Saturday, August 22, 2009

The OWL - Part I

It's fitting while remembering Florence artist Bryon Wilkes that we also remember an element of his most famous creation. Beginning in 1957, WOWL radio station brought television broadcasting to the Shoals area. With the call letters of WOWL, an owl was certainly an obvious and appropriate mascot.

Richard (Dick) Biddle owned the small broadcasting company and was known for his sense of civic responsibility. In an era before seat belts and airbags, traffic fatalities were a huge problem. In order to remind Shoals citizens to drive safely, Biddle created what became a local icon for decades.

WOWL Broadcasting placed a metal Owl at each end of O'Neal Bridge. If there had been no traffic fatalities within the past 24 hours, one eye of the Owl glowed green; a red eye indicated that someone had lost his or her life during the past day. After remodeling to the bridge in the 1980s, the twin Owls were removed, with one being installed on South Court Street adjacent to what was then the Holiday Inn.

Dick Biddle died in 1995, his television station sold, and his broadcasting company moved to Mississippi. There are conflicting accounts as to the disposition of the famous Owl(s). If any of our readers have information, please forward it to us.

Tomorrow: Richard Biddle, a concerned American

What's up with this: Be sure to check out a new local blog: DOGed PURRsuit. A nation is judged by its treatment of animals and the infirm elderly. We would shudder to think how Alabama rates in either category.