As an Alabama Heritage intern, this semester I have the amazing privilege to have my first piece of work published professionally. When Dr. Reynolds offered me the opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I knew much planning and scheduling would go into making the article come to fruition. Once it was decided that my article would be an Alabama Makers department piece, it was easier for me to narrow down about whom I would be writing. Luckily for me, it was the fall semester and the Kentuck Festival of the Arts was a couple of weeks away. Sara Martin, the Alabama Heritage marketing director, suggested I take a look at the festival lineup for a possible subject of my article.
For most of my life, I have lived within five miles of Interstate 20. If I want to go somewhere outside of a ten-mile area, my trip is probably going to include, if not consist mostly of, I-20. I have often complained about the highway, and I’m probably not the only one. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t construction going on somewhere, causing delays and traffic jams. Right now, work is underway on widening the section around Tuscaloosa to six lanes. A few years ago, a large stretch east of Birmingham had one direction at a time completely shut down for several months for resurfacing. For a few years before that, the widening of the hilly portion between Leeds and Pell City dragged on, with traffic crawling through the area. Those are just a few of the construction projects that have gone on recently. Work on replacing bridges in downtown Birmingham is planned to begin next year and is expected to cause closures for up to sixteen months. Eventually, the highway is supposed to be at least six lanes all the way across the state. We’ll probably have flying cars by then.
One of the most vital vehicle and arms storage and maintenance facilities for the US Military is located right here in Alabama. The Anniston Army Depot (ANAD), or just “The Depot” to those of us who live nearby, had its beginnings during World War II. As the war raged in Europe, the US War Department began constructing 500 ammunition storage igloos, six standard magazines (supply stores), twenty warehouses, and administrative buildings on a more than 10,000-acre plot near Anniston, Alabama, in February 1941. In October, just two months before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the site was officially designated Anniston Ordnance Depot, with a staff of only four. With the entry of the US into the war and the rapid increase in military production, the depot expanded to more than 15,000 acres and 4,339 employees by November 1942.
I come from a small town in Alabama with a population of less than two thousand. Most people don’t have any idea where Munford is (right between Talladega and Oxford) and probably haven’t even heard of it. At best, they might have seen the Munford/Coldwater exit on I-20. We only have one stop light, and I can easily list every business. There are a gas station/grocery store, Munford Foodmart; a Jack’s; a Dollar General; a Shell station; two local restaurants, Big Daddy’s BBQ and Chubbie Chicks; a bakery, Clark’s Catering & Bakery; an auto shop, Dabb’s Auto; and a hardware store, Carter’s Hardware. We also have a school system, which is actually one of the best in the region, thanks in large part to partnerships with the U.S. Forestry Service. So, our town is not exactly a big tourist destination. It does, however, have one claim to fame: a little-known Civil War historical site.
There is a reason we have the metaphor “That is music to my ears.” It represents the joy and even excitement that something stirs inside of you—much the same way that music can invoke a spirit of joy and an excited mood. I, myself, love music! I turn it on when I wake up. I cannot drive anywhere until I have the proper playlist on. And although I have not been blessed with an angelic voice, I cannot help singing in the shower. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. For example, I can hardly pass a person on campus on the way to class who does not have a pair of headphones in their ear.
On a dark day in 1929 when the clouds hung low over our farm on a red clay hill in Tuscaloosa County, my sisters and I huddled around the fireplace with Daddy. In the kitchen Mama clattered pans preparing midday dinner. She didn’t have much to work with as Daddy had lost his job when the mines closed: turnip greens, com pone, and baked sweet potatoes.
Suddenly an ear-shocking sound swooped low overhead, rattling our house, and bringing us to our feet. We ran outside in time to see an airplane drop out of the clouds and land on our muddy field. Few airplanes came our way. Never before had we seen one on the ground. Staying a safe distance from this one, we stared at the two men sitting in the open cockpits.
One of them climbed down and shouted, “Where are we?” in an accent strange to us. He looked rosy-cheeked, young, and well fed. So did the other man when he joined us. They were brothers, Frank and Stanley, from Illinois, with an unpronounceable last name. They were on their way to Florida when their fuel ran low.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to go on a volunteer trip to Tanzania with GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions, a group I learned about from a class presentation at the University of Alabama). It was a two-week-long trip with the additional option to climb Mount Kilimanjaro during a third week. I thought about it a lot, wondering if the extra money for the climb was worth it. In the end I decided to do it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. It also happened to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Here’s a little information about Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is the world’s tallest free-standing (not connected to a mountain range) mountain at 19,341 feet. It has three volcanic cones: Shibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The latter two cones are extinct, but the first is dormant, with possibility of eruption. The hike up usually takes 7-10 days with the hike up taking up a larger portion of the trip because your body needs time to acclimate to the altitude change. My trip was four days up and three days down, but many of the other hikers in my group still struggled with the change in altitude on the way up.
I was sixteen years old and in the twelfth grade when I saw in the newspaper at school that Nelson Eddy was to appear in Birmingham. I yearned to go with all my heart but I lived in the red clay hills of Tuscaloosa County. What chance did I have? An amazing thing happened. The Frisco Railroad called my father to work third trick at Freight Yard Junction in Birmingham that night. He said he’d take me! I had forty-nine cents from typing for my teacher’s husband. Daddy gave me a penny to make enough for a gallery ticket. In my diary I wrote: “March 3, 1938, I spent most of the few minutes, after I found I could go, collecting my overcoat, our lunch, a scarf, and everything else I thought I’d need. All the way to Birmingham I was haunted by the dread there would be no gallery tickets left. The old Lizzie crawled along so slowly and every car that zoomed past I’d say to myself, They’re sho’ going.
It is 6 p.m. on October 28, 2016. What do you think the temperature outside should be at this time of day, during this time of the year? Pretty chilly, right? You should be able to throw on your favorite sweater, a beanie, and the oh-so-loved Ugg boots (for us women). There should be, perhaps, a crisp breeze in the air that makes your cheeks flushed and makes you check to ensure you have some extra hankies—if you regularly keep handkerchiefs with you—in your pocket or purse. This, however, is not the case. It is 83 degrees outside. I wore shorts and a dri-fit shirt today, and I blasted the A/C in my car on the way home from the mall at 5 p.m. The high for the next three days is 88/89 degrees.
As a child of a “health nut,” retired professional football player and an athletic librarian, my childhood was marked by weekday afternoons spent dozing or reading in the school library and attending sporting events on the weekends.
My dad retired from playing football long before I was born and started coaching the sport, along with track and field, when I was around four years old. With three older brothers who all played football as well, it seemed as if I was always at a sporting event. From a young age, I can remember attending the long, hot Saturday track meets.
As for the weekdays I spent in the library, I remember those a bit more fondly. My mom was a librarian at my elementary school, and I would wait for her after class to finish work. That must be where my love for books began. After all, there’s not much to do in a library besides enjoying books. I can still remember sitting on her lap and listening to her read to my kindergarten class when we had group readings in the library.
Alabama Heritage BLOG
At Alabama Heritage, we owe many of our successes and smooth operations to our fabulous student interns. We hope that with this blog, written mostly by our student interns, our readers will have an opportunity to get to know the students who bring so much to the table with their enthusiasm, hard work, and expertise!
If you're interested in our internship program, check out the details here.