Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Some Alabamians in New Orleans (2)

We spent Christmas 2018 with our son Amos in New Orleans, driving down on Friday, December 21 and returning home to Pelham on December 26. As with our previous trip in March, we had a great time. See below for all the details. 

And in part 3 there is even some Alabama history! 

On Friday night we had dinner at Gris-Gris on the balcony above Magazine Street. The view was great and so was the shrimp and grits!

New Orleans has a lot of green space and great old houses. 

We had lunch Saturday at Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar and Fish House on St. Charles and started with some delicious crawfish beignets. 

On Saturday afternoon we made it to Octavia Books, one of several independent bookstores in New Orleans. 

We are always up for bookstore visits, but this place had Amos' new book of short stories on display. 

Nighttime New Orleans looks glorious from the Pontchartrain Hotel's rooftop bar.

Dianne and I stayed at the Green House Inn for this Christmas visit. Conveniently, there was a coffee house next door, a bar across the street, and a craft brewery right around the corner. 

The dining room was festively decorated for Christmas.

Up on the second floor is a nice library/reading room that we passed  on the way to our room. Amos and I spent a little time examining the shelves and wished we had time for more. We learned the collection was the owner's. 

We also passed this large model on the way to our room. The small plaque reads, "Model of R.M.S. Olympic built by R.S. Anderson Wallsend 1912."

The Olympic was an ocean liner of the White Star line that operated between 1911 and 1935, including a stint as a troop transport in World War I. The ship was sold for scrap and demolished by 1937.

I was unable to find anything about Anderson. Wallsend is a town in northeastern England.

The Green House has a number of interesting decorative touches, including on the stairway landing. Large paintings of sailing ship are also hung in several places. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"The Bad Seed", Rob Lowe Edition

On September 9, 2018, the Lifetime television network broadcast the latest interpretation of Alabama author William March's final and probably best known novel, The Bad Seed. This version starred Rob Lowe as David Grossman, the father of the killer child named Emma. Lowe was also executive producer and director on the project. 

I've written a bit about March, his writing and that final novel in two blog posts, "Alabama Book Covers (9): William March" and "The Many Versions of the Bad Seed." I recently watched this latest Bad Seed and thought I'd share a few comments here. 

If you are familiar with the original novel and the classic 1956 film, you can already tell that this version makes some changes. The eight year-old girl was named Rhoda Penmark in the novel, the first film and the 1954 Maxwell Anderson play. Her mother Christine is the parent who realizes her child is a monster. In the 1985 film version Rhoda becomes Rachel, but the mother is still Christine. 

This latest film, scripted by Barbara Marshall, makes other changes as well. The penmanship medal Rhoda covets so much in the original becomes a citizenship medal. I suppose many people today might not have any idea what "penmanship" is or why a prize for it would be a big deal. The old grizzly gardener in the original has become a fetching young nanny, but she meets the same fate.  

This new film met with mixed reviews. Hanh Nguyen on IndieWire found the remake of an "outdated story" a "basket of misses". Patrick Ryan at USA Today and Nguyen again at least had fun pointing out all the places where the new version paid homage to the old one. 

In March's novel and Anderson's play, the mother dies and the evil child survives. Of course, a U.S. film made in 1956 had to punish evil, so mom survives her suicide attempt, and Rhoda is taken out by a bolt of lightening. The ending of Lowe's film follows the spirit of the novel. 

Today the child born "evil" is not as new and shocking a character as it was in the 1950's. The endless number of "demon" children in horror movies has added to the glut. Lowe has made a watchable though not gripping film that tries to tell a straightforward story. He succeeded at that and added a few pleasing twists as well. 

More comments are below.   

Lowe's version was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia. His film thus had a different look and feel from the original, which was a Warner Brothers production made at its Burbank, California, studio. 

The film opens with a domestic breakfast scene between father David and daughter Emma. You can find a detailed look here at the pretty impressive house where filming was done.

Emma interacts with the future winner of the citizenship medal she covets so much. 

Emma and the winner before his "fall". 

Actress Patty McCormick plays child psychiatrist Dr. March in the new film. 

Wait--why are those names familiar? Oh, yes, McCormick played Rhoda in the 1956 film; her chilling performance earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as Best Supporting Actress. She has since had an extensive acting career and even has an Alabama connection. In 1957 she played Helen Keller in the Playhouse 90 television production of The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. 

Her character's name of March is a wave to William March, author of the novel. She also has the creepiest lines of dialog in the film. As Ryan notes in the article linked above, 

After a frank conversation about death and empathy with the stone-faced Emma, Dr. March smilingly comforts her, saying, "I did the exact same things as you when I was your age." She assures Emma's dad that his daughter is "perfectly average" and "reminds me of myself." 

It's as if Rhoda has grown up, become a psychiatrist, and is now counselling another evil child. The mind does flips. 

After daddy's death, Emma is taken in by a relative. We know her job isn't finished. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Alabama's Bicentennial Stamp

Alabama will reach its bicentennial as a state in December 2019. Celebrations of various kinds have been underway since 2017, the year the Alabama Territory was created. As it did for the state's sesquicentennial in 1969, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a stamp in honor of the event. 

More comments are below. 

In 2015 I wrote five posts on stamps related to Alabama. You can find links to them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

More about U.S. stamps and postal history can be found here.

The new stamp will be issued on February 23 at Constitution Hall in Huntsville. The photo was taken at Cheaha State Park by Joe Miller. 

The post office issued this stamp in 1969 for the sesquicentennial on August 2, 1969, also in Huntsville. Back in April 2018 I wrote a post on the sesquicentennial activities in 1969.

In 1919 the Alabama Centennial Commission planned various activities to celebrate the milestone, but issuance of this half dollar was not one of them. The coin was finally struck by the U.S. Mint in 1921; follow the link to get the details of this convoluted story. The obverse of the coin features busts of William Wyatt, governor in 1819, and Thomas Kilby in 1919. 

Wikipedia also has a long entry on this coin.

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Memory Tour of Huntsville (2)

This post is the second one describing a "memory tour" of Huntsville that my younger brother Richard and I took in July 2018. The first part is here

While living in Huntsville we attended Lakewood United Methodist Church on Mastin Lake Road, which is still active although smaller. The UMC listing gives the congregation size as 68 people, and the only service on Sunday is at 9 a.m.

Davis Hills Middle School
3221 Mastin Lake Road NW

The school was called Davis Hills Junior High when I attended. In March 2014 I wrote a blog post with photos about two of my activities there. You can see them here

Another set of doors I walked through many times, as did younger brother Richard. 

There is still a field across the street from the school. 

Davis Hills Middle School closed in 2016. At that time there were about 350 students in grades 6-8. The building is now used by one of Huntsville City Schools' academies

Younger brother Richard began his high school career at J.O. Johnson High School, which opened in 1972. Mom and Dad moved to southeast Huntsville, and he finished high school at the original Grissom. Johnson closed in 2016; we found the campus surrounded by chain link fencing. This coat seemed an apt symbol of the situation.

The city owns the property and intends to develop it as the Johnson Legacy Complex, a major recreation center. Nearby Jemison High School replaced Johnson.   

Johnson High School
6201 Pueblo Drive NW

I graduated from Lee High School in 1970. The school had opened in 1957 as a junior high school, becoming a full high school for the 1963-64 year. In 2012 a new building opened on the same site; the old one was demolished. Some  photos of the new building are below, as well as a few others. You can also find a lot of history of the school at the Huntsville Rewound site.

Lee High School
2500 Meridian Street N

This large house on Quietdale Drive very close to the high school seemed to be undergoing rehabilitation. 

These two photos come from the Lee yearbook, either 1968 or 1969. No, that's not my hot rod. Wonder if it's still around?

We had "portable" classrooms at Lee even in 1970. 

Source: Lee High School yearbook, 1970

We didn't visit on this trip, but one place always in our memories is Maple Hill Cemetery. Dad is buried in the new section.  

You can read about him in a such blog posts as "Dad and Alabama Archaeology" and "Dad and the USS Errol". 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Memory Tour of Huntsville (1)

In July 2018 my brother Richard and I did a "memory tour" of Huntsville places we remembered from growing up in the city. These included previous homes, schools and other sites. We drove around for several hours on a Saturday and Sunday. Mom went along on the first day. Details are below and in a second blog post.

Of course, some of the old haunts are gone: El Palacio, The Mall, Heart of Huntsville Mall, Shoney's, A Good Book Store, etc, etc....Well, a LOT of the old haunts are probably gone...You can find information and photos of most of those places at the wonderful rabbit hole, Huntsville Rewound

You can read the second post about this tour here.

So, forward to the past...

This house is located at the corner of Lincoln Street and Eustis Avenue, facing Lincoln, in downtown Huntsville. In 1954 when dad got a job as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal, he moved from Gadsden to Huntsville and boarded in this house for several months until mom and I joined him. 

The house has been nicely restored like so many in this part of the city.

When we moved to Huntsville in 1954, the town was booming. For about a year or so we lived in Redstone Park in Farley, which was a housing project built for use in World War II. In January 1956 the Army purchased the property for $8,911.50 and returned it to military use. We moved into the new development around Cloverdale Drive in 1955.  

We went by the Cloverdale house on Saturday, so mom was along for that portion of the tour. When we stopped in front of the house, a young man in his twenties must have seen us and came out to check on us. We explained we had once lived in the house and were just driving through the old neighborhood. He said his family had been there since 2000 and asked when we lived there. We told him from 1955 until about 1960. His response? "Wow!"

Some time back I did a post on the subscription to children's magazine Jack and Jill that we had while living on Cloverdale. Going through a batch of these I noticed two different address numbers for the house over the years. You can read the details at "Cloverdale Drive, 'Jack & Jill' & Me"

Here I am with dad holding younger brother Richard in the front yard of the Cloverdale Drive house in 1959. The neighborhood has changed a lot from this time when there were only a few shrubs and small trees around the houses. You can see more photos here, and my blog post on the great February 1958 snowfall is here

When we lived on Cloverdale Drive I attended Morris Elementary School, which is now Morris P-8

On Sunday Richard and I headed out for part two of the tour. We started in our old neighborhood of Lakewood in northwest Huntsville just off Memorial Parkway. 

In the 1960's I went to Cub & Boy Scouts at what was then a Presbyterian church just up the hill from our house. To the right behind the big tree you can see one end of a long building. 

Our house was on Lakeview Drive on the left as you start down the hill. A gentleman was sitting on the porch, so we didn't want to be too intrusive. 

We moved to 4606 Lakeview Drive in 1960; here's what the house looked like about that time. You can see some family photos taken inside the house and one of the back in the early days here

Here's the view today down Lakeview Drive just past our old house. I sure don't remember all those trees when we were riding bikes down that hill!

The field of dreams below our old elementary school doesn't seem to have changed much. 

Here are the front entrance and sign for Lakewood Elementary School at 3501 Kenwood Drive NW. Gee, I wonder how many times I went through those doors? Richard did that even more times than I did. I didn't start here until third grade, but he did all of elementary school in this building. You can read a history of the school which opened in September 1959 here

When I was in the 5th grade at Lakewood I was one of the "patrol boys" who helped young students on and off buses and out of other vehicles to make sure they made it through the front door. We got to wear helmets and sashes and thought we looked pretty cool.

A perk of this program was the free movies. The downtown Lyric Theatre would let us in for free on Friday after school, so we watched about any movie playing. Oddly, the only one I remember at the moment is the Jack Lemmon and Carol Lynley vehicle, Under the Yum Yum Tree. We probably didn't appreciate much of this "sex comedy" based on a Broadway play. 

Sadly, the Lyric closed in December 1978 and burned in January 1982.