Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Limestone Haunting

The following Halloween tale is suitable for kids eight to 108. So, gather round, kiddies; the season is upon us. Let's not wait, let's get started...

Beans looked around the old vacant house and shuddered as the cool breeze flowing down the long hall touched his collar. The hall was wide and ended with a panelled, bolted door at the back of the house. He smiled too. When his family's home burned he wasn't sure where his mother and two brothers would go; now they had this fancy house. It wasn't just any fancy house either. It was old Judge Horton's caretaker's home and was draped in what a more sophisticated person would have called genteel shabbiness. He'd lost track of what young Mr. Horton was telling his mother.

"Here's all the keys...hmmm...I'll take this one. It's to the door in the back and you won't be needing that one. You and your family have complete access to all the rooms but that one." Young Mr. Horton, who didn't look so young to Beans, pointed toward the wide white door that had already captured the young boy's attention. At ten, Beans was four years younger than Straud and two years older than Pete. Beans always felt the necessity of telling folks his brother Homer, who would have been two years older, had died as a baby, but his mother had made him stop. It was too morbid, she said. Beans wasn't sure what morbid meant, but he always wondered if Homer was lurking somewhere above feeling very slighted by the omission.

Summer was rapidly fading, a fact that Beans didn't really mind, but the days grew shorter, and that meant an earlier supper and earlier bedtime. He liked the days when Mr. Horton came by to collect the rent or to inspect the locked room. These visits always disrupted his mother's meal preparations, thus prolonging the time he had to read by the fire. Sometimes all he had were almanacs or an old set of Palmer Cox's Brownie books, but he read them over and over until his mother called for him to lay the table.

One afternoon in early October, young Mr. Horton arrived with several parcels. Beans watched him slowly unlock the thick pine door and enter. Light from the front hall prevented him from seeing into the dark expanse, but it didn't seem to deter Mr. Horton. Only a few seconds passed before young Mr. Horton exited the forbidden room, now carrying only a small cardboard box covered with water stains. Beans and Pete thought they were well hidden behind the stairs, but Mr. Horton's keen eye had detected them.

"Hello, young chaps. Fine day, isn't it?" The two brothers were too astonished to speak, but managed to nod in agreement with young Mr Horton. "Oh, you two do remember that the back room is off limits, don't you?" Beans and Pete nodded again, this time swallowing as they did so. Mr. Horton donned his Homburg, tipped it once, and let himself out. The boys fell to the floor in unison.

"You know what that means, don't ya, Beans?"

Beans knew it wasn't good, but he wasn't as given to flights of fancy as his younger brother. "I'd say that means he doesn't want us in there."

Pete nodded his head vigorously, causing a small cowlick to jiggle atop his brown hair. "And he doesn't want us in there because there's a ghost. That's who he takes all those gifts to. He knows if we go in there without something to offer the ghost, that ol' haint will eat us."

Beans doubted the possibility of a ghost, but... just what was in the room young Mr. Horton had forbade the boys from entering? He couldn't ask his mother, but maybe Straud would know. His older brother was 14 and already a full time worker at the mill. Surely, Straud would at least have an idea.

"A ghost? Why, yes, that's exactly what's in there," Straud spoke in his most serious voice. "So, you better be careful, Beans. You don't want to be a spirit's dinner, now do you?" Beans looked suspiciously at his older brother. Straud could pretend well when the necessity arose, but was he guying him now? Beans decided the best thing to do was keep his own council until he had the mystery worked out.

It was three more weeks before Mr. Horton returned--late in the afternoon of All Hallow's Eve. Beans knew Straud had plans to take his girl Annie to a dance at Bethel School. He and Pete would probably go as well and raise some mischief--if they could talk their mother into letting them out of her sight on what some people still called Devil's Night. What would be Mr. Horton's plans for such an occasion? Did he need something from the locked room to ensure the success of his machinations?

Beans stood lost in thought as Mr. Horton passed him on the way out, gathering his coat and hat from the hall tree and exiting with a tip of his Homburg. This time...this time, something fell from the shallow side pocket of Mr. Horton's black wool topcoat. Beans looked at the brass object as if it were an archaeological find; it was the key to the room at the end of the hall.

He didn't hesitate, at least not after he picked up the ornate brass key. His mother had already lit the lamp by the stairs, a lamp that should shed enough light to give Beans a dim peek into the mysterious room. If there were ghosts, he'd just close the door and lock it back tight. No one would ever know he had chosen to disobey Mr. Horton.

The key turned easily in the lock, but the knob creaked with what sounded like a banshee's wail to Beans. If there were any ghosts in that room, they sure knew he was coming now. The door opened inward, slowly at first, then with something akin to a supernatural push. Beans sucked in his breath, managing not to whistle. His pupils grew large, and he saw them. Standing before him were Judge and Mrs. Horton, all dressed for a party, a Halloween gala Beans imagined. Young Mr. Horton had been visiting the ghosts of his parents for all these months. The boy felt dizzy.

As the adrenalin rushed into his system, his pupils opened even wider. He saw the Hortons were looking at him through two windows. No, not windows, but...picture frames. The stately pair he saw before him weren't spirits; they were three-quarter length oil paintings in gilt frames. Around the paintings stood all manner of empire furniture laden with china, silver, and crystal. Young Mr. Horton hadn't wanted anyone in this back room not because it was haunted, but because it was a trove of family treasures.

Beans literally backed out of the massive storage chamber and relocked the heavy pine door. He never ventured near the room again and...he never again believed in ghosts.

The above story is true. Young Mr. Horton went on to become famous as the judge in the Scottsboro Boys' trial. Thanks to a local author for her contribution to our Halloween fun.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Hangman's Corner: No Longer PC

Several years ago a Huntsville businessman hanged a parking meter. Yes, he really did, and he did it as a symbol of his campaign against charging shoppers for parking in downtown Huntsville. One might have expected support for this businessman from various circles, if not the entire population of Huntsville. What did the man receive for his dramatic political statement? Everything from "tut-tuts" to threats of physical harm. It seems the noose has become the Southeast's equivalent of the Swastika.

As University of North Alabama football has come into its own, more downtown stores decorate with the purple and gold than the orange and black traditionally associated with the season. Halloween decorations are usually minimal, if they exist at all; but things were not always this way.

Many of us who grew up in the Shoals remember when the southeast corner of Court and Tuscaloosa Streets turned into "Hangman's Corner" every fall. No stuffed miscreants were ever abused, but the noose was always there, hanging down amid the colorful falling leaves and adding to the holiday spirit.

Legend decreed that there had been an actual lynching at the current site of the Wine Seller. Was there? We have no idea, and we seriously doubt that anyone who looked at the noose and smiled at the decoration placed any diabolical symbolism in it.

But, so it's gone, along with the practice of tipping outhouses from our grandparents' day and thousands of other traditions that have fallen by the wayside for whatever reason, either good, bad, of just simply not PC.

We wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween tomorrow; we have a special treat for you. Remember the Fire/Life Safety Day will be tomorrow at Lowe's in Florence. It will start at 9:00 a.m. and offer fun for the entire family.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Lt. Zachary W. Mullins a Sex Offender?

As we bring you this cautionary tale, we will immediately answer the question posed in today's topic; yes, Zachary Mullins, if guilty of the charges brought against him, is a sex offender and a fugitive from justice. Is the law under which he was indicted fair? Yes, as fair as such laws can be when arbitrary rules and regulations are enforced--that includes the 30 day ruling concerning the Alabama Putative Father Registry.

For those who may not be aware, second degree rape, termed statutory rape in some states, simply decrees that any sexual intercourse involving a person not yet old enough to give legal consent or too mentally impaired to give such consent, is second degree rape. In Alabama, the legal age of consent is 16, and the offender in the first scenario must be at least two years older than the victim. A man who has reached the age of 18 is definitely two years older than his 15 year-old victim.

Mullins is the son of Michael A. and Angela R. Mullins of Garrison Road in Hartselle. He's a graduate of Danville High School and Auburn University. Currently, he's serving as a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force at Vandenberg in California, where he lives with his wife Paulette, the daughter of Deborah Baker of Swansboro, Alabama. That is, he lived there with his wife until Alabama Attorney General Troy King had Mullins arrested earlier this week, after a Morgan County Grand Jury indicted him of multiple sex crimes. Specifically, the grand jury indicted the Air Force Officer on two counts of having sex with the 15 year-old while he was 18 years of age and one count involving a sexual encounter with the same victim after Mullins had attained the age of 19. Mullins is currently in a Santa Barbara County jail awaiting extradition.

Perhaps the most disturbing element in this indictment is the fact that Mullins was not the lone target of the grand jury. Jessica Heather DeFoor (pictured), now 34, a former second grade teacher from Decatur in Morgan County, was also indicted for related crimes. While AG King refuses to comment further on the connection between DeFoor and Mullins, DeFoor, who at the time taught at Neel Elementary School in Danville, is charged with enticing the young woman for immoral purposes. Sources who are familiar with the indictment have stated that DeFoor provided Mullins and an unnamed youth with access to a bedroom in her home and alcohol with which to seduce the young woman. If this can be proved, the charges against Mullins may be later upgraded to First Degree Rape.

Both DeFoor and Mullins were indicted in July. DeFoor was arrested in August, but authorities were not able to track Mullins down until this month. He was arrested October 20th, and King expects extradition proceedings to begin by the end of the week. Mullins faces a possible 20 year prison sentence. DeFoor faces a sentence of up to 10 years.

Thanks to the Alabama tenure system, Jessica Heather DeFoor, who has been on leave since the charges were first brought to the attention of the police in 2007, is still drawing a state salary.

What's up with this: If you find working toward what you want too hard, you might want to try selling blue plastic bracelets at Q-Gas. It sounds like a great fundraising idea for a school trip, but to support a child?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Post Office Murals - Hartselle & Haleyville

Photo by Jimmy Emerson

Cotton Scene is the title of the New Deal mural that once adorned the Hartselle Post Office. Now the 1941 artwork of Lee R. Warthen resides in the Hartselle Chamber of Commerce at 110 Railroad Street. US Senator John Sparkman was a Hartselle native and provided input for Warthen's work.

A fourth mural, technically located just outside northwest Alabama, also merits mention. In 1940, New Deal artist Hollis Holbrook painted a mural entitled Reforestation in the Haleyville Post Office. The artwork depicts an unknown CCC worker and forest ranger Thomas Wilson. The location of Holbrook's art has since been painted over, but Birmingham art restorationist John Bertalam is currently planning a complete restoration of the mural. As of yet, the Haleyville Historical Society has not been able to obtain a grant for the project, but interested individuals may make donations to the Haleyville Public Library in care of Carla Waldrep. Ms. Waldrep may be reached at 205-486-7450.

This fourth mural is also of particular interest since an identical work was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. Some sources feel the Haleyville mural was removed in some manner, despite Mr. Bertalam's assertions that the original work still lies beneath several coats of paint.

We should all be thankful that the Tuscumbia and Russellville murals remain. Let's all endeavor to ensure their survival for coming generations.

Interesting Addenda: It seems the Tuscumbia mural featuring Michael Dickson almost lost to artwork depicting the ubiquitous Helen Keller. Similarly in Russellville, the iron ore industry depicted had originally been sketched as a rock quarry. Many of these rejected sketches reside at the Smithsonian; how fantastic if local chambers of commerce could acquire copies for local display.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Post Office Murals - Russellville

Photo by Jimmy Emerson

Our column on the Tuscumbia Post Office mural garnered more mail than any since the inception of our blog. There were only four such murals created in the northwest Alabama area that loosely includes Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Winston, Lawrence, Morgan, and Limestone Counties. Of these four, three remain, and one has been painted over. Preservationists are hopeful that the latter may be restored with proper funding.

Today, we're featuring the mural displayed in the downtown Russellville Post Office located on Jackson Avenue, the small town's main street. The artwork is entitled Shipment of First Iron Ore Produced in Russellville and predates the Tuscumbia mural by one year. The artist responsible for this 1938 painting is Conrad A. Albrezzio. Unlike the Tuscumbia mural, the ownership of the Russellville art is undisputed--it is definitely the property of the United States Postal Service and is in no current danger of being moved or destroyed.

Still, the town of Russellville is in the process of using stimulus and other grant money to revitalize its downtown area. A prominent marker identifying the location of this wonderful New Deal art would be a very appropriate expenditure.

Tomorrow: Hartselle in Morgan County


Monday, October 26, 2009

Props to Florence PD Officer Luke McIntyre--A Very Lucky Man

Bryan Luke McIntyre is lucky to be alive. On Saturday afternoon, Officer McIntyre was patrolling an area immediately northwest of Hermitage Drive that includes three large apartment complexes. Over the years, these apartments have been home to ministers, teachers, nurses, students, and other upstanding productive members of society, but due to the fact these complexes also rent to those receiving vouchers from Section 8, this area has often been referred to as "Whore Hollow."

At approximately 3:15 p.m., Officer McIntyre sought to investigate an irregularly parked suspicious vehicle. When the driver attempted to escape, he caught McIntyre's gun belt in the car door, dragging him 25 yards before the officer was able to pull himself free. After being treated at a local hospital, McIntyre was released with only moderate injuries.

Luke McIntyre, pictured here with his wife Kimberly Brooke Davidson, is the grandson of Nancy McIntyre, local political pundit and frequent contributor to the TimesDaily. Luke is also well known for his kind demeanor when dealing with the public. One of our readers sent us this story:

My apartment building had been robbed three times immediately before Halloween last year. The owners told the occupants to be sure to report any crime, no matter how minor. When my Halloween doormat was stolen, an item that cost a total of $1.10, Officer McIntyre graciously took the report. He did look hard pressed not to laugh when I described the mat as bearing the inscription, "The Witch Is In."

We wish Officer Luke McIntyre a sure and speedy recovery; as for the miscreants responsible for Luke's injuries, we hope they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

What's up with this: According to reports in a local forum, relatives of Lexington murder victim Homer Wood Jr. are already planning lawsuits against Lauderdale County authorities. We doubt the grieving family has any grounds for such a suit, but it will be interesting to see if their threats come to any fruition.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Chief Tuscumbia Greets the Dickson Family"

Photos by Jimmy Emerson

No, the title of today's blog isn't the name of a new Disney comedy; it's the title of an acclaimed work of art by Jack McMillen, a mural covering the surface of one wall of the former lobby of a vacant US Post Office. Standing at the corner of Sixth and Dickson Streets in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the 1930s era post office in the small Colbert County town closed in 2004. At that time, a coalition of businessmen was rumored to be bidding on the structure with the intent of converting it to a Trail of Tears Museum; however, local businessman Harvey Robbins purchased the building the next year for $129,000.00. Now, Robbins is willing to sell the still vacant building to the city for the same amount, allowing Tuscumbia to place any extra funding toward the estimated $100,000.00 in renovations needed to bring the structure up to code.

No public mention has been made of the fate of the building's New Deal mural adorning the original lobby; however, while the artwork is widely assumed to have been produced by the Works Progress Administration, the post office mural was actually funded by the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture established in 1934. The United States Postal Service officially owns these one thousand plus murals; however, according to the TimesDaily, the Smithsonian Institution and the Alabama Historical Society now control this particular work (a fact we were unable to verity). In June of this year, Mayor Billy Shoemaker stated he hoped the mural completed in 1939 could be encapsulated in some manner while the restoration is completed.

The historic mural spans the length of one wall and depicts the arrival of Michael Dickson, Tuscumbia's first white settler. The artwork features Dickson and his family arriving by flatboat via Spring Creek where they are met by Chief Tuscumbia. Much New Deal art is no longer extant. It should be the priority of every Shoals citizen to ensure Jack McMillen's work doesn't fall to the jackhammer in the name of progress.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

From Demonic to Angelic - A Potpourri of Reports

Sadly, our demonic reports outnumber the angelic two to one...

Demonic: One of the paradoxes of psychology is the need for healthy individuals to have pride in their own heritage and ethnicity while accepting and admiring the same thing in those who are of different backgrounds. Obviously, not everyone is healthy; in fact, it seems that even in 2009 we have many sick individuals out there.

Our blog on George Wallace III yielded an extremely interesting missive from a Rogersville reader concerning the exact nature of the Council of Conservative Citizens. After reading briefly from the CoCC's website, we're more convinced than ever that GW3 either has serious mental issues to be involved with such a group or is as much a political opportunist as his late father. In either event, Wallace is not anyone the State of Alabama needs to serve in any elected capacity.

Demonic: Remember Lexington's Shaun Shapley who murdered his stepdaughter Jennifer Bragg during a rape attempt? Shapley was offered a plea deal and received a 25-year sentence. A friend of Jennifer has contacted us, stating she is one of many who still question just how Shapley, a habitual offender who raped both his stepdaughters, received such leniency. In all probability, Jennifer's mother's support of her husband played a large role in the plea.

Shapley is now housed at the Bullock Correctional Facility just southeast of Montgomery, a medium security installation. While Shapley's release date is not until 2033, he will soon be eligible for work release. We encourage everyone who cared for Jennifer, who is appalled by this total miscarriage of justice, to write in protest of any parole or transfer to work release.

Re: AIS# 263566
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
Post Office Box 302405
Montgomery, Alabama 36130

Angelic: Not all news from our war-weary military is made up of gloom and doom. We invite you to perus
e The Geddon Report, dispatches from half way around the world written by the boy next door. We promise you'll soon be a Geddonite. Enjoy!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Tales of Tourism Tangles

Sam Pendleton, a member of the Florence City Council since 1992, has never been shy about speaking his mind. Now he is speaking out on the standoff between Lauderdale County and the City of Florence over their joint appointee to the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board.

Our October 8th blog spotlighted the disagreement between the county and city governing bodies. At that time we asserted our view that the two sides could work out any differences of opinion; however, 15 days have passed, and there have been no changes in the stance of either side. Now, Mr. Pendleton has suggested that, unless the county becomes more accommodating, Florence break away from the 15 year-old tourism board and form its own organization with which to attract visitors to the city.

A second point of contention is the exact expiration date of Bill Hunt's board membership. Members of both the county commission and city council have presented the position as essentially vacant, stating that Hunt's term expired in September. In actuality, Hunt assumed his membership on the board as a replacement for a member who resigned due to ill health.

According to a copy of a memo Mr. Pendleton forwarded to us, Hunt's term on the board is legally four years from his installation, making his last day December 11, 2009. We believe Mr. Pendleton's take on the matter to be correct. This allows seven more weeks for the Lauderdale Commission and Florence Council to come to an agreement over the joint board member.

We're not sure what reservations any Lauderdale County Commissioners have concerning the city's nomination of Jan Ingle, but, barring any new revelations concerning the Florence businesswoman, we suggest Ms. Ingle will be an asset to the board.

It's Here! - Tonight marks the first of seven days for the 2009 Ghost Walk. Meet Florence author and historian Debra Glass at the Handy statue in Wilson Park at 7:30 p.m. for her exciting and informative tour. Admission is only $10.00. See you there!


George Wallace III, the Good & the Bad - Part II

After losing his bid for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor, George Wallace III, aka Jr, reportedly told friends he considered his political career at an end. Now the oft-married son of two former Alabama governors has announced his candidacy for State Treasurer, a position he twice held before.

Wallace has stated he wishes to resume his role as State Treasurer in order to restructure PACT, the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition fund, a program he initiated while in office. Many who have been adversely affected by the program's shortfall have stated they were unaware the government program wasn't insured; economists have stated the program was doomed to fail and criticized Wallace for promoting PACT over the nationally recognized and insured 529 plan that is standard in most states. Wallace's opponent Charley Grimsley has been quoted as asking, "Why on earth would you elect the person who caused the problem to try to fix it?" Interesting question, Mr. Grimsley.

Others close to Wallace have indicated he's using the campaign as therapy after the May suicide of his son George IV. Wallace himself has admitted he was not active in his son's life. If this admission doesn't give the voter pause, we will also note that since 1998 Wallace has been closely associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens. The CoCC is an admitted fringe group and deemed by many to be an outright white supremacist organization.

White supremacist? Surely in 2009, the State of Alabama deserves better.

Tomorrow: Sam Pendleton's take on the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

George Wallace III, the Good & the Bad - Part I

We make no secret that our political leanings are conservative; however, that does not mean we are wingnuts or support every candidate who claims the mantle of the Republican Party. One extremely controversial Republican is George Corley Wallace III, a man who styles himself politically as George Wallace Jr.

The Good: Wallace will be speaking to the Shoals Republican Club one week from today. Below is the blurb for the event:

George Wallace Jr. will be the guest speaker at the next Shoals Republican Club meeting on Wednesday, October 28th, 12:00 noon, at Ryan’s Family Steakhouse Restaurant on Cox Creek Parkway in Florence.

George C. Wallace Jr. was born in Eufaula, Alabama, in October 1951 and grew up in a well-known Alabama political family. He is the only son of Governor George Wallace and Governor Lurleen Burns Wallace. Wallace was elected Alabama State Treasurer in 1986 and 1990. After serving two successful terms as Treasurer, he was elected as Alabama Public Service Commissioner, Place 2, in 1998 and 2002.

As State Treasurer, Wallace established a program of cash management refinement procedures resulting in an increase of about $5 million of new revenue per year for Alabama's General Fund and proposed additional refinements in the Treasury's investment policy that continue to generate several million additional dollars for the General Fund. He developed the Linked Deposit Program, a low-interest loan program to assist farmers and small business owners. He initiated and implemented the Wallace Housing Plan, which helped young families buy their first home.

Moreover, Wallace developed the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program (PACT), a plan which allows parents, grandparents or other sponsors to make a one-time lump sum payment or periodic payments to guarantee the payment of a child's tuition and mandatory fees at today's fixed prices. Wallace obtained a bachelor's degree in History from Huntingdon College in 1976. He continued his education with graduate work in Political Science and Public Administration at Auburn University at Montgomery. He served both as Director of Financial Aid and Alumni Affairs, as well as Vice-President of Development and Alumni Affairs at Troy State University at Montgomery.

Wallace is the author of The Wallaces of Alabama. He has also received many awards, including the John H. Buchanan Distinguished Service Award for Contributions to Higher Education and the NAACP Freedom Award. The Shoals Republican Club meets the 3rd Wednesday of each month. All meetings of the Shoals Republican Club are open to the public. For more information, contact Buel Springer, 256-766-3461, or

Tomorrow: George Wallace III - The Bad


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Our First Anniversary!

That's right--our very first column was October 20, 2008. Since our modest debut blog discussing a proposed dog ordinance in Tuscumbia, we've amassed a reading audience responsible for 2.5K unique hits and 4K page views a month. That's not the Huffington Post, but we're still growing.

During the past year, we've averaged fifth place in Alabama BlogNetNews and won the Blogophilia award for Best New Political Blog in Alabama. We hope all our faithful readers will help us continue to improve this next year by sending us ideas as well as columns on local politics, crime, and current events.

Thanks to everyone for your support,

ET, Gayle, Nan, Zara, Amaryllis, DK, & Our Guest Columnists

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leo's a Metrosexual? Say It Isn't So...

PETA, the animal rights organization, has certainly made clear its opposition to all live mascots, including Leo III and Una at the University of North Alabama. Such rhetoric is to be expected when discussing live animals, but how about those other mascots--the humans dressed in colorful costumes depicting these animals?

If you've attended any UNA functions since the start of the fall semester, you've seen the newest addition to the university family, a shorn Leo and his hip mate Una. According to university officials, the new designs are more kid friendly; apparently Leo's mane has been off putting to many local children. Now, thanks to alumnus artist Walt Vandiver (pictured), UNA has a kinder and gentler mascot.

Yet, is a school mascot really supposed to be kind and gentle? We've always wondered how the Sidney Lanier High School Poets of Montgomery manage to keep a straight face as they're introduced on the football field. According to columnist Tom Magazzu, Leo's new incarnation bears a striking resemblance to Rihanna. Yep, he's definitely a metrosexual now.

What's up with this: The next time you drive by IBR Plasma Center on Florence Boulevard, take a look at the overflowing parking lot. Are we in the Shoals so underpaid, or even worse, that we have to sell our blood to make ends meet?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fourth Time the Charm for Mobile Plaza Fountain?

The fountain at the corner of Seminary Street and Mobile Plaza is not what most citizens of Florence would call attractive. Constructed in 1972, the three tiered structure falls under the category of "what were they thinking?" Thinking? Perhaps we give the city fathers entirely too much credit.

By 2002, all three levels of the fountain had been filled in with dirt and the edifice converted to a flower bed. Hester Cope of the Florence Mainstreet Project headed an effort to restore the fountain, an effort made easier by the fact that the fountain's plumbing miraculously still worked. The Mainstreet Project paid off-duty Florence Water Department employees to do any required maintenance and local artists to paint the inside of the fountain with images of water lilies and frogs. Voila--a Florence landmark was saved--or was it?

In 2006, inspections of the cobble stoned plaza found the unique pavement to be crumbling. The repaving project was considered a priority, and a new fountain was among the budget items included in the Mobile Plaza renovation project even though it had been renovated only four years previously.

By 2007, the City of Florence still had not begun renovations to the fountain or the one-block plaza, but had hired the third architect to oversee the job. After paying two Florence architectural firms a retainer, the city finally decided to offer the job to the Birmingham firm of J. K. Terry and Associates. While, Lynn, & Collins and Robert Whitten had already been paid $18,970.00 when Terry was contracted at a cost to the city of $47,500.00, a fee that did not include any physical renovations to the fountain or the plaza. Mayor Bobby Irons called the hiring of the previous Florence architects a matter of miscommunication among city officials. As of today, no actual work has been done on either the surface of Mobile Plaza or the fountain.

Now, according to Florence Councilman Dick Jordan, the city is ready to hire a fourth architect to design an entirely new fountain at the busy city corner. Florence will be paying Andy Brown $17,500.00 for his fountain design, a design that will be highly influenced by the architecture of Wilson Dam.

If the current fountain has any fans, we're not aware of it. The new fountain sounds like a dramatic and much needed asset to the downtown area. We're not sure what the first three architects hired by the city think of the latest version of the project. Perhaps as long as they were paid with taxpayers' money, they smiled all the way to the bank.

Photo by Jim Hannon

What's up with this: Councilman Barry Morris is opposing the $225,000.00 resurfacing project of Mobile Plaza. We're not sure if he is genuinely concerned about the cost or simply wants to keep his opposition record at 100%.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where Did Shoals Stimulus Funds Go?

Despite several state and local governments refusing Federal stimulus money, much of it made its way to the Shoals. Right? While not all stimulus money has actually been handed out, why don't we see where disbursed funding has gone to date? All figures are taken from - Track the Money.

Two recipients: G & M Associates & Jake Enterprises
Amount: $169,657.00
Jobs saved or created: 1

Muscle Shoals:
Same data as Florence

Same data as Florence

Same data as Florence

Same data as Florence

We could go on and list some smaller Shoals towns, but we think you get the idea. This government site dedicated to transparency seems to have some flaws in its accounting system. Then again, who knows what may be the Federal government's definition of transparency?

What's up with this: Has anyone been able to find any information on who comprises the Sweetwater Renovation Board? Interesting Letter to the Editor by Frank Chaney certainly sums up the feelings of most locals on the subject.


Friday, October 16, 2009

"The Civil War in the Shoals Area"

The Tennessee Valley Historical Society
is hosting a special program entitled The Civil War in the Shoals Area presented by Dr. David Gregg, at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library in the Conference Room on Sunday, October 25, 2009, at 2:30 p.m. The Civil War in the Shoals Area is a PowerPoint presentation compiled from old local newspapers and highlights the Civil War in Florence and the Shoals area. Dr. Gregg has presented this program to various organizations, schools, and other historical societies.

Dr. Gregg is the Pastor at the Florence Boulevard Baptist Church and has spent most of his life researching Baptist, family, and the Civil War history. He has been awarded by the History and Archives Committee of the American Baptist Association, for his research in Baptist History. Dr. Gregg has written four books and also serves as an instructor in History for the Oxford Baptist Institute.Tennessee Valley Historical Society meetings are open to the public, free of charge. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tennessee Valley Historical Society President William Smith, at 256-767-4529.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fabulous Finds Has a New Home

The semi-annual Fabulous Finds sale begins tomorrow in its new home. Now located at 623 South Seminary Street in downtown Florence, the sale begins its fall run tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

The new location will offer more space to present Fabulous Finds' gently used treasures, as well as more room for shoppers to browse. Most items sell early, but if you're willing to gamble, the sale will offer even larger discounts in days to come. Click on the above link for a complete schedule.


Don't worry about the former Wilson Food Center building at Seven Points being deserted; it seems the North Florence landmark will now be home to two new businesses. Shoe Island and Beauty Supply will be open for business sometime in November.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Billy Jackson Has Grown Donkey Ears

Perhaps we should call him seems the former Republican District Attorney is now sporting long ears and referring to himself as a Democrat. To what end?

From 2002 until 2004, Billy Jackson served as Lauderdale County District Attorney, but lost his appointed position to Democrat Chris Connolly in the next general election. Later, Gov. Bob Riley asked Jackson to consider running as a Republican for State Senate District 1; however, Jackson demurred due to the demands of his private law practice.

Now, Billy Jackson has announced that he, like Willson Jenkins, will seek the position of Family Court judge. Perhaps those who have informed us Jimmy Sandlin will renege on his promise not to seek re-election were mistaken, and Jackson calculates his best chance will be as a Democrat? Perhaps there are other reasons?

If Jimmy Sandlin does run for a second term, the anti-Sandlin vote could be evenly split between Jackson and Jenkins--not a happy prognostication. In any event, Jackson's entry into the fray almost assures a runoff in the Democratic primary. Any Republicans left out there?

Photo by Matt McKean

Will Rogers: "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Psychic? Try Madam Zara...

With Halloween just around the corner and talk of the Sweetwater fortune teller making the rounds, we received several inquiries about Madam Zara, the psychic secretary. Today, we bring you an exclusive interview with her.

SS: Hi, Zara. Is Zara Goldstein your real name?

ZG: Well, it's a real name; it was my grandmother's name. I choose to use it when I get in character as a means to honor her.

SS: I know you must hear this often, but I detect an accent. You're not a Shoals native?

ZG: No, I'm like that other picante sauce--I'm from New York City, but my family has lived in Huntsville and Florence for the past 30 years.

SS: Now, the hard stuff; how did you gain a claim for being psychic?

ZG: Actually two ways. When I attended Columbia University, I worked in the library as a secretary (that's where I took the name for my blog). It was my job to pull the vendors' files on the days they came to see the director. If I noticed one hadn't been around in a while, I'd pull his file as well. For whatever reason, they usually showed up that day, so the girls I worked with started to call me psychic and ask me about their love life. Then when I became a mother, my children definitely thought I was psychic, so I always played that up for them. Kept them out of a lot of trouble.

SS: So, you don't really claim any supernatural powers?

ZG: No, just common sense. That's what I try to use when I get questions from readers.

SS: Do you get a lot of questions? From what areas?

ZG: Not a great many. When ET started this blogging group, he asked me to do an entertainment blog, thinking we would get quite a few responses, but so far we haven't. Then again, we really haven't advertised Madam Zara very well. Several of the questions I've gotten have obviously been jokes, but a few have tugged at the heartstrings. I always try to answer in a positive way, using a common sense approach, and I always ask those who have real problems to keep in touch with me.

SS: You don't take money for your services, right?

ZG: That's absolutely right. I stress it's just entertainment. If you're approached to pay money to Madam Sheila or whoever is at Sweetwater or anyone else, remember if they were 100% in their abilities, they wouldn't be there, but on the New York Stock Exchange. For people like them, it's mainly some well placed questions and a lot of good acting.

SS: Okay, Zara, here's my question: Is there going to be a match up between James Hall and Carole Medley for the Lauderdale District judgeship, and if so, who will win?

ZG: You don't ask much do you? I live in Lauderdale County, so I'm interested in the election. I'm not sure who may join the fray later, but think it will boil down to those two. As for who will win...well, I don't claim to be that psychic. Give me some time and I'll think about it.

To read Madam Zara the Psychic Secretary or to ask her a question, visit this link.


Monday, October 12, 2009

How Does Fitz Hill Get All These Jobs?

Today's TimesDaily informs us that renovations of the former License Commissioner's office in the Lauderdale County Courthouse are going well, at least according to County Administrator Jenoice Bevis. We're glad that representatives of the local press were able to contact Ms. Bevis, who is normally away from her desk when anyone from our blogging group attempts to speak with her; instead we are usually at the mercy of young females who sound as if they have not yet attained voting age and think the Queen's English is a girl band featuring Cheryl Cole.

Alas, we digress. Some time ago our blogger friend Matt Osborne (Osborne Ink) made us aware of the role of Fitz Hill and his partner in the renovations of the Royal Avenue pool. Now Mr. Hill is in charge of the ongoing renovations to the courthouse. Obviously Hill's firm must do excellent work at competitive prices.

Competitive prices? Actually architectural services are exempt from state bid laws--so how did Mr. Hill attain his current position as architect in charge of these long-anticipated renovations? Our answer should lie in the minutes of past Lauderdale County Commission meetings.

Well, good luck there; we do find in July that Commissioners Larry Irons and Rhea Tays Fulmer presented Fitz Hill's name to the commission, there was discussion, and Hill soon became the unanimous choice for this plum project. Unfortunately, the commission minutes do not relate the nature of the discussion. Did someone initially oppose Hill? Were other architects available for the job? Was Hill the most viable candidate both in quality and value for money? Unless a faithful reader was at the meeting and wishes to report to us, we may never discover the answer to those questions.

Of course no one would ever suggest that Fitz Hill often receives these county and city contracts because he's the brother of Bob Hill Jr., UNA lobbyist and former state senator who proudly announces he knows where the bodies are buried. No, I'm sure that thought would never cross anyone's mind.

Speaking of: Don't miss Matt Osborne's columns in the Huffington Post. Excellent and insightful work!


Is Willson Jenkins the Next Lauderdale Circuit Judge?

Is Willson Jenkins of Florence destined to be the next Lauderdale County Family Court Judge, or, perhaps more importantly, is he the right man for the job? We think he might be. We also know that whoever succeeds the incumbent will not have an easy task before him or her. As we have stated many times, Family Court has no real winners, and the losers are often not deserving of that status--that's the cost of divorce.

However, we firmly believe that Family Court can be returned to the model of fairness and integrity it was before Jimmy Sandlin took office. We spotlighted Mr. Jenkins in February when he was one of three finalists to replace Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle. Mr. Jenkins is now associated with the law firm of Bunch and James; we look forward to bringing you more on Willson Jenkins as the campaign progresses.

What's up with this: Interested in the program on Constitutional reform to be presented next Sunday? What, you missed that tidbit? Perhaps the TimesDaily should have placed the announcement in the Forum/Politics section, but then they wouldn't have had room for the articles on Iranian immigrants and squirrel colonies, now would they?


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lauderdale's Diminutive Judge to Run Again?

Several comments in The Courthouse Forum concerning Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Sandlin have assured his detractors that the diminutive jurist will not be running for re-election in 2010; however, two sources that we consider to be extremely reliable tell us that Sandlin will indeed be seeking a second term. Sandlin originally ran against incumbent Larry Mack Smith on the platform of saving marriages and keeping families intact.

Since his election, Sandlin himself has been divorced by his wife of many years. Numerous comments concerning his current domestic situation may be found at this link. In the past we have published several blogs concerning Sandlin, including Judge Jimmy Sandlin and Judge Jimmy Sandlin & Ethics. While it's hard to unseat an incumbent in almost any election, Sandlin did so three years ago, and we believe the right candidate can easily defeat Jimmy Sandlin in 2010.

Tomorrow: The Right Candidate


Friday, October 9, 2009

Those Must Have Been Some Love Letters

John Celetti, formerly of Florence, is not a lucky man, either in money or love. In 2005, the then 55 year-old Celetti worked for Net Related, an Internet service provider. The company closed abruptly in February of that year, leaving Celetti and 44 co-workers without a job and owing them a paycheck for 80 hours of work. Celetti complained to several local and state agencies, among them the Lauderdale County District Attorney's office which refused to act in the case . Unfortunately, little could be done under the circumstances; whether Celetti harbors hard feelings about the 2005 incident or not, he certainly has plenty to say about a more recent event involving Lauderdale authorities.

In October 2008, John Celetti was living in a rented home and dating Judy Lynn Ray. After a disagreement, Ray set fire to the Hough Road home and stole Celetti's automobile in which to make her escape. Judy Lynn Ray was later traced to her mother's home in Hampton, Mississippi, and returned to Florence to face charges. Since March 17th, she has been held in the Lauderdale Detention Center on a $55,000.00 bond.

The state originally charged Ray with first degree arson and first degree theft; however, earlier this week, Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly allowed Judy Lynn Ray to plead guilty to third degree arson and the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Ray is now free with time served and probation, and John Celetti has made his displeasure with Connolly's actions well known.

Just why did Chris Connolly allow Ray to plead to such lesser charges? It seems that during the five month period between the fire and Judy Lynn Ray's arrest, John Celetti not only knew the whereabouts of his former girlfriend, he had been writing her love letters in which he begged her to return to him. Connolly stated that Ray's defense attorney Vickie Willard would have used the letters in her client's defense.

John Celetti, who now lives in Danville in Morgan County, states that he's heartbroken by Chris Connolly's actions. After all, he states, the love letters were merely an attempt to lure Judy Lynn Ray back to Lauderdale County to face the charges he brought against her. Really, Mr. Celetti? Wouldn't it have been easier to have simply provided the authorities with Ms. Ray's address in Mississippi? At least this case proves that the Internet and e-mail have not completely replaced the old-fashioned, hand-written billet-doux.

Notice: Tomorrow's Fire Prevention Month activities at Lowe's in Florence have been canceled due to the possibility of extreme weather. Morris Lentz will announce a new time for the program at a later date.


Jan Ingle v. Bill Hunt for Tourism Board

Jan Ingle (pictured) is a purchasing agent for SBS Electric Supply and, per the Florence City Council, the newest member of the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Board. According to the Lauderdale County Commission, Bill Hunt will retain his current post. Obviously one governing body is in error, but which one?

The Tourism Board was created in 1994 as a result of a joint city and county effort and consists of five members. Currently representing the county are Selton Killen and Chris Bishop. Ernest Haygood and Jim Bevis represent the city. The fifth board member is a joint appointment and, until now, has never created a schism.

No one is denying that Bill Hunt has served admirably since his appointment in 2003; however, business travel has prevented the appliance maven from attending approximately 40% of scheduled board meetings. With an annual budget of almost $900,000.00, the Tourism Board is a vital part of the local economy and certainly deserves the best possible leadership.

We're sure the City of Florence and Lauderdale County will be able to reach an equitable compromise. What we're unsure of is Rhea Tays Fulmer's role in the selection of an appointee. Fulmer, a county commissioner, voted against Hunt; this is her right. Fulmer also attended the Florence City Council meeting at which Ingle was selected; this is also her right, but as a non-resident she has no say in the city's selection. According to yesterday's TimesDaily, Fulmer has further
"added any new appointee would need to attend at least 70 percent of meetings."

Fulmer didn't say how she planned to enforce her new edict, and sources tell us there is no legal precedent for her statement. Perhaps she plans to give gold stars for perfect attendance?

What's up with this: Tomorrow night's Halloween Party at Sweetwater Plantation has been canceled, but is scheduled to be open by Saturday. If you go, take some extra cash--apparently the advertised fortune teller isn't part of the $25.00 package.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Saluting Daniel Pate

Several of our readers have asked us to spotlight Daniel Pate of Muscle Shoals. What makes Daniel so special? Other than the fact we're told he greatly resembles Ron Burgundy--just better looking? It seems there's not just a single aspect of Daniel's life that makes him special; there's many.

Daniel is an accomplished runner who frequently finishes well in local events. He's also a committed family man whose love for his wife Stormy Lee is surpassed only by his love of God. Yet, these accomplishments and values are not the primary reason we're saluting Daniel today. Daniel Pate
is a member or the Alabama Air National Guard and as such is often called upon to make sacrifices for his country.

During the past year, Daniel's work has included the escort of bodies of fallen U.S. soldiers, as well as having taken him far from home and family. Daniel modestly states that this is just his job--a job he's honored to do. We think Daniel Pate is doing more than just a job. We think Daniel Pate is a real American hero and are proud to call him our friend.


Sweetwater Mansion Halloween Party update: The website for the Sweetwater tour is now up. It seems the admission for adults has now risen to $25.00. The website also lists a number to call for reservations--an AT&T mobile number out of the owner's hometown Atlanta. Locally, Amanda Perry of Cypress Realty (pictured) will be overseeing the event.

Previously, Miss Perry has orchestrated the Florence Cemetery tours for the past two years. While praised for their realistic portrayal of various Florence citizens of days past, the tours have not been widely attended, even with a modest admission of only $5.00 and all revenue going toward cemetery restoration and maintenance. We wish Sweetwater's owner Susan Leigh Smithson well in her plans for restoring this Florence landmark, but again chafe at the idea of providing Smithson funding, via this event, to spruce up a site that will bring her millions if sold...and that's a mighty big if.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Janice Keeton Has a Fan Club...

Janice A. Keeton wants to become the first woman elected to the position of Circuit Court Judge in Lauderdale County. If the amount of e-mail we have received concerning the Florence attorney is any indication, she will certainly garner a large share of the votes in the Democratic primary.

Keeton, a 1974 graduate of Muscle Shoals High School, worked for 16 years as a legal secretary before obtaining her juris doctorate degree in 2003. She is also a graduate of Faulkner University and the Birmingham School of Law. After passing the bar exam, Keeton went to work as an associate in the office of her former boss, Florence attorney Cliff Wright. She and her husband Jimmy reside in the Zip City community in northern Lauderdale County.

Recently, Keeton applied to succeed Circuit Court Judge Mike Suttle, but failed to make the selection committee's short list. She will face Gov. Bob Riley's appointee Gil Self in the June 2010 primary. We wish Mrs. Keeton well in her race; however, we have been told by those in the know that Mr. Wright's law practice may very well implode without his junior partner's wit, wisdom, and organizational skills.

Good luck, Janice. We hope to hear more good things from you before the primary.

What's up with this: The ShoalsInsider weekly poll is now featuring candidates in Colbert County's District Court race. Tina Miller Parker is currently in the lead, with Polly Ruggles trailing the pack. We encourage everyone to visit this site and vote for the individual whom you believe will best serve Colbert County.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Fire Prevention Month Parade Tonight in Florence

October is Fire Prevention Month, and our friend Morris Lentz has asked us to remind our readers of the parade tonight in downtown Florence. This year's "Night of Fire Parade" will line up on Pine Street at 6:00 p.m. and officially kick off 2009's fire prevention campaign as the participants make their way down Court Street at 7:00 p.m.

All Shoals municipal and volunteer fire departments are encouraged to send at least one truck to participate in the parade featuring the Red Knights Motorcycle Club. All parade participants are invited to attend a pizza dinner in Wilson Park after the event.

Morris is president of the Lauderdale County Volunteer Firefighters' Association and donates countless hours of his personal time to keeping Lauderdale County and the surrounding areas safe. Kudos to him and all the Shoals firefighters. We encourage everyone to turn out for the parade to honor these men and women.

What's up with this: Just what are the Red Knights? Take a peek at their website; you definitely don't want to miss this group!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Don't Miss Family Law Show Monday on WOOP FM

Have a question about family law? Have a comment about a judge or his/her rulings? Here is the venue to address any and all related topics:


Tennessee Radio station < > is airing a talk show about family court cases and constitutional law with Hosts William “Wilky” Fain and Constitutional law attorney Stanley Charles Thorne.

The talk show will air at 8 am (Alabama time) You can listen and watch it live on online.

Calls are requested from all over the United States.

The Station owner said if there are many calls to the show, the hosts can have the same hours Monday to Friday for one month.

About the hosts:

William “Wilky” Fain made a movie “A Father’s Rights” about his fight for his rights to protect his daughter.

Through making of the movie has either changed laws or made several new laws affecting the family court system throughout the state of Tennessee. All they rely on is fair treatment from the judges and protection awarded by our state and federal constitutions.

For more about Wilky go to his web site < >

Stanley Charles Thorne is a Constitutional law attorney. He deals with the nightmare family court rulings throughout the USA.

He works with Wilky as Thorne the Regulator producing video and DVD’s that plans to be releases as a pilot television show that you could describe as “Dog the Bounty Hunter” but outing judges that do not follow the law. See the Thorne web site here < >

On this website, you can see the documentary on the Sara Evans divorce story.

In the near future the web site will tell the story of Huntsville, Alabama firefighter Chris Hobbs and his “Why Judge” public awareness campaign. - is an organization to bring family- friendly people and businesses together to protect our children’s rights to BOTH parents and to protect fit parents from government intrusion into their relationships with their children.

When camera’s roll when with lawyers, judges, politicians, CPS or DHR and those who stand in the way of equality and our children’s rights to BOTH parents, that changes the scheme of things.

Lawyers and judges don’t want cameras in the court room - not because they claim they want to protect the kids - but because they don’t want the harm they do to families known to their families, friends, and voters.

WHAT: Internet Radio talk show on family law cases < >

WHEN: Monday 8 am to 10 am (Alabama Time)

WHO: YOU, we need you to listen in and call in.


Note: For those who have asked due to a proliferation of local forums and blogs, the Shoalanda Group consists only of Shoalanda Speaks, Nurse Nan, Madam Zara, and Shoals Crime. We do have links to others that we recommend, none of them a hate site. Thanks, ET