Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Congrats Debbie Rappuhn (and PAWS)

Debbie Rappuhn is indeed the woman of any year, but she has now officially been named Shoals Woman of 2011 for her work with animal adoption and rescue. You can find many of Debbie's projects on the PAWS' Facebook page: Link


Mayor Troy Oliver, are you listening there in Russellville? Your city needs a leash law:


Our new blog Quad-Cities Cuisine is now officially up and running. Check out our first review by TBR:

Cooley's Corner Cafe'

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated in advance.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"A Diamond in the Rough" -- That's Us

“I believe the Shoals area is a diamond in the rough that has not been discovered,” ... “An important part of our success will be to help the economic builders, the industries, find the Shoals." Doug Arnold, new CEO for Helen Keller Hospital

Doug Arnold, all smiles in his common-man polo shirt, has pronounced the Shoals a diamond in the rough. We're not sure if Mr. Arnold felt he was the first to utter these words or not. For the record, he wasn't.

Florence and the Shoals hadn't been found when its history was printed in the late 19th Century. Nor had it been found when Henry Ford visited. It was still hiding from national view when FDR came to call. JFK? Same song. Yellow Creek? We could stop there before you become any more depressed with this topic, but we feel obligated to mention Dr. David Bronner.

He was going to make it happen. We (You and I and Leo and Una and everyone else) believed him. We still have a chance with National Alabama, don't we? All we here at Shoalanda can do is give an opinion, but miracles do happen. We're just not sure they're going to happen in Barton, Alabama, in the 21st Century.


From the Shoals Democratic Club:

Labor Day
is just around the corner
Join Democrats and Shoals area Labor Organizations
on Labor Day to mark the holiday that recognizes the
importance of the American worker!
Monday, September 5, 2011
Parade in Downtown Tuscumbia, 10:00 a.m.
Festivities in Spring Park, 11:00 a.m.
Did you that Democratic U.S. President Grover Cleveland signed the legislation making the first Monday in September Labor Day?
Labor Day constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The Neil Whitesell House: Just How Big Are Those Palm Trees?

The course of major construction apparently never runs smoothly. First, former Shoals industrialist Neil L. Whitesell and his wife Tracy Crump Whitesell had to petition the Naples, Florida, city council in order to construct a 6.5' wall designed to separate the front of their 32K square foot mansion from the beach. We can understand the Whitesells wouldn't want just anyone looking into their dream home, but an August 2nd accident allowed the outside world a small peak.

It seems the Whitesells wanted to plant some fully grown palm trees by their pool. Hey, who wouldn't? While moving the trees, one gigantic crane toppled under the weight of the palm, falling into the house. Bad news for the Whitesells, but it allowed the public a close up view of the mega-edifice via photos. Is that a fireplace on the covered veranda? Those Florida nights can get pretty cool.

Below is a photo of the almost finished mansion. When completed, the home located just south of the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club will be the largest domicile in Collier County. If you're wondering how the Whitesell home compares to most U.S. dwellings, the Census Bureau reported the average size of an American home in 2009 was 2,392 square feet.

Photographs courtesy of Naples News


We blogged yesterday concerning our lack of a food critic. Now we have two. Our new restaurant blog should get underway shortly. We hope you'll enjoy it:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Colbert 2-Lauderdale 0/How Much for 95 Rail Cars?

RegionalCare to build new hospital in Colbert County? We agree the counties should work together, but we have to ask why this health care mega corporation signed a contract to build the new hospital in Lauderdale County and now wants to amend said contract...or should that be renege on it? We also wonder how the board of Helen Keller Hospital would feel if this should come to pass. How about obstetrics? That would certainly cut down on literal Lauderdale County natives. Perhaps it's time to buy the popcorn and watch the show.


We recently published a negative comment from a reader concerning our statements on the 95 rail cars National Alabama has sold to an unspecified company. We were at some loss to understand the criticism, since our comments mainly concerned the manufacture date of these rail cars. The critic seemed to feel we didn't realize just how much money was involved in this sale.

Our contact at National Alabama, while not providing us with the exact amount of money involved in the transaction, reported that the money taken in by the company on the sale would not even cover one year of the Barton plant's utility bills.


Since losing Trader to The Connection almost a year ago, we've had readers ask if we plan to bring in a new restaurant critic. We certainly might if we could find one, but they are not abundant in this area--especially ones that will work for our salary--free.

If you have horror stories about Shoals eateries, or perhaps accounts of heavenly food and exotic ambiance, you can now offer your own reviews at Shoals Dish. This Facebook page is new, but it offers us all a chance to say what we think, so get going and point the Shoals in the right gastronomical direction.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Russellville School Bus Shooting: "They Didn't Tell Us for Over 24 Hours"

Parents of some Russellville High School students are complaining they were not properly informed of the Wednesday afternoon incident in which two students fired a BB gun into a school bus filled with over forty students. While the Russellville High sophomore and freshman were arrested at the school early Thursday morning, and news reports were broadcast on local stations that night, several students were not aware of the incident until third block classes on Friday morning. Even then they were not informed that it was fellow students who were responsible.

Police Chief Chris Hargett has stated the BBs could have been dangerous. From Wiki:
BB guns are a type of air gun designed to shoot projectiles named BBs after the birdshot pellet of approximately the same size. These projectiles are usually spherical but can also be pointed; those are usually used for bird hunting. Modern day BB guns usually have a smoothbore barrel, with a bore diameter and caliber of 0.177 inches (4.5 mm). BB for modern day BB guns are usually steel, plated either with zinc or copper to resist corrosion, and measure 0.171 to 0.173 inches (4.34 mm to 4.39 mm) in diameter.

The main question that comes to mind is whether the students were in possession of the guns during classes on Wednesday. The 15 and 16 year old Russellville students are currently being held in juvenile detention.

The Tennessee Valley Juvenile Detention Center is a psychiatric residential treatment center located on Missouri Street in Tuscumbia. A former inmate wrote this description: The food is from Helen Keller hospital. It's not all that bad, the first 48 hours you are there you have to stay on lockdown and the only time you get to come out of your room is when you eat, clean your room, or take a shower. The showers are only 5 minutes long and the water isn't cold but its cool. You only get one phone call if you are on lockdown. After your 48 hours are up you get to go out into population and get as many phone calls as you need, unless you get into trouble. Visitation hours are from 2-4 and only your close family such as your mom, dad, brothers sisters, and grandparents can come to visit you. They have to be at least 18 years or older and your boyfriend or girlfriend can't visit you, you can call them though.

The two juveniles may have not liked Russellville High, but their current situation sounds much worse. If they wanted to be expelled for the rest of the school year, they just may have accomplished their goal.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Readers Write & Rant/Remember Tuscumbia

Concerning the rusting WVNA sign by O'Neal Bridge, Sheffield's Steve Wiggins comments:

Yet another Elton Darby eyesore. After he made millions in Sheffield and other Shoals cities, he simply walked away, leaving future citizens to deal the putrefying ruins of his empire. Wonder if he ever cleaned up any mess he made?

Concerning our column on National Alabama's sale of 95 rail cars, Florence from Tennessee writes:

Such negative comments and every now and then a positive one. Makes one think they are bi-polar. For ex. in the Times, railcar sold 95 cars, which is probably more money than shoalanda can count even taking off their or its shoes or whatever speices (sic) this person is.

Concerning Sweetwater Mansion, D.M. comments:

Thanks for confirming my opinion of the group that runs Sweetwater. I went year before last and it was such a mess I swore I would never go again. Then my neighbor volunteered last year and all they talked about there were ghosts and vampires and werewolves. She says no real work has ever been done and the Jaycees refused to work with that group after the first year.

Concerning common-law marriage, A.N comments:

Alabama should totally get rid of common law marriage. You can't have a common law divorce, so why allow common law marriage? If two people would like the benefits of a marriage, then they should have to go to the courthouse and make it legal. Common law makes it easy for scammers to collect spousal benefits that they are not entitled to, and it allows murders to try to scam the courts.


Former Tuscumbia Railroad Headquarters

Remember Tuscumbia? Even though the Colbert County county seat retains much of its 19th Century charm, much has changed. This site is rapidly cataloging the town's past. Be sure to check it out and become a fan:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Common Law Marriage & Does Alabama Need It?

Recent reports on the Christopher Rich murder trial have brought up the question of common law marriage in this state. How "common" is it? Below is a list of states that recognize such a union:

Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
Oklahoma (possibly only if created before 11/1/98. Oklahoma's laws and court decisions may be in conflict about whether common law marriages formed in that state after 11/1/98 will be recognized.)
Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Washington, D.C.

As you can see, the list is diminishing. Here in Alabama, just what constitutes a common-law marriage? There are three requirements for such a marriage to be valid:

The requirements for a common-law marriage are: (1) capacity; (2) an agreement to be husband and wife; and (3) consummation of the marital relationship.

Using these criteria, Christopher Rich and his victim Hollie Newbury were never married since they never agreed to be husband and wife. We have read of miscreants using the common-law principal to their advantage. When the infamous Tommy Arthur murdered his girlfriend's sister, he claimed a common-law marriage that allowed his girlfriend, a witness to the crime, immunity from testifying. How sad that any woman would prefer Tommy Arthur over her own sister.

Is it time for Alabama to join a growing number of states in outlawing this archaic institution? We say yes. We welcome opposing view points...


More on ProShot Concrete: ProShot and Illegal Immigration


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Is ProShot Concrete?

The answer is obviously not a business that uses E-Verity. The producer of concrete products has offices on Musgrove Drive in Florence and in Palm Harbor, Florida. Below is a list of top ranking employees with the organization.

It's sad that now their principal claim to fame is running afoul of the U.S. immigration laws...and it's not even September 1st yet.


Some readers have asked why Tonya Holly and Cypress Moon productions are not waiting for star Hilary Duff to begin filming their version of Bonnie & Clyde. From Total Film:

Sheldon Turner, co-writer of 2009’s Oscar nominated Up in the Air is adapting the script from ‘Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde’ by Jeff Guinn, a non-fiction account of the legendary 1930s duo who, joined by various gang members, embarked on spree of robbery and murder.

The Neil Burger/Sheldon Turner version is set to be released in 2013. Obviously, Holly would like to see hers in theatres first. Our opinion? Wasn't Miss Duff just a little too glamorous for the part of Parker in the first place? We have faith Tanya Holly can cast a winning actress in the role.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tonya Holly Stabbed in Back?

Trust is out the window!!!! Time to get out the boulders and build the wall, so that no one can break through. People claiming to have your careful for the knife up their sleeve.
Just when you think that you have seen it all....
Tonya S. Holly

If you live under a rock or are over the age of 30, you may not be aware that local film maker Tonya Suzanne Holly, owner of Cypress Moon Productions in Sheffield, has been planning her version of the Bonnie Parker/Clyde Barrow legend for approximately two years. The biggest draw for some fans, and certainly investors, was the prospect of Hilary Duff starring as the infamous gun moll. Now that the married Miss Duff has announced her pregnancy, all plans seem out the window.

A few days before announcing her pregnancy, Duff proclaimed at the Kendra Scott jewelry opening she was ready to start filming. A few days after Duff's pregnancy announcement, Holly wrote the above words on her Facebook page. Curiously, as of noon yesterday, the studio's representative Anita Brazil Pace announced filming would still begin with Duff. Then Holly abruptly announced what amounted to an intention to recast.

Our take? They could make a movie about the making of this movie. Cypress Moon is good for the local economy and Ms. Holly's last film When I Find the Ocean featured many locals. Let's hope B&C gets underway soon.


Want to learn more about the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunnaway "original?" We place original in quotes since while it's the most famous biopic of the infamous pair, there have been many takes on the Depression era couple, one from American International in the '50's starring Dorothy Provine. Here's a comprehensive site.

Bonnie & Clyde


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Alabamian Forum/WVNA Sign

Dislike the TimesDaily Forum since it became Tennessee Valley Talks? Then you just might feel at home at The Alabamian. The forum is lightly moderated and welcomes new members. It's also new enough that it's still evolving, so feel free to send the administrators comments and suggestions if you have them.


Refurbishing the old golf pro shop at McFarland and turning it into a visitor center seems like a prudent idea. We would suggest that the City of Florence attempt to do something about the WVNA sign that now rusts and rots in the immediate vicinity. It was one of the first items on our Shoals Eyesores list...and definitely isn't improving with time.

WVNA is currently owned by URBan Radio Broadcasting. From Wiki:

URBan Radio Broadcasting, LLC, (typically written with the first three letters of the word 'urban' capitalized) is an American media company that specializes in radio stations. The markets where they own radio stations include Toledo, Ohio, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Tupelo, Mississippi, Columbus, Mississippi, Meridian, Mississippi, and Alexandria, Louisiana. The company was formed in 1999 in Mobile, Alabama, by radio entrepreneur Kevin Wagner and its headquarters are currently located in Miami, Florida.

In other words, there's very little local about the radio station at this point, so maintaining the Florence sign is probably very low on its list.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Defense for Mayor Irons? Maybe...

Is There A Defense For Mayor Bobby Irons' Behavior?

A Guest Commentary By

Bailey Quarters

I never lived in Sweetwater, East Florence, or Weeden Heights, so I had no interest in the Sweetwater Reunion other than hoping they had a large turnout. I do live in Florence and it seems that our mayor's visit to the reunion has caused a lot of controversy, at least on Facebook.

Should he have made an attempt to visit with the guest of honor from out of town or only visited with registered voters? It's possible he did attempt to meet Mr. Fisher. Perhaps Larry was away from the venue for a short time and Mr. Irons had to leave. We'll never know unless Mayor Irons chooses to comment on the issue and I doubt that he will.

What if Mayor Bobby Irons ignored the Sweetwater Reunion guest of honor intentionally because he is not a registered voter in Florence? Then we do need a more caring and, yes, thinking chief executive for our city.


While on the subject of Mayor Irons' behavior, we've seen some comments on "voting them all out." We will go on record here that since all humans make mistakes, we'll venture that Dick Jordan and Sam Pendleton have also--that does not mean they are not the best Florence has to offer. We may not always have agreed with them on some issues, but we've always believed they've placed the interests of Florence first. We doubt that Mayor Irons will comment on his behavior at the Sweetwater Reunion since that would serve to draw more attention to it.

Related post from OB's Corner:
Mayoral Fail


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Odds, Ends, & Monkeys

Odds: O'Malley's Bar in Littleville announced on its Facebook page that the club had its first fight recently. It's possible the set-to was the first major altercation at O'Malley's, but it's at odds with a source in the Littleville Police Department. Club Aqua has ceased operations leaving only the private Oasis and O'Malley's in the small Colbert County town. Our sources state local police would prefer the club's liquor license is not renewed.

Ends: We're removing Sheffield Billiards from our list of eyesores. Our original informant states that renovation has again begun on the building.

Monkeys: If we never saw the River Oaks monkeys in Sheffield, most of us have read of them. Why were they removed? Sadly we're sure the cruelty of a few was at least one of the reasons. According to one long-time Sheffield resident a certain infamous felon was known to shoot BB's at the poor captives. Who? None other than Tommy Arthur.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Mayor Irons at Sweetwater Reunion?

According to some who attended last Saturday's Sweetwater Renunion, Florence Mayor Bobby Irons was in attendance. The problem? It seems guest of honor Larry Fisher didn't meet Mayor Irons during the festivities. It does seem both prudent and hospitable that our mayor would have sought Mr. Fisher out...


This weekend marks Russellville's annual Watermelon Festival, but if you're planning on going, you may not see Kerry Gilbert and his band. It seems he was bumped in order to make way for Travis Wammack on the lineup. One would think there would be room for both great entertainers.


According to today's TimesDaily, Christopher Michael Rich's estranged girlfriend and mother of his two children, Hollie Elizabeth Newbury, has now become his "common-law wife." Is this just an error on the part of the TD, or is the prosecution attempting to add an element to its case?

One would think the crime was so heinous that a conviction is a given, but considering some fairly recent verdicts* in Lauderdale and Franklin Counties, perhaps Rich's defense team may be able to find 12 individuals who sympathize with this abuser.

* David Darryl Thompson, Lauderdale County/Mark Anthony Hurley, Franklin County


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Introducing "Imam Mohammad Sukek Rashid"

Whether true or a hoax perpetrated on the TimesDaily segment TVT, we present a few of the words published by this supposedly new addition to the Shoals scene:

I am a Muslim and futre (sic) Imam of the local congregation.

2. A Mosque to the Gloy (sic) of God is in the works my friends! It shall be located in Florence where our numbers are increasing.

3. I am currently residing in Murphreesborro (sic) Tennessee but am helping brothers looking for property in Florence for our church.

4. Our religion is under attack. We have a right to defend our faith just as much as you do yours.

5. There are no innocents in this battle. There are those who accept the Truth and those who reject it. They are the enemies.

6. A few of our emmisaries (sic) will be soon travelling (sic) to the Florence area to announce our plan and condut (sic) meeting with local authoritis (sic). We will let you know when the time comes so you can come see for yourself.

What do we believe? We believe, and certainly hope, these assertions by the "Imam" are a hoax; however, the TimesDaily does the community a disservice by continuing to publish them.


Speaking of defending our faith, anyone seen any Baptists out there with bazookas recently?


Conflicting reports on the ShoalsInsider lapse in publishing...

From J. J. Ray at The Connection:
I spoke with Jeff Roland Publisher of the successful Shoals Insider and he stated that the Shoals Insider is not for sale. His wife has been in the hospital ICU with blood clots on her lungs. *

From Jeff Roland on The Huntsville Reporter: Sorry we havent been around lately on the blog but we have been, really busy. Thanks for all the support you have shown us since we kicked off just a few short months ago. It has exceeded all of our expectations. We really appreciate you following us on Twitter and Facebook and recommending us to your friends and family. Anyway, we have a few big announcements coming soon and we cant wait to share them...we just cant share them now. Anyway, as our radio friends say; so stay tuned and dont touch that dial, we will be right back with you.

* Editor's note: Our source who told us the SI was for sale mentioned that Jeff Roland had offered it to J. J. Ray, and our source is extremely informed and, what's up with that? As Jeff said, stay tuned...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is Jeff Roland Selling ShoalsInsider?

The ShoalsInsider is back online, but there's still no new content since August 5th. Wayne Nix and several others who once worked for the local Internet magazine are no longer there. Sources say the site is definitely for sale, but we've been able to ascertain no selling price.

Other sources have said owner Jeff Roland now prefers to concentrate exclusively on the Huntsiville area with The Huntsville Reporter. Looks like this site hasn't been updated recently either:


New Islamic mosque for Florence? According to someone calling himself Mohammed Suket Rashid, a Muslim group from Murfreesboro is planning a new temple in the Shoals area. Don't worry, they say they come in peace...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

43 Apply for Animal Control Position?!

Not everyone is suited to work with animals, nor would the position of animal control officer be a step up the employment ladder for many. Yet 43 applicants did seek that position in Franklin County. The Franklin County Commission states they narrowed the field to eight before hiring Joey Wingo.

It's astonishing that 35 of the initial applicants didn't rate an interview. We have to wonder what was so off-putting on their applications. Of did they just not know the right obtain a job in animal control?

If you've visited the ShoalsInsider site recently, you've noticed it hadn't updated content in about 12 days. This morning the site is down. If any advertisers are looking for a new home, contact Trader at The Connection. Their rates are good and their readership is rising weekly.


You still have until the end of the week to visit David Christopher's and take advantage of his great coupon offer. Simply print it out here or visit the store's website.



Monday, August 15, 2011

TimesDaily Seeking New Reporter

In case you missed it in the TimesDaily classifieds, our local rag is seeking a new reporter to join their ever changing stable. Is someone else leaving or is the TD simply looking for someone to replace Cathy Wood or Michelle Eubanks? Let's look at the ad:

1. Excellent writing skills are required. - For the TD? Since when?

2. You need a reputation for quality and integrity. - Do the two go together? As for quality, see above.

One word of advice to Mike Goens--please try to find someone who can write an entire sentence without using the word "which."


Sheffield Billiards - Photo by M.C.

We're adding Sheffield Billiards to our list of Shoals eyesores. This vision has to make Sheffield mayor Ian Sanford wince every time he drives by.


Russellville Post Office c. 1949: Link


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rep. Ken Johnson: Major Hypocrite

You're looking at a picture of Ken Johnson, the Republican representative from Lawrence and Winston Counties. Nice smile...or is that a smirk?

Johnson is a member of the Trinity Financial Group and the owner of Global Sourcing Service Inc. We could certainly be wrong, but Rep. Johnson hardly looks like someone who would attend illegal cockfights. Cocktail parties, yes; cockfights, no. So why is he failing to support stiffer penalties for those who stage such spectacles?

When Johnson ran for the House, he stated he was opposed to the lottery and removing restrictions concerning gambling that are currently in place. Now he's defending the status quo of meager fines for those who participate in the gambling and animal cruelty that go hand in hand with cockfighting. Why? Because "every day we kill millions of chickens to eat."

We certainly hope the chickens on our dinner table weren't killed by razors strapped to the talons of other birds...while crazed onlookers cheered the process. Ken Johnson needs to decide whom he will serve. So far he hasn't made a very good impression on the educated and caring voters of his state or district.

If you wish to contact Johnson, his business phone is (256) 974-5468; his e-mail is


Ken, Ah say, Ken...Chicken lovers vote too. Ya know what I mean, boy?


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saluting Alfie Crosslin/More on Rail Car Order

Alfie Crosslin the Dragon Dog is a fixture in Florence, and rightly so. His Facebook status this morning inspired us, and we hope it will you too. In Alfie's own words:
In order to love me as a friend you must understand that I am an animal lover... My heart is BROKEN REGULARLY and filled with sadness for those animals that are not loved. That are not treated with kindness and respect. That do not know kind words and gentle hands... EVERY animal is worthy of a stable environment, food, water, affection, and humane care... If you feel the same way post this on your wall. Sit. Stay. Eat. Live...... ♥ ♥ ♥

Yesterday we blogged concerning the 95 rail car order National Alabama ostensibly produced in the past few months, to use Mike Goens' words. According to our sources at the Barton facility, the cars were actually completed in late 2010.

An initial run of 50 cars was begun in 2009 in order to ascertain how well the assembly line process worked. A second 50 car run was completed in 2010 in order to streamline the various production processes. Therefore, many of these 95 cars have been sitting around the mile-long plant gathering dust for almost two years.

We were unable to obtain the name of the buyer for the rail cars, but one source has speculated it's Norfolk Southern. If so, we sincerely hope the 95 cars are of such a quality that this rail giant will be inclined to purchase more. We also have to wonder why the buyer took only 95 of the 100 available cars; was it a budget decision, or were five of the finished rail cars unusable? We're not waiting on a press release to answer that question.


Happy birthday to Ben Tate. His wonderful photography of Florence will live on long after us all.


Friday, August 12, 2011

95 Rail Cars Sold; Let's Compare

The rail car industry is experiencing a resurgence--a very mild resurgence as of now. Yesterday National Alabama announced it had sold 95 rail cars to a rail leasing company. These cars are essentially already built, but lack some specialized finishing touches. In other words, there won't be any new employees hired to complete this contract.

CEO John Stein heralded the sale as "a great first step for our company and a milestone."
Considering the lack of previous sales, almost anything would be a milestone for the Barton company, but what should we expect from this current thorn in the RSA's side compared to other rail car manufacturers?

Perhaps not much. It seems any upswing in rail car sales is related to an increase in coal sales to foreign buyers. The lighter the car, the more coal that can be transported. If coal sales should diminish, so would the need for new rail cars. Here's a projected comparison of National Alabama sales to two established companies in 2011.

Freight Car America (Chicago) -- 5,200
Trinity Industries (Dallas) -- 14,200
National Alabama (Barton) -- 200

To make matters worse for National Alabama, Trinity has signed an exclusive contract with its clients. According to the Wall Street Journal, the contracts will continue for at least five years.

So what, if anything, is National Alabama taking the lead in? We hear security has really put a dent in smoking in the men's rooms...


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Doesn't William Edwards Deserve More?

William Edwards was 72 years old and lived alone. Authorities know that Claude P. Riddle Sr. struck Edwards at 12:57 a.m. yesterday morning and left the scene. The 50 year old Riddle is a tractor-trailer driver from Russellville. Sources say Riddle lives with his mother Mary Katherine Riddle at 1830 Bailey Lane off County Road 55. Authorities theorize the evidence shows Riddle left the roadway and struck Mr. Edwards in the median.

Why would anyone suggest no charges might be filed? Riddle not only knew he hit someone, he knew the exact time and apparently had lost control of the vehicle when he did so. Mr. Edwards' family deserves more...


We have received several inquiries regarding Kimbery Bynum Garner, the Vina teacher charged with second degree rape, and Sgt. Jeremy Shane Hall, the former Russellville police officer charged with rape and several sex crimes against city jail inmates as well as possibly one other underage person. Neither of these has been indicted. The next Franklin County grand jury is in September, but we have not been able to ascertain if either or both these individuals is on the docket.

Anyone seeking information is being referred to the Franklin County District Attorney's office. The number to call is 256-332-8886.


If you're a fan of Hillbilly Deluxe, you'll probably love the Happy Goat Band. Here's a little of their music. Our favorite? For some reason Mississippi National Guard...if Johnny Horton were still with us, we could picture him performing it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Meet Larry Fisher at Sweetwater Reunion Saturday

Saturday August 13th marks the 25th annual Sweetwater Reunion. This year's honored guest is Larry Fisher, political pundit and raconteur. The event will be held at the Florence Colosseum from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

If you haven't yet met Larry, here's his fan site: Link


And he's an attorney...


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Need A New Roof? You Might Not Want to Consider A & A

Jason Dale Riddle was one of the five Shoals residents arrested Sunday for participating in a cockfighting ring. Sources say those arrested will be assisted in their legal defense by the Sabong Cockfighting Alliance (Yes, there really is such an organization).

Besides Riddle's wife Alice Diane Riddle, also arrested, other members of Jason's family are reputed to raise and fight roosters...nothing like a family tradition. Riddle currently owns A & A Roofing on Woodmont Drive in Tuscumbia. If you abhor cruelty to animals, you might want to avoid A & A Roofing when you next remodel.


Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, will serve as guest speaker at a meeting of the Shoals Democratic Club on Monday, August 15, 6:30 p.m. at the Steelworkers' Union Hall located at the intersection of Wilson Dam Road and Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals. A light meal will be served at 6:00 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

Representative Ford will report on the 2011 legislative session and current issues faced by our state and nation. Ford will also discuss ways to organize and energize for the 2012 elections.

Representative Ford was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2000, succeeding his father, the late Rep. Joe Ford, who served in the House for 26 years. A captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, Craig Ford received a marketing degree from Auburn University in 1991. He is co-owner of Hodges-Ford Insurance, and he also co-owns The Messenger, a weekly newspaper.

As a state legislator, Ford has received high honors from various groups especially for his accomplishments for citizens with special needs, educators, firefighters, senior citizens, and Alabama workers. He has twice been named Most Outstanding Legislator by his peers.

Representative Ford and his wife, Gwen, have two children. Gwen is a teacher at Gadsden State Community College, and the Ford family attends First United Methodist Church of Gadsden.

Shoals Democratic Club meetings are held each month on the third Monday night at 6:30 with alternating locations between Florence and Muscle Shoals. The public is always invited to join us. For more information, call 256-412-9966, email, or visit


Any steamship enthusiasts in our midst? Link


Monday, August 8, 2011

UNA's Ben Seabrook Injured/Five Locals Arrested for Cockfighting

Friends of University of North Alabama's Ben Seabrook have been understandably worried about him since yesterday. In Ben's own words:

For everyone who wanted to hear what happened yesterday, me and drew were cooking bacon when the pan flipped over, covering my face and part of my chest in burning grease...

Ben, a former Madison Academy standout, is currently being treated at UAB's burn center, but according to sources should be able to return for fall classes.


Alice Diane Riddle of Muscle Shoals has an interesting hobby--cockfighting. The 39 year-old Colbert County woman was charged with cruelty to animals, gambling, and cockfighting in Lawrence County.

We have never understood how anyone can delight in the suffering of animals. Most who do so graduate to inflicting harm on children or the handicapped--anyone who cannot defend themselves.

Also charged in the Sunday raid were Riddle's husband Jason Dale Riddle of Tuscumbia, Tony Joseph Parker, Caleb Chester Chaney, and Samuel Jacob Parker, all of Russellville. Sources state that the five may also face possible drug charges. Let's hope it's enough to ensure they remain isolated from society until they can behave with a modicum of feeling and decency.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Florence District Four: Who?

District Four In Lavender

Is there a perfect representative? For our state? For our various towns? Since total perfection is unobtainable, we have to seek the best for our purposes and that can be relative.

Currently Barry Morris, a former professor of Economics at the University of North Alabama, represents District Four in Florence. Because of his past and current ties to the college, he is unable to vote on any issue concerning UNA. It also makes his voting on anything concerning the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) iffy.

This further makes him a liability when he cannot adequately represent his constituency. Morris has also from time to time taken a different path from his fellow council members, and that can be either good or bad. Here's a quick bio of Barry Morris:

Barry Morris retired as Professor and Chairman of the Economics and Finance Department at the University of North Alabama in the summer of 2008 and is currently serving as the University Foundation's Director of Planned Giving.

He was elected to represent District 4 in August 2008. He is Chairman of the Planning Committee and a member of the Finance Committee and the Utilities Committee.

He is active in Rotary International, having served as the President of the Florence Club, and Assistant Governor and Coordinator of Programs for District 6860.

Barry and his wife Suzanne have three sons, Scott, David, and Dean and are members of the First Christian Church of Florence.

Earlier in the week, the first of what we are sure will be many announced he's sounding out the community concerning running for the council in 2012. We'll have more on this possible candidate later.


How to handle the current boondoggle concerning outstanding warrants in Lauderdale County? Sheriff Ronnie Willis may not have the answer, but one of our faithful readers does. From Joseph Tully:

A simple solution is find room at the detention center, in an area where inmates are not allowed, and keep the warrants there. Its really the best place for them since a deputy always in the past had to stop by dispatch to pick the warrant up on the way to jail. A detention officer can confirm a warrant just as easy as a dispatcher can.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Speedy Legal?

Florence attorney Richie Whitten has opened an office called "Speedy Legal." The ad for this law practice lists some great prices. An uncontested divorce for $150.00? Sounds like a terrific deal, but what about some of the other items?

For a mere $20.00, you can have a document notarized. Of course, if you have an account, someone at your bank will usually notarize a document for free. How about the name change for $100.00? The probate judge's office will provide the paperwork for free, and filing at one time was only $10.00. We're sure the fee has gone up over the years, but it's probably no where near $100.00.

We're sure Mr. Whitten is a competent attorney. We simply suggest you research any of these legal transactions before paying for something you may get free elsewhere.


Congressman Mo Brooks Gives Washington, D. C. Update To Shoals Republican Club August 18th

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks will give a “Washington, D. C. Update” at the next Shoals Republican Club meeting on Thursday, August 18th, 12:00 noon at Ryan’s Family Steakhouse Restaurant on Cox Creek Parkway in Florence.

Congressman Brooks serves on the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Science, Space, and Technology Committees. He is a 1972 graduate of Grissom High School, where he was an All-City baseball player and a member of two state championship debate teams. He is a graduate of Duke University with a double major in political science and economics and the University of Alabama School of Law in 1978. After law school, Mo would work as a prosecutor in the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s office. Later, he would return to Huntsville and be elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1983, 1986, and 1990. As a result of his efforts, Mo Brooks was recognized as one of the legislature’s most effective legislators by Alabama Magazine. In 1991, Brooks was appointed Madison County District Attorney.

Mo Brooks was elected to the Madison County Commission in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 while working as a practicing attorney in Huntsville. Brooks would serve as Special Assistant Attorney General for then Attorney General Jeff Sessions from 1995 to 1996 and later for Attorney General Bill Pryor from 1996 until 2002. In addition, Brooks was a fill-in radio host for WVNN in 1990 prior to the arrival of Sean Hannity.

Congressman Brooks is married to his college sweetheart, Martha Jenkins, who is a retired Huntsville public school teacher. They have four children and two grandchildren.

All meetings of the Shoals Republican Club are open to the public. For more information, contact Shoals Republican Club President William Smith at (256) 767-4529, or


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Few Words from David Bronner/Florence Police Accreditation

Has Dr. David Bronner called those who question the National Alabama rail car plant in Barton idiots? We'll let you judge; here's his quote from the August RSA newsletter:

While a few Alabama investments have been criticized by some individuals that have difficulty understanding the bigger picture, our investment horizons are much longer. With the resources that Alabama has to offer, there is no reason not to believe that in the long term we will equal or exceed the returns of anywhere in the world.

Obviously Bronner's take on current finances covers the entire system and not solely the Barton facility. It's a bit like the TimesDaily announcing the entire of city of Muscle Shoals was destroyed in the earthquake, but all other Shoals areas were unscathed. That's great...except for those who lived in Muscle Shoals. So, yes, those who had seen National Alabama as the Shoals' economic savior are somewhat critical of it.


The Florence Police Department is nearing the conclusion of a 2.5 year effort to achieve accreditation with CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies). Part of the accreditation process allows for members of the general public to either call in and speak to an on-site assessor, or to actually come and speak to the assessors in person in reference to the quality of police services being offered by the Florence Police Department. The information concerning the public forums is attached.

In the coming weeks, as we draw closer to August 20th, I would be glad to discuss the accreditation process with you. This process has included a comprehensive review and revision of our policies and procedures. If we are fortunate enough to achieve this accreditation, it will be one of the greatest achievements in our police department’s history. Accreditation by CALEA, would signify that the Florence Police Department’s policies, procedures, and practices are consistent with the highest standards of policing in the nation. The community will not just be required to take our word for it, but in fact, a team of outside assessors are coming in for four days to conduct an actual in-depth audit of our policies, procedures, and practices to ensure we are meeting these standards. The goal, or end-game of the accreditation process, is for our community to get just what they expect of their local police department: Police service of the highest level, that follows the letter and spirit of the law, assurance that we hold ourselves accountable for our conduct and actions, and, a police department that is accountable to our community to provide the very best in police service.

I look forward to talking with you in the near future.

Capt. Ron Tyler

Florence Police Department

FBINA Session 225



As always, we're extremely proud of our Florence Police Department. Congratulations to them on this undertaking.


The happiest of birthdays to Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are Some Accused Criminals Getting Lucky?

Are some possible bad guys luckier than others? If they're running from the law in Lauderdale County, they just might be.

We mentioned two weeks ago that the sheriff's dispatch center upheaval to the basement of the courthouse left Lauderdale deputies unable to run checks for outstanding warrants. Originally it was thought this oversight would be corrected after the initial weekend move, but apparently deputies are still unable to obtain this info from the isolated dispatchers. Was this extremely poor planning? We would say so.


The next Franklin County grand jury will meet in September. Considering the ABI's evidence against former Russellville Police Sergeant Jeremy Shane Hall, an indictment seems a foregone conclusion. Will Joey Rushing prosecute? Since the Franklin County District Attorney has obviously had dealings with Hall in the past, a recusal seems in order.

How about Judge Terry Dempsey? Will he try the case? According to our sources in Franklin County, Judge Dempsey once represented Hall in another matter before being elected Circuit Judge; ergo Dempsey's recusal is a given.

We can't say who will be tapped to hear the case, but a member of the Attorney General's staff will in all probability try it. Other sources have theorized not just former female jail inmates will testify against Hall, but additional women from the private sector. Perhaps they should sell tickets.

Related Post: The Criminal Case Against Jeremy Shane Hall


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Matrimony: Holy & Unholy/Date Rape Safety

Former Lauderdale Circuit Judge Jimmy Sandlin & Former C.I.T.Y. Director Rhonda Bogus

Oh, the irony...Jimmy Sandlin runs for Lauderdale County Circuit Judge on the platform or saving marriages and divorces his wife. He then becomes a divorce mediator/facilitator and marries his long time girl friend. Wonder if he's found her a government job in Huntsville yet?

Related post: Huntsville Mediation


More irony on the marital front: Legal eagle sources tell us that Malana Gay Grissom White, currently under indictment for the attempted murder of her husband's former wife and mother-in-law, will plead not guilty and accuse her victims Christy and Mona Tucker of custodial interference.

It will be interesting to see how the Lauderdale District Attorney's office handles that defense. It was after all the charges of custodial interference that helped in the conviction of Neler Keeton in the manslaughter death of his former son-in-law Anthony Hunt.


Apparently Lexington's answer to Thomas A. Edison has met a road block in the sales of his Date Rape Coasters. Francisco Guerra and partner Brian Glover had invented an index card size detector that supposedly identified the presence of GHB and ketamine, common date rape drugs.

Michael Ioffe of the Tel Aviv University has now invented a much smaller device that is 100% effective in identifying the same two drugs and will send a notice to the tester's cell phone if the results are positive, as well as providing color changes for those who don't mind holding the ultra small strip up to the light in a crowded club. Perhaps the answer is not to frequent those clubs in the first place?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Readers' Questions on Sweetwater Mansion

The following are questions sent to us by readers. We have attempted to answer each one to the best of our ability...

Q. Isn't Sweetwater tax exempt, or won't it be?
A. It is not and cannot be as long as it is in private hands with no real board of directors. If the owner did use the building as a museum, it could be made tax-exempt under the educational heading. It would not qualify if converted into a bed & breakfast.

Q. How many are/were on the Sweetwater Committee?
A. Besides the director, there were 14 original members of the committee. All but the director and two members have resigned.

Q. Isn't Sweetwater run by some civic club?
A. No. Realtor Martin Dean originally stated local civic and volunteer groups would be involved, but aside from a Jaycee booth during the Sweetwater Ghost Walk tours, no civic group has ever been involved.

Q. How did the current director come into that position?
A. According to a source close to the realtor, the owner was looking for someone to clean and maintain the home at a minimal level. The realtor put owner Susan Leigh Smithson in touch with Cynthia Johnson, who then volunteered to oversee the restoration at no cost using volunteers.

Q. Is the home now secure from further damage?
A. According to several who have been in the house, no. The upstairs and the basement have ongoing water damage and problems with mold.

Q. Is the family cemetery being restored?
A. A former Sweetwater committee member has just registered the family burial ground. She and other volunteers wish to work to restore the cemetery, but it remains to be seen if an arrangement can be worked out with the owner and the director.

Q. Have the director or current/past committee members been harassed or threatened for any reason?
A. If they have, there have been no police reports filed. There have been intruders on the property, most looking for copper wiring or other items which could be easily sold.

Q. Does all money from tours/events go toward restoration?
A. No, our sources say much goes toward the utilities (alarm systems), taxes, and other continuing expenses not involved in restoration.

Q. Is the property still for sale?
A. The property is not now officially on the market, but it obviously could be sold at any time.

Q. Does anyone actually think there's a werewolf at Sweetwater or is that all for show?
A. Sadly, we've been told the director does believe in such creatures and does maintain that one lives at Sweetwater.

There, you have it--everything you've always wanted to know about Sweetwater Mansion; however, with fall fast approaching, we're sure new revelations will surface.


For additional history of Sweetwater: Ripples from Sweetwater Mansion


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sweetwater Mansion Debacle - Part IV

The Sweetwater Mansion Debacle - Part IV

A Guest Commentary By

Sarah Savant

Things actually went very well for the living history event, and some of us decided to spend the night at Sweetwater. There were only volunteers present, and we were having fun playing with some of the ghost hunting equipment. At least it was fun until two of the committee members got into an argument that turned nasty very quickly.

One of the two involved was my friend who had helped me with Sweetwater's history. She resigned the next morning and most of us were extremely upset. We thought that Cynthia Johnson as director should do something about it. Instead, Cynthia acted as if nothing odd or out of the way had happened. I then decided to distance myself from the project, only dropping by if someone I knew well was going to be there.

Some time later I received a phone call from this friend who had been "thrown under the bus." She had heard that someone was taking up money for Sweetwater at First Fridays and asked that I go with her to the next event and see what we could find out. Before we could go, I heard that Cynthia was accusing me and still another former committee member of being the ones who were collecting the funds. I decided to call Cynthia to ask why she was accusing us. She told me she had received a description of the pair and they sounded much like my male friend and me.

I still love Sweetwater and want it to be restored. I don't know what it will take, but I honestly and sincerely believe that Cynthia Johnson is holding the project back. Volunteers don't stay long and no real work is ever done. If exposing what is really going on at Sweetwater will help, I feel that I have finally accomplished something.


This concludes "Sarah's" account of her experiences volunteering for Sweetwater. We want to commend her for her attempts to help the once great mansion and her coming forward to reveal the truth about the supposed restoration.

Tomorrow we'll have some questions, answers, and other comments about the events that have taken place over the past two years at Sweetwater. Please feel free to send us any questions you may have.