Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Birmingham Photo of the Day (66): Lakeview Trolley

Today the Lakeview district is a concentration of restaurants and entertainment venues on Birmingham's Southside near UAB. But in the late nineteenth century Lakeview was one of the Magic City's "streetcar suburbs" and developed around Lakeview Park. The 43 acres were home to a large pavilion, a baseball stadium, hotel, a theater, a lake and other amenities. The first football game between Alabama and Auburn was played there in February 1893. 

The image below is a "black and white photograph of the Highland Avenue streetcar near the pavilion at Lakeview Park" according to the cited source below. In his book Yesteray's Birmngham [1975, page 44] Malcolm C. McMillan dates this picture of the electric trolley as 1895. He notes that seven years earlier, before the trolley, Richard Hawes had murdered his wife and two young daughters and dumped the bodies of the wife and one daughter in this lake and the other daughter in East Lake.

In 1903 the Birmingham Country Club was built on the Lakeview Park site. Today the course is known as the Highland Park Golf Course.

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

The Lake at Lakeview Park ca. late 1880's

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Friday, October 26, 2018

Alabama Author: William E. Vance

According to his entry at Find-A-Grave linked below, William Elbert Vance was born on June 21, 1911, in a place in Jefferson County, Alabama named Virginia. Other sources use the name Virginia City. That probably refers to the company town at the Virginia Mines, a coal operation that opened early in the 20th century in what is now the Hueytown area. 

Mary K. Roberts' in her book Hueytown [Images of America Series, Arcadia Publishing 2010] includes a photo of the Virginia City Mines superintendent's home built in 1902 [page 53] and one of Virginia Mines Elementary School [page 94]. The original mine opened in 1899, and the mining operation ceased after World War II. The community remained intact and was added to the Alabama Register of Historic Places.

For more information, see Pat Cargile, "Virginia Mines Community" in The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama [2002, page 71].

My mother and one of her older sisters were born in two other now-gone  Jefferson County mining towns, Powhatan and Praco. You can read about them here

Vance's obituary below has other details of his life; so far I've discovered little else. He graduated from Marion Military Institute in Perry County and did further work at the University of California-Berkeley and University of Utah. He eventually settled in Seattle which is where he died in May 1, 1986. His body was returned to Alabama for burial as noted below. 

Vance wrote more than 40 novels and numerous short stories under his own name and the pseudonym George Cassidy. Most were westerns; he did write several stories published in detective magazines. I've included a few novel covers and a list of the stories included in the FictionMags Index.  

"Big Medicine", a short story by Vance appeared in this pulp magazine Western Novel and Short Stories in October 1956.

I have this paperback, but have yet to read it. The book was originally published in 1967; this edition appeared in March 1986. 

Source: Birmingham News May 28, 1986

Vance is buried in Valley Creek Cemetery in Hueytown. 

Source: Find-A-Grave

Short stories by Vance under his own name & Cassidy pseudonym
Source: the Fictionmags Index

VANCE, WILLIAM E. (1911-1986); see pseudonym George Cassidy; (about) (chron.)

* The Bandit and the Lady, (nv) Exciting Western Jan 1952
    Exciting Western (UK) Oct 1952
* The Big Hand, (ss) 2-Gun Western May 1957
* Big Medicine, (ss) Western Novel and Short Stories Oct 1956
* Brothers at Law, (ss) Thrilling Western May 1952
* Bullwhip, (ss) Western Novels and Short Stories Feb 1953
* Bunch Quitter, (nv) .44 Western Magazine Mar 1952
* Clean Getaway, (ss) Manhunt Oct 1954
   Giant Manhunt #5 1955 (var.1)
   The Phantom Suspense-Mystery Magazine v1 #4 195?
* The Collaborator, (ss) Hunted Detective Story Magazine Feb 1955
* Dangerous Game, (ss) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Mar 1954
     Verdict (UK) Aug 1954
     Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine Mar 1955
* Death on the Sweetwater, (ss) Zane Grey Western Magazine Mar 1970
* Deep Trouble, (ss) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Mar 1955
* Drifter’s Gal, (ss) Star Western Apr 1954
* Everything’s Crooked, (ss) Popular Detective Jan 1953
     Popular Detective (UK) #12 195?
* Good Night, Mr. Holmes, (ss) The Saint Detective Magazine Nov 1956
     The Saint Detective Magazine (Australia) Nov 1957
     The Saint Detective Magazine (UK) Jan 1958
* Greater Crime, (vi) Western Short Stories Jun 1954
* Gun the Man Down!, (nv) Dime Western Magazine Jan 1954
* Gun-Meeting at Sundown, (nv) 10 Story Western Magazine Feb 1953
* Heritage of Hate, (ss) Big-Book Western Magazine Aug 1954
* The Home Place, (ss) Western Short Stories Jun 1957
* The Hoods, (ss) Malcolm’s Mar 1954
* Job for a Tophand, (ss) Western Short Stories Mar 1957
* A Job to Do, (ss) 2-Gun Western Aug 1955
* Judge, Jury, and Hangman, (ss) 2-Gun Western May 1954
* Killer’s Town, (ss) Western Rangers Stories Dec 1953
* The Lawless Lover, (ss)
   Western Magazine (UK) #8 195?
* Legacy of Hate, (ss)
   10 Story Western Magazine (Canada) Aug 1951
* The Long Chance, (nv) Best Western Dec 1954
* Look Over Your Shoulder, (na) Best Western Sep 1955
* Louie’s Mad Ride, (ss) Best Western Mar 1955
* Lust or Honor, (ss) Manhunt Dec 1966/Jan ’67
* Mad Enough to Kill, (ss) Menace Jan 1955
* Man Running, (ss) Ranch Romances Jan 1959
* The Missing Piece, (ss) American Agent Aug 1957
* Mr. Harband’s Girls, (ss) Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Mar 1964
   Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (UK) Aug 1964
* Murderer’s Manual, (na) Terror Detective Story Magazine Dec 1956
* Never Love an Outlaw!, (ss) Star Western Dec 1952
* No Man’s Guns, (nv) Big-Book Western Magazine Jan 1953
* Occupational Hazard, (nv) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Nov 1953
   Verdict (UK) Jun/Jul 1954
   Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine Apr 1955
   Tough Stories Magazine Feb 1956
* Pirate on Horseback, (nv) 5 Western Novels Magazine Dec 1952
* The Rawhide Rannyhan!, (nv) 10 Story Western Magazine Oct 1952
* The Red Mare, (ss) Giant Western Dec 1952
* The Road Agent, (na) Complete Western Book Magazine Mar 1955
* Routine Pick-Up, (ss) Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (Australia) Nov/Dec 1957
  Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (UK) Mar 1958
* Run Copper Run, (ss) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Nov 1954
   Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine Jun 1955
* Savage, (nv) Western Novels and Short Stories Mar 1954
* A Slight Case of Murder, (nv) Fifteen Detective Stories Sep 1954
  Detective Tales (UK) Aug 1955
* The Straight and Narrow, (nv) Best Western Jun 1956
* These Guns Are My Law!, (nv) Dime Western Magazine Jul 1954
* Tip Off, (ss) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Jul 1954
   Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine May 1955
* Too Much Woman, (nv) Trapped Detective Story Magazine Feb 1957
* Tough-Luck Pilot, (ss) Adventure Dec 1953
* Two Guns Two Faces, (nv) Best Western Sep 1956
* Two-Bit Hero, (ss) .44 Western Magazine Nov 1952
   Adam (Australia) Oct 1963
* What Am I Doing?, (ss) Manhunt Sep 1953
   Giant Manhunt #2 1953 (var.1)
   Manhunt (UK) May 1954
   Manhunt Detective Story Magazine (Australia) Jun 1954
   Bloodhound Detective Story Magazine Nov 1961
* Wild Bunch Law Hits Town, (nv) Dime Western Magazine May 1953
* Without Orders, (ss) Tales of the Sea Spr 1953
* [unknown story], (ss) 10 Story Western Magazine Aug 1951

CASSIDY, GEORGE; pseudonym of William E. Vance, (1911-1986) (chron.)

* Cleanup Man, (ss) Menace Jan 1955
* Death Rides This Road, (nv) 10 Story Western Magazine Jun 1954
* The Murdered Mistress, (ss) Hunted Detective Story Magazine Feb 1955
* Time to Cry, (ss) The Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Jul 1954
   Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine May 1955

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alabama Brenau College in Eufaula

Given their extreme proliferation in recent decades, we might think of branch campuses of colleges and universities as a relatively modern phenomenon. Yet we can find one example in Eufaula, Alabama, circa 1905. Let's investigate.

Brenau College was founded in 1878 in Gainesville, Georgia, as an institution for the education of women. Today Brenau University remains a private institution, but men are admitted to many programs. In addition to the main campus which includes a preparatory academy for grades 9 through 12, Brenau has several satellite campus in Georgia, one in Jacksonville, Florida, and online offerings.

On one of their web site's pages, we find this paragraph: 

"Having branch campuses for Brenau in locales outside of Gainesville has always seemed to make sense from a “business” perspective. And, it has been part of the culture of the instruction for most of its 135 years. Sometime around 1905 Brenau opened “Alabama Brenau” on the campus of a failed women’s college, the Union Female College, in Eufaula, Alabama. The location never thrived and ceased operations after a few years. Brenau’s modern expansion efforts, however, would be far more successful."

The "failed" Union Female College had opened in 1854 and as noted below was advertising for students in southern newspapers as late as 1893. Except for the few other tidbits below, I've been unable to find much about this educational institution. No doubt research in Eufaula newspapers of the time would produce more information. 

Often known as academies, seminaries, or colleges, women's educational institutions were usually founded to prepare the daughters of the wealthy and middle class for household management or teaching before marriage, one of the few occupations widely approved for women in the nineteenth century. Alabama had its share of these institutions; one, Judson College, continues to operate. The University of Montevallo began as a girls' industrial school, but like many it eventually admitted men. The Union Female College in Eufaula followed the pattern of most--years, perhaps decades, of operation but eventual closure.

I have located three postcards printed during the time of "Alabama Brenau's" operation. They are included below, along with more information about the school it replaced. The postcards certainly make Alabama Brenau appear to be successful! 

Source: Wade Hall Postcard Collection, Troy University Library Special Collections via Alabama Mosaic

Source: Wade Hall Postcard Collection, Troy University Library Special Collections via Alabama Mosaic

Source: Wade Hall Postcard Collection, Troy University Library Special Collections via Alabama Mosaic

"The children of planters and wealthy townsfolk frequently had private tutors or attended private academies that offered instruction in languagesmathematics, and the artsOne such academy was the Union Female College in EufaulaAlabama. This carved sculpturecalled "Minerva" in honor of the Roman goddess of wisdomadorned the college building from its opening in 1854 until 1920when it was known as Alabama Brenau."

Does this mean that Alabama Brenau operated until 1920? 

Source: J.A.B. Besson History of Eufaula [1875, p. 29]

"The Female College is most beautifully located on a high hill overlooking the city, and is a very tasteful building, costing $10,000."

Source: J.A.B. Besson, History of Eufaula [1875, p. 21]


1893 ad for Union Female College in Eufaula, AL; from The Durham (NC) Daily Globe, September 12, 1893, p. 3. 
Source: Library of America, Chronicling America

According to this web site, the "delicate" fence that once surrounded Union Female College is now located at East Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula, a Jewish cemetery. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Birmingham's City Stages Festival in 1989

In 1989 a new music festival started up in Birmingham and ran for three days each year, often on Father's Day weekend, until 2009. Over the years many big name musicians and bands came through the city to perform at City Stages. By its final year, however, the festival had over-expanded in downtown Birmingham and revenues could no longer sustain it. In July 2009 the foundation responsible had to declare bankruptcy due to its large debts.

All of that tremendous growth and ignominious end lay ahead when Dianne, Amos, Becca & I attended the very first City Stages in 1989. We arrived on mid-day Saturday and wandered around with our five-year old son and 15-month old daughter in a stroller. I don't think we stayed more than two or three hours; after all, it was a hot June day. I also don't remember seeing any particular acts spread out over the five stages, which on Saturday included Chuck Berry and such Alabama musicians as Johnny Shines and the Locust Fork Band

However, I do have a very clear memory of Sun Ra leading a parade through Linn Park, no doubt ahead of his performance that day. The BhamWiki page about the festival linked earlier notes that about 38,000 people attended over the three days. Oh, and "beer was served in re-usable yellow plastic mugs." They featured the same logo as our three buttons below; I guess baby Becca didn't get one of those or I've lost it. I may still have one or two of those mugs around here somewhere.

City Stages quickly grew in attendance, and we're not really into big crowds--the hot weather didn't help, either--so we never went to another one except 1993. We did make Leo Kottke's appearance on Sunday evening that year. We also saw him a couple of times at Zydeco and enjoyed those performances as well. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

That Time John Wayne Got an Alabama Tan

John Wayne appeared in seven films released in 1942, and one of those was The Spoilers. Wayne began his film career in 1926 and by this time he was a rising star. That began in 1939 with his appearance in the John Ford western Stagecoach. As we can see in this film he had not yet reached the summit of movie stardom; major stars Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott are billed ahead of him. 

The movie is based on the very popular 1906 novel by Rex Beach. Before his successful career as a novelist and playwright, Beach prospected for gold in Alaska. He didn't have any luck, but his personal observation of corrupt public employees robbing miners became the inspiration for his second novel. Other silver screen versions were released in 1914, 1923, 1930 and 1955. You can find a copy of the book here.

More comments are below. 

The Wikipedia entry for The Spoilers has this plot summary:

Nome, Alaska, 1900: Flapjack and Banty come to town to check on their gold mine claim. Saloon owner Cherry Malotte is aware of the corruption all around, including that Bennett and Clark are out to steal the men's claim.
In on the crooked scheme is the new gold commissioner, Alexander McNamara, as well as the last word of law and order in the territory, Judge Stillman. So the bad guys usually get their way.
Cherry's old beau, Roy Glennister, returns from a trip to Europe. He is attracted to Helen Chester, the judge's niece. Roy makes the mistake of siding with McNamara, damaging his relationship with his longtime partner, Al Dextry.
Roy realizes he's been deceived as McNamara and Stillman prepare to steal at least $250,000 while the mine's case awaits appeal. Helen is now in love with Roy, who begs Dextry's forgiveness and persuades him to rob a bank to take back the wealth stolen from them. Both Glennister and Dextry don black faces to disguise themselves.
The Bronco Kid kills the marshall but Roy gets the blame. He is arrested and a plot forms to kill him, but Cherry comes to his rescue, breaking Roy out of jail. A fierce fistfight with McNamara results in Roy getting back his mine and his girl.

I recently watched The Spoilers. It's a mildly entertaining vehicle for all three stars, and I always enjoy watching Randolph Scott.

At one point Wayne & his partner put on blackface as a disguise. When it comes time to remove it, he says “Let’s get rid of this #Alabama tan first”

I have been unable to find any information about the source of blackface being described as an "Alabama tan". That phrase does not appear in the novel, and a cursory Google search produced nothing. I have no idea whether or not the phrase appears in other film versions of the book. Perhaps it was an invention of the screenwriters of this version, Lawrence Hazard and Tom Reed

if you have any ideas, leave a comment!

Friday, October 5, 2018

, Movies with Alabama Connections: The Traveling Executioner

The Traveling Executioner is a little-known 1970 dark comedy from major Hollywood studio M-G-M. In one of his earliest film roles Stacey Keach plays the titular character who travels the back roads of the South with his portable electric chair. Jonas Canddide and his assistant, mortician Jimmy Croft, execute and prepare for burial the condemned for local authorities at $100 a head. Keach is hired to execute a brother and sister, but falls for the woman. He carries out the brother's execution but tries to fake the sister's. 

Much of this film was shot at the state's Kilby prison. Opened in 1923, the original Kilby Prison sat on 2500 acres four miles from downtown Montgomery. Twenty-seven acres were enclosed by a wall 20 feet high and six feet thick. The prison was named after Thomas E. Kilby, Governor from 1919 until 1923. Alabama's electric chair operated here for decades; on February 9, 1934, five black men were put to death within a thirty minute period. 

In 1970 the first Kilby was demolished as a part of making this film. A new facility had opened at Mt. Meigs the previous year. Today the newer Kilby Correctional Facility receives and processes all male inmates in the state's prison system.  

The Traveling Executioner had its premiere on October 1, 1970, in Montgomery, and opened in New York City on December 3, 1970. The cast of this 95 minute film has several actors with long careers. Keach has appeared in many films, television shows and theatrical productions. Jimmy is played by Bud Cort, who's breakthrough film, Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud, also came out in 1970. Marianna Hill is the condemned sister; her best known role is probably the female lead in Clint Eastwood's 1973 High Plains Drifter. Veteran character actors M. Emmet Walsh and Ford Rainey also appear. The film was directed by Jack Smight, who had other interesting titles among his works including Harper and The Illustrated Man. 

According to a contemporary review in Variety, the original script was written by Garrie Bateson while a student at the University of Southern California. His page at the IMDB lists only two other script credits, an episode of Mission Impossible in 1971 and one of Night Gallery in 1972.    

Trailers and scene clips can be found on YouTube. Viewer comments, which are overwhelmingly positive, can be found on the film's IMDB and Amazon pages. Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack is available on Amazon as well as a DVD of the movie. Oddly for a film that made little public impact when released, a musical based on it, The Fields of Ambrosia, premiered in 1996. A site devoted to prison movies has this entry on the film.

I've never seen the film, but will have to order a DVD because I've been wanting to for a long time. This movie is one of the rare ones filmed in Alabama before the 1980's, when film production in the state started to pick up just a bit.

Garrie Bruce Bateson
17 April 1947-27 November 1990

Inglewood Park Cemetery
Inglewood, California

Source: Find-A-Grave

Postcard of Kilby Prison from 1940

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Walker Evans Photographs Two Alabama Stores in 1936

In a previous post on this blog I've examined Birmingham photographs taken by Walker Evans probably in 1936. I'll be examining two more photographs in this post and additional ones in the future. Here's what I wrote about Evans in that previous post. 

Walker Evans [1903-1975] was one of the great documentary photographers of the twentieth century. Evans made three brief trips to Alabama during his career, in March and the summer of 1936 and again in 1973. The images he recorded on the 1936 visits are among the most iconic Great Depression photographs taken in the United States. 

His most famous photos were taken in Hale County that summer. In the previous year Evans had been working for the Farm Security Administration, a New Deal program that was part of recovery efforts during the Great Depression. Evans traveled to various places, including the South, documenting agricultural and industrial life and work. 

In summer 1936 writer James Agee accepted an assignment from Fortune magazine to write about sharecroppers in the Deep South. Agee wanted Evans to accompany him, so the photographer took a leave from the federal agency. The two men spent eight weeks in the Alabama summer living primarily with three sharecropping families. The manuscript Agee delivered to Fortune was much longer than the magazine would publish; it eventually became the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men published in 1941Agee's singing prose about the daily lives of these desperately poor but proud people, and Evans' images make reading the book an unforgettable experience.    

Evans' third trip to Alabama came in 1973 when he and artist and photographer William Christenberry, an Alabama native, toured Hale County. Some of the color photographs Evans took on that trip appeared with Christenberry's in a museum exhibition "Of Time and Place" as well as the exhibit's catalog. 

These two photographs were taken on one of the trips Evans and Agee made between Birmingham and Greensboro and Hale County. The location of the first one is unknown, the second was taken in downtown Marion. 

Further comments are below. 

Evans' photo of a store between Tuscaloosa & Greensboro #Alabama in 1936. 

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

This store served as a billboard for all sorts of product advertisements; in fact, those ads may be holding the structure together. Coca Cola is certainly the most recognizable one today, although many will also recognize Clabber Girl, a brand of baking soda, powder and corn starch. Those products are still sold today by Hulman & Company, which also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the sanctioning body of open wheel racing as well as the Rumford line of baking powder. 

The other products may be more mysterious. Hicks Capudine Liquid was a patent medicine manufactured in Raleigh, North Carolina. 666 was a concoction for use against the "discomforts and distress" of colds and made by the Monticello Drug Company of Jacksonville, Florida. 

Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic was developed by E. W. Grove in the late 1870's. He had a small drug business in Paris, Tennessee, when he came up with a syrup in which he could suspend particles of quinine. That substance was an effective treatment against the chills and fever of malaria, which was common in the U.S. South, and the syrup made taking it more palatable. His product was an instant success, both regionally and around the world. The British army adopted it for all their troops in areas where the disease affected them. Bristol-Myers Company bought Grove's in 1957. 

On the left side of the building under the "666" ad there seems to be one for "Dr. Brown, Chiropractor" and something else I'm unable to make out. I also wonder what those notices on the doors had to offer.

Walker Evans' 1936 photo of Thigpen's grocery & hardware store in Marion

The store was owned and operated by Handley Gillis Thigpen, Sr. [1888-1948]. He is listed in the 1940 U.S. Census as the proprietor. He was married to Delia and 20-year old son Handley Gillis Thigpen, Jr., was living with them. During World War II he became a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps and died on May 13, 1945. 

Handley Gillis Thigpen, Sr., is buried in the Marion Cemetery. His son is also buried there. Delia died in March 1986.

Source: Find-A-Grave