Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Movies with Alabama Connections: Ocean's 11

Here we have another one of those blog posts examining a minor film appearance of something related to Alabama. This sort of thing is fun to do, and today's lesson pertains to the Frank Sinatra Ocean's 11 and not George Clooney's. I've seen the remake, but it's been a while and I don't think this Alabama connection made the cut. Someone correct me in the comments if needed.

Recently I just happened to catch ten minutes or so of the film [which I've seen several times] on TCM and low and behold that Alabama connection popped right up. I'd forgotten about it, so let's investigate. 

The original Ocean's 11 starred Frank Sinatra and four of his fellow "Rat Pack" members: Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. Most of the film was shot in Las Vegas to give those guys something to do during the day before they took the stage for their casino shows each night. The story involves Danny Ocean [Sinatra] recruiting a group to rob five casinos simultaneously on New Year's Eve. Thrills and hilarity ensue before the final twist at the end. Angie Dickinson plays the ex-wife; Cesar Romero, Richard Conte and others fill out the supporting cast.

The state's big moment comes pretty early in the film. Danny runs into Beatrice, his ex, in the hotel, corners her in an elevator and  tells her, "I've got great news!" Beatrice, almost breaking into laughter, says "Auburn beat Alabama by twelve points." Danny, of course, has a bigger bet in mind. 

This appearance of the Iron Bowl in a major Hollywood production in 1960 must be one of the earliest such appearances by either school. In recent years Auburn University and its football team have numerous minor appearances in films and TV shows. There is of course the film A Love Song for Bobby Long in which two of the main characters are a former Auburn professor and a graduate student. Big Fish demonstrates some Auburn love. Auburn football games have appeared in the background of several TV shows and films. And because a production employee was an Auburn graduate, a school banner appeared for nine years on the wall of a bar often seen in the daytime serial General Hospital

I'll let an Alabama fan explore appearances of the Crimson Tide in such media. 

Jeremy Henderson of the War Eagle Reader blog, which tracks these things, explains the Ocean's 11 appearance by noting that when the film was made "Auburn was on top of the football world." That may be true as far as bookies were concerned, but would general members of the film's audience recognize the reference? After all, Auburn vs. Alabama was hardly a top college football rivalry at that time, and the first national telecast of an Iron Bowl did not take place until 1964. As far as I could determine, none of the story and screenplay writers on the film had any Alabama or Southern connections. 

No matter. We'll just take the reference and enjoy the film!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Lynching in Shelby County in 1901: Louis McAdams

In September last year we visited the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. You can read about that visit in a blog post here.

The National Memorial documents over 4000 racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states and over 300 elsewhere in the United States from 1877 until 1950. Each county where such lynchings have occurred has a monument hanging in the open air memorial. A second monument for each county, which will hopefully be claimed and erected there, forms the rows on the Memorial grounds. Since we live in Shelby County, I naturally paid close attention to that monument.

Further comments are below.

The National Memorial is impressive inside and out. 

Here's a transcription of the nine documented lynchings in Shelby County:

August 31, 1889: Two people, names unknown

UPDATE: In late August 2019 the Montevallo City Council approved an historical marker about these lynchings. 


June 7, 1890: unknown


March 24, 1893: John Dances 


July 10, 1900: John Jennings


January 2, 1901: Louis McAdams

August 8, 1908: unknown

May 26, 1910: Jesse Matson

April 30, 1923: John Morton King

In doing a bit of research myself, I've found some interesting details about the January 2, 1901, lynching of Louis McAdams. This post shares that information. 

I found five distinct items about the lynching in contemporary newspapers. I'll discuss those below. 

I also found some information about McAdams in the U.S. Census. He appears as a one year-old child of Jackson and Fannie McAdams of Wilsonville in the 1880 count. Jackson was about 65 years old and from South Carolina. His occupation was listed as farmer. The 1880 non-population agricultural census noted Jackson owned ten acres in Beat 9 of Shelby County. Fannie, 45, was an Alabama native. Four other children ranged in age from four to 17.

The 1900 Census finds Louis at age 25 living with his mother Fannie, then 70. Louis' birthday is listed as May, 1875, with no day given. Oddly, Louis could read but not write. That birthdate, his age and his mother's age do not mesh with the 1880 Census, but such discrepancies are common in census records. McAdams' occupation is given as farm laborer. 

Thus we know that Louis was in his early or mid-twenties and living in Wilsonville at the time of his lynching. Fannie later appears in the 1910 Census, age 85 and widowed, living on Teague Bridge Road in Wilsonville. Two young people, Homer and Luanna Blakey ages 21 and 19 were living with her. She had had 18 children; nine were then living. She could neither read nor write. 

McAdams was the only lynching victim in Shelby County for which I found information in my initial research. Perhaps I can further document others in the future. 

The Columbia [Tenn.] Herald., January 11, 1901, Page 8

The first item above identifies the man McAdams was accused of "cutting and seriously injuring" as J. M. Ray, "a merchant of that place", i.e., Wilsonville. I found several J.M. Rays in Shelby County in census records between 1880 and 1910, but none listed as a merchant.

Note the last item in the extract above describing outrages by "white-cap" activity in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. You can read more about the vigilante whitecapping movement here.

Ameryka. (Toledo, Ohio)
[weekly published in Polish] 1893-1902, January 12, 1901

The Abbeville Press and Banner. (Abbeville, S.C.) 1869-1924, January 16, 1901

In this item we learn some more details. Louis was taken from the sheriff's office by "a mob of one hundred men" who hanged him and then quietly dispersed. "Every man wore a mask." I wonder if Louis was just left hanging from a tree branch?

The Appeal. [St. Paul, Minn.] September 14, 1901

Front page articles on lynchings & a list of 101 lynchings thus far in 1901. McAdams is included in the listing. 

Bourbon News [Paris, KY] January 04, 1901

This account is the longest one I found and gives us additional details. We learn that the altercation with Ray [misspelled "Rey" here] took place on Christmas Eve, 1900. McAdams was arrested in Childersburg on Tuesday, January 2, 1901, and seized by the mob the following day. He was hanged from a tree four miles from Wilsonville and "As the Negro's body swung in the air the contents of 50 shotguns and rifles were emptied into it." 

Since there were 100 masked men, I wonder why only half supposedly fired their guns at McAdams. A sudden attack of restraint on the part of half the mob? This story was apparently filed in Birmingham, as "a special" from Wilsonville. Did these extensive details come from an eyewitness?

Louis McAdams' lynching was also noted briefly in four other papers I located:

Watertown [Wisconsin] Republican., January 09, 1901

The Hope [ND] Pioneer., January 10, 1901

Willmar [Minn.] Tribune., January 09, 1901

The Bolivar [Tenn.] bulletin., January 11, 1901

Another general resource on lynching in the United States is the "American Lynching" site. This source gives 347 total lynchings in Alabama from 1882 until 1968, with 299 black victims & 48 white. In the "Explore" section you can get a list of Alabama's victims by county.

Monroe Work was an African-American sociologist who spent much of his career at Tuskegee. One of his many projects there documented lynchings. A web site devoted to him has an extensive bibliography on the subject. A 1931 map of lynchings based on his research can be found here.

Wikipedia has a long article on the subject here.

Source: Project Gutenberg

In its report on lynching in America, the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery  gives the following description of its sources and results:

Racial terror lynching was much more prevalent than previously reported. EJI researchers have documented several hundred more lynchings than the number identified in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date. The extraordinary work of E.M. Beck and Stewart E. Tolnay provided an invaluable resource, as did the research collected at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. These sources are widely viewed as the most comprehensive collection of research data on the subject of lynching in America. EJI conducted extensive analysis of these data as well as supplemental research and investigation of lynchings in each of the subject states. We reviewed local newspapers, historical archives, and court records; conducted interviews with local historians, survivors, and victims’ descendants; and exhaustively examined contemporaneously published reports in African American newspapers. EJI has documented 4084 racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, which is at least 800 more lynchings in these states than previously reported. EJI has also documented more than 300 racial terror lynchings in other states during this time period.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Tale of Two Frogs

Our back porch between the kitchen and the deck has storm windows and a storm door. That setup allows us to use a heater out there and enjoy the space even in cool and cold weather. The porch also serves as a home in winter for Dianne's jungle. Before the first frost we move all the plants inside from the deck. Included are two lemon trees, a coffee plant, papaya, avocado, orchids, and lots of other stuff. 

For the past several years we've had a visitor that comes inside with all the plants. The first two or three times he was an American green tree frog we named Fred. We found him on one of the plants when they were on the porch during the winter. We saw him--or his twin--again when the plants were moved outside, then again the next winter. We didn't see him this past winter, but we did find FredToo, a gray tree frog. He was in the pineapple plant and still there when we recently moved the plants outdoors again.

We'll have to see whether FredToo remains in Dianne's jungle this year. In the meantime, you can find out more about frogs and toads [which are a type of frog] at Wikipedia's portal

I've also written about "A Giant Frog in Mobile in 1877."

More comments are below some of the photos. 

Fred in November 2015 

Fred on the deck March 2016

This would seem to be a lizard encroaching on Fred's pineapple plant in October 2016

Fred on the pineapple March 2017

FredToo in the pineapple plant March 2019

FredToo on the windowsill inside the porch April 2019 just before all the plants were moved outdoors

And here's what we found in the pineapple in May 2020 several weeks after moving the plant from the porch to the deck. Pineapples below.

And here's the most recent view [2019] of Dianne's deck jungle. FredToo is out there somewhere; the pineapple plant is the first one between the first two poles on the left. 

Frogs make frequent appearances in human culture, whether in culinary form, children's books or patent medicine advertisements from the 19th century. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Birmingham Photo of the Day (69): Miss Fancy

In 1910 the city of Birmingham annexed the suburb of Avondale and its large park. The following year a new attraction was added--some animals in cages. This small group eventually expanded into a zoo that operated until 1934.

In 1913 an elephant named Miss Fancy was purchased from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus when it passed through town. She became the zoo's main attraction until it closed. At that time Miss Fancy and some of the other animals were sold to the Coleman Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus who took them to their winter home in Peru, Indiana.  

After 1934 Birmingham had no zoo until 1955, when the Jimmy Morgan Zoo opened. That zoo eventually became today's Birmingham Zoo. 

The newspaper photo below was taken just before the decision to closed the Avondale Zoo was made. More information can be found in the caption.

As it does for so many things, the BhamWiki site has an extensive article on Miss Fancy. Various other photos and articles can be found on the Alabama Mosaic site

Miss Fancy was born in 1871 and died in 1954 at the Buffalo, New York, zoo where she had lived since 1939. A small bronze statue of Miss Fancy was placed in Avondale Park in 2012 after the park's renovation. The statue was damaged, and a fund raising effort to replace it is currently underway

Source: Birmingham Post 9 October 1934


Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Lunch at Lloyd's

Dianne and I made a rare trip to the US Highway 280 area recently and decided for old time's sake to have lunch at Lloyd's Restaurant. The place is legendary in central Alabama, having operated at its current location since 1978. The original Lloyd's opened in Chelsea in a modest building in 1937; the owner was Lloyd Chesser. After his retirement in 1971, the new owners eventually relocated the business. 

At the time of that move, the place was "out in the country". The only other business at the time in that area may have been the one across the highway, Perrin's Grocery, a gas station & store with a stone face that's still operating. I believe there has been a bit of growth around those businesses in the past few years.  

I remember eating at Lloyd's probably in the early 1990's when our kids Amos and Becca were pretty young. Dianne and I could not really remember if we had ever eaten there another time. 

Frankly, I was rather disappointed. I had a chopped pork plate, which arrived with some sort of weak-tasting sauce ALREADY ON IT. Yikes. The pork wasn't all that flavorful, either. A couple of weeks earlier brother Richard and I ate at a Gibson's Bar-B-Q in Huntsville, and I had a choice of red or white sauce to go on the excellent pork. White it was, by the way. 

The turnip greens, corn on the cobb and butter peas were pretty good. Dianne enjoyed her grilled snapper, so maybe I ordered the wrong entree. I'm afraid the place and its food just struck me as rather tired. If you want a 1970's time machine, Lloyd's will do. 

In today's varied culinary and nutrition conscious worlds, traditional Southern food seems passe and lots of it is not that healthy. I say that as an Alabama native who has lived here all my life and eaten who knows how many such meals over the years. These days our eating choices are so much wider, and I like a lot of them. Let's go get some sushi!

Every now and then I do want some of that "comfort" food and much better can be found at Niki's West and Sweet Tea Restaurant in Birmingham or Sarris Cafe in Pelham. Strangely enough, those three places are owned by people with Greek roots. Immigrants from Greece began coming to central Alabama over a hundred years ago. Now that's Southern!