Thursday, June 30, 2016

That Time Bugs Bunny Headed to Alabama

Many of us of the Baby Boom persuasion remember classic Bugs Bunny with great fondness. The "wascally wabbit" first appeared in 1940 and numerous cartoons followed until 1964. I have not seen many of his various incarnations since he reappeared in 1976, but I sure remember watching his older adventures on Saturday morning cartoons. He was always a favorite of mine; his savage sarcasm in the face of everything made Mickey Mouse seem like a wimp.

There are many gems among the classic Bugs cartoons. One I especially like is the 1957 "What's Opera, Doc?" After the Marx Brothers 1935 film A Night at the Opera and this cartoon, I'm not sure how opera has survived as a serious art form. 

Now we come to the subject of this post, the 1953 cartoon "Southern Fried Rabbit".  Since it was released just over a year after I was born, I doubt if I saw it in the theater. I do seem to remember it from those Saturday morning marathons. I have been unable to find a copy online, but according to the Wikipedia page for the cartoon, it has been released on a Looney Tunes DVD.

"Southern Fried Rabbit" times in at just under seven minutes in length. The cartoon opens with Bugs lamenting, "What carrots. Look at this tired specimen. I haven't seen a decent carrot for months around these parts." He then notices a newspaper headline announcing a record carrot crop in Alabama. "Alabama? Well, I'm Alabamy bound!" the rabbit announces. Bugs is referencing a 1924 Tin Pan Alley tune made famous by singer Al Jolson.

Of course, there are complications. Confederate Yosemite Sam tries to shoot him as soon as he crosses the Mason-Dixon Line. Bugs tells him the war ended over 90 years earlier, but Sam announces, "I ain't no clock watcher." Many in our fair South seem to share that philosophy.

You can read the details of Bugs' visit to the South below, where I've copied the Wikipedia description. Bugs wonders why the South is so far south, another bit of wisdom hiding in a cartoon. I don't think Bugs ever makes it to Alabama and those great carrots.  

Source: Wikipedia

Title card from the cartoon

Source: Wikipedia 

A severe drought has ruined the carrot crop in Bugs Bunny's northern home. Upon learning of a boom crop in Alabama, Bugs decides to make the trip to the fertile soils (later exhaustedly asking, "I wonder why they put the South so far south?"). As soon as he crosses the Mason–Dixon line, he is shot at by "Colonel" Sam, who chases him but then quickly realizes that he crossed the Mason–Dixon line and runs back, saying he has to burn the boots as they "touched Yankee soil!". Bugs asked Sam what the deal is, only to hear that Sam believes he is a soldier of the Confederate States of America and has received orders from General Robert E. Lee to guard the borders between the Confederate States and the United States. When an annoyed Bugs points out that the "War Between the States" ended nearly 90 years ago, Sam says that "I ain't no clock watcher!" and shoots Bugs away, prompting the rabbit to make several attempts to shake his antagonist.
First, Bugs disguises himself as a banjo-playing slave, singing "My Old Kentucky Home." When Sam asks for something "more peppy", Bugs promptly sings "Yankee Doodle," leading Sam to call Bugs a traitor. Bugs then begs Sam not to beat him, pulls out a whip (disguised as a banjo string), and forces it into Sam's hands, making Sam look guilty. After fleeing, the rabbit immediately comes in disguised as Abraham Lincoln, scolding Sam for "whipping slaves". Sam tries to protest with repeated "buts" but Bugs in response hands him a card to "look me up at my Gettysburg Address". Bugs' cover is blown, however, when his cotton tail shows through Abe's trenchcoat, prompting an infuriated Sam to chase Bugs into a tree. Bugs twice blows out Sam's match as he's trying to light a cannonball (the second time with an extended pipe), but the third time (even though Sam takes the precaution of going even further away from the tree than the second attempt) results in Sam taking an explosion.
Bugs then disguises himself as Stonewall Jackson (here as "General Brickwall Jackson"), fooling Sam into marching into a well. Later, Bugs flees into a mansion, where he disguises himself as Scarlett O'Hara (from Gone with the Wind), and when Sam searches the mansion for Yankees, he takes a cannon explosion looking inside a closet.
Bugs at last succeeds in getting Sam when, disguised as an injured Confederate soldier, he informs him that "the Yankees are in Chattanooga" in Tennessee. Sam marches to "Chattanoogee", and the finale has him using a shotgun to threaten the New York Yankees, preventing them from competing in an exhibition baseball game against the Chattanooga Lookouts: "The first dang Yankee to step out of that dugout gets his head blasted off!!!".

Monday, June 27, 2016

Alabama Book Covers (12): William Bradford Huie

Born in Hartselle in 1910, William Bradford Huie had a long, varied and controversial career as a writer of novels, non-fiction and investigative journalism. He graduated from Morgan County High School and in 1930 the University of Alabama. Soon he and new bride Ruth had settled in Birmingham where he wrote for the Post newspaper for several years. In 1936 he and a colleague started the pro-business magazine Alabama, the News Magazine of the Deep South. Although Huie stayed less than a year, the magazine continued publication until 1955.

Huie served in the Navy in World War II, and his experiences would give him lots of material for future novels and non-fiction. He spent much of the 1950's as a writer and then editor at the American Mercury Magazine and also traveled on lecture tours and made various television appearances.

By the second half of the decade he and Ruth had settled back in their hometown of Hartselle. Huie had already begun what might be called the Civil Rights period of his career. He and fellow Alabama native and writer Zora Neale Hurston attended the appeal and second trial of Ruby McCollum in Florida in 1954. McCollum, a wealthy and married black woman, had killed her white physician lover. The judge had issued a gag order, which Huie was accused of violating. He was arrested and spent a brief time in jail. 

He covered the murder of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 and the Freedom Summer murders in that state in 1964. Huie interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr.'s killer, James Earle Ray; King had written the introduction to Huie's book about the Freedom Summer deaths. In recognition of his efforts, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in his yard in 1967. He was interviewed in 1979 about these events for the documentary Eyes on the Prize. In 1997 a documentary about Huie appeared, I'm in the Truth Business.

Huie spent the rest of his life in Alabama. After Ruth died in 1973, he and his second wife lived in Scottsboro and then Guntersville where he died. He is buried in Hartselle; the public library was named after him in 2006. His papers were donated to Ohio State University. 

Below the photographs are some covers of Huie's books with comments on a few. 

William Bradford Huie [1910-1986]

Huie is buried in the Hartselle City Cemetery. 

Published in 1967, this novel was filmed in 1974 with Lee Marvin and Richard Burton in the cast. A recent assessment of this film by David Cranmer can be found on his blog Criminal Element

Published in 1942, Mud on the Stars was Huie's first novel and very autobiographical.

One of Huie's best known books, Slovak was published in 1954. In 1974 NBC broadcast a television movie version starring Martin Sheen. He won an Emmy for the performance, but refused to accept it since he felt actors' work should not be compared. Son Charlie had a small role in the production.

The novel Revolt of Mamie Stover (1951) follows a woman from Mississippi who rises through prostitution in Hollywood to become a war profiteer in Honolulu. This book, The Americanization of Emily (1959) and Hotel Mamie Stover (1963) form a trilogy with the same narrator. In 1956 Jane Russell played the title character in the film version of Revolt. 

Huie published this novel set in World War II in 1959. James Garner brought his considerable charm to the film version in 1964. Starring along with him were Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas and James Coburn. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Alabama Library Bookmarks

Back in October 2014 I posted a piece on "Bookmarks for Some Alabama Bookstores" featuring items from my collection. This time I'll share some bookmarks I have from Alabama libraries.

Most of these examples come from public or academic libraries. I've also included one from a museum and another from the Encyclopedia of Alabama. I've scanned both sides unless one side was blank. 

Bookmarks have been widely used by libraries since they are an inexpensive way to advertise services, hours, new programs and so forth. I suppose they may not be used as much these days, since the same information can be put on a web site or Facebook page. 

Bookmark histories can be found here and here.

The Alabama Public Library Service is a state agency supporting public libraries across Alabama.

Bailey Cove is one of the many branches of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library.

The Alabama Virtual Library provides online database access to residents of the state. 

The Encyclopedia of Alabama is not a library, but it's such a wonderful resource that I wanted to include it here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

My Beard Has Never Been this Long

I first grew a beard while an undergraduate at Auburn University in the early 1970's. Later in that decade I had to shave it off temporarily. In the emergency room after a car wreck in Oneonta, a nurse shaved some of it so the doctor could sew up places on my face. Once home, I shaved it all off. However, as soon as my face healed up, I let the beard start growing again.

Most people who know me now have never seen me without a beard except in old photographs. That includes wife Dianne and kids Becca and Amos. I guess mom remembers me back in the day, and younger brother Richard might. He has a beard, too, by the way.

At various periods over the years I've let the beard get somewhat long, but nothing like Mr. James Copeland of Morgan County before he died in 1888. I recently stumbled across his story in a couple of places on the web; two brief, similar newspaper accounts are below. I've reproduced them as found; I do not know if errors were in the originals or the transcriptions. But we get the drift. Read these items and then I'll discuss what I've discovered so far about Mr. Copeland. 

James Copeland, a well-to-do farmer, died at Flint, Morgan County, Alabama at the age of 88. When the south seceded on 1861, Copeland took an oath that he would never shave again until the southern confederacy established it’s independence. He kept his oath, and his beard, at the time of his death, was nearly seven feet in length.
Marion County Patriot no. 25, 22 June 1888, p. 2

July 5 1888
JAMES COPELAND a well to do farmer died in Flint Morgan County, June 17 at the age of 88. When the south seceded on 1864 COPELAND took an oath that he would never shave again untill the southern confederacy established it’s independence. He kept his oath and his beard at the time of his death was nearly seven feet in length.  [Crossville Chronicle]

Just as we have to do with media today, some skepticism is the best way to approach many stories in old newspapers. Mr. Copeland was apparently a real resident of Morgan County, however. 

Although he was born in South Carolina in 1800, Copeland and wife Margaret were living in Tennessee according to the 1850 U.S. Census. By 1860 they had moved to Morgan County, Alabama. I also located him in the 1870 and 1880 federal censuses. Copeland is buried in the cemetery of the Forrest Chapel United Methodist Church in Hartselle. The Find-A-Grave site link below gives directions. One day I'll have to go by the cemetery and try to find his grave. 

The Marion County Patriot was published in Georgia from 1886 until 1968. The Crossville Chronicle was published in Tennessee. The "Flint" named in Copeland's obituaries is presumably now one of the Flint neighborhoods in Decatur. 

Source: Both photos from Find-A-Grave

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Drake-Samford House in Auburn 1850-1978

Recently during one of my periodic paper reduction efforts, I found the February 12, 1978 issue of the Auburn Bulletin from which the last three items below were scanned. Before I talk about those, let me put them into context. 

For many years the Drake-Samford House stood at 449 North Gay Street on the corner with East Drake Avenue in Auburn. The magnificent home was built in the 1850's. By 1857 John Drake, Sr., lived there. His son, John Drake, Jr., became a physician and served the college for many years.

In October 1865 Caroline Drake and lawyer and future governor William J. Samford were married in the house. Auburn University's iconic Samford Hall is named after him. 

The first two black and white photographs below of the house were taken by W.N. Manning on April 2 and 3, 1934. Manning was a professional photographer in Auburn then working for the Historic American Building Survey program. The second one shows the wonderful mahogany staircase.

Now, as to the scanned items. They show before and after photos as the house was torn down in February 1978. A developer who owned the property intended to put an apartment complex there, but never did. The site is now a grassy lot. 

Some details here were taken from the 2012 book Lost Auburn by Ralph Draughon, Jr., et al. 

William J. Samford [1844-1901]

This caption implies that Steve & I formerly rented the house itself. No, not quite. We rented the two-rooms-and-a-bathroom shack behind the mansion; we are standing at the door. That place was the site of the Great Toilet Explosion while we lived there, but that's another story

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Visit to Tallassee, Alabama

On May 5, 2016, a "suspicious fire" destroyed what was left of an historic textile mill in Tallassee. In 1841 the mill known as the Tallassee Falls Manufacturing Company was the first to open in town and the second in Alabama. The facility produced cotton at first, then wool. During the Civil War the mill produced cotton for uniforms and later served as a carbine shop. 

That armory was the only Confederate one not destroyed by the end of the war. The mill resumed civilian operations and in the late 1890's became part of the huge Mount Vernon Mills complex in Tallassee which operated until 2005. At the time it closed Tallassee's mill was the oldest operating textile mill in the world. 

Tallassee's history seems jinxed; the iconic Hotel Talisi burned in an arson fire in 2009. Like so many Auburn students over the decades, I made a few trips there for the wonderful Sunday lunch back in the 1970's. 

The historic mill had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. In that same year the Alabama Historical Commission listed cotton mills statewide in its annual "Places in Peril". Over the past decade or more efforts were made to save the historic mill in Tallassee, but none of them worked. 

By the end of World War II one in five jobs in the state were in cotton mills. At least Lowe Mill in Huntsville, once a cotton mill and then a shoe factory, has been successfully developed for another use. Lowe Mill is now the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States. 

As history would have it, my brother Richard and I were in Tallassee last July on one of our annual family and state history tours. The first seven photos below were taken at the huge Mount Vernon mill constructed in the late 1890's. The final six were taken at the historic first mill. I've made comments and added further information below a few of the photos.   

You can learn more about Tallasee in William E. Goss and Karren Pell's Tallassee [Images of America series], Arcadia Pubishing, 2008. Also of interest is Linda Peal White's article, "One Night at the Hotel Talisi" in the Oxford American May/June 1995 pp 40-42.

I wonder how many times employees passed through this turnstile over the years.

Mount Vernon Mills continues to operate facilities in several states, but no longer in Alabama.

Tallassee Armory

Only Confederate armory not destroyed by Federal forces. Colonel Gorgas (Conf. Flag) ordnance chief, had carbine shop moved here into Tallassee Manufacturing Company mill in spring 1864 as war threatened Richmond, Virginia armory. War ended before plant neared goal of 6,000 carbines per year. In 1864 Rousseau's raid bypassed it-1865: forces under General Wilson (U.S. Flag) misled by faulty map, marched 10 miles east; threat of Forrest (Conf. Flag) barred their return. 
[Before 1965: Barnett Blvd at E.B. Payne Drive near river on Hwy 14, Tallassee 35.53501 N   65.89107 W ]

Source: Alabama Historical Association Historical Markers Program