Monday, April 25, 2016

Alabama Book Covers (11): "Alabam'" by Donald Henderson Clarke

So far all of the books and authors in this series have had solid connections to Alabama. This one is a bit more tangential. 

Donald Henderson Clarke [1887-1958] was an American journalist and novelist who wrote mysteries and romances. Many of his novels were adapted for the movies. 

The Internet Movie Database notes that the New York Supreme Court declared Henderson's 1933 novel Female obscene, a decision upheld on appeal. The book was filmed in that same year with Ruth Chatterton in the title role. 

Clarke published many other novels, including ones with titles like Confidential [1936], The Chastity of Gloria Boyd [1946] and Impatient Virgin [1931]. His books have been reprinted numerous times. You can see wonderful covers of some paperback editions here. Born in Massachusetts, Clarke was living in Florida when he died. 

Alabam' or Alabama first appeared in 1934. According to Clarke's Wikipedia entry, the book was translated into Czech that same year and published as Missis Alabam.

I have not seen this book and have no idea what it's about, but that blonde on the cover below may be the title character. There are a couple of inexpensive paperback copies of the book available on Amazon; perhaps I'll order one and find out.

Join me next time for the Further Adventures of Alabama Book Covers!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Old Alabama Stuff (12): "Let's Get Rid of Alabama's Shame"

In 1928 Alabama became the last state to abolish the convict lease system of prison labor. Since 1875 the state and county prison systems had leased inmates to private firms for all sorts of work, most often on farms and in lumber mills and especially in the coal mines around Birmingham. U.S Steel and many other companies benefited.  

Thousands of prisoners were taken immediately after conviction, often on vague charges such as "vagrancy", to their private employers to work out their sentences. Many died before being released; over ninety percent were African-American. Governments made easy profits, and the employers had cheap labor requiring very little care. In his 2008 book, Douglas A. Blackmon labelled this system Slavery By Another Name

The system was so egregious that opposition from within the state eventually developed. This 13-page pamphlet is a good example of civic efforts to bring attention to the collusion of state and private sectors in exploiting such labor. The title page and a portion of the other pages are below with some further comments.  

The Hillman Hotel, constructed in 1901, was demolished in 1967 to make way for parking. 

The Statewide Campaign Committee included some prominent people in the state. Mrs. Priestley Toulmin was married to a man who managed coal mines in the Birmingham area; presumably he approved of his wife's work here. Irving M. Engel, First Vice-Chairman, was a prominent member of the Birmingham Jewish Community and known for his opposition to convict lease. I have not yet located background information on the other members. 

The Statewide Campaign Committee used some big names in the state to make their case in the pamphlet. Julia S. Tutwiler was one of the best known women in Alabama at this time; her causes included education for women and prison reform. This section notes the Legislature's condemnation of the system in 1915 and 1919, but in 1923 the system created by that body still existed.  

When this pamphlet was published, William W. Brandon was just beginning his term as Alabama's 37th governor. During that term he continued the road building and dock construction in Mobile of previous Governor Thomas Kilby, pushed for stronger child labor laws and created the Alabama Forestry Commission. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Birmigham Photos of the Day (44): Six Cafes

Back in February I did a blog post on some drug stores in Birmingham in 1906 that offered sandwiches and soda. I thought I'd continue that food and drink theme here. Given the number of restaurants Birmingham has seen over the decades, I'll probably revisit this topic at some point. Comments are below each photo.

All photos are from the Birmingham Public Library's Digital Collections

Hooper's Cafe on opening day in February 1906 seemed to be a busy place. The restaurant was then located at 312-314 20th Street North. In the list of city restaurants below taken from the 1920 yellow pages, Hooper's remains in the same location. By the time the 1945 yellow pages appeared, Hooper's had moved to 2009 3rd Avenue North. I wonder how much longer it operated? 

According to the BhamWiki entry, the establishment was owned by John Carlton Hooper and "The house special was a 24-ounce hand-cut T-bone. It was served with a baked potato, salad and hot biscuits for 35 cents. Other dishes included tenderloin of trout and sweet potato pie. The all-male wait staff was dressed in tuxedos."  

The Avenue B Cafe was located at 2130 2nd Avenue South and included entrances for both "white" and "colored". The photograph was taken for property appraisal purposes by the Jefferson County Board of Equalization some time between 1938 and 1977. That car you can barely see on the right would seem to indicate close to the earlier year. The 1945 yellow pages lists Jim Bouloukos as the manager and notes the "Home Made Chili." 

The Crystal Cafe was located at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Twenty-Fifth Street. Barely visible on the right is the "Colored Entrance." The great Birmingham photographer Oscar V. Hunt took this picture sometime before 1960; from the cars on the left, I'd guess late 1940's or early 1950's. The 1945 city yellow pages lists a "Crystal Lunch Room" at this location.

La Paree did business at 2013 5th Avenue North. Their listing in the 1945 yellow pages claimed "Famous for Steaks--Seafood." These cars look to be ca. 1940, maybe?

This One Star Cafe photo is another one by Oscar V. Hunt. The George Jarrell Distribution Company is making a delivery at this moment. The 1945 yellow pages list the establishment at 2400 12th Avenue North where you could buy "Sandwiches, Barbecue, Beverages."

This photograph of the Cafe Italiano exterior on 20th Street announces "Steaks Seafood" and was taken on January 20, 1978. Next door is the Charles Arndt clothing store.

Restaurants listed in the 1920 Birmingham Yellow Pages: 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Alabama Library History: Woodlawn in 1949

Women and their clubs have been very important to the development of public libraries in America. In a paper written in graduate school I explored this truth as exemplified by the efforts to organize a public library in Union Springs, Alabama, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  

I recently came across the 1949 newspaper item below and thought I would share it on this blog, since one of my ongoing topics is Alabama library history. The piece notes efforts to showcase the Birmingham Public Library and its campaign for a new building for the Woodlawn branch before the members of the Woman's Club of Birmingham. 

In the segregated city of 1949, this club was no doubt made up of white women. African-American women in Alabama had their clubs as well.

The Birmingham Public Library web site gives this brief history of the Woodlawn branch, the system's first: 

"The Woodlawn Branch Library had its beginning in 1904 when a group of club women bought a few books and started a library at the home of Mrs. J. B. Gibson. On February 27, 1905, the library was moved to the business area and opened to the public. It was presented to the city of Woodlawn on March 7, 1905 by the club women. Woodlawn became a part of Birmingham in 1910. In 1911 the library was presented to the City of Birmingham to become the first branch library in the city system."

Birmingham Age-Herald 27 October 1949

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Monday, April 11, 2016

Movies with Alabama Connections (6): I Love You Again

I recently watched the 1940 film I Love You Again on Turner Classic Movies, drawn by one of the many delightful pairings of William Powell and the ever lovely Myrna Loy. As the credits rolled I realized the film was based on the 1937 novel of the same name by Octavus Roy Cohen.

Cohen, who died in 1959, was an extremely prolific writer of novels and short stories. Many of the tales he wrote prior to 1940 are set in Birmingham; he lived in the city two different times. His first stint as a newspaper reporter came prior to World War I. He also spent most of the 1920's in Birmingham as the most successful member of the city's literary community. You can read his Encyclopedia of Alabama entry here. Before 1960 many of Cohen's novels and short stories were adapted for films and television.

The story is a light-hearted one involving a criminal played by William Powell who is turned into an upstanding citizen after a blow to the head, and then back again nine years later after another blow. The crook soon discovers he's married to Myrna Loy, who's divorcing him because he's such a cheapskate, and she's in love with another. Hilarity and much sparkling conversation ensues before Powell and Loy are together again. You can read the details at the film's Wikipedia entry. The film was directed by the prolific W.S. Van Dyke, whose career had begun in the silent era.

The story appeared several times on radio. The first was a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation in 1941 featuring Myrna Loy and Cary Grant. The next version premiered on January 17, 1944, on the Screen Guild Theater; you can listen to it here. The third production came in 1948, also on the Lux Radio Theatre, and featured William Powell and Ann Southern.

All illustrations are from Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.

Source: BhamWiki

Monday, April 4, 2016

Film Actresses from Alabama Before 1960 (4): Mary Anderson

Back in January of this year I did a post in the "Movies with Alabama Connections" series on Lifeboat, a 1944 Alfred Hitchcock film that starred two state natives, Tallulah Bankhead and Mary Anderson. Now I'd like to do a post in this series on Mary Anderson.

She was born in Birmingham on April 3, 1918 or perhaps 1920. She attended Howard College [now Samford University] and started acting in the theater department there. Her BhamWiki entry says she was runner-up in the Miss Birmingham contest. 

The 1930 U.S. Census shows 12-year old Mary living with her parents James O. and Mary E. Anderson, younger brother James and her 72-year old grandfather. The family lived at 533 McMillan Avenue in southwest Birmingham. By the 1940 census she is living at 5757 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles. Mother Mary and brother James are also shown living with her. The record notes she had finished two years of college. 

Those census records do not settle the question of her birth year. The 1920 and 1930 census both estimate her birth year at 1918; the 1940 census estimates 1921. 

Whatever Anderson's age, she was in Hollywood in 1939 and auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. She and hundreds of other actresses did not get that role, but she was tapped for the supporting role of Maybelle Merriwhether. In that same year she also had a small uncredited part in another high profile movie, The Women. Another Birmingham native, Dorothy Sebastian, also had a tiny role in the film. 

Anderson appeared in several other films in addition to Lifeboat. She had a significant role in 1943's The Song of Bernadette alongside Jennifer Jones, who played the title character. You can find all her acting credits here

In addition to the film roles, Anderson performed on a number of television shows in the 1950's and 1960's. The programs ranged from Target and Mike Hammer to Perry Mason, My Three Sons and Peyton Place. In her appearance on the 1958 episode "The Case of the Rolling Bones" on Perry Mason, she might have had a chance to trade Birmingham stories with Gail Patrick, another actress born in the city who by that time was producing the show. Anderson's final appearance was an uncredited "Old Lady in Music Store" in the 1980 film Cheech and Chong's Next Movie. 

Younger brother James [1921-1969] also became an actor; he played Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird. His credits include appearances in several Westerns and other films as well. They acted together in one movie, the 1951 noir thriller Hunt the Man Down

Anderson died in April 2014 in Burbank, California. Her first husband was writer Leonard M. Behrens; married in 1940, they divorced in 1950. In 1953 she married cinematographer Leon Shamroy; he won 4 Academy Awards and was nominated 14 additional times. One of those wins was for the 1944 film Wilson in which Mary Anderson played Eleanor, the youngest daughter of President Wilson. She had one child by Shamroy.

As noted below, Anderson returned to Birmingham in November 1947 for the world premier of her film Whispering City and a public appearance at Pizitz. The film premier benefited the Crippled Children's Clinic and was held at the Empire Theater on Third Avenue North.

You can find a number of photographs of Anderson, including glamour shots, at this Pinterest board

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

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Listal

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Source: Wikipedia

This November 1947 newspaper ad announces the opening of new escalators for the first four floors of the Birmingham Pizitz store. The dark photograph in the upper left corner notes that actress Mary (Bebe) Anderson will be on hand to untie the ribbon. Others present for what was treated as a major event on November 24 were Mayor Cooper Green and representatives from Westinghouse, the company that made the escalator. That day's Birmingham News covered the addition in an article, "Pizitz store installs moving stairways."

Source: Tim Hollis and his book Pizitz: Your Store [History Press, 2010]

Anderson starred in two of the films, Henry Aldrich for President (1941) and Henry and Dizzy (1942). 

Alabama Book Covers (10): Augusta Evans Wilson

Back in April 2015 I posted an item about the films based on Augusta Evans Wilson's 1867 novel--and massive bestseller--St. Elmo. Now I'd like to include her in this ongoing blog series, "Alabama Book Covers."

In that earlier post, I included this background on Wilson:

"She's one of Mobile's legendary residents; although born in Columbus, Georgia, she spent most of her life in the city. She published nine novels before her death in 1909, and some of them such as St. Elmo and Beulah made her one of the bestselling American novelists of her day. 

Like many female authors of that time, she began writing to supplement her family's income. St. Elmo sold over a million copies and made her the wealthiest female writer in America before Edith Wharton. Only Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur sold better among American novels in the nineteenth century.

There is a town in Mobile County named after the novel. Several of her works, including St. Elmo, can be found via Project Gutenberg. A recent book about Evans is The Life and Works of Augusta Jane Evans Wilson, 1835–1909 by Brenda Ayres [Ashgate, 2012]."

I've included comments on some of the individual illustrations below. 

Augusta Evans Wilson [1835-1909]

Inez, the first of Wilson's nine novels, appeared in 1855 and was not a success. She began writing the book when she was fifteen.  

Beulah was Wilson's second novel and a big seller. The story describes a young woman's crisis of faith, much like Wilson's own, and is set in an Alabama city much like Mobile. 

In addition to being a bestselling book, St. Elmo was filmed three times by 1923. Three other Wilson novels were also filmed

Wilson's third novel, published in 1864, was a pro-Confederacy story and was issued by different publishers in the North and South.

Wilson was going blind as she wrote her last novel, published in 1907. She dictated it to a niece. 

This novel was Wilson's first after the Civil War, published a year after her 1868 marriage to a successful Mobile businessman.

Her next to last novel appeared in 1902. 

This collection of Wilson's letters was published in 2002.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fool's at Auburn University in 1962

I discuss all sorts of historical matters on this blog, but never one as serious as the subject of this particular posting. Here's what those crazy college kids at my Alma mater were up to eight years before I arrived. 

Below are some selections from the April Fool's Day issue of the Auburn Plainsman in 1962. You can see the entire issue here