Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: HAMBURGER KING AND ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Every now and then I have to throw in a word about our meals, especially if we go somewhere that's a little unique.


Such a place is Hamburger King on 218 West Main in Montgomery, which gets a 93% rating on Urban Spoon and 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp. The interior decor is definitely nothing special, unless you like diner-style blue-collar joints, and it's location is pretty dicey. If Guy Fiero hasn't visited this place on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, someone needs to get him here quick.

 I had the "Cheeseburger All the Works," and wouldn't say it's the best burger I've ever had, but I can see why this place is very popular with the locals. My burger was loaded with add-ons and had just the right amount of greasiness. It was a nice old-fashioned burger served up in a nice old-fashioned joint. Definitely worth a stop.

From the Hamburger King, we made our way to St. John's Episcopal Church, a Gothic revival building erected in 1855 and famous for being the church that Jefferson Davis attended.  It also hosted the Secession Convention of Southern Churches in 1861.




Saturday, April 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: FIRST WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY

Just a few blocks from the Alabama State Capitol building is the First White House of the Confederacy. This house only served this purpose from February 1861 to May 1861, and then the capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia. However, Jefferson Davis and his family made a significant mark on Montgomery in that short period of time.
The house was originally located about a mile from this site, but it was moved when its original neighborhood was undergoing renovation.
The house back-in-the-day. Looks like the white
siding we see today is not original.
Inside, we were allowed to take as many (flash-free) pictures as we wanted to. Finally. 
Jefferson Davis, U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce, 1853

Monday, April 14, 2014

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: STATE CAPITOL BUILDING

Alabama was a key state in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Many events that are now written into our history books occurred in this state, including Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus in 1954 and the resulting Montgomery bus boycott that lasted more than a year and led to the desegregation of the city's buses.  It was in Montgomery that Martin Luther King, Jr., a young minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. It was from a jail in Alabama that King, who had been arrested during anti-segregation protests, wrote his 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which defended non-violent resistance to unjust laws and racism and became a key document in the movement. A few months later, police used fire hoses and dogs to control demonstrators in Birmingham, and the images spread rapidly around the world, garnering much sympathy and respect for the civil rights protesters. Later that year, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham church, killing four girls attending Sunday School. In March 1965, protesters on a march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights were stopped by police using tear gas, whips, and clubs, resulting in 50 people being hospitalized and spurring on the enactment of the Voting Rights Act a few months later. A third attempt at a Selma to Montgomery March was successful, ending on March 25, 1965, with 25,000 protestors at the base of the capitol steps.

Knowing these facts makes a visit to the state's beautiful Greek-revival capitol building even more interesting.
Jefferson Davis stood under the front portico of this building on February 18, 1861, and took the Oath of Office of the President of the Confederate States of America.
Most of the capitol buildings we've visited have statues honoring famous people. I liked this one in Montgomery honoring law enforcement officers:



Thursday, April 10, 2014

STROLLING AROUND MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA

Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, and with a population of just over 200,000 it is the state's second-largest city, just behind Birmingham. In spite of its population, it has a very small-town feel.

It was rainy when we were there, so very few people were out and about as we took a nice stroll downtown next to the Alabama River. One of the things I really enjoyed was a series of murals on the buildings. I come from a city filled with public art like this, so I'm always on the lookout for it when we travel. These are especially fun paintings:
This giant fish looks like he about to swallow not just Jonah, but the entire Garden of Eden and the stable with Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ALABAMA'S HIGHEST POINT: CHEAHA STATE PARK (With a side order of Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles)

Bob and I had plans to climb to the highest point in Alabama, and we knew we needed to fuel up before leaving Atlanta, so we stopped for lunch at Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles Restaurant: 
I like Gladys Knight a lot, and I like her even more now that I've seen the rules she has posted in the window of her restaurant:

I've never thought to combine chicken and waffles on the same plate, and I can't say that I plan on doing it for our next dinner party, but it was pretty fun to try it in Atlanta. In fact, it's a common combination all over the South.
Bob's Southern-fried chicken
My waffle--moist and soft with a slight sweetness
Our sides were the best part of the meal: corn, cheese and grits,
black-eyed peas, and collard greens

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: JIMMY CARTER LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

We love Presidential Libraries/Birthplaces/Museums. Looking at history in the context of one individual's contributions is enlightening. This was particularly true of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, which happens to be next door to but run separately from the Carter Center, a non-profit human rights agency founded by Jimmy and Rosalyn in 1982.
The approach to the Library and Museum includes a roundabout lined with state flags.
 The library is built on the spot where Union General William T. Sherman orchestrated the Battle of Atlanta in 1864
Carter took office in January 1977, the middle of my senior year of high school. His was the first presidency that meant something to me on a political level. I remember that my mother, usually a Republican, voted for him because of his stance on human rights. I still find him to be one of our most interesting Presidents, partly because of his farm boy roots, something I can identify with.

Friday, March 28, 2014

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

I grew up in a small town and went to a small high school. Although we had a smattering of Mexicon students, there really wasn't much diversity. In my three years of high school, there was only one African-American student, and he was from a local boys' ranch.

However, then I married and moved to California and got a job teaching at an inner-city community college. I've mentioned before how we buy Christmas tree ornaments as we travel as mementos of different places and different cultures. Well, the year I started teaching, I bought an African-American angel ornament. It's a little embarrassing to admit that, but to me it represented a shift in attitude and a new appreciation for a culture I had previously had little exposure to.  About one-third to one-half of my students were African-American, and I read their stories for thirteen years until I moved to a college closer to home that draws from a much more upscale population.

I've always wondered if that was the right move. It saves me a lot of time and gas, but I loved teaching at that inner-city college. I loved those stories of hardship and defeat and struggle and grit. Most of my students were not just the first person in their family to go to college, but they were the first to graduate from high school. I developed a respect for what it means to beat the odds.

Traveling in the South and visiting Civil Rights sites is a similar, if not even more intense, educational experience. On our recent trip to Atlanta, we spent several hours at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, a complex that includes a museum, a Walk of Fame, some significant statues, the MLK birthplace, the tombs of Martin and his wife Coretta, and an important Southern Baptist church.
Knowing that this is a popular destination for school groups, we got an early start. Our first visit was to the founder of King's nonviolence movement: Mahatma Gandhi.