Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On Barbecue and Dick Howell's

While the area's porcine inhabitants may be rejoicing today, aficionados of great pork barbecue and Southern style hot dogs are mourning the possible loss of Dick Howell's Barbecue Pit in North Florence. Howell's has been a fixture in the Shoals for more years than most of us can remember and was one of the first businesses to be patronized by both black and white customers.

Yet there's an interesting connection to another famous barbecue establishment of which many are not aware. Chris Lilly (pictured) is a Shoals native who currently manages Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur. He lists Dick Howell's along with Wright's Barbecue in Petersville as being strong influences in his culinary life, but that's still not the primary connection.

It seems Lilly's father built Howell's Pine Street location. The small concrete structure is said to have suffered substantial damage in a late afternoon fire. We hope this Shoals icon of fast food is soon open again and influencing a future generation of chef's.

What's up with this: If you're waiting at ECM and inquire about the the hospital's dining facilities, someone will usually direct you to Bunyon's Barbecue. We agree Bunyon's is tops, but what does this say about our local medical facilities?


Sheffield is Saved (Well, at Least Partially)

A recent column focused on the giant Santa that resided prominently in Sheffield during December in the 1950s and 1960s. There's still no word on the location of this desirable artifact, but we now have a photo...or at least part of a photo. It's an intriguing tale.

It seems that during the 1950s, a mother took a black and white photograph of her daughter standing in front of Santa's boots. In order to comprehend the enormity of the Sheffield Santa, remember that this child, who was then three to four years of age, would ordinarily have achieved a height between 36 and 39 inches. The parking meters to the right of the child are anchored in the raised sidewalk and mounted on metal posts approximately 42" in height. Taking those measurements into consideration, we may infer that Santa put it scientifically...very tall, not to mention wide.

Now to discuss the elephant, it seems that the photographer, while focusing on her daughter, inadvertently lopped of Saint Nick's head and shoulders, and so the photograph remained for many years until it was given to a family friend--the brother of our thoughtful donor in fact. The young man asked an artist to finish out the missing anatomy of the famous Sheffield Santa, and, voila, so the Big Guy appears in our blog today.

If you have a keen eye, you can see that Santa stood where the fountain sits today--or should we be so correct as to say the filled-in fountain featured prominently in Steve Wiggins' video Sheffield: A City Hanging over a Cliff. If the Sheffield city fathers were to find Santa, would there now be a prominent place to display him? Sadly, as large as our corpulent Santa is, even given the fact he was halved each year for storage, no one may have thought him worthy of salvation as the world moved on into the 1970s.

If any other readers have photos or information, please contact us. We hope the Saga of the Sheffield Santa is ongoing.

Special Thanks: To Pamela Lindsey Hamm for providing us with the Sheffield Santa photo. She was a friend of the girl in the photo and her brother the thoughtful family friend who had the image artfully restored.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Gifts: Too Many Stuffed Animals, Not Enough Books?

If you're like most of us, you and your family received a tractor trailer load of gifts--not all that you wanted or needed. If you have some extra stuffed animals in very good condition, may we suggest you take them to Wellington Place on Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals. Wellington has a women's secure Alzheimer's unit where they will be greatly appreciated. Just leave your donations at the front desk, specifying they're for the Alzheimer's ward.

Didn't get that book you wanted this year? You might want to head to Elgin and make your dollars count. Heart's Cry Thrift Store on Hwy 101 has a huge selection of used paper and hard backs, with prices ranging from twenty-five to fifty cents. After leaving Heart's Cry, be sure to stop around the corner on Hwy 72 at K's Cove Used Books and Treasures. K's has both a quarter and a dollar bargain table, plus great prices on other slightly used books. In the new section you can find works by Debra Glass and other Ellora's Cave authors, plus several local histories, as well as K's unique body and bath products.

Ready for a new approach to reading? If you enjoy Net Flix, you just may be interested in Book Swim. For $9.95 a month, almost any books of your choice will be mailed to your home. Keep them as long as you like or even purchase those you can't live without. Check out the Book Swim ad to the left of this blog.

As for the knitted nose warmer your Aunt Bessie sent, hmmm, we suggest you take that to Heart's Cry as a donation. We promise they may even find someone who would really love it.

Statement of Policy: We know that some of our readers think any rapist/predator should be immediately turned over to the victim's family for punishment. We know others who seem to think there should be two sets of rules--one for males and one for females. Let us assure you that we believe all punishment should be within the law, but that it should be equal for both sexes. When a woman commits a crime of this nature, she should not be exempt. If for any reason you feel she should, we suggest you lobby your legislators for a change in the law.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scott Morris Nails It!

Scott Morris is the relatively new editor of the TimesDaily. Apparently it hasn't taken Mr. Morris very long to get the feel of local government, at least where Florence is concerned.

Mr. Morris also seems to be an excellent satirist. If you didn't catch his weekly Sunday column, here's the link to the item that had to have made Mayor Bobby Irons' day. There's nothing wrong with a town the size of Florence having a spokesperson. There is something wrong if that office is inaugurated for the purpose of covering up clandestine meetings or general flubs that come with all governmental operations.

Flubs? Well, a difference of $7,000.00 in proposed additional salary for the media czar would fit the bill.

What's up with this: If you've been checking out posts on various media sites, you've seen where a second young man has come forward to state he's been inappropriately touched by Amanda Watkins. Does UNA not offer at least one lecture in its education program outlining the consequences of such actions?


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Amanda Duboise Watkins - "girlinterrupted"

Amanda Duboise Watkins' Facebook address is girlinterrupted1. The 38 year-old Watkins was certainly interrupted last Saturday night when she was found having sex with a 15 year-old male. Watkins is, or perhaps more correctly was, a teacher at Sheffield Junior High School; her male companion had been her student the previous year. What would possess an attractive married woman with multiple degrees, not to mention a young daughter, to risk everything for a few moments of sexual passion with someone who's hardly more than a child? While many apparently see humor in this, it is no different than an older man taking advantage of a younger female student. These relationships are taboo for a reason, but are seemingly becoming more and more commonplace. Could anyone have foreseen this kind of deviant behavior from Watkins?

Amanda Duboise is a native of Phil Campbell in Franklin County. After graduation from high school, she attended Northwest Shoals Community College before advancing to the University of North Alabama where she met her husband Carter Watkins (pictured), a Florence native who graduated from Hibbett Middle and Coffee High Schools. Carter Watkins also majored in journalism and is currently employed as WHNT's Chief Photographer for the Shoals Bureau. Together, Carter and Amanda reside in Forest Hills with their daughter Grace Anne and dog Toto.

Perhaps their marriage looked idyllic only from the outside. Sheffield Superintendent Richard Gardner reported that he had spoken with Watkins over an incident two years ago. Gardner did not specify the exact nature of the problem, but did state that it was not sexual in nature. Now Amanda Duboise Watkins has been released from the Muscle Shoals Jail on $15,000.00 bond, while also having been placed on paid administrative leave at Sheffield Junior High.

Photos of Watkins show her wearing a cross; she lists her favorite Bible verse as "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength;" two of her Facebook organizations are I Love Jesus and I'm Proud to be a Christian. Here, in her own words, is the vision Amanda Duboise Watkins had of herself:

Before entering the world of education, I worked as a reporter and freelance writer. My original degree from the University of North Alabama was in journalism. I have always loved reading and writing. I worked as a freelance reporter for the Times Daily, a staff writer for the Franklin County Times and wrote various freelance articles for a few magazines. I even worked at WVNA Radio in Tuscumbia. I decided to go back to obtain my masters after the birth of my daughter. It is a decision that changed my life. I absolutely love what I do. Today's young people are our future. We need to do all we can to make a positive impact on their lives and their educational experience. Every student has his/her own unique talents and abilities. Teaching allows me to help students make those discoveries or further develop ones they have already uncovered for themselves. Helen Keller once said, "Its a terrible thing to see and have no vision."

Now, unless offered a plea, Watkins will be branded a sex offender and never teach school again. She also may be required to serve time in prison. Her family deserved more, and certainly the young man she seduced deserved and expected more, as did his family. Teacher sex is a crime--a crime no less serious because the offender may manage to plead to a lesser offense. If our children aren't safe at school, how can we expect them to be safe anywhere?


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009...

From a bunch of cool cats!

E.T., Gayle, Zara, Nan, Amaryllis, D.K., & Shoalanda

No Sheffield Santa, but a Tuscumbia Train

If you're looking for Sheffield's classic Santa, Thomas Wolfe was right--you can't go home again. Over the years, we've heard various tales concerning the fate of the giant Santa Claus that annually stood watch over North Montgomery Avenue--even that the late Bob Love was secretly restoring the icon to decorate the entrance of Park Place during the holidays. Yet another year has come and gone, and we still have no Santa. If any of our readers have information about this Sheffield classic of the 50s and 60s, please forward it to us for publication.

Nostalgia in the town of Tuscumbia fares much better; there the Spring Park train of yesteryear has been restored and runs faithfully during much of the year. The month of December sees the diminutive railway turned into a Christmas train. If you haven't made it to the park for your annual Christmas ride, you still have time. The Tuscumbia Railway Christmas Train will run December 26-29 at 6:00 p.m. Admission is only $3.00, making it a perfect ending to a day of after Christmas sales.

What's up with this: Remember to drop off all your Christmas recycling to the Easter Seals building on Woodward Avenue in Muscle Shoals. It's for a great cause and might even convince Florence Mayor Bobby Irons that recycling is more than just an urban myth.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part V

Judge Mike Suttle took the charges of prosecutorial misconduct in the Donald Darling murder trial so seriously that he ordered a jury trial in the matter; however, the Lauderdale District Attorney's office appealed the ruling and won. Now, Darling was to face a second trial for the murder of Wilburn May Jr.

By May 2004, Darling had been released on bond, and Lauderdale District Attorney Steve Graham had resigned. Graham's successor, then Republican Billy Jackson, knew the Darling family socially and recused his office from the second trial. Even Judge Suttle's role was questioned due to his announced support of Darling's defense attorney Chris Connolly, Jackson's Democratic opponent in the upcoming election. Suttle refused to step down and presided over Darling's second trial, now moved to Decatur.

During the trial, the defense team introduced evidence that included an alibi for Darling and accusations against one of May's ex-wives as well as a known drug associate who had not been seen since May's murder. On July 23, 2004, a Morgan County jury found Donald Wayne Darling II not guilty of the murder of Junior May. Suttle then authorized protection for the Darling family as they left the courthouse due to alleged threats from the May family. Darling himself spoke of his relief to have an unencumbered future.

What did Donald Darling do with his freedom? Less than four months later, the now 20 year-old Darling was accused of attempting to break into a condom vending machine at a Central Heights mini-mart. He pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor charge. Two years later, Darling was arrested for breaking into a convenience store to steal cigarettes; a short time later an intoxicated Darling was arrested by an observant off-duty deputy immediately after breaking into a truck in the Central community.

Do Darling's post acquittal criminal actions indicate he was in reality guilty of killing Junior May? They certainly indicate Donald Wayne Darling II placed little value on his freedom. As for who did murder Little Miss Sunbeam's killer, one of the strangest cases in Shoals crime history is still officially open.

What's up with this: Does Parker Griffith morphing from Democrat to Republican cancel out Billy Jackson changing his affiliation from Republican to Democrat?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part IV

The State's case against Donald Wayne Darling II hit roadblocks from the beginning. Darling himself claimed he had bragged of murdering Wilburn May Jr. in order to impress gang members with whom he was incarcerated in Madison. The day before Jr Witt had traveled to Madison to interview Darling, the teenager had attempted to hang himself and was under the influence of powerful anti psychotic drugs during questioning. Of the items taken from Darling's home by Witt, some proved to belong to Darling's father. Prosecutors in the case failed to allow the Darling defense to inspect the items, a fact that drew the ire of Judge Mike Suttle who had been assigned to hear the capital murder case.

As the trial began, the case against Darling began to unravel even further. The defense proved May's front door was kicked down by an individual with a larger foot than the teenager's and none of the defendant's shoes matched the sole pattern as the prosecution initially claimed. The defense also produced witnesses that several individuals, including May's ex-wife, had recently threatened the murdered drug dealer.

As the trial progressed, Chris Connolly asked for a mistrial based on the possibility of prosecution witness Torry Harrison being released early for his testimony. The witness had testified previously in several other trials in return for special considerations. Also, a main point of contention in the Darling trial was the witness being allowed to wear street clothes to the proceedings (We will inject here that even those who are incarcerated should be allowed some dignity--as long as the jury was advised that the witness was currently serving time in the Colbert County Jail, his clothing should have made little difference). Further, Junior May's heavily peroxided blond daughter Nancy Stevenson testified that she believed her father had also been beaten and that his axe had been turned over to Lauderdale deputies, but was not introduced into evidence. If May had been beaten, as his daughter claimed, this was another element that clashed with Darling's initial and supposedly drug-induced confession.

After two days of deliberation, the jury announced it was deadlocked, and Judge Mike Suttle declared a mistrial. Darling was returned to the Detention Center to await a second trial, but his defense attorneys had other plans--they immediately filed charges of prosecutorial misconduct by the Lauderdale County District Attorney's office.

What's up with this: It's been reported that murder victim Hollie Newbury's calls to the Lauderdale Sheriff's Department had gone unanswered previously. If this can be proved, the ABI, which Willis has long attempted to keep at bay, should be brought in to investigate this and all previous accusations against the department.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part III

Family members found the body of Wilburn May Jr. lying in his hospital bed on the morning of February 26, 2001; a single gunshot wound to the chest was circled in dried blood. May, 45 years old and a known drug dealer, had many enemies--some of them due to his role in the death of the former Little Miss Sunbeam Marie Burns, but after a four month investigation, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department had found every lead to be a dead end. By the end of June 2001, the reward in the case totalled $16,000.00; but the first real break came from a Madison County law enforcement officer.

Donald Wayne Darling II (pictured) was seventeen years old and lived less than a mile from Wilburn May Jr. on County Road 15 in the Central community. Now Darling was an inmate at Three Springs School, a Madison alternative correctional facility for juveniles where he had been held since May 1. According to authorities, Darling told a roommate he had killed May. When Lauderdale Investigator Jr. Witt visited with Darling at the school in mid-July, the teenager denied the charges, but admitted he had bought drugs from May twice in the past. Witt was convinced that Donald Wayne Darling had killed Junior May and secured a search warrant for his Central Heights home. Investigators were secretive concerning their finds, but immediately requested a warrant for Darling's arrest.

Taking Darling into custody the next day, Lauderdale County assigned Doug Evans to prosecute the teenager. The Assistant District Attorney immediately requested an upgrade in Darling's charges--now Donald Wayne Darling was accused of capital murder in the killing of Wilburn May Jr. Evans based the new charges on accusations that Darling had also stolen drugs at the time of the killing, a killing the prosecution believed to be the result of a gang initiation. Darling defense attorneys offered a different scenario, but District Judge Deborah Bell Paseur now ordered Donald Wayne Darling held without bail.

Darling spent almost two years in the Lauderdale County Detention Center awaiting trial, while defense attorneys Jenny Behel and Chris Connolly filed various motions and maintained that Jr. Witt had illegally questioned Darling, setting the stage for what was to become a lengthy battle of words--not the least of which were prosecutorial misconduct. In the mean time, was the real killer still out there?

What's up with this: The Decatur Daily has reported that Florence teacher Jason Lyn Gasque has pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual harassment of a student. The TimesDaily? Well, they have so many more important issues to cover...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part II

Those who knew Wilburn May Jr. universally called him "Junior." They also called him other names that colorfully described his usual state of inebriation. It wasn't unusual to hear customers of the Central Heights Pharmacy tell each other to watch out on the way home--Junior May was on the road.

In the early 1980s, May was involved in a drunken crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Apparently no charges were filed in that crash, and Junior May continued to drive a modified vehicle--still drinking and now under the influence of narcotic pain killers.

It came as no surprise when a a few years later a drunken May hit another car head on; it was a shock to the community that the dead passenger in the car was Marie Burns, a former Little Miss Sunbeam and family woman. It was also a shock when May was again allowed to plead to a lesser charge than manslaughter and was given only a slap on the wrist in Marie Burns' death.

Divorced, May still had family who attempted to help him recover from his addictions, but to no avail. Now, May was not only an addict himself, but had also taken on the mantle of local drug dealer. In 1998, his drug dealings caught up with him when a family member of one of his customers reported him. Junior May yet again cheated justice--this time due to his condition. Apparently the state had no wish to house a paraplegic whose body was ravaged by a lifetime of alcohol and other drug abuse. Wilburn May Jr. was given probation and allowed to return to the Central community where he again set up shop selling drugs and some said fencing stolen merchandise.

For the next three years, May operated out of a hospital bed set up in the living room of his small house on County Road 15. This is where family members found his body on February 26, 2001.

What's up with this: Convicted murderer David Riley has just been ordered a new trial due to judicial error. Our sympathies to the Scott Kirtley family.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Who Murdered Little Miss Sunbeam's Killer? - Part I

Several months ago we published a column mentioning Donald Wayne Darling II, a Lauderdale County man accused of the murder of a local drug dealer. Since then, we've had several requests for the "whole story" on the murder of Wilburn May Jr. While all the details of these events may never be known, what these interwoven tales say of justice in North Alabama is fascinating.

It was 1942 when Quality Bakers of America, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, introduced a brand of white bread that it dubbed Sunbeam. In an era before rapid transit, an era that was also shrouded in war time restrictions, Quality Bakers decided to franchise its product. In Alabama, the Flowers Bakery Company produced Sunbeam Bread, a product whose recipe quickly made it a favorite of the American consumer.

Just as in today's tight economy, marketing could make or break a product in the 1940s, and Quality Bakers hired illustrator Ellen Segner to create a brand icon that would distinguish it from other products, most importantly Sunbeam Appliances. Segner, who died in 2001, was noted at the time for her semi-erotic pin ups, but is remembered today for her creations of Dick and Jane, as well as Little Miss Sunbeam.

While sitting in a New York park, Segner saw a young blond girl playing. She immediately took out her sketch pad and created what was to become one of the most recognizable faces of the late 20th century; however, before Segner could approach the child to offer her a formal sitting, the little girl had disappeared. Segner then used other models to finish various portraits that came to represent Sunbeam Bread in advertising across most of the United States.

After the war, Sunbeam Bread continued to grow in popularity, and one franchiser hit upon the idea of selecting a real-life Little Miss Sunbeam to represent their area. The first Miss Sunbeam, Patty Michaels, was chosen in the New York area in 1955, but finding public appearances too tiring, left the Sunbeam company after only two years. Michaels went on to appear in The Sound of Music and enjoy a moderately successful recording career.

With the success of this live mascot in one geographic area, other franchisers followed suit. Flowers Bakery held its contest for a Miss Sunbeam in the late 1950s, and thus Marie Burns of the Central community in western Lauderdale County became the Southeast's Little Miss Sunbeam, enjoying the title's fame well into her adulthood when, in the mid-1980s, she was killed by impaired driver Wilburn May Jr.

Tomorrow: Wilburn May Jr.

Today's illustration: While it depicts the topic of today's column, let us remember the caption as well.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Was Sheffield Ever Really Like This?

We recently wrote a blog concerning the efforts of Steve Wiggins and others to restore Sheffield to its former glory. After our column Who Thinks Sheffield Can? was published, a reader sent us this poem by Tucky Ginn. It seems a fitting Christmas present to all those in Sheffield who love the city and are determined to make their hometown again something to be proud of.

My hometown is the greatest on earth

I’m so glad it’s where my mother gave birth.

I’ve lived there nearly all my life

It’s the place where I met my wife.

I was raised with downtown just a few blocks away

I guess you could call it a small town USA.

We didn’t have television sets back then

We would just play all the time with a friend.

Rode our bicycles everywhere we went

Take big cardboard boxes and make us a tent.

Brocato’s Market was just around the block

After church on Sunday, it’s where everybody would stop.

Getting those good rolls by the dozen or two

All we wanted was some bubble gum to chew.

Skating on the sidewalk, skinning up our knee

Always had a hard time keeping up with the key.

The kids on Saturday went to the picture show all day

And to get in with a dime was all you had to pay.

We would go real early—it started at 10

A lot of Cowboys and Indians and you know who would win.

Two movies, a serial and, of course, a cartoon

We wouldn’t see daylight till 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

One time when I was just a small lad

I got woke up in the night by my dad.

He put us in the car and drove towards town

We watched the old hotel burn to the ground.

They built it right back without any haste

Only ‘way across the street in a different place.

Clement’s Barber Shop was on the first floor

Go in through the lobby or an outside door.

You would have to sit and wait for awhile

They mostly cut flat tops because that was the style.

The Community Center was behind the hotel

Over time, it’s a place we got to know well.

The center was used for more than one thing

You might have played basketball or heard Elvis sing.

The Tennessee River was right at our feet

Just go down Alabama Avenue to the end of the street.

There was the Naval Reserve and Ice Plant Road

A big crane unloading gravel by the barge load.

Going to the Ice Plant was always fun

Dropping blocks in the crusher, and we watched it run.

Then they bag it up all nice and clean

Take some with us for homemade ice cream.

Whippoorwill Hollow was our old swimming hole

To jump off those highest bluffs you had to be bold.

About 65 feet high was the tallest one

Down to about 20 where we laid in the sun.

Jump in the water and climb back up with care

Most of the time we swam in our underwear.

It’s because we had to sneak off to go

If we asked our mother she would just say no.

Downtown’s not what it used to be

But I can close my eyes and look back and see.

Saturdays were the busiest day by far

People could not find a place to park their car.

They would be taking care of business like paying bills

And going in the dime stores looking for deals.

They might have had shoes that needed repair

Around to Green’s Shoe Shop; it was always there.

If it was clothes they were looking for

They could go to Abroms or the Belk Hudson Store.

If a better line of clothes was what the seek

Then, they could go to Olim’s or to Otto Speake.

Into Best Jewelers for a really nice gift

Around to Pride’s Cleaners to get your shirts done stiff.

Timberlake Hardware was a favorite of mine

He had about anything you were looking to find.

If a good hamburger was to your taste

Then the Big-E-Nuff was just the place.

Sit at the counter or get them by the sack

We would shoot pool and play dominoes in the back.

If you had a roll of film that was ready to drop

Just take it on in to Crump’s Camera Shop.

I guess the old pharmacy without a doubt

Had to be our very first hangout.

Soda fountain inside; get a cherry coke

Go outside on the corner and hear a dirty joke.

Shug Sieman was a woman that everybody knew

Going through garbage cans is what she would do.

Pushed an old cart around in sunshine or rain

Whenever we saw her we would holler out her name.

Frederickson’s Tire and Appliances opened in 1946

You could buy nice new things or get your old stuff fixed.

Lucky’s Minnow Farm was a little kid’s delight

Ponds full of minnows and goldfish and a lot of frogs at night.

If getting groceries is where you need to be

Head out to Liberty Supermarket or down to the A&P.

The Grant Hotel was down by the railroad track

They say you could drive around and park in the back

Wait at the door for the bellhop to appear

Get you whisky or a woman—at least, that’s what I’d hear.

We bought bicycle parts at the Western Auto Store

You could also get appliances or a Wizard lawnmower.

Sometimes on Sunday, we would go out to eat

Down to Spalding Walgreen’s and look for a seat.

They had that good home cooking from the South

And Exa’s homemade rolls would melt in your mouth.

Another little place was Brewer’s Café

A black man went inside and ate one day.

Some unknown person went and got a gun

Blew the front window out just for fun.

Went to a lot of dances at the V.F.W. Hall

A bonfire in the parking lot for homecoming in the Fall.

There would be pep rallies in the middle of town

Doing that snake dance all up and down.

Going to Odell”s for a hamburger and coke.

Trade in your bottle for a cigarette to smoke.

We had the bowling alley and the WoodyMac Corral

And the telephones back then had a rotary dial.

Jackson Highway was the home of Muscle Shoals Sound

Music from there is heard the world around.

A lot of famous people would come and go

And nobody in town would ever know.

Like Bob Dylan and Sonny and Cher

And even the Rolling Stones recorded there.

I think a small town is the best place to be

At least, that’s the way it worked out for me.

I’m sure you think your hometown is the best

But, I’ll take Sheffield, Alabama, over all the rest.

Tucky Ginn

September 2000


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Still Working to Save Cypress Creek

Pictured above: Florence Golf & Country Club circa 1940

Rest assured that many of us are still working to save Cypress Creek, as well as the Florence Golf and County Club, established in 1927. While it's unfathomable to us that something of such beauty as the country club and its 18-hole golf course could be replaced by a landfill, it's even more frightening that Cypress Creek in Lauderdale County could be completely devastated by this project.

Unfortunately, Cypress Creek today is not the pristine body of water that has flowed through the western end of the county for decades. The Save Cypress Creek organization's website features photographs of damage that had already been wrought by man's carelessness: link.

The next meeting of the Florence City Council will be Tuesday, December 30th, at 5:00 p.m. in the Municipal Building. We encourage all who can to be present to continue to protest the city's purchase of the 157 acres that comprise the country club and its plans to destroy this property, damaging Cypress Creek in the process.

Quote of the day: First Southern President Jack Johnson, who has been in the banking business for many years, said this is the first robbery he has been involved in. (TimesDaily, 12/17)


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Questions Concerning Seth Alexander's Arrest

Until late November, Seth Alexander seemed to have a bright future. The former Buckhorn High School football star graduated last June and immediately began his career at the University of North Alabama where he played this fall as a defensive lineman.

On the morning of November 20th, Alexander and a companion were at a lounge on East Tennessee Street when a fight broke out around 2:00 a.m. According to Alexander, 18, he and his companion, also 18, used their guns to break up a crowd of unruly spectators by firing into the air. One would think that Alexander, who weighs 290 pounds, might be able to break up most crowds without the use of a firearm. One might further posit that Alexander's energies could have been better focused on breaking up the fight itself.

Still, the salient points of the arrest are why it came after the University of North Alabama had played its last football game and why Alexander's companion is not being named. According to university officials, both students have been expelled from the university pending a hearing. If the two young men should be reinstated, perhaps they could join the UNA skeet team to which they seem better suited.

What's up with this: Look for a new "going rogue" book coming soon from Florence City Councilman Barry Morris.


Tuscumbia's Nine Trees of Christmas

Again this year, the Tennessee Valley Art Museum is presenting the Nine Trees of Christmas. Located at 511 North Water Street, the museum is directly behind the Helen Keller Public Library.

Each of the nine trees depicts a different aspect of life in the Shoals, making the exhibit a new tradition for many area families. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children. The museum is open 9:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m., and the exhibit, which begins today, will continue through December 22.


Tina Parker, candidate for Colbert County District Judge, has asked us to remind our readers of her December 22nd fundraiser. Byron Marc Newsome if the featured guest; sports enthusiasts will recognize Byron as the nephew of former Alabama football star Ozzie Newsome. Those desiring to attend should call Miss Parker at 710-4724 by Friday in order to ensure a reservation.

Words of wisdom: If you're wealthy enough to run for state office, guys, you should have sufficient coin of the realm to have your hair dyed professionally. We have enough clowns in Montgomery already.


Monday, December 14, 2009

How is the Shoals Area Really Perceived?

If you're reading our blog, you've probably read many of our opinions concerning the Shoals area. You've also probably read Osborne Ink and the Robnett Review, but how do we really look to the outside world?

Last year, Braly Stadium received some bad press concerning its seating, fencing, and various other lacks, at least according to one wag. This year, Florence and the Shoals has been reviewed by The World: According to Pete, and we think you'll like it: link.

That's Pete's view from the outside, but how about some new views from the inside? Pictured above is Cynthia News, a relative newcomer to the Shoals political scene.
Cynthia tweets at YildirimNews; there you can read Cynthia's views on world as well as local news. Enjoy!

Request for readers: Did someone who influenced your life pass away this year? If so, please take a few moments to write a short tribute to them. Send to; we'll be publishing them in two weeks.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do We Need Two Deweys?

Dewey Mitchell is the current Probate Judge of Lauderdale County; he is also the Chairman of the Lauderdale County Commission. In Colbert County, as well as many other Alabama counties, commissioners rotate the position of chairman. If this were to be done (and it's doubtful it would be since this is the most economic way to handle the matter), the chairman would be given an extra vote in case of a tie among the four commission members.

Commissioner D. C. Thornton is lobbying for the creation of a separate commission chairman. This part-time position would offer an entry level salary of $40,000.00--not bad considering the median household income in Lauderdale County is just over $33,000.00.

Duties of this part-time commission chairman would include:

1. Promoting economic development - While we do need all the help we can get in this area, much of this would seem to be a duplication of other similar positions.

2. Establishing and enhancing intergovernmental partnerships - Wasn't this position first introduced in Orwell's 1984?

3. Serving as representative on boards, committees, and other organizations - This might be useful; the county would never again face a standoff in whom to appoint.

4. Other duties as assigned by the commission - For 40K a year, we would hope so.

Oh, well, as Eddie Frost often said, it's only money.

While on the subject: Wouldn't it be nice if the next Lauderdale County Probate Judge actually had a law degree?


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Death for Miranda?

The State of Tennessee has not officially decided to request the death penalty for Valentino Miranda, according to Knox County assistant prosecutor Kevin Allen. Now, because of a delay sought by defense attorney Joseph A. Fanduzz, Allen will have until February 19, 2010, to file the paperwork that could mark the beginning of the end of the illegal alien's life.

Should Allen's office choose to request the maximum penalty in the 2008 murder of Jennifer Hampton, Joe Fanduzz, a Democrat who has boasted of contacts with Barack Obama, will oddly enough be relieved of his duties as court appointed defense attorney. Fanduzz apparently has not been a member of the Tennessee Bar Association a sufficient length of time to serve as lead defense attorney in a capital case. Sources say Fanduzz's stepfather, John Eldridge, has also asked to be excused from defending the illegal immigrant.

In the mean time, Joe Fanduzz has secured a delay in the trial. Miranda's day in court has been postponed until September 2010 due to motions by the two defense attorneys claiming the former Days Inn maintenance man will need at least three translators to properly handle his case.

In the interim, Valentino Miranda is enjoying whatever amenities the Knox County Jail has to offer. In other words, the citizens of Tennessee are paying to provide this violent sexual deviant with accommodations far surpassing what Miranda endured in his native Mexico. We do hope Bubba and Mad Dog have provided him with a warm welcome.

Photo of Miranda and Fanduzz by J. Miles Cary

Please write: Judge Bob R. McGee, 7721 Sabre Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee 37919. Judge McGee will have the final say in the sentencing of Valentino Miranda, assuming the illegal immigrant is found guilty. Let Judge McGee know how you feel concerning this depraved criminal who brutally took Jennifer Hampton's life.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Brad Holmes Officially Launches Campaign

Republican Brad Holmes has officially launched his campaign for the State House of Representatives District 1. You can learn more about Brad at his website, or better yet, meet him tonight at the Florence Christmas parade. Brad is a novelty in the political world--someone who genuinely cares and means what he says. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we invite you to get to know Brad Holmes and his wife Sara. We think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Florence's Christmas parade begins tonight at 7:00 p.m., weather permitting. Besides several local candidates, you can expect a multitude of floats, the Pride of Dixie marching band, and the guest of honor, St Nicholas himself. See you there.

Congratulations: To Morris Lentz on being re-elected President of the Lauderdale County Association of Volunteer Firefighters. We'll have more on this later.