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.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT ALABAMA? OR IF YOU’RE FROM ANOTHER STATE OR COUNTRY, TELL US YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT IT.
* War Eagle!
Posted by Playground Monitor at 8/23/2006 12:05:00 AM