Friday, November 30, 2018

Alabama Once Played 3 Football Games in a Day

Well, sort of. Let's investigate.

In 1931 the Alabama football team played its first season under new coach Frank Thomas and did well. The final record was 9-1; the only loss came on October 17 at Tennessee when the Tide was shut out 25-0. Thomas followed another Tide coaching legend, Wallace Wade. In 1930 Wade's final team went 10-0, winning the 1931 Rose Bowl and a share of the national championship. Almost all the starting players from Wade's last year were gone when Thomas took over.

Thomas coached at Alabama until 1946 and had great success. According to Wikipedia, "During his tenure at Alabama, Thomas amassed a record of 115–24–7 and won four Southeastern Conference titles while his teams allowed an average of just 6.3 points per game.[2] Thomas's 1934 Alabama team completed a 10–0 season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and was named national champion by a number of selectors."

After the last game of the 1931 regular season, Alabama played a charity game against Chattanooga at that team's Chamberlain Field. The purpose was to raise money for unemployment relief efforts during the Great Depression. Alabama won that game 39-0.

A week later on December 12 Alabama played another charity "game", but this one was a bit different. Here's what the Wikipedia entry says: 

"After the first charity game against Chattanooga, an all-star team of former Alabama players was assembled to compete in the second charity game [in the District of Columbia] to benefit the unemployed.[30] The game was played at Griffith Stadium and featured three separate contests against George Washington, Catholic University and Georgetown.[30][31]Each of the three games consisted of two, ten-minute halves, and because the Alabama team was playing three separate squads, the Crimson Tide was allowed to make unlimited substitutions.[30]
"The players on the Alabama team were primarily from the current and 1930 team that captured the national championship, and were led by coach Thomas and assistant coach Hank Crisp.[30] The players selected included: Dave Boykin, Herschel Caldwell, John Campbell, Joe Causey, C. B. "Foots" Clement, Edgar Dobbs, Jess Eberdt, Albert Elmore, Ellis HaglerFrank HowardAllison Hubert, Max Jackson, Leon Long, Ralph McRight, John Miller, Claude PerryClyde "Shorty" Propst, Joe Sharpe, Fred Sington, Ben Smith, Earl Smith, John Henry SutherJohn Tucker and Jennings B. Whitworth.[30]
"With all three played on December 12, Alabama faced George Washington in the first contest. Although the game ended in a 0–0 tie, Alabama had several long plays that included a pair of successive runs by John Campbell for 75 yards and a 55-yard passing play from Allison Hubert to Campbell.[31] The Crimson Tide then defeated Catholic University in the second game 7–0. The only score of the game was set up after Leon Long intercepted a Catholic pass at their own 42-yard line. After five runs for 31 yards by Hubert and one by Herschel Caldwell for three yards, Long scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run.[31] In the final game, Alabama tied Georgetown 0–0 after Long intercepted a Hoyas pass in the end zone on a fourth-and-three play late in the second period.[31]"

So, depending on how you look at it, the Crimson Tide played three games that day, or one game against three different opponents. Some of the coverage in a Washington, D.C. newspaper the day before the game can be seen below. Follow the link to read more. 

The headline writer seemed impressed by the "size of Alabama gridders."

Griffith Stadium in the District of Columbia in 1960. The stadium was demolished in 1965, and Howard University Hospital now occupies the land.

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, November 26, 2018

Alabama at the Louisiana Book Festival

On a recent Thursday Dianne and I headed to Baton Rouge to meet up with our son Amos and attend the fifteenth annual Louisiana Book Festival. Amos arrived around lunch time on Friday, and we all took in the festival on Saturday. Amos appeared on a panel that afternoon with two other authors of recent short story collections. 

More details are below. 

On Friday the weather was chilly and raining in Baton Rouge as you can tell from this view of the I-10 bridge. 

We stayed at the Hampton Inn only a short walk from the park and buildings where the festival was held in downtown Baton Rouge. The hotel uses some interesting room number plates. 

Barnes and Noble sponsored the large book and signing tents at the site. Here is Amos' book and to the left the new books by his fellow panelists. More details are below. 

The rain finally ended mid-afternoon on Friday, so we walked to the festival site. Here's a view of the book tent with the Louisiana capitol building in the background.

Many festival events were held in the state library building.

Here's the wall of books by festival authors in the foyer of the state library. Amos' collection of short stories can be seen in the very upper left corner. 

Here's a close up of that upper left corner.

The site of the Louisiana state capitol building and park contains the former Pentagon Barracks military post which was later used as housing for LSU cadets. A portion can be seen here in the foreground, with the capitol in the background and framed by one of the areas neat old trees. 

The substantial program for the festival featured artwork by William Joyce, author and illustrator of various children's books. His work has also appeared on covers of New Yorker magazine and in galleries and museums.  

We went to a couple of panels in the morning before having lunch and heading to the capitol building for Amos' appearance. The first panel was "Writing and Environment: A Multi-Genre Perspective" with environmental historian Jack E. Davis, poets Martha Serpas and Neil Shepard, novelist Kent Wascom and moderator Jack B. Bedell. 

The second panel, "Family-Influenced Fiction" featured two novelists, Nicole Seitz and Spencer Wise; the moderator was Olivia Clare, a poet and fiction writer. 

At this writing information about these authors and their works can be found at the Festival web site.  Both panels were stimulating and gave me several possibilities for future reading. 

The 34-story Art Deco Louisiana state capitol opened in 1932. Legendary politician Huey P. Long was assassinated in the building in 1935 and is buried in the park. Dianne said the building looks like something out of Ghostbusters.

Here Amos and David Langlinais are waiting for the panel to begin. Not pictured is Genaro Ky Ly Smith.

One end of the festival's signing tent opened toward the cooking tent, which was behind me as I took this photo. The festival also included music, various food vendors, an exhibitors tent and many authors and publishers at tables lining the walkway up to the capitol. 

Here are the panel members David Langlinais, Amos Wright, and Genaro Ky Ly Smith in the signing tent. 

After the festival we retired to the Bengal Tap Room and enjoyed a local beer, a Tin Roof Voodoo. 

Amos' book is available here. You can learn more about the book and his other writing at his website

David's book is available here

Genaro's book is available here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Show of Fans

After my paternal grandmother died in 1997, we cleaned out her house in Gadsden and found many things of interest, some family-related and some not. The latter group included several hand fans that I've photographed and put together for this post.

Hand fans both folding and rigid have been around for many centuries in Asian and Western cultures. Although having practical uses, many examples also feature elaborate decorations. They originated in ancient Egypt, India and China more than 5000 years ago, and were brought to Europe in the 12th century as a result of the Crusades.

The ones below are strictly utilitarian, and I presume predate wide-spread air conditioning in the southern U.S. Those featuring an address include no Zip Code, which was introduced in 1964 and did not become widespread until later in the 1960's. One of the fans includes 800 phone numbers, so it must be a more recent date.

There are two hand fan museums, one in California and the other in the United Kingdom

More comments are below the photographs. Businesses represented include Crestwood Funeral Home and J.P. King Auction Company both in Gadsden and an insurance company in Decatur. 

Crestwood Funeral Home, which opened in 1940, continues to operate today.

This auction company in Gadsden opened in 1915 and is still operating.

UPDATE: Since I posted this item, one of my informants--my cousin Charlotte Shores Ryder--suggested about this fan " the one from King Auction may have actually been used to notify auctioneer of a bid since it has a bidders number on it.." Makes sense to me!

This business in Decatur no longer seems to be operating, at least under that name. A listing turns up on Google, but the Romanian-American Mission seems to be at that address now. I wonder if they give out hand fans.

This funeral home opened in 1910 and is still in business. The fan seems to be the oldest in the group based on the cars in the photo and the phone number. I'm not sure why my grandparents had this one; I don't know of any relatives in Kentucky whose funeral they might have attended. 

My grandparents Amos J. & Rosa Mae Wright lived for many years in this house at 1313 Chandler Street in Gadsden. My grandmother died in January 1997, and soon after that we began cleaning out the house. Among much other memorabilia, we found the fans shown in this post.  

Friday, November 16, 2018

Movies with Alabama Connections: Balboa

As I continue my wanderings through the twists and turns of state history on this blog, I'm always alert for mentions of Alabama in the movies or television shows. I came across another one recently in an obscure 1983 film called Balboa. I've never seen it, or even remember seeing it listed for viewing anywhere while channel surfing. But lo and behold there's a character named "Alabama Dern" in this thing, and he's played by none other than Chuck Connors of The Rifleman fame. 

Also staring are Tony Curtis and Carol LynleyThe film's other cast includes Cassandra Peterson, better known to her fans as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; Sonny Bono and veteran character actor Henry Jones. The film was written and directed by James Polakof.

This movie presents a few conundrums. The IMDB entry is under "Balboa" but one of the DVD covers shown here says "Rich and Powerful." I can find no such film under that name. The plot summary there is simply "Millionaire gets involved in a real estate scam." This version runs 91 minutes, but the entry claims it was originally a mini-series, and nude scenes were added to the video release. It's listed as an independent film released in the U.S on July 19, 1983 The website of the Tony Curtis Estate includes the film as "Balboa" but gives the year as 1986.

I suspect the film is one of many made in recent decades without major studio backing that may have gotten some sort of tape and/or DVD release but even so have essentially disappeared. Not everything is on Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or Hulu, or....

A bit more information follows below. And there's also another interesting connection Chuck Connors has with Alabama...

IMDB image

Image from the Amazon listing, which has this description:

"Welcome to Newport Beach where the exotic sun-drenched waterfront is the setting for intrigue, loyalty, betrayal and million dollar business deals. Wealth and power foster either the best of friends or the worst of enemies -- and some will do anything to get what they want."

I'm going to have to seek out this movie just to find out how a character named "Alabama" fits into it.

Not sure what this image is, perhaps a poster?

Connors played first base for the Mobile Bears in 1947, hitting .255 with 15 home runs. At that time the team played at Hartwell Field

"The 1947 Southern Association Baseball League champions the Mobile Bears. Chuck Connors, of Rifleman fame, played on the team. Top row from left: Cliff Dapper, Frank Luga, Chuck Connors, Paul Minner, "Doe" Kelly, Jack Maupin, George "Shotgun" Shuba, and Pershing Mandarf. Left to right in the middle row are Joe Powers, Stan Wasiak, Homer Matney, "Red" Rollins, manager Al Todd, Hal Younghans, and Pat McGlathen. On the bottom row from the left are Johnny Sosh, John Hall, Cal Abrams, batboy Donnie Wagner, Ray Boles, Roy Whitaker, and Bill Hart."

Source: Alabama Mosaic 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Visit to Niki's West

On a recent Saturday Dianne and I visited Cullman to check out the Alabama Gourd Show. This event is one of two sponsored by the Alabama Gourd Society; the other is held in Clanton in March. Dianne has been wanting to combine her beading/jewelry work with gourds for some time, so she was able to pick up some beginner's tools and hints from various exhibitors. The craftsmanship and imagination on display at this show are pretty impressive. You can get a few hints below.

On the way back to Pelham we decided to have an early dinner at Niki's West, the legendary "steak and seafood" place on Finely Avenue in Birmingham. You can read more about them at their website and this article from 2013. You can read what owner Pete Hontzas had to say about Niki's influence in Birmingham in this 2017 article

If you've never eaten at Niki's, get there ASAP! You can go through the buffet line, which is all we've ever done, or order from the menu. Either way it's bound to be good. 

Dave Hoekstra's meditation on Niki's West and Greek soul food in Birmingham can be found here.

Bob Carlton has written "Niki's West: The story behind a classic Alabama restaurant" available here

I ordered the divine liver and onions and enjoyed it very much. Our son Amos declares this one to be "literally my favorite meal in the world".

Update April 22, 2019:  

Dianne, son Amos and I made it to Niki's this past weekend and took a few more photos; the first three are by Amos. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Harmony Graveyard in Helena

Dianne and I recently drove through Helena and stopped at the Harmony Graveyard. We seem to do that in our family--stop at old cemeteries and take a look around, even if we have no ancestors there. We're interested in history--all sorts of history. Next to the Graveyard is Harmony Cemetery for African-Americans, which we did not visit. 

As noted in the historic marker's text, the cemetery is on the site of the first church built in what is now Helena. The cemetery dates to 1836 and contains the graves of many notables, including physicians, ministers, and public officials such as the town's first mayor. 

Four victims of at least 20 killed in a train wreck on December 27 1897, are buried in the cemetery--including a mother and two daughters. A rail had apparently been removed by robbers from the track on the Cahaba River bridge, and the train plunged 110 feet into the river. 

The graves of some casualties from the 1926 Mossboro mine explosion that killed 27 and the May 5, 1933 tornado can also be found here. That storm killed 20 people in Bibb and Shelby counties and pretty much destroyed Helena. You can read more about it here.   

Additional comments are below some of the photographs.

In the background here you can see the lake in Joe Tucker Park, which also includes a walking trail. 

In the photo above and the one below Woodmen of the World grave markers can be seen. WoodmenLife is a fraternal non-profit that offers insurance to its members. An early benefit to members was a gravestone in the shape of a tree stump. The company had to abandon the program by the late 1920's because it became too expensive. However, these markers can be found in cemeteries across the U.S. They will also have the Woodmen logo. 

The one above is unusual, at least in my experience, in that it is more of a log section than a stump. I've most often seen the type on the left and right below, a tall or taller standing stump.

Helena Cumberland Presbyterian Church is next to the cemetery and has had that name since 1978. Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches were all destroyed in the 1933 tornado.