site has more detail about the materials and design. That site also notes the building's fate:

"The courthouse was torn down in the 1920s to accommodate the expansion of a nearby retail store. That project was never realized and the lot was used in 1970 for a parking deck for Loveman's department store. The deck continues to serve the McWane Science Center."

One thing to notice about these two photographs taken 14 years apart are the different signs in the lower right corner and across the street. According to comments about the much larger version of the first photograph on the wonderful Shorpy site, Schindler's Saloon is advertising "Old Musty Ale." Herman D. Cable founded the Cable Piano Company in Chicago in 1880.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress Digitial Collections


Thursday, December 10, 2015

PawPaw, World War I and All That

In the fall of 1918 my paternal grandfather, Amos Jasper Wright, Sr., [1894-1975] was called up for service in World War I. He trained on the campus of Auburn University, or Alabama Polytechnic Institute as it was known at the time. The allies signed the armistice with Germany on November 11, and PawPaw did not have to sail for Europe. 

The photos here are mostly from that training period at Auburn. Notes on those and the others are below. Who took these photos is a mystery. The handwritten notes on the backs were written by my father many years later. 

Auburn faithful will recognize the iconic Samford Hall clock tower in the background of this photo. 

This draft registration card is dated June 5, 1917. It notes that he was a "natural born citizen" with a birth date in September 1894. So he was 24 while training in Auburn.

PawPaw and my grandmother Rosa Mae lived in Gadsden. The 1920 U.S. Census gives his occupation as a laborer at a lumber company; he may have been doing similar work in 1918. In a 1927 Gadsden city directory he's listed as a "switchman", which means he had begun working for the L&N Railroad. He worked there until retirement in the 1960's. 

She must have come to visit while he trained. I wonder if that building at Auburn is still standing. My grandmother was known in her younger years to be fond of hats. 

Civilian Marksmanship Program matches began in 1903. They were moved to Camp Perry, Ohio, in 1907 and continue to be held there each summer.

I wonder if PawPaw got to ride in one of those biplanes in the background.

This picture was published on August 3, 1941, just four months before Pearl Harbor.

Sometime in the late 1950's PawPaw spent several months in this facility.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Past in Alabama

What to say about Christmas? A time of both great spirituality and much commerce, the day has a fascinating history and practice both sacred and secular.

Let's take a look at a few items from Christmas past in Alabama.
Many other Christmas images from the state's past can be found on Alabama Mosaic

This card is postmarked December 24, 1909

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections

A brochure published by the Birmingham Association of Social Workers in 1927.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Christmas party at the Auburn University Baptist Student Union in December 1945.

Source: Auburn University Digital Library 

Christmas party at Dickert Lumber Company,  Brundidge, Alabama
December 24, 1949

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History

Choir at the First National Bank in Montgomery in December 19, 1955

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections

Christmas decorations at a Gulf gas station in Montgomery on December 21, 1955

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives and History Digital Collections

Choir in the lobby of the First National Bank in Montgomery on December 18, 1956

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections 

Salvation Army Christmas donation booth in Montgomery on December 2, 1962

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections

This article appeared in the Birmingham News on November 23, 1965. Eastwood Mall was the first enclosed mall in the Deep South and the third largest in the nation when it opened in 1960. The mall was demolished in 2006; a Wal-Mart currently occupies the property.  

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Christmas parade in Birmingham in 1972

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Just to keep the historical record straight, our daughter Rebecca [now Becca], is between Santa and Mrs. Claus. That is indeed our son Jason [now Amos] on the far right with that knowing smirk on his face.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Visit to Camp Hill, Alabama (2)

This past July my brother Richard and I made one of our annual trips seeking Alabama and family history.

This time we were in east central Alabama mainly around Brundidge and Camp Hill. We visited several other places I've already written about such as Smuteye, Union Springs and Aberfoil. 

The first post on the Camp Hill visit is here. I'll be doing a future post on Tallassee. A decade or more ago mom and her two sisters, Heth and Marjorie, made a similar trip to Brundidge and Camp Hill; some things have changed, others not so much.

Lyman Ward historical marker

The military school is one of the few bright spots left in Camp Hill.

Front view of the former auditorium that's now a gym. In a previous post on this blog I've talked about the time mom saw George Washington Carver speak at the Sourthern Industrial Institute in a big auditorium that is now apparently this gym.

Back view of the gym

This water tower is a landmark in the area. There is a family story in which mom's older brother John climbed the water tower in Camp Hill when he was about 10 years old. He apparently decided not to come down, and soon the sheriff appeared at the parsonage to inform my grandfather, John Miller Shores, the Methodist minister. Rev. Shores had to climb the tower and bring his son down. Her father later told mom that time was the most scared he'd ever been in his life. That water tower seems to be gone now, replaced by this more modern one. 

A view of downtown Camp Hill along North Main Street or County Highway 121.

One of two active store fronts downtown, "The Reading Room" under the blue facade appeared to be a children's library/activity center.

Visiting this hollow downtown late on a Sunday morning, we did run into a gentleman who said he was born in Camp Hill and had lived there all his life. He told us he remembered when Camp Hill was "a jumpin' place." My mother and her sister remember that too. Mom says the railroad brought many travelling salesmen through town who stayed in the hotel. Nearby Lake Martin may now be home to some former residents.

Opposite view of the downtown street

A sign of former life--the word "Winters" appears between the "Enjoy Coca-Cola" advertisements. Perhaps the site of a restaurant?

This corner building held the other active location, a consignment shop. The Reading Room is across the side street, under the blue front.

Tucker's Pharmacy once occupied this location.

More photos of downtown Camp Hill from 1998/9 can be found here.

This photo shows Camp Hill's downtown in the 1930's. 

Source: Web page at Georgia State University

The postmark on the back of this postcard is July 17, 1915.

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections

This aerial view of Camp Hill in June 1956 appears to have many cars parked along main street in the downtown area.

Source: Alabama Dept of Archives & History Digital Collections