Friday, August 31, 2007

September Theme Day, Street Signs

Welcome to Theme Day!
Here is where the Civil War meets Civil Rights at the intersection of Jeff Davis Avenue and Martin Luther King Street. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America, while King was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Both men were significant to the history of Selma.

There are lots more City Daily Photo Blogs participating in Theme Day. Please visit their sites at the following locations:
Seattle (WA), USA - Ocean Township (NJ), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Cleveland (OH), USA - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Singapore, Singapore - Boston (MA), USA - Mexico (DF), Mexico - Kajang (Selangor), Malaysia - Mainz, Germany - Evry, France - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Sequim (WA), USA - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Nottingham, UK - Toulouse, France - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Manila, Philippines - Mumbai, India - Montpellier, France - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Stayton (OR), USA - Moscow, Russia - Paris, France - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Austin (TX), USA - Lyon, France - Stockholm, Sweden - Hyde, UK - Hong Kong, China - Joplin (MO), USA - Seoul, South Korea - Chandler (AZ), USA - St. Louis (MO), USA - Arlington (VA), USA - Anderson (SC), USA - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Villigen, Switzerland - Sydney, Australia - Ampang (Selangor), Malaysia - Montego Bay, Jamaica - Norwich (Norfolk), UK - San Diego (CA), USA - Bandung (West Java), Indonesia - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Nelson, New Zealand - Quincy (MA), USA - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Bend (OR), USA - Wellington, New Zealand - New Orleans (LA), USA - Cypress (TX), USA - Nashville (TN), USA - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - Detroit (MI), USA - Saigon, Vietnam - Selma (AL), USA - Phoenix (AZ), USA - Miami (FL), USAArradon, France - Sheki, Azerbaijan - New York City (NY), USA - Inverness (IL), usa - North Bay (ON), Canada - Melbourne, Australia - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Tenerife, Spain - Auckland, New Zealand - Forks (WA), USA - Rotterdam, Netherlands - Chateaubriant, France - Madison (WI), USA - Wailea (HI), USA - Orlando (FL), USA - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Ajaccio, France - Baltimore (MD), USA - Crepy-en-Valois, France - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Budapest, Hungary - Lyon, France - Saarbrücken, Germany - Adelaide (SA), Australia - Le Guilvinec, France - River Falls (WI), USA - Stavanger, Norway - Naples (FL), USA - London, UK - La Antigua, Guatemala - Philadelphia (PA), USA - Montréal (QC), Canada - Paris, France - San Diego (CA), USA - Trujillo, Peru - Haninge, Sweden - Prague, Czech Republic - Oslo, Norway - Grenoble, France - Shanghai, China - Toronto (ON), Canada - Durban, South Africa - Zurich, Switzerland - Cape Town, South Africa - Singapore, Singapore - Torino, Italy - Flagstaff (AZ), USA -

Toadstool Garden

After an entire spring and summer of extremely dry weather and pretty much nothing growing in the garden, we have toadstools! A whole little garden of 'em! We've had showers the past few days, and the rain grew grass and toadstools. There were several clusters of these mushrooms all over our backyard.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Confederate Rose

The Confederate Rose is popular in southern gardens. A type of hibiscus, the large shrub is related to cotton and okra. When it first blooms in late summer, the blossoms are white on the first day, rosy pink on the second day and bluish pink on the third day. It blooms until frost and is killed back with a hard freeze. But it returns in the spring, bigger and more glorious than the year before!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Highway 22 Tracks

Selma once was a busy railroad town and still has rail traffic for freight, which has increased in recent years. This line parallels Alabama Highway 22 toward Orrville.

In 1849, Selma was chosen by the legislature to be a terminus for track leading from north Alabama to the Alabama River. By 1855, tracks reached the Coosa River, paving the way for cotton from "up north" to be shipped to Selma via railroad, then down the Alabama River to the Port of Mobile. Both the Old Depot Museum and the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum feature sections with local railroad history.

Today, CSX, Norfolk-Southern and M&B operate rails in the Selma area.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Valley Creek Presbyterian Church

Valley Creek Presbyterian Church has substantial claim on Dallas County. The eight families that founded the church in 1816 were early settlers who also helped build the community. The oldest Presbyterian church in Dallas County and among the oldest in the state, the church still has an annual homecoming. This structure, featured on a plate exhibited at the Old Depot Museum, was built in 1857 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is a Greek Revival building, and according to Civil War history, an original log structure built in 1821 was burned by the Union raiders in 1865.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Public Baths

Around the turn of the 20th Century, folks couldn't take baths and restrooms for granted. This advertisement was located at the Arthur Crocheron Barber Shop on Alabama Avenue. It seems that travelers often freshened up at local barber shops after arrival in town. There, they could pay to use the toilet or the soap or a towel! The sign now resides at the Old Depot Museum.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival

The brochures are out for this year's Alabama Tale Tellin' Festival. The 29th annual festival is October 12 and 13 and held the same weekend as Riverfront Market Day. Selma's "Ghost Lady," Kathryn Tucker Windham, emcees Tale Tellin.' She is well known for her ghost-story, photography and southern-cooking books and has told stories across the nation. She is featured each year at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. This year's festival features Wanda Johnson, who tells about growing up in Alabama; Bill Lepp, five-time winner of the West Virginia Liars contest; and The Dill Pickers, a string band from Birmingham. If you have your own tale to tell, then meet at the Swappin' Ground at 5:30 p.m.!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tip Top

Victorian homes have so many interesting features, like this for instance. I love the colorful glass inset on these windows at the very tip top of the house. There is also a balcony and a front porch to wish for. This house is located practically downtown, and I'm sure many Selmians will recognize it even if I show only a small part of it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Memorial to the Hotel Albert

What remains of the facade of the old Hotel Albert can be found in the courtyard behind the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum. These four columns were saved when the hotel was demolished in 1969. This brick structure also contains paintings that show some of Selma's history, including one in which the hotel is seen in the background, depicting its use as a Yankee headquarters after the Battle of Selma in 1865.

St. James Hotel Lobby

Here is the lobby of the St. James Hotel on Water Avenue. The hotel was originally built in 1837, closed in 1893 and completely renovated and reopened as a hotel and restaurant in 1997. It is operated as a public-private partnership and recently has come under new management. Gourmet Services of Atlanta expects to have the hotel fully operational again by October 1.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Valley Grande Golf

A golfer tees off at the Valley Grande Golf Course last weekend during a tournament to raise funds to fight sickle cell anemia. The 18-hole course is located in Ocmulgee Estates, a residential and golfing community near Selma.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Magnolia Cone

Deep summer matures the magnolia cone. Soon, it will turn darker and more woody, then drop to the ground where its seed will be spread by birds, squirrels and chipmunks. I am told that the magnolia tree got its name from Dutch botanist Peter Magnol and that Southern magnolias rarely succumb to hurricanes, because of their deep root systems.
(The flower at the top of my sidebar is the magnolia in bloom.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Up the Spiral Staircase

This spiral staircase serves as a fire escape at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum. The antebellum building has been used for many purposes: schools, courthouse, hospital. It was a hospital until 1960, so many Selmians were born here. Our tour guide noted that the steps lead to a big window on the third floor where the newborn nursery was located. Since small children weren't allowed to visit, she said that sometimes the children were led up the spiral steps to view their new baby brother or sister through the window. How exciting that must have been!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Greek-Revival Architecture

The Lee-Bender-Butler House is a Greek Revival structure that was built in 1850 by Thomas Helm Lee, a cousin of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee also built Selma's Sturdivant Hall, now a house museum.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Front Porch

Selma has wonderful front porches in its historic districts...Old Town, Ice House, Riverview. This porch is similar to the one on the house where I grew up. That's where we played in summer when it was too hot in the sun. We had a swing, a hammock, fans, hanging ferns, even an electric ceiling light on the screened porch for gatherings after dark. That's when we played cards and made homemade ice cream.
During the day, we turned the porch into a "pretend hospital" and used bikes and wagons for ambulances, M&Ms for medicine and the hammock for triage. It's also where we shelled peas and butterbeans and where the cat had her kittens.
These days, the temperatures have been too hot for people to even sit on a porch, but I imagine cooler weather by September will bring them back out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weaver Castle

Speaking of preserving old buildings, here is Weaver Castle, an 1868 structure that a nonprofit group is trying to purchase and renovate. It was built by the son of one of Selma's founders and designed by Richard Upjohn who modeled it after a castle on the Rhine in Germany. The architect, famous for his Gothic Revival style, also designed Selma's St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Trinity Church in New York City. The Weaver Castle group plans to use the home for a bed and breakfast, museum, special events and local history education.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back to School at the Old Depot Museum

Children in Selma and Dallas County are back to school, and here is a typical classroom...from a long, long time ago! This is the Education Exhibit at the Old Depot Museum, and the room has desks just like the ones I had in high school! Now, I'm not THAT old, but yes, we had old-timey desks where your chair was the front of another student's desk! The desktops had ink wells too, but no ink. We had progressed to fountain pens by then. However, the ink wells made good chewing gum receptacles! The desks served their purpose, but I doubt anybody uses desks like this now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Old Buildings Lost to Progress

What is progress?
Some define it as tearing down the old to make way for the new.
Here, on a wall at Selma's Old Depot Museum, are photographs of antebellum and Victorian homes and buildings that have been lost to progress. While fire claimed a few of them, others were lost to the inability to afford the cost of upkeep or the desire to build something modern. Eventually, Selmians realized their losses could have been gains for historic value and tourism. Today, various preservation groups work tirelessly to preserve their rich heritage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Turtle Under the Car

It's a good thing I noticed this turtle beneath my car before backing out of the garage this morning! He/She seemed to be enjoying the somewhat cool concrete in the bit of shade. It was a dirty turtle, and I wonder if perhaps "she" was out to lay eggs or just trying to beat the heat (102 degrees F today)! I went back in the house for a few minutes before leaving, and when I returned, she was gone. Oh yes, our dog just sat by the car and never barked at the turtle...didn't even seem curious about it. Guess these are the "dog days" of summer.

Note: Abraham Lincoln of Brookville, Ohio, Daily Photo has informed me that this is a snapping turtle. Beware. Do not aim too close to this type turtle.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Internet Cafe

I really haven't checked this place out, but I hear it's the place to be if you want to network, play chess, send a fax, have a cup of coffee or snack on a Krispy Kreme donut. The CyberBlue Internet Cafe is right on Broad Street and apparently was literally hopping with the media last March when Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were both in town.

The place has specialty nights for playing chess, sharing poetry and jazz and of course, networking.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


It was a hot and humid day. You could tell what lay ahead as the sun rose behind the trees...all orange and big and flaming! Before noon, the bank thermometer downtown hit 102 degrees F. Record highs were crippling air conditioning systems all across town. Flowers wilted on a street corner despite a misty spray that battled to satisfy their thirst. Then, just before supper, thunder boomed, a breeze blew, and precious rain fell in sheets, giving the dog reason to rise from her spot in the garage and move away from the storm. Houses and tempers are much cooler tonight!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dallas Academy

School started Thursday in Selma's city schools. Much too hot to be in school in my opinion, but that's another story. Here is Dallas Academy, Selma's first-ever public school, although it started as a private school back in 1888. There aren't any school children here today since it closed in the 1960s, but the kids you see out front were waiting for an arts class way back the beginning of the summer (hence, the green trees- they are very dry now!) The building is used today for arts and civic purposes, and a ceramics center is located in the basement, probably the coolest place in town!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gems Amid the Heat

The heat this time of year is a bit more bearable when you come across downtown planters filled with colorful flowers. They lift my spirits amid suffocating humidity. These sunshine-yellow gems greet people by The Downtowner Restaurant parking lot.

Speaking of heat and humidity, Thursday's forecast is for 103-degree temps and a 110-degree plus heat index followed by more of the same the rest of the week. Air conditioners are struggling to keep up, and you know it's hot when it's 80 degrees inside both at work and at home! And I know we're not alone. Much of the nation is baking today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Restaurant on Grumbles Alley

If you want a flavorful, healthy meal in Selma and don't mind waiting longer than fast-food service, The Restaurant on Grumbles Alley may be the place to dine. Located on Water Avenue and Grumbles Alley right by the river, you get homemade food in an historic building.

The meals in this 1800's structure vary from soups and sandwiches to full-course entrees. Try the famous marinated grilled chicken breast sandwich for lunch and cheesecake for dessert. Fried foods such as chicken fingers, crab claws, shrimp and catfish are coated with a light batter and served with vegetables and salads rather than cole slaw and French fries. Red beans and rice is now a staple, and soups are rotated to include anything from chili to clam chowder.

The restaurant was revived in 2005 by the daughter of former Selma Mayor Joe T. Smitherman, who returned to her hometown after a legal career, so naturally the decor features Selma art, photographs and tributes to her father.

Located near an old steamboat landing, the building was once an auction center back in the days when cotton was king.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Artesian Air Conditioning

HOT! It is hot here with temps hovering around 100 degrees F. and heat indexes in the 110- degree range. Our air conditioner is running nonstop, still unable to keep up with the heat and humidity by mid-afternoon. So, how did people survive this weather in the 19th Century in a sticky, swampy environment?

At Cahawba, E.M. Perine pumped cold water from an artesian well through pipes in his mansion, creating the first air-conditioned house in Alabama. The house is long gone, but the well is still there, and this sign at Old Cahawba Archealogical Park marks the spot.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Remembering "Cap" Swift

Selma lost one of its best citizens and biggest promoters August 4 with the passing of George "Cap" Swift. This photo was taken in May at Sturdivant Hall when he received The Tim Bjelke Preservation Award presented to the "Historic Preservationist of the Year."

The 86-year-old Selma native spent the past 20 years operating a visitor information center out of his house on the busiest intersection in town. The center was open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. year round, and he maintained that schedule with minimal help until this past January when he finally retired to an assisted living facility. Visitors from around the world received a welcome to Selma from this southern gentleman who was there to open the door and tell them a bit about Selma history. The center sold Selma souvenirs including local and regional books in The Book Nook and published Selma Showcase Magazine. The magazine was Cap's way of promoting what he called "the tangibles" of his town well beyond his town and state. In later years, he had 20,000 copies printed each year, and they were provided free to advertisers, the Chamber of Commerce, state tourism department and welcome centers, restaurants and motels, local schools and of course, welcome center visitors, which in 2002 numbered more than 15,000. While more than half the visitors came from Alabama, the rest were from Canada, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia and even some from the Netherlands, Russia, Vietnam, France, Lithuania, Turkey, Mexico, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Sweden, just to name a few!

Prior to the visitor center, Swift served in the military during World War II, operated several local businesses such as Swift Drugs, Toy Arcade and Radio Shack, served as a Selma city councilman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, and received numerous awards including The Book of Golden Deeds and Governor's Tourism award. In his younger days, Swift played bass fiddle as part of various dance bands that toured the South.

Among his greatest civic accomplishments was his leadership in the Committee of 100, a group of 100 men who sought industry in Dallas County during the turbulent 1960s. They were successful in bringing Hammermill Paper Company to the county, now owned by International Paper. He also fought to save the old Hotel Albert, which finally had to be razed due to lack of funding for preservation. He was instrumental in helping raise funds for the city's purchase of Sturdivant Hall, which has since been restored to a quality museum.

Some advice he gave my son, who worked several years at his visitors' center, was "When you have an idea, write it down," and "Always think positive."

Even during his short "retirement," he was thinking of ways to promote his hometown. Among his last visions for Selma were an easily accessible arts center, revitalization of historic Water Avenue with restaurants, galleries, a riverside amphitheatre and specialty shops; coordinated Selma tours with a trolley system, and increased promotion of tourism. He firmly believed there was no better place than Selma to live: four hours from Atlanta, three hours from the beach, an hour from the state capital, and on a river in the middle of sportsmen's paradise.

To read more about Swift, check here and here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Thrift Store Shopping

I don't need a thing, but thrift stores are so much fun to visit. I found this store on Selma Avenue the other day, and it is operated by SisterHood Ministries. Proceeds go toward a girls' ranch that they want to build for Dallas and surrounding counties. The shop was full of yard-sale and better dresses, dishes, figurines, troll dolls (remember those?), costume jewelry, lampshades, books, pictures and just lots of nostalgic bric-a-brac. Maybe I'll go back.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Performing Arts Center

Where there's a performing arts center, there is culture! Here's ours. It features a renovated theater that once was a favorite Saturday spot for youngsters to watch westerns, offices, spacious rooms for workshops, arts and crafts shows and a courtyard. The theater features free classic movies for senior citizens, children's activities and has a modern stage and auditorium for performances.
In years past, I have seen the locally produced "Oklahoma" and "The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever" here as well as the Dallas County High School performance of "A Christmas Carol."

Friday, August 3, 2007

Central Alabama Farmers' Co-op

Whatever you need, this place probably has it! This is the Central Alabama Farmers' Co-op, and it would have made a great "The Color Red" theme day photo, huh? Anyhow, the co-op has flowers and seeds for your gardens, hardy outdoor work clothes, hunting clothes and equipment, horse supplies, dog pens, bird houses, lawnmowers, ag equipment, fencing, all kinds of feed, weed killers, and even boxes of frozen catfish fillets. If you want to have a meeting or a reception, check out the large conference room with a full kitchen and room for around 100. I've been to everything from barbecues to Valentine's banquets there, and I hear folks have used it for retirement parties and even wedding receptions.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fire at the Fish Camp

Selma lost one of its most popular restaurants 10 days ago when Mac's Fish Camp burned. Our family was among the last patrons to dine there. The Alabama River restaurant went up in smoke several hours after we left! About a week later, I took this photo of a menu among the ashes and ceiling insulation. The rustic establishment had been in business for more than a quarter century and featured all-you-can-eat, southern-fried catfish as well as frog legs, shrimp, oysters and stuffed crab.