Friday, January 29, 2016

A Parade of Alabama T-Shirts (3)

OK, here's the final part, I promise. Part 1 and part 2 cover other shirts. I am happy to be able to record all these for posterity. Or something. A few comments are below.

Birmingham was one of the venues hosting men's soccer games as part of the 1996 Olympics based in Atlanta. The image above and the two below were used as part of the advertising leading up to the games.

When the kids were much younger and still at home, we often went to Gulf Shores on vacations. We stayed on the Fort Morgan peninsula at the Gulf Shores Plantation Resort. One thing we really enjoyed about the place was the large indoor pool, which was a lifesaver for all of us after a couple of hours in the hot summer sun. We spent more time at that pool than we did on the beach. In the early years the place featured the Cabana Cafe, a small but funky bar and eatery near the beach. 

The Plantation was about halfway between Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan and fairly isolated at that time. The last time we were there six or more years ago, other developments had sprouted up around it. The overbuilding and traffic hassles from Gulf Shores to Panama City is a main reason we have moved east to St. George Island and Apalachicola for so many vacations in the past twenty or more years.

I covered a bit of the family and organizational history of the Birmingham Youth Hockey League in Part 1. This shirt promoted a tournament the BYHL hosted.

In Part 2 I included a t-shirt that featured the UAB bookstore, and here's another. I recently had to get rid of a UAB t-shirt that my wife Dianne bought for me when I started working there in 1983. Now THAT would be a real antique. 

I'll close this review of my Alabama t-shirt collection with the best one of all!

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Parade of Alabama T-Shirts (2)

The exciting saga of my Alabama t-shirt collection that began in part 1 continues. Comments below. A final group will come in part 3!

This shirt advertises the UAB bookstore in the days before Barnes & Noble's college division took it over. That phone number is no longer active either. The fine print on this page notes "Barnes and Noble at UAB is now the UAB Bookstore" but the main page still has B&N's name in a couple of places. Maybe there is a transition going on since the store moved back into the new Hill Student Center.

This shirt dates from the early 1980's when Dianne and I were in library school.

As I noted in part 1, I'm a sucker for map shirts. I've included two closeups below. The map even includes Pelham as the only town on I-65 between Birmingham and Montgomery. I also like where they placed the football player on this shirt.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Parade of Alabama T-Shirts (1)

I recently made the mistake of trying to rid myself of some old clothes and immediately became sidetracked in what turned out to be a collection of t-shirts with some Alabama connection. I'll use two or three posts to display and discuss these classics before the state archives or the Smithsonian come calling.  

Let's start with this one. 

I guess I acquired this shirt while Dianne and I were in Tuscaloosa getting masters degrees in librarianship. Librarians do crazy things sometimes. 

Since I've always been fascinated with maps, t-shirts with maps are just the thing. On our visit to Boston a few years ago I bought one with a map of the subway on it. This shirt with Alabama cities and towns is pretty neat. The close-up below from the back of the shirt includes Pelham; I've written several posts about the town where we live. I've also done one on Keystone, one on Thorsby and many on Birmingham, of course.

This shirt commemorates the opening of the new UAB Hospital more than eleven years ago. Today the tag line for UAB Medicine is "Knowledge that will change your world."

This t-shirt advertises a health-related event on the UAB campus in 2007.

Son Amos played hockey in the BYHL during middle school and high school. Organized in the 1990's, the group played at the old ice arena in Homewood, then added activities in Pelham when the ice opened there. BYHL eventually merged into the Pelham Youth Hockey League. You can see the old web site captured on October 12, 1999, at the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The site was developed and maintained by yours truly.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mardi Gras Past in Alabama

Despite New Orleans' claim to the contrary, the Catholic celebration Mardi Gras began in America in Mobile when the city was a French colony and long before statehood. French explorer d'Iberville recorded the city's first Mardi Gras in his journal in 1699. The Civil War brought Mardi Gras to a temporary end; by that time various societies with their own rituals had developed. After the war Joe Cain was instrumental in reviving the city's festival.  

Below are some photos of past Mardi Gras activities in Mobile. A video of a parade in Mobile in 1966 can be found here. Further down are some illustrations from elsewhere in the state. Many additional photos and other materials can be found on Alabama Mosaic. Mobile also has a Carnival Museum documenting the festival in the city. 

1918 postcard of a Mardi Gras parade in Mobile

Spectators crowd a Mobile street for a 1949 parade. Note the sign on the upper left for the studio of WABB "Dial 1480" radio station

Source: Alabama Mosaic 

A float in a parade in March 1981

Mardi Gras King & Queen and Court in Mobile in 1982

Source: Alabama Department of Archives & History Digital Collections 

Other cities have tried Mardi Gras celebrations in addition to Mobile. In its issue of February 18, 1875, the Birmingham Iron Age reprinted a long article from a Huntsville newspaper with a detailed description of that city's first carnival. 

In the late 19th century Birmingham held Mardi Gras parades and activities in various years. The first one was held in 1886; a BhamWiki article is available. That site also has a more general article on the celebration in the city.

Biddle Warren Cycle Company's float in Birmingham's Mardi Gras parade ca. 1897

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Newspaper illustration of a Mardi Gras ball in Birmingham in 1899.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

A float in a Birmingham Mardi Gras parade in the 1890's

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Ball invitation for the 1900 Birmingham Mardi Gras

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections 

Mardi Gras King and Queen and their Court in Birmingham in 1900

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Peter Petroff: From Bulgaria to Alabama

Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville is a place crowded with tombstones and history. The original portion dates from the early 1820's and is operated by the city. The 75 acres are believed to hold more than 80,000 graves, ranging from the forgotten to a notorious local madam and five Alabama governors. 

In recent years more acreage has opened up, and this section is maintained by a private firm. My parents have a plot there, and dad was interred when he died in 2003. Across the narrow road from the area with his grave is the stone you see below for Peter Petroff.

Mr. Petroff had quite a busy life; his stone only hints at his interests and achievements. Born in Bulgaria, he made his way during World War II through the French Foreign Legion, POW status in Germany, and the Bulgarian Army before ending up in Canada in 1950. After some time in the Arctic and Vietnam, he reached the United States and the U.S. space program in Florida. For several years he worked on early weather and communications satellites. Petroff moved to Huntsville in 1963 where he joined Wernher von Braun's team at NASA. 

In 1968 he started his own electronics business that developed a wireless heart monitor for hospitals. That venture led to development of the Pulsar, an early, pricey prototype digital watch.

 Petroff died in February 2003. You can read more about his life here and here. A New York Times obituary is here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dr. Mastin of Mobile Tours the World in 1901

Reading old newspapers often turns up fascinating material. I was recently wandering around in the Library of Congress digital collection Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers for another project unrelated to Alabama history and found the long article below. The piece appeared in the St. Paul Globe in Minnesota on July 21, 1901. Given the nature of the article, it probably appeared in other papers around the country. 

Wondering who these surgeons were, I skimmed the first paragraph and found "Dr. Mastin of Mobile, Ala." as one of the four. The travelers intended to visit and conduct clinics in Berlin, Moscow, Siberia, Korea and Japan. Some hunting and fishing would be included en route to Siberia. Interestingly, Mastin is mentioned in the article only that one time.

At first I thought this Dr. Mastin might be Claudius Henry Mastin, Sr. [1826-1898], with whom I am somewhat familiar. However, a check of my file on him quickly alerted me that although he had practiced in Mobile, he had also died three years earlier.

The Dr. Mastin mentioned in this article must be his son, Claudius Henry Mastin, Jr., who died in August 1925. Like his father he practiced in Mobile as well. Both men are buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. The elder Mastin received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1849; his son from the same institution in 1884.

I wonder if young Dr. Mastin received his invitation to this trip based on his father's renown. After Confederate service in the Civil War, the older man spent decades participating in various medical organizations, publishing numerous articles and even invented several surgical instruments in addition to his clinical practice. I really need to do a blog post about him one day.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Movies with Alabama Connections (4): Lifeboat

I saw this Hitchcock film again recently, and thought I would include it in this series of blog posts. The presence of two Alabama natives who became well-known actresses for several decades seemed connection enough. I enjoyed the film as much this time as I have previous viewings.

Despite her fame as both an actress and a personality over many decades, Huntsville native Tallulah Bankhead made few movies. She had a spectacular career on stage both in New York City and London. She expanded her reach on radio and late in her career on television. Although she made films as early as 1918 and as late as 1966, her best known one is the 1944 Lifeboat.   

That film has several notable features. The entire setting is the titular lifeboat in the North Atlantic during World War II. The boat's passengers are mostly survivors of a merchant marine ship with civilians aboard that sank in a naval battle. They are soon joined by a seaman from the German U-boat that also sank. The film is a fascinating juxtaposition of efforts at survival and passionate moral debate.

Tallulah plays a well known journalist and manages to look spectacular throughout most of her time at sea. In addition to Bankhead, the cast includes John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn--four actors who had significant careers in Hollywood and beyond. Novelist John Steinbeck wrote the film's story. Hitchcock makes his usual cameo in a very funny way that I won't spoil for those who haven't seen the movie. 

Birmingham native Mary Anderson plays the other female in the boat. She grew up in the city and attended Howard College before embarking on her acting career. Born in 1918, she died in April 2014 age 96. In addition to Lifeboat, she appeared in Gone with the Wind and numerous other films and television roles. Her brother James was also an actor; he appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird. 

I plan to do a more extensive post on Mary Anderson in the series on Alabama film actresses before 1960.   

Tallulah Bankhead [1902-1968] in 1941

Source: Wikipedia

Anderson with actor Charles Russell in Behind Green Lights (1946)

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, January 4, 2016

Adventures at the Smokey Hollow Restaurant in Jemison

One of the places Dianne and I visit from time to time is Petals from the Past in Jemison. She's the gardener, but the business does feature "heirloom" and "antique" plants, so there's some natural history there. Recently they have begun specializing in plants native to and once common in Alabama and the South. To get there, take the Jemison exit at Chilton County 42, go west, and turn left at County 29. Drive a couple of miles and Petals will be on your left.

However, the best part of such a trip is a stop for breakfast, lunch or supper at the Smokey Hollow Restaurant. You can't miss it; the place is on the right where you turn left to go to Petals. Nothing fancy there, just good food and lots of it. We've eaten there many times in recent years and never been disappointed. The interior has a neat decor; the photo below only gives a taste of the interesting signs and posters all over the walls.

I do have one funny story to tell about the place. One Sunday afternoon back in September, on our way to a talk on native plants at Petals from the Past, we stopped in for lunch. We had been seated for a few minutes when an older gentleman in overalls, ball cap and several days growth of beard came in alone and sat in the booth behind Dianne. Soon the young lady who had been waiting on us went up to him and asked what he wanted.

He wanted a steak, and he wanted the waitress to bring the meat out for him to examine before it was cooked. "Sir," the waitress protested, "I can't bring raw meat out here." He didn't miss a beat. "You go back there and tell so-and-so [he gave the cook's first name] and tell him so-and-so [he gave his own name] is out here and wants to look at his meat." 

The poor waitress, who must have been new enough not to have dealt with this customer before, dutifully went to the back and soon brought out a steak wrapped in butcher paper to show him. He approved. She asked how he wanted it cooked. "Almost that raw," he replied. 

I wonder if Highland's Bar & Grill has customers like that.

The town of Jemison had about 2500 people in 2010. You can read about its history, much of it involving the state's early railroads, here. Jemison was incorporated in 1907. 

This photo of Smokey Hollow Restaurant and the one below are courtesy of TripAdvisor

Some of the decor is superb. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

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."