Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sweet Home Alabama

The recent developments in an unsolved 1996 murder prompted a local television station to air a segment titled “The JonBenet Ramsey Case: The Alabama Connection.”

I was truly shocked. NOT! It seems that every Looney Tune in the world has a connection to Alabama: he was born here, her mother’s people are from here, he spent time stationed here in the Army, his wife’s first cousin’s uncle taught school here, she traveled through on I-65 on her way to Panama City. You get the picture. We’re the butt of redneck jokes and country bumpkin humor.

So I am declaring today Sweet Home Alabama Day * and here are just a few of the many tidbits I gleaned from my research about the state where I live.

A plethora of famous authors live or lived in Alabama. Of course there are our fabulous Heart of Dixie authors, but have you ever heard of Truman Capote? Winston Groom? William Bradford Huie? How about Harper Lee, the author of the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird?”

In the field of music, we have Alabama, Nat King Cole, W.C. Handy, Lionel Ritchie, Hank Williams and Jimmy Buffett among others.

On the movie and TV screens we’ve seen Tallulah Bankhead, Fannie Flagg (who is also quite a darned good writer as well), Kate Jackson, George "Goober" Lindsey and Polly “Kiss My Grits” Holliday.

Have you read a newspaper lately and seen the name Condoleeza Rice? Or Jan Davis and Mae Jemison who both flew on Space Shuttle missions.

George Washington Carver discovered some 300 different peanut products and 118 new ways to use sweet potatoes. Waldo Semon invented vinyl. Percy Julian discovered how to synthesize cortisone from soybeans, thus reducing the price for this drug used in the treatment of many diseases including arthritis.

And Alabama has given the world its share of world-class athletes and coaches including Olympic champion Jessie Owens, football coach Bear Bryant, baseball great, Hank Aaron, Bobby and Davey Allison of racing fame, women's soccer standout Mia Hamm and Vonetta Flowers, the first black athlete (male or female)--from any country--to ever win an Olympic Winter Games gold medal.

Many important historical events have happened in Alabama. The Montgomery bus boycott was a major turning point in the civil rights movement and changed Rosa Parks from an unknown seamstress into a heroine in her own right. The US space program was developed at Redstone Arsenal and later at Marshall Space Flight Center under the leadership of Werner von Braun. And September 1969 saw the opening of the biggest, fastest and most competitive superspeedway in the world - - Talladega Superspeedway.

Need some place interesting to visit? Try Ivy Green, the Tuscumbia home of Helen Keller. See the cabin where Annie Sullivan isolated the wild child from her family. And believe me when I say it’s humbling to stoop beside the water pump where young Helen made her breakthrough and learned to begin communicating with Annie.

Cathedral Caverns located in Grant has the world’s largest known cave entrance and has evidence that the ocean once extended this far inland.

Dismals Canyon in Phil Campbell, AL is home to "dismalites," tiny creatures that glow in the dark and exist only in this canyon and in certain parts of New Zealand and China.

Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman contains miniature replicas of religious places from around the world, which were built by Brother Joseph Zoettl, a monk who came to St. Bernard Abbey from Germany.

The Rosenbaum House in Florence, is the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Alabama and the only FLW house where he designed not only the original house, but the later addition.

The Mercedes-Benz visitor center in Vance is the only Mercedes-Benz museum outside of Germany.

And Rickwood Field, the oldest ballpark in the world and Vulcan Park are both located in Birmingham.

Oh… and don’t forget the US Space and Rocket Center and SpaceCamp in my hometown of Huntsville.

Here’s a website that will give you plenty of places to visit.

Alabama is a place where football is a religion and grown men still visit their mamas with regularity. It’s hot and humid, with tornado alley on one end and Gulf of Mexico access on the other. We have mountains, plains and beaches. Heck, we even have a Coon Dog Cemetery near Tuscumbia, a Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, a peanut statue in Dothan and a rattlesnake round-up in Opp. The celebration of Mardi Gras started in Mobile and spread to other cities such as New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities. We’ve had two American Idol winners (Reuben Studdard and Taylor Hicks) and one runner-up (Bo Bice) and they’re all from the Birmingham area. The AI powers-that-be were so impressed that Birmingham was added this year as an audition city.

So the next time someone besmirches the name of our state, remember its famous people and happenings, give them a little history and geography lesson and make their Alabama connection a positive one.


* War Eagle!


Problem Child said...

I've been known to wallow in my Southerness...I'm Southern and proud of it! And I live in Alabama by choice, thank you very much.

Another thing Alabama has is the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. Ranked as one of the top high schools in the country, ASFA turns out some of the best artists. Imagine professional level art from 16-year-olds. Wow! I hear the math and science dept is pretty impressive as well, but that was added after my time.


Smarty Pants said...

I used to say the same thing about Las Vegas. Everytime they'd apprehend some criminal on America's most wanted, they'd catch them in Las Vegas. A mecca for trash.


Maven Linda Howard said...

Let's see. Courtney Cox is from Birmingham, as is Emmy Lou Harris.

Gadsden State Community College has the nation's number one school for . . . court stenography. Who knew?

Alabama is also one of the few common-law marriage states. Living together can mean that, if you decide to break up, you have to get a divorce :-). Not always, the circumstances in which a common-law marriage becomes legally binding are spelled out, but the possibility exists.

Also on the subject of marriage, and this may be true of any state, not just Alabama -- but in Alabama, anyone can perform a marriage ceremony, and it's legal. It isn't the qualifications of the one conducting the ceremony that makes it legal, it's the paperwork and filing the papers with probate. So the situation I've seen in some books and movies, where a marriage isn't valid because the one who performed the ceremony wasn't a licensed minister or some such, wouldn't hold water in Alabama. If the paperwork was completed and filed -- it's legal! (Is this giving any writers any ideas?)

Alabama is also beautiful, with rivers and lakes, mountains, plains. There are definite seasons, though cold weather usually doesn't get brutally cold and normally lasts only about eight weeks. My first flowers are usually beginning to bud around the first week of February. The seasons are: Football season, Recruiting season, Spring Training season, and Almost Football season.

Oh, and grass-cutting season lasts from March until almost Thanksgiving.

Rhonda said...

Percy Sledge was also from Alabama and his original rendition of WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN is still my favorite. :-)

Victoria said...

Finally!! This has always been a sore spot with me, so much that i had some very strong words for Stone Phillips several years ago. It was about the Jeffery Franklin case where he killed his parents and wounded his siblings. Well at the time I worked with his father who was an engineer. 20/20 showed up and the ONLY people they were interviewing were from our manufacturing division who just wanted their claim to fame. Not the engineers that he worked with.
To make a long story short I loudly told Stone that was one of things wrong with the bad publicity of Alabama. They seek those who will keep the stereotype going. Thankfully he did agree with me and I was proud that none of the bad interviewees were shown!


Playground Monitor said...

I never knew about THOSE four seasons. :grin: And very interesting about marriage. I'd definitely say that was plot fodder.


Victoria said...

Oops sorry I got myself all worked up was Dateline not 20/20.


Playground Monitor said...

Hi Victoria. I remember the Franklin case well because it happened just a few miles from where I used to live. I remember hearing the sirens that night and wondering what was happening. My best friend's son was in the same class with Jeffrey and their whole senior year was tainted by that incident. Even at their graduation, it was brought up and what should have been a momentous day for them had a somber note to it.

Good for you to stand up to the TV crew like that!


Linda Winstead Jones said...

We have beachline, mountains, and rivers. People at the grocery store smile, even if I don't know them. Football. Joe Namath! Shug Jordan. Dreamland.

We once had family from up north visit, and as we left a restaurant the waitress said, "Y'all come back." My relatives were shocked. She said the words as if she meant them -- and she probably did.


Lis said...

Wow, lot of facts about Alabama I never knew. The marriage one is interesting.
Trying to think of something I like about Alberta or Canada, the only thing I can think of is hockey lol NHL to be precise. It just seems more exciting up here then it does in some places in the states

Jennifer Y. said...

Very interesting...I am a Georgia girl myself.

Kathy said...

Don't forget the movie, Sweet Home Alabama and the group who first wrote the song, Lynard Skynard.


Jennifer Y. said...

Part of Sweet Home Alabama was filmed in Georgia at my college....all of the Carmichael Plantation scenes were shot at the home of my college's founder Martha Berry.

I liked this post though...wish we could do it for every southern state.

Loribelle Hunt said...

Let's talk about Dothan. :) Home of the National Peanut Festival which is pretty cool if you've never been, and home of Johnny Mack, a bigtime old Western movies star. (Yeah, I never heard of him either before I moved here lol.)

The biggest appeal for us right now is softball oddly enough. Both my girls play and my oldest is a pitcher. Next year she moves into the next age league that has consistently landed in the Nationals Fast Pitch Finals. (Which yes! Is held in Dothan lol!)

I do gripe a lot about Alabama. *blush* But I'm from Atlanta, and I doubt I'd move home if I could. PCB, Fl is another story. I'd move there in a heartbeat lol.