Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Who Was James S. McLester, M.D.?

In August 2017 I posted an item about the Joseph H. Woolf, M.D., Family Practice Center in UAB's Community Health Services Building at 930 South 20th Street just up the hill from the campus. I've been seeing a family physician there for some years and wondered about Dr. Woolf, so that post covers what I found.

UAB's Family Medicine Clinic has since moved to UAB Highlands across campus, so I no longer visit the building at Southside. In this post I wanted to share a bit about the physician whose portrait decorated the entrance and may still for all I know.

Details of Dr. McLester's life and career can be found in the poster that accompanies his portrait and an article by Dr. Carter Smith published soon after McLester's death. Both are included below. I do want to emphasize some of the highlights.

After graduating from medical school at the University of Virginia in 1899, McLester spent time in postgraduate studies in Europe. Upon his return to Birmingham in 1902, he accepted a position as pathology professor at the Birmingham Medical College. When that school closed in 1915, he moved to the School of Basic Sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In World War I McLester served in France as the commanding officer of Evacuation Hospital #18.

He was named Professor of Medicine while there and held that title until his retirement in 1949. When the new four-year medical school opened in Birmingham in September 1945, McLester was named the first Chair of Medicine. 

McLester died on February 8, 1954; he is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. He operated his private medical practice from a "charming" house located where the Community Health Services Building is now located. The portrait was commissioned by former students and residents and was first located in the medical library. 

He served as president of the state medical society in 1920 and the American Medical Association in 1934. During his academic career he published over 100 articles on nutrition and metabolism. McLester wrote two textbooks, Nutrition and Diet in Health and Disease (first published in 1927) and Diagnosis and Treatment of Disorders of Metabolism (1935).  He also contributed many chapters on nutrition to other textbooks. 

Dr. McLester's portrait during his days as a faculty member of the Birmingham Medical College

Source: UAB Archives

This portrait hangs in the entrance area of  UAB's Community Health Services Building. I'm unable to read the name of the artist in the lower right corner; there also seems to be a year after the name.

Birmingham Medical College in 1912

Source: BhamWiki


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Birmingham Photo of the Day (68): City Hall Burns in 1925

Birmingham's second city hall opened in 1901 on the site of the original one, the southeast corner of 4th Avenue North and 19th Street. By the time it was replaced by the current city hall in 1950, many tenants had occupied the building over the years in addition to city offices. The first public library operated there, and a gymnasium was available to citizens. By the 1930's retail stores had included a market, a drug store, shoe repair, cafe, music company, optician and jewelry and barber shops.

The building suffered extensive fire damage on two occasions. On April 23, 1925, the tower and the public library's collection on the fourth floor were destroyed. The other floors were not seriously damaged. The tower was not replaced; and the library reopened in 1927 in the building that now houses the Lynne-Henley Research Library containing archives, Southern history materials, and more. 

A fire on June 23, 1944, also caused damage to the fourth floor that housed city comptroller and engineer offices.

The first photograph below shows the 1925 fire in progress. Other photos show the library damage and the second city hall building as it looked in 1909. From a cursory look at Google Maps, parking facilities appear to be at the location now. 

Photo by O.V. Hunt 

These two photos show the fourth floor library after the 1925 fire.

Birmingham City Hall ca. 1909

Source: BhamWiki

Monday, January 21, 2019

Finding Bruno's in Fort Myers

People of a certain age in the Birmingham area will remember the Bruno's grocery store chain. From 1932 when Joseph Bruno opened his first grocery in the city until around 2012, the firm at its peak operated as many as 150 stores under the Bruno's, Food World, Big B Drugs and other names. At its height 14,000 people were employed in the operations.

Bruno had retired by 1977, and his brother Angelo and several other executives were killed in a plane crash in 1991. In 1995 the firm was sold to the first of several new owners, and the decline began. After two bankruptcies, the remaining locations were sold to Belle Foods in 2012. Belle entered bankruptcy the following year, and Bruno's and its other stores slowly disappeared until all were gone. Details of the long, sad tale can be found on the BhamWiki page linked above.

Dianne and I were recently on a Florida trip that included a weekend visit to the Fort Myers area. Our hostess drove us around the area along the coast to show us the endless parade of mansions and tourist rentals and retail shops. I had not been to that part of the state since the late 1960's when my family spent summer vacations in Naples. Dianne had never been that far south in Florida.

At some point we passed the convenience store below on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers. Naturally my first thought was how did this remnant of Bruno's end up here? But I guess it's just one of those weird coincidences, and the Bruno here is not the Birmingham Bruno. Ah, well.... 

Source is here. I was unable to get a photo myself. 

Bruno's logo in the 1960's

A later logo

Source for both logos: BhamWiki

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Alabama Photo of the Day: Monument to a Slave

Another expedition to the digital material at the Alabama Department of Archives and History uncovered the photograph below. The description there noted, "Monument to Harry, a slave who saved several Howard College students from a fire in Marion, Perry County, Alabama; photo taken in the 1930's". Let's investigate.

To find out more, I turned to James F. Sulzby, Jr.'s two volume work, Toward a History of Samford University (1988). He discusses the fire on pages 28-33.

Samford was originally known as Howard College and incorporated by an act of the state legislature in 1841. Baptists founded the school, which opened in Marion on January 3, 1842, with nine students. 

The first official college building, a four-story brick structure opened on January 1, 1846. The first commencement was held on July 27, 1848, when seven men graduated. 

For the fall 1854 session 112 students were enrolled. Many of them lived in town, but others lived in the college building. On October 15, 1854, a fire began around midnight. The building and all property, valued at almost $20,000, was destroyed. 

A committee appointed to study the fire issued a statement on October 18. They noted that a professor, the tutor and 23 students had various injuries but all survived. One student died a few days later. The committee determined the fire started in a stairwell but could not establish a cause. 

The only immediate fatality was Henry, the college janitor and a slave owned by President Henry Talbird. He apparently awoke soon after the fire started and went through all the floors waking students. The fire prevented his return by the stairs, and Harry was forced to jump from a fourth story window. He was killed by the fall.  

Harry Talbird's funeral was held at Siloam Church. He was buried in Marion Cemetery. The marker seen in this photograph was paid for by officers and students of the college and members of the Baptist State Convention. 

The monument has a different inscription on each of its four sides; you can read them below. Also below are contemporary photographs of the monument. 


Servant of

H. Talbird, D.D.

President of Howard College

Who lost his life from injuries received while rousing the students at the burning of the college building on the night of Oct. 15th 1854.

Aged 23 years.

He was employed as waiter in the college, and when alarmed by the flames at midnight and warned to escape for his life replied "I must wake the boys first," and thus saved their lives at the cost of his own.

As a grateful tribute to his fidelity and to commemorate a noble act, this monument has been erected by the students of Howard College and the Alabama Baptist Convention.

A consistent member of the Baptist Church he illustrated the character of a Christian servant "Faithful even unto death."

(source: Library of Southern Literature, By Edwin Anderson Alderman, Joel Chandler Harris, Charles William Kent, pub. 1910, pg. 6463-6464, in a section of "Epitaphs and Inscriptions" in volume 14.)

Source: Find-A-Grave

Source: Find-A-Grave

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Some Random Record Albums Found in Colorado

We were in Colorado Springs for several weeks in October and November 2017, and I had time to peruse my father-in-law's extensive collection of vinyl record albums. He was primarily a fan of the big bands and singers like Frank Sinatra, but he also had a few curiosities. So naturally I came up with one of those blog posts I love so well, random stuff with some Alabama connection buried in there somewhere. 

Think of this post as an opportunity to brush up on some musical popular culture from the 1950's and 1960's and even earlier. I know I learned a few things, so here we go. 

Allan Sherman [1924-1973] was a comedy writer and producer and a song parody genius. He created the concept and produced the television game show I've Got a Secret which ran from 1952 until 1967. He also wrote folk song parodies infused with Jewish humor to entertain at parties and released this first album in 1962. In the late summer of 1963 his most famous parody, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" about a young boy writing his parents from camp, reached number 2 on the Billboard chart. He released eight more albums and did other work before his death. 

The 101 Strings was an easy listening orchestra that recorded more than 150 albums from 1957 until 1981. Many were released as CDs in the 1990's as by the New 101 Strings. The actual group was the Northwest German Radio Orchestra of Hamburg conducted by Wilhelm Stephan. This album was released in 1960. 

In her day Helen Morgan [1900-1941] was a well-known club singer of primarily torch songs who also appeared in films and stage productions. Her alcoholism led to an early death from liver cirrhosis. Her life and career were the subjects of the 1957 film The Helen Morgan Story

Ted Lewis [1890-1971] was a musician, singer and bandleader. He was especially popular before and after World War II with a stage show that combined jazz, comedy and nostalgia. Lewis was one of the early northern musicians to take up New Orleans style jazz and by 1919 led his own band recording for Columbia Records. Future musical stars such as Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey played with Lewis. His career continued into the 1960's with Las Vegas and television appearances. 

This album was released in 1967. His lengthy discography of recordings as a band leader can be found here

I wonder if any of these lullabies would work with my six-and-a half months old grandson Ezra? 

Side 1: Sleepy Baby (Doris Day)/ Sweet Kentucky Babe (Anna Marie Alberghetti)/ Sweet And Low (Norman Luoff Choir)/ Hush Little Baby (Anna Marie Alberghetti)/ Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra (Andre Kostelanetz)/ Medley: Never Be Afraid; Star Light Star Bright; Little Boy Blue (Bing Crosby)/ All Through The Night (Norman Choir)/ Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (Diahann Carroll)

Side 2: Close Your Eyes (Rosemary Clooney)/ Raisins And Almonds; Now That Day Is Over...(Diahann Carroll)/ Sleep, Baby Sleep (Norman Luboff Choir)/ All The Pretty Little Horses (Rosemary Clooney)/ Cradle Song (Norman Luboff Choir)/ Medley: Rock A Bye Baby; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Sleepy Time Is A Happy Time (Mitch Miller, The Sandpipers and Anne Lloyd)/ Brahms Lullaby (Andre Kostelanetz)/ Medley: No, I'm Not Sleepy; Sing Soft, Hum Low; Once Upon A Time (Mary Martin)

Paul Weston [1912-1996] was a pianist, composer, arranger and conductor.  His career extended from the 1930's into the 1970's and included work in radio and  television. Weston became known as the "Father of Mood Music". He was married to singer Jo Stafford. 

A great history of the genre is Joseph Lanza's 2004 book, Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition. 

Dream Time Music was released in 1953 and Mood Music in 1955. The covers were done by Robert McGuire [1921-2005], a pin-up and pulp novel cover artist. 

The Buffalo Bills were a barbershop quartet that started in Buffalo, New York, and performed from 1947 until 1967. They appeared in The Music Man on Broadway in 1957 and in the film version released in 1962. This album was released in 1959. 

The lengthy acronym on the cover stands for the "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America". The group is now known as the Barbershop Harmony Society.  

The Red Army Ensemble or Choir is also known as the Alexandrov Ensemble after its first director. Formed during the Soviet era in Russia, the group consists of an orchestra, choir and dancers. Founded in 1928, the group continues to perform today. This album with this cover was released in 1963. 

Doesn't this cover just make you tingly all over with nostalgia? RCA released this classic in 1964.

I assume the sweater "P" stands for Princeton. 

Now we come to the Alabama portion of our trip down somebody's memory lane. As Wikipedia notes, the Montgomery native "recorded over one hundred songs that became hits on the pop charts. His trio was the model for small jazz ensembles that followed. Cole also acted in films and on television and performed on Broadway. He was the first black man to host an American television series."

The Cole family moved to Chicago when Nat was four; he dropped out of high school at fifteen to pursue his interest in music. His three brothers Eddie, Ike and Freddy also had musical talents and interests. In the late 1930's Nat had limited success with various bands and then formed his trio. In 1940 the King Cole Trio had its first hit song, "Sweet Lorraine."

Enormous success followed, including many hit records, a radio show, and a TV show that premiered on NBC in November 1956. In 1958 he went to Cuba and recorded an album in Spanish; he won a Grammy the following year. His recordings sold in the millions. 

Always a heavy smoker, Cole developed lung cancer and died in February 1965 at age 45. His Wikipedia entry sums up his career:

"Cole was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007. A United States postage stamp with Cole's likeness was issued in 1994. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013.

"Cole's success at Capitol Records, for which he recorded more than 150 singles that reached the Billboard Pop, R&B, and Country charts, has yet to be matched by any Capitol artist. His records sold 50 million copies during his career. His recording of "The Christmas Song" still receives airplay every holiday season, even hitting the Billboard Top 40 in December 2017."

I Don't Want to Be Hurt Anymore was Cole's next to last album, recorded between
mid-January and early May 1964. The orchestral arrangements were done by Ralph
Carmichael, who worked with Cole from 1960 until the singer's death. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What's Coming to the Blog in 2019?

Once again I want to start the new blog year at AlabamaYesterdays with a review of past efforts and a list of posts I hope--hope being the operative word--to do in 2019. I note that from the 2018 list [see below], only the posts on Carnegie libraries and P.T. Barnum were actually completed. So all the others remain in the ongoing wish list. That 2018 post includes the lists from previous years as well. There are still a lot of topics waiting patiently for their turn. 

First, let's do the numbers:


A total of 439 posts so far....sheesh....makes me tired just thinking about that...

2019 possible posts:

-Alabama's "Weird Tales" Connections

-Shelby County's Silent Movie Star: Henry Walthall

-Some Old Alabama Postcards (2) [I've acquired a number of new goodies for this post]

-Harriet Martineau Visits Alabama in 1835

-There's a Ticket Stub for That [a journey through 30 or so years of movies, concerts, etc.]. I've actually begun some organizational work behind the scenes on this one, which was also on last year's list. 

-Alabama Actors R.G. Armstrong & Harry Townes [You probably know their faces, since both men had very active film and television careers]

-A Legacy & Justice Visit to Montgomery

-New entries in ongoing series, such as films with Alabama connections

-Family history stuff, such as "A Memory Tour of Huntsville" & "Some Alabamians in New Orleans (2)" [That latter one may become a regular feature as long as our son Amos is living there!]

-The usual crop of posts on "let's connect [fill in the blank] to Alabama!"

-The usual crop of stuff I haven't even thought of yet

I guess I better get to work...

This photo shows the Carnegie library in Eufaula around 1910. The ones below show the interior.

P.T. Barnum in 1851

From the 2018 post:

For the fourth time I'm taking a look at what's ahead for AlabamaYesterdays in the coming year, and what kind of success I've had fulfilling my own prophecy at the beginning of 2017, etc. All previous posts are below.

I maintain a long laundry list of possible blog post topics. Some may never get done, but I keep the wish list going. Here's a few I HOPE to do in 2018:

-Carnegie Libraries in Alabama

-Ambrose Bierce in Alabama

-Alabama Women at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893

-Alabama Author Michael McDowell's 1977 Dissertation on Death

-Birmingham Doctors in 1920

-P.T. Barnum Visits Alabama

-Langston Hughes' Alabama Poems

-There's a Ticket Stub for That [a journey through 30 or so years of movies, concerts, etc.]

-Vladimir Putin's Alabama Connections [just kidding--maybe]